In the last ten years, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® has become very popular within industry and schools. These personality types deal with normal people, not psychopathology, so you don't need to be a clinical psychologist to use the instrument (but you need training in the use of psychological tests). But the four dimensions on the Myers-Briggs, all originally described by Carl Jung in the early 1900's, seem (intuitively) to reflect personality characteristics of a fundamental nature:
- Where do you live mentally? Do you attend mostly to the external world of events and people (you need people) or to the internal world of your thoughts and reactions (you need privacy)?
Extroversion or Introversion
- How do you take in information? Do you attend to your senses telling you what is happening and useful right now (likes detail and routines) or do you tune into the pattern of what is happening so you can anticipate possibilities for the future (likes imagination and change)?
Sensing or iNtuition
- How do you make decisions? Do you use your head--objective data, logic, justice, and reason to analyze causes and effects or do you rely more on your heart--feelings, values, relationships, and vague, subjective reactions?
Thinking or Feeling
- What is your lifestyle? Your way of dealing with the world? Do you have clear ideas about what "should be done" and carefully plan and organize for each anticipated event (seem rigid and stuffy to P's) or do you prefer to wait and see what develops, remaining open to new or different options that you can select spontaneously (seems loose and messy to J's)?
Judging or Perceiving
Thus, depending on your score on these four scales, you fall into one of sixteen personality types, e.g. INTJ, ESFJ, ENFP, etc. Even though there are only four scales, a great deal can be told about each of the 16 personality types. The Myers-Briggs types are reported to be quite useful in understanding managers and subordinates, teachers and students, marriage partners, and many others. I'll give you two brief sample descriptions of these types. This is the INTJ type, which is my type:
This type, being an original thinker, has a vision of how to do something better and he/she perseveres in trying to persuade others that he/she is right. They do have good organizational ability, but they think they can improve everything. Indeed, unless the thinking or judging dimension is strong, there is a risk that the introverted intuitive (IN) person will be absolutely convinced he/she is right, even when wrong. Difficult problems fascinate him/her; routine jobs are considered a waste of time. They make good scientists. They are not easily directed but will consider new facts and other opinions when carefully presented. They tend to be skeptical and critical, frequently not considering other peoples' feelings as much as they should.
For comparison let's look at the ESFP personality type. This type makes decisions by how they "feel," rather than by thinking or logical foresight. Their world centers around people; they are friendly, tactful, accepting, fun-loving and fun to be with. They are also sensitive and aware of others' feelings, good judges of people, and good compromisers. They may be good with practical matters and concrete facts but are not abstract thinkers or grandiose planners. This type is realistic, relying on their own senses--perception of the situation--and not on expert opinion, theory, or book-learning. They may not develop a plan for coping with a troublesome situation; they simply handle problems as they arise, often with confidence. They like using their senses--looking, hearing, tasting, feeling--and may be good with machinery because they can "see" how it works. They like material possessions.
Obviously, these are two very different types of people. Jung's theories and the Myers-Briggs scales make it clear to us that two people in the same circumstances may be experiencing two entirely different "worlds." I recommend you take the Myers-Briggs test and read a book about the types (Myers, 1980; Kroeger & Thuesen, 1988). It will help you understand and work with others and yourself. The Keirsey Temperament Sorter is an online test based, in part, on Jung's personality characteristics. This test yields scores similar to the Myers-Briggs. Extensive descriptions of different personality types and how to understand one's own scores are also given on this site and in Keirsey's books.
The Myers-Briggs Types are based on Jung's 70-year-old description of personality types. Let's discuss that briefly. Jung's basic focus was on the introvert-extrovert dimension. As described above, note that his "introvert" had little to do with being socially shy; an introvert directs his/her mind inward towards his/her thoughts, feelings, and awareness. The introvert wants to understand life before living it. An extrovert directs his/her attention outward towards external objects, people, and actions. The extrovert plunges in and lives life, then he/she understands it, maybe. Secondarily, Jung ranked people according to mental processes: thinking, feeling, sensing, and intuiting. He believed one of these four functions tends to dominate but an optimally adjusted person would be facile with all these functions. Jung spoke primarily of 8 major personality types:
The extroverted thinking type depends on rational reasoning and observing the external world, he/she represses his/her feelings. He/she wants to run the world rationally. The introverted thinking type is also the thinking type but the focus is on his/her ideas, not external observations or the words of some authority. He/she wants to analyze the world, not run it. He/she appears cold, aloof, and inconsiderate. The extroverted feeling type is controlled by the wishes and expectations of others. He/she is friendly and avoids conflicts. Thinking is repressed. The introverted feeling type is quiet, unexpressive, hard to understand, and perhaps depressed but capable of intense feelings inside. He/she is like a fur-lined coat--warm inside. He/she is loyal to close friends and committed to his/her values.
The extroverted sensing types seek thrills and pleasures; they have little interest in thinking or reasoning but they are very perceptive of what is going on around them. They accept reality and are tolerant of others as well as him/herself. Often they are primarily concerned with eating, partying, enjoying art, and having a good time. The introverted sensing type absorbs many facts but may overreact to outside stimuli. The reactions are often unempathic, even irrational. Example: an casual remark may be interpreted in an odd way or as having great significance; yet, little interest is shown in the person making the remark. He/she may be hard-working, patient with details, and systematic. The extroverted intuitive type is confident and innovative--constantly looking for an opportunity to take advantage of the situation--perhaps a merchant, a politician, a champion of causes or a person intent on making all the "right social connections." He/she hates routine, even his/her own projects may become boring. The introverted intuitive type is caught up in his/her own unreasoning understanding of the world or of their selves. Since they may underutilize thinking (judging truth or falsity) and feelings (judging good or bad), this type may have difficulty realizing when they are wrong. They may not communicate with others very well.
Note: on first reading, these personality types are much too complex to readily understand. Full effective use of any classification system only occurs after working extensively with the types. You need to take the test yourself, read extensively about the meaning and implications of each type, and practice using the classification system to describe and understand friends, relatives, co-workers, teachers, etc. After a week or so, you start to think in terms of the types you are studying. Eventually, you will find the personality types an aid to understanding people and predicting their reactions in different situations. An employer or manager can use personality type to assign each employee the kind of work he/she does best or to decide who will work best together on a team.
Other personality types
Recently, Harary and Donahue (1994) recently published a self-administered, self-interpreted personality test. It includes self-tests and exercises designed to help you explore and understand five aspects of your personality: your expressive style (quiet to dramatic), interpersonal style (introverted to extroverted), work style (unmotivated to driven), emotional style (positive to negative), and intellectual style (analytic and linear to creative and global). If you are looking for a research based, practical way to objectively assess your personality traits, I'd recommend this workbook (or go see a counselor for a professional interpretation of a personality test--see chapter 15). This is also available online by going to : Personality Tests.
Hundreds of other theories of personality have attempted to explain certain types of people. Freud, for instance, described "oral," "anal," "phallic," and "genital" characters. Each type originates during a particular psychosexual stage of development, i.e. you can get stuck at any stage. Oral characters may have been overindulged or neglected as infants when eating was our most important function; the outcomes are described in Table 9.2.
Anal retentive characters have traits that supposedly originate during toilet-training; they include being orderly, persevering, compulsively clean, and reluctant to give things away. Anal expulsive characters are messy, unconcerned with cleanliness, careless with money and everything, disorganized, and, when pushed, stubbornly rebellious and defiant. Phallic characters have never resolved the Oedipus or the Electra complex and tend to be strident, proud, dominant, and arrogant. Such men are often self-centered, macho Don Juans obsessed with proving their sexual attractiveness; such women are resentful of men and try to dominate them. Genital characters are healthy; they have gone through puberty; they are physically and psychologically mature. They have learned to handle external stresses and internal conflicts by coping with the previous stages of "psychosexual" development. During puberty when there is a demanding upsurge of sexual interests, the genital characters are able to draw on the skills and rationality they have acquired. As adults, they have the maturity to cope well with others, with love, with work, and with the conflicts within.
Adler typed people according to birth order and research still supports some of these differences. Adler described the first born as anxious, conscientious, and dependent on authorities, the second child as socially oriented but competitive, and the youngest child as pampered but always having to "catch up."
The ancient Greeks classified people as cheerful-sad and emotional-unemotional, not very different from our current Type A and Type B personalities. Much research has assessed the relationship between physique (heavy, muscular, and thin) and character; there is some connection. You will find many lists of "types" throughout this book; such lists will help you understand the enormous variations among us human beings.
A final note about personality traits: a trait may be far more complex than commonly thought or implied by a simple name and the basic driving force or motivation underlying the trait may be different than you imagine. For example, extroversion has many facets: a. enjoying being with people in a warm, friendly way, b. being a leader and assertive, c. being venturesome and seeking excitement or change, d. seeking positive feelings and enthusiasm, e. feeling ambitious and in control, f. being lively and active, g. being exhibitionistic and the center of attention, and other characteristics. See, extroversion is complex. Of course, not every extrovert has all these facets but, in general, all these characteristics tend to cluster together in one concept.
Now, what is the glue that holds all these characteristics together in the trait of extroversion? Most of us would simply say "being socially outgoing" and wanting to be with people. However, recent researchers (Lucas, Diener, Grob, Suh, & Shao, 2000), studying the relationships among the many sub-traits of extroversion, conclude that extroverts have more "reward sensitivity," i.e. extroverts are more likely than introverts to approach rewarding or satisfying situations. Social situations and relationships are often rewarding so extroverts have more needs to go there and enjoy themselves more than introverts. The motivation to seek rewards and feel good seems to explain the complex trait of extroversion better than just the desire to socialize. Maybe this is a difference that is only important to a researcher but, at least, it illustrates that personality traits are often quite complex. Now, the question becomes why some of us have more "reward sensitivity" than others. Self-understanding and psychology are seldom simple.
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