The History of the Myers-Briggs Personality Test

By Melody Hughes; Updated July 05, 2017

The Myers-Briggs Personality Test, now referred to as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality inventory, indicates an individual's personality type. The test relies on descriptions expressed by Carl Gustav Jung in his 1921 book, "Psychological Types." According to the Myers-Briggs Foundation, personalities are shaped by how individuals use their perceptions and judgments. Perception is defined as how an individual becomes aware of ideas, happenings, people and things. Judgment is how we use our perceptions to make conclusions. The results of an individual’s personality test are often used to help people select careers best suited to their personality types.

Test Aspirations

Katherine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, developed the test in hopes that groups and individuals would benefit from exploring and identifying different personality types. They began working on the test during World War II and intended it to be used to help women who were newly entering the workforce to identify jobs that might best fit their personalities.

Katherine Cook Briggs’ Contributions

In 1917, Briggs began the research that lead to the creation of the test. She initially named the four personality components as follows: social, thoughtful, executive and spontaneous. In 1923, she read Jung’s book and recognized similarities between her theories and his more fully developed ones.

Myers’ Contributions

Myers added to her mother’s theories and later took over the project entirely. She did not have any training in psychometrics, so she became an apprentice to Edward N. Hay. During her apprenticeship, she learned about test construction, statistics, validity and scoring. The Briggs-Myers Type Indicator was finished in 1942, and a test handbook was published in 1944. The test was published for psychological use in 1962.

Personality Categories

The test analyzes four different aspects of personality. • It aims to determine if the individual is an extrovert or introvert. An extrovert prefers to interact with the outer world, while an introvert prefers to stay within his own inner world. • It determines whether the person prefers to approach new information by uses the senses only or by using the senses and her intuition. • The test analyzes whether an individual makes decisions based on logic or feelings. • Finally, it aims to discover if the person is rigid or open-minded in her decision-making processes.

Test Administration

The test's multiple-choice questions are typically administered in person by a qualified counselor, therapist or psychologist or online. Results are given in the form of MBTI Profile Report. Each individual will be assigned one of 16 possible personality types upon finishing the test. The personality type is reported as a four-letter code containing a combination of the following: E (extrovert) or I (introvert), S (sensing) or N (intuition), T (thinking) or F (feeling), and J (judging) or P (perceiving).

About the Author

Based in Laurel, Miss., Melody Morgan Hughes covers topics related to education, money and health. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English education from the University of Southern Mississippi, a Master of Education from William Carey University and a Master of Education from Nova Southeastern University.