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Authors' reply to commentary on accounting information systems research opportunities using personality type theory and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

We appreciate Professor Lampe's (2004) many thoughtful comments on our paper. We largely agree with him. Like Lampe, we see the MBTI as one useful psychometric instrument among many available and acceptable instruments. In our article, we primarily examine the MBTI in isolation, and do not compare it to other psychometric instruments. We did not intend to imply that other instruments are without value by using this approach. Instruments such as the Millon Inventory of Personality Styles (MIPS), the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), the California Psychological Inventory (CPI), and the NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI) are useful for various types of AIS research. (1) Nevertheless, we think that the MBTI has three comparative strengths: (1) researchers have extensively tested the validity and reliability of the MBTI over approximately four decades; (2) the MBTI is grounded within a comprehensive psychology of personality; and (3) the MBTI is well suited for research examining the relationship of cognition and information processing to personality.

In regard to the first strength, which was dealt with in detail in the paper, we express disagreement with Lampe's comments about the test/retest reliability of the MBTI. Most reports of the MBTI's test/retest reliability have shown these correlations to be relatively high. For example, in Myers et al. (1998), the low-to-high test/retest range is 84 percent to 96 percent agreement of the bipolarities over a four-week period for Form M. Regarding Form G, the form Girelli and Stake (1993) reported, the range is 75 percent to 87 percent (Myers et al. 1998). The Girelli and Stake (1993) paper, cited by Lampe for its low MBTI test/retest scores, has met with methodological criticisms (Murray 1996); specifically, the researchers substituted the MBTI's forced-choice format with a Likert-scale format and then analyzed the latter for negative correlations.

The test/retest reliability issue also has theoretical implications. According to Jungian theory, the foundation of the MIPS and the MBTI personality types represent choice preferences. Thus, the scales in both the MBTI and the MIPS are purposefully bipolar (i.e., choice between options). Consequently, it makes more sense from a theoretical perspective to measure whether a person is, say, an Introvert as opposed to an Extravert, not 57 percent Introverted, 43 percent Extraverted. (2) Furthermore, the MBTI provides a secondary score for each preference--the preference clarity index--indicating the strength of one's preference on a continuous scale, which can change over time according to theory.

With respect to the issue of how widely used the various personality assessment tools are, we performed a database search of PsychINFO from 1997 to the present. We received 23 hits using MIPS, 262 hits using NEO-PI, and 388 hits using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (245 using "MBTI"). These numbers suggest that the MBTI continues to be a popular choice in psychology research.

As we discuss in the paper, researchers developed the MBTI from Jungian psychology. This psychological perspective offers a comprehensive view of personality and human nature, and has proven useful in numerous settings (e.g., therapy, consulting, and research). Empirically developed personality models and instruments frequently lack broad theoretical foundation. The Five Factor Model (FFM or "Big Five") and its accompanying instrument, the NEO-PI, are good examples. Both the model and the instrument were developed from factor analyses and meta-analyses. The limitations of such models and instruments are eloquently articulated by Feist and Feist (1998, 559):
   Agreement that personality has five basic dimensions is a step
   toward understanding the structure of personality. However, the
   structure of personality tells us little about its causes,
   developments, and goals ... Description of personality is but the
   first step in explaining and predicting future behavior. Such
   models do not present a unifying view of human nature, but instead
   present a post hoc description of major aspects of personality.

While the MIPS is more theoretically based than the NEO-PI, its theoretical foundation, nevertheless, is more "patch-worked" than the MBTI. Specifically, the three aspects of the MIPS relate to different theories: the Motivating Aims scales are linked to the work of Freud; the Cognitive Modes scales are based on the work of Jung; and the Interpersonal Behaviors scales are rooted in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Millon 1994).

The Jungian foundation common to the MIPS and MBTI gives both instruments a strong connection to information processing and cognitive science paradigms. Choosing between the two is more involved than merely deciding between continuous and bipolar scales. Like the MBTI, the MIPS scales are also bipolar (Millon 1994). According to the MIPS manual (Millon 1994), any measure above (below) 50 on the MIPS' 0-100 scale implies that a person is likely (unlikely) to display some of the characteristics measured by the scale. The MBTI scales can also be converted to continuous measurements, either as a continuous 0-score or a preference clarity index (Myers et al. 1998). For Form M, the conversation equations are nonlinear; hence researchers must carefully calculate and appropriately interpret the resulting continuous scales.

Theory is important when choosing an experimental instrument. The instrument must measure variables for testing hypotheses developed from theory. Accordingly, the research is meant to provide us with insight into and understanding of a phenomenon by way of the theory. A comprehensive psychological perspective, such as Jungian psychology, is more likely to provide such understanding than a post hoc model, such as the FFM. Jungian psychology allows us to view the personality as a whole as well an integral part of human nature. Consequently, using MBTI variables will help us understand how personality affects experience and behavior, and what it means to relate on a personal level to other entities and processes.

If one is primarily interested in specific aspects of personality, then concerns over the inclusiveness of theory are less relevant. Instead, the researcher needs to consider the relative strengths and weaknesses of psychometric instruments that are already proven to be reliable and valid. The researcher should investigate which instruments measure which psychological dimensions. Under these conditions, we believe that the MBTI has some comparative advantages for conducting research into cognition and information processing. The MBTI, for example, captures mental functions that map directly to the information processing paradigm (input-process-output-feedback). The Sensing-Intuitive dimension is concerned with information acquisition, while the Thinking-Feeling dimension focuses on information processing. By contrast, for example, none of the "Big Five" factors in the FFM and NEO-PI deal explicitly with information processing. (3) The absence of a process-based perspective makes it difficult to use the NEO-PI to examine, for example, how readily subjects with personality differences recognize various types of information cues. Conversely, the MBTI, which does not have a counterpart to the NEO-PI's neuroticism factor, would not be the preferred instrument for studies involving, say, stress while using a computer.

The neuroticism factor illustrates another difference between the MBTI and some other instruments, such as the NEO-PI. There is clearly a value judgment attached to the neuroticism factor in the NEO-PI. Low scores suggest more negative thoughts and feelings, and higher stress. If the researcher plans to provide the subjects feedback as to their personality structures, then the researcher needs to be sensitive to how subjects will react to being informed that they are, say, high on the neuroticism scale. (4) The MBTI, on the other hand, explicitly states that there are no value judgments attached to the four dimensions, and that each trait has its own relative strengths and weaknesses.

Certainly, we are not blind to the MBTI's limitations. Instruments developed from theory, like the MBTI, frequently do not have the construct validity of empirically developed instruments like the NEO-PI. This is hardly surprising since constructs in the latter case are largely descriptions of underlying empirical data. Consequently, one must be careful that variables derived from factor analysis are meaningful and not merely tags for clusters of data with little theoretical unity. Nevertheless, empirically grounded instruments like the NEO-PI are more likely to produce significant results (correlations between personality traits and other variables of interests) than theory-derived instruments like the MBTI. (5) Using our above example, one is more likely to find a relationship between the NEO-PI's neuroticism variable and, say, decision aid use than between the MBTI's ThinkingFeeling variable and decision aid use. However, we think the payoff in terms of contributing to our understanding of decision aid use is much higher when the latter case succeeds, as compared to former case.

In conclusion, we largely agree with Lampe's comments. We especially agree that "It]here are numerous alternatives to the MBTI for measuring personality types ... AIS researchers need an understanding of more than just the MBTI to enable them to select the test most appropriate for situation-specific research objectives" (Lampe 2004, 30). Nor do we dispute that "some alternatives to the MBTI might better accomplish AIS research objectives in given situations" (Lampe 2004, 21). Our disagreement with Lampe arises not from our ignorance of the alternatives to the MBTI, as we clearly understand the choices, uses and trade-offs involved; rather, we view the MBTI as the strongest candidate among the alternatives.

(1) Not surprisingly, there are frequently high correlations between the scales of these different personality measurement instruments and the MBTI (see Myers et al. 1998, especially Ch. 9).

(2) Jungian theory also postulates that personality types are innate and do not change over time. For this reason, also, it makes more sense to state that a person is, for example, a Sensing type than to state that a person is a 78 percent Sensing type. The latter is more likely to show variability over time than the former.

(3) The "Big Five" factors are neuroticism (or emotional stability), extraversion (or surgency), openness to experience (or culture), agreeableness (or friendliness), and conscientiousness (or will/dependability). As noted above, there are significant correlations between the Big Five factors and the MBTI dimensions (Myers et al. 1998), implying that, just as the latter capture aspects of information processing, so do the former to some extent.

(4) Most of the popular instruments include forms for providing feedback to the subjects. In this regard, there may also be implications for acquiring Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval.

(5) However, the absence of a significant correlation in this regard may be informative, if the instrument is reliable. For example, Ruble and Cosier (1990) interpret a lack of difference in the performances of ST types and NF types as evidence that cognitive style and personality variables do not influence decision making.


Feist, J., and G. J. Feist. 1998. Theories of Personality. Fourth edition. Boston, MA: McGraw Hill.

Girelli, S. A., and J. E. Stake. 1993. Bipolarity in Jungian type theory and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Journal of Personality Assessment 60: 290-301.

Lampe, J. C. 2004. Commentary: Alternative personality measurements: Commentary on accounting information systems research opportunities using personality type theory and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Journal of Information Systems 18 (1): 21-34.

Millon, T. 1994. Millon Index of Personality Styles, Manual. San Antonio, TX: The Psychological Corporation.

Murray, W. S. 1996. Testing the bipolarity of the Jungian functions. Journal of Personality Assessment 67: 285-293.

Myers, I. B., M. H. McCaulley, N. L. Quenk, and A. L. Hammer. 1998. MBTI Manual: A Guide to the Development and Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Third edition. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.

Ruble, T. L., and R. A. Cosier. 1990. Effects of cognitive style and decision setting on performance. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 46: 283-295.

Patrick R. Wheeler

University of Missouri-Columbia

James E. Hunton

Bentley College

Stephanie M. Bryant

University of South Florida
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Author:Wheeler, Patrick R.; Hunton, James E.; Bryant, Stephanie M.
Publication:Journal of Information Systems
Date:Mar 22, 2004
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