Nagarjuna’s Dialectics of Emptiness

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How Jung Saw E/I

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17 Reasons That Joseph Stromberg’s Critique of the MBTI Is Uninformed

By Sigurd Arild, Ryan Smith, and Eva Gregersen

Regular readers know the drill by now: We have no affiliation with the MBTI; we just don’t like seeing lazy and uninformed critiques misguiding the public. The latest example of such a critique is the journalist Joseph Stromberg’s article: Why the Myers-Briggs test is totally meaningless, as featured in The article is basically non-news, lazily re-hashing older articles that we have previously debunked on the site. But what’s worse, the article is also factually incorrect in several places. Let’s go over Stromberg’s points:

“The test is completely meaningless. … ‘There’s just no evidence behind it,’ says Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania  … ‘The characteristics measured by the test have almost no predictive power on how happy you’ll be in a situation, how you’ll perform at your job, or how happy you’ll be in your marriage.’”

If the test is “completely meaningless,” why does it have “some” predictive power? It can’t be both.

Adam Grant should not be treated as a credible source. As we have previously documented, Grant quotes unfaithfully from the scientific source material that he bases his argument on. He says that the test is “completely meaningless,” but the scientific study that Grant himself has referenced concludes that: “… the four MBTI indices did measure aspects of four of the five major dimensions of normal personality…” and that “even critical reviewers … see promise in the instrument.”

It is true that the MBTI has little predictive power with regards to happiness in marriage or job performance, but the MBTI doesn’t claim to measure those things, so why should that be a problem?

“Most of the faithful think of it primarily as a tool for telling you your proper career choice.”

It is true that some people think that, but there is no basis for claiming that “most” of the people who are sympathetic to the MBTI think that it can meaningfully determine which careers you will thrive in. Some people also think that microwave ovens can be used to dry their pets, but that doesn’t really reflect badly on microwave ovens.

“But the test was developed in the 1940s based off the untested theories of an outdated analytical psychologist named Carl Jung, and is now thoroughly disregarded by the psychology community.”

Jung’s theories weren’t out-dated in the 1940s; on the contrary, the Allies used him as an intelligence agent, crafting psychological reports on Hitler, which were read by Eisenhower, among others. Also the matter of Jung’s relation to mainstream psychology is not as black and white as the writer lets on. More about that later.

“Several analyses have shown the test is totally ineffective at predicting people’s success in various jobs, and that about half of the people who take it twice get different results each time.”

It is true that the test is ineffective at predicting job performance, but again, the MBTI itself says that it should not be used to determine job performance, so the MBTI is like a microwave with a big yellow warning sticker that says: “WARNING – SHOULD NOT BE USED TO DRY PETS,” but which nevertheless attracts scores of detractors who voice their offense at the fact that the microwave isn’t a suitable way of drying your pet.

“In 1921, Jung published the book Psychological Types. In it, he put forth a few different interesting, unsupported theories on how the human brain operates.”

Not brain – psyche. Anachronisms are unseemly. It was important to Jung that his theories were not materialistic or Aristotelian, which is why he avoided giving them a physiological basis.

“Among other things, he explained [in Psychological Types] that humans roughly fall into two main types: perceivers and judgers.”

This is not correct. Judging and Perceiving are Myers’ and Briggs’ inventions, based only loosely on Jung’s original concepts of rational and irrational. If you are going to report on the contents of a book, do yourself the trouble of reading it.

“[The theory of types] didn’t come out of controlled experiments or data. ‘This was before psychology was an empirical science,’ says Grant, the Penn psychologist. ‘Jung literally made these up based on his own experiences.’ …  None of this came out of controlled experiments or data – it was all theoretical.”

Neither Darwin’s theory of evolution nor Einstein’s theory of relativity came out of “controlled experiments or data.” Like Jung’s theory of types, they were initially made up and later confirmed to some degree by experiments. In the same way, Jung’s theory of the elements that constitute the personality have also been confirmed to some degree by later experiments. It seems disingenuous not to inform the reader that the basic gist of Jung’s postulates have been confirmed in experiments to some degree.

“Jung’s principles were later adapted into a test by Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers, a pair of Americans who had no formal training in psychology.”

Myers and Briggs were not psychologists, but they nevertheless succeeded in doing what academically certified people in their own time failed to do. If someone runs a marathon and finishes ahead of the pros, should he then be stripped of his victory because he isn’t a professional runner?

“Myers and Briggs gave titles to each of these types, like the Executive, the Caregiver, the Scientist, and the Idealist.”

This is factually incorrect. The writer is confusing the official MBTI material with fan-generated material that he has found online. If a Richard Dawkins fan believes in astrology, does that constitute a sound basis for claiming that Richard Dawkins believes in astrology? The logic seems to be limping here.

“But the fact is that [the indices measured by the MBTI] come from the now-disregarded theories of a early 20th century thinker who believed in things like ESP and the collective unconscious.”

Actually, the two areas of Jung’s theories that are widely regarded as being non-mystical and compatible with empirical science are his studies in word association and his theory of types. It seems disingenuous not to inform the reader of this.

“Actual data tells psychologists that these traits do not have a bimodal distribution. Tracking a group of people’s interactions with others, for instance, shows that as Jung noted, there aren’t really pure extroverts and introverts, but mostly people who fall somewhere in between.”

This point will be dealt with in conjunction with point #15 below.

All four of the categories in the Myers-Briggs suffer from these kinds of problems, and psychologists say they aren’t an effective way of distinguishing between different personality types. ‘Contemporary social scientists are rarely studying things like whether you make decisions based on feelings or rational calculus — because all of use both of these,’ Grant says. “

It doesn’t seem like the writer has any sources for his claim that “psychologists” are of this opinion, and Adam Grant’s assertion is incorrect. Grant hasn’t done even the most basic research on the MBTI and mistakenly thinks that the MBTI’s “Feeling” category is about actual feelings. But the very first hit on Google for “MBTI thinking feeling” takes you to the official Myers & Briggs Foundation and tells you that it is not.

Again, we must urge journalists not to use Grant as a serious source. The fact that Grant misconstrues scientific source material to make his point should be a huge disqualifier in and of itself. Grant is basically someone with a fancy academic title who keeps insisting that microwaves should be able to dry pets.

“This is why some psychologists have shifted from talking about personality traits to personality states — and why it’s extremely hard to find a real psychologist anywhere who uses the Myers-Briggs with patients.”

This point seems like a non sequitur. The MBTI doesn’t purport to measure any kind of psychopathology, so why should clinical psychologists use it? On the other hand, it is easy to find organizational psychologists who use it.

Also, one might get the idea from the article that the very practice of testing static personality “traits” is on the retreat. The state of the art in personality testing is still the Big Five test and so the practice of measuring personality in static terms rather than fluid ones is not at all on the retreat.

“There’s also another related problem with these limited choices: look at the chart above, and you’ll notice that words like ‘selfish,’ ‘lazy,’ or ‘mean’ don’t appear anywhere. No matter what type you’re assigned, you get a flattering description of yourself as a ‘thinker,’ ‘performer,’ or ‘nurturer.’”

Again, the writer is confusing the official MBTI material with the fan-generated material found online. But disregarding that, it is generally true that the MBTI has a positive bias. We have dealt with that criticism here. Yes, the MBTI is generally too positive, but one reason for the positivity was that it was developed to be used in organizations where the practitioners had to get people to accept their results. The Big Five was developed to be used by researchers and did not need to win the acceptance of the test takers.

Now that psychologists are seeking to use the Big Five in organizations, they have found it necessary to adopt a positive bias which is akin to the one used in the MBTI, and even to postulate personality types, which is one of the things that the adherents of the Big Five started out criticizing the MBTI for. The process can be compared to a child who criticizes his parents for the slights in their parenting. The child vows to himself that when he grows up and becomes a parent, his parenting will be much better. But then, when he actually is a parent, and stands there with the crying children, he finds himself repeating many of the “mistakes” that his own parents made.

Additionally, if people want negative type descriptions, they need to look no further than Jung’s Psychological Types. Since the writer has ostensibly read that book (see point #6 above), it seems like an oversight that he doesn’t mention these non-positive type descriptions to his readers.

Returning to the criticism cited in point #11 above: “Actual data tells psychologists that these traits do not have a bimodal distribution. Tracking a group of people’s interactions with others, for instance, shows that as Jung noted, there aren’t really pure extroverts and introverts, but mostly people who fall somewhere in between.”

The criticism ties into another observation furnished by the writer, namely that: “Research has found that as much as 50 percent of people arrive at a different result the second time they take a test, even if it’s just five weeks later.”

This criticism is true, as we have examined here. It is the single biggest problem with the MBTI.

<Stromberg’s article then continues for some time, recycling the points he has already made. We avoid insulting the reader’s intelligence by repeating the rebuttals.>

Stromberg then writes:“Apart from the introversion/extroversion aspect of the Myers-Briggs, the newer, empirically driven tests focus on entirely different categories. The Five Factor model measures people’s openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism — factors that do differ widely among people, data has told us.”

bellcurveThis assertion seems to rest on multiple misunderstandings on the writer’s part:

  • The writer seems to be saying that the scales measured by the MBTI are normally distributed, while the scales measured by the Big Five are bi-modally distributed. In reality, both the scales measured by the MBTI and the scales measured by the Big Five are normally, rather than bi-modally, distributed.
  • The writer says that apart from the E/I dimension, the other dimensions of the Big Five are entirely different from the MBTI. But in fact, Sensation-Intuition on the MBTI is related to the Big Five’s concept of Openness, Thinking-Feeling on the MBTI is related to the Big Five’s concept of Agreeableness, and Judging-Perceiving on the MBTI is related to the Big Five conception of Conscientiousness. While there are differences in overall methodology (the MBTI is Platonic, while the Big Five is Aristotelian), the basic gist of the four dimensions mentioned above is the same.

Ironically, the people who fault Jung for just making up the scales tend to be oblivious to the fact that modern science has largely ended up confirming the scales he came up with. The criticism is like faulting Darwin for only having had a vague idea of evolution without being able to work out the genealogy of every species in detail. According to that manner of measuring results, Darwin should actually be criticized for postulating a theory that was largely right, because he didn’t have all the details back in 1859. Later scientists, who then confirmed his theory in the lab using data, should then snub their noses at Darwin and claim exclusive credit for the theory of evolution.

Stromberg then writes: “The Myers-Briggs is useful for one thing: entertainment. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking the test as a fun, interesting activity, like a BuzzFeed quiz.”

So apparently a test which has been demonstrated to measure actual elements of the personality to an acceptable degree is no better than a test which has no validity to back it up. It seems a bit hasty on Stromberg’s part to say that because something is somewhere in the middle of the road in its field, then it’s no better than something at the very bottom. This is somewhat like saying that because silver isn’t gold, then silver is really worthless. It seems that Stromberg is overstating his case at the end. The MBTI has known issues and has had so for years. But the MBTI has never been found to be devoid of validity, as the writer insinuates, or to be “totally meaningless” as the writer’s headline says.

Stromberg then critiques the pricing policies and certification process of the MBTI (a criticism that we agree with), but then continues to state that: “Because once you [are certified] you can sell your services as a career coach to both people looking for work and the thousands of major companies … Once certified, test administrators become cheerleaders of the Myers-Briggs, ensuring that use of the outdated instrument is continued.”

As mentioned, we agree with the point that there are problems regarding the pricing and certification process that surrounds the official use of the MBTI instrument. But how does Stromberg know that certified MBTI practitioners are “cheerleaders” for the MBTI? One of the authors of this article was first typed by a certified psychologist and MBTI practitioner who introduced the instrument by saying that she didn’t see the value of it. It seems that Stromberg is presuming to know the motives of thousands of people without having anything solid to base his claims on. Didn’t he just say that it was important to base your claims on data?

Finally, Stromberg ends with an injuction: “Let’s stop using this outdated measure — which has about as much scientific validity as your astrological sign — and move on to something else.”

It is really tiresome that writers who set out to criticize the MBTI can’t be bothered to acquaint themselves with the most basic facts concerning the instrument. As we covered on the site long ago, almost every scientific study ever conducted has concluded that there is some validity to the MBTI, while there is no validity to astrology. Hence there is really no basis at all for claiming that their validity is “about the same” and it is an incontrovertible mistake on the writer’s part to suggest otherwise.

Article Series: CelebrityTypes Debunks Bad MBTI Criticisms:


Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and MBTI are trademarks of the MBTI Trust, Inc. is an independent research venture, which has no affiliation with the MBTI Trust, Inc.

Discussion of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Type

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Freud & Empedocles, Part 2

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The Functions: Te vs. Ti

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8 Things That Are Wrong with Online Typology

List written by David Austin, edited and used with permission. Commentary by Ryan Smith.

  1. The scores and scores of fake Ni types. (“I sometimes know things. Therefore INTJ.”)
  2. Armchair “experts” who peddle wild home-grown definitions about their type and functions while having no real knowledge. (“Ni is very objective.”)
  3. The extreme pushback from aforementioned “experts” when someone makes an effort to argue their case. (“Your article? It sucks! Why? I can’t be bothered to say. It just does! Your claim? It’s also wrong. Why? Because you suck.”)
  4. People with too black and white an understanding of the theory. (“I can type anyone with 100% accuracy in 10 minutes. I learned on YouTube.”)
  5. People who want to be experts so badly that they mislead other people and/or cannot brook criticism. (“Look at all my blog followers!  My popularity proves I’m right!”)
  6. The wild fabrication of claims in lieu of proper arguments. (“I’ve met Obama a couple of times and observed him up close. There’s no way he can be a P. I also met Jung the other day and he told me that he was INFJ.”)
  7. The pervasive use of shaming - again with no real arguments. (“Anyone who doesn’t believe that Donald Trump is ENTJ doesn’t know ANYTHING about the system.”)
  8. The shameless stealing of the few good points going around. (“That long post you made there, laboriously unearthing a good insight? I’m going to re-state that as a one-liner and imply that it was something I thought of myself.”)

Breaking things down, almost all of these problems can be traced back to people not doing research. The foundational works of the Jungian type system are Jung: Psychological Types (1921), van der Hoop: Character and the Unconscious (1923) and Conscious Orientation (1939), Von Franz: Lectures on Jung’s Typology (1961/71),  as well as Myers: Gifts Differing (1980). Together these five works form the outline of all interpretations of Jungian typology that rely on a psychodynamic foundation and use the popular four-letter type codes.

This means that other popular works, even bestselling works (such as Keirsey’s Please Understand Me II), are not seminal to the theoretical construct that underlies Jungian typology. Indeed, Keirsey and his son have, by their own admission, in the main moved away from using the four-letter codes that were invented by Myers, precisely because their interpretation of typology is different from that of Jung and Myers. Notably, Keirsey & son don’t use functions, and their approach is behavioral, not psychodynamic.

The point is not to say that Jung, Myers, von Franz, and van der Hoop were right about everything. But since people on the internet make up wild claims about the concepts involved in the theory, it is often practical to point to how all of the seminal authors were in basic agreement with regards to the nature of the functions as well as most other things besides. However, there are still disagreements between the four authors mentioned here. For example, Myers and Hoop say that the Si types tend to be practical, while Jung says that they tend to be impractical. As a rule, Jung and von Franz are appreciative of S types, while Myers and Hoop are more biased against Sensation, and so on.

Jungian typology is a deductive theory at its core. This means that it must ultimately rely on some measure of philosophical definition and elucidation of the concepts and constructs involved. Thus it is never enough to simply appeal to empiricism, or to what is “right before our eyes,” when discussing the matter of someone’s type or what the nature of a certain function is. A criticism that aims to be final must thus also be a criticism that presents its own considerations on the concepts involved, or which points out exactly where the alleged error lies. And the people who do not feel obligated to do so are truly the people who don’t know ANYTHING about the system. ;-)

See also:

An Aristotelian View of Personality Types

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Drake Baer’s Lazy Critique of the MBTI

By Ryan Smith and Eva Gregersen

Business Insider seems to be developing a penchant for publishing poorly researched articles about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Last September it was Professor Adam Grant’s critique of the MBTI which quoted unfaithfully from one of the scientific studies that it used as the basis of its argument. Now it is reporter Drake Baer who is out to discredit an instrument he does not understand.

This website has no affiliation with the MBTI. But man, are we tired of seeing the same lazy critiques hitting print.


Baer opens with a well-known critique:

It’s a little troubling, given that Myers and Briggs were a mother (Katharine Briggs) and daughter (Isabel Myers) who studied the works of psychologist Carl Jung a hundred years ago, particularly his book “Psychological Types.” Myers and Briggs weren’t social scientists themselves. Briggs was a housewife with a deep interest in Jung; before she wrote a survey that served as a prototype of Myers-Briggs personality tests, Myers wrote mystery novels.

So Myers and Briggs weren’t social scientists, and Myers had previously written a novel. However, none of these criticisms say anything about the quality of their work.

First, simply saying that Myers and Briggs were not social scientists and leaving it at that is a blatant appeal to authority. This critique is often levelled at Myers and Briggs by people who don’t understand the seminal nature of the innovations they added to Jung’s theory. It commonly goes unrecognized, for example, that Myers and Briggs achieved what social scientists and statisticians of their time had failed to do, namely to operationalize Jung’s ideas and convert them into a workable scoring system. It is worth noting that while Myers and Briggs were developing their interpretation of the Jungian ideas, academics at Stanford University were busy with their own attempts to operationalize Jung’s typology. Yet their attempts that lack precision when compared to the MBTI.[1]

As is plain to anyone who has studied the history of the instrument, Myers did what nobody else was able to do at the time. To fault her for her lack of credentials is a naked appeal to authority that disregards the manifest accomplishments of her work.[2] Also, by describing Briggs as a housewife, Baer is implying that Briggs had no education. In reality, though, Briggs was a college graduate, so even on its own erroneous premises, the argument still fails.

Likewise, it was Myers and Briggs who added a fourth dimension (Judging/Perceiving) to Jung’s preceding three (Extrovert/Introvert, Intuition/Sensation, Thinking/Feeling). It is sometimes argued that this fourth distinction was implied in Jung’s original work (as he called some people “Rational” and others “Irrational”), but Myers’ and Briggs’ conception of Judging and Perceiving goes beyond any intent of Jung’s and introduces the notion of a psychological preference for structure and order (Judging) which allegedly stands opposite to a preference for flexibility and improvisation (Perceiving). The introduction of the J/P scale, which was an invention by Myers and Briggs, is effectively the intellectual forerunner of the Conscientiousness dimension as used in the Big Five system of personality, the system which Baer approves of.


Baer then writes:

Many people say they [Myers and Briggs] didn’t really understand Jung at all.

This is just hearsay with no arguments or sources cited, which is an extremely lazy form of reporting. Is Baer a journalist or a gossip writer? What sort of journalistic standards does Business Insider hold its writers to, if any? Who are these people to whom Baer refers? What specific points of Jung did Myers and Briggs allegedly fail to understand? Does Baer even know?

Here are some actual facts, as opposed to unsubstantiated rumors: Myers not only read Jung attentively and argued many of her points with specific reference to Jung, she also assiduously studied the works of J.H. van der Hoop, a professor of psychiatry from the Netherlands who knew Jung personally and with whom Jung carried on a lengthy correspondence. Myers based her understanding of Jung extensively on Hoop, so it might be argued that if Myers didn’t understand Jung “at all”, nor did Hoop, which is a pretty questionable position to hold. Predictably, Baer’s article evinces no knowledge of Myers’ engagement with Hoop.


Here is Baer’s next argument:

The Myers-Briggs (MBTI) has become so entrenched, in part, because people who invest themselves in something are typically loathe to give it up. MBTI training sessions cost a couple grand to go through, and once you believe in something like the personality types, your cognitive biases are going to do everything they can to hold onto it. 

This is probably true, but you could say that about anything. It also costs money to become a certified coach, psychologist, or practitioner of competing personality inventories, and all of these certifications are usually in the range of “a couple of grand,” if not more. People don’t just get attached to the MBTI in this manner; the problem is endemic to the field as a whole.


Baer continues:

Once people find out their type, they take it as a “badge that they stamp on their forehead and use as an identity marker,” Little says. In extreme cases, people get tattoos. 

This is a problem. 

“This is a problem?” Says who? Why is it a problem? What are the arguments? Again, we are not told; it is simply declared. It is commonly recognized that it was the Greek philosopher Parmenides of Elea (ca. 515-450 BCE)  who pioneered the practice of substantiating one’s claims with arguments. Apparently, Baer didn’t get the memo.

Baer could just as well have said, “This isn’t a problem,” and his reporting wouldn’t be any less cogent.


Baer then quotes Professor Brian Little:

“If you only see yourself as an extrovert or as one of those four-letter codes on the Myers-Briggs,” Little says, “you will have foreclosed on paths that might open to you if didn’t think in terms of types of people.”

This statement is true, but also a platitude. It applies to practically anything. “If you only think of yourself as a licensed accountant, you will have foreclosed on paths that might open to you if you didn’t think in terms of credentials.” The problem isn’t that one perspective excludes certain competing perspectives on reality; all perspectives do. The problem arises when someone can’t let go of their pet perspective, no matter what that perspective is.


Baer then quotes Grant:

Wharton organizational psychologist Adam Grant criticizes the either/or approach of the system. Thirty years of research show that you can both be a thinker and a feeler; in fact most thoughtful people also spend lots of time feeling emotion. “When I scored as a thinker one time and a feeler one time, it’s because I like both thinking and feeling,” he writes. “I should have separate scores for the two.” 

First, the binary breakdown of the MBTI scales is indeed at odds with the empirical evidence. This is the single biggest weakness of the MBTI, as well as of Jungian typology in general.

However, as we have detailed here, Adam Grant’s critique relies on a fallacious and unresearched understanding of how the MBTI functions. To repeat ourselves, Feeling, as defined in the MBTI system, is not about actual feelings. One can hardly open a book on the MBTI without being cautioned that Feeling is not about feelings. The very first hit on Google when searching for “MBTI thinking feeling” will take you to a page on the official Myers & Briggs Foundation website which tells you not to confuse Feeling with emotion.


Baer then cites another critique of the MBTI:

Philosopher Roman Krznaric notes that if “you retake the test after only a five-week gap, there’s around a 50% chance that you will fall into a different personality category compared to the first time you took the test.” This is bad news for the test’s reputation, given that replicability is an essential part of scientific inquiry. 

As we have dealt with here, a substantial reason for why people come out as different types on retests stems from the fact that the MBTI breaks its scales into two halves. Presenting them as two separate critiques as he does, Baer does not seem to understand the connection between this critique and the one that preceded it.


Baer then calls upon a book that describes the genesis of the MBTI:

In her scathingly illuminating book “The Cult Of Personality Testing,” journalist Annie Murphy Paul writes that “no personality type test has achieved the cult status of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator,” which is unfortunate, given that “the 16 distinctive types described by the Myers-Briggs have no scientific basis whatsoever.”   

One wonders if Baer has read the book. Paul’s book is not “scathingly illuminating” with regards to scientific critique, but mostly consists of anecdotes detailing the personal quirks of the people who invented the theory. One such censure against the MBTI is that Myers allegedly wrote the prototype of the MBTI at her kitchen table. Well, okay, but Einstein also conceived his theories in his own home, so apparently that cancels out the Theory of Relativity too.

With regards to the claim that “the 16 types described by the Myers-Briggs have no scientific basis,” that claim is halfway true, but the statement is phrased in a misleading manner that aims to inflate the critique. This is not becoming of someone who invokes scientific rigor as part of his argument.

The actual truth of the matter is this: There is no scientific basis for claiming that 16 distinct types exist as blueprints of the human psyche. However, all of the scales measured by the MBTI do have scientific validity. To use an analogy, the “cake” that the MBTI describes is real, but the way the MBTI cuts the cake is arbitrary.


Baer then cites a review article concerning the MBTI:

In a review of research comparing Myers-Briggs personality types and job performance, management scholars William Gardner and Mark Martinko find that “few consistent relationships between type and managerial effectiveness have been found.”

The cited claim is true: Almost no predictive evidence has been found that just being a given type will make you better as a manager. However:

  1. The MBTI doesn’t purport to be able to measure or predict how good a manager you are (it claims to measure preferences, not abilities). Like Adam Grant, Baer is faulting the MBTI for not doing something that it doesn’t purport to do.
  2. There are statistically significant patterns regarding which types that end up as managers.[3] This finding is consistent with the MBTI’s assertion that it measures preferences and not abilities.

The criticism thus falls back on Baer for not having done his research.


Finally, Baer ends with the obligatory reference to the Big Five as superior to the MBTI:

The best alternative to the Myers-Briggs is the “Big 5″ personality types, which operate along five continuums: conscientiousness, agreeability, emotional stability, openness to experience, and extroversion. Unlike the Myers Briggs, the Big 5 traits have been observed by social scientists and tested in the lab and in the field. What’s more, they do predict outcomes: conscientiousness predicts success; openness predicts creativity.

As the reader may have noticed, there is a consistent theme running through the rebuttals of Baer’s piece: His research is superficial and lackluster, and his reporting is lazy. In this final paragraph, Baer gives himself away red-handed, as the Big Five, as a theoretical construct, is not about types. Indeed, one of the central reasons that the Big Five is empirically superior to the MBTI is precisely that the Big Five doesn’t postulate types.

Next, Baer calls the Big Five an “alternative” to the MBTI. Yet though there are overlaps, the Big Five cannot be an “alternative” to the MBTI, since the Big Five doesn’t purport to do the same thing as the MBTI. To understand how these systems of personality differ, Jung’s typology is a theory of consciousness, while the Big Five relies on trait theory. The pioneers of the Big Five were conscious of this distinction.[4] Baer is not.

Then there is the criticism that “unlike the Myers Briggs, the Big 5 traits have been observed by social scientists and tested in the lab and in the field.” Again Baer’s faulty research ends up misleading the reader here. The MBTI has been tested by social scientists, numerous times.[5] A simple search for scientific papers would instantly reveal this.

As for Baer’s final claim, it is true that the Big Five is better at predicting behavior and ability than the Myers-Briggs. Naturally, if you are an empiricist, you will therefore prefer the Big Five, but again, the MBTI does not purport to predict behavior and ability, and so the critique is like faulting a hammer for not being a saw. The Big Five can indeed do some things which the MBTI is unable to do, but the reverse is also true.

In our work on personality, we use both the Jungian framework as well as the Big Five. The two do not exclude each other, but rather complement and elucidate each other. Understanding the Big Five can help prevent simplistic thinking and stereotypes, and understanding Jung’s typology can help relate our inner workings to the theory of cognitive functions. The true psychological craftsman needs both hammers and saws, and many more tools besides – there is no need to be parochial.


Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and MBTI are trademarks of the MBTI Trust, Inc. is an independent research venture, which has no affiliation with the MBTI Trust, Inc.


[1] Wilde, Douglass J.: Jung’s Personality Theory Quantified. Springer 2011. p. 12

[2] Geyer, Peter: Psychological Type and the MBTI® Past, Present and Future? APTi e-chapter presentation 22. August, 2013.

[3] Bradley-Geist and Landis: Homogeneity of Personality in Occupations and Organizations: A Comparison of Alternative Statistical Tests. Journal of Business and Psychology, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp. 149-159, 2012.

[4] Costa and McCrae: Personality in Adulthood. Guilford Press 2012. p. 105

[5] Furnham, Adrian: The big five versus the big four: the relationship between the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and NEO-PI five factor model of personality. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 21, Issue 2, August 1996, Pages 303-307.

INTP and Kant’s Dialectics of Restraint

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