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Responding to Type Criticism—Is the MBTI® Tool a Test?

Responding to Type Criticism—Is the MBTI® Tool a Test?

I recently came across an article criticizing the MBTI® tool using the word test to describe it. Whenever anyone uses that word to describe the Myers-Briggs® assessment, right away I question that person’s understanding of what this tool really does.

Test implies that the answers to the questions are either right or wrong, good or bad. But that’s not the case with the MBTI tool. Instead, it is about understanding how we each take in information and how we make decisions, recognizing, for example, that while we may have a preference for Thinking, we each use Feeling—the opposite preference—every day. We must be able to use each side to be effective and productive in our work and in our life.

Once people start to attach good or bad to the results of this tool, they lose the value of what it is meant to do. We must understand that we all can contribute something to every situation and we all have potential blind spots. Appreciating this about the MBTI tool can open doors to all kinds of possibilities.

If you enjoyed this post, also check out a recent blog post by Jeff Hayes, President and CEO of CPP, Inc., which includes a response to a recent criticism.


  1. There appears to be a debate whether or not Jung formulated or obtained his Personality Type or Temperament Theory directly from a spirit-guide name Philemon, and hence indirectly the source of MBTI profiling.

    But would this quote of Jung on your site prove that Philemon is the source of is Personality Type Theory?:

    “[Philemon] was simply a superior knowledge, and he taught me psychological objectivity and the actuality of the soul. He formulated and expressed everything which I had never thought.” Carl Jung

    along with this Jung quote:

    “Philemon and other figures of my fantasies brought home to me the crucial insight that there are things in the psyche which I do not produce, but which produce themselves and have their own life. Philemon represented a force that was not myself. In my fantasies I held conversations with him, and he said things which I had not consciously thought. […] Psychologically, Philemon represented superior insight.”

    Final question, though temperament and types have different meanings, aren’t 16 types all based or rooted in four temperaments devised by Jung?

    I look forward to your response.


    James Sundquist

    • Thanks James for your question. I defer to my CPP colleague Marta Koonz who I consider more studied on Jung than I as part of her work toward a Ph.D. in Depth psychology.

      “Well, final question first – the MBTI is rooted in Jung’s psychological types and the four mental functions he identified, not the four temperaments. Jung states, “The differentiation of the four temperaments, which we took over from the ancients, hardly rates as a psychological typology since the temperaments are scarcely more than psychophysical colourings (CW 6, par 13). So, not temperaments, but rooted in the “four basic functions [that] represent the various modes of conscious orientation” (CW 6, par 900) that Jung identified.

      Philemon was a figure that Jung dialogued with in his encounters with the unconscious (MDR, Vintage Books Edition, 1989, p. 183). Yes, he did represent “superior insight” to Jung, and was a guru figure for him, a psychic (as in “from the psyche”) guide of sorts. As documented in The Red Book (TRB), Jung engaged in Active Imagination (a technique he developed for engaging with the unconscious) with Philemon during his initial explorations of the unconscious aspects of the self. So, “Was Philemon the source of Personality Type Theory?” and then, by implication, all of Jung’s theories? Perhaps in a way, but remember that from a Jungian perspective, the psychic figures we encounter represent an aspect of the self, and thus, Philemon can be seen as an unconscious aspect of Jung himself.”

      That’s the short answer from Marts, without getting into archetypes and the collective unconscious. I always appreciate how she sites her sources. If you would like to communicate with Marta directly, let me know. Not only is she wise, she is very kind.

      All the best to you,


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