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If it sounds like, walks like, and talks like, it must be a ___________. Right?

Roger Pearman

Roger Pearman joins us for a virtual session at the AusAPT National Conference in Melbourne in November 2019 to present on ‘Evidence of the Validity of Type from Multi-Rater Data‘: “This is a virtual presentation of a summary report of 360 data collected from people around the globe to look at evidence of the validity of Type. The first public presentation of this information, the international TypeStudy Research Project was designed to collect both self-report and observer-report data which provides useful evidence for considering the validity of Type.”

Roger provides this introduction to ‘Evidence of the Validity of Type from Multi-Rater Data‘ as background for his presentation in November. 

If it sounds like, walks like, and talks like, it must be a ____. Right?

Studies of human behavior are among the most perplexing of all of the sciences.  While we can use principles of chemical interactions and electron weights to provide working knowledge of how the physical sciences work, we have no such exactness when it comes to human behavior.  Even the prized neuroscientists of our age have to caution that given available evidence of how the neocortex operates, some behaviors are likely and probable.  Even with some of the most sophisticated measurement tools available, neuroscientists are left with very basic linkages in neurocortext activity and behavior.  As things get more complex, all predictions get very questionable.  Notice—no absolutes.  In recent years archeologists have had to update all of their understanding about when humans started doing various things like domesticating animals and intentionally gardening because our ability to both discover and test new artifacts (like human bones or sites of human activity) have dramatically changed.  All of these forms of inquiry are looking at concrete, highly accepted notions of what is real (e.g. electrons, chemical reactions, best estimations); how much difficulty emerges when considering the sources and outcomes of human behavior?

When someone with credentials declares that a model or theory or measurement tool is completely discredited, the trained professional is claiming that all of the standards applied to the scientific study of human behavior have not been met regarding the model under question, and that no reasonable researcher will find pursuing further studies on the “discredited” theory or measurement tool of any use.  In fact, to continue exploring behavior based on such models is a waste of time.  This declaration should be your first clue that something is not quite right for the simple reason that true scientific inquiry does not throw away decades of data nor is eager to be so definitive about what the data mean.  A serious scientist is more likely to say that the “available evidence” indicates that there are more factors involved or that the model doesn’t seem to accommodate other variables so further study is needed.

Yet, repeatedly over the last forty years individuals have felt compelled to declare Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types and measurements of the model (e.g. MBTI, Pearman Personality Integrator, etc) as discredited, and as evidence for their claim they usually declare the following as the basis of their conclusions:

  • Jung had no scientific basis for any of his theories and no credible effort to replicate his observations have been made.
  • Psychological type assessment tools are not reliable and have no bases for claiming validity.
  • The most popular of the type assessments, the MBTI was developed by novices in assessment creation and testing.  Thus, the lack of expertise renders the work useless.
  • Other tools have more accepted scientific standards than the MBTI and more helpful tools for predicting behavior.
  • Self-report tools cannot reveal the true nature of behavior.

To consider the merits of their arguments, we need to look at the available evidence. Declaring that Jung’s observations are somehow in error is to deny observations from your daily life.  Listed below are everyday examples of the eight functions Jung defined (and noted in parenthesis) . All of these tendencies are readily evident:

Perceiving mental resources

  • Focusing in the moment, scanning of the environment (Extraverted Sensing)
  • Verifying information, getting multiple forms of confirming data (Introverted Sensing)
  • Imagining and seeing scenarios and possibilities (Introverted Intuiting)
  • Expressively linking data, pointing out patterns, potentials (Extraverted Intuiting)

Decision oriented mental resources

  • Articulating the pros and cons of options, logical analysis  (Extraverted Thinking)
  • Thinking through underlying principles and models (Introverted Thinking)
  • Demonstrating action to be inclusive, building rapport (Extraverted Feeling)
  • Internalizing alignment of actions, choices, and ideals (Introverted Feeling)

Jung did not claim that he covered all of the behaviors or explained all of the mechanisms at work in human behavior.  He simply proposed that all of us have a kind of mental committee in our heads that likes to direct our attention and our approach to life in predictable ways.  Our “psychological” type is simply the mindset that generally shows up as we go about our daily lives.  In multiple forums, Jung noted that individuals move among using these various kinds of mental resources as life demands us to accentuate a particular kind of information or decision related approach. 

Reliability is measured by looking at evidence that there is consistency in outcomes from one time to another when an individual takes the tool or when an individual responds consistently to items of a given scale.  The idea is that if an assessment tool is stable, then the results are going to be the same from one administration of the tool to another. Or if it is reliable, the questions that are intended to measure an attribute (e.g. Extraversion) get similar responses.  For the science minded, accepted correlation coefficients of methods for reliability go from .70 to .98, which is in the range of acceptable to outstanding.

Validity can only be estimated.  If an assessment claims that Extraversion and Introversion are forms of mental energy which have certain attributes, then there should be independent evidence that these attributes exist and align with the assessment results.  For example, if you scored for Extraversion, is there evidence that you get energized when engaged—physical movement— within your environment and with others around you?  How much of this kind of data do we need to believe that Extraversion might be a real thing? At what point do we feel the assessment is valid?  For the science minded, accepted correlation coefficients of methods for validity go from .20 to .80.  You might wonder why low correlations are accepted and the simple answer is that among standards created over the years, the lowest reasonable correlation (.20) indicates that enough is going on to be note worthy; and if too high (.80), why have two assessments?

The study I am completing asks individuals who are clear about their type to have others rate 64 behaviors that are expressions of the eight mental functions.  (And you still have time to participate if you want, email:

My presentation at AusAPT will be the first sharing of data that has been collected.  This will be mid-way of the study as I plan to continue to collect data for another 8 months or so.  While having observational data is not singularly conclusive of the validity of the types, it is a significant contribution to showing that the type patterns are real and dynamic in individuals’ lives. 

It is often said that human behavior is complicated.  But traditional psychology wants to use specific methods to break the behavior into units, measure it, and piece it together like an engineer would do in solving an architectural issue.  This has its purposes.  Psychological type sees human behavior as complex, meaning that the dynamics are such that you can’t really break it apart to understand it.  Type assumes that behavior is the by-product of lots of interacting variables and it is best to see these in terms of competing tensions within the human psyche.  The “whole” is really greater than the sum of the parts, from the perspective of psychological type. Type is how an individual uses various psychological energies rather than the presence and expression of any given trait. It isn’t quite reasonable to declare one as superior over the other when their purposes and foundations are qualitatively different.  We can debate the relative merits of each and how each can be used.

I look forward to sharing data and learning from the middle point of this important type study via a virtual presentation at the Melbourne 2019 AusAPT Conference.

About the author:

Roger Pearman is Past President, APT, Life Time Contribution and Myers Briggs Research Award Winner; author or co-author of YOU: Being More Effective in Your MBTI Type, Introduction to Type and Emotional Intelligence, and I’m Not Crazy, I’m Just Not You, and many others.

Further articles by Roger Pearman:

A Mindset Shift

Personality Brokers