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eyes black and white

MBTI decoded

In my current understanding, I find these descriptions of the four axes of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to match fairly well the types as explained by so many websites on the Internet.

  • (I)ntrovert/(E)xtrovert: This is the least significant axis of the MBTI, yet somehow significant enough. It tells whether one builds one's model of the world mostly (I) based upon their own reflexion and research, or (E) based upon feedback from external interaction (the richer source of which is usually other people).
  • (S)ensing/i(N)tuition: This is most important axis of the MBTI (usually denoted in second position). It tells if one bases one's decisions more (N) on an abstract model of the world, or or (S) on a concrete approach of how to act.
  • (F)eeling/(T)hinking: this axis of the MBTI (usually denoted in third position) is second most important for abstract-minded people (N). It tells if one's model of the world is mainly (F) based on feelings and static associations and dissociations or (T) based on logic and dynamic causes and consequences.
  • (J)udgmental/(P)erceptive: this axis of the MBTI (usually denoted in fourth position) is the second most important for concrete-minded people (S). It tells if one is more drawn to (J) commitment or (P) openness to change. In practice (AFAIU), people will accordingly be good at and tend to act mainly in ways that (J) change or control people (including oneself), or (P) change or control things.

Obviously, the words used in the MBTI are used in a very technical meaning that reflects the prejudice of the researchers who came up with these words before they understood what they were studying more than the observable systematic behavioral differences they actually discovered. Let that not stop you from appreciating the power of this temperament sorter in explaining human behaviour.

Each of these axes expresses the dominance of one between two rival approaches; it doesn't mean that one is only capable of one approach, but that one has a clear tendency to use one approach more than the other. It may very well be that one is completely unable of the other approach; or one may be extremely capable of both approaches, and still have a tendency to favor one upon the other. Feeling people may be able of elaborate Thinking and yet tend to not trust their rational thinking capabilities when making their everyday or life-long commitments.

The combinated dominances on each side of four axes define sixteen (16) character types (here listed by decreasing frequency order from an Internet site; might be significantly different in the world around you): ISFJ, INFP, ENFP, ISTJ, ESFJ, ESTJ, ISFP, INFJ, ESFP, ENFJ, INTP, ENTP, ISTP, INTJ, ESTP, ENTJ. These types can be regrouped in four (4) main temperaments, according to their two principal axes: SJ, NF, SP, NT.

  • SJ people, the vast majority, are "Guardians": they ensure the preservation of an order made of concrete actions. The argument they are most sensitive to is appeal to authority, if only the authority of history: does your proposal have an established track record?
  • NF people, the next most frequent (on the Internet at least), are "Idealists": they move the world according to abstract associations-dissociations. The argument they are most sensitive to is appeal to emotion: does your proposal promote good and repel evil?
  • SP people, the next most frequent, are "Artisans": they craft things together according to experience. The argument they are most sensitive to is demonstration by example: show me how your proposal works in practice.
  • NT people, the least frequent, are "Rationals": they try to understand the world in terms of abstract causes and consequences. The argument they are most sensitive to is a articulate reasoning: explain why your proposal works.

That doesn't mean that no SJ is sensitive to emotion, example or reason, or that no NT can see virtue in authority, example or emotion, etc. It means that each one has a strong gut feeling that ultimately boils down to the kind of argument one feels most empathy with, and will distrust other kinds of arguments when they conflict with one's gut feeling.

That also means that if you want to spread ideas on the large of a whole population, you need to combine all four kinds of arguments into a common discourse.

PS: The general psychology of a person seems to be described fairly well by these axes. Tests on any given person are coherent enough with time that the MBTI types can indeed be thought of as characteristic of the person, just like the color of her hair: a given person doesn't change her type much if at all during her adult life [NB: genderization here is mistranslation from French, not Politically Correct]. Any changes in character type are noticeable results of considerable (usually long-term and/or traumatic) efforts; such changes seem to consist in acquiring or unlearning inhibitions and fears more so than in creating outright new abilities out of the blue. For instance, my own observable character has changed towards more E over years (my education had inhibited a lot and still inhibits somewhat what now seems natural to me), and I'm having a hard time working towards more J (my limitations are more hard-wired here).

How much of the character is genetically determined, and how much becomes fixated during breeding, it's difficult to tell -- but these traits are quite apparent in children, too, and there are clear regional patterns in character type distribution. NT people driven technological progress, and there are more of them indeed in the places that create more technological innovation, though they are relatively underrepresented everywhere. Whether or not sensitization to technology during young age helps create or reveal more NTs, no one knows. But it sure helps to make them less of outcasts and more successful (and thus beget more autist children?). I tend to believe that the character type is mainly determined by genetics as expressed in early developmental environment, modulo neurotic inhibitions.


Your descriptions of I/E and P/J don't fit my understanding. Where'd you get them?

My descriptions of I/E and P/J

I never understood the standard explanations for I/E or P/J, so I tried to reverse-engineer something that made sense to me from the type descriptions. Do you think I got it wrong?

Re: My descriptions of I/E and P/J

The P/J distinction is about decisiveness essentially. A strong J prefers to have a decision made and done with, while a strong P prefers to postpone decisions until the last possible moment. J's tend to present as confident, while P's uncertain and wishy-washy. J's retire earlier on average and generally enjoy more success. P's tend to invent more stuff because they explore more possibilities.

I/E is a bit misunderstood. It refers to where one draws their energy from, and generally it is thought of as: I's recharge with time alone while E's recharge through social interaction; and conversely, I's are worn out by social interaction (even if they enjoy it in small to medium doses) while E's lose steam if left alone too long. However, it doesn't really have anything to do with people explicitly, just internal vs. external stimulous, and it happens that socializing is the most ubiquitous form of external stimulous so the social interpretation is typically applicable.

More generally, the original Jungian system had I and E versions of all four of N, S, T, and F. For instance, I have a strong Ne, Ni, Te, Ti, Se, and Fi, and weaker Si and Fe -- i.e., I'm strongly intuitive and logical both internally and externally, but am more internally emotional and more externally sensing (i.e., on the latter, I don't systemtize things in my head like a strong Si would, but I am drawn to and energized by viceral experience like an Se). When you map that to MB, the splits in particular are lost, so my INTP doesn't really capture my strong Se in particular (most INTPs have a weak Se; more often they have a strong Si if anything). Interestingly, my other INTP enneagram 7 friends (a rare combination) also showed the same Si/Se split as me, which makes sense.

Re: My descriptions of I/E and P/J

Thanks a lot for the feedback and explanations.

I updated slightly my entry to slightly fix the I/E entry, to make it explicit that J/P is my (probably erroneous) interpretation, and to clarify what I mean by "appeal to authority" and other arguments.

Re: My descriptions of I/E and P/J

I find your P/J interpretation intriguing, but I'm wondering what you reverse engineered it from? I.e., what's you source of data from which you're extracting these? The architypal question to determine P/J-ness (i.e., on any MB test) is "are you happier before or after a decision is made?" (with P's answering before, and J's after; "happier" isn't quite the right word here but you get the intent).


Re: My descriptions of I/E and P/J

P and J refer to the first function you have that is an extrovert function - where extrovert means attached to the outside world rather than the inside world.

If you're a P, then your first extrovert function is either sensing or intuition, so you're more compelled to gather data (which appears to other people as openess). IF you're a J, then your first externally connected function is either Feeling or Thinking, so you're more compelled to act on data (which appears to other people as decisiveness)

For introverts it gets tricky, because your outside world function is the second - and the first function is an inner world one. That can mean that J style introverts might not seem particularly J, their dominant function is still data gathering function. Dominant Ni or Si with auxillary Fe people don't appear too committed or decisive, because they're gather data internally more often than acting on data externally

just thought i'd add my understanding :)


Re: My descriptions of I/E and P/J

I'm INTJ with a strong I, T and J.

Maybe that is working because of the weak N preference wich should mean that S is frequently used (?). However, Se is the inferior function. I hope I'm not making wrong decisions most of the time :-)

eyes black and white

January 2018



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