By Patrick Kerwin, MBTI® Master Practitioner
Questions often come up from MBTI® practitioners and respondents alike on the meaning of the “preference clarity” information on their MBTI® Profile or Interpretive Report. To start, here’s how that information is presented for different versions of the assessment:
- On the self-scorable version of the MBTI Step I™ (Form M) assessment, each of the respondent’s four MBTI preferences is presented in a preference clarity category (pcc) of Slight, Moderate, Clear, or Very Clear.
- On a computer-scored version of the MBTI Step I™ or Step II™ (Form Q) assessment, each of the respondent’s four MBTI preferences receives a computer-generated preference clarity index (pci) number, as well as a corresponding pcc of Slight, Moderate, Clear, or Very Clear.
Here are some points to remember as you interpret preference clarity:
- The MBTI assessment is based on Jung’s theory of psychological types, which uses a dichotomous, “either–or” framework for explaining personality preferences. As a result, the MBTI assessment is a sorting tool, not a measuring
- Because the MBTI assessment is a sorting tool, it is designed to answer the question “Which side of a preference pair do you favor?” It is not designed to answer the question, “How much do you favor that preference?” That’s why the “preferred hand” example (in the Introduction to Myers-Briggs® Type booklet and elsewhere) is so useful in illustrating the basis of the assessment. Questions posed by the MBTI assessment items are analogous to the question “Are you right-handed or left-handed?” not “How much do you use your right hand or your left hand?”
- While preference clarity doesn’t measure how much of a preference a person has, it does measure something! What it measures is how clearly or consistently a person chose his or her preference in each pair of opposites, which in turn tells us the likelihood that what is reported is the person’s true preference.
- If someone gets a Very Clear result on a preference, it does not mean that person has a lot of that preference or is good at using it; nor does it tell us that the person has a lack of or isn’t good at using the opposite preference. It just tells us that the person is quite sure that the preference truly describes him or her. Conversely, if someone gets a Slight clarity result, it does not mean that he or she is good at using both preferences of the preference pair or uses both preferences well, or that he or she is confused! It simply tells us that the person is less sure about whether that preference describes him or her.
- When working with your more competitive students or clients, you may find it helpful to remind them that preference clarity is not a contest, and that the goal is not to have all preferences reported in the Very Clear category! It is typical to have preferences reported in the Moderate and Clear categories, and not unusual to have them reported in the Slight category as well. What’s important is that the assessment sorts their responses into the right preference “buckets.”
- The reasons people report their preferences in a certain clarity category can only be determined by the person who took the assessment. For example, if someone asks you why he or she reported a preference in the Slight category, just ask, “What might have pulled you in two directions when you were responding?” Similarly, how much or how well people use their preferences can only be determined by asking them—it can’t be inferred or determined by preference clarity information.
- Try to stay away from terms or phrases such as “high scores,” “low scores,” “strong preferences,” “off the chart,” and “in the middle”—all of which refer to