A Reader and Author Respond to "What Personality Type Are You?"

Liana Lianov, MD, MPH; Travis Bradberry, PhD


August 23, 2007

To the Editor,

I appreciated the interview that Dr. Lundberg held with Dr. Travis Bradbury in regard to his personality system. I have held an avid interest in the topic of personality for the past 15 years. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is the personality system I am most familiar with, having offered workshops on the topic throughout this time. As a preventive medicine specialist, I have been particularly intrigued by and am exploring how personality preferences -- which influence patterns of motivation -- may be used to motivate healthy habits.

My feedback about Dr. Lundberg's interview is that it would have been helpful to acknowledge that there are other well-established personality systems. Dr. Lundberg may have also asked Dr. Bradbury his thoughts about how these systems relate to each other, especially the MBTI. The MBTI is often given in medical schools. Also, some information has been written about physicians' personalities and the specialty they choose. So, it is one system with which many physicians may be familiar.

Lastly, because this interview was for Medscape, it would be important to mention the possible use of personality in healthcare, such as motivating healthy habits. The topic of personality and health seems to be emerging in the literature, such as the recent article "Personality Characteristics in Obesity and Relationship With Successful Weight Loss" in the International Journal of Obesity.[1]

Liana Lianov, MD, MPH
Director, Healthy Lifestyles Division
American Medical Association
Chicago, Illinois


  1. Bradberry T, Lundberg GD. What personality type are you?. MedGenMed. 2007;9:68. Available at: Accessed August 17, 2007.


Reply From Author

Liana, you raise excellent points. It's true that personality has potentially profound implications for healthcare. With predictable, stable traits dictating much of human behavior, understanding these tendencies in any individual provides insight into what treatments they'll comply with and what approach they are likely to be the most receptive to (as is the case in adopting regimens for exercise and diet).

I also agree with you that each physician can benefit from understanding the intricacies of his or her personality type. Although it can assist in the process of choosing a specialty, personality has a profound daily influence on bedside manner. We've seen intense interest in the link between physician self-awareness and bedside manner, with the USC [University of Southern California] Medical School incorporating education in emotional intelligence into their curriculum. Whatever their specialty, personality can help physicians understand which working environments they'll thrive in and why. Of course, this includes avoiding working environments that make them wilt, or, as the case may be, are wearing them down right now!

There are many personality systems available, but you have to discriminate between those that are measuring personality (stable, lifelong behavioral tendencies) from those that are using this label incorrectly. The other concern is the statistical validity of the test, regardless of what it claims to measure conceptually. There is major cause for concern here in the field with the Myers-Briggs. The psychometrics behind the test (despite it's swelling popularity the last couple of decades) are substandard. Here I suggest looking into the plethora of published, independent studies examining the psychometric validity of the assessment. Greatest concerns focus on test retest reliability and low alpha values for the scales within the test (suggesting that the 16-factor construct is less than watertight). My attempt is not to dismiss other personality tests, as multiple accurate measures of personality, when compared side by side, are measuring the same thing, but using different terminology to describe it.


Travis Bradberry, PhD
President, TalentSmart, San Diego, California




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