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A chart with descriptions of each Myers–Briggs personality type and the four dichotomies central to the theory.

Jung 1910-cropped

Carl Jung in 1910. Isabel Briggs Myers and Katharine Cook Briggs extrapolated their MBTI theory from Jung's writings in his book, Psychological Types

The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment is a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions.[1][2][3]

The questionnaire was created by Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers based on an extrapolation from the typological theories proposed by Carl Gustav Jung's 1921 book Psychological Types (English edition, 1923[4]). Jung had theorized that there are four principal psychological functions by which humans experience the world - sensation, intuition, feeling, and thinking - and that one of these four functions is dominant most of the time.[5]

Although very popular in businesses around the world, the MBTI is widely criticized by academics for its methodological weaknesses, poor statistical validity and low reliability.

Origins of the theory

Jung's theory of psychological type, as published in his 1921 book, was not developed through controlled scientific studies but rather via clinical observation, introspection and anecdote—methods that are largely regarded as inconclusive by the modern field of psychology.

Jung's type theory introduced a sequence of four cognitive functions (thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition), each having one of two orientations (extraversion or introversion), for a total of eight dominant functions. The Myers–Briggs theory is based on these eight functions, although with some differences in expression (see Differences from Jung below). However, neither the Myers–Briggs nor the Jungian models offer any scientific, experimental proof to support the existence, the sequence, the orientation, or the manifestation of these functions.

The original developers of the MBTI personality inventory were Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers.

The most notable addition of Myers and Briggs to Jung's original thought is their concept that a given type's fourth letter (J or P) indicates a person's preferred extraverted function, which is the dominant function for extraverted types and the auxiliary function for the introverted types.[1]:21–22


As the MBTI Manual states, the indicator "is designed to implement a theory; therefore the theory must be understood to understand the MBTI".[6]:1

Fundamental to the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator is the theory of psychological type as originally developed by Carl Jung.[1]:xiii Jung proposed the existence of two dichotomous pairs of cognitive functions:

  • The "rational" (judging) functions: thinking and feeling
  • The "irrational" (perceiving) functions: sensation and intuition

Jung believed that for every person each of the functions are expressed primarily in either an introverted or extraverted form.[1]:17 From Jung's original concepts, Briggs and Myers developed their own theory of psychological type, described below, on which the MBTI is based.


Jung's typological model regards psychological type as similar to left or right handedness: individuals are either born with, or develop, certain preferred ways of perceiving and deciding. The MBTI sorts some of these psychological differences into four opposite pairs, or dichotomies. Assuming that each person is best described by one of each pair results in 16 possible psychological types. (However allowing "both" and "neither" would result in 256 types. Allowing each of the 8 traits to take the value infinite, finite, infinitesimal, or zero would result in 4^8 or 65536 types). None of these types are better or worse; however, Briggs and Myers theorized that individuals naturally prefer one overall combination of type differences.[1]:9 In the same way that writing with the left hand is hard work for a right-hander, so people tend to find using their opposite psychological preferences more difficult, even if they can become more proficient (and therefore behaviorally flexible) with practice and development.

The 16 types are typically referred to by an abbreviation of four letters—the initial letters of each of their four type preferences (except in the case of intuition, which uses the abbreviation N to distinguish it from introversion). For instance:

  • ESTJ: extraversion (E), sensing (S), thinking (T), judgment (J)
  • INFP: introversion (I), intuition (N), feeling (F), perception (P)

This method of abbreviation is applied to all 16 types.

Four dichotomies

The four pairs of preferences or dichotomies are shown in the table to the right.

Note that the terms used for each dichotomy have specific technical meanings relating to the MBTI which differ from their everyday usage. For example, people who prefer judgment over perception are not necessarily more judgmental or less perceptive. Nor does the MBTI instrument measure aptitude; it simply indicates for one preference over another.[6]:3 Someone reporting a high score for extraversion over introversion cannot be correctly described as more extraverted: they simply have a clear preference.

Point scores on each of the dichotomies can vary considerably from person to person, even among those with the same type. However, Isabel Myers considered the direction of the preference (for example, E vs. I) to be more important than the degree of the preference (for example, very clear vs. slight).[7] The expression of a person's psychological type is more than the sum of the four individual preferences. The preferences interact through type dynamics and type development.

Attitudes: extraversion/introversion

Myers–Briggs literature uses the terms extraversion and introversion as Jung first used them. Extraversion means "outward-turning" and introversion means "inward-turning".[8] These specific definitions vary somewhat from the popular usage of the words. Note that extraversion is the spelling used in MBTI publications.

The preferences for extraversion and introversion are often called "attitudes". Briggs and Myers recognized that each of the cognitive functions can operate in the external world of behavior, action, people, and things ("extraverted attitude") or the internal world of ideas and reflection ("introverted attitude"). The MBTI assessment sorts for an overall preference for one or the other.

People who prefer extraversion draw energy from action: they tend to act, then reflect, then act further. If they are inactive, their motivation tends to decline. To rebuild their energy, extraverts need breaks from time spent in reflection. Conversely, those who prefer introversion "expend" energy through action: they prefer to reflect, then act, then reflect again. To rebuild their energy, introverts need quiet time alone, away from activity.[9]

The extravert's flow is directed outward toward people and objects, and the introvert's is directed inward toward concepts and ideas. Contrasting characteristics between extraverts and introverts include the following:

  • Extraverts are "action" oriented, while introverts are "thought" oriented.
  • Extraverts seek "breadth" of knowledge and influence, while introverts seek "depth" of knowledge and influence.
  • Extraverts often prefer more "frequent" interaction, while introverts prefer more "substantial" interaction.
  • Extraverts recharge and get their energy from spending time with people, while introverts recharge and get their energy from spending time alone; they consume their energy through the opposite process.[10]

Functions: sensing/intuition and thinking/feeling

Jung identified two pairs of psychological functions:

  • Two perceiving functions: sensation (usually called "sensing" in MBTI writings) and intuition
  • Two judging functions: thinking and feeling

According to Jung's typology model, each person uses one of these four functions more dominantly and proficiently than the other three; however, all four functions are used at different times depending on the circumstances.

Sensing and intuition are the information-gathering (perceiving) functions. They describe how new information is understood and interpreted. Individuals who prefer sensing are more likely to trust information that is in the present, tangible, and concrete: that is, information that can be understood by the five senses. They tend to distrust hunches, which seem to come "out of nowhere".[1]:2 They prefer to look for details and facts. For them, the meaning is in the data. On the other hand, those who prefer intuition tend to trust information that is less dependent upon the senses, that can be associated with other information (either remembered or discovered by seeking a wider context or pattern). They may be more interested in future possibilities. For them, the meaning is in the underlying theory and principles which are manifested in the data.

Thinking and feeling are the decision-making (judging) functions. The thinking and feeling functions are both used to make rational decisions, based on the data received from their information-gathering functions (sensing or intuition). Those who prefer thinking tend to decide things from a more detached standpoint, measuring the decision by what seems reasonable, logical, causal, consistent, and matching a given set of rules. Those who prefer feeling tend to come to decisions by associating or empathizing with the situation, looking at it 'from the inside' and weighing the situation to achieve, on balance, the greatest harmony, consensus and fit, considering the needs of the people involved. Thinkers usually have trouble interacting with people who are inconsistent or illogical, and tend to give very direct feedback to others. They are concerned with the truth and view it as more important.

As noted already, people who prefer thinking do not necessarily, in the everyday sense, "think better" than their feeling counterparts, in the common sense; the opposite preference is considered an equally rational way of coming to decisions (and, in any case, the MBTI assessment is a measure of preference, not ability). Similarly, those who prefer feeling do not necessarily have "better" emotional reactions than their thinking counterparts.

Dominant function


A diagram depicting the cognitive functions of each type. A type's background color represents its dominant function and its text color represents its auxiliary function.

According to Jung, people use all four cognitive functions. However, one function is generally used in a more conscious and confident way. This dominant function is supported by the secondary (auxiliary) function, and to a lesser degree the tertiary function. The fourth and least conscious function is always the opposite of the dominant function. Myers called this inferior function the shadow.[1]:84

The four functions operate in conjunction with the attitudes (extraversion and introversion). Each function is used in either an extraverted or introverted way. A person whose dominant function is extraverted intuition, for example, uses intuition very differently from someone whose dominant function is introverted intuition.

Lifestyle preferences: judging/perception

Myers and Briggs added another dimension to Jung's typological model by identifying that people also have a preference for using either the judging function (thinking or feeling) or their perceiving function (sensing or intuition) when relating to the outside world (extraversion).

Myers and Briggs held that types with a preference for judging show the world their preferred judging function (thinking or feeling). So TJ types tend to appear to the world as logical and FJ types as empathetic. According to Myers,[1]:75 judging types like to follow the rules.

Those types who prefer perception show the world their preferred perceiving function (sensing or intuition). So SP types tend to appear to the world as concrete and NP types as abstract. According to Myers,[1]:75 perceptive types prefer to "keep their options open".

For extraverts, the J or P indicates their dominant function; for introverts, the J or P indicates their auxiliary function. Introverts tend to show their dominant function outwardly only in matters "important to their inner worlds".[1]:13 For example:

Because the ENTJ type is extraverted, the J indicates that the dominant function is the preferred judging function (extraverted thinking). The ENTJ type introverts the auxiliary perceiving function (introverted intuition). The tertiary function is sensing and the inferior function is introverted feeling.

Because the INTJ type is introverted, however, the J instead indicates that the auxiliary function is the preferred judging function (extraverted thinking). The INTJ type introverts the dominant perceiving function (introverted intuition). The tertiary function is feeling and the inferior function is extraverted sensing.

Cognitive learning styles

The test is scored by evaluating each answer in terms of what it reveals about the taker. Each question is relevant to one of the following cognitive learning styles. Each is not a polar opposite, but a gradual continuum.


The extraverted types learn best by talking and interacting with others. By interacting with the physical world, extraverts can process and make sense of new information. The introverted types prefer quiet reflection and privacy. Information processing occurs for introverts as they explore ideas and concepts internally.


The second continuum reflects what a person focuses their attentions on. Sensing types enjoy a learning environment in which the material is presented in a detailed and sequential manner. Sensing types often attend to what is occurring in the present, and can move to the abstract after they have established a concrete experience. Intuitive types prefer a learning atmosphere in which an emphasis is placed on meaning and associations. Insight is valued higher than careful observation, and pattern recognition occurs naturally for Intuitive types.


The third continuum reflects the person’s decision preferences. Thinking types desire objective truth and logical principles and are natural at deductive reasoning. Feeling types place an emphasis on issues and causes that can be personalized while they consider other people's motives.


The fourth continuum reflects how the person regards complexity. Judging types will thrive when information is organized and structured, and they will be motivated to complete assignments in order to gain closure. Perceiving types will flourish in a flexible learning environment in which they are stimulated by new and exciting ideas. Judging types like to be on time, while perceiving types may be late and/or procrastinate.

Correlations to other instruments

Keirsey temperaments

David W. Keirsey mapped four "temperaments" to the existing Myers–Briggs system groupings: SP, SJ, NF and NT; this often results in confusion of the two theories. However, the Keirsey Temperament Sorter is not directly associated with the official Myers–Briggs Type Indicator.

Template:MBTI Archetypes

Big Five

McCrae and Costa[11] present correlations between the MBTI scales and the Big Five personality construct, which aims to organize the complete set of basic personality domains. The five personality characteristics are extraversion, openness, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and emotional stability (or neuroticism). The following study is based on the results from 267 men followed as part of a longitudinal study of aging. (Similar results were obtained with 201 women.)

Template:MBTI study

These data suggest that the four MBTI scales are subsumed within the Big Five personality traits, but that the MBTI lacks a measure for emotional stability dimension of the Big Five (though the TDI, discussed above, has addressed that dimension). Emotional stability (or neuroticism) is a core domain predictive of depression and anxiety disorders. These correlations refer to the second letter shown, i.e. the table shows that I and P have negative correlation to extraversion and conscientiousness respectively, while F and N have positive correlation to agreeableness and openness respectively.

These findings led McCrae and Costa, the formulators of the Five Factor Model (a Big Five theory),[12] to conclude, "correlational analyses showed that the four MBTI indices did measure aspects of four of the five major dimensions of normal personality. The five-factor model provides an alternative basis for interpreting MBTI findings within a broader, more commonly shared conceptual framework." However, "there was no support for the view that the MBTI measures truly dichotomous preferences or qualitatively distinct types, instead, the instrument measures four relatively independent dimensions."

Personality disorders

One study found personality disorders as described by the DSM overall to correlate modestly with I, N, T, and P, though the associations varied significantly by disorder. The only two disorders with significant correlations of all four MBTI dimensions were schizotypal (INTP) and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (ISTJ).[13]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Myers, Isabel Briggs with Peter B. Myers (1995) [1980]. Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type. Mountain View, CA: Davies-Black Publishing. ISBN 0-89106-074-X. 
  2. MBTI basics, The Myers-Briggs Foundation, 2014, Retrieved 18 June 2014.
  3. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI),, Menlo Park, CA, 2014, Retrieved 18 June 2014.
  4. Jung, Carl Gustav (August 1, 1971). "Psychological Types". Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 6. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-097704. 
  5. Kaplan, R. M.; Saccuzzo, D. P. (2009). Psychological Testing: Principles, Applications, and Issues (7 ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. ISBN 978-0495506362. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Myers, Isabel Briggs; Mary H. McCaulley (1985). Manual: A Guide to the Development and Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (2nd ed.). Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press. ISBN 0-89106-027-8. 
  7. Myers, Isabel Briggs; McCaulley Mary H.; Quenk, Naomi L.; Hammer, Allen L. (1998). MBTI Manual (A guide to the development and use of the Myers Briggs type indicator). Consulting Psychologists Press; 3rd ed edition. ISBN 0-89106-130-4. 
  8. Zeisset, Carolyn (2006). The Art of Dialogue: Exploring Personality Differences for More Effective Communication. Gainesville, FL: Center for Applications of Psychological Type, Inc. p. 13. ISBN 0-935652-77-9. 
  9. nettle, Dr. Daniel. "Personality: A user guide". The Open University. Retrieved 2013-04-17. 
  10. Tieger, Paul D.; Barbara Barron-Tieger (1999). The Art of SpeedReading People. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company. p. 66. ISBN 978-0-316-84518-2. 
  11. Full text
  12. "University of Oregon: "Measuring the Big Five Personality Factors"". Retrieved 2008-08-08. 
  13. "An Empirical Investigation of Jung's Personality Types and Psychological Disorder Features". Journal of Psychological Type/University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. 2001. Retrieved 2013-08-10. 

References and further reading

External links

Template:Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Template:Jungian psychology

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