Data Ethics Club meeting 22-05-24, 1pm UK time#

Meeting info#


Please join us for the next Data Ethics Club meeting on Wednesday 22nd May at 1pm UK time. You don’t need to register, just pop in. We’ll be reading and discussing “The Myers-Briggs Test Has Been Debunked Time and Again. Why Do Companies Still Use It?, which was written by Saumya Kalia for online culture, society and feminism news platform The Swaddle.

Thank you to Dan Whettam for suggesting this week’s content, and to Amy Joint for writing the summary below, in case you don’t get a chance to read the article itself.


The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a questionnaire indicating which distinct ‘personality type’ someone fits into – you might also know it as MBTI or 16 Personalities. It was first developed during World War Two by a mother and daughter aiming to help women entering the industrial workforce to find roles that fit them best. Since then, it has been used extensively in recruitment and teambuilding settings, making the Myers-Briggs Company £20 million annually.

Companies often receive far more applications to jobs than an individual hiring manager can consider, so look for legal ways to screen out candidates which does not constitute discrimination against protected characteristics.

Beyond recruitment, the personality test is used to coach people in making career decisions based on their personality, to convince people they were born to do their current role, or to show them that their individual personality type is an important part of their wider team. However, the test has been debunked over and over again – including the idea that someone can be born inherently either extrovert or introvert, intuiting or sensing, thinking or feeling, and judging or perceiving. There is little evidence that results are useful in determining managerial effectiveness, building teams, or providing coaching. Test results are often inconsistent when repeated. People’s reliance and draw towards these “Sorting Hat”-like systems can be put down to the human need for systems that explain things simply, and for the need for work identities and personal identities to fit together.

Considering the test was conceptualised to help women slot into a heteronormative, cis-gendered, patriarchal workplace in the 1940s, companies using this test today risk feeding this into existing bias within the workplace. By categorising people into one of 16 boxes, the test risks artificially limiting people on what they feel they are good at or can achieve, without the flexibility to admit they are still working out their strengths and what they are interested in professionally.

Discussion points#

There will be time to talk about whatever we like, relating to the article, but here are some specific questions to think about while you’re reading:

  • What are the consequences (positive and negative) of relying on personality type testing in the recruitment process?

  • How do personality tests contribute to bias when used within existing organisations and teams?

  • Are there ethical considerations for how organisations might store and use MTBI/personality typing data beyond the original tests? What duties do employers have for using these responsibly?