personality theories | Vai a pag2

Motivation, management, communications, relationships - focused on yourself or others - are a lot more effective when you understand yourself, and the people you seek to motivate or manage or develop or help.

The personality theories that underpin personality tests and personality quizzes are surprisingly easy to understand at a basic level. This section seeks to explain many of these personality theories and ideas. This knowledge helps to develop self-awareness and also to help others to achieve greater self-awareness and development too.

Developing understanding of personality typology, personality traits, thinking styles and learning styles theories is also a very useful way to improve your knowledge of motivation and behaviour of self and others, in the workplace and beyond.

Personality theory and tests are useful also for management, recruitment, selection, training and teaching, on which point see also the learning styles theories on other pages such as Kolb's learning styles, Gardner's Multiple Intelligences, and the VAK learning styles model.

Completing personality tests with no knowledge of the supporting theories can be a frustrating and misleading experience - especially if the results from personality testing are not properly explained, or worse still not given at all to the person being tested. Hopefully the explanations and theories below will help dispel much of the mistique surrounding modern personality testing.

There are many different personality and motivational models and theories, and each one offers a different perspective. The more models you understand, the better your appreciation of motivation and behaviour. Here are quick links to the models on this page:

Behavioural and personality models are widely used in organisations, especially in psychometrics and psychometric testing (personality assessments and tests). Behavioural and personality models have also been used by philosophers, leaders and managers for hundreds and in some cases thousands of years as an aid to understanding, explaining, and managing communications and relationships.

Used appropriately, psychometrics and personality tests can be hugely beneficial in improving knowledge of self and other people - motivations, strengths, weaknesses, preferred thinking and working styles, and also strengths and preferred styles for communications, learning, management, being managed, and team-working.

Understanding personality - of your self and others - is central to motivation. Different people have different strengths and needs. You do too.

The more you understand about personality, the better able you are to judge what motivates people - and yourself.

The more you understand about your own personality and that of other people, the better able you are to realise how others perceive you, and how they react to your own personality and style.

Knowing how to adapt the way you work with others, how you communicate, provide information and learning, how you identify and agree tasks, are the main factors enabling successfully managing and motivating others - and yourself.

Importantly you do not necessarily need to use a psychometrics instrument in order to understand the theory and the basic model which underpins it. Obviously using good psychometrics instruments can be extremely useful and beneficial, (and enjoyable too if properly positioned and administered), but the long-standing benefit from working with these models is actually in understanding the logic and theory which underpin the behavioural models or personality testing systems concerned. Each theory helps you to understand more about yourself and others.

In terms of 'motivating others' you cannot sustainably 'impose' motivation on another person. You can inspire them perhaps, which lasts as long as you can sustain the inspiration, but sustainable motivation must come from within the person. A good manager and leader will enable and provide the situation, environment and opportunities necessary for people to be motivated - in pursuit of goals and development and achievements that are truly meaningful to the individual. Which implies that you need to discover, and at times help the other person to discover, what truly motivates them - especially their strengths, passions, and personal aims - for some the pursuit of personal destiny - to achieve their own unique potential. Being able to explain personality, and to guide people towards resources that will help them understand more about themselves, is all part of the process. Help others to help you understand what they need - for work and for whole life development, and you will have an important key to motivating, helping and working with people.

Each of the different theories and models of personality and human motivation is a different perspective on the hugely complex area of personality, motivation and behaviour. It follows that for any complex subject, the more perspectives you have, then the better your overall understanding will be. Each summary featured below is just that - a summary: a starting point from which you can pursue the detail and workings of any of these models that you find particularly interesting and relevant. Explore the many other models and theories not featured on this site too - the examples below are a just small sample of the wide range of models and systems that have been developed.

Some personality testing resources, including assessment instruments, are available free on the internet or at relatively low cost from appropriate providers, and they are wonderful tools for self-awareness, personal development, working with people and for helping to develop better working relationships. Some instruments however are rather more expensive, given that the developers and psychometrics organisations need to recover their development costs. For this reason, scientifically validated personality testing instruments are rarely free. The free tests which are scientifically validated tend to be 'lite' introductory instruments which give a broad indication rather than a detailed analysis.

There are dozens of different personality testing systems to explore, beneath which sit rather fewer basic theories and models. Some theories underpin well-known personality assessment instruments (such as Myers Briggs, and DISC); others are stand-alone models or theories which seek to explain personality, motivation, behaviour, learning styles and thinking styles (such as Benziger, Transactional Analysis, Maslow, McGregor, Adams, VAK, Kolb, and others), which are explained elsewhere on this website.

In this section are examples personality and style models, which are all relatively easy to understand and apply. Don't allow providers to baffle you with science - all of these theories are quite accessible at a basic level, which is immensely helpful to understanding a lot of what you need concerning motivation and personality in work and life beyond.

Do seek appropriate training and accreditation if you wish to pursue and use psychometrics testing in a formal way, especially if testing or assessing people in organisations or in the provision of services. Administering formal personality tests - whether in recruitment, assessment, training and development, counselling or for other purposes - is a sensitive and skilled area. People are vulnerable to inaccurate suggestion, misinterpretation, or poor and insensitive explanation, so approach personality testing with care, and be sure you are equipped and capable to deal with testing situations properly.

For similar reasons you need to be properly trained to get involved in counselling or therapy for clinical or serious emotional situations. People with clinical conditions, depression and serious emotional disturbance usually need qualified professional help, and if you aren't qualified yourself then the best you can do is to offer to help the other person get the right support.

Beware of using unlicensed 'pirated' or illegally copied psychometrics instruments. Always check to ensure that any tools that are 'apparently' free and in the public domain are actually so. If in doubt about the legitimacy of any psychometrics instrument avoid using it. Psychometric tests that are unlikely to be free include systems with specific names, such as DISC®, Situational Leadership®, MBTI, Cattell 16PF, Belbin Team Roles. If in doubt check. These systems and others like them are not likely to be in the public domain and not legitimately free, and so you should not use them without a licence or the officially purchased materials from the relevant providers.

personality types models and theories

As a general introduction to all of these theories and models, it's important to realise that no-one fully knows the extent to which personality is determined by genetics and hereditary factors, compared to the effects of up-bringing, culture, environment and experience. Nature versus Nurture: no-one knows. Most studies seem to indicate that it's a bit of each, roughly half and half, although obviously it varies person-to-person.

Given that perhaps half our personality is determined by influences acting upon us after we are conceived and born, it's interesting and significant also that no-one actually knows the extent to which personality changes over time.

Certainly childhood is highly influential in forming personality. Certainly major trauma at any stage of life can change a person's personality quite fundamentally. Certainly many people seem to mature emotionally with age and experience. But beyond these sort of generalisations, it's difficult to be precise about how and when - and if - personality actually changes.

So where do we draw the line and say a personality is fixed and firm? The answer in absolute terms is that we can't.

We can however identify general personality styles, aptitudes, sensitivities, traits, etc., in people and in ourselves, especially when we understand something of how to define and measure types and styles. And this level of awareness is far better than having none at all.

Which is is purpose of this information about personality and style 'types'. What follows is intended to be give a broad, accessible (hopefully interesting) level of awareness of personality and types, and of ways to interpret and define and recognise different personalities and behaviours, so as to better understand yourself and others around you.

the four temperaments - aka the four humours

The Four Temperaments, also known as the Four Humours, is arguably the oldest of all personality profiling systems, and it is fascinating that there are so many echoes of these ancient ideas found in modern psychology.

The Four Temperaments ideas can be traced back to the traditions of the Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilisations over 5,000 years ago, in which the health of the body was connected with the elements, fire, water, earth and air, which in turn were related to body organs, fluids, and treatments. Some of this thinking survives today in traditional Eastern ideas and medicine.

The ancient Greeks however first formalised and popularised the Four Temperaments methodologies around 2,500 years ago, and these ideas came to dominate Western thinking about human behaviour and medical treatment for over two-thousand years. Most of these concepts for understanding personality, behaviour, illness and treatment of illness amazingly persisted in the Western world until the mid-1800's.

The Four Temperaments or Four Humours can be traced back reliably to Ancient Greek medicine and philosophy, notably in the work of Hippocrates (c.460-377/359BC - the 'Father of Medicine') and in Plato's (428-348BC) ideas about character and personality.

In Greek medicine around 2,500 years ago it was believed that in order to maintain health, people needed an even balance of the four body fluids: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. These four body fluids were linked (in daft ways by modern standards) to certain organs and illnesses and also represented the Four Temperaments or Four Humours (of personality) as they later became known. As regards significant body fluids no doubt natural body waste products were discounted, since perfectly healthy people evacuate a good volume of them every day. Blood is an obvious choice for a fluid associated with problems - there'd have generally been quite a lot of it about when people were unwell thousands of years ago, especially if you'd been hit with a club or run over by a great big chariot. Phlegm is an obvious one too - colds and flu and chest infections tend to produce gallons of the stuff and I doubt the ancient Greeks had any better ideas of how to get rid of it than we do today. Yellow bile is less easy to understand although it's generally thought have been the yellowish liquid secreted by the liver to aid digestion. In ancient times a bucketful of yellow bile would have been the natural upshot, so to speak, after a night on the local wine or taking a drink from the well that your next-door neighbour threw his dead cat into last week. Black bile is actually a bit of a mystery. Some say it was congealed blood, or more likely stomach bile with some blood in it. Students of the technicolour yawn might have observed that bile does indeed come in a variety of shades, depending on the ailment or what exactly you had to drink the night before. Probably the ancient Greeks noticed the same variation and thought it was two different biles. Whatever, these four were the vital fluids, and they each related strongly to what was understood at the time about people's health and personality.

Imbalance between the 'humours' manifested in different behaviour and illnesses, and treatments were based on restoring balance between the humours and body fluids (which were at the time seen as the same thing. Hence such practices as blood-letting by cutting or with with leeches. Incidentally the traditional red and white striped poles - representing blood and bandages - can still occasionally be seen outside barber shops and are a fascinating reminder that these medical beliefs and practices didn't finally die out until the late 1800's.

Spiritually there are other very old four-part patterns and themes relating to the Four Temperaments within astrology, the planets, and people's understanding of the world, for example: the ancient 'elements' - fire, water, earth and air; the twelve signs of the zodiac arranged in four sets corresponding to the elements and believed by many to define personality and destiny; the ancient 'Four Qualities' of (combinations of) hot or cold, and dry or moist/wet; and the four seasons, Spring, Summer Autumn, Winter. The organs of the body - liver, lungs, gall bladder and spleen - were also strongly connected with the Four Temperaments or Humours and medicinal theory.

Relating these ancient patterns to the modern interpretation of the Four Temperaments does not however produce scientifically robust correlations. They were thought relevant at one time, but in truth they are not, just as blood letting has now been discounted as a reliable medical treatment.

But while the causal link between body fluids and health and personality has not stood the test of time, the analysis of personality via the Four Temperaments seems to have done so, albeit tenuously in certain models.

The explanation below is chiefly concerned with the Four Temperaments as a personality model, not as a basis for understanding and treating illness.

early representations of the four temperaments as a personality model

Richard Montgomery (author of the excellent book People Patterns - A Modern Guide to the Four Temperaments) suggests that the origins of the Four Temperaments can be identified earlier than the ancient Greeks, namely in the Bible, c.590BC, in the words of the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel, who refers (chapter 1, verse 10) to four faces of mankind, represented by four creatures which appeared from the mist:

"As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle." (from the Book of Ezekiel, chapter 1, verse 10)

Montgomery additionally attributes personality characteristics to each of the four faces, which he correlates to modern interpretations of the Four Temperaments and also to Hippocrates' ideas, compared below.

four temperaments - earliest origins

 Ezekiel c.590BC  Hippocrates c.370BC
lion bold blood cheerful
ox sturdy black bile somber
man humane yellow bile enthusiastic
eagle far-seeing phlegm calm

N.B. The Ezekiel characteristics, (bold, sturdy, humane, far-seeing), do not appear in the Bible - they have been attributed retrospectively by Montgomery. The describing words shown here for the Hippocrates Four Temperaments are also those used by Montgomery, other similar descriptions are used in different interpretations and commentaries.

Later, and very significantly, Galen, (c.130-201AD) the Greek physician later interpreted Hippocrates' ideas into the Four Humours, which you might more readily recognise and associate with historic writings and references about the Four Temperaments and Four Humours. Each of Galen's describing words survives in the English language although the meanings will have altered somewhat with the passing of nearly two thousand years.

Hippocrates c.370BC Galen c.190AD
cheerful sanguine
somber melancholic
enthusiastic choleric
calm phlegmatic

The Four Temperaments or Four Humours continued to feature in the thinking and representations of human personality in the work of many great thinkers through the ages since these earliest beginnings, and although different theorists have used their own interpretations and descriptive words for each of the temperaments through the centuries, it is fascinating to note the relative consistency of these various interpretations which are shown in the history overview table below.

Brewer's 1870 dictionary refers quite clearly to the Four Humours using the translated Galen descriptions above, which is further evidence of the popularity and resilience of the Four Temperaments/Humours model and also of the Galen interpretation.

The Four Temperaments also provided much inspiration and historical reference for Carl Jung's work, which in turn provided the underpinning structures and theory for the development of Myers Briggs' and David Keirsey's modern-day personality assessment systems, which correlate with the Four Temperaments thus:

Isabel Myers 1950's Galen c.190AD David Keirsey 1998
SP sensing-perceiving sangine artisan
SJ sensing-judging melancholic guardian
NF intuitive-feeling choleric idealist
NT intuitive-thinking phlegmatic rationalist

N.B. Bear in mind that certain copyright protections apply to the MBTI and Keirsey terms so I recommend that you be wary of using these in the provision of chargeable services or materials since under certain circumstances they are likely to be subject to licensing conditions.

David Keirsey's interpretation of the Four Temperaments is expressed by Montgomery in a 2x2 matrix, which provides an interesting modern perspective and helpful way to appreciate the model, and also perhaps to begin to apply it to yourself. Can you see yourself in one of these descriptions?

says what is,
does what works
says what's possible,
does what works
says what is,
does what's right
says what's possible,
does what's right

Again bear in mind that nobody is exclusively one temperament or type. Each if us is likely to have a single preference or dominant type or style, which is augmented and supported by a mixture of the other types. Different people possess differing mixtures and dominances - some people are strongly orientated towards a single type; other people have a more even mixture of types. It seems to be accepted theory that no person can possess an evenly balanced mixture of all four types.

Most people can adapt their styles according to different situations. Certain people are able to considerably adapt their personal styles to suit different situations. The advantages of being adaptable are consistent with the powerful '1st Law Of Cybernetics', which states that: "The unit (which can be a person) within the system (which can be a situation or an organisation) which has the most behavioural responses available to it controls the system".

The ability to adapt or bring into play different personal styles in response to different situations is arguably the most powerful capability that anyone can possess. Understanding personality models such as the Four Temperaments is therefore of direct help in achieving such personal awareness and adaptability. Understanding personality helps you recognise behaviour and type in others - and yourself. Recognising behaviour is an obvious pre-requisite for adapting behaviour - in yourself, and in helping others to adapt too.

overview history of the four temperaments - or four humours

From various sources and references, including Keirsey and Montgomery, here is a history of the Four Temperaments and other models and concepts related to the Four Temperaments or Four Humours. The words in this framework (from Hippocrates onwards) can be seen as possible describing words for each of the temperaments concerned, although do not attach precise significance to any of the words - they are guide only and not definitive or scientifically reliable. The correlations prior to Hippocrates are far less reliable and included here more for interest than for scientific relevance.

N.B. the colours in these charts do not signify anything - they merely assist (hopefully) with continuity between the different tables. The initials K and M denote interpretations according to Keirsey and Montgomery. Ancient dates are approximate. Some cautionary notes relating to the inclusion of some of these theorists and interpretations is shown below the grid. For believers in astrology and star-signs please resist the temptation to categorise yourself according to where your star-sign sits in the grid - these associations are not scientific and not reliable, and are included merely for historical context and information.

Keirsey/MBTI reference artisan/SP sensing-perceiving guardian/SJ sensing-judging idealist/NF intuitive-feeling rationalist/NT intuitive-thinking
Ezekiel 590BC lion ox man eagle
Empedocles 450BC Goea (air) Hera (earth) Zeus (fire) Poseidon (water)
The Seasons Spring Autumn Summer Winter
Signs of Zodiac Libra, Aquarius, Gemini Capricorn, Taurus, Virgo Aries, Leo, Sagittarius Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
Hippocrates 370BC blood black bile yellow bile phlegm
Hippocrates 370BC 'Four Qualities' hot and moist cold and dry hot and dry cold and moist
Plato 340BC (M) artistic sensible intuitive reasoning
Aristotle 325BC 'contribution to social order' (K) 'iconic'- artistic and art-making 'pistic' - common-sense and care-taking 'noetic' - intuitive sensibility and morality 'dianoetic' - reasoning and logical investigator
Aristotle 325BC Four Sources of Happiness (K) 'hedone' - sensual pleasure 'propraieteri' - acquiring assets 'ethikos' - moral virtue 'dialogike' - logical investigation
Galen 190AD Four Temperaments or Four Humours sanguine melancholic choleric phlegmatic
Paracelsus 1550 'Four Totem Spirits' (K) Salamanders - impulsive and changeable Gnomes - industrious and guarded Nymph - inspiring and passionate Sylphs - curious and calm
Eric Adickes 1905 Four World Views (K) innovative traditional doctrinaire sceptical
Eduard Spranger 1914 Four Value Attitudes (K) artistic economic religious theoretic
Ernst Kretschmer 1920 (M) manic depressive oversensitive insensitive
Eric Fromm 1947 (K) exploitative hoarding receptive marketing
Hans Eysenck 1950's (trait examples from his inventory) lively, talkative, carefree, outgoing sober, reserved, quiet, rigid  restless, excitable, optimistic, impulsive  careful, controlled, thoughtful, reliable 
Myers 1958 (M) perceiving judging feeling thinking
Myers 1958 (K) probing scheduling friendly tough-minded
Montgomery 2002 on Jung/Myers SP - spontaneous and playful SJ - sensible and judicious NF - intuitive and fervent NT - ingenious and theoretical
Montgomery 2002 on Keirsey's Four Temperaments says what is,
does what works
says what is,
does what's right
says what's possible,
does what's right
says what's possible,
does what works

Empedocles (c.450BC), the Sicilian-born Greek philosopher and poet was probably first to publish the concept of 'the elements' (Fire, Earth, Water, Air) being 'scientifically' linked to human behaviour: in his long poem 'On Nature' he described the elements in relation to emotional forces that we would refer to as love and strife. However 1870 Brewer says that Empedocles preferred the names of the Greek Gods, Zeus, Hera, Poseidon and Goea. (1870 Brewer, and Chambers Biographical, which references Jean Ballock's book, 'Empedocle', 1965.)

Aristotle explained four temperaments in the context of 'individual contribution to social order' in The Republic, c.325BC, and also used the Four Temperaments to theorise about people's character and quest for happiness. Incidentally 1870 Brewer states that Aristotle was first to specifically suggest the four elements, fire, earth, water, air, and that this was intended as an explanation purely of the various forms in which matter can appear, which was interpreted by 'modern' chemists (of the late 1800's) to represent 'the imponderable' (calorie), the gaseous (air), the liquid (water), and solid (earth).

Paracelsus was a German alchemist and physician and considered by some to be the 'father of toxicology'. His real name was Phillippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, which perhaps explains why he adopted a pseudonym. According to Chambers Biographical Dictionary he lived from 1493-1541, which suggests that his work was earlier than 'c.1550'. Keirsey and Montgomery cite the connection between Paracelsus's Four Totem Spirits and the Four Temperaments, however there are others who do not see the same connection to or interpretation of the Four Totem Spirits. If you are keen to know more perhaps seek out the book The Life Of Paracelsus Phillippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, by A Stoddart, published in 1911, referenced by Chambers Biographical.

Hans Jurgen Eysenck was a German-born British psychologist whose very popular scalable personality inventory model contains significant overlaps with the Four Temperaments. It's not a perfect fit, but there are many common aspects. See the Eysenck section.

Galen was a Greek physician (c.130-201AD - more correctly called Claudius Galenus), who became chief physician to the Roman gladiators in Pergamum from AD 157, and subsequently to the Roman Emperors Marcus Aurelius, Lucius Aurelius Commodus and Lucius Septimus Severus. Galen later interpreted Hippocrates' ideas into the Four Humours, which you might more readily recognise and associate with historic writings and references. Galen's interpretation survived as an accepted and arguably the principal Western medical scientific interpretation of human biology until the advancement of cellular pathology theory during the mid-late 1800's, notably by German pathologist Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902, considered the founder of modern pathology), in his work 'Cellularpathologie' (1858), building on the work of fellow cellular scientists Theodor Schwann, Johannes Muller, Matthias Schleiden and earlier, Robert Brown.

Beware of erroneous correlations between the various sets of four temperaments, humours, elements, body organs, star-signs, etc - it's easy to confuse so many sets of four. I believe the above to be reliable as far as it goes. Please let me know if you spot a fault anywhere. Also remember that the correlation between these sets is not precise and in some cases it's very tenuous.

The above table of correlated four temperaments and other sets of four is not designed as a scientific basis for understanding personality - it's a historical over view of the development of the Four Temperaments - included here chiefly to illustrate the broad consistency of ideas over the past two-and-a-half thousand years, and to provoke a bit of thought about describing words for the four main character types. Keep the Four Temperaments in perspective: the history of the model provides a fascinating view of the development of thinking in this area, and certainly there are strands of the very old ideas that appear in the most modern systems, so it's very helpful and interesting to know the background, but it's not a perfect science.

You'll see significant echoes of the Four Temperaments in David Keirsey's personality theory, which of all modern theories seems most aligned with the Four Temperaments, although much of the detail has been built by Keirsey onto a Four Temperaments platform, rather than using a great amount of detail from old Four Temperaments ideas. The Four Temperaments model also features in Eysenck's theory, on which others have subsequently drawn. To a far lesser extent the Four Temperaments can also be partly correlated to the Moulton Marston's DISC theory and this is shown in the explanatory matrix in the DISC section. Jung, Myers Briggs and Benziger's theories also partly correlate with the Four Temperaments; notably there seems general agreement that the phlegmatic temperament corresponds to Jung's 'Intuitive-Thinking', and that the choleric temperament corresponds to Jung's 'Intuitive-Feeling'. The other two temperaments, sanguine and melancholic seem now to be represented by the Jungian 'Sensing' in combination with either Jungian 'Feeling' or a preference from the Myers Briggs Judging-Perceiving dimension.

The Four Temperaments are very interesting, but being over two-thousand years old they are also less than crystal clear, so correlation much beyond this is not easy. Connections with modern theories and types and traits, such as they are, are explained where appropriate in the relevant sections below dealing with other theories.

Dr Stephen Montgomery's 2002 book 'People Patterns' is an excellent guide to the Four Temperaments, in which he provides his own interpretations, and explains relationships between the Four Temperaments and various other behavioural and personality assessment models, notably the David Keirsey model and theories. Incidentally Montgomery is Keirsey's long-standing editor and also his son-in-law. Keirsey's acknowledges Montgomery's depth of understanding of the Four Temperaments in Keirsey's book, Please Understand Me II, which also provides a very helpful perspective of the Four Temperaments.

carl jung's psychological types

Given that Carl Jung's psychological theory so fundamentally underpins most of the popular and highly regarded personality systems today it makes sense to explain a little about it here.

Carl Gustav Jung was born 26 July 1875 in Kesswil Switzerland and was the only son of a Swiss Reformed Church Evangelical Minister. According to Maggie Hyde who wrote the excellent Introduction to Jung (Icon Books 1992), he was a strange melancholic child who played his own imaginary games, alone, for the first nine years of his life. Eight of Jung's uncles were in the clergy, as was his maternal grandfather, who held weekly conversations with his deceased wife, while his second wife and Carl's mother sat and listened to it all. A recipe for Jung's own extraordinary personality if ever there was one. The boy Jung was raised on diet of Swiss Protestantism and pagan spirituality and seemingly his only outlets were his father's books and sitting on a big rock. Poor kid... His weird family clearly had a lot to with Jung's troubled young life and his psychotic break-down in mid-life, and his ongoing obsession with trying to make sense of it all.

It is amazing that from such disturbed beginnings such a brilliant mind could emerge.

Jung's work and influence extend way beyond understanding personality - he is considered to be one of the greatest thinkers ever to have theorised about life and how people relate to it. For the purposes of this explanation however, we must concentrate on just the relevant parts of his work - Jung's Psychological Types - or we'll be here for ever.

Carl Jung was among many great personality theorists who drew inspiration and guidance from the ancient Greek Four Temperaments model and its various interpretations over the centuries. Carl Jung's key book in this regard, which extended and explained his theories about personality type, was Psychological Types, published in 1921. His theory of Psychological Types was part of a wider set of ideas relating to psychic energy, in which he developed important concepts for clinical psychological therapy and psycho-analysis (psychiatric diagnosis and therapy).

It's helpful to note that Jung approached personality and 'psychological types' (also referred to as Jung's psychological archetypes) from a perspective of clinical psychoanalysis. He was a main collaborator of Sigmund Freud - also a seminal thinker in the field of psycho-analysis, psychology and human behaviour. Jung and Freud were scientists, scholars, deeply serious and passionate academics. They were concerned to discover and develop and extend knowledge about the human mind and how it works. They were also great friends until they disagreed and fell out, which is a further example of the complexity of the subject: even among collaborators there is plenty of room for disagreement.

In psychoanalysis, it is important for the analyst to understand the structure or nature or direction of the 'psychic energy' within the other person. More simply we might say this is 'where the person is coming from', or 'how they are thinking'. Logically if the analyst can interpret what's going on, then he/she is better able to suggest how matters might be improved. As with any analytical discipline, if we have some sort of interpretive framework or model, then we can far more easily identify features and characteristics. Jung's work was often focused on developing analytical models - beyond simply being a psycho-analyst.

Modern psychometrics has benefited directly from the analytical models that Jung developed for psycho-analysis, and while this section is essentially concerned with explaining the model for the purpose of understanding personality types, if you can extract some deeper therapeutic knowledge and self-awareness from the theories and ideas which underpin the models, then I would encourage you to so so. There is enormous value in deepening understanding of ourselves as people, and Jung's ideas help many people to achieve this.

Jung accordingly developed his concepts of 'psychological types' in order to improve this understanding.

The fact that Carl Jung's 'psychological types' structure continue to provide the basis of many of the leading psychometrics systems and instruments in use today, including Myers Briggs and Keirsey, is testimony to the enduring relevance and value of Jung's work.

jung's ideas about the conscious and the unconscious

First it's important to understand that Jung asserted that a person's psychological make-up is always working on two levels: the conscious and the unconscious. According to Jung, and widely held today, a person's 'psyche' (a person's 'whole being') is represented by their conscious and unconscious parts. Moreover, a person's conscious and unconscious states are in a way 'self-balancing', that is to say - and this is significant - if a person's conscious side (or 'attitude') becomes dominant or extreme, then the unconscious will surface or manifest in some way to rectify the balance. This might be in dreams or internal images, or via more physical externally visible illness or emotional disturbance. Jung also asserted that at times in people the unconscious can surface and 'project' (be directed at) the outside world, particularly other people. This acknowledgement of the power of the unconscious features strongly in the thinking of Freud and notably in the underpinning theory of Transactional Analysis (it's a big section - take time to look at it separately).

jung's psychological 'general attitude types' - introverted and extraverted

Jung divided psychic energy into two basic 'general attitude types': Introverted and Extraverted.

These are effectively two 'type' behaviours that combine with others explained later to create Jung's psychological types. Moreover Jung's Introvert and Extravert 'general attitude types' feature strongly as two opposite characteristics within very many modern personality systems, including Myers Briggs and Keirsey.

The 1923 translation of Jung's 1921 book Psychological Types uses the words Introverted and Extraverted to describe these types, which in German would have been Introvertiert and Extravertiert. Some interpretations of Jung's ideas use the alternative words Introvert and Introversion, and Extravert and Extraversion to describe Jung's types. The word Extravert was devised by Jung, which is how it appears in German. He formed it from the Latin words 'extra' meaning outside, and 'vertere' meaning to turn. The words extrovert, extroverted and extroversion are English adaptations which appeared soon after Jung popularised the word in German. Both 'extra' and 'extro' versions are acceptable English. Jung formed the word Introvert from the Latin 'intro' meaning inward and 'vertere' to turn.

The word 'attitude' in this sense means a deeper more settled mode of behaviour than the common day-to-day use of the word.

In his 1921 book Psychological Types, Jung described the introverted and extraverted general attitude types as being:

".... distinguished by the direction of general interest or libido movement..... differentiated by their particular attitude to the object.."


"....The introvert's attitude to the object is an abstracting one.... he is always facing the problem of how libido can be withdrawn from the object...... The extravert, on the contrary, maintains a positive relation to the object. To such an extent does he affirm its importance that his subjective attitude is continually being orientated by, and related to the object...."

(The 1923 translation by H Godwyn Baynes is understandably a little awkward for modern times. 'Abstracting' in this context means 'drawing way', from its Latin root meaning. 'Libido' in this context probably means 'desire', although the word seems first to have appeared in earlier translations of Freud, who used it in a more sexual sense.)

Both attitudes - extraversion and introversion - are present in every person, in different degrees. No-one is pure extravert or pure introvert, and more recent studies (notably Eysenck) indicate that a big majority of people are actually a reasonably well-balanced mixture of the two types, albeit with a preference for one or the other. Not black and white - instead shades of grey.



psychic energy is directed out of the person to the world outside them the person's psychic energy is internally directed
objective - outward subjective - inward
"... maintains a positive relation to the object. To such an extent does he affirm its importance that his subjective attitude is continually being orientated by, and related to the object...." (Jung) ".... attitude to the object is an abstracting one.... he is always facing the problem of how libido can be withdrawn from the object...." (Jung)
"an extravert attitude is motivated from the outside and is directed by external, objective factors and relationships" (Hyde) "an introvert is motivated from within and directed by inner, subjective matters" (Hyde)
"behaviour directed externally, to influence outside factors and events" (Benziger) "behaviour directed inwardly to understand and manage self and experience" (Benziger)

Jung's 'general attitudes' of Introverted and Extraverted are clearly quite different.

It is no wonder then that strongly orientated extraverts and introverts see things in quite different ways, which can cause conflict and misunderstanding. Two people may look at the same situation and yet see different things. They see things - as we all tend to - in terms of themselves and their own own mind-sets.

It is almost incredible to think that these words - extravert and introvert - that we take so much for granted today to describe people and their personality and behaviour, were not used at all until Jung developed his ideas.

Without wishing to add further complication Jung said that extraversion and introversion are not mutually exclusive and will be self-balancing or compensating through the conscious and unconscious. A strongly outward consciously extravert person will according to Jungian theory possess a compensatory strong inward unconscious introvert side. And vice versa. Jung linked this compensatory effect for example to repression of natural tendencies and the resulting unhappiness or hysteria or illness.

We are each born with a natural balance. If our natural balance is upset due to repression or conditioning then our minds will in some way seek to restore the balance, which Jung saw as the power of the unconscious surfacing as 'the return of the repressed'.

jung's psychological types - the 'four functional types'

In addition to the two attitudes of extraversion and introversion, Jung also developed a framework of 'four functional types'.

Jung described these four 'Functional Types' as being those from which the "...most differentiated function plays the principal role in an individual's adaptation or orientation to life..." (from Psychological Types, 1921) By 'most differentiated' Jung meant 'superior' or dominant.

Jung's Four Functions contain significant echoes of the Four Temperaments and of the many related four-part patterns or sets ('quaternities') that relate to the Four Temperaments, dating back to ancient Greece and arguably earlier, although Jung's ideas are more a lot sophisticated and complex than the Four Temperaments model.

Like many theorists before him who had attempted to define personality Jung opted for a four-part structure, which he used alongside his Introverted-Extraverted attitudes:

Jung's Four Functions of the psyche are:

which he said are the functions that enable us to decide and judge, (Jung called these 'Rational') and

which Jung said are the functions that enable us to gather information and perceive (Jung called these 'Irrational').

Significantly Jung also asserted that each of us needs to be able to both perceive and to judge (gather information and decide) in order to survive and to carry on normal functioning behaviour.

And he also said that in doing this each of us prefers or favours one of the functions from each of the pairings.

Jung's Four Functions are described below. These very brief definitions and keywords are based respectively on descriptions by Hyde, Fordham and Benziger, all experts and writers on Jungian theory. The final column explains the pairings according to Jung's 'Rational' and 'Irrational' criteria, which nowadays correspond to the Myers Briggs functions of 'Judging' and 'Perceiving' as featured in Myers Briggs' theories. The colours are to help the presentation and are not part of Jung's theory:

jung's four functional types - definitions

Thinking what something is meaning and understanding analytic, objective, principles, standards, criteria, both are opposite reasoning and judging functions - people consciously 'prefer' one or the other - Jung called these functions 'rational'
Feeling whether it's good or not weight and value subjective, personal, valuing intimacy, humane
Sensation something exists sensual perception realistic, down-to-earth, practical, sensible both are opposite perceiving functions - people consciously 'prefer' one or the other - Jung called these functions 'irrational' 
Intuition where it's from and where it's going possibilities and atmosphere hunches, future, speculative, fantasy, imaginative

Katherine Benziger, a leading modern thinker in the field of personality, is not alone in suggesting Jung's Sensation function equates to Galen's Phelgmatic temperament, and that Jung's Intuition function equates to Galen's Choleric temperament. Relationships between Jung's two other functions (Thinking and Feeling) and the other two of the Four Temperaments (Melancholic and Sanguine) are more complex and are not a direct match, although common elements do exist between these Jungian functions and Galen temperaments. You might find Benziger's model helpful for understanding more about each of the four functional types and the characteristics each represents. Benziger's four quadrants of the brain equate directly to Jung's four functional types.

Jung said that Thinking and Feeling are 'Rational' because both of these functions evaluate experience. In Jung's theory the Thinking and Feeling functions are 'Rational' because they reason and decide and judge.

Jung said that Intuition and Sensation are 'Irrational' since they are concerned with perception and do not evaluate. According to Jung the Intuition and Sensation functions are 'Irrational' because they simply gather information and perceive the nature of something - they do not reason or decide or judge.

The Rational and Irrational descriptions that Jung attached to the four functions might not appear particularly significant at first, especially given that Jung's use of the words is rather different to the modern meanings. However consider the modern words that describe Jung's meaning of Rational and Irrational, respectively Judging ('rational' Thinking and Feeling) and Perceiving ('irrational' Sensation and Intuition) and you can begin to see how Myers Briggs arrived at their Judging and Perceiving dimension, which they developed from Jung's ideas, largely as a way of determining the dominance or priority of auxiliary functions within the Jungian model. (This will hopefully make more sense when you know something of the Myers Briggs model.)

Here's another perspective - some short descriptions of each of Jung's Four Functional Types:

jung's four functional types - descriptions

Thinking Jung's 'Thinking' function is a 'rational' process of understanding reality, implications, causes and effects in a logical and analytical way. It is systematic, evaluates truth, and is objective to the extent that evaluation is based on personal intelligence and comprehension. 'Thinking' is the opposite to 'Feeling'. judging

(Jung's 'rational' functions)
Feeling Jung's 'Feeling' function makes judgements on a personal subjective basis. It is a 'rational' process of forming personal subjective opinion about whether something is good or bad, right or wrong, acceptable or unacceptable, etc., and involves sentimentality and humanity. 'Feeling' is the opposite to 'Thinking'.
Sensation Jung's 'Sensation' function translates signals from the senses into factual data. There is no judgement of right or wrong, good or bad, implications, causes, directions, context, possibilities, themes, or related concepts. Sensation sees what is, as what it is. 'Sensation' is the opposite to 'Intuition'.   perceiving

(Jung's 'irrational' functions)
Intuition Jung's 'Intuition' function translates things, facts and details into larger conceptual pictures, possibilities, opportunities, imaginings, mysticism and new ideas. Intuition largely ignores essential facts and details, logic and truth. 'Intuition' is the opposite to 'Sensation'.

At this point you might like to pause and go make a cup of tea and some toast. Have a rest. Don't try to absorb and understand all this in one sitting if it's new to you.

Jung accordingly arranged his four functional types as two pairs of opposites, thinking or feeling (the rational 'judging' pairing), and sensation or intuition (the irrational 'perceiving' pairing), which are often shown as four points (like North South East West) on a compass.

intuition  or

Jung said that each person has a main natural conscious orientation towards one of the four functions (their 'superior' or most 'differentiated' function), in which case the opposite function (the 'inferior' or unconscious function) would be represented and compensated within the person's unconscious.

Of the other two functions, either one could be next dominant, depending on the person, and generally would 'serve' as an auxiliary function in support of the person's 'superior' function. (Again just to complicate matters Jung said that in some cases both of these functions could serve as auxiliary functions, but generally the interpretation is that one auxiliary function would be more prevalent than the other. The point here is that the auxiliary functions are not as polarised - into conscious-unconscious - as the superior and inferior functions, which are more strongly polarised into conscious-unconscious.)

So, a personality would generally be represented by a conscious dominant function from each opposite pair: one of these dominant functions being dominant overall ('superior') and the other dominant function being the supporting ('auxiliary') function.

In the example above, the superior function is Thinking. The opposite Feeling function would largely or entirely be a compensatory unconscious element within the whole person. Depending on the person either the Sensation or Intuition function would be the prevalent auxiliary function, causing its opposite partner to reside to an appropriate extent in the unconscious, so again balancing the whole person.

Jung's important principle of personality being represented by one type from two opposing types (or a series of single types from pairs of opposites) is featured strongly in the models developed by Keirsey and Myers Briggs, amongst others.

In his Psychological Types book and theory Jung presented his (major eight) 'psychological types' as simple combinations of Introverted or Extraverted together with one 'superior' function, eg, 'Introverted-Thinking' (IT). It is however perfectly appropriate and proper (as Jung explained) to extrapolate or extend the number of Jung types to include auxiliaries, eg, 'Introverted-Thinking-Sensation' (ITS - commonly shown as IT[S]) in which case 'S' is the auxiliary. So, while Jung's work originally presented eight main psychological types (each represented by a two-letter abbreviation), subsequent interpretations commonly add the auxiliary function (resulting in a three-letter abbreviation). In fact to assist this extension Myers Briggs later introduced the Judging-Perceiving dimension, which acted mainly as a means of identifying which two of the four functions are dominant and auxiliary within the Jung framework for any particular personality (of which more later below).

Here are the four conscious orientations (aside from extraversion and introversion which are added to the model later). In these examples the prevalent auxiliary function is not indicated. It could be either of the right or left functions, depending on the person.

thinking is superior function

  thinking   conscious 'superior' function
intuition   sensation either could be auxiliary
  feeling   unconscious

feeling is superior function

  feeling superior 
intuition = possible auxiliary = sensation
  thinking unconscious 

intuition is superior function

  intuition superior 
thinking = possible auxiliary =   feeling
  sensation unconscious 

sensation is superior function

  sensation superior  
thinking   = possibly auxiliary =   feeling
  intuition unconscious 

jung's eight psychological types

This all leads us to Jung's eight major 'Psychological Types', which as already explained Jung constructed by adding one or other of the introversion or extraversion 'general attitude types' to each of the possible four superior functions described above.

Logically this produces eight main psychological types. The eight psychological types do not include 'auxiliary' functions and as such do not represent full personalities in themselves. The 'type characteristics' below are generally applicable keywords - they are not absolutes or exclusive. Interpretations can vary a lot - it impossible to summarise a personality type that encompasses millions of variations within it in just a few words, although hopefully the matrix helps to convey some sense of the collective and comparative types within the model. Fuller descriptions are available on specialised resources, for instance at Dr Robert Winer's excellent website Some commentators and resources suggest 'job examples' for the different types, and some also suggest examples of famous people falling into each type, although stereotypical 'typing' guesswork of this sort can be misleading if taken at all seriously. Remember again that these eight main types are not the 'whole person' - people comprise a least one other functional preference, plus unconscious balancing functions, all to varying degrees, all of which which produce personality types that are much more complex than the basic eight main types shown here.

type name type characteristics
Extraverted Thinking analytical, strategic, plans, implements, organises others
Introverted Thinking contemplative, discovering, theoretical, seeks self-knowledge
Extraverted Feeling sociable, sentimental, seeks personal and social success
Introverted Feeling inaccessible, enigmatic, self-contained, seeks inner intensity
Extraverted Sensation practical, hands-on, pleasure-seeking, hard-headed
Introverted Sensation intense, obsessive, detached, connoisseur, expert
Extraverted Intuition adventurous, innovative, seeks novelty, proposes change
Introverted Intuition idealistic, visionary, esoteric, mystical, aloof

jung's psychological types - principal and auxiliary functions

Jung's eight main psychological types are in themselves an over-simplification. This is borne out by Jung himself in his 1921 book Psychological Types following his presentation of each of the eight main types:

"...In the foregoing descriptions I have no desire to give my readers the impression that such pure types occur at all frequently in actual practice. They are, as it were, only Galtonesque family-portraits, which sum up in a cumulative image the common and therefore typical characters....... Accurate investigation of the individual case consistently reveals the fact that, in conjunction with the most differentiated function, another function of secondary importance, and therefore of inferior differentiation in consciousness, is constantly present, and is a relatively determining factor..." (Psychological Types, Chapter 10, General Description of the Types, point 11: The Principal and Auxiliary Functions)

(Incidentally, the word 'Galtonesque' is a reference to Sir Francis Galton (1822-1911), an eminent English scientist, cousin of Charles Darwin, who asserted that personality and other traits and abilities are hereditary (inherited or genetic) factors. Interestingly Galton also devised the finger-printing identification system which he first published in his book Finger Prints in 1892. Jung's use of the word Galtonesque intends to convey a general 'broad brush' meaning - the main family groups of personality - as if 'inherited' - not detailed personality types which implictly within Jung's concepts are subject to much influence and change after a person's conception, and therefore outside Galton's ideas of inherited 'genetic' traits.)

Jung's theory does not aim to 'pigeon-hole' all people into one of eight personality types. The eight Psychological Types are simply the eight main groupings represented by Extraversion or Introversion and one 'Four Functional Types' (the superior or principal function). In reality each of these eight type-combinations (represented by E or I plus one Function) is augmented by one or other 'auxiliary' function according to the Jungian theory whereby conscious personality is represented by a dominant function from each of the 'Rational' and 'Irrational' (judging and perceiving) functional pairs of opposites.

So, for example, an 'Extraverted Thinking' main psychological type would be augmented by a preferred auxiliary function from the 'Irrational' (or perceiving) Sensing-Intuition pairing, on the basis that Thinking is the preferred 'Rational' (or judging) Function.

And also for example an 'Introverted Intuition' main psychological type would be augmented by a preferred auxiliary function from the 'Rational' Thinking-Feeling pairing, on the basis that Intuition is the preferred 'Irrational' (or perceiving) Function.

jung's sixteen personality types

These types are automatically and unavoidably implied by Jung's theory, although Jung himself never made a big song and dance about them. They do however help to build up a fuller picture of Jung's theory, and they also relate directly to Myers Briggs' interpretation and equivalents of these types (for which Myers Briggs used their additional Judging-Perceiving dimension to determine dominance between the two preferred functional types after the Jungian Introverted or Extraverted 'attitudes').

Logically, adding an auxiliary function to each of Jung's main eight Psychological Types now produces sixteen types, which (subsequent to Jung's Psychological Types book), might be shown as follows, and in each case the first 'Function' (the middle word) is the most dominant. Remember that Introversion and Extraversion are not 'Functions', they are Jungian 'Attitudes':

  1. Extraverted Thinking Sensation - ET(S)
  2. Extraverted Thinking Intuition - ET(N)
  3. Extraverted Feeling Sensation - EF(S)
  4. Extraverted Feeling Intuition - EF(N)
  5. Extraverted Sensation Thinking - ES(T)
  6. Extraverted Sensation Feeling - ES(F)
  7. Extraverted Intuition Thinking - EN(T)
  8. Extraverted Intuition Feeling - EN(F)
  9. Introverted Thinking Sensation - IT(S)
  10. Introverted Thinking Intuition - IT(N)
  11. Introverted Feeling Sensation - IF(S)
  12. Introverted Feeling Intuition - IF(N)
  13. Introverted Sensation Thinking - IS(T)
  14. Introverted Sensation Feeling - IS(F)
  15. Introverted Intuition Thinking - IN(T)
  16. Introverted Intuition Feeling - IN(F)

Using what you know about each of these attitudes and functional types you might now be able to begin to identify and understand your own Jungian type.

(How each of these Jungian types including auxiliaries relate to the Myers Briggs interpretation and system is explained in the Myers Briggs section. As you will see when you come to it, the Myers Briggs system uses the additional dimension or pairing of Judging-Perceiving, not only as a type indicator in its own right based on Jungian ideas, but also as a means of determining functional dominance among the two preferred functions, whose methodology depends also on whether the dominance is directed via Introversion or Extraversion.)

While Jung's theories are used widely in psychometrics and personality testing, his original purpose and focus was clinical, in pursuit of better understanding and treatment of mental illness, and improving the quality of human existence. As such Jung placed greater emphasis on the unconscious than is represented within modern psychometrics and 'commercialised' personality theories.

On which point there is great value for us all in Carl Jung's thinking about the deeper workings of the mind, especially the unconscious, beyond simply seeing Jung's ideas as a model for categorising personality.

Significantly Jung for instance observed that improving our awareness and acceptance of the four functions within ourselves - whether as conscious or unconscious elements - is important for developing a healthy existence, and 'life-balance', as we might say today.

Conversely, repression of any of the functions, by oneself or by another person or pressure, is unhelpful and unhealthy, and leads to problems surfacing sooner or later, one way or another.

We see evidence of this when parents condition or force certain behaviour on their children, or when adults inhibit their feelings, or deny themselves sensation of reality. We also see evidence of people's unconscious mind reverting from unconscious to conscious behaviour when they are under the influence of alcohol or significant stress. And we also see the unconscious mind as a chief element within the theories of Transactional Analysis, which when studied alongside Jung's ideas, together provide a powerful perspective of personality and behaviour. It's all mighty powerful and thoroughly fascinating stuff.

The aim of studying and learning about these ideas brings us back to Jung's own purposes and the fact that Jungian theory recommends that all people should strive to develop any neglected or suppressed functions, and to embrace all four functions as being part of the whole person.

myers briggs type indicator (MBTI)

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a widely used and highly regarded system for understanding and interpreting personality, and derives most of its underpinning theory from Carl Jung's Psychological Types ideas and to a lesser extent the Four Temperaments (or Four Humours).

Myers Briggs (in fact Isabel Briggs Myers working with her mother Katharine Briggs) essentially developed Carl Jung's theories into a usable methodology and system for understanding and assessing personality (more easily and accessibly than by becoming an expert on Jung and his theories).

The owners of the system, the Myers Briggs Foundation, explain that the purpose of their MBTI 'personal inventory' system is to "make the theory of psychological types described by Carl G Jung understandable and useful in people's lives...", and that, "..The essence of the theory is that much seemingly random variation in the behavior is actually quite orderly and consistent, being due to basic difference in the way individual prefer to use their perception and judgment...."

(This last sentence is interesting because it highlights Myers Briggs' emphasis on and interpretation of their Judging-Perceiving dimension - basically Jung's Rational/Irrational definitions - as a means of clarifying function dominance within each whole MBTI personality type.)

The MBTI model and test instrument was developed by Katharine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers in 1942 after their studies particularly of Carl Jung, whose basic concepts relating to this aspect of personality and behaviour are described above.

Myers Briggs' MBTI concept is featured in Katharine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers' key book 'MBTI® Manual: A Guide to the Development and Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®' which was first published in 1962, some years after the tests had been in use. Isabel Briggs Myers later extended and built on these ideas in her 1980 book 'Gifts Differing'.

The Myers Briggs Foundation explains also that "...The theory of psychological type was introduced in the 1920's by Carl G. Jung. The MBTI tool was developed in the 1940's by Isabel Briggs Myers and the original research was done in the 1940's and 50's. This research is ongoing, providing users with updated and new information about psychological type and its applications..."

According to the Myers Briggs Foundation more than two million people are assessed using the MBTI personal inventory instrument around the world every year. It's a big business...

The MBTI model (along with other personality theories and psychometrics models) is particularly useful for:

Myers Briggs theory and the MBTI model is a method for understanding personality and preferred modes of behaving. It is not a measurement of intelligence or competence, emotional state or mental stability, 'grown-upness' or maturity, and must be used with great care in assessing aptitude for jobs or careers: people can do most jobs in a variety of ways, and the MBTI gives little or no indication of commitment, determination, passion, experience, ambition etc., nor 'falsification of type', all of which can have a far greater influence on personal success than a single personality test.

In most respects psychometrics tests and personality models are aids to personal development and to helping people understand more about themselves. They are not to be used a single basis for recruitment or career decisions.

myers briggs theory and the MBTI model

The Myers Briggs MBTI system uses a four-scale structure for identifying and categorising an individual's behavioural preferences, based almost entirely on Carl Jung's theories and his (translated) descriptive words.

Each of the four MBTI scales represents two opposing 'preferences' (in other words, preferred styles or capabilities). All abbreviations are obvious first letters, other than N for Intuition, which causes the word to be shown sometimes as iNtuition - just in case you were wondering. The Myers Briggs Judging-Perceiving dimension basically equates to Jung's Rational/Irrational categories of the two pairs of Jungian Functional types. The colour coding is consistent with the colours used in the Jung section - it was not part of Jung's or Myers Briggs' theory, but hopefully the colours help explain the pattern and connections.

(E)   Extraversion  or


(I) the focus or direction or orientation of our behaviour - outward or inward 'Attitude' or orientation
(S)   Sensing or 


(N) how we gather information Function (Jungian 'Irrational' or MB 'Perceiving')
(T)  Thinking or 


(F) how we decide Function (Jungian 'Rational' or MB 'Judging')
(J) Judging  or   Perceiving (P) how we react to the world - do prefer to make decisions or keep open to options (and also which middle 'Functions' do we favour) Myers Briggs' added dimension equating to Jung's 'Irrational' and 'Rational'

Myers Briggs (Isabel Briggs Myers and Katharine Briggs) added a fourth dimension to the three Jung dimensions (Introvert-Extravert, Thinking-Feeling, Sensation-Intuition), namely Judging-Perceiving, which is related to a personality's approach to decision-making, and particularly how the personality deals with the outer world (Extraverted) as distinct from the inner world (Introverted). The Myers Briggs Judging-Perceiving dimension can also be used to determine functional dominance among the two preferred functional types (aside from Introvert-Extravert, which are not functions but 'Attitudes', or orientations). This can be a tricky little aspect of the Myers Briggs theory and is explained at the end of this Myers Briggs section. Happily it's not crucial to deriving value and benefit from Myers Briggs' ideas, so don't agonise over it if you don't understand it straight away.

Aside from determining functional dominance, irrespective of the way decisions are made (by Thinking or Feeling) the Judging type makes decisions sooner than the Perceiving type. As such the Myers Briggs' Judging-Perceiving dimension is not found (as a functional dimension) in the Jung model, although Judging and Perceiving most certainly relate to the Jungian descriptions respectively of Rational and Irrational, which Jung uses to categorise the two pairs of Functional Types (the Rational 'judging' Thinking and Feeling, and the Irrational 'perceiving' Sensing and Intuition - refer to the Jung explanation).

Moving on, David Keirsey, in his book Please Understand Me II, provides some additional helpful explanation of how Isabel Myers attached her own meanings to these Jungian words, he said, "putting her own spin on them". Keirsey interestingly also points out that Myers differed markedly from Jung's use of the words Sensation and Perception, which Jung considered held the same meaning, but to which you can see here and elsewhere that the Myers Briggs system attached different meanings. For this reason if you want to avoid doubt and any confusion in the minds of Jungian purists then it's safest to use the words 'Rational' and 'Irrational' when correlating these Jung terms to the Myers Briggs' 'Judging' and 'Perceiving'. The right-side column is simply a translation, using more recognisable modern words, for showing the four MBTI dimensions.

MBTI type names, based on Jung's language alternative Myers Briggs meaning or 'spin'
(E) Extraversion or Introversion (I) (E) Expressive or Reserved (I)
(S) Sensing or Intuitive (N) (S) Observant or Introspective (N)

(T) Thinking or Feeling (F)

(T) Tough-minded or Friendly (F)
(J) Judging or Perceiving (P) (S) Scheduling or Probing (P)

It is interesting to note that many of these words above appear commonly in different personality testing systems, for example DISC systems, which again demonstrates the closely connected nature of many psychometrics models and products.

Most people, to varying degrees at different times depending on circumstances, use both preferences within each of the four scales, but each of us tends to have (and therefore will indicate via testing) a certain preference for one style or another in each of the four scales.

There are no 'right' or 'wrong' or 'good' or 'bad' preferences, and there are no good or bad or right or wrong 'types' although obviously certain 'preference' behaviours and personality 'types' can be more or less appropriate or effective in given situations. Within personal limits, adaptability, as ever, is a valuable attribute. Self-awareness enables adaptability. If you seek confirmation of the value of adaptability look at the Cybernetics page (later best, not right now).

Here are descriptions of each of the MBTI preferences in slightly more detail.

preference for the outer world and one's own action and effect on it

(E) Extraversion

or Introversion (I) preference for inner self and ideas to understand and protect or nurture it
gathers information by: focusing on facts within information

(S) Sensing

or iNtuition (N) gathers information by: interpreting patterns, possibilities and meaning from information received
decides by using logic, consistency, objective analysis, process-driven conclusions

(T) Thinking

or Feeling (F) decides according to what matters to self and others, and personal values
in dealing with the world organises, plans, controls, and decides clear firm actions and responses - relatively quick to decide (J) Judging or Perceiving (P) in dealing with the world responds and acts with flexibility, spontaneity, adaptability and understanding - relatively slow to decide

According to the Myers Briggs (MBTI) system each of us is represented by four preferences, one from each of the four scales. Can you begin to identify yourself, and others around you?


Extraversion or Introversion

(I) do we focus on outside world (E) or inner self (I) - do we find people energising (E) or somewhat draining (I)?

Sensing or iNtuition

(N) the way we inform ourselves - how we prefer to form a view and receive information - observed facts and specifics (S) or what we imagine things can mean (N)?

Thinking or Feeling

(F) our way of deciding - how we prefer to make decisions - objective and tough-minded (T) or friendly and sensitive to others and ourselves (F)?
(J) Judging or Perceiving (P) our method for handling the outside world and particularly for making decisions - do quite soon evaluate and decide (J) or continue gathering data and keep options open (P)?

By measuring or categorising a person's overall personality or behavioural style according to four preferences - one from each of the four scales (E-I, S-N, T-F, J-P), the MBTI system logically contains sixteen main 'types', each represented by four-letter code, for example: ESFJ or INFP or ESTJ, etc.

The sequence of the four-letter preferences within the Myers Briggs code, whatever the combination, does not change:

The 1st letter denotes the Jungian 'Attitude' or orientation; the direction or focus of the personality - Introvert or Extravert

The middle two letters denote the Jungian 'Functional Type' preferences, namely:

The 2nd letter is the preferred Jungian 'Irrational' function (Myers Briggs 'perceiving') - Sensing or Intuition

The 3rd letter is the preferred Jungian 'Rational' function (Myers Briggs 'judging') - Thinking or Feeling

The 4th letter is Myers Briggs' added dimension to indicate the preferred way of dealing with the outer world; to evaluate and decide or to continue gathering information - Judging or Perceiving - equating to Jung's 'Irrational' and 'Rational' functional type categories, and thereby enabling functional dominance to be determined.

All sixteen different Myers Briggs MBTI personality type combinations, each being a four-letter code, are commonly presented in an MBTI 'Type Table'.

In the 'Type Table' example below the groupings correlate (according particularly to Keirsey) to the Four Temperaments, which for interest is reflected by the colour coding in the table below to to aid comparisons when you look again at the Four Temperaments types. However this is merely an interesting point of note, and is not significant in the workings of the Myers Briggs theory or its application. The Four Temperaments correlations are more significant in the Keirsey model.

The MBTI 'Type Table' is typically shown elsewhere in other resources without these headings, and can be shown using other groupings, depending on the views of the theorist or interpreter.

the MBTI 'type table' related to Four Temperaments/Keirsey groupings

 SP - sensing perceiving SJ - sensing judging NF - intuitive feeling NT - intuitive thinking
sanguine or artisan melancholic or guardian choleric or idealist phlegmatic or rationalist

I repeat that you will see these MBTI types shown in different groupings than the Keirsey/Four Temperaments structure shown above. This is by no means the definitive arrangement of the MBTI personality types. There are others. I place no particular significance on the structure of these groupings and perhaps neither should you since many great minds disagree about it.

For example Myers Briggs themselves prefer to show the types in no particular stated grouping, but which are actually grouped in four columns ST, SF, NF and NT, which are the four logical groupings when combining pairs of Jung's four functional types. This is close to Keirsey's presentation of them, but not the same.

And highly the regarded MBTI Jungian neurologist, psychiatrist, psychopharmacologist, and psychotherapist Robert I. Winer, M.D., prefers the following four-way grouping on the basis that he considers these types to be the four most distinguishable through observation of people's behaviour: TJ, ('Thinker-Judgers') FJ ('Feeler-Judgers'), SP ('Sensor-Perceiver') and NP ('Intuitive-Perceiver'). You pays yer money and takes yer choice as they say. Incidentally Winer's 'Winer Foundation' website ( is one of the most impressive and wonderous on the web dedicated to MBTI/Jungian theory, full of useful profiles and guidance for self-awareness and development. He seems a lovely fellow.

Other interesting groupings of the sixteen MBTI types are shown in matrix presentations in each of the Benziger and DISC sections. These different groupings attempt to correlate the personality types (and traits implied) between the different systems and as such can be very helpful in trying to understand it all.

The Myers Briggs organisation is at pains to point out, rightly, that all (MBTI) types are equal. As with the individual 'preferences', there are no 'right' or 'wrong' or 'good' or 'bad' types, although again obviously, certain 'type' behaviours can be more or less appropriate in different given situations.

Indeed most people will display type-behaviours resembling many of the sixteen types in any one day, depending on the circumstances. It is however the case that most of us will have a certain preferred type with which we are most comfortable, and which is held to be, according to the MBTI model, our 'personality'.

In terms of understanding what personality characteristics each of these sixteen various 'MBTI' types represent, at a very basic level you can simply combine the type descriptions, for example:

An ISTJ is someone who is on balance focused inwardly (Introvert - I) who tends to or prefers to gather information by concentrating on facts (Sensing - S), makes decisions by logic and process (Thinking - T), and whose approach and response to the world is based on order, control, and firm decisions (Judging - J).

And for a contrasting example, an ENFP is someone who is on balance focused on external things and people (Extravert - E) who tends to or prefers to gather information by interpreting patterns, possibilities and meaning (Intuitive - N), makes decisions according to personal values and what matters to self or others (Feeling - F), and whose approach and response to the world is flexible, adaptable and understanding (Perceiving - P).

At a more detailed level it's useful to consider 'functional dominance', specifically relating to the original four Jungian functions (the middle two letters of the four-letter Myers Briggs MBTI code). The methodology for identifying dominant and auxiliary functions, and thereafter 3rd and 4th functions (which do not appear in each four-letter type code), is explained below in the MBTI function dominance sub-section. While a little tricky for some people to grasp quickly, anyone can understand this if they put their mind to it, and it's well worth the effort because identifying functional dominance does provide an excellent and rapid way to define each and any of the sixteen main personality types from their four-letter codes without the need for reams of supporting notes.

At a more complex and fully detailed level there are various resources which give detailed descriptions of the MBTI personality types, including, and in my opinion far more fully and clearly at the excellent The Jungian psychologist Michael Daniels' website at is also an excellent resource for learning about Myers Briggs types and Jungian theory.

MBTI function dominance

This is a bit tricky, but within everyone's grasp with a little concentrated thinking. It's not vital to understand this in order to benefit from the Myers Briggs theory, but it does help explain how to identify the dominant function (of the middle two letters - the Jungian Functional Types) within any MBTI four-letter type code, and logically from this the auxiliary function (and then also the 3rd and 4th functions). The methodology therefore enables rapid description and understanding of any four-letter MBTI type code without supporting notes. It's a neat technique.

Remember that the first letter is the Introvert-Extravert 'Attitude' or orientation - it's not a 'function', and the fourth letter is the Myers Briggs additional Judging-Perceiving dimension, it's not a Jungian 'Function', and was largely introduced by Myers Briggs in order to determine dominance between the preferred Jungian Functions (second and third letters).

Understanding Myers Briggs' functional dominance methodology also helps explain how the Myers Briggs' four-dimension model (four letters) relates to Jung's three-dimension model (main Jungian 'Psychological Type' plus auxiliary function - three letters), at least in the way that the Myers Briggs interpretation implies and considers it to do so. (Just to repeat once more, Jung didn't use the Judging-Perceiving dimension as such, he stuck with three dimensions: Introvert-Extravert; Sensing-Intuition, and Thinking-Feeling.)

This explanation necessarily repeats the essential structure already explained in order to stand alone as a useful item in its own right.

Here goes. Hold on to your hats.

The Myers Briggs MBTI personality type is always presented as a four-letter code, in which the letters take the same positions in the code regardless of dominance. This is to say: function dominance is not indicated by the sequence of the letters.

Again, here is the sequence of the MBTI letters and descriptions of what they denote. View this table as columns, not rows:

1st letter 2nd letter 3rd letter 4th letter
Extravert or Introvert Sensing or Intuition Thinking or Feeling Judging or Perceiving
E or I S or N T or F J or P
inwardly or outwardly focused/oriented how we get information how we decide how do we handle the outside world? - how soon do we decide? - do we judge or continue to perceive?
Jungian 'Attitude' or orientation Jungian 'Irrational' or Myers Briggs 'Perceiving' Function Jungian 'Rational' or Myers Briggs 'Judging' Function dimension added by Myers Briggs - also identifies which Function is used in dealing with the outer world

These four preferences produce a four-letter code, for example ENFP or ISTJ.

It is very useful if we can determine within the personality which is the dominant Function of the essential Jungian 'Four Functional Types'. In other words is it the 2nd or 3rd letter that is most dominant within the whole type?

If we know the dominant superior function then obviously we can determine the auxiliary, because it will be the other middle letter in the code. (Incidentally when we've sorted out the superior and auxiliary functions, we can also then determine the 3rd and 4th functions, which is explained after we sort out the superior and auxiliary).

So, for the examples above:

Within the ENFP personality type is Intuition (N) or Feeling (F) dominant?

And within the ISTJ personality type is Sensing (S) or Thinking (T) dominant?

In fact the dominant function within the ENFP personality type is N (Intuition), which for the sake of this exercise we will show as ENFP. This means that F (Feeling) is the auxiliary function.

And the dominant function within the ISTJ personality type is T (Thinking), which for the sake of this exercise we show as ISTJ. This means that S (Sensing) is the auxiliary function.

But why?

Here's my best explanation of the Myers Briggs methodology for determining dominant function, which they based on their interpretation of Jung's theory, and it is quite logical when you think about it. The methodology operates by using different points of reference - it's like a formula or a process:



Remember Jung categorised the two pairs of opposite functions as Irrational and Rational, which correlate to Myers Briggs Judging and Perceiving:


Fourth, therefore,

If the personality is Extravert (1st letter E) and is also Judging (4th letter J) then the Judging Function (3rd letter Thinking or Feeling) will be the dominant function (since this is the function used chiefly to deal with the outside world, and Extroverts use their dominant function chiefly to deal with the outside world). For example in the ENFJ type, Feeling is the dominant function, which is mainly directed outwardly. The auxiliary function Intuition which tends to be directed inwardly.

If the personality is Extravert (1st letter E) and is also Perceiving (4th letter P) then the Perceiving Function (2nd letter Thinking or Feeling) will be the dominant function (again this is the function used to deal with the outside world, and Extroverts use their dominant function to deal with the outside world). For example in the ESTP type, Sensing is the dominant function, which is mainly directed outwardly. The auxiliary function is Thinking, which is mainly directed inwardly.

Fifth, (on the other hand),

Remember that an Introvert's dominant function is mainly directed inwardly, towards their inner world, therefore an Introvert's Judging-Perceiving preference (4th letter J or P) which represents how they approach the outer world will indicate their less dominant function, which means that for Introvert types, the letter other than the one indicated by the 4th letter J or P will be their dominant function.

So it follows, if the personality is Introvert (1st letter I) and is also Judging (4th letter J) then the Judging Function (3rd letter Thinking or Feeling) will be the auxiliary function, since this is the function used to deal with the outside world. Remember, Introverts use their dominant function chiefly to deal with their inner world, not the outside world. An Introvert uses their auxiliary function chiefly to deal with the outside world. For example, in the INTP type, Intuition is used mainly to deal with the outside world, but since the priority focus of the Introvert is their inner world, so Thinking is their dominant function.

Similarly if the personality is Introvert (1st letter I) and is also Perceiving (4th letter P) then the Perceiving Function (2nd letter Thinking or Feeling) will be the auxiliary function since this is the function used to deal with the outside world. the dominant function will be the other function, which the Introvert focuses on their inner world. For example, in the ISFJ type, the outside world approach indicated by the Judging preference (4th letter J) is Feeling, which because it is focused on the outside world in an Introvert is the auxiliary function. Therefore the other function, Sensing, is the dominant one focused on the Introvert's priority inner world.

There. That's the difficult bit. You may now take a break.

Logically according to Jung's theory, and Myers Briggs interpretation, functional dominance can be extended beyond the superior (dominant) and auxiliary (secondary) functions to potential tertiary (3rd) and quarternary (4th) functions. This enables the identification of the order (relative strength or preference) of all four functions - Thinking, Feeling, Sensing and Intuition - within any given type. The process for doing this is simple, once you crack the dominant and auxiliary methodology. Here's how to determine 3rd and 4th functional dominance:

Remember Jung's principle of opposites and the four compass points. The most dominant or 'superior' function is balanced by its opposite in the unconscious, and will be correspondingly the least dominant just as the superior function is the most dominant, to whatever extent.

The 4th function therefore, available consciously in whatever degree, is always the opposite of the superior. For example, where a personality's superior or most dominant function is Thinking, logically its quaternary (or 4th or weakest function) function will be Feeling. Where a personality's superior function is Feeling, its 4th function will be Thinking. Where Intuition is dominant, so Sensing will be least strong. Where Sensing is the superior function, so Intuition will be the weakest. And that's the full set.

Applying the same 'balancing opposites' principle, logically, the 3rd function is the opposite of the 2nd or auxiliary. Same pattern as for the 1st-4th correlations. Easy.

The extent to which any personality is able to make use of supporting functions depends on other factors. Some people are able to draw on the 3rd and 4th functions more ably than others (dominant and auxiliary as well for that matter).

From the perspective of understanding and describing each of the sixteen MBTI personality types simply from their four-letter codes, identifying functional dominance - from superior or dominant, to auxiliary, to 3rd and to 4th functions - is a very useful technique. When you understand the methodology you can say a great deal about any personality type just by looking at its MBTI four-letter code - because you can determine the preference (which implies prevalence and priority) of each of the four functions, two of which will not even be represented in the MBTI four-letter code!

Below is the complete set of functional dominance mixtures, showing 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th preferred functions according to MBTI type. By using this methodology we can also very usefully group the Myers Briggs types according to their Jungian four dominant functions, which is a super matrix for understanding these theories, and for applying the thinking to team-building and job roles within teams, etc.

MBTI types and functional dominance

The left column shows the MBTI sixteen types, colour-coded as to Extravert or Introvert. These MBTI types are grouped in four sets according to '1st functional dominance' ('superior' function) which are colour-coded in the middle and right columns accordingly. For each MBTI type, the middle and right columns show the dominant (superior) function, followed by the 2nd (auxiliary) function, and then the 3rd and 4th functions, which are largely unconscious and can be accessed when required depending on the person. Note that each of the four main functional dominance groupings (Thinking, Feeling, Sensing, Intuition, represented by the four colours) contains only two different sequential 'dominance sets', and that each of these can be formed by both an Extraverted and an Introverted type.

MBTI type functional dominance - 1st to 4th
ESTJ TSNF Thinking, Sensing, Intuition, Feeling
ISTP TSNF Thinking, Sensing, Intuition, Feeling
ENTJ TNSF Thinking, Intuition, Sensing, Feeling
INTP TNSF Thinking, Intuition, Sensing, Feeling
ESTP STFN Sensing, Thinking, Feeling, Intuition
ISTJ STFN Sensing, Thinking, Feeling, Intuition
ESFP SFTN Sensing, Feeling, Thinking, Intuition
ISFJ SFTN Sensing, Feeling, Thinking, Intuition
ESFJ FSNT Feeling, Sensing, Intuition, Thinking
ISFP FSNT Feeling, Sensing, Intuition, Thinking
ENFJ FNST Feeling, Intuition, Sensing, Thinking
INFP FNST Feeling, Intuition, Sensing, Thinking
ENTP NTFS Intuition, Thinking, Feeling, Sensing
INTJ NTFS Intuition, Thinking, Feeling, Sensing
ENFP NFTS Intuition, Feeling, Thinking, Sensing
INFJ NFTS Intuition, Feeling, Thinking, Sensing

The extent to which people are able to call upon and make use of their auxiliary, and particularly 3rd and 4th functions depends on the individual person, and is also the subject of continuing debate and ongoing research by psychologists. Most people are capable of developing their less strong functions to some degree or other. Knowing what they are and that they exist in us is the starting point.

Similarly everyone is capable of understanding their own functional dominance and how this style might be perceived by others. Using this matrix you might be able to have a good guess as to your own Myers Briggs MBTI type and your functional dominance. Look at the right column: ask yourself - and maybe also ask someone who knows you well - what order of preferences best represents your own personality? Having decided this, are you mainly extraverted or introverted? You might now have a reasonable idea of your own MBTI personality type.

If anyone can suggest more clearly how to present all this I am very much open to suggestions. Please let me know any daft typos or errors in this. It's not an easy thing to explain.

Aside from using Myers Briggs MBTI model to understand one's own or other other people's personality types, the most important opportunity is that everyone can and should use systems such these to endeavour to access and develop their weaker functions.

This was central to Jung's motivation, and this opportunity and encouragement echoes through Myers Briggs' ideas too. Awareness of the fact that we all possess these unconscious under-developed functions is the first step towards realising that they can be developed and used, alongside our natural preferences, brought into play consciously, where we see the need and possibility to do so.

The Myers Briggs MBTI system typically involves the use of MBTI testing instruments to determine people's own types or 'profiles', the process and analysis of which is best administered by a suitably qualified person to give proper explanation and feedback to people being 'tested'.

There are significant commonalities between the Myers Briggs personality model and that of David Keirsey. Both systems draw strongly on the work of Carl Jung and (Keirsey's more than Myers Briggs) also to the Four Temperaments. Further comparisons are indicated in the Four Temperaments and Keirsey sections on this page, and these cross-references between models (notably Benziger) help with the understanding of each model independently, and also help to build up a variety of perspectives of oneself, and human personality and behaviour.

There are some differences between Myers Briggs and Keirsey's interpretations. Not least, as Keirsey points out, Myers Briggs is effectively an interpretation and extension of Jung's model - both of which focus on the minds and thinking types of people, whereas Keirsey's system, building on Myers Briggs, Jung, and others, seeks to identify and point to what the different personality types can do well in different circumstances. In addition there are some detailed differences between certain type descriptions of Myers Briggs and Keirsey, which concern complex interpretations that seem to me to be a matter of personal opinion, based on the experiences of the theorists themselves and not matters that can be proven one way or another. As we've already seen, this is not a perfect science, and when we drill down deeper than broad definitions the detail is open to different interpretation, which I encourage you to do yourself. Despite the best efforts of some of the providers in the psychometrics industry to convince us that all this is highly complex and impenetrable, you can hopefully see that much of the thinking is extremely accessible and within the grasp of ordinary folk.

As you learn about these concepts, see each model (Myers Briggs, Jung, Keirsey, Four Temperaments, Eysenck, Benziger, etc) as self-sufficient and stand-alone. Note the common aspects between the models by all means because there are many: seeing the common aspects will greatly improve your overall understanding of the subject and of people; but do not try to overlay and match definitions and descriptions from model to model if the fit is not obvious and clear. Respect each model in isolation for what it is - a different perspective of the same highly complicated thing - the human mind.

More information about the Myers Briggs organisation and MBTI system and types descriptions is at

Note that Myers Briggs, MBTI and other terminology is likely to be protected trademarked intellectual property for use in direct training and testing applications, so beware of using any of these terms for commercial purposes without a licence, or at least checking whether a licence is required or not

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