Isabel Briggs Myers

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Isabel Briggs Myers
Isabel Briggs Myers, R, and Katharine Briggs, L
Briggs Myers (right) with her mother
Born(1897-10-18)October 18, 1897
DiedMay 5, 1980(1980-05-05) (aged 82)
Alma materSwarthmore College
Known forMyers–Briggs Type Indicator
SpouseClarence Myers

Isabel Briggs Myers (born Isabel Briggs; October 18, 1897 – May 5, 1980[1][2]) was an American writer 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" Gates Myers who was studying law. The two married in 1918 and were together until his death in 1980.[3] When Briggs Myers died in 1980 she left the copyright to the MBTI (which was little known at the time) to her son Peter.[4]


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.[5] It applies her ideas about personality type to a murder mystery.[6]

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".[7][8] The novel was published in 1934 and received harsh treatment from critics.[5]

MBTI personality indicator[edit]

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. 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.[9]

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 perceived psychological types 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.

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.[10]

In 1975, Briggs Myers co-founded the Center for Application of Psychological Type with Mary McCaulley. CAPT is a non-profit organization run by the Myers & Briggs Foundation, which maintains research and application of the MBTI, also existing to protect and promote Briggs Myers' ideology.[11] Its headquarters are in Gainesville, Florida and its motto is "Fostering human understanding through training, publishing, and research".[10]

As of 2022, according to the Myers & Briggs Foundation, "research on the MBTI instrument has continued into the present, with dozens of articles published each year."[11] The Isabel Briggs Myers Memorial Research Awards exist to further MBTI and psychological research. These awards are given twice a year, consisting of $2,000 for up to two people.[12] Most of the research supporting the MBTI's validity has been produced by CAPT and published in the center's own journal, the Journal of Psychological Type, raising questions of independence, bias, and conflict of interest.[13]

As of 2022, although the MBTI is widely used by businesses, coaches and psychologists, the MBTI has been found to have significant validity issues,[14] and is not widely endorsed by academic researchers in psychology, often dismissed as pseudoscience. [15]


  • Myers, I. (1980, 1995) Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type. Davies-Black Publishing, U.S. ISBN 0-89106-074-X
  • 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]
  • Myers, I. (1990) Introduction to Type: A Description of the Theory and Applications of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Center for Applications of Psychological Type Inc. ISBN 0-935652-06-X
  • Myers, I. and McCaulley, M. (1985) Manual: A Guide to the Development and Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Consulting Psychologists Press. ISBN 0-89106-027-8
  • Myers, I. (1995) Murder Yet to Come. Center for Applications of Psychological Type Inc. ISBN 0-935652-22-1

Further reading[edit]

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)


  1. ^ "The AJPT Interview: Otto Kroeger" (PDF). Peter Geyer. June 28, 2004.
  2. ^ "Global Citizens All: An Interview With Rebecca Chopp". Swarthmore College. Archived from the original on October 27, 2008. Retrieved December 5, 2005.
  3. ^ "The Story of Isabel Briggs Myers -". Retrieved February 24, 2018.
  4. ^ Obituary on the Meyers-Briggs Company website
  5. ^ a b Diebel, Anne (December 20, 2018). "Simple Answers to Profound Questions". The New York Review of Books. 65 (20): 57–59.
  6. ^ "Murder Yet to Come". CAPT, Inc. Retrieved April 4, 2012.
  7. ^ Murder Yet to Come. Frederick A. Stokes Company, Inc. OCLC 7621206.
  8. ^ "Uncovering The Secret History of Myers-Briggs". Retrieved April 4, 2012.
  9. ^ "Judging or Perceiving". The Myers & Briggs Foundation. The Myers & Briggs Foundation. Retrieved February 19, 2012.
  10. ^ a b "The Story of Isabel Briggs Myers". Center of Applications of Psychological Type. Center of Applications of Psychological Type, Inc. Retrieved February 19, 2012.
  11. ^ a b "Isabel Briggs Myers and Her Mother, Katharine Cook Briggs". The Myers & Briggs Foundation. The Myers & Briggs Foundation. Retrieved February 19, 2012.
  12. ^ "Memorial Research Awards". The Myers & Briggs Foundation. The Myers & Briggs Foundation. Retrieved February 19, 2012.
  13. ^ Scott O. Lilienfeld; Steven J. Lynn; Jeffrey M. Lohr, eds. (2015). Science and pseudoscience in clinical psychology (Second ed.). New York. ISBN 978-1-4625-1751-0. OCLC 890851087.
  14. ^ Stein, Randy; Swan, Alexander B. (2019-01-25). "Evaluating the validity of Myers-Briggs Type Indicator theory: A teaching tool and window into intuitive psychology". Social and Personality Psychology Compass. 13 (2): e12434. doi:10.1111/spc3.12434. ISSN 1751-9004. S2CID 150132771.
  15. ^ Bailey, Richard P.; Madigan, Daniel J.; Cope, Ed; Nicholls, Adam R. (2018). "The Prevalence of Pseudoscientific Ideas and Neuromyths Among Sports Coaches". Frontiers in Psychology. 9: 641. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00641. ISSN 1664-1078. PMC 5941987. PMID 29770115.
  16. ^ "Rev. of Gifts Differing: Understand Personality Type, by Isabel Briggs Myers". Innovation Watch. Innovation Watch. Archived from the original on November 16, 2012. Retrieved February 19, 2012.

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