Two Approaches to Examining the Stability of Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Scores

By Salter, Daniel W.; Forney, Deanna S. et al. | Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, January 2005 | Go to article overview

Two Approaches to Examining the Stability of Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Scores


Salter, Daniel W., Forney, Deanna S., Evans, Nancy J., Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development


Two approaches are used to assess the stability of Myers-Briggs Type Indicator scores across 3 administrations (N = 231): longitudinal configural frequency analysis with categorical scores and generalizability theory with the Preference Clarity Indices and continuous scores. The results are generally positive. Evaluation of techniques is offered.

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As the primary measure of Jung's (1921/1971) theory of psychological types, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or MBTI (Briggs & Myers, 1998), has become one of the most widely used psychological measures currently in production (McCaulley, 2000) "with between 1.5 and 2 million persons completing it each year" (Jackson, Parker, & Dipboye, 1996, p. 99). Multiple studies, such as those summarized in Hammer (1996) and in Myers, McCaulley, Quenk, and Hammer (1998), have documented the MBTI's utility as a measure of personality in research and in practice. Due perhaps to its popularity, the MBTI instrument has been a subject of debate in the research literature (e.g., Carlson, 1989a, 1989b; Healy, 1989a, 1989b; McCaulley, 1990; Merenda, 1991) and has been criticized on several fronts by authors who have proposed their own measures of Jung's theory (e.g., Vacha-Haase & Thompson, 2002). One ongoing concern in these discussions has been the reliability of the scores produced by the MBTI instrument.

Demonstrating reliability can be approached in different ways, depending on what a researcher wants to know about the scores that have been obtained from the administration of a particular instrument. For example, internal consistency addresses the homogeneity among responses to individual items on an instrument, and in their recent reliability generalization study, Capraro and Capraro (2002) found an average of about .81 for MBTI scores. The utility of any measurement of innate characteristics, however, should also be predicated on the temporal stability of the scores it produces. In the case of MBTI scores, early studies of test-retest reliability are somewhat mixed (e.g., Harvey, 1996; Johnson, 1992; Pittenger, 1993; Salter, Evans, & Forney, 1997). Perhaps a primary shortcoming of many MBTI studies is lack of recognition that an individual's MBTI profile actually provides two types of information that can be examined psychometrically. In addition, most test-retest studies have typically used only two data points with unsophisticated analytical strategies.

In this article, we have multiple goals. First, we seek to clarify some of the confusion surrounding the scores produced by the MBTI, because the analytical approaches reported in the research literature do not seem consistent with the nature of the data. To respond to the demands for information on the reliability of MBTI scores, we offer two different strategies for assessing their stability across multiple administrations of this measure. We evaluate these approaches as contrasted with previous assessment strategies. Finally, by conducting these analyses, we are also contributing to the growing body of evidence on the measurement properties of the MBTI instrument.

THE MBTI INSTRUMENT

The MBTI instrument grew out of Jung's (1921/1971) theory of psychological types, with later extensions and elaborations by Myers and Briggs (Myers et al., 1998). In this approach to appreciating differences, people are viewed as being oriented to one of two types of psychic energy. Extraverts prefer to interact with the external world of people and things around them. Introverts prefer the subjective energy from within themselves, such as ideas, feelings, thoughts, or perceptions. Within these preferred worlds, people must use two different adaptive processes: perception and judgment. The perceptive process relies on two functions. Individuals with a sensing preference prefer to take in information through their five senses and to be focused in the here and now. An intuition is built on a sixth sense, and people with this preference tend to be creative and imaginative. …

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