In an article that appears in the August (2009) issue of Talent Management magazine, “How to Properly Use a Personality Assessment,” Rich Thompson observes:
“Despite, or perhaps because of, its insight and ubiquity, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator instrument – the world’s most widely used personality assessment – is sometimes misused by individuals and organizations. Proper use of the instrument results in expanding vision and opportunity, while misuse can result in pigeonholing and exclusion.”
He then identifies six common misconceptions about personality assessments and then suggests what he believes to be the truth. For example:
Misconception #4: It measures personality traits.
The truth: Though the terms “trait” and “type” are often viewed as synonymous, they describe quite different theoretical concepts. Trait theory holds that behaviors – for example, sociability – are quantifiable, meaning they come in different levels, amounts or degrees that can be measured. The trait concept may be more quickly grasped, as Western cultures in particular teach us from an early age to evaluate the world and ourselves by measurement – How tall? How fast? How smart?
Type theory, on the other hand, holds that each individual naturally relies more on one preference than the other in four pairs of opposites – Introversion and Extraversion, Sensing and Intuition, Thinking and Feeling, and Judging and Perceiving. The Myers-Briggs instrument sorts for these preferences but does not measure them. The results reflect how clearly a person casts his or her vote for each preference. The instrument doesn’t measure “how much” or “how well,” as do most trait-based constructs, but instead indicates how clear one is about his or her preferences: slightly clear, moderately clear, very clear or not clear.
Rich Thompson isSVP, Global Talent Management at Adecco management and consulting S.A.,