The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a measure of personality type based on the work of psychologist Carl Jung. Isabel Myers developed the MBTI during the Second World War to facilitate better working relationships between health care professionals, particularly nurses. She modeled this questionnaire on Jung's theory of "individual preference," which suggests that seemingly random variation in human behavior is actually attributable to fundamental individual differences in mental and emotional functioning. Myers described these variations as simply different ways in which individuals prefer to use their minds.
The indicator operationalizes these preferences with a series of questions that indicate the individual's propensity towards one end of a dipole in four different categories: energy, perceiving, judging, and orientation. Energy encompasses the scale of extraversion to introversion. Those tending towards extraversion direct their attention to external experiences and actions, deriving energy from those around them. Those tending towards introversion direct their attention towards inner thoughts and ideas, acquiring energy from solitude. Perceiving describes how individuals prefer to intake information on the scale of sensing versus intuitive types. Sensing types prefer to gather information using the five senses. They require gathering facts before understanding general ideas and patterns. Intuitive types prefer to rely on instincts and view problems from the "big picture" perspective, realizing general patterns before identifying constituent facts. Judging categorizes how individuals prefer to make decisions on a scale of thinking to feeling. Thinkers rely on logic and facts, while feelers rely on seeking harmony in resolving an issue. Finally, orientation applies to the preferred lifestyle on the scale of judging to perceiving. Those preferring judgment tend towards an orderly, decisive, and settled lifestyle, while those who prefer a more flexible, unpredictable existence align towards the perceiving type.
With the combinations of two poles in four different categories, a total of sixteen personality types are possible. The representation of these types is with four letters indicating the individual's propensity in each category. For example, someone tending towards extraversion in energy, intuition in perceiving, thinking in judging, and perceiving in orientation, would have the personality type ENTP.
The goal of Myers-Briggs typology is to increase awareness of oneself as well as others and advance through Jung's process of "individuation." This process is describable as the integration, differentiation, and development of one's traits and skills. By generating an understanding of one's individual preferences, one can begin analyzing and applying those preferences in work and personal endeavors.
Issues of Concern
Myer’s primary intended application of the MBTI was for teambuilding use in the healthcare setting. Differences in approach to problem-solving and communication have the potential to create barriers to teamwork. Understanding these different thinking and perceiving preferences through MBTI typology can inform strategic changes to workflow and evaluation techniques.
Although the MBTI was not designed for clinical use, it has had application to some patient populations. In psychology and psychiatry, the MBTI may help understand specific patient populations such as those suffering from suicidality and unipolar depression. In both populations, greater tendencies have been identified towards introversion energy and perception orientation compared to the normative population. The researchers suggest that with more confirmatory samples, these correlations may be useful in identifying vulnerability in patients with affective disorder.
Most significantly, the MBTI may have applications to fostering communication between health care professionals and patients. It is important to consider possible communication differences between the provider and the patient. For example, some research suggests that there are significantly more introverts, intuitive perceivers, thinking deciders, and judging-oriented individuals among a doctor population compared to a general adult population, which consists of more extroverts, sensing perceivers, feeling deciders, and perceiving orientated persons. These potential differences can affect patients’ interpretations of their provider encounters. A doctor tending towards intuitive perception and thinking judgment may be inclined to approach communication with the following attitudes: “respect my intelligence and desire to understand,” “demonstrate your competence,” “answer my questions honestly,” and “give me options to see a pattern.” However, a patient tending towards sensing perceiving and feeling decision may approach communication with the following attitudes: “listen carefully to me,” “give me your complete attention,” “be warm and friendly,” “give me facts with a personal touch,” and “provide practical information about my condition.” Suggested approaches to remedy these differences include applying the MBTI typology in communication skills training for health care professionals. Formal and structured approaches to instructing professionalism and communication have demonstrated greater effectiveness than passive observational learning, which is critical as improved patient-physician communication has correlations with better health outcomes as well as reduced legal action.
Nursing, Allied Health, and Interprofessional Team Interventions
All members of the interprofessional healthcare team would do well to have at least a general understanding of the MBTI grading system, as it can facilitate patient interactions, increase empathy for how a patient views their life and world, facilitate interprofessional team communication and collaboration, and lead to improved communication with patients., leading to improved patient outcomes. [Level 5]