Valid or pseudo science? A brief history of the MBTI

Carl Jung and cognitive functions

Carl Gustav Jung (1875 – 1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology. He was one of the best students and confidants of Sigmund Freud, a forefather of modern psychology who is well known for the discovery and study of the unconscious. The unconscious is defined as a reservoir of feelings, thoughts, urges, and memories that are outside of conscious awareness. Many of these unconsciousness are influenced by our early memories as an infant and young child.

While Feud theory is only about the personal unconscious, Carl Jung studied and developed the unconscious further to show the collective unconscious, which represent a form of the unconscious common to mankind as a whole and originating in the inherited structure of the brain. It is distinct from the personal unconscious, which arises from the experience of the individual.

He was the first to distinguish the two major attitudes or orientations of personality – extroversion and introversion. He also identified four basic functions (thinking, feeling, sensing, and intuiting) which in a cross-classification yield eight pure personality types. He advocates for individuation, which can be defined as the achievement of self-actualization through a process of integrating the conscious and the unconscious.

Jung’s theory is less mainstream than Freud’s as it is very abstract and related to the magical realm of dreams and historical symbols… However, the testimonials for the soundness and usefulness of his work are the continued development of his theory into more structured framework by renowned psychologist in the field such as Isabel Myers, Linda Beren, Lenore Thompson, Dario Nardi..

About the MBTI

The MBTI by Isabel Myer is probably the most popular (extremely popular to be exact) with 1.5 million people taking the official test each year and almost 90% of Fortune 500 companies using them. Its popularity certainly drew criticism with questions from the scientific community about its validity and reliability as a test.

Jung’s theory is less mainstream than Freud’s as it is very abstract and related to the magical realm of dreams and historical symbols… That is one of the main reason for the MBTI being questioned in its scientific foundation as well as the its accuracy as a psychomtric test, which is another matter and debate on its own.

However, the testimonials for the soundness and usefulness of his work are the continued development of his theory into more structured frameworks by renowned psychologist in the field such as Isabel Myers, Linda Beren, Lenore Thompson, Dario Nardi…

Recent discovery in cognitive science does reveal and prove that introversion and extroversion exist as real pattern in the brain with extroverts having the thinking and talking parts wired together while for introvert, they can work independently. Dario Nardi’ Neuro science of brain scan book, he used EEG method to show that across hundreds of participants, similar MBTI types do have similar brain activity patterns at work or when in flow.

Example of brain scan images of different MBTI types – Credit to Dario Nardi