Myers-Briggs theory is an adaptation of the theory of psychological types produced by Carl Gustav Jung. It is based on 16 personality types, which Jung viewed as stereotypes (Jung 1921, p. 405). They act as useful reference points to understand your unique personality (Jung 1957, p. 304). At the heart of Myers Briggs theory are four preferences. Do you prefer to deal with:
- People and things (Extraversion or “E”), or ideas and information (Introversion or “I”).
- Facts and reality (Sensing or “S”), or possibilities and potential (Intuition or “N”).
- Logic and truth (Thinking or “T”), or values and relationships (Feeling or “F”).
- A lifestyle that is well-structured (Judgment or “J”), or one that goes with the flow (Perception or “P”).
In Myers Briggs theory, for each pair you prefer one style more than the other. Jung also allowed a middle group where you like an equal balance of the two. You combine the letters associated with your preferences to get your Myers Briggs personality type. For example, having preferences for E, S, T and J gives a personality type of ESTJ. Although you have preferences, you still use all eight styles – in the same way that most people are right-handed but they still use both hands.
Extraversion and Introversion – The first pair of styles is concerned with the direction of your energy. If you prefer to direct your energy to deal with people, things, situations, or “the outer world”, then your preference is for Extraversion. If you prefer to direct your energy to deal with ideas, information, explanations or beliefs, or “the inner world”, then your preference is for Introversion.
Sensing and Intuition – The second pair concerns the type of information/things that you process. If you prefer to deal with facts, what you know, to have clarity, or to describe what you see, then your preference is for Sensing. If you prefer to deal with ideas, look into the unknown, to generate new possibilities or to anticipate what isn’t obvious, then your preference is for Intuition. The letter N is used for intuition because I has already been allocated to Introversion.
Thinking and Feeling – The third pair reflects your style of decision-making. If you prefer to decide on the basis of objective logic, using an analytic and detached approach, then your preference is for Thinking. If you prefer to decide using values – i.e. on the basis of what or who you believe is important – then your preference is for Feeling.
Judgment and Perception – The final pair describes the type of lifestyle you adopt. If you prefer your life to be planned and well-structured then your preference is for Judging. This is not to be confused with ‘Judgmental’, which is quite different. If you prefer to go with the flow, to maintain flexibility and respond to things as they arise, then your preference is for Perception.
When you put these four letters together, you get a personality type code. Having four pairs to choose from means there are sixteen Myers Briggs personality types.
To learn more about your personality, or Myers-Briggs and Jungian typology, complete our free online personality questionnaire. It shows how your unique personality relates to the 16 stereotypes. It also matches your personality with careers and leadership positions, based on unique research into career enjoyment and what makes a good leader.