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Mind-benders—Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®)

Types Of People

In the world of theater, movies, and TV there is a phenomenon known as, "typecasting," in which an actor or actress becomes identified with a particular kind of character having certain characteristics or traits—a type of person. The idea that people are different types is a common one, and often useful in a descriptive sense. When someone is described as the "grandmotherly type," or the "business type," or the "cowboy type," whether accurate or not, we understand what characteristics such types indicate.

There are "types" of people and there are almost as many different types as there are people, because people can be identified in many different ways, such as their profession, their appearance, and their most obvious behavioral characteristics, (impulsive, loud, timid, or brash, for example).

In fact, the number of ways in which people are typified from physical characteristics—tall people, short people, big people, small people— or even by race, or nationality, or accent, or religious beliefs. These kinds of "types" are just categories. Everyone has certain characteristics, and most "types" are just a recognition of people who share some of the same prominent characteristics.

Types, in this sense, is only an identification of people's characteristics and has nothing to do with how individuals come to have those characteristics or why they have them. Obviously, some characteristics are inherited, like physical characteristics, the kind of voice one has, and to some extent one's abilities and proclivities.

Other traits are the consequence of one's choices and behavior such as occupation, marital status, and perhaps appearance such as the ruggedness of a sailor constantly exposed to the weather compared to the professor who spends most of his time indoors.

Psychological Types

There are psychological types of people too, and those types are determined by what people choose, and are manifested in what they do, how they act, and how they react to circumstances and other people.

There are criminal types, patient types, impatient types, timid types, rash types, stalwart types, capricious types, serious types, silly types, gentle types, and rough types. There are garrulous types, and silent types, courteous types, and obnoxious types, religious types, irreverent types, reclusive types, and sociable types.

What causes all these different types of people? It must be one of two possible things: what a person is and the kind of person they are is either the sum of all their own choices, or has some cause beyond what they can choose.

Since humans beings are volitional beings, which means everything they do must be consciously chosen, there can be nothing which "causes" an individual to choose anything. One's choices cannot be both "caused" and "volitional."

But there is a huge industry, or class of industries, based on the false idea that the kind of person an individual is, that is, in some general way, what an individual does and how they behave, is determined by the type of individual they are. Within that industry, type means, "personality type," which, it is assumed, an individual is born with and has not chosen.

[If pressed, many psychologists will deny this, claiming that a personality type can be changed. But if personality type is chosen, rather than determined, what is there to study? There is no doubt this entire industry tacitly assumes, "you are what you are and there is nothing you can do about it—just discover it and learn to live with it.]

Psychological Differences

Are there no inborn psychological differences in people?

"Psychological differences," is probably the wrong terminology, but there certainly are differences in some aspects of individuals related to their "psychology" or "consciousness." They are not causative differences however, but difference in the raw material they are provided. They are differences which are very much like physical differences which are an individual's physical abilities and skills which are available for him to develop, but which cannot determine whether he will develop them or not.

People are born with differences in sensitivity for example, in how strongly different feelings will be experienced. Some people have very poor discrimination of differences in sound, and are unable to clearly discern difference in melodies or chords. It is unlikely music will be as interesting to them as it would be to someone who has great sensitivity to differences in sound. People are born with differences in mental ability, not only in the general degree (such as that which IQ is supposed to measure) but in the kinds of knowledge and information they are capable of understanding. Some people are very sensitive to subtle differences in language, and perhaps have a talent for learning language, but little talent in mathematics, or spatial relations.

None of these things determine what a person is or will do. They are nothing but raw material they have to work with. None of them are essential in the sense that any of them determine the kind of person or personality an individual is.

Environmental Differences

Don't any of the things in our background and experience—how we are reared, what we learn, the culture we are raised in—influence us?

Of course one's rearing and cultural background have enormous influence, but that influence again does not determine what a person does or is, it only provides the resources and tools for learning and making choices one has available. The greatest external influences on an individual are restrictions on his freedom and limitations, on what he is able to learn, that is, what his culture makes available for him to learn.

An individual will naturally speak the language of his own family and native country, be accustomed to the clothing and food he grows up with. The music, entertainment, and literature he is familiar with will all be determined by where lives. Once he is an adult, however, he can learn anything he likes if he is free to. None of these determine what kind of person any individual is, however.

Where It All Came From

If human beings really are "free to choose," to consciously decide everything they do, where did the idea come form that dominates the so called "personality types" industry, that something pre-determines what kind of person an individual will be, and why is it so perversive?

There are many sources for the belief that what an individual is and does is determined by something other than his own conscious choice, from various religious teachings to modern behavioral psychology. The version of determinism that dominates the "personality types" field may have begun with astrology, which makes similar kinds of "personality" identifications, but the ancient Greeks were the first to make such personality analysis "scientific."

The Four Temperaments

The Greeks attributed differences in personality to four "humors," or body fluids, blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile, a view we know can be traced back at least to Hippocrates (c. 460-359 BC). The words we use for personality traits identified with the four humors, sanguine, melancholic, choleric, phlegmatic, were codified by Galen, (c. 190 AD). The corresponding personality traits associated with the humors are cheerful, calm, somber, and enthusiastic.

Humor Galen Trait
blood sanguine cheerful
phlegm phlegmatic calm
black bile melancholic somber
yellow bile choleric enthusiastic

An individual, "personality type," it was believed, is determined by whichever of the humors were dominant.

Psychology's Version Of Personality Types

It was the philosopher Hume who first suggested a, "science," of the mind, as rigorous as the science of physics, was required, but it was Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt, (1832-1920), who turned that dream into a reality when he claimed his measurement of sensation was in fact a measurement of consciousness. Thus began the physicalist view that the human mind was a product of the brain, the basis of all modern psychology.

With this new "scientific" view of the mind, the four humors view of personality determination was replaced with the view that human personality is determined by the nature and function of the brain.

Personality Types Psychology

Once it was accepted as, "scientific," that human consciousness, behavior, and personality were in some way determined, the door was opened to almost any kind of conjecture on the nature of that determinism.

In the hands and mind of the most influential of all psychologists in the field of personality analysis, Carl Gustav Jung, what began as pure physicalism (consciousness and personality are determined by the nature and function of the physical neurological system, especially the brain), was turned into something mystical or spiritual.

In spite of his strange theories of the ego, unconscious (subconscious), and "collective unconscious," made up entirely out of whole cloth, his theory of personality types, also totally made-up, forms the basis for an endless array of tests for personality types such as: Keirsey's personality types theory (Temperament Sorter model), Hans Eysenck's personality types theory, Katherine Benziger's Brain Type theory, William Moulton Marston's DISC personality theory, Belbin Team Roles and personality types theory, and The Birkman Method®.

[Hans Eysenck's personality types theory, one of the earliest and best known, actually amalgamates Galen's Four Temperaments with the introvert/extrovert model of Jung.]

Perhaps the most well-known and most widely used of all methods of personality testing today is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®)

Discovering What Does Not Exist

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® is based firmly on Jung's personality theory. As The Meyers & Briggs Foundation states:

"In 1921, Jung published Psychological Types, introducing the idea that each person has a psychological type. The academic language of the book made it hard to read and so few people could understand and use the ideas for practical purposes.

"During World War II, two American women, Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother Katharine Cook Briggs, set out to find an easier way for people to use Jung's ideas in everyday life. They wanted people to be able to identify their psychological types without having to sift through Jung's academic theory."

Though the personality types identified by Jung are nothing but his imaginative inventions, even if such "types" meant anything, the method used in all such tests, like MBTI® do not discover anything, even such supposed types. Asking someone 75 to 125 questions, about their preferences, discovers nothing but what they think their preferences are relative to those questions. There is no way to discover if they answer those questions honestly or correctly. Most people do not understand very much about what they really prefer—and certainly not why they have those preferences or why they have the feelings they have. It is one reason why Myers-Brigss is able to get away with this scam—and it is a scam.

The desires and feelings people have, upon which most people base their preferences, are determined by their beliefs and thoughts—what they believe is true, important, good and bad, and how they think about those things. If they thought differently they would feel differently and their preferences would be correspondingly different as well.

There are, in fact, no personality types, there are only individual choices, and what any individual, "prefers," and how they choose to live and operate depends entirely on what they have chosen to learn, to believe, and to do. The idea that there are four categories of personality types, or 16, or 20 or a hundred, or even a thousand is absurd. There are as many different, "personality types," as there are people, because no two people are alike—every individual is a unique personality. Every individual is a personality type and that individual is the sole example of that type.

Testing What Does Not Exist

Personality types cannot be discovered, because they do not exist. But even if they did, the tests themselves are based on testing what does not exist—the idea of the human mind as invented by psychologists.

The Myers-Briggs Foundation states the following:

"The essence of the theory is that much seemingly random variation in the behavior is actually quite orderly and consistent, being due to basic differences in the ways individuals prefer to use their perception and judgment.

"Perception involves all the ways of becoming aware of things, people, happenings, or ideas. Judgment involves all the ways of coming to conclusions about what has been perceived. If people differ systematically in what they perceive and in how they reach conclusions, then it is only reasonable for them to differ correspondingly in their interests, reactions, values, motivations, and skills."

I've already addressed the misuse of the word perception by all these mind benders. Here I want to emphasize two things that are wrong with the way it is used by Myers-Briggs.

A word like perception is not an obscure scientific word. People use it all the time and always mean one of two very different things by it. The basic meaning of perception is that immediate conscious awareness we have of the world, our consciousness of the internal states of our bodies and our direct conscious awareness of the external world we see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. These are perception.

The word is also used in a looser metaphorical sense for one's way of looking at, considering, or evaluating things. These are two distinct different meanings.

Perception, in the basic sense, is totally involuntary. One sees what is available to see, and hears what is available to hear, and has no choice about it. What, then can, "basic differences in the ways individuals prefer to use their perception," possibly mean? One has no choice about how they will use their perception. However one perceives red apples, that's how they perceive them and always will. They cannot decide to begin perceiving red apples as green tomatoes or figs.

Perhaps, since Myers-Briggs makes the absurd assertion that, "Perception involves all the ways of becoming aware of things, people, happenings, or ideas," it is perception in the second sense that is meant. But the second meaning of perception does not mean, "becoming aware," it means evaluating or "viewing" of what one is already aware. Obviously the Myers-Briggs meaning of perception is one they've made up to fit their own story.

Whatever they mean by perception, however, there is one thing that is certain, since perception, by either definition, refers to a subjective experience, no one can know what anyone else's perception is like. The whole Myers-Briggs personality type thesis rests on the supposed differences in the perception of individuals, a supposed difference which can never be known.

Myers-Briggs assumes that such differences can be known on the testimony of those who claim they perceive things differently from someone else. No one can make such a testimony, because no one can know what someone else's perception is like and therefore cannot know that their own is different. Such differences can never be known and there is, therefore, no basis for the Myers-Briggs personality types at all.

Dangers Of Personality Testing

This series has been called the, "Mind-benders," series, and nothing is much more "mind-bending" than personality testing, and none are more devastating than Myers-Brigss. It is a direct assault on the human mind.

The assault is made by means of a series of false dichotomies, which does not integrate the mind, but disintegrates it.

[The following quotes from the Myers-Briggs Foundation are reproduced without anyone's permission.]

The first dichotomy they call one's "Favorite world."

"Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world? This is called Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I)."

The absurdity of this question is obvious. I can only assume, since no one could possibly not see it, most just assume there is some deeper meaning they are missing. But there is no deeper meaning. It is just as absurd as it seems.

It is exactly like asking, "do you prefer eating or breathing," as if one could be exchanged for the other. Of course all the terms used by MB (Myers-Briggs) are vague, and never clearly defined. What is an "inner world." If I'm seeing the, "outer world," I can only see it with my, "inner world," that is, my consciousness. In fact, there is nothing in the outer world that could possibly have any meaning to me except as it has meaning to my inner world. If I focus on the, "outer world," what else can I focus on it with than my "inner world."

But perhaps MB does not mean our consciousness or mind by, "inner world," but then what does it mean? On the MBTI® Type Dynamics page is this, "explanation."

  • "Those who prefer Extraversion, direct energy outwardly and are energized by the outside world.
  • Those who prefer Introversion, direct energy inwardly and are energized by reflecting on their inner world."

What possibly can be the meaning of the two phrases, "direct energy," and "are energized by." What is meant by the word, "energy?" Does it mean "interest," or "stimulated," or "attention," or "enthused," or something else? Of course it cannot really mean any of these, because energy has a very definite meaning of its own, but these others could be implied. MB never explains what is meant, because it is the very vagueness of the word, "energy," as they use it, that enables them to get away with these meaningless "explanations."

For that matter, what do they mean by, "prefer?" Do they mean, "desire more?" If they mean a desire, is it a "feeling" of desire, or an objective value. If it is, "I feel a preference for," something, it is irrelevant—feelings are non-cognitive. If it is, "I prefer this because it is of greater objective value to me," it has nothing to do with personality, or even preferences, it is just a rational choice. If it could be either, they have no business making the claim, "the goal of knowing about personality type is to understand and appreciate differences between people. As all types are equal, there is no best type." Certainly the "type" of individual whose "preferences" are based on objective values is superior in every way to the hedonist, "type," who, "just feels," his preferences.

This problem of vagueness pervades the whole MB nonsense. What does, "reflecting on their inner world," mean? It can only mean, "dwelling on one's feeling," which is subjectivism, or "consciously examining one's own thoughts and beliefs," which is called introspection, an absolute necessity if one is going to be sure all their thoughts and beliefs are based on reality and without contradiction. Which of these MB is referring to is never stated. It is doubtful MB knows what it means, which is why the vague, "reflecting on," expression is used—it could mean almost anything—or nothing.

The second dichotomy they call "Information."

"Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning? This is called Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)."

It really doesn't matter what its called, because it has no meaning at all. Again, what is meant by, "prefer," is never explained. At first blush it looks like the dichotomy is between being a, "concrete-bound," empiricist versus a "rationalist," idealist—the first only being able to deal with immediate concretes unable to see connections, consequences, or relationships (abstractions), or the second only dealing with floating abstractions with no route or connection to reality.

This dichotomy is insidiously evil. It separates the two functions that are absolutely necessary to a sane rational consciousness. The, "information you take in," is, if it is true, about the real world, but has no meaning until you "interpret" (comprehend it or understand its relationship to all other knowledge you have). But this is not "adding" meaning but discovering it. (Meaning is not "made up," not "added" to things, meaning is what it is, and one either finds it, or does not).

There's an, "explanation," for this too:

  • "Sensing (S) perception pays attention to details and current realities.
  • Intuition (N) perception pays attention to meanings, patterns, and future possibilities."

If, in the real world, anyone actually had their thinking processes divided in such a way, they would simply be stupid or irrational. Good reason "pays attention" to details, the present, the future, relationships and contingencies. The MB system insists you choose between one of two ways of being stupid.

The third dichotomy they call "Decisions."

"When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances? This is called Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)."

In the first place, it makes no difference what you look at first when making decisions, except in those cases where a particular item makes all the rest irrelevant, such as trying to decide where to go on vacation before determining if there is enough money to go anywhere for vacation. When making a decision, all the relevant facts and information must be considered, an option MB does not make available, since their objective is not keeping minds whole, but the disintegration of minds with the wedge of their false dichotomies.

Here's another of their irrational, "explanations:"

  • "Thinking (T) chooses decisions based on principles and logical consequences.
  • Feeling (F) chooses decisions based on values and consequences for people."

The real distinction MB is making by implication, because they are not honest enough to make it explicit, is between "sentiment" (values and consequences for people) and "reason" (principles and logical consequences). But this is a false dichotomy too, one that reveals just how immoral MB is. There is no dichotomy between sentiment and reason so long as one's sentiments (feelings) are determined by objective moral values. (Interesting that MB puts principles and values in conflict with each other, apparently ignorant of the fact, values are principles.) It is our values that drive our feelings, and if our values are moral ones, there will never be a conflict between our best reason and our sentiments. Only those whose feelings are in contradiction of their thoughts, because of contradictory values, have any conflict between their sentiments and reason.

The fourth dichotomy they call "Structure."

"In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options? This is called Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)."

Since MB never says, I'm going to assume, "the outside world," means the real objective world, both inside and outside my house. (In the common idiom, "the outside world," usually means outside one's own home or common ground.)

In the real objective world there many different kinds of situations, some which require immediate attention (there's a car coming and if I don't get out of the way, I'm gong to be dead) and others that demand due deliberation (there are a thousand contingent facts related to this problem and so far I've only identified five hundred.) There is no one or preferred way to deal with the real objective world. Unless one is insane (which is what taking any MB contention seriously will make you) there is no preferable way to always deal with the real objective world.

Oh, yes, there's another, "explanation:"

  • "People who prefer the Judging attitude are likely to come to conclusions quickly and enjoy the structure provided by reaching closure.
  • People who prefer the Perceiving attitude are likely to take more time to gather information before comfortably coming to closure, enjoy the process, and are more comfortable being open-ended."

If you take any of these seriously, taken to their logical conclusion, the perfect realization of the Judging attitude is suicide (total closure) and the perfect realization of the Perceiving attitude is to never actually doing anything (totally open-ended). These are absurd conclusions, but only meant to illustrate the absurdity of the false dichotomy the "structure," category is. Of course no one is perfectly Judging or Perceiving, because no one is like any of the so-called, "personality types," imagined by MB.

The only thing that keeps MB from producing two million insane people each year is the fact most people take the test on Tuesday and, fortunately, by Thursday, they've totally forgotten it.

[NOTE: In case you had any doubts about it, MB bases all this on personality being predetermined at birth, not as the result of one's own choices and actions.

"In type theory, the order in which we prefer these functions is considered to be inborn ..." (Emphasis mind.)]

Psychological Testing is Really Big Business

"According to the Myers-Briggs Foundation more than two million people are assessed using the MBTI® personal inventory instrument around the world every year. It's a big business."

[NOTE: I have found this statement on just about every WEB site that discusses Myers-Briggs, but have not been able to find the statement on the Myers-Briggs Foundation site itself. I think it is probably true, but I have not been able to verify it. If anyone else can, I would appreciate a link.]

Whatever number of Myers-Briggs "instruments" (they should be called "weapons") are administered each year, their materials are expensive. Here is one source for that material with prices here and here. The least expensive version of the test I could find is a "self-scorable" version that averages out to about $15 per test. The smallest quantity you can buy is 10. If 2 million people a year are tested at $15 per individual, that's a cool gross of 30 million dollars. That is big business. (I have no idea what the net is, but I'm certain it's substantial. It's not called the, "Myers-Briggs Charity Foundation." I have no objection to the amount of money they make, I object to the fact those who pay for their product have been swindled, and are mostly gullible company managers who will actually brag about it.)

Some Final Notes

The following are some links discovered in the course of research into personality testing that might be of interest to anyone wishing to pursue the subject further.

Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences

Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner Homepage

The Four Temperaments/Four Humours

Carl Jung's Psychological Types

The following are some free online "personality" type tests that might be interesting to compare:

jtypes

Jung+Enneagram

Free Personality Test

Measuring the MBTI...And Coming Up Short

The following are some real online tests that require payment:

Costs of tests (Online)

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator online prices

—(05/30/11)