Time to Eat the Dogs

On Science, History, and Exploration

Where No ENFP Has Gone Before, Part I

blue-cosmos

Myers-Briggs personality assessments are sprouting up everywhere on Facebook this week. For those who don’t know what this is, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is the most widely used personality profile in the United States, a favorite tool of career planners, team-builders, and guidance counselors.

Isabel Briggs Myers

Isabel Briggs Myers

Brain child of Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Myers, the MBTI divides the human psyche in four separate areas, each one of which has two different tendencies or dichotomies:

Extraverion (E)/Introversion (I)
Intuition (N)/Sensation (S)
Thinking (T) /Feeling (F)
Judging (J) /Perceiving (P)

There is nothing obvious about these psychic divisions. In truth, the categories of the MBTI were long in the making. In the early 1920s, Briggs was experimenting with a number of different categories for explaining the diversity of human behavior. More specifically, she was interested in explaining the strange, unBriggs-like behavior of her new son-in-law.

Then Myers read Carl Jung’s Psychological Types in 1923 and psychometric light bulbs started to go off in her head.  Jung’s system seemed perfectly suited for creating a system of personality profiles.  This is probably because Jung had his own strange in-law to explain, former mentor and father-figure Sigmund Freud.

Carl Jung (lower right) and Sigmund Freud (lower left), 1908

Carl Jung (lower right) and Sigmund Freud (lower left), 1908

Freud, Jung observed, gained energy by focusing on the outside world, a process that Jung called extraversion. Jung, however, was different. He found succor looking inward. (As a boy Jung spent his days writing secret messages to a mannequin carved on the end of his ruler). These were not neuroses, he thought, as much as they were different expressions of personality (though Jung does make one wonder).

Indeed, Jung felt that the spectrum of introversion and extraversion expressed a key dichotomy in western thought, one that dated back to the different approaches of Plato, who usually sought truth inwardly through the world of ideas, and Aristotle, who looked for reality in the phenomena of the world around him.

All of this is to say that the roots of the MBTI go deep. By the 1940s, Myers had expanded on Jung’s types and established a test that could be used for commercial application. Since then the MBTI has rocketed into mainstream culture, used to profile everyone from religious seminarians to astronauts.

Next Post: MBTI and the Explorer Type

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3 Comments»

  Phil Clements wrote @

I recently finished reading the psych analyses compiled for the 1963 AMEE team. Looking forward to seeing where you’re going with this in MBTI and the Explorer Type!

  Colin Purrington wrote @

Scores are moderately heritable (0.4 to 0.6), according to data from comparison of twins reared apart and twins reared together.

  Michael Robinson wrote @

Hmmm. I wonder what Briggs (and Jung) would have made of this. From what I read, they thought that personalities were formed in the early years of life – though I would imagine that they accepted heritable components of personality as well. I’ll have to do more reading….


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