ISTJ, ENFP, INFJ: To some people, these are just random combinations of letters. They’re the secret code to help them unlock their personality and how they relate to the world. They’re examples of Myers-Briggs personality types, also known as MBTI types. If you’re not familiar with the MBTI test, it’s a 93-question test which helps work out the dominant aspects of your personality. It will tell you whether you’re extroverted or introverted, sensing or intuitive, feeling or thinking, and judging or perceiving. In total, there are 16 personality types, some of which are more common than others.
The MBTI personality test is not just one of the most popular tests out there—it’s also one of the most well-respected. It's used not only by people around the world to help them understand their lives, but by some employers to gauge a person's suitability for roles. But while there are some die-hard fans, how accurate is the test—and how much does it actually affect your relationships? The truth is a little complicated, but fascinating.
How Accurate Are They?
As I mentioned, the MBTI personality test is hugely popular and some people swear that the results are so uncanny that they decide to let the test help shape their lives. If employers use it to make important decisions, if hiring managers use it to decide whether you should get a job, then it must be pretty reliable—right? Well, not everyone agrees.
"There's just no evidence behind it," Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, told Vox. "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."
A large group of experts back up Grant—and think the MBTI just doesn’t stack up. Firstly, a lot of people don’t fall easily into the binaries that the test lays out, but that's not the only weakness. In fact, on one important measure of personality assessment—reliability—MBTI has a history of falling short. In one study 50 percent of people were found to get a different MBTI result when they took the test a second time, even if it was only weeks later.
That being said, the test remains ferociously popular—so is there something to it? Despite the criticism, there has also been evidence in its favor—engineers have been shown to have fairly consistent MBTI types, an argument for using it in employment decisions. And there’s been similar evidence when it comes to romantic relationships.
How Does It Affect Your Relationships?
While some people are dubious about the powers of the MBTI test, the types have been found to help predict romantic compatibility. In fact, one study showed that if you and your partner both fall the same category of sensing/judging or intuition/feeling, there was a 70 percent chance of compatibility. And many people swear by comparing types to find your romantic compatibility when you're dating. There are dozens and dozen of articles out there on the ultimate MBTI type matches and how each MBTI type acts in a relationship. Is it worth following their advice? The answer is up to you.
The truth is, MBTI is useful, like any personality test is useful, to understand each other in broad strokes. If your partner is generally more sensing or you are definitely an extrovert, that’s going to tell you something about it each other. But you shouldn’t take it as gospel, as the test isn’t always consistent.
The Ultimate Conversation Starter
More than anything, it serves as a great conversation starter to help you learn more about each other. If someone you’re seeing has taken the test before, you can talk about your types, what you think about them, how accurate they feel, and why—there’s so much potential to gather a wealth of information about each other in that kind of conversation. If they don't know their type, you can both take the test and talk about it. You’ll learn so much about how they view themselves and the world around them—and that can be just as telling as the test itself. Maybe even more so. You can also check out other personality tests, like The Big Five, which have been shown to be even more predictive than MBTI. But remember, every test has its limits—and you shouldn't let the result of a personality test control your life.
The MBTI test has dominated the personality field for a long time—so much so that it's been incorporated by many companies to make very important decisions about their employees. But it's crucial to remember that, at the end of the day, it's just a test. You are more than 93 questions—and the way you look at the world may change from day to day. So by all means, take the test, explore the results, and talk about it with the people you date—but you might find it more useful to listen to what they say about it, then the results themselves.