Footprints

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MBTI

10 January 2021

In my blogpost of 27th December, I mentioned that I scored high in the Introversion scale. Some readers have since asked how I got to know my score.

There are a number of psychological assessment tools or “personality tests” one can take, e.g., The Big Five Personality Traits (OCEAN model) which professional psychologists often use because of its statistical rigour. But I prefer MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) because it is more fun and more widely known among laymen, although it may not have as high a rating on validity and reliability—two important psychometric measurements. Both OCEAN and MBTI have an extraversion vs introversion scale. /1/ /2/

Based on the theories of Carl Jung, a Swiss physician and psychoanalyst,/3/  MBTI was developed during the 1940s by an American mother and daughter team. They received a big grant from the US government to test and evaluate, and later to administer their instrument to a large swathe of people as the military thought it would help individuals, particularly women, many of whom had never been employed before. Whilst their menfolk fought in the war, these women could be placed in industrial jobs best suited to their temperaments.

MBTI is administered through a self-scoring questionnaire, measuring four dimensions: (1) orientation, (2) perception, (3) judgment, and (4) direction.

Orientation:   In my previous article, I discussed about our innate orientation towards the outside world. Some of us are EXTRAVERTS (E), others are INTROVERTS (I). The former recharge their energies through social engagements; the latter by having alone-time.  

Perception:   The second dimension deals with our perceptions. The world around us is infinite in its variation. Thus, our perception of reality must necessarily be selective—we can only focus on some things over others--depending on our innate preferences. One way is the use of our five senses--sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch—noting things as they seemingly are. Jung calls this a preference for SENSING (S). The other is by over-looking the trees, so to speak, in search of the forest—probing for patterns and hidden “meanings” beyond what are in front of us, using our imagination or INTUITION (N).

Judgment:   Then, since they  need to be sorted, weighed, analysed, and evaluated, we make judgments about these perceptions   Jung says some of us apply logic and reason or THINKING (T) in order to reach conclusions. Others make use of gut-feel as to what is right, pondering things according to our personal values or FEELING (F).

Direction:   The last dimension is about direction, i.e., how we manage our external life after we have perceived and judged. Do we keep an open mind, looking for perhaps yet new things to discover, i.e., continue PERCEIVING (P)?  Or do we want to achieve closure so that we can proceed with deciding and perhaps planning a course of action?  If so, we favour JUDGING (J).

According to MBTI, these psychological functions or preferences lead to PERSONALITY TYPES, (not to be confused with “Personality” which includes the influences of the environment and one’s habitual responses to it).

In summary, we all have an orientation of either being extraverted (E) or introverted (I);  a way of perceiving, either through our senses (S) or through intuition (N);  we exercise judgment by sorting, analysing, and evaluating our perceptions, either through thinking (T) or through feeling (F);  and lastly, using these processes, we direct our dealings with the outside world, either in the pursuit of further perceptions (P) or through closure by relying on previously made judgments (J).  MBTI enumerates the characteristics of the following dimensions:

First Dimension: Extraversion and Introversion

E:  Extraverts are oriented towards the outside world, focusing on people and things.  They are active, friendly, and sociable, looking for stimulation through energetic engagements with their environment.

Quote:  I am bored by all that.  (Winston Churchill)

I:  Introverts are oriented towards their inner world, getting stimulated through reflection and contemplation.  They are therefore reserved and private.

Quote:  I'll read my books, and I'll drink my coffee, and I'll listen to music, and I'll bolt the door.  (JD Salinger)

Second Dimension: Sensing and Intuition

S:   in Sensing, there is an emphasis on the concrete, the practical, the present and immediate situation, with special attention to facts and their details.  Sensors prefer practice over theory, placing their trust on the received wisdom of customs and traditions.  “Common sense” and being "street smart" are highly valued.

Quote:  A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.  (Gertrude Stein)

N:  Intuition is perceiving the world through meanings and relationships, looking for patterns through abstraction, often thinking of creative possibilities. There is an interest in the new and the untried in order to grasp complexities with flashes of insight and imagination. Practical details are often overlooked as intellectual challenges are more fun than the pleasures of everyday events.

Quote:  Full many a flower is born to blush unseen/And waste its sweetness on the desert air.  (Thomas Gray);  Stone walls do not a prison make nor iron bars a cage.  (Richard Lovelace)

Third Dimension: Thinking and Feeling

T:   Thinking is using logical analysis for decision-making. It is impersonal, focusing on the ability to weigh facts and their consequences objectively. Along with objectivity, there is a close attention to impartiality and a sense of fairness and justice. Thinkers are drawn to areas where tough-mindedness and technical skills are needed.

Quote:  I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies but not the madness of people.  (Isaac Newton)

F:   Feeling is making judgments, conclusions and decisions based on a system of subjective and personal values—what matters to them and other people. They wish to understand and affiliate with others. They have the capacity for warmth, empathy and compassion. Interpersonal rather than technical skills more important

Quote:  It is only with the heart that one can see, what is essential is invisible to the eye. (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry);  I dream of things that never were and ask, why not?  (Robert Kennedy)

Fourth Dimension: Perceiving and Judging

J:   When Judgment is used, things are decided, settled, planned, organised, and managed according to plan. The drive is towards closure—towards having a settled system in place.

Quote:  I did what I had to do/And saw it through without exception/I planned each charted course/Each careful step along the byway. . . (Frank Sinatra)

P:   For the Perceivers, the natural drive is to keep on being open to yet new perceptions. Flexibility and spontaneity are necessary so as to adapt to changing circumstances, and to experience life as widely as possible. Plans and organisation are thus kept to a minimum to make way for last-minute adjustments, thus the tendency to procrastinate.

Quote:  And let the music play as long as there's a song to sing . . . (Gordon Jenkins);   I'll think about it tomorrow (Scarlett O'Hara).

PERSONALITY TYPES

Positing that the whole is more than the sum of its parts, MBTI discusses the various permutations of these four dimensions, each with its own characteristics. It then comes up with 16 Personality Types. Mine is INFJ (Introverted-Intuitive-Feeling-Judging).  My son’s is ESFP (Extroverted-Sensing-Feeling-Perceiving), the modal Filipino personality type. Another friend’s is ESTJ (Extroverted-Sensing-Thinking-Judging), very American. A typical German, my husband’s was ISTJ (Introverted-Sensing-Thinking-Judging).  I am giving references below for those who want to explore further these 16 Personality Types and their general characteristics./4/ /5/

Some scientific purists do not take MBTI very seriously, but nobody can deny that inspite of all its predictive imperfections, it is useful and great fun to deduce one's type, as well as each culture’s modal personality type.  In other words, knowing the characteristics of each indicator, one can make educated guesses about one's own or their friend's personality type.  

Questionnaires for this test--“test” is perhaps the wrong word as it implies that there are right and wrong answers--can help one with self-awareness. They might be available online but the assessment should really be done by a licensed professional because the one-on-one discourse is most important.

Further, the tool was developed by and for American respondents, and online questionnaires need tweaking if they were to be taken by Filipinos. Perhaps some Guidance & Counselling Office of major universities in the Philippines, or the Human Resources Departments of large organisations would have trained and licensed personnel who can administer the instrument to those who are interested.

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Footnotes: /1/Jerry S. Wiggins (ed). THE FIVE-FACTOR MODEL OF PERSONALITY. New York, Guildford Press, 1996; /2/ Isabel Briggs Myers and Mary H. McCaulley. A GUIDE TO THE DEVELOPMENT AND USE OF THE MYERS-BRIGGS TYPE INDICATOR. Palo Alto California, Consulting Psychologists Press, 1962; /3/ Carl Jung. PSYCHOLOGICAL TYPES. Zurich, Rascher Verlag, 1921; /4/ A.J. Drenth. THE 16 PERSONALITY TYPES: PROFILES, THEORY, & TYPE DEVELOPMENT. Inquire Books, 2013; /5/ Otto Kroeger and Janet Thuesen, TYPE TALK: THE 16 PERSOALITY TYPES THAT DETERMINE HOW WE LIVE, LOVE, AND WORK. New York, Dell Publishing, 1988.