The Myers Briggs personality test is generally based on the personality indicator developed by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers. Their development of the test occurred in the 1940s and was built upon psychological research performed by Carl Jung in the 1920s. The type test is based on a series of questions that gather information on how a person usually responds or relates to various situations.
The answers to these questions are calculated to determine the person’s individual personality type. Important insights can be gained by understanding personality type, such as optimal career choice, better romantic partnerships, and paths to personal growth.
Tests that draw on the method by Briggs and Myers sort people into 16 different types which are organized by four pairs of opposite traits.
These pairs are:
- Extraversion (E) and Introversion (I)
- Sensing (S) and Intuition (N)
- Thinking (T) and Feeling (F)
- Judging (J) and Perceiving (P)
One of each pair is combined to create a 4-letter abbreviation for each personality type, such as:
ESFP: extraversion (E), sensing (S), feeling (F), perception (P)
INTJ: introversion (I), intuition (N), thinking (T), judgment (J)
These personality traits are grouped into four categories that describe the way in which a person interacts with the world. Everyone experiences both traits in each pair, but usually one is more dominant than the other in the Myers Briggs personality test.
Extroverts are energized when in the company of other people, unlike Introverts who are usually reserved, quiet, and prefer to be by themselves. Extroverts like speaking their minds and thrive in social situations. They are usually popular and well-liked by other people. Extroverts may feel down and become drained if they’re not in the company of others for too long.
Introverted people are quiet, reserved, and more comfortable being alone than an Extroverted person. Introverts prefer to rely on themselves for entertainment rather than seeking interaction or stimulation from others. They are usually self-sufficient and would rather work alone than in a group. Socializing drains an Introvert’s energy, and they need alone time to recharge. Because of this they put less emphasis on socializing and social skills than an extrovert would.
Sensing individuals place great emphasis on what they see, touch and experience in the real world, unlike Intuitive people who would rather live in their imaginations. Prioritizing facts and practicality, those with a Sensing character are outward-looking and prefer not to deal with philosophical ideas or introspective ponderings. They would rather focus on what they can concretely experience with their senses.
Intuitive individuals put emphasis on imagination and ideas, rather than what is actually in front of them. They tend to prioritize introspection and dreaming, and oftentimes feel like they do not belong or live in the real world. Unlike Sensing individuals, who enjoy seeing, touching and experiencing the world, intuitive people are inward-focused and prefer living in their own heads. While Sensing people like facts and practicality, Intuitive individuals tend to lean towards allusions, read between the lines, and analyze things at greater depth.
Thinking individuals are objective, rational, and logical. Their decisions and actions are usually governed more by their minds than by their hearts. Many people often judge Thinking people as lacking emotion, but that is not true. They can be just as emotional and sensitive as the Feeling group, but feelings are not their main priority, and they can hide their emotions or prevent them from coming to the surface. They prioritize facts over feelings.
Individuals with the Feeling trait care more about emotions and expressing them than what is deemed rational or logical. However, this does not mean that Feeling types are irrational; it only means that those with this trait are more likely to express their emotions, as compared to Thinking individuals who prefer to suppress their emotions. Those who focus on feelings and expressions of emotion tend to be more open-minded, vocal, empathetic, and sensitive.
Those with the Judging trait tend to strategize and plan before they act. They’d prefer a thought-out plan over going with the flow. They are organized, reliable, responsible, and have very good work ethics. They are always prepared, armed with checklists and contingency plans. They are likely to commit to future plans, but may forget to live in the present.
People who have the Perceiving trait rather than the Judging trait value their sense of freedom. They do not want to be tied down to a specific activity or commitment if they think there is something better that is worthy of their time. They are excellent in spotting new opportunities, and they grab them whenever they can. They are good with improvisation, even in emergency situations. They take life as it comes and feel stifled if forced to stick to a schedule.
More than the Sum of Its Parts
Each whole personality type is more than the sum of its traits. In addition to each of the four main traits of each profile, further personality insights from the Myers Briggs personality test emerge when the combination of those traits are taken into consideration.
For example, a person with the combination of Thinking (T) and Intuition (N) will behave differently than someone with the traits of Thinking (T) and Sensing (S). The combination of Thinking and Intuition reflects someone who is often in their head, thinking about all the different possible circumstances or even fantastic ideas. But someone with the Thinking and Sensing traits, who may also be often lost in their own thoughts, will be relying on their senses instead of their intuition, and their ponderings will be rooted in the current state of reality.
Development for what is now known as the Myers Briggs personality test by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers began in 1917, when Katharine Cook Briggs began her research into personality. She noticed marked differences in the personalities of family members, and began reading biographies until she came up with a rudimentary typology that proposed four temperaments: thoughtful, spontaneous, executive, and social.
After Carl Jung’s book Psychological Types was published in 1923, Briggs recognized that her theory was similar to Jung’s, but not nearly as developed. She and Myers studied Jung’s work extensively and published articles based on his theories before turning their efforts toward putting the psychological types to practical use.
Jung’s theory of psychological types was based on clinical observation and proposed that there are four principal psychological functions by which humans experience the world: sensation, intuition, feeling, and thinking, each having two polar orientations, such as extraversion or introversion. The test is based on these functions, with the additions of the Judging and Perceiving traits.
In 1942, Briggs began developing a “sorter” instrument to help people identify their psychological type preferences (which is now usually deployed as a question-and-answer test.) They started by testing their concepts by creating an individual question and then collecting data to determine whether that item accurately measured what was intended.
They began with a group of about 20 friends and relatives whom they felt they already knew from many years of observation. After they were able to refine their data with this initial group, they expanded their testing to larger and larger groups. They moved on to classes of college students, eventually testing over 5000 medical students from 45 different schools, and later 10,000 nurses.
In 1944, Myers took a part-time job with the human resources director of a large company in order to familiarize herself with the personality sorting instruments currently in use. She was able to learn modern practices and tested every person who applied for employment at the company.
Throughout the 1950s – 1970s, Myers presented her data and personality sorting method to a variety of educational institutions, publications, and psychologists. In 1962, she wrote Introduction to Type, a short but comprehensive educational book that is still in print. By the time of Isabel’s death in 1980, their test was being widely used by organizations to improve employee interaction, career counseling, and many others who wanted to improve personal relationships.
The Myers Briggs personality test was created for normal populations and emphasizes the value of naturally occurring differences. It assumes that we all have specific preferences in the way we see the world, and these preferences form our interests, values, and motivations.
Applications of the Myers Briggs Personality Test
Insight gained from the personality test can be used to improve many common situations in life:
Work and Career
Once you understand your personality type, you can make much more informed decisions for your career path or choice of occupation. You can also learn to better interact with your bosses and colleagues when you consider how their personality types and your own can best work together.
Some personality type pairings naturally make better partnerships than others. If you know both your own type and your partner’s, you’ll have a greater understanding of how to deal with each other and make your lives the best they can be. You can also use the information in dating to better read new people and make a better first impression.
Like in romance, some personality types make for easier friendships than others. Some people like to stay in while others like to go out, and some people like spontaneous trips while others prefer to plan ahead. Friendships between some types may be too difficult to last, while others are made for a lifetime.
As any parent knows, every child has a personality all their own. As a parent, you’ll have an easier time relating to and guiding your child when you understand his or her personality type. Some children will thrive under strict schedules, while others need freedom to grow. Your own personality type will also color your parenting style, and it may or may not naturally blend with your child’s personality.
Family relationships are sometimes the most difficult, but learning about the personality types of your relatives can be a big help. Once you know a little more about where a person is coming from and how they react to the world, you’ll be in a much better position to relate with them. Relationships with siblings, parents, and extended family need not be a strain.
Knowing your personality type can help you find your life’s purpose and unlock your potential. If you don’t understand how your own personality works, you can easily find yourself stuck in the wrong job and the wrong relationship. But using your personality profile as a tool, you can figure out what you really want out of life, how you can improve your current situation, and then reach for something more fulfilling.
Every personality type has its own strengths and weaknesses. Only by knowing your weaknesses can you begin to improve them. Anyone who is interested in personal growth will find a great deal of useful information in their personality profile, including specific tips on how to improve upon that type’s common weaknesses.
Perhaps the most life-changing benefit of understanding your personality type is simply gaining insight into your day-to-day life. You might discover that you’ve been interacting with people all wrong and creating unnecessary tension. Or you might realize that you’ve been beating yourself up over something that just isn’t part of your personality. Small situations, like a conversation with your neighbor, or an interaction during a business meeting, can be greatly improved by understanding your personality type and that of those around you. All of these small improvements can add up to a life lived with less stress and more happiness.
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