What’s Your (Myers Briggs) Type?

We all know about the Viennese doctor who saw certain parts of the human anatomy every time he came across an oblong or hollow object. He is now largely discredited, of course. Many also know about his student, Carl Jung. He came up with the notion that mankind shares an attic full of beliefs and experiences which he dubbed the “collective unconscious”. Think of it as the psychological knick knack acquired by us during our common journey from apehood to modernity. Did you know, though, that Jung wrote a book dividing people into eight types, based on how they prefer to take in and process information?

Jung’s Theory of Eight Mental Processes

Jung noted that we’re always either taking in information (perceiving) or organizing that information and drawing conclusions (judging). Perceiving can involve sensing (what is) or intuition (what could be). Similarly, judging can involve objective considerations (thinking) or its impact on people (feeling). Now, each of these four Jungian functions can be used in an intro- or extraverted manner. That gives us the eight Jungian processes. Are you still with me? Good, because we’re about to embellish on it a bit further.

From Eight to Sixteen: Enter Myers and Briggs

Jung believed that each person employs all of these eight mental tools to some degree. But he or she displays a built-in preference for one tool over the others. This is the core idea behind Jungian types.

Now, Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers were life-long students of Jung’s ideas. This mother-and-daughter team extended Jung’s typology to 16 based on the following four preference dichotomies:

Preference Dichotomies

From the eight letters of the above preference table, we get 16 four-letter type descriptors. That gives rise to the following alphabet soup:


Putting the Theory to Test

MBTI®, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test is a standardized test that allows an individual to determine his preferred style for interpersonal communications. MBTI has been applied to every aspect of human relationships. It’s obvious how it may be applied to collaboration and conflict resolution. It has also been applied to learning and teaching, parenting and family dynamics, and decision-making and investing. It’s even been applied to marketing. The MBTI instrument was originally put out by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the good folks who are also behind the SAT and the GRE. But it’s now published by CPP, Inc. It’s been translated into 30+ languages.

Sure, the test has its critics. Some question its scientific underpinnings, to the extent that psychology can be a science. But that has not stopped it from being used around the world as a tool to help people try to work more effectively together.

So What’s Your MBTI Personality Type?

The next time you’re at a company gathering and don’t know what to say to that guy down the hall, try, “What’s your MBTI ® type?” That can be as good a conversation starter at corporate get-togethers as “what’s your sun sign” at parties. There’s no dearth of free and for-fee versions of the test on the worldwide web. Many of the Eogogics courses on interpersonal and management skills include tests like the MBTI. If you take such a course, you will be asked to complete the test before or during the class. The instructor, who is certified to administer and interpret these tests, will use the results in discussions and exercises to help you understand how your work preferences differ from those of your office mates and how you can bridge this preference gap. While MBTI is popular, it’s not the only game in town. Other assessment tools, such as FIRO-B ® and DiSC ®, are often used.

By the way, I’m one of the INTJs. Often nicknamed “masterminds”, we’re around 4% of the population. However, I’m known to be able to emulate the other four-letter combinations quite well as the occasion may require. So what’s your (Myers Briggs) type?