The Battle of the Giants: Big Five versus MBTI

Carl Jung

Kicks Freud’s ass.

If you’re interested in the subject of personality you’ve probably searched for info about it on the internet, and if so you’ve inevitably bumped into the two major models dominating this field – the Big Five and the MBTI. And then you’ve no doubt wondered: which of these is the better? So here is a head-to-head comparison covering the basics. But first a really short presentation of the contenders (or click the Wiki-links above),

The Big Five

The five factor model popularly known as the Big Five is a taxonomy aimed at covering most aspects of personality. It claims to do so with five major factors – Extraversion, Neuroticism, Conscientiousness, Agreeableness and Openness. These traits are pretty much what their names suggest. The Big Five doesn’t theorize about what goes on inside people’s heads; it focuses on actual behaviour. This is reflected in the various measures of the model which features items like, “I enjoy trying new and foreign foods” (a measure of Openness).


The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is the name simultaneously used for a theory and a corresponding measure of personality types, based on a typology introduced by psychiatrist Carl Jung in the early 1900s. It characterizes people by their attitude toward the inner and outer world, Extraversion and Introversion (correlates pretty strong with the Big Five Extraversion), and by their cognitive preferences. These preferences are either Perceiving or Judging. The perceiving preferences describe how we take in information either through our senses, called Sensation, or intuiting stuff, called Intuition. The judging preferences describe how we process information using either logic, called Thinking, or a more emotional way through Feeling. The last preferences, called Judgment and Perception, refers to whether we use a judging or perceiving function to deal with the outside world.

Underlying Principles: Cognitive Theory versus Lexical Hypothesis

If you are looking for a way to grasp the organization of personality the MBTI has a clear edge. It’s based on a cognitive theory (outlined above) that explains basic personality traits as arising from differences in how we take in and process information.

The Big Five on the other hand is based on a completely different idea, namely the Lexical Hypothesis, which states that all the important personality traits are encoded in natural language. Proponents of this model have gone through dictionaries and collected all the words describing personality traits and then looked at which are used synonymously, and then applied factor analysis to end up with their five major factors. So it’s a non-theoretical model, a way of sorting traits on a linguistic basis.

In my view, the theoretical basis of the MBTI is a huge advantage, because theories are what we use to understand the world. The Big Five research can only find correlates but not put them into any context – conservatives score high on Conscientiousness, liberals score high on Openness etc. What does it tell us about personality? Not much more can be said because there is no theoretical context. The MBTI on the other hand can note that the liberals score high on intuition and conservatives score high on sensation. And in view of the theory, a liberal attitude can be understood as a way of looking at patterns and possibilities when processing information, a preference that makes for a reformist. In the same way we can understand conservatism as a way of relying more on actual data and for that reason being more interested in building on history and tradition because it contains actual data rather than some scenario of how things might be one day.

You can’t make an analysis like that without a theory and that’s a big win for the MBTI.

Measures: Dimensional versus Typological

The MBTI divides people into types where the Big Five measures traits on a dimensional scale. This is big problem for the MBTI since all existing data suggests that traits are dimensional. The MBTI can’t even produce typological data to reflect their theory, so it uses cut-off points to create types. This sometimes has the consequence that two individuals differing one point on a scale can end up being categorized as different types while two individuals differing 20 points end up as belonging to the same type. This is a huge disadvantage for the MBTI and a reason to be skeptical of your result if you take the test. A measure of the Big Five (or any other dimensional test) will simply show the unadulterated result. Big score for the Big Five.

Research and Development: Science versus Intuition

While the MBTI is commonly used in business, education and Jungian psychology the Big Five dominates in academic research. This may give the impression that this isn’t a contest at all, but rather a matter of whether you appreciate scientific method or not. On closer inspection, this view is false. The reason for this is again the lack of theory. People who have theories – like Marvin Zuckerman, Robert Cloninger and others – reject the Big Five and come up with their own models and measures to test their ideas. They need theoretical models to validate or falsify their theories. Since the Big Five is just a way of sorting traits, the only research that can be done with it is that of listing correlates – like discovering that people scoring high on Conscientiousness clean out their fridges more often than others – if you can call that research. It’s a model for paper-pushers rather than scientists.

The MBTI has a completely different problem. While having the theoretical basis enabling meaningful research, the theory is just too intuitive for its own good. Based on Jung, the godfather of New Age, it has attracted a lot of airy fairy people who have little or no respect for scientific principles and methods. Instead of research and development, the MBTI community has a tradition of epigones adding their own arbitrary twists to the theory. This began when the MBTI added a new dimension (that of Judgment/Perception) to the original theory and it has been followed by much more inferior and convoluted elaborations in the field known as Type Dynamics, which is little more than a modern version of astrology.

While this may seem like a win for the Big Five, I’d call this a draw because listing correlates versus mere speculation are two equally pointless endeavors.

And the Winner Is…

For all its flaws, the winner has to be the MBTI. It all comes back to theory. As a non-theoretical model, the Big Five isn’t inspiring research, only pointless pseudo-research. It doesn’t lead to a better understanding of what personality is about. The MBTI has a comprehensive theory of personality to build on, a theory that has proven validity even in its current form. I believe it can be reformed (or simply replaced by another Jungian model) into something that can inspire more research and a deepened understanding of the workings of personality.

64 Responses to The Battle of the Giants: Big Five versus MBTI

  1. Joel Sammallahti says:

    How does the MBTI have proven validity? Where are the validating studies? What research has it inspired? The B5 at least has some predictive power for a bunch of behaviors. The MBTI though? We don’t know because that research isn’t being done.

    B5 is messy, but at least it’s a model built on data. The MBTI was basically just made up. Theory’s a nice word for the speculations of a couple of psychoanalysts with no research experience or academic credentials. As a scientific theory though, it’s a bust. 50 years and nobody’s done any credible studies on it.

    Love your blog,

    • Salient says:

      cant agree better.
      MBTI dont showing you “bad” traits (like B5:N) has better self-marketing, and its more simple (= better memetic fitness), thats the secret. In every other aspect, BIG 5 is better. My favorite rightnow is TCI-R.

  2. Staffan says:


    The validity of the MBTI is in the statistics of educational choices, dropout rates and such – the extraverted feeler becomes a nurse, the sensor/thinker an accountant etc. There is also a validity in that introversion and intuition are defined as related to abstract reasoning and this combination correlates with IQ. For the Big Five Extraversion started out correlating with IQ but this relation has dropped over the years to zero or slightly inversed, for some reason.

    As for inspiration, I said it could be reformed into something that could inspire research. I think it’s clear that Jung has inspired personlity research – both Eyesenck’s PEN and Cloninger’s TCI look pretty Jungian. I’m pretty sure I’ve read somewhere that Eysenck did give it some credit.

    It’s true that the Big Five is dominant and the MBTI needs reforming. But the Big Five is no alternative, it seems no theories are coming out of using it and you can’t have science without theory.

  3. Michael says:

    You suggest that the MBTI could be reformed into something that could inspire research. What about bringing theory to the Five Factor model instead?

    Science doesn’t always have to begin with a theory and look for data supporting it, it can start with the patterns in the data and look for theories explaining them – induction instead of deduction. The Five Factor model may not *start* from a theory of how personality works, but that needn’t be a fatal flaw. What is preventing researchers from taking the factors resulting from the lexical analysis as their starting point, and then developing theories to explain them?

    One approach would be to look for mechanisms in the brain that are related to the factors. For example, variation in neuroticism could result from variation in the sensitivity of brain systems involved in harm avoidance, and the same for extroversion and reward seeking. According to Daniel Nettle’s book Personality, this sort of research is being done.

  4. Staffan says:

    Yes, but Extraversion and Neuroticism weren’t discovered by the Big Five people, they were already described by Eysenck, relying on biological research, back in 1947 (Extraversion/Introversion originally comes from Jung, although he did no research.) About half of Openness is intelligence and Agreeableness correlates with Extraversion.

    That’s not to say I’m opposed to the method you suggest, I just don’t see it happening in this case because of the lexical hypothesis that the model is built on.

    For instance, I haven’t found anyone yet who doesn’t agree that somevery talkative and sociable people are introverted in spite of their behavior. According to the lexical model this group doesn’t exist. A trait can take on many forms.

    Another reason is that language simply doesn’t cover all aspects of personality. One percent of all men are psychopaths but only a few languages (English not included) have words for this trait.

    And some words describe the same behavior but the context shows that they are different things. A person can act impulsively out of fear, lack of judgment, for thrills etc. In Big Five terms this is all the same. It seems very hard to make a meaningful theory when you bundle things together like this.

  5. Matt says:

    I’m an amateur here, so perhaps the following ideas are not quite in order but:

    The MBTI seems to pose four dichotomies that don’t really seem like dichotomies (why would you perceive less because you judge more? why would you compare these things like the poles of a single dimension?).

    Since the Big Five is just a way of sorting traits, the only research that can be done with it is that of listing correlates – like discovering that people scoring high on Conscientiousness clean out their fridges more often than others

    Or neuroanatomical correlates. The traits may be atheoretical, but fortunately, we can actually look at peoples brains and work out how they process information.

    A model should be based on explaining all relevant observations – if these happen to be lexically encoded…. (of course, in time the model should attempt to explain more variations, those not lexically encoded, or commonly lexically encoded).

    Also, although we can look down on mere correlation, that correlations exist at all, even without a causal model, is proof that there is at least a real phenomena there. Which of these two models we are considering produces the stronger pattern of correlation should provide evidence that it is a demonstrably real model.

    As to atheoretical models, the accepted model of intelligence is largely atheoretical and purely statistical (and when it wandered into theory it did not add explanatory power), while attempts to build a neuroanatomy first and theory first models have not been promising.

    In the field of physics, isn’t quantum physics a statistical and rather atheoretical model, with no confirmed theory but replete with explanatory power?

    All theory and no explanatory power is a worse thing than all correlation and no theory – not pen pushing, worse, mere continental philosophy (note: I am not a philosopher again, and am not sure this is entirely fair, but you get the flavor).

    • Staffan says:

      “why would you perceive less because you judge more? why would you compare these things like the poles of a single dimension?”

      The reason is probably evolutionary: preferences create expertise that makes the group more successful than a group without any inherent preferences. Just my guess of course. For instance, fish are extraverts and introverts. In a dangerous environment the extraverts become fewer, but when luck changes they reproduce faster. So it’s a matter of balance.

      True we can use findings from Big Five to theorize, but since these traits are vague (and changing over time) we get correlates that may not lend themselves to any meaningful theory. Neuroticism is 90 fearfulness and 10 percent impulsiveness. It would be easier to make a trait of fearfulness instead. And that has been done by Jerome Kagan who calls it Behavioral Inhibition.

      If the Big Five goes beyond the Lexical Hypothesis it kind of contradicts it by saying all meaningful traits are not encoded in natural language. Then you’d need methods for incorporating the new traits – but those methods would in turn make the lexical sorting process redundant.

      It’s not that I look down on correlations, they are extremely important. But correlates of muddled traits are likely to be muddled themselves. It’s the old garbage-in-garbage-out error.

      Intelligence is most likely related to personality, or even the same thing depending on how you define personality. It’s used because it has predictive validity and there is no harm in that. But we still don’t understand how it works and that’s because we don’t have a theory. I for one is not content with that.

      “All theory and no explanatory power is a worse thing than all correlation and no theory – not pen pushing, worse, mere continental philosophy.”

      I agree with that, and I’m not exactly crazy about the MBTI, but I think it has potential – it can be tested and improved. The question is what we can do with the Big Five. We can see that people who have theories quickly come up with their own traits and measure rather than hope that the Big Five traits by some happy accident would apply to their theory.

      The MBTI has been standing still because it’s been hijacked by airy fairy psychologists, but the Big Five hasn’t generated any theories in spite of being the dominant model in academic research for decades. That’s what it comes down to for me. I may be deluding myself about the MBTI but the Big Five has certainly had its chance.

  6. […] and further reading The Battle of the Giants: Big Five versus MBTI @ staffanspersonalityblog – A well-written, nuanced analysis, comparing MBTI and Big Five personality […]

  7. Dandre says:

    Well written! I do also think that MBTI has potential, but it needs to be reformed. You can check out my article on similar topic, comparing MBTI community with Jungians and “Scientists” Thanks for interesting read /David

    • Staffan says:

      Thanks, and right back atcha. (I left a comment on your post regarding the MBTI.) It’s funny how few bloggers are into the MBTI when there are so many of them at the forums. Not sure what that means.

      • Dandre says:

        Got it! I’ll surely look more into your blog, it looks interesting!

      • Benjamin David Steele says:

        I’m a blogger who is into MBTI. But I began my interest in forums. I haven’t focused much on personality in my blog in recent posts, though.

  8. Sisyphean says:

    I completely agree that MBTI makes a lot more sense when you view it as a spectrum of values rather than binary. Unfortunately it’s very hard to visualize four axis plotted. If we were to drop one of the scales we could make a three dimensional sphere with pure poles for each perfect archetype at the corners but dropping items then makes it hard to see how traits cluster and you have to decide which is least important to drop. Still with trait blending you can see how an INTP with low T (ha ha) and an INFP with low F are far more similar than the INFP and the INFJ, especially an INFJ with lower N.

    And yes, as you say there are quite a few non-scientific ways to view the MBTI but I find some of them are useful. I especially like Kiersey’s big picture view where he simplifies it into four big groups with general tendencies before drilling into specifics. The four humours come up over and over again in human history, to the point where we find art imitating life. I always thought it was weird how the four ninja turtles correspond beautifully to four general types: The driven SJ Leonardo, the nerdy NT Donatello, the fun loving SP Michaelangelo and the moody NF Raphael.

    • Staffan says:

      “Still with trait blending you can see how an INTP with low T (ha ha) and an INFP with low F are far more similar than the INFP and the INFJ, especially an INFJ with lower N.”

      Yes, clearly. I would say the whole inner and outer world stuff that Myers-Briggs added is wrong. There are only three dimensions – I/E, T/F and S/N. But since the latter two are both functions you have the question of which is dominant. I think a rough translation would be to say that J/P simply refers to the main function. If that function is rational then you become an overall more rational person. I have never found any empirical support for the idea that some would be outwardly J but P inside and vice versa.

      I’m not crazy about Keirsey though because he creates types that are easily recognizable but with no real theory as to why they would be more fundamental than more obscure types. Jung was a reductionist, looking for the basic mechanism – how we focus our attention, how we take in and process information. I think that’s the way to go.

  9. thomas brinsmead says:

    The first two academic articles that I found on the relationship between the big five and MBTI models of personality suggest a reasonably strong
    (statistically significant) degree of empirical correlation.

    Click to access BIGFIVE.pdf

    Even if MBTI really was developed “intuitively” and the big five “scientifically”, then the correlation suggests at least some degree of convergence, and hence MBTI must inherit some of the scientific validity of the big five model.

    • Staffan says:

      The MBTI has some validity in that it predicts choices and performances in education and career. There would probably be more if the MBTI was reformed, but that doesn’t on the agenda. This reluctance is likely due to money. The MBTI is big business partly because people like being told that they are types/snowflakes rather than average, as the data suggests.

  10. Manuel says:

    I enjoyed the article’s neutrality until I got to the conclusion.

    B5 scientific validity and soundness blows MBTI out of the water. The fact it currently doesn’t have any theory behind it (WIP) makes it the choice for the future as a framework can be built upon some conclusions we are already pretty sure it comes close to reality.

    MBTI on the other hand is mainly promoted by the “church” of CAPT and assumes a structure of personality that has already been largely dismissed by the scientific community. Having a theory behind it means little in face of this.

    Long story short: I think the conclusion is to keep working on a cognitive theory based on B5 solid findings, rather than reforming MBTI and retest the theory.

    • Manuel says:

      After reading some of the previous comments I see I raised some points already covered but I must say I agree with who wrote this:

      “All theory and no explanatory power is a worse thing than all correlation and no theory”

      B5 is already too strong empirically to be so easily forgotten, especially considering its renewed interest with the expansion of the field of neurosciences. You’re right about a seemingly lack of theoretical interest behind it but I believe the key question here is why. I don’t see it as a weakness of the B5 itself but rather the overall mentality that is going on in scientific psychology and neurosciences right now. The study of personality has been deemed boring for some time time, we can only hope that fMRI and other brain research techniques will revive it.

      • Staffan says:

        Hi and thanks for you comment.

        Thing is the MBTI has some explanatory power. It for instance predicts that introverts should have higher intelligence than extraverts which has also been confirmed. Compare this to the Big Five extraversion which has drifted from a clearly positive correlation to IQ to now zero or slightly negative. Openness to experience has some validity but as I wrote in my most recent post, this trait is mainly a composite measure of IQ and creativity and doesn’t qualify as a broad factor of personality.

        The fundamental problem is that you can’t do much without a theory and actual theorists like Cloninger, Zuckerman and others never use the Big Five because as soon as you have a theory of personality the model and the measures follow out of the theory. So it basically becomes a crutch for people who can’t come up with hypotheses and theories.

        If you hear these uncreative psychologists praise the Big Five it’s clear that they are more impressed by the consensus it has achieved than by it’s validity or capacity to generate theories. That should tell you something. Imaging techniques will not fix that problem – although it might give us a way to scan and weed out psychologists who lack ideas : )

  11. bjdubbs says:

    Cool site! OK, about the predictive validity of MBTI, if there were none, then there would be no correlation between MBTI and job type. But we know that there is. For instance, most military leaders are ISTJ, INTJ, ENTJ, and ESTJ. See here:

    Click to access a401567.pdf

    That seems like good evidence to me. Has other research like this been done? THanks.

    • Staffan says:

      It’s certainly some form of validity because by the way the theory looks we’d expect those types to be common in the military. Unfortunately I haven’t found much research on the MBTI, academic psychologist avoid the model. I can understand this because a single point can turn a feeler to a thinker and vice versa. And it still has vailidity! A simple dimensional model would probably have huge validity but the MBTI is also a big industry and a reform could cost them a lot of customers. Meanwhile the research psychologists are sticking with the Big Five, more out of convenience than anything else. It’s a sad situation although eventually someone will come along and see the potential and the opportunity in reforming the MBTI or making some other Jungian measure.

  12. wahyu says:

    is there any research that prove MBTI has any relationship with learning abilty and learning style?

    • Staffan says:

      There is some stats on it in the MBTI manual. But it only refers to educational choices, dropout rates and grades (if I remember correctly). The stats also indicate introversion and intuition as linked to higher intelligence. There is some other research confirming this but I don’t have that source in my head right now. It’s in one of the major scientific journals on personality. I think it was the Euroopean Journal of Personality, not sure.

  13. wahyu says:

    thanks for your fast response, btw i’m sent you an email, I really appreciated.

  14. fred says:

    I love it when a paradigm begins to crumble, and people who have a vested interest squeal like stuck pigs to prove their old paradigm is valid, So the sooner pseudo-psychometric like MBTI are abandoned to the past the better and we can get on with ‘proper’ discourse and research! BTW MBTI (along with all ‘genuine’ personality psychometric s) are measured against the Big 5 – if MBTI were .so good, I think you’ll find the reverse would be true!

    • Staffan says:

      Well, the Big Five is the dominant model, like Freud was the dominant theorist once upon a time… And as I pointed out in the post, people who have theories tend to make measures based on those theories. The Big Five is for people who lack theories. Proper research needs theories.

      Then there is the fact that the lexical hypothesis didn’t work – natural language doesn’t encode all the basic personality traits. And those words that do relate to personality can often describe very different personalities. A Florence Nightinggale-type person tends to be sociable, having “approach” as they say, but the same goes for psychopaths. In Big Five parlance that’s all just extraversion. That’s what you get for not having a theory.

  15. Shela says:

    After I originally left a comment I appear to have clicked the
    -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now whenever a comment is added
    I receive 4 emails with the same comment. Is there a
    way you are able to remove me from that service? Thanks a lot!

    • Staffan says:

      Sorry, not sure how to do that. Perhaps deleting the original comment would work, but I can’t find your comment. Did you comment under a different name?

  16. Clara says:

    I don’t know about the validity of either, but as a complete laywoman, I tend to find the MBTI more… positive.
    There’s no superior or inferior type, no judgment inferred; whereas the “big 5” very clearly judges people, especially with items like “agreeableness, openness, conscentiousness”… if you score low on those, you’ve basically been labelled an asshole, close-minded and lazy.
    Elysium forbids you also score low on extraversion and high on neuroticism, as then you’d have no redeeming value whatsoever in the eyes of that test’s creators.

  17. Andres says:

    I think that you can see–almost if not entirely empirically–that the MBTI has great validity as a theory. For instance, it´s not hard for me to identify a thinking type and when I see that such thinking type is being extremely stubborn, rigid, uncooperative, or egoistic, the problem is that he/she is usually repressing a value or a feeling. The same can be said about the feeling type. When a feeling type is behaving out of balance and with poor logic, such person is repressing a thought or an objective fact.

  18. Andres says:

    of Openness is intelligence and Agreeableness correlates with Extraversion.” Do you have a link that shows research with correlations between BF and MBTI? I ask you this because in this site ( they correlate Agreeableness with the Thinking/Feeling dimension. I can see how Openness correlate with Intelligence, but it´s not so clear to me that the strongest correlation for Agreeableness is Extraversion. It makes more sense to correlate Agreeableness with the Feeling function, but also I can see that there might be a correlation.

    I agree with you that the MBTI is too intuitive for its own good and it has attracted many airy fairy people (me being one of them :)) with little respect for scientific methods. I have read many testimonies about people who complain about the MBTI because every time they take the personality test, they obtain a different personality type. This is a problem very difficult if not impossible to solve. What I can tell you is that throughout the years I have learnt to identify types. Sometimes, I am confused about a person´s type and it takes me more time to analyze that person, but other types I am pretty certain and I know when I am right. But again, this is a purely intuitive process–and somewhat subjective.

    I think it would be interesting to do research on personality disorders and MBTI to find correlations that could reinforce this theory. The only research I found was done by the Colorado Springs University but the sample was small and the study came out poor. Probably, MMPI-2 could be a good source of data to find other correlations, even a new theory of personality types.

    What I do not understand is why is it so necessary to create a theory on personality assuming that everybody has a unique personality? The battle of the giants that you expose reminds me of the problem of inductive or deductive logic, the BF being the inductive approach; the MBTI, the deductive one. Some problems are best addressed with inductive logic; others with deductive.

    Finally I would be interesting to do more research on astrology, why not? The University of Michigan Business School did a very good research finding a strong correlation between moon cycles and stock market returns.

    Click to access b2092645.0001.001.pdf

  19. Shawn says:

    I have come across hard neuroscience which I believe goes a long way towards legitimizing MBTI. It is found in the book “The Neuroscience of Personality” where EEG was used to compare people of different types and to find correlations.

    I personally haven’t ever taken the official MBTI test. I was able to figure out my personality type by looking at the preferences and reading descriptions of the various types. I believe that the degree scale (such as between T and F) is artificial and is created by the test. The ordering of the preferences (extravert intuition, etc.) can be accomplished intuitively and need not be tested.

    • Staffan says:

      There’s room for both scientific rigor and intuitive speculation. Sadly, Academia has largely rejected the MBTI, which could be a way better model if improved – something that is easy to do. But MBTI are at fault for being uninterested in improvement, probably because the current model is incredibly popular and is big business.

      I always felt T/F is skewed to inflate the number of thinkers, like S/N inflates intuitives, and for that matter E/I inflates introverts. But that makes sense from a financial perspective.

  20. Jay V. says:

    Big 5 pseudo-research? Ha. I’m currently working in data science on pulling peer reviewed literature big 5 correlations to identify a personality profile for:
    1. (HR side) potential employees that will experience greater satisfaction, performance, and reduced turnover.
    2. (PR side) the most influential consumers (marker mavens, early adopters, opinion leaders, etc.).

    In general these groups of people tend to score the VERY similarly on big-5 continuous scales. Also, the big 5 has been broken down into subcategories within each of the 5 factors (example: openness to experience would have openness to intellect, authority-challenging, imagination, artistic, etc.). IBM Watson, one of the most powerful computers ever created, uses these subcategories in its PI service (personality insights). We can then write algorithmic code to match Watson PI score with individuals to see how they might fit into a company culture/setting or to see if they’re consumers worth targeting. These are next-level hiring and marketing tactics.

    MBTI is a joke. How can I classify differences between populations using nominal variables? As you said, it is an insult to the scientific community… you NEED a continuous scale (unless you’re an armature and don’t care about statistical power).

    • Jay V. says:


      • Jay V. says:

        Artistic interests16%

        Achievement striving41%

        Activity level2%


        Emotional range42%
        Prone to worry15%
        Susceptible to stress26%

        This is an example of the Watson PI output in case you were wondering. If that doesn’t show the massive statistical power of the modern big 5 then I don’t know what will. The MBTI is only 16 types locked in stone for all eternity (4 dichotomies). 16 types do not accurately represent all of the possible personality combinations that a human can experience. Once again, I heavily emphasize CONTINUOUS SCALES.

      • Parvulus Ca says:

        Could I say that there has been “MBTI Step II” which has five sub-functions of four functions it already has? It has more than 300 questions which might ensure the correctness, and the sub-functions are very specific, and percentage is also included. True it’s not that scientific right now, but this model is more promising cause it has more possiblities and is more detailed.

      • Staffan says:

        It’s all about the evidence. Usually, being detailed and convoluted is what people do when they don’t have that. But I would be glad if my suspicions were wrong.

  21. Eric says:

    Ok, I must admit: I laughed when I read your declared “winner.”

    MBTI is utter crap, and anyone who is an actual personality psychologist will tell you this. The MBTI lacks reliability in retesting, which is VITAL for personality tests. Why should anyone care about their MBTI result when, statistically speaking, there’s a 50% chance of it changing next time you take the test? It also creates dichotomies that are not mutually exclusive. It tells you what you tend to do cognitively, but itself claims that everyone uses every function, and stresses that worldly individuals will surpass their type and learn to utilize every function to its fullest. So, what–people who learn to utilize each function… stop having a personality?

    MBTI is founded on philosophy, Big 5 is founded on data. The Big 5 has proved itself to be more statistically valid and reliable, and has true application to real-life behavior. The MBTI is personality psychology’s own version of horoscopes.

    • Eric says:

      To add on, I want to highlight the ridiculousness of the MBTI in pointing out that it believes people who primarily “feel things” and people who primarily “think things” is absolutely absurd and not grounded in reality. I know numerous people, myself included, who rely on logic and reasoning on a daily basis, as a natural reaction to stimuli, yet are highly empathetic and emotionally-driven. I consistently rate high in F with MBTI, so I must not be a logic-centered individual, yeah?

      Or how about the fact that Introversion and Extraversion rely on “how one gains energy?” Identifying personality this way is borderline spiritual practice.
      And let’s not forget the damaging implications of being labeled an “I-type” in today’s society, whoch heavily favors extraversion. This type of language insists that, as an introvert, you are just not cut out for extraversion–you simply aren’t wired to “gain energy” this way. I tested high in I consistently with the MBTI and spent years thinking I was doomed by my personality, being locked into my introverted “type.” In contrast, I am exactly 50% extraverted by Big 5 standards, because it assesses extraversion based on actual observable behaviors–sociability, gregariousness–than on something as silly as “do you feel better when you’re surrounded by people???”

      Your article is downright offensive to people who actually respect psychology as a science, and your assessment of why MBTI is better is identical to the assessment that granted us MBTI in the first place: “Huh. Well, it *seems* right to me, so it must be true!”

      • Eric says:

        *it believes people who primarily “feel things” and people who primarily “think things” are separate people, which is absolutely absurd and not grounded in reality

      • Parvulus Ca says:

        You may do MBTI Step II and it may shed better insights to your personality. You say that you’re logical but still high in Feeling is just because you’re high in one or two sub-functions in Thinking/Feeling function (still there are logical, rational, questioning, critical and uncompromising in Thinking), and you may be only higher of logical and rational but still keep “feeling” in easygoing, kind and forgiving. It doesn’t contradict with each other, but only too less specific.

    • Tariq says:

      The 50% re-test statistic is 8x higher than what you would expect from a dice with 16 sides, so in that respect it is amazing and is highly statistically significant. Moreover, that 50% is the minimum anyone ever reported. Carparo 2002 did a review and included 20 Test Re-Test studies and found that 80% is the average. Some are as high as 90%. So, 50% is a cherry-picked statistic! Why mention the minumum and not the average?

  22. ellen says:

    well. I don’t think mbti is always taught in the best way and type testing is fraught and much different to best fit issues.

    Feeling means preferring to make decision based on the context re values prior to logic – it’s not emotion as such.; No book i have ever read said feelers don’t think of I or E don’t at time adapt one attitude or the functions – so no one is doomed is just preference. But unfortunately i think people are just given a 4 code type and it’s not with enough depth.

    MBTI is broad strokes about preferance and useful in that context. The big 5 if they were renamed might be more appealing but I see it as bit orchard verses fruit..Even as a layperson with mbti i can see that many of the big 5 traits relate across several function categories.

    • Staffan says:

      I think the major problem here is that we have these models as empires in Academica and business. It would be more fruitful to fool around with many types of theories and measures to see what works best. And that would mean finding a theory that fits the Big Five. After all, science is not science without theory.

  23. Parvulus Ca says:

    Well, there actually has been one reformation of MBTI, the MBTI Step II, maybe a better and more specific one. But hope there would be more neuroscientific evidences about those traits.

  24. Lily Sahiful Bahari says:

    Reblogged this on Lily Sahiful Bahari.

  25. Coconut Meat says:

    The MBTI is the worst representation of Jung’s work, which while I don’t take it seriously is entertaining. The MBTI is over simplistic. As for the Big 5, it is the personality test I take seriously. Comparing the Big 5 to Jung’s work is like comparing a thoroughbred to a unicorn. People like the MBTI because of the happy, faultless profiles for each type.

    I love the Big 5 primarily because of the test-retest reliability. With the MBTI you basically have a test which functions as a mood ring. I’ve test all over the place on the MBTI based on my mood and the test, while I am always above average in Openness, below average in Conscientiousness, average in Extraversion, average in Agreeableness, and very low in Neuroticism with the Big 5. When looking at the subtypes it always comes back as calm and adventurous as the primary descriptors of me. My mood or the source of the test doesn’t matter.

    OP…you’re misunderstanding what a theory means in science…

    I think what you mean to say is a hypothesis, which both of them have. Jung’s work is based on cognitive functions, the MBTI is based on dichotomies, and the Big 5 is based on traits which are observable. The problem is that with Jung’s work there is no way to really test it because there is no proof the functions or dichotomies exists in the first place. It’s pretty much his observations mixed with mysticism and mythology.

    • Staffan says:

      No, Jung’s theory really is a theory since it’s a broad and at least to some degree evidenced model. Big 5, on the other hand is explicitly atheoretical and its hypothesis refers to language, not to personality per se.

      Jung also based his theory on dichotomies; he never used to concept or term “cognitive function.” That is a later elaboration. And Jung’s theory refers to observable behavior; his book is full of examples of that.

  26. Tariq says:

    Just wanted to chime in and say that I loved your explanation of the differences between the two models and all of your comments, which clearly shows that you’ve taken the time to research and understand this stuff.

    And if you ever reference the declining relationship between Big Five and IQ over time, I would be much obliged, but no worries if it isn’t readily available. Thanks!

  27. soul says:

    I have to disagree with liberals = intuitives and conservatives = sensors. There was a study, admittedly in 2001, that checked this.
    The types with the most republican voters were the NT types, while NF types voted democrat. SJ types were slightly more conservative, SP types slightly more liberal. Feeling types voted more liberal, thinking types more conservative. Google it.

  28. Nelson Razo says:

    I’m having real trouble doing some research about the incidences in the global population (or at least estimated) of all the personality types in the Big 5. Calculations exists on the MBTI Types, but what about Big 5?
    Also, have anyone done research about the correlation between evolutionary biology/psychology and personality types incidence in the human species? Regardless of then model used, it would be another way to validate or disprove the model(s).
    Hasn’t any serious scientist try to find and explain the distribution of personality types across the human population and its possible evolutionary reasons? Because, there always are evolutionary reasons.

    • Staffan says:

      The problem with international comparisons is that self-reports make people rate themselves according to those around them and cultural norms. So the Japanese rate themselves as less conscientious than most people when behavioral indications suggest the opposite.

      It’s also politically incorrect to speculate about group differences so academics shy away from this issue. But there is some research on life history. The human biodiversity sphere also collects findings of this nature. Jayman’s blog (listed under HBD links) is a good place to start.

    • Tariq says:

      Strictly speaking types don’t exist in the Big 5. It represents a continuum, which is the point of it, i.e. it implicitly criticizes the dichotomous and binary typology approach and is referred to as “Trait Theory” instead of “Typology” so I would not expect to find incidence statistics.

  29. Do the differences in retest results have anything to do with Jungian shadows?

    Sorry if I come off as ignorant.

  30. Michael Brown says:

    I know this was published years ago, but how utterly laughable. Myer-Briggs is dead, it’s utterly ridiculous psuedo-scientific drivel, and this is coming from someone who agrees with the authors assessment that the precept that the big 5 was based on, the “lexical” hypothesis, is flawed.

    The authors assertion that the MBTI is superior is on the grounds that it has a theoretical basis is completely asinine. The phlogiston theory had a theoretical basis as well; that theoretical basis was simply wrong. Likewise, I suspect MBTI suffers the same drawbacks, and is a good reason why we always start with data ala the B5 BEFORE we go off half cocked and cook up some theory.

    As I alluded to above, I believe the B5 will eventually be superseded as the limitations of the lexical hypothesis are laid bare; and we will eventually be able to explore personality with references to underlying neurology, such as levels of serotonin, dopamine, testosterone, etc. That does not in any way mean that this article is any less ridiculous.

    • Staffan says:

      Thanks for your comment, but remember to keep a civil tone. I don’t censor content but I do censor tone.

      The problem with starting with B5 data before we “go off half cocked,” as you put it, is that the data is selected and shaped by the model. Hoping it will match up with some future theory is then to hope for a happy accident.This is obvious when you consider that all the major theorists in recent decades have had to come up with their own measures.

      The MBTI is unlikely to be the answer but it can be improved on, or at least it can generate competing theories. The B5 has been around for ages and does nothing to further our understanding of personality. It’s taxonomy of superficial intercorrelations leads to highly implausible results. For instance, impulsiveness becomes an aspect of neuroticism even though plenty of sensation seekers are both emotionally stable and impulsive. Or thrill-seeking becomes an aspect of extraversion even though there are plenty of people (older women for one) that are very extraverted but not thrill-seeking at all. This bundling together of superficially similar behaviors is what made Linnaeus put insects and crayfish in the same category.

    • Tariq says:

      That MBTI is pseudo-scientific drivel is exaggerated and is not supported by a close examination of the literature. The Boyle’s, Pittengers, and Adam Grant sensationalists disingenuously represent the literature. I mean there is Churchill & Bayne 19978, Carlyn 1977, Buboltz et al. 2000, Fisher, Kent et al. 1998, Gallagher 1998, and Carlson 1987. They all say that MBTI is a widely used measure “with adequate reliability and validity”. They also cherry-pick their Test-retest statistics and emphasize the one with the lowest score. A larger meta-review shows that test-retest statistics are 0.813, which means that you are actually 13x more likely to score the same result than if it were random chance.

      It is healthy to criticize, but it is also important to be honest about the literature. The main cited paper for the criticism against MBTI is the Howes and Carskadon 1979 paper which shows test-retest statistics. What is funny and shocking is that the authors of that paper conclude: “The results of the present study were extremely supportive of the reliability of the MBTI. Test-retest reliabilities of continuous scores on all four MBTI dimensions were clearly unaffected by changes in mood, despite the effectiveness of the mood manipulations themselves. This supports both the theory and the intent of the Indicator.”

      So you can have your own opinion, and MTBI may be laughable at the surface, but digging deeper there is actually a lot of evidence to support the indicator. Too bad that people buy so quickly into the Boyle and Pittinger propaganda.

  31. […] Read more about the differences between MBTI (Myers Briggs) and the Big 5here. […]

  32. Brandon says:

    I’m a personality researcher. The author grossly overstates the importance of theory in evaluating the two, and leaves out perhaps the the most important basis of comparison, reliability.

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