The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test is used by 89 Fortune 100 companies and is taken by 2.5 million people every year. Unfortunately, the test is unreliable. If you retake the test after only a 5-week gap, there is a 50% chance your score will change.

In contrast, psychologists have validated the “Big Five” personality traits across thousands of studies:

  • Openness to experience (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious)

  • Conscientiousness (efficient/organized vs. extravagant/careless)

  • Extraversion-Introversion (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved)

  • Agreeableness (friendly/compassionate vs. critical/rational)

  • Neuroticism (sensitive/nervous vs. resilient/confident)

The Big Five are also known by the acronym OCEAN.

One has only to consider the enormous frustration of conducting foreign aid in an underdeveloped country, or getting business established there, to realize what an extraordinary economic asset is a population of honest conscientious people.

-Thomas Schelling

Other validated psychological measures include Future Time Perspective (FTP) and Need for Cognition (NFC).

FTP is the ability to anticipate and plan for the future:

  • “Many opportunities await me in the future”

  • “I expect that I will set many new goals in the future”

  • “My future is filled with possibilities”

  • “I could do anything I want in the future”

  • “There is plenty of time left in my life to make new plans”

NFC is a thinking style that is analytical and reflective:

  • “I prefer complex to simple problems”

  • “I find satisfaction in deliberating hard and for long hours”

  • “I really enjoy a task that involves coming up with new solutions to problems”

  • “I prefer my life to be filled with puzzles I must solve”

  • “The notion of thinking abstractly is appealing to me”

If you know the enemy and yourself, you need not fear a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

-Sun Tzu

Personal notes

When interacting with people, I find it useful to consider these traits:

  • Extraversion-Introversion

  • Future Time Perspective

  • Need for Cognition

  • Conscientiousness

If I think someone is introverted, I socialize less. If FTP, I discuss big-picture plans. If NFC, I focus on facts and logic. Finally, I’m especially organized and punctual for conscientious people.

Do not do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.

-George Bernard Shaw


Grant A. (2013, September 18). Goodbye to MBTI, the fad that won’t die. Psychology Today.

Pittenger DJ. (1993). The utility of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Review Educational Research. 63(4): 467–488.

  • A review of studies found that participants’ scores on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) varied from 25% to 50% on re-testing, including within 5 weeks

  • 668 students identified their preference for 19 learning activities and were scored on the MBTI

  • Contrary to predictions, intuitive and sensing students gave nearly identical rankings for learning activities

Big Five personality traits. (2021, March 9). Wikipedia.

Kooij DTAM et al. (2018). Future time perspective: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Appl Psychol. 103(8): 867–893.

  • A meta-analysis of 212 studies with 110,186 participants found that Future Time Perspective (FTP) was associated with financial knowledge (effect size = 0.55), conscientiousness (effect size = 0.54), self-efficacy (effect size = 0.44), optimism (effect size = 0.34), self-esteem (effect size = 0.31), life satisfaction (effect size = 0.30), Grade Point Average (GPA) (effect size = 0.26), subjective health (effect size = 0.22), agreeableness (effect size = 0.22), exercise (effect size = 0.17), and socioeconomic status (effect size = 0.16)

  • FTP predicted outcomes over and above the Big Five personality traits for GPA, happiness, life satisfaction, anxiety, depression, substance use, physical exercise, and risky behavior

Henry H, Zacher H, Desmette D. (2017). Future Time Perspective in the work context: A systematic review of quantitative studies. Front Psychol. 8: 413.

  • A meta-analysis of 33 studies found that Future Time Perspective was associated with emotional engagement (effect size = 0.48), occupational self-efficacy (effect size = 0.45), career commitment (effect size = 0.38), organizational commitment (effect size = 0.34), intrinsic work motivations (effect size = 0.32), cognitive engagement (effect size = 0.31), and job satisfaction (effect size = 0.17)

Phillips WJ et al. (2016). Thinking styles and decision making: A meta-analysis. Psychol Bull. 142(3): 260–290.

  • A meta-analysis of 89 studies with 17,704 participants found that a reflective thinking style increased correct decision-making (effect size = 0.11)

  • Rational Experiential Inventory (REI) consists of two scales: Need for Cognition (NFC) and Faith in Intuition (FI), which measure tendencies to use rational (reflective) and experiential (intuitive) processing

  • REI demonstrates high internal consistency and test-retest reliability

Wang Y et al. (2017). Meta‐analytic investigations of the relation between intuition and analysis. Behavioral Decision Making. 30(1): 15–25.

  • A meta-analysis of 80 studies with 27,501 participants found that analytical vs. intuitive thinking styles were independent measures, rather than opposite ends of a continuum

Cacioppo JT, Petty RE, Kao CF. (2013). Need for Cognition scale. Measurement Instrument Database Social Science.

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