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Myers-Briggs: The History of Personality Tests

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This article is the first of a four-parter series of articles on the Myers-Briggs personality test and Myers-Briggs personality tests.

This article is followed by an overview of the traits that make up each type.

This article will start with the evolution of personality tests; the traits and links will be included so you can give them a go and see what they say about you! It will also include more on the scientists behind Myers-Briggs and the making of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality test.

The Evolution of Personality Tests

The first personality questionnaire similar to the modern personality test was the Woodworth Personal Data Sheet. This was used in 1919 to choose the most suitable people to join the army.

Soon after, similar personality tests were used by industries for the interview process to screen out applicants that may cause issues in the workplace. For example, Humm-Wadsworth Temperament Scale and Bernreuter Personality Inventory.

Early trait psychologists gathered all words (in English) that refer to a personality trait to study the traits. Psychologist Francis Galton (Measurement of character, 1884) was one of the first to apply language analysis to study human personality.

Following his work, scientists Gordon Allport and Henry Odbert (1936) found 17,953 words reflecting personality traits.

They reduced this to 4,500 by grouping synonyms of the traits.

Following this, psychologist Raymond Cattell (1957) brought it to 171 traits and conducted an analysis to identify related characteristics to shorten it down.

This left what he found to be the 16 key personality factors and the questionnaire can be taken here.

The validity of this has been discussed many times in literature, such as by Goldberg, and Costa and McCrae.

Both suggested five main factors, and you can take this personality test here.

What (or who) is Myers-Briggs?

In 1943, Kathrine Cook Briggs found herself interested in personality. She was intrigued by the differences in traits and outlooks she shared with her daughter Isabel’s partner, Clarence Myers.

Additionally, Carl Jung’s work also inspired her, and she wanted to make these ideas more accessible to all.

She spent around 20 years developing statements and ensuring the validity of the Myers-Briggs personality tool. This tool was finally published in 1962.

Companies and professionals have used the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator since then.

Since 1989, The Myers-Briggs Company have been continuously researching and updating the personality tool. If you are interested, there is more on the Myers-Briggs Foundation here.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

Now you know the history of personality tests, including the Myers-Briggs personality test.

You can now take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Personality test here and find out what your Myers-Briggs personality type is!

Read more about the sixteen personality traits and types in my other articles.

Image Credit: Samantha McBride

Featured Image Credit: Leeloo Thefirst on

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Final year Biology & Psychology student with a keen interest in music, food and lifestyle pieces.

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