Psychological Type and the MyersBriggs Type Indicator

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One of the most enduring typological classifications was devised by Jung and has served as the foundation for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (Anastasi, 1997). The Myers-Briggs (MBTI) designates one’s personality type, based upon a classification scheme, which consists of four basic scales and two types within each scale. Thus, there are sixteen possible Myers-Briggs personality types. The scheme is based upon the intuitions of Carl Jung, whose gifted insight revealed that all people at all times are best understood in terms of extroversion/introversion, sensation/intuition, and objective/subjective. The latter category has since been subdivided into two classes by revisionists: feeling/thinking, and perceiving/judging. Classifying people did not originate with Jung.

In the middle of the fifth century B.C.E., Hippocrates explained the four temperaments in terms of dominant humors in the body: melancholic, sanguine, phlegmatic, or choleric. The melancholic, he claimed, was dominated by yellow bile in the kidneys, the sanguine by humors in the blood, the phlegmatic by phlegm, and the choleric by the black bile of the liver. Hippocrates was simply adding to the ancient Greek insight that all things reduce to earth, air, water and fire. Each of the four elements had its dualities: hot/cold and dry/moist. A person’s physical, psychological, and moral qualities could easily be understood by his temperament, his dominant humors, the four basic elements, or whether he was hot and wet or cold and dry. The ancient personality type indicator worked for over one thousand years. Today, most of us have abandoned Hippocrates’ personality scheme because we do not find it to have any meaningful use.

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In the early 1940’s, Isabel Briggs Myers and Katherine Cook Briggs began developing the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to make Carl Jung’s theory of human personality under-standable and useful in everyday life. The MBTI is based on Jung’s ideas about perception and judgment. The essence of the theory is that much seemingly random variation in behavior is actually quite orderly and consistent, being due to basic differences in the way individuals prefer to use their perception and judgment. Perception involves all the ways of becoming aware of things, people, happenings, or ideas.

Judgment involves all the ways of coming to conclusions about what has been perceived. The Educational Testing Service first published the MBTI as a research instrument in 1962. In 1977, its use began to multiply. The main aim of the MBTI is to identify from self-report, the basic preferences of people in regard to perception and judgment, so that the effects of each preference, singly and in combination, can be established by research and put to practical use. If people differ systematically in what they perceive and in how they reach conclusions, then it is only reasonable for them to differ correspondingly in their reactions, interests, values, motivations, and skills (McCaulley, 1995).

At the heart of MBTI use is the belief that individuals have naturally occurring preferences for certain attitudes and approaches to the world as well as for certain modes of perceiving it and making judgments or decisions pertaining to it. These preferences should not be equated with abilities. Identifying one’s own preferences can be an aid in seeking work, relationships and so forth, whereby what comes most naturally to the person will be the very thing that will be the most demanded, desirable, appropriated, or appreciated. Understanding other persons’ preferences can aid in communication and make working or living together more effective and satisfying (Carskadon, 1994).

McCaulley and Myers (1985) state that the MBTI differs from other personality instruments in these ways:

  • ·It is designed to implement a theory; therefore the theory must be understood to understand the MBTI.
  • ·The theory postulates dichotomies; therefore some of the psychometric properties are unusual.
  • ·Based on the theory, there are specific dynamic relationships between the scales, which lead to the descriptions and characteristics of sixteen ‘types’.
  • ·The type descriptions and the theory include a model of development that continues throughout life.
  • ·The scales are concerned with basic functions of perception and judgment that enter into almost every behavior; therefore, the scope of practical applications is very wide.

The MBTI consists of four separate indices which direct the use of perception and judgment. The Myers Briggs model of personality is based on four preferences, which can be seen in Table 1. These preferences affect what people do in any situation and how they draw conclusions about what they perceive. The preferences are:

  1. Where is your primary source of energy? (Introversion/Extroversion)
  2. How do you prefer to take in information? (Sensing/Intuition)
  3. How do you prefer to make decisions? (Thinking/Feeling)
  4. How do you prefer to organize your life? (Judging/Perceiving)

Where is your primary source of energy? Is it from the outer world of activity, and spoken words or from the inner world of thoughts and emotions? If it is from the outer world of activity or words, it is called extroversion, denoted by the letter E. If it is from the inner world of contemplation, or thoughts, it is called introversion, denoted by the letter I. Extro- is a prefix meaning without and intro- is a prefix meaning within. During each day, people will undoubtedly spend time spontaneously doing or saying things, as well as retreating into the inner world of contemplation and thought.

If a persons work day has involved much interaction with the world, even the clearest extrovert may feel at the end of the day that they want to be left alone with their thoughts. Conversely, if an introvert has been working in isolation all day, they may feel that they need to party in the evening to restore some balance. All individuals need a particular balance of both introversion and extroversion. Table 2 lists words and expressions that are often associated with extroversion and introversion.

How do you prefer to take in information? Do you prefer in the form of facts and details or in the form of patterns and overviews? If it is in the form of facts or details, it is called sensing, denoted by the letter S. If it is in the form of patterns or overviews, it is called intuition, denoted by the letter N (N is used to avoid confusion with introversion). The term sensing is used because information is taken in primarily by way of the senses. The term intuition is used because information is perceived primarily in an intuitive fashion.

Sensing tends to be interested in concrete reality, focusing on the present, and seeing what is, rather than what might be. At an extreme, sensing can have its feet so well and truly on the ground that it misses out on possibilities for the future. The preference for intuition gives a greater emphasis on insight and the future, focusing on what might be, rather than what is. At an extreme, intuition can focus so much on possibilities that it loses touch with current realities. Sensing tends to communicate in direct ways, whilst intuition prefers to communicate in creative ways. Table 3 shows words that are normally associated with each of these two preferences.

How do you prefer to make decisions? Do you prefer on the basis of logic and objective considerations or on the basis of personal values? If it is on the basis of logic and objective considerations, it is called thinking, denoted by the letter T. If it is on the basis of personal values, it is called feeling, denoted by the letter F. Table 4 lists words often associated with each of the two preferences.

How do you prefer to organize your life? Do you prefer in a structured way, making decisions and knowing where you stand or in a flexible way, discovering life as you go along? If it is in a structured way, making decisions and knowing where you stand, then it is called judgment. If it is in a flexible way, discovering life as you go along – this is called perception. Someone whose preference is judgment prefers, in their lifestyle, to make decisions. This means that they prefer to make decisions about what to do, where to go, what to say, and so on. As a result of these decisions, their lifestyle appears organized. Someone whose preference is perception prefers, in their lifestyle, to learn or experience new things. This means that they prefer to find out more, rather than making decisions, and are more comfortable when they keep their options open. As a result of this openness, they can appear flexible. Table 5 lists words often associated with each of the two preferences.

Combining these four preferences produces a personality type, such as ENFP (Extroversion, Intuition, Feeling, and Perceiving) or ISTJ (Introversion, Sensing, Thinking, and Judging). The model is useful for a wide range of applications, including: interpersonal skills development, self-awareness, career counseling, psychotherapy, team building and many other areas. However, as with all personality questionnaires, the results can be wrong. All questionnaires recognized by the psychological establishments have reliability and validity research, which shows how wrong on average, they can be. The questionnaire can provide valuable information, but the real value of the Myers-Briggs model of personality is in deciding your Myers-Briggs type for yourself.

Everyone’s personality reflects all aspects of the Myers Briggs model. You use extroversion as well as introversion, sensing as well as intuition, thinking as well as feeling, and judgment as well as perception. However, the Myers Briggs model implies that each person naturally tends to choose, where the opportunity allows, one of each of the four preferences, though the strength of that preference may vary. The letters that represent your preferences are combined to produce your Myers Briggs Type, such as ENTJ. An ENTJ prefers extroversion, intuition, thinking and judgment. The ENTJ is likely to feel energized by having lots of things going on (E). He will tend to interpret events by seeing patterns or overviews (N). He will tend to make decisions on the basis of logic (T). And he organizes life on a logical basis (J). There are sixteen possible ways to combine the preferences, resulting in the sixteen MBTI types.

The MBTI is appropriate for adults and high school students who can read at least on the eighth grade level. Translations of the test are being developed in a several other countries. Until carefully validated translations are available, caution should be used in interpreting the MBTI to non-English-speaking people (McCaulley, 1995). However, it has been reported that people in other countries have found the description of their type useful.

The MBTI is published in three forms. Form F consists of 166 items. Form G consists of 126 items. Form AV is the abbreviated version, which is self-scoring and only consists of 50 items. If you take the MBTI in a classroom setting you will most likely be taking Form AV. It is designed for group situations. It is not recommended when an accurate assessment of type is needed. It consists of the first 50 items from Form G. It is self-scoring. About 75% of the time, people’s personality type comes out the same whether using Form G or Form AV. Form G is the standard form of the test. Form F is only recommended when the counselor or researcher is willing to share their Form F answers. Form F is used in ongoing research of the MBTI.

Basically the MBTI is self-administering. Most all instructions are found on the cover to the booklet. Circles need to be filled in correctly, and only one answer given. There is no time limit but test takers should not study the items at length. If the question is not understood, omissions are permitted. Some people will have trouble finding the correct frame of mind for answering the MBTI. People have a work self, school self, ideal self, or other self that they may be referring to while answering the questions. McCaulley says that the frame of reference that is desired in respondents is what has been termed as the ‘shoes-off self’. The ‘shoes-off self’ fosters an attitude in which one functions naturally, smoothly, and effortlessly, and is not going ‘against the grain’. The function of the MBTI is to provide the first step toward understanding one’s natural preference.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is now the most widely used personality test designed for normal individuals, with an estimated two to three million administrations annually (Carskadon, 1994). Advantages include a relatively modest expense; an intuitive appeal to a great many students and teachers’ key concepts that are readily understood, communicated, and applied; abundant availability of supporting resources; relevance to and use in a broad range of fields, including education, counseling, business/management, communication, psychology, and religion; and a positive, non-pejorative emphasis—no type is conceptualized as globally ‘better’ than any other, and usually everyone feels that he or she got the best one (Carskadon, 1994). Therefore, use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator can help people to identify their current strengths and future growth potentials, as well as giving them a better understanding of personality so they can appreciate the differences between themselves and others.


  • Anastasi, A. & Urbina, S. (1997). Psychological Testing. 7th ed. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.
  • Association for Psychological Type. (2000). What is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)? Retrieved April 7, 2000 from APT on-line database on the World Wide Web:
  • Carskadon, T.G. (1994). Student Personality Factors: Psychological Type and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.
  • In Prichard, K.W. & Sawyer, R. M. (Eds.), Handbook of College Teaching: Theory and Applications. (69-81). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
  • McCaulley, M.H. & Myers, I.B. (1985). Manual: A Guide to the Development and Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.
  • State of Ohio. (1998, December). The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Retrieved April 8th 2000 from Director of Human Resources on the World Wide Web:

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Psychological Type and the MyersBriggs Type Indicator. (2018, Jun 18). Retrieved from

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