Multicultural Use of the MBTI®
The Myers & Briggs Foundation

"The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed."
Carl Jung

Excerpted from MBTI® Manual (CPP, Inc. 1998). Used with permission.


While type has not been assessed in all cultural societies, it has been surveyed in about 30 countries on all continents, some with more than one culture. So far, the studies have suggested the following:

  1. All type preferences (E-I, S-N, T-F, and J-P) appear in all cultures studied to date.
  2. People in different cultures report that the descriptions of the individual preferences make sense to them. They find value and usefulness in using type concepts in various ways, for example, to improve interactions and communication between diverse individuals and within groups.
  3. People in different cultures report that Isabel Myers' original whole type descriptions, or more recent versions, are appropriate and applicable. They react with, “This is me!”
  4. Distributions of the sixteen types differ across different cultures. However, distribution patterns are similar across all the cultures studied.
    • STJ types predominate in all cultures.
    • Males within each culture report a preference for Thinking that is 10 percent to 25 percent higher than that reported by females.
    • Business people in various cultures in North America, Asia, Africa, and Europe were grouped according to temperament pairs (SJ, SP, NF, and NT types). When asked to select an animal to represent their groups, they selected similar animals, as appropriate to their physical environment: The SJ types chose loyal hard-working animals, the SP types chose independent adaptable animals, the NF types chose companionable animals who engaged in teamwork, and the NT types selected animals of competence and vision.
    • People in the same profession often have similar types. For example, law enforcement officers in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States show preferences for ISTJ and ESTJ.
    • Structured interviews of the same types across different cultures produced similar reactions. For example, ESTJ men and ESFJ women found great support from their environment as they grow up. The opposite types, INFP men and INTP women, reported more difficulty in finding a satisfactory fit for themselves as they grew up.

In summary, studies to date provide clear support for the theory that psychological type is universal across cultures.

Type and Culture

Regardless of its multicultural effectiveness, the MBTI® instrument is not a device for identifying features of a culture. Even when the type distributions of two cultures are quite similar, the cultures themselves are not necessarily similar. Each culture defines appropriate acceptable ways for people to express themselves, including ways to express their type preferences. Cultural norms and expectations guide the expression of type.


As a result, preferences may not look the same in different cultures. Britain and the United States offer good examples. The type distributions of business groups are almost the same, yet Britain appears to have more people with preferences for Introversion and the United States more people who prefer Extraversion. Researchers believe this is because the behavior British Introverts use to express their Introversion is quite different from the behavior Introverts in the U.S. use to express their Introversion. The differences in behavior do not necessarily indicate differences in type, but differences in ways the preferences can be expressed within those cultures.

Resources

Leadership, Type and Culture by Charles W. Ginn (CAPT 2001)

MBTI® Manual by Isabel Briggs Myers, Mary H. McCaulley, Naomi Quenk, and Allen L. Hammer (CPP 1998)

MBTI® Type Tables International by Nancy A. Schaubhut and Richard C. Thompson (CPP 2009)

Type and Culture by Linda K. Kirby, Elizabeth Kendall, and Nancy J. Barger (CPP 2007)

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