How much do you know about your personality type? It may be that you’ve never given it much thought; a lot of people have probably never asked themselves where their personality comes from, or how it would be examined psychologically. A lot of individuals may describe themselves as having a “type A” or “type B” personality. Type A personalities are traditionally uptight and detail-oriented, while type B personalities are more laid back and free spirited. But these two ideas are often the extent of people’s knowledge of personality psychology. Even if you’ve never thought much about it, your individual behavior, and the way you react to the world around you, is often categorized by psychologists into a much more specific personality type. This guide will explain one of the most widely accepted methods by which personalities are categorized, and focus on a specific personality type: those people who identify as ‘extraverted thinking.’
What is a Personality Type?
Though most people describe personalities in a casual way (“She has a fun-loving personality,” “I don’t care for his personality”), a huge amount of research has been involved, over many years, in order for psychologists to classify human behavior and create the idea of a personality type. It is important to note that a personality type is very different from a personality trait. A type is far more inclusive, and more fundamental to who somebody is. A personality trait, like humor or stubbornness, can be interpreted as one aspect or shade of your personality. A trait can even change over time; people can be very quick to anger, or very empathetic, when they are young, and act very differently as they get older. A personality type, however, is a more permanent state of being, and it encompasses more than simple traits; it describes the way you behave and react to the world, and explains how those things make you fundamentally different from other types of people. The development of personality types was meant to increase understanding of how different kinds of people think and behave, and to put that understanding to practical use. Two major contributors to this effort in the field of psychology were Katherine Briggs and Isabel Myers.
Myers and Briggs
In the 1950’s, Katherine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, did a lot of important work, developing a categorizing system for personality types. They believed that being familiar with your personality type could benefit you in a practical and healthy way. For example, it could help you decide what sort of job environment would make you most comfortable. Much of their work was based on their understanding of Carl Jung’s study of personality psychology. Carl Jung was a contemporary of Sigmund Freud, who famously developed the practice of psychoanalysis. Carl Jung made many important contributions to the science of psychology, and one of the concepts he wrote about was the idea of one’s personality.
Jung believed that one of four major principles dominates each individual’s personality: sensation, intuition, thinking, or feeling. These four functions, according to Jung, define how people experience the world around them. Briggs and Myers took these four traits, and added four of their own, to create four dichotomies, or pairs of concepts. These four dichotomies form the basis of an individual’s personality profile. Myers and Briggs wanted to be able to indicate a person’s personality type by seeing which half of each dichotomy the person associated more with his or her own behavior. Each individual tends to associate more with one half than the other, and the four halves that you identify with make up the components of your personality type. Since there are four dichotomies to navigate, there are sixteen possible personality types according Myers and Briggs’ method. They developed and published a chart in 1962 detailing each personality type. This chart has become widely popular, and it is known as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or the MBTI.
Navigating the MBTI
As stated above, there are four dichotomies involved in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and personality types are identified by combining the initials of the four functions that an individual identifies with, in a particular order. The four major personality dichotomies are: extravert and introvert, sensing and intuition, thinking and feeling, and finally, judging and perceiving. Each of these terms encompasses a different kind of behavior on the part of the individual whose personality is being assessed. Their descriptions are general, but they provide a lot of insight into a person’s psyche. Each of the components is defined here:
Those who identify with the ‘extravert’ personality tend to be talkative people. They enjoy being the center of attention, they have little fear or embarrassment when it comes to speaking in public, and they are outgoing. Those who identify with the ‘introvert’ personality, on the other hand, are more private people. They are not very outspoken, and they like to observe situations rather than actively participating in them. Introverts are reserved and often thought of as quiet by their friends and family.
Those who identify with the ‘sensing’ personality place a big emphasis on reality and concrete details when it comes to their decisions and actions. They are very grounded people, and they like to focus on hard facts. Those who identify with the ‘intuition’ personality are more likely to place emphasis on ideas and hypothetical concepts, and rely on their imagination when it comes to problem solving. They place less importance on factual information, and they are less detail-oriented.
Those who identify with the “thinking” personality are very logical people. They tend to emphasize reason and fairness when they interact with others or make decisions. Those who identify with the “feeling” personality are much more concerned with pleasing other people than they are with logic or reason. They are very empathetic, very eager to make other people happy, and their emotions often play a large role in their decisions and relationships.
Those who identify with the “judging” personality like to follow the rules. They are the kind of people who prefer to have a plan for whatever they are doing, and follow that plan accurately. They respect rules, deadlines, and punctuality. Those who identify with the “perceiving” personality like to keep their options open. They enjoy freedom and spontaneity, and plans and guidelines are not as important to them as presence of several different options.
As you can see, these pairs of personality types can appear very much opposed to each other. Though it’s possible to identify with both halves of a pair, most people identify far more with one side than they do with the other. If you are a very organized person and never late, you have more ‘judging’ than ‘perceiving’ in your personality type. If you care a lot about other people’s feelings, to the point where it impacts your decisions, you are more ‘feeling’ than ‘thinking.’ It’s important to note as well, that if you embody one half of these dichotomies, you may not be able to get along very well with people who embody the opposite half.
Once it has been concluded which four of these eight functions are more identifiable for you, you have discovered your personality type, which is classified by four letters. For example, if your type is ISFJ, then you identify most with introvert, sensing, feeling, and judging. Most likely, this would mean you are observant, shy, fond of concrete details, sensitive to the emotions of others, and a planner. If your type is ISFP, your personality will be similar to someone who is ISFJ, but you will differ when it comes to spontaneity versus planning things out. Each of the sixteen personality type possibilities is distinct and unique, though some can be similar, like ISFJ and ISFP.
The components of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator may seem general, but when your four components are combined, they can say a lot about you, your decisions, and your overall behavior. If you identify with the extraverted and thinking components of the MBTI, that identification indicates a lot about your behavior, and about your life in general. You are most likely very outgoing, perhaps even seeking out the opportunity to be the center of attention from time to time. You’re probably very logical as well, respecting reason and intelligence more than you respect other characteristics. You try to go about your business in a smart and fair way, and you find it easy to talk to and connect with people while doing so. People who identify with these two components often thrive in work environments in which they are in charge of other people. They often have powerful personalities and present themselves in an intelligent and confident way. Many historical leaders and public figures probably would have identified with the extravert and thinking components of the MBTI. Political leaders, for instance, are no strangers to public speaking, and they place a lot of faith in intelligence and reason. Stage and film performers, too, are extraverts, Scholars and teachers most likely identify with thinking more than feeling. Anybody with an interest in both performance and academia would be deemed an extraverted thinker by the MBTI.
You’ll notice that extraverted and thinking are only two components of a full personality type, according to the MBTI. In order to flesh out a fuller and more accurate picture of an extraverted thinking personality, the choice would have to be made between sensing and intuition, and between judging and perceiving. The complete personality type, for example, may be EITP. This person would be extraverted and logical, but also value imaginative ideas and concepts, and enjoy spontaneity rather than definitive, concrete plans. On the other hand, the complete personality type could be ESTJ. This person would still be extraverted and logical, but they would enjoy rigidity and following the rules, and place importance on reality and concrete details.
Understanding how personality types are categorized can help you understand your own personality. This will enable you to examine why you are the way you are, including your desires, choices, and overall behavior. This knowledge and understanding has the potential to simplify your life and the way you interact with the world, especially if your own behavior is often a mystery to you. Knowing yourself is a very difficult goal to achieve, but an understanding of how psychology categorizes you can definitely help you to achieve it.