Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Clearing Up Jung & Myers-Briggs

Many professionals in psychology, education, and even business have heard of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). What a lot of people don't know, however, is that the work of this mother-daughter team was based largely on the theories of Carl Jung. Many people also seem to lack a full understanding of the components that make up the 16 personality types. I am not going to give an explanation of the personality types here, just the individual dichotomous parts that make up the 4-letter type.

The first letter set (E/I) represents a person's orientation in the world and their source of energy. I do not mean to say the fuel, such as food and drink, but rather the psychological and/or motivating energy we need to think, socialize, and engage in any other mental activities. E stands for extrovert. An extrovert is oriented outside (extra) themselves. They gain their mental energy through socialization with others. If given a choice between watching a good movie by themselves or going to see a sub-par movie with friends, it would not be uncommon for the extrovert to choose the sub-par movie because the socialization is more important part of the entertainment. I stands for introvert. A introvert is oriented within (intro) themselves. They gain their mental energy from quiet, solitary introspection, rather than socialization. While the introvert will socialize--some of us even have friends!--this socialization tends to use up energy that was generate through solitary activities, leaving the introvert to feel exhausted. The extrovert, on the other hand, will use up stored energy in solitary activities, needing to socialize to "recharge their batteries," so to speak. If all of this seems repetitious, that could be due to the fact that I covered the extrovert/introvert thing in my first post on the term Antisocial.

The second personality dimension (N/S) in Jung's theory is a person's preferred source of data gathering. The N stands for intuition (the letter N is used to clear up confusion with the use of I for introvert). An intuitive tends to seek or trust data that "feels" right, oftentimes basing conclusions on faith or the perceived authority of the source. Intuitives tend to be a bit more chaotic in nature than their counterparts, but they manage to still be productive, and even creative, in this state. S, on the other hand, stands for sensing. A sensing individual tends to look for more concrete evidence, using their natural senses to verify data. If it cannot be seen, smelled, touched, tasted, or heard, you will have a hard time convincing a senser of its validity. It's not impossible, just hard. Sensing individuals prefer to generate order out of chaos, as it allows them to more effectively gather sensory information. Keep in mind that all of these personality dimensions are on a continuum. It is possible for a strong sensing type to occasionally take a leap of faith, or for a strong intuitive to desire more concrete evidence.

The third letter set (T/F) represents the primary route used to analyze data that has been gathered. These two traits are very often misunderstood when it comes to discerning one's personality typology, mostly because we attach other meanings to the base words. In Jung's typology, the T stands for thinking. A thinker in this context is an individual who looks at the data collected, either via senses or intuition, and draws seemingly logical conclusions from that data. Thinkers tend to sometimes get tunnel vision, occasionally not seeing how conclusions could affect other individuals on a more personal level. The letter F represents feeling. Feelers are capable of drawing logical conclusions, but they also broaden their focus when analyzing data to incorporate non-tangibles, such as the impact an action may have on another person. Not all feeling types are benevolent, however. A strong feeling person with a mean streak could cause a lot of psychological damage to others willingly, as they readily see how their actions could impact others and still make that harmful decision. Not all thinkers are cold and callous, either. They may attempt to act in what they feel is the best interest of another person, though their actions may not seem beneficial at the time.

I would like to say that the final dimension is the least understood, yet I have found in my years of teaching that just as many students encounter biases and/or misunderstandings with each of the other three dimensions. It is probably easiest to become confused on this last letter set (J/P), however, because of the words chosen to represent the two sides of the continuum. The fourth dimension is how a person ultimately goes about making decisions. Whether you generate your mental energy from within or without, whether you gather data through the sensory world or your "gut" feeling, and whether you seek logical conclusions or incorporate the impact of your choices on others, you will use all of this to finally make decisions and take action. A J means you are a judger. Many people think judging means to criticize others and weigh each personal on some imaginary scale of worth. This is NOT what it means to be judging when we talk about the MBTI. Think of it this way: if you are on trial for your life, would you want the judge to make an instantaneous decision, or would you want them to take their time weighing all of the evidence? A judger, in this instance, takes their time making a decision. They plan ahead, often generating a number of contingency plans, just in case. They follow the data down many paths of conclusion, trying to calculate and weigh possibilities before they finally make a commitment to a decision. Even then, an extreme judging type may second-guess themselves and take still more time to redo a decision. On the positive side, they tend to be more cautious. On the negative side, it may take a judger too long to make a decision or they may find themselves frozen with indecision. The P, perceiving, is the complete opposite of a judger. The perceiver makes split-second decisions, sometimes even ignoring the evidence they've gathered. A perceiver is the type of person who will decide in a heartbeat whether or not they like you, whereas a judger will want to take their time to get to know you before they decide if ye be friend or foe. On the plus side, a perceiver is capable of making split-second decisions on a moment's notice. On the down side, though, sometimes making snap decisions can lead to one having to remove their foot from their mouth all too often. Then again, one snap decision could make things right very quickly.

If you would like more information on the 16 types that come out of Jung's theory and the MBTI, I strongly encourage you to talk to a professional counselor (not a therapist [see my post on Psychologists are not Psychics for the distinction between the two]) or personality specialist. You can find information on the Internet, just be aware that not everyone has all of the facts detangled properly. You can even find several free and pay versions of the MBTI. Again, buyer beware, as some sites can be very misleading in the read-outs they give you from your responses. Some sites don't even give you an explanation, just your 4-letter typology (e.g. INTJ), leaving you to try to figure out how they mesh together.

Please feel free to leave your questions or comments on this or any of my other posts. Feedback is the best way to learn.