One of the most popular tools that counselors use to help students select careers and majors is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. However, it is difficult to justify such popularity with the track record of student counseling. The average student changes majors twice. The impact of this on retention, progression and graduation numbers is dramatically expensive. Looking beyond education, the majority of employees admit to being dissatisfied with their career choices. It’s clear that the MBTI’s contribution is sketchy at best. In fact, the National Research Council, in response to the Army Research Institute’s request, conducted a rigorous examination of the effectiveness of the MBTI. Their finding was “There is not sufficient, well-designed research to justify the use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) in career counseling programs.”
It is not a bad instrument. It is an old instrument. Myers-Briggs was put together in the 1940’s by a mother and daughter with no psychological training. They were fascinated with Carl Jung’s model of personality types. Jung considered it an “interesting parlor game,” not to be taken seriously. You can have a lot of fun with it. It produces interesting discussions. It is not a serious business tool. It does not measure anything. It simply sorts people into an artificial model for the sake of discussing differences. About half of the people will produce different scores when they take it again. In the 40’s,50’s and even 60’s, the MBTI provided information and insights that offered essentially new discussions for most people. Early televisions were introduced in the 40’s and people were amazed as they watched basically three networks. Over the decades that followed, televisions offered bigger pictures, then color pictures and now high definition giant screens with hundreds of program choices. People embraced these advances. It was not because early tv’s stopped working. It was because newer science and technology offered more benefits. The science of psychology and the technology that drives psychometrics have made equally dramatic advances. Myers-Briggs did not stop working either. Science simply moved on. The MBTI is almost 80 years old, based on a model not accepted by top psychometricians. It lacks any measure of cognitive abilities, a critical element in today’s educational and business world. Continuing to use outdated tools denies students the advantages of better information and furthers the expensive misdirection of the past. There are new generations of options that have the potential to transform student counseling into a truly powerful resource.
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