By Jude Aldrich Allaga

For many, self-discovery is a lifelong process, but to mother-daughter tandem Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, it takes only 93 questions to rationalize who you really are.

The Impact of Inspiration

In 1921, Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung wrote in his book “Psychological Types” that people were either "extraverts" or "introverts" depending on their reaction towards energy. While extraverts, channeling extraversion, gain and direct energy outwards towards their environment and the people around them, introverts flourish in introversion, confining themselves to solitary, mentally and emotionally stimulating energy. This theory would eventually inspire American psychologist Katharine Cook Briggs to dabble in the field of personology, the study of personality. 

Cook Briggs, fascinated by Jung's repertoire in psychology, raised her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers to follow suit, requiring Isabel to undergo rigorous studying nightly before bedtime, shaping her into an award-winning polymath by the mere age of 30. In their shared interest in personality, Cook Briggs sought to publicize Jung's writings by rationalizing the personalities of people she met on index cards, which Briggs Myers then formalized into the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

While men were recruited off to war in World War II, Cook Briggs and Briggs Myers converted the MBTI into a self-questionnaire tool, aimed to filter women’s personalities and tailor them for employment. This was the MBTI’s first-ever recorded usage as a personality test. In 1947, the Officer of Strategic Services (a precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency or CIA) utilized the MBTI in assigning intelligence operatives across Europe. The tandem continued promoting the personality test to employers, medical schools, and their clients, General Electric, Standard Oil, and Bell Laboratories, becoming what it is today: a corporate tool for team building and recruitment.  

Differentiating Dispositions

While the original MBTI personality test was composed of around 93 (number of questions vary across locations) vaguely-phrased questions such as, “If you were to teach a subject, would it be factual or theoretical?”, the popularized version entitled “16Personalities” patterned after Cook Briggs’ and Briggs Myers’ MBTI is a simple online test asking you to express your agreement or disagreement towards specific statements like:

“You usually stay calm, even under a lot of pressure.”

“You are very sentimental.”

“You like to use organizing tools like schedules and lists.”

Adapting Jung’s theory of psychological types (1971), the 16Personalities test characterizes people’s personalities by their preferences in three bipolar areas, namely:
  1. General Attitude: Extraverted (E) V.S. Introverted (I)
  • Extraverted: Extraverted people display a sense of extraversion, attuning themselves to the outer world of their environment, people, and things. 
  • Introverted: Introverted people express introversion, preferring to explore their inner world of ideas and impressions. 
    2. Functions of Perception: Sensing (S) V.S. Intuition (N)
  • Sensing: People who are “sensing” primarily receive information through their five senses. They are grounded on the present and prefer not to dwell on past events and future possibilities.
  • Intuition: Intuitive people draw information from patterns and overviews. Their minds traverse timelines, switching between yesterday, today, and tomorrow. 
    3. Functions of Judging: Thinking (T) V.S. Feeling (F)
  • Thinking: People categorized in “Thinking” are more logical; they make decisions based on objective analyses.
  • Feeling: People who prefer “Feeling” base their decisions on personal values and subjective interpretations.
Another area of preference was introduced by Briggs Myers (1980). 

    4. Judging-Perceiving Relationship: Judging (J) V.S. Perceiving (P)
  • Judging: “Judging” people bank on organization and have a systematic, rigid, and settled approach towards life.
  • Perceiving: People who prefer to perceive would rather choose a flexible, spontaneous way of life, keeping all doors open. 
The 16Personalities test classifies people into one of the two distinctions based on their reactions to the given statements. Additionally, a percentage is provided to determine how much you prefer one of the two preferences. For example, a person described as “ENFP,” would have a generally extraverted attitude, a deep sense of intuition, a lean towards feeling, and a spontaneous perception. If, for instance, you earn 60% for extraversion and 40% for introversion, extraversion will still be expressed as it is your dominant trait. There is a total of 16 four-letter combinations to categorize people personalities:


Branching off from Myers-Briggs, it is presumed that 16Personalities introduced a fifth dichotomy based on the Five-Factor Model (FFM) or “Big Five” which is the leading academic model of personality. For context, the Big Five taxonomy is similar to that of Myers-Briggs’, except the areas of preferences are labeled “extraversion (in relation to E),” “openness (in relation to N),” “agreeableness (in relation to F),” and “conscientiousness (in relation to J).” The fifth factor of the FFM is neuroticism, a measure depicting the frequency levels of negative emotions and emotional volatility. 

    5. Neuroticism: Assertive (A) V.S. Turbulent (T)
  • Assertive: People described as “assertive” have lower levels of neuroticism, experiencing less negativities and are generally more resilient in the face of adversities.
  • Turbulent: “Turbulent people” are more susceptible to negative emotions; they are emotionally reactive to stress and vulnerable to frustrations, more often experiencing anxiety, anger or hostility, depression, self-consciousness, impulsiveness, and irritability.
Upon taking the 16Personalities test, your personality type will read as your four-letter combination – T/A, with the four letters depicting your personality, and your level of neuroticism measured by your choices. For example: Being labeled as “ENFP-T” would mean that on top of being extraverted, intuitive, feeling, and perceptive, your emotions can constantly fluctuate, rendering you susceptible to negative emotions.

This string of letters classifies you into four general categories and one out of 16 specific personality types represented by different character tropes:
  1. Analysts
  • Architect (INTJ-A/INTJ-T)
    Imaginative, strategic, organized thinkers and planners
  • Logician (INTP-A/INTP-T)
    Innovative inventors with a passion for knowledge
  • Commander (ENTJ-A/ENTJ-T)
    Fearless and strong-willed leaders known for finding or paving ways
  • Debater (ENTP-A/ENTP-T)
    Intellectual thinkers with a thrill for challenge
    2. Diplomats
  • Advocate (INFJ-A/INFJ-T)
    Inspiring idealists who possess a quiet and mystical aura
  • Mediator (INFP-A/INFP-T)
    Poetic, selfless, and compassionate people ready to lend a hand
  • Protagonist (ENFJ-A/ENFJ-T)
    Mesmerizingly charismatic leaders who attract listeners
  • Campaigner (ENFP-A/ENFP-T)
    Joyful, free, and sociable spirits who never waver in enthusiasm
    3. Sentinels
  • Logistician (ISTJ-A/ISTJ-T)
    Practical, reliable, and fact-bound individuals
  • Defender (ISFJ-A/ISFJ-T)
    Devoted protectors ready to defend their loved ones
  • Executive (ESTJ-A/ESTJ-T)
    Excellent managers and administrators
  • Consul (ESFJ-A/ESFJ-T)
    Sociable, caring, and popular individuals who seek to help
    4. Explorers
  • Virtuoso (ISTP-A/ISTP-T)
    Jacks of all trades with a love for bold experimentations
  • Adventurer (ISFP-A/ISFP-T)
    Versatile, charming artists who strive for new experiences
  • Entrepreneur (ESTP-A/ESTP-T)
    Smart yet savvy risk-takers
  • Entertainer (ESFP-A/ESFP-T)
    Ever-energetic lives of a party
Breaking Down the Buzz

Despite how “ancient” MBTI may seem, considering how long it goes back into the roots of psychology and personology, it seems to have taken the world of social media by storm in recent years. Aside from curiosity, and frankly, pandemic boredom, Dr. Fayard of Psychology Today states that our interest towards personality tests stems from our longing to learn more about ourselves. “There might be things about yourself you don’t know, like how intellectual you are,” she states. Dr. Fayard amplifies our need to “belong” and simply understand the people around us to fit into society. 

Stems of Skepticism

However, in spite of the relatively positive reception MBTI and other personality tests have garnered, Personality Researcher Simine Vazire of the University of California, Davis reminds us to be skeptical. “You should be skeptical,” she claims, “until we test them scientifically we can’t tell the difference between that and pseudoscience like astrology.”
The MBTI personality has been one of the most skewered with skepticism, with Vazire even calling it “shockingly bad.” It is at best, as per Vazire’s opinion, a comparative tool than a deep dive of your true personality. “In a way, it’s disappointing. It just means that personality tests can only tell you what you tell it.” In other words, personality assessments rely on people’s honesty and self-reflectiveness; you will more often than not learning nothing new about yourself.

Randy Stein, psychologist at California Polytechnic State University, Pomona asserts that, “They (personality tests) assume that there is an essence of you and an essence of the job, and you should be matching up those two things in hiring.” “But I don’t think there is a hidden truth—and even if there is, a personality test doesn’t do it.”

Hence, your MBTI result, alongside any other assessment made by an online personality test should be taken and interpreted with a grain of salt; no one knows you better but yourself. If there’s one thing to question about the MBTI personality test is its personability; how shockingly accurate yet different the results may be depending on who answers it and when. Whether the MBTI was intentionally made palatable or not, we’ll never know. Today, it is quite relieving to hear that the MBTI personality test is taken more as a pastime than a qualification. After all, if an authentic personality sells, then much more a fabricated one aimed to deceive employers.

For Carl Jung, it was one’s reaction to energy. For Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, it was one’s answers to 93 questions. For many people today, it is the result you get after several taps on your phone screen that truly sums up one’s character.

Five letters may never be enough to rationalize one’s personality. It is interesting to think, however, that behind a simple five-letter result is the lifeblood of a Swiss psychoanalyst, the tale of a passionate mother and daughter, and the endless debate about whether or not what truly makes you- is you.

The Myers & Briggs Foundation - Take the MBTI® Instrument. (2019).

‌Haslam, S. A. (2018). The self-made women who created the Myers–Briggs. Nature, 561(7722), 176–176.

Chen, A. (2018, October 10). How Accurate Are Personality Tests? Scientific American.

‌Cherry, K. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: The 16 Personality Types. (n.d.). Verywell Mind.

Fayard, J. Why Do We Like Personality Tests, Even the Bad Ones? (n.d.). Psychology Today.

Jung’s Theory of Introvert and Extrovert Personalities. (2018, September 24). Fractal Enlightenment.

‌The Myers-Briggs Assessment Test. Example Questions & Detailed Overview - Psychometric Success. (n.d.).

‌16 Personalities. (2011). Personality Types.

‌Drenth, A.J. Myers-Briggs / MBTI in the Age of the Big Five. (n.d.). Personality Junkie. Retrieved August 3, 2021, from

‌Drenth, A.J. Turbulent (T) vs. Assertive (A) Personality: Overlaps with Neuroticism, Myers-Briggs & “Highly Sensitive Person” (HSP) Traits. (n.d.). Personality Junkie.