So, What MBTI Type Are You?

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This post is for people who love the MBTI (Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator). 

I realize that some people hate it.  That’s cool.  It has apparently been woodenly applied by overzealous managers (as, what hasn’t?).  And some people just don’t like to be “typed.”

If you hate personality typologies, feel free to skip this post.

How the MBTI Works

For the initiated, the MBTI is a personality typology that classifies people according to their “preferences” among four pairs of traits:

  • I vs. E: Introversion vs. Extraversion … This is about how people renew their energy: alone or through social interaction.  Extraverts are drained by the library, Introverts are drained by parties.
  • N vs. S: Intuition vs. Sensing … This is about how people take in information: basically, top-down (intuition) or bottom-up (sensing).
  • T vs. F: Thinking vs. Feeling … This is about whether people make decisions more according to impersonal facts or according to how the decisions will affect people.
  • J vs. P: Judging vs. Perceiving … This is about whether people like to plan things in advance. Judgers like to have everything planned out. Perceivers like to go with the flow, keep their options open, and can even feel stressed out about nailing down a decision.

Four pairs of traits times two options each results in sixteen basic types.  If you meet an MBTI nerd like myself, we love to describe ourselves with letters: “I’m an INTJ,” etc.  This is delightfully easy to parody: for example, I am a G-E-E-K and sometimes an S-L-O-B.

Limits of the MBTI

Obviously, the MBTI doesn’t and can’t describe every aspect of a person’s personality.  It doesn’t cover energy levels, for example, or sensory processing problems.   (E.g. you could be an Extravert who is nonetheless also drained by social situations because you’re so sensitive to physical stimuli.)

It’s possible to have a social style that masks your MBTI type. 

You could have values that don’t match your type preferences. (For example, you could be a Feeler who greatly values logical thought.)

Also, some people don’t have a clear preference between one or more pairs of traits.  If you read descriptions of the types, sometimes a type description will jump out at you and you’ll say, “I know that person!”  But you will also meet people who aren’t easily described by any of the types.

In my opinion, the most easily misunderstood pair of traits is Thinking vs. Feeling.  I have never heard a good explanation of this axis that doesn’t misrepresent it.  Any attempts at description always end up making it sound as though “thinkers” don’t feel or care about people, and as if “feelers” just emote and are incapable of logic.  Neither of those is true.  Obviously, every person both thinks and feels.

I’ve concluded there is no point in trying to explain this one.  It is seen most clearly in action.  For example, an ENFP child will tend to comply with any orders you give him because he wants to please you.  An ENTP kid will likely not follow an order unless he can see a good reason for it.

MBTI Types in Literature

My own type is INFP.  This is a quiet, reserved type that is also sensitive and dreamy.  In one analysis I saw (“The Types in the Apocalypse”), the INFP was “the first guy to get killed.”   That sounds about right!  In the Lord of the Rings, the INFP is Frodo. 

Introverted types might be over-represented among the Lord of the Rings main characters (compared to their distribution in real life) because there is an understandable tendency for authors to create characters who resemble themselves.  In looking at my own work, I notice with relief that I do have some extraverted types in main-character roles.  Nimri, for example.  He starts the story as an SOB (oops, that’s one letter short!), but ends as, maybe, an ESTP.

What about you?  What is your type?  Favorite type to read about?  Are you ever annoyed by encountering too many dreamy, sensitive types in literature?


Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence  by David Keirsey, Prometheus Nemesis Book Company, 1998