How many MBTI types are there? What is the history of how Myers Briggs arrived at 16? Take a look at the below about how the Myers-Briggs assessment came to be and why 16 personality types exist.
Why are there 16 MBTI personality types?
When you combine each of the preference opposites (E-I, S-N, T-F, J-P) you get a total of 16 different personality types on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® tool. It’s important to know though that 16 isn’t necessarily some magic number (aside from it being an age where you may have first started legally driving). It’s simply how the preferences break out when you combine them. (Combinations? Permutations? You remember those, right?).
It’s also important to point out that the four preferences in each of the 16 types aren’t trying describe everything about you. One of criticisms about the MBTI tool is that “it puts people in a box.” But what most people who say that don’t understand is that while you may have a preference for Extraversion or Introversion, you actually use both throughout your life (and really, throughout your day – and you can learn more in our eBook on that subject here). Of course it’s not going to tell you every aspect of your personality, or tell you about the upbringing you had or environments you lived in that have affected how your personality developed. But, we digress.
Where did the myers-briggs assessment come from?
What the MBTI tool can do give you valuable information about who you are and why you prefer to do the things you do. Isabel Briggs Myers saw this instrument as a way to help us all make clearer perceptions (the Sensing and Intuition preferences) and sounder judgements (the Thinking and Feeling preferences). Myers felt that once we found clearer ways of taking in information and sounder ways of making decisions, we could live a life “closer to our hearts desire” – aka be happier, healthier people and better communicators.
Looking deeper into the MBTI tool’s history, Myers wasn’t the person who came up with this overall idea. That actually came from renowned Swiss psychologist Carl Jung and his 1921 publication, Psychological Types. Jung, along with Freud, is considered by many to be one of the founders of modern day psychology. That work was translated into English in 1923 and read by Myers’ mother (Katharine Cook Briggs) who had already developed her own ideas around personality differences.
It was Briggs who studied and then introduced Jung’s work to her daughter, and then Isabel Briggs Myers who wrote the first version of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator in 1943 to help people better understand themselves, have more empathy for each other in a post-war climate, and be able to apply some of Jung’s psychology by discovering their own psychological personality preferences. To do this, she enlisted the help of more experienced psychometricians, and her work was later endorsed by professors from the Universities of California, Michigan and Florida. Isabel’s subsequent writings on MBTI type and self-development resonate with many people to this day, both in professional and personal life.