October 27, 2008

Understanding Personality Typology: The Basics (part II)

We are now going to start looking at the actual system of Myers-Briggs. When you take the Myers-Briggs, what you get back is what is known as your personality profile. When you see your personality profile, what you will see is four seemingly random letters. What are these letters? How specific are they? Is everything really so black and white? Since when did intuitive start with an N? These are the questions that we shall be dealing with in this post.

The Four Scales

The personality types work by identifying where one is positioned on four separate scales, sometimes called dichotomies or preferences. They are:
  1. Attitude: Extrovert (E) or Introvert (I)
  2. Perceiving Function: Sensing (S) or Intuitive (N)
  3. Judging Function: Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
  4. Lifestyle: Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)

These are actually scales, and are not simple black and white options. Everyone has a little bit of everything in them. For instance, in the attitude scale, everyone has both and extroverted side and an introverted side, but everyone also prefers one over the other. This is why these are sometimes called preferences.

It is also important to note that these are not completely separate traits. These are an integrated profile of your personality. These 4 letters interact uniquely to generate 16 substantially different personality types. The differences are not just in the scales, but how these preferences affect one another.

For this post though, I am just going to go through the four scales, and each of the 8 preferences, and provide a very rudimentary understanding. If you notice, for each preference I mention both a definition and tendency. The reason for this is that, though they are not separate traits, they can be treated as such for surface level use. But these are merely based on tendencies, not what the actually scales indicate. The definition will be what I will be interacting with in later posts as we consider typology on a deeper level.

Extroversion (E)

Definition: Extroversion doesn't mean you like to hang out with people a lot, though that is often the case. Rather it refers to where you direct your energy the easiest. For an extrovert, it is easiest for them to direct their energy outside of themselves by interacting with the world. This can manifest itself in a variety of ways.

Tendencies: Like I said above, it is often the case that extroverts like to hang out with people. Because it is easiest to devote one's energy outside of one's self, an extrovert often finds the activity relaxing, or exciting. Being around stimuli often gives them energy, as if they pick it up from the atmosphere. Therefore, extroverts do tend to like parties. They often are talkers, preferring to get their thoughts "out there" as if their brains could not contain them. It might seem as if the purpose of learning something, to them, is simply to explain it to someone else. They also tend to be doing. Being idle is actually more of a chore than chores sometimes. They easily become restless if left alone for too long with nothing to do.

Personally, I am an extrovert. However, I do not go to a lot of parties or even have that many friends. However, I am most certainly a talker, and will teach you on any topic you ask about. Sometimes, I might even be knowledgeable on it. I can't seem to help myself. I actually learn by talking, by having my thoughts exposed, challenged, and corrected.

Introversion (I)

Definition: Introverts are not necessarily quiet people. Being an introvert means that it is easiest for one to direct one's energies inward. Introverts possess a vast private world in which they spend the majority of their energy.

Tendencies: Introverts tend to be reflective people. Though many are not quiet at all, they do tend to take an inactive role in the world around them, preferring to be more of an observer. They prefer to think before they speak, and often surprise the people around them with their insight. They are deliberate people, often taking a great deal of time to make a decision. To rush an introvert often results in delaying their decision. They often need to have time alone to rest, since outside stimuli can be incredibly draining.

My wife is an example of an introvert. Her favorite hours are spent at home curled up around a good book. Though she often enjoys social gatherings, she definitely needs a rest after them. One of the most frustrating things though, is that I often am ready to make a decision, and she needs to go to a different room for a while to think it over, but I have had to learn to respect it. It is not that I am more decisive than she is, but that she needs to go into the other room to think about it rather than interacting with me. Leaving the conversation, to me, is leaving the matter undone, while for her, continuing the conversion is impeding her ability to think about it.

Sensing (S)

Definition: The Perceiving Functions are the way in which, you guessed it, you perceive things. More specifically, they are the ways in which your personality takes in information, and the process through which it selects what to store.

Sensing Types primarily take in new information through their 5 senses. They are uncannily sensitive to their environment. Additionally, they prefer concrete information over the abstract, since they can often understand by extension of their senses. Their memories are often sensory focused, remembering experiences over ideas.

Tendencies: Sensing Types are often very down-to-earth people. Not only do they prefer concrete information, but they also tend to be more concerned about their immediate environment. Their home is just as, if not more, important than what's going in the greater world. They tend to be skilled with their hands and often other kinds of tactile activities. They understand things better if they are able to form a picture in their minds, or maybe relate it to a sensation. Despite this, they have a tendency to be overly literal with things, and thus, not always very good with metaphor.

My wife is a very apt example of a Sensing Type. Often you will find her laughing at a metaphor, because she can actually picture it in her mind. She has an awe-inspiring experiential memory: for instance remembering the color of something she wore from early in her childhood, while I sometimes forget what I'm wearing at the moment. She has a passion for walks where she can take in her environment, and just enjoy the sounds of the birds or the smells of the flowers.

Intuitive (N)

Definition: First of all, the reason for the N is that the I was already used. Sorry, I promised I would answer that. With that out of the way, I would like to start by saying that intuitives are the hardest preference to describe. Intuitives possess a subconscious framework of ideas. When taking in information, that information is immediately assessed for value and then situated somewhere within that framework. This assessment sometimes happens on the conscience level, but is also often subconscious. They prefer abstract information. Information is then cataloged based upon importance or meaning.

Tendencies: Intuitives are amazing innovators. Because each idea is attached to a basic framework, this means that no idea is completely in isolation. Additionally, this subconscious framework is constantly being readjusted, meaning that they are forming conclusions about things, and forming relationships between things on a subconscious level (hence the name intuitive). Because of this, they appear to be able to make remarkably accurate leaps of logic that they often do not understand, or at least cannot explain. In reality, the reasoning was merely subconscious. This also means that they tend to be very forward thinking. They can easily see the potential in things, since they understand things based upon their purpose, rather than their existence.

I am a strong Intuitive Type. One of the most frustrating things about it is when someone asks you to explain where you got your information from. The reference isn't remembered, just the info. Another fun thing to deal with is when people try to spare you the trouble of analyzing things. Hint: if you tell an intuitive person not to worry about analyzing something, but to just remember it, they will look at you like you have two heads. It actually takes more effort to memorize than it does to analyze. Intuitives are driven by the concepts of "why" and "what if".

Thinking (T)

Definition: The Judging Functions denotes the style of logic one uses to make decisions and the standards by which those decisions are judged. The difference between Thinking Types and Feeling Types is not that one is logical and the other illogical. They both use different kinds of logic. Let me restate that, they use different kinds of logic. One bit of interesting trivia: 75% of men in the world are Thinking Types, and 75% of women in the world are Feeling Types. What's more interesting is most (but not all) of masculine/feminine stereotypes comes from the fact of this stat.

Thinking Types use objective formal logic to make decisions in life. By objective, I mean that Thinking Types necessarily believe that in order to get a proper perspective on a situation, one needs to remove oneself from a situation as much as possible to assess it. Indeed, when Thinking Types stop believing this, they become illogical. By formal, I mean they use mathematical/scientific types of logical rules to come to their conclusions. This is the style of logic that you learn in school. Thinking Types judge their decisions, and the decisions of others, based off of principle standards, often referred to as truths.

Tendencies: Thinking Types are often mis-characterized as uncaring. Instead, Thinking Types are usually thinking of big picture issues, and are concerned with long-reaching results. For instance, if someone is sad, the Thinking Type will do what they can to help them. However, making them happy may not be what the Thinking Type believes the person needs ;). They are concerned with the result, and often believe that the ends justify the means. When considering an option, often the first question a Thinking Type will ask is, "will it work?" If someone disagrees with them, they will usually consider that person dumb, self-deceived, or irrational.

I am a Thinking Type, though for a Thinking Type, I have a good understanding of Feeling Types. However, I often offend even when I am doing my utmost to be sensitive, understanding, and qualifying of my statements. In fact, I seem to offend people deeper than most Thinking Types. Currently, the theory of my wife and I is that because I can sometimes "turn it off", I'm expected to know better. However, I am still a Thinking Type, and it takes a lot of effort to "turn it off". Often, Thinking Types are very caring individuals that just don't understand why people are getting upset at us. One thing I believe, based off of experience, is that fewer Thinking Types expect Feeling Types to behave like them than the other way around. Not that they don't get frustrated when Feeling Types do something they deem as "illogical".

Feeling (F)

Definition: A Feeling Type is not an emotional person. A Thinking Type can be just as emotional. Instead, think of a Feeling Type as someone who uses subjective social logic to make decisions. By subjective, I mean that Feeling Types necessarily believe that in order to get a proper perspective on a situation, one must put oneself within it. They believe in "putting oneself in another's shoes." Indeed, when Feeling Types stop believing this, they become illogical. That's right boys, that's what will make them illogical. Don't try to fix them.

To explain social logic, I might have to break down to you what the basic meaning of logic is. Logic is a system of rules that are applied to certain premises (in these cases, that would be the standards) that, when applied accurately, result in consistent conclusions. When I say that Feeling Types use social logic, what I mean is that they apply a system of social rules to come to their conclusions. And these are rules that are consistent, and often more complicated then the ones used by Thinking Types.

Feeling Types then judge their decisions, and the decisions of others, over against certain moral standards.

Tendencies: Feeling Types often come off as empathic, as if they can tell what other people are feeling. However, what is actually going on is that Feeling Types are usually very aware of the various social rules around them, and are quick to pick up the implications of a person's body language or tone. They also seem to have more categories of feelings than Thinking Types. Though they do often make emotional decisions, they mostly try to make decisions based on either social implications or what they believe constitute the general consensus among moral people. They are concerned with the righteousness, and often believe that the means justify the ends. (Think of super heroes who risk the fate of the whole world because they are unwilling to do the "wrong" thing in that moment) If someone disagrees with them, they will often see that person as immoral, insensitive, or cruel.

My wife is a great example of a Feeling Type. She is very aware of the people around her, and is constantly concerned about the people in her social circle. She is very quick to comfort someone, and is powerfully loyal.

Judging (J)

Definition: The Lifestyles explain which of the two above functions is directed at the external world. In other words, do you interact with the world by observing it, or do you interact with the world by making decisions about it.

Judging Types interact with the world by making decisions about it. Because of this, they are concerned with putting their world in order, which manifests itself in many ways. They do this by assessing the world around them, and then using their logic to change what needs changing.

Tendencies: Judging Types like order and structure in their lives. They tend to be very decisive, and become agitated if things are left open. They are very satisfied with a finished project, often taking great pride in the mere act of completion.

My wife is the Judging personality in my home. There are certain things that need to be done a certain way, and she has a very clear sense of what she wants her home to be like. However, the biggest place where this shows up is in her relationships. Her friends and family are her world, and her idea is putting the world is order is ensure that those she loves are happy and taken care of.

Perceiving (P)

Definition: Perceiving Types interact with the world by observing it. They are drawn to either understand or experience the world around them to the best of their ability.

Tendencies: Perceiving Types do not understand the word completion. Things aren't done, they are merely acceptable for the time being. Indeed, Perceiving Types often care more about a thing being started then they do about it being finished. It was the idea or the experience of it that mattered. Also, Perceiving Types tend to be rather indecisive, because they are never done collecting data. If a Perceiving Type says to wait on a decision until all of the data is in, do not let that person determine what constitutes as "all of the data". There is never enough data.

This is what I scored the most extreme on. Indeed, when I try to explain "percieving types" to my friends and family, how they respond is to say, "so someone like you." Oh, do I have ideas. And do I love to start them. I also have this obsessive compulsive need to understand everything. After all, this is what drove me to theology. I have a need to understand the reality around me, so I pursue the Ultimate Reality, and there is no greater joy that I have than knowing that there will always be more to learn about Him.


bethyada said...

By your definitions that makes me a

I probable (I can explain if necessary)
N strong
T moderate/ strong (very logical but understand that my logic is fallen and understand the need for empathy)
P moderate

So what does an INTP mean? how many are there? I guess this is what further posts are about.

So does this correspond in anyway to the temperament scale that I am familiar with? If so you can probably work out which I am.

bethyada said...

Well according to this site I am an architect. The description is reasonable. And according to them INTPs are only 1%, though wikipedia suggests 3%. Interestingly I initially trained in science but work in a people dominated field.

Jc_Freak: said...

What you found there is actually the Kiersy Temperment Sorter. Kiersy attempted to take the Jung system and graft the four classical temperments on them. It has it's uses, but that's not ultimately what I'm going to be doing. I'm looking into Myers-Briggs, which studies more how and why personalities do what they do, instead of classifying personalities like Kiersy. Kiersy is nice though, because it is a comfortable crossover between the two popular ways of looking at personalities.

As for the 16 personality profiles, I'll be going into those in part 5. Based on what I've read from you, you don't sound like an INTP, but there's only so much I can really trust my on-line assessments :).

Pizza Man said...

Interesting series. I think I'm ITJ, not sure about S & N

bethyada said...

Based on what I've read from you, you don't sound like an INTP

Well have a go! What 4 options do you think I fall in to?

Jc_Freak: said...

Now that I've thought about it, I take it back. Trying to actually think about what you could be makes me realize how little data I really have to work with.

bethyada said...

I meant my comment as a genuine challenge, not an accusation. Your response had my laughing out loud!

Jc_Freak: said...

Oh, I took it that way. I just really couldn't think of anything. I simply don't have enough data.

Jc_Freak: said...

Hey, for anyone that may be interested, you can compare the descriptions I give here to my understanding from 3 years ago. It is a rather interesting development.