Katharine Cook Briggs
|Katharine Cook Briggs|
|Known for||Myers-Briggs Type Indicator|
|Spouse||Lyman James Briggs|
|Children||Isabel Briggs Myers|
Katharine Cook Briggs was born in 1875 to a family who promoted education for men as well as women. Her father was on the faculty of Michigan State, previously known as Michigan Agricultural College. After she graduated college she married Lyman James Briggs, a physicist and Director of the Bureau of Standards in Washington D.C. during the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt. On October 18, 1897 Katharine and Lyman had their only child, Isabel Briggs Myers. Through raising Isabel, Katharine developed many theories about the proper ways to raise a child. She took her daughter out of traditional schooling, brought her home, and encouraged her to read and write on any topic of interest. Katharine's interest in personality types grew as her daughter met the man she would marry, Clarence “Chief” Myers. Katharine felt that Chief was different than the rest of the family. To maintain her relationship with her daughter, Katharine sought to better understand Chief and his differences using what she knew of personality types.
Katharine was home schooled by her father. Katharine claimed that she did not recall who taught her to write, but that he or she did so poorly. She never attended a formal school until she left for college at the age of fourteen. Katharine was an educated woman who earned a college degree in agriculture. Katharine became a well-known academic during a time when it was falsely believed that too much education for women harmed their reproductive abilities. She worked as a teacher after college. She was a devoted reader and writer throughout her life.
Katharine looked at data from studies of contemporary children's educational and social developmental theories. She created a vocation test for children. She saw this as a key to a child's future happiness and well being. Her earliest research led her to identify 4 main personality types in 1917: meditative types, spontaneous types, executive types, and sociable types, which later developed into the MBTI terms I, EP, ETJ, and EFJ. However, while investigating the works of various philosophers, scientists and psychologists, she was unable to identify one definitive theory of type that encompassed all aspects. From the lack of findings, she decided to begin to distinguish her own theory of type.
She wrote essays about child-rearing and education, believing that children have an innate curiosity and that education is what fuels this natural instinct. Katharine’s early interest in personality types bloomed from her attempts at fiction writing. To create richer characters for her fiction writing, she attempted to understand the details of human personality and behaviors. Katharine's first two articles were published in the journal New Republic. Both discussed Jung's theory. The first was published in 1926 (Meet Yourself Using the Personality Paint Box) and the second in 1928 (Up From Barbarism).
In 1923, Katharine stumbled upon the work of Dr.Carl Jung and introduced it to her daughter. His theory focused on innate differences between people in regards to their decision making and their intake of information. After reading C.G. Jung’s Psychological Types, Katharine abandoned her own creation of a personality theory and began to focus on Jung’s ideas in a more in depth manner. Isabel, initially un-interested in type research, had a change of heart when she stumbled upon work that attempted to identify people’s appropriate type of work for their character. She decided to join efforts with her mother. Katharine and Isabel were greatly influenced by Jung and decided his ideas could help people make better life choices and put individual differences in a positive light. From here they began a twenty year period of type watching. In 1945, Katharine and Isabel, with the help of Lyman Briggs, ran the first assessment on George Washington Medical School students. Keeping in mind her mother's early work, during World War II, Isabel created a test that would help identify a person's appropriate war-related job.
The rest of Katharine’s life was devoted to bringing the ideas of Jung forward and applying them in ways that could better people’s lives. Isabel took over the studies and with hers, her mother’s and Jung’s observations, was able to initiate the creation of a pencil-paper questionnaire to assess type. Isabel spent the later half of her life trying to fulfill her mother’s vision. Katharine was primarily the driving force and inspiration behind the creation of the MBTI and Isabel was the work force that created the physical test itself.
Katharine and her early personality type research, were instrumental in creating one of the most well-known and widely used personality tools, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Today it is used in areas as broad as executive development and marital counseling. Since it was formally added to the Educational Testing Service's collection of tests in 1962, it is estimated that 50 million people have taken the MBTI. The MBTI classifies personality types along four pairs of categories. Katharine and Isabel claimed that everyone fits into one of the 16 possible combinations of personality type, with a dominant preference in each of the four pairs. The framework of the test has barely changed since Katharine first developed it. The MBTI occasionally receives criticism because some claim that Katharine developed the assessment in her home before doing any extensive scientific research, instead of the other way around.
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- Cunningham, Lillian (2012-12-14). "Myers-Briggs: Does it pay to know your type?". The Washington Post. The Washington Post. Retrieved 5 December 2014.