Isabel Briggs Myers

Last updated
Isabel Briggs Myers
Briggs Myers (right) with her mother
Born(1897-10-18)October 18, 1897
DiedMay 5, 1980(1980-05-05) (aged 82)
Alma mater Swarthmore College
Known for Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
Spouse(s)Clarence Myers

Isabel Briggs Myers (born Isabel Briggs; October 18, 1897 – May 5, 1980 [1] [2] ) was an American author and co-creator with her mother, Katharine Cook Briggs, of a personality inventory known as the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and based on theories of Carl Jung.



Isabel Briggs Myers grew up in Washington, D.C. where she was home-schooled by her mother, Katharine Cook Briggs. Her father, Lyman J. Briggs, worked as a research physicist. Briggs had little formal schooling up until she attended Swarthmore College, where she studied political science. During her time at the college she met Clarence "Chief" Myers who was studying law. The two married in 1918 and were together until his death in 1980. [3]

MBTI personality indicator

Briggs Myers implemented the ideas of Carl Jung and added her own insights. She then created a paper survey which would eventually become the MBTI. The test was to assess personality type and was fully developed after 20 years of research by Briggs Myers with her mother and thousands of others. In the 21st century, research into this instrument is still being put into action with dozens of articles written per year. The questionnaire is meant to help people realize their "best fit type", the personality type that will help them succeed most in life. [4] The three original pairs of preferences in Jung's typology are Extraversion and Introversion, Sensing and Intuition, and Thinking and Feeling. After studying them, Briggs Myers added a fourth pair, Judging and Perceiving.


In the July 1980 edition of MBTI News, Briggs Myers attributed another reason for creating the MBTI to her marriage to Clarence Myers. Their differences in psychological type (she was an INFP and he was an ISTJ) inspired her mother, Katharine Cook Briggs, to keep studying differences among people and their actions. Her mother had come upon the work of Carl Gustav Jung and introduced it to her daughter who then started studying the psychological types.

When World War II began, Briggs Myers wanted to help reduce conflict among people, and to help them people understand each other instead of harming and killing each other. She observed that some people also hated their jobs in the military and she wanted to understand their experience.

In 1945, the dean of the George Washington School of Medicine allowed Briggs Myers and her mother to apply the MBTI to first-year undergraduates. This included about 5,500 students and Briggs Myers studied it for years by looking at patterns among dropouts and successful students. [9]

Briggs Myers was also influenced by her father, Lyman J. Briggs. As the director of the Bureau of Standards in Washington at the time that Briggs Myers was developing the MBTI, he was a devoted research physicist. Growing up in an environment that cultivated a passion for research allowed Briggs Myers to consider the prospect fun and exciting, which eventually led to her interest in personality and the creation of the type indicator. [10]


In 1928, she responded to a magazine advertisement for a National Detective Murder Mystery Contest by writing a novel titled Murder Yet to Come. Her novel won the contest and was published serially in 1929. [11] It applies her ideas about personality type to a murder mystery. [12]

The contest prize included a $7,500 cash award and a contract for a second work of fiction. Briggs Myers fulfilled her obligation by writing the novel Give Me Death, which revisits the same detectives from Murder Yet to Come. In it, a Southern family commits suicide one by one after learning they may have "Negro blood". [13] [14] The novel was published in 1934 and received harsh treatment from critics. [11]


In 1962, the Educational Testing Service published the MBTI for research-only purposes. In 1975, 1977 and 1979, three national MBTI conferences were held at the University of Florida, Michigan State University, and Philadelphia respectively. In 1975, Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc. published the MBTI as a tool for helping people.

In the 2000s, the MBTI is now taken by more than two million people per year and is translated into 16 languages. [9]



In 1975, Briggs Myers co-founded the Center for Application of Psychological Type with Mary McCaulley. CAPT is a non-profit organization which maintains research and application of the MBTI. It also exists to protect and promote Briggs Myers' ideology. [4] Its headquarters are in Gainesville, Florida and its motto is "Fostering human understanding through training, publishing, and research". [9]

Memorial research awards

The Isabel Briggs Myers Memorial Research Awards exist to further MBTI and psychological research. These awards are given twice a year. They consist of $2,000 for up to two people. They are rewarded for advancements in understanding of these topics to focus on continuous research in the field. [15]


Gifts Differing is written by Isabel with her son, Peter Briggs Myers. It is about human personality and how it affects several aspects of life such as career, marriage, and meaning of life. It speaks about all sixteen personality types. [16]

Further reading

Saunders, F. W. (1991), Katharine and Isabel: Mother's Light, Daughter's Journey, Davies-Black Publishing, U.S. ISBN   0-89106-049-9 (biography of Briggs Myers and her mother)

Related Research Articles

Personality psychology is a branch of psychology that studies personality and its variation among individuals. It is a scientific study which aims to show how people are individually different due to psychological forces. Its areas of focus include:

Socionics, in psychology and sociology, is a theory of information processing and personality type, distinguished by its information model of the psyche and a model of interpersonal relations. It incorporates Carl Jung's work on Psychological Types with Antoni Kępiński's theory of information metabolism. Socionics is a modification of Jung's personality type theory that uses eight psychic functions, in contrast to Jung's model, which used only four. These functions are supposed to process information at varying levels of competency and interact with the corresponding function in other individuals, giving rise to predictable reactions and impressions—a theory of intertype relations.

Myers–Briggs Type Indicator Model of personality types

The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is an introspective self-report questionnaire indicating differing psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions.

Analytical psychology Jungian theories

Analytical psychology, is the name Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist gave to his new "empirical science" of the psyche to distinguish it from Freud's psychoanalytic theories as their seven year collaboration on psychoanalysis was drawing to an end between 1912 and 1913. The evolution of his science is contained in his monumental opus, the Collected Works, written over sixty years of his lifetime.

Personality test category of psychological methods for assessing human personality constructs

A personality test is a method of assessing human personality constructs. Most personality assessment instruments are in fact introspective self-report questionnaire measures or reports from life records (L-data) such as rating scales. Attempts to construct actual performance tests of personality have been very limited even though Raymond Cattell with his colleague Frank Warburton compiled a list of over 2000 separate objective tests that could be used in constructing objective personality tests. One exception however, was the Objective-Analytic Test Battery, a performance test designed to quantitatively measure 10 factor-analytically discerned personality trait dimensions. A major problem with both L-data and Q-data methods is that because of item transparency, rating scales and self-report questionnaires are highly susceptible to motivational and response distortion ranging all the way from lack of adequate self-insight to downright dissimulation depending on the reason/motivation for the assessment being undertaken.

The Keirsey Temperament Sorter (KTS) is a self-assessed personality questionnaire designed to help people better understand themselves and others. It was first introduced in the book Please Understand Me. It is one of the most widely used personality assessments in the world, and its user base consists of major employers including Bank of America, Allstate, the U.S. Air Force, IBM, 7-Eleven, Safeco, AT&T, and Coca-Cola. The KTS is closely associated with the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI); however, there are significant practical and theoretical differences between the two personality questionnaires and their associated different descriptions.

Cognitive functions, also referred to as psychological functions, as described by Carl Jung in his book Psychological Types, are particular mental processes within a person's psyche that are present regardless of common circumstance. This was a concept that served as one of the conceptual foundations for his theory on personality type. In his book, he noted four main psychological functions: thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition. He introduced them with having either an internally focused (introverted) or externally focused (extraverted) tendency which he called "attitudes".

David Keirsey American psychologist

David West Keirsey was an American psychologist, a professor emeritus at California State University, Fullerton, and the author of several books. In his most popular publications, Please Understand Me and the revised and expanded second volume Please Understand Me II (1998), he laid out a self-assessed personality questionnaire, known as the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, which links human behavioral patterns to four temperaments and sixteen character types. Both volumes of Please Understand Me contain the questionnaire for type evaluation with detailed portraits and a systematic treatment of descriptions of temperament traits and personality characteristics. With a focus on conflict management and cooperation, Keirsey specialized in family and partnership counseling and the coaching of children and adults.

Psychological astrology school of astrology based on psychological theories, e.g. Jungian archetypes

Psychological astrology, or astropsychology, is the result of the cross-fertilisation of the fields of astrology with depth psychology, humanistic psychology and transpersonal psychology. There are several methods of analyzing the horoscope in the contemporary psychological astrology: the horoscope can be analysed through the archetypes within astrology or the analyses can be rooted in the psychological need and motivational theories. There might exist other astrological methods and approaches rooted in psychology. Astrologer and psychotherapist Glenn Perry characterises psychological astrology as "both a personality theory and a diagnostic tool".

Katharine Cook Briggs American psychologist

Katharine Cook Briggs (1875–1968) was co-creator, with her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers, of an inventory of personality type known as the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

Personality type refers to the psychological classification of different types of individuals. Personality types are sometimes distinguished from personality traits, with the latter embodying a smaller grouping of behavioral tendencies. Types are sometimes said to involve qualitative differences between people, whereas traits might be construed as quantitative differences. According to type theories, for example, introverts and extraverts are two fundamentally different categories of people. According to trait theories, introversion and extraversion are part of a continuous dimension, with many people in the middle.

Brain typing is a system developed by Jonathan P. Niednagel that applies elements from neuroscience, physiology, and psychology to estimate athletic ability. It is based on the psychological typology of Carl Jung and the later work of Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers. Currently, no controlled experiments have been done to assess the effectiveness of Brain Typing, and as a result the American Psychological Association considers Brain Typing a pseudoscience.

Elizabeth Wagele American writer and musician

Elizabeth Wagele (1939–2017) was an American artist, musician, and writer of books on the Enneagram of Personality and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type is a book written by Isabel Briggs Myers with Peter B. Myers, which describes the insights into the psychological type model originally developed by C. G. Jung as adapted and embodied in the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test. The book explains the many practical applications of this typological model using four categories of psychological type differences - Extraversion / Introversion; Sensing / Intuition; Thinking / Feeling; Judging / Perceiving. The book also suggests how different combinations of these characteristics tend to influence the ways people perceive the world and how they both respond to and interact with it. Type tables show how type preferences tend to correlate with occupational interests. Profiles of the sixteen types also suggest how people of each type tend to act and relate to people with other type dynamics.

<i>Please Understand Me</i> book by David Keirsey

Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types is a psychology book written by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates which focuses on the classification and categorization of personality types. The book contains a self-assessed personality questionnaire, known as the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, which links human behavioral patterns to four temperament types and sixteen character types. Once the reader's personality type has been ascertained, there are detailed profiles which describe the characteristics of that type.

The Jungian Type Index (JTI) is an alternative to the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Introduced by Optimas in 2001, the JTI was developed over a 10-year period in Norway by psychologists Thor Ødegård and Hallvard E: Ringstad. The JTI was designed to help capture individuals' preferred usage of the psychological functions identified by Carl Jung in his book Psychological Types, such as thinking vs feeling and sensing vs intuition.

The traits of extraversion and introversion are a central dimension in some human personality theories. The terms introversion and extraversion were popularized by Carl Jung, although both the popular understanding and psychological usage differ from his original intent. Extraversion tends to be manifested in outgoing, talkative, energetic behavior, whereas introversion is manifested in more reserved and solitary behavior. Rather than focusing on interpersonal behavior, however, Jung defined introversion as an "attitude-type characterised by orientation in life through subjective psychic contents", and extraversion as "an attitude-type characterised by concentration of interest on the external object".

Psychological typologies are classifications used by psychologists to describe the distinctions between people. The problem of finding the essential basis for the classification of psychological types—that is, the basis of determining a broader spectrum of derivative characteristics—is crucial in differential psychology.

A personality clash occurs when two people find themselves in conflict not over a particular issue or incident, but due to a fundamental incompatibility in their personalities, their approaches to things, or their style of life.

Merve Emre is a Turkish-American author, academic, and literary critic. She is the author of nonfiction books The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing (2018) and Paraliterary: The Making of Bad Readers in Postwar America (2017) and has published essays and articles in The Atlantic, Harper's Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, and other publications. Emre is an associate professor of American literature at Oxford University.


  1. "The AJPT Interview: Otto Kroeger" (PDF). Peter Geyer. 2004-06-28.
  2. "Global Citizens All: An Interview With Rebecca Chopp". Swarthmore College. Archived from the original on 2008-10-27. Retrieved 2005-12-05.
  3. "The Story of Isabel Briggs Myers -". Retrieved 2018-02-24.
  4. 1 2 "Isabel Briggs Myers and Her Mother, Katharine Cook Briggs". The Myers & Briggs Foundation. The Myers & Briggs Foundation. Retrieved 19 February 2012.
  5. "Extraversion or Introversion". The Myers & Briggs Foundation. The Myers & Briggs Foundation. Retrieved 19 February 2012.
  6. "Sensing or Intuition". The Myers & Briggs Foundation. The Myers & Briggs Foundation. Retrieved 19 February 2012.
  7. "Thinking or Feeling". The Myers & Briggs Foundation. The Myers & Briggs Foundation. Retrieved 19 February 2012.
  8. "Judging or Perceiving". The Myers & Briggs Foundation. The Myers & Briggs Foundation. Retrieved 19 February 2012.
  9. 1 2 3 "The Story of Isabel Briggs Myers". Center of Applications of Psychological Type. Center of Applications of Psychological Type, Inc. Retrieved 19 February 2012.
  10. "The Story of Isabel Briggs Myers -". Retrieved 2018-02-22.
  11. 1 2 Diebel, Anne (December 20, 2018). "Simple Answers to Profound Questions". The New York Review of Books. 65 (20): 57–59.
  12. "Murder Yet to Come". CAPT, Inc. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
  13. Murder Yet to Come. Frederick A. Stokes Company, Inc. OCLC   7621206.
  14. "Uncovering The Secret History of Myers-Briggs" . Retrieved 4 April 2012.
  15. "Memorial Research Awards". The Myers & Briggs Foundation. The Myers & Briggs Foundation. Retrieved 19 February 2012.
  16. "Rev. of Gifts Differing: Understand Personality Type, by Isabel Briggs Myers". Innovation Watch. Innovation Watch. Archived from the original on 16 November 2012. Retrieved 19 February 2012.