When we conducted our survey of mission agencies, which we described in our book Missions & PsychoHeresy, we found that the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) was the second most used personality test by mission agencies for screening missionary candidates. We indicated that the prestigious National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine, said of the MBTI: “The evidence summarized in this section raises questions about the validity of the MBTI”1 (bold added). It is well known that validity is the soul of a test. Put simply, the validity of a test indicates its integrity.
One text on pseudoscience in clinical psychology reports on the MBTI. The authors provide much later research on the MBTI than we had available at the time we wrote Missions & Psychotherapy. This text describes the MBTI as follows:
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a self-report test based on Jung’s personality theory. Jung’s theory of personality types, designed to be a comprehensive account of personality functioning, posits four basic personality preferences that are operationalized in the MBTI as bipolar, continuous constructs: extraversion-intraversion (oriented outwardly or inwardly), sensing-intuition (reliance on sensorial information versus intuition), thinking-feeling (tendency to make judgments based on logical analysis or personal values), and judgment-perception (preference for using either thinking-feeling or sensing-intuition processes for interacting with the world). Based on scores obtained for these four dimensions, established cutoff scores are used to assign examinees to one of 16 different personality type categories (e.g., extraverted, sensing, thinking, judgment).2
We immediately went to what the book says about the integrity. i.e., validity of the test. After listing various research results on the MBTI, the authors say: “One can only conclude that the MBTI is insufficient as a contemporary measure of personality” (bold added).3 In their “Conclusion” the authors conclude:
Questions about the reliability and validity of the 16 personality types and evidence of limited correspondence between the MBTI and other global measures of personality and vocational interests render the test suspect as an assessment tool. In the absence of a major revision of the test that addresses these shortcomings, psychologists are advised to rely on personality and vocational interest tests that have a sounder empirical basis.4
In spite of the overwhelming research on the MBTI and the warnings about its use, many mission agencies continue to use it. Also the MBTI and its many lookalikes are very popular throughout the evangelical faith with Bible colleges, seminaries, churches, and individual Christians depending on it to reveal the kind of truth about the human personality that has never been confirmed or proven.
1 The National Research Council. In the Mind’s Eye, Daniel Druckman and Robert A. Bjok, eds. Washington: National Academy Press, 1991, p. 99.
2 John Hunsley, Catherine M. Lee, James M. Weed, “Controversial and Questionable Assessment Techniques” in Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology, Scott O. Lilienfeld et al, eds. New York: The Guilford Press, 2003, p. 61.
3 Ibid., pp. 63-64.
4 Ibid., p. 64.
(PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, November-December 2010, Vol. 18, No. 6)