The history of the MBTI® assessment

Today, the MBTI tool is the most widely used and recognized personality tool in the world. Around two million people complete it every year, but how did it begin?

Who created the MBTI assessment?

It began with Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, in the United States in the early mid-20th century. 

Briggs was inspired to research personality type theory when she met Isabel’s future husband, Clarence Myers. She noticed he had a different way of seeing the world. This intrigued her enough to start a literature review to understand different temperaments. 

What is Jung’s influence on MBTI theory?

Carl G Jung published Psychological Types in 1921. Briggs read the English translation (1923) and saw similarities between their ideas. However, Jung’s theories of personal difference were much more developed. 

Briggs and Myers thought Jung’s work was so useful that they wanted to make his ideas accessible to a wider audience.

When was the MBTI assessment first published?

World War II was a huge influence on the project’s development. Myers believed that if people understood each other better, they’d work together better and there’d be less conflict. The post-war world could be a better place. 

She was determined to find a way to give people access to their psychological type. This led to the idea of a type indicator, and Myers dedicated the rest of her life to its development. 

She spent the next 20 years developing questions and validating the instrument and the theory. The MBTI instrument was first published in 1962.

Who publishes the MBTI questionnaire now?

The Myers-Briggs Company (formerly CPP, Inc.) has published, researched and updated the MBTI instrument since 1975. It has trained practitioners since 1989.

Today, The Myers-Briggs Company continues to follow Myers’ guiding principle: that understanding personality and difference can change the world for the better.


Key moments in MBTI history

1919 Isabel Briggs Myers graduates from Swarthmore College.
Isabel’s mother, Katharine Briggs, starts to research personality type theory
1921 Carl Jung publishes Psychological Types: The Psychology of Individuation
1943 Form A of the instrument is copyrighted
1962 Isabel self-publishes Introduction to Type. Educational Testing Services (ETS) publishes research version of the MBTI instrument and the MBTI Manual

Katharine Cook Briggs dies.
MBTI questionnaire published in Japan by industrial psychologist Takeshi Ohsawa. It’s the first MBTI translation

1969 Isabel Briggs Myers and clinical psychologist Mary McCaulley start Typology Lab

CPP, Inc. (formerly Consulting Psychologists Press) publishes the MBTI instrument.
Typology Lab becomes the Center for Applications of Psychological Type (CAPT). It is the center for research, data collection, information, training and publications

1977 CAPT publishes first issue of The Journal of Psychological Type
1980 Isabel Briggs Myers dies. Peter and Katharine Myers become co-owners of the MBTI copyrights
1985 MBTI Manual second edition published
1990 Form K published. It is the precursor to the Step II assessment (Form Q)
1998 Step I™ (Form M) updated. MBTI Manual third edition published
2001 Step II™ (Form Q) and MBTI Step II Manual published
2007 MBTI Complete launched
2009 Step III™ published
2017 CPP, Inc. buys OPP Ltd
2018 CPP, Inc. becomes The Myers-Briggs Company

New global versions of MBTI Step I and Step II assessments published.
New version of MBTIonline launched


The MBTI questionnaire, first published in 1943, was originally developed in the United States by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers. Katharine Briggs was inspired to start researching personality type theory when she first met Isabel’s future husband, Clarence Myers. Whilst Clarence was a very eligible match for her daughter, Katharine noticed that he had a different way of seeing the world to her and her family, and was intrigued enough to start an extensive literature review based on understanding different temperaments. It was shortly after Carl Jung’s publication of Psychological Types (1921; 1923 in English) that Katharine realised how closely his theories resembled hers, and how much more developed they were.

Carl Jung

Carl Jung was a renowned Swiss psychiatrist, and is still seen by many, along with Sigmund Freud, as one of the founding fathers of modern-day psychology. His theory of psychological types proposes that people are innately different, both in terms of the way they see the world and take in information, and how they make decisions. Briggs and Myers thought that these ideas were so useful that they wanted to make them accessible to a wider audience.

Driven by a desire to help people understand themselves and each other better in a post-war climate, Isabel Myers set about devising a questionnaire that would identify which psychological type a person was. To do this, she enlisted the help of more experienced psychometricians, and her work was later endorsed by professors from the Universities of California, Michigan and Florida. Isabel’s subsequent writings on type and self-development remain utterly resonant today, both in professional and personal life.

Making the Indicator publicly available

The MBTI questionnaire was first published by the Educational Testing Service, before being taken over by Consulting Psychologists Press (CPP), who still publishes the instrument today. The Myers-Briggs Company has been distributing and training people to use the MBTI questionnaire since 1989 and, since then, has developed fully validated translations of the questionnaire in 14 languages, and completed a significant body of research into its validity, ensuring that it remains a robust tool for users across Europe.

An explosion in popularity

The MBTI questionnaire is now used in situations as diverse as marital counselling and executive development, and has become the world’s most popular personality instrument. Its positive approach to understanding differences is appreciated by the two million people who complete the questionnaire globally every year.


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