Personality types are psychological classifications of people based on qualitative differences in their attitudes or behaviors.
Understanding personality types
Whilst there is substantial historical evidence of the creation of classification frameworks for human personality, Swedish psychoanalyst Carl Jung is perhaps most associated with personality types in the modern era.
In his 1921 book Psychological Types, Jung proposed that an individual’s personality type could be characterized by preferences across two criteria and four main functions of consciousness.
Sensing (S) vs. Intuition (N)
The first criterion encompasses the method by which a person perceives information:
- Sensing – where one believes the information they receive from the external world, and
- Intuition – where one believes information received from an internal or imaginative world.
Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F)
The second criterion encompasses how a person processes that information:
- Thinking – where decisions are made based on logic, and
- Feeling – where decisions are made based on emotion.
The functions outlined above are then modified by a third criterion which defines two predominant attitude types:
- Extraverted (E) – individuals that obtain and direct their energy in the external world, and
- Introverted (I) – individuals that obtain and direct their energy in their own internal world.
Jung believed that individuals exhibited a predominant function which, combined with the dominant attitude, characterized one’s consciousness or personality type.
The opposite of the dominant function and attitude was repressed and therefore unconscious.
It is also important to note that each criterion is presented as two pairs of opposites (dichotomies).
Since the dominant function and attitude falls somewhere on a continuum, the individual may exhibit all functions and attitudes depending on the scenario.
Jung’s eight primary personality types
Based on combinations of the four main functions and two main attitude types, Jung developed eight different personality types.
A brief description of each is provided below:
- Extraverted thinking – idealistic, rational, objective, principle-based.
- Introverted thinking – independent, sometimes afraid of intimacy, easily influenced by ideas.
- Extraverted feeling – adaptive and relates well to their surroundings.
- Introverted feeling – may be needy or dependent, reserved, sympathetic, and seeks to please others.
- Extraverted sensation – realistic, friendly, and pleasant.
- Introverted sensation – passive, calm, restrained, and may be controlled or controlling.
- Extraverted intuition – exuberant, resourceful, and sometimes irresponsible.
- Introverted intuition – mystical, dreamer, artistic, and sometimes obsessive.
Personality types and the Myers-Briggs test
Mother-daughter team Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers released the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) in 1943.
The pair were inspired by Jung’s original 1921 book but felt his work was too complex for the general public.
The MBTI added a fourth criterion based on how the individual implements processed information. It is described by the functions:
- Judging (J) – these individuals are organized and stick to their plans, and
- Perceiving (P) – these individuals are more likely to improvise and explore alternative courses of action.
Possible combinations of the four dichotomies yield the 16 different personality types most of us are familiar with today.
Each personality type is a 4 letter acronym based on the three dominant functions and one dominant attitude.
- INFP – Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Perceiving.
- ESTJ – Extroverted, Sensing, Thinking, and Judging.
- Personality types are psychological classifications of people based on qualitative differences in their attitudes or behaviors.
- Swedish psychoanalyst Carl Jung is most associated with personality types in the modern era. Jung believed that an individual’s consciousness or personality type was based on a combination of their dominant attitude and functions.
- Mother-daughter team Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers added a fourth criterion to Jung’s work in 1943 to make it more accessible to the public. Their model yields 16 different personality types based on unique combinations of the three functions and one attitude.
See Also Leadership Styles
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