The Myers-Briggs Temperament Indicator measures and typifies how people perceive the world and make decisions.
The categories originated from Carl Jung's theory about two pairs of cognitive functions:
- The rational, judging functions: Thinking and Feeling
- The irrational, perceiving functions: Sensing and Intuition
Mother and daughter team Katharine Briggs and Isabel Myers expanded Jung's typing into the personality indicators used today. Corporations have used it to figure out what their employees are best suited for. Whether or not that is a good idea doesn't matter to us. What it is and how it is used in storytelling goes like this:
People are scored on four different scales:
- Introverted vs. Extraverted: Extraverted people focus mostly on the external world around them. Introverted people find more interest in dealing with mental constructs; ideas and imagination.
- Sensing vs iNtuition: This scale measures how someone bases their learning from. Sensing people go for concrete facts. Intuitives focus more on abstraction. Sensing people look at the immediate picture and Intuitives see the forest for the trees.
- Thinking vs Feeling: Thinkers prefer to make decisions on the basis of impersonal inputs and effects, and Feelers make decisions based on how events affect people personally.
- Judging vs Perceiving: MBTI classifies Thinking and Feeling as judging attitudes, while Sensing and Intuition as perceiving attitudes. Whether you get a J or a P depends on whether you use a judging or perceiving attribute to interact with the world around you. When your judging is extroverted, you show left-brain dominant characteristics: you prefer more order in your worldly dealings. When you have an extroverted perceiving attribute, you show right-brain dominant characteristics; you don't make as many plans and prefer to leave your external dealings more spontaneous where possible.
Notice that the S/N scale and the T/F scale are linked: S/N determines how you get information, and T/F determines how you process it.
Now, the complicated
part is where we combine all four scales together into one of sixteen types. Since a person can score anywhere on all four scales, all of the results have to be combinatorial, and they are. The following are short descriptions of all 16 types.
David M. Keirsey took Myers's work, and, inspired by one of her observations, made his own adaptation, in which the 16 types are organized into four main groups, also known as the "Combos" of the Four-Temperament Ensemble
: Guardians, Artisans, Rationals, and Idealists.
- Guardians are "social people" who hunger after stability; these desire to be buttresses of society. Their top skill set is in organization or "logistics" as the writer calls it. Typical Guardians might be The Patriarch, Apron Matron, etc. Many Badass Bureaucrats are Guardians, though it is also a profession fit for Artisans, especially when they combine it with being The Scrounger.
- Artisans are "physical people" who hunger after freedom, exuberance and wildness. Artisan characters might be a Blood Knight, Glory Seeker, or Passionate Sports Girl, and express themselves with their prowess. Or they might express themselves with their looks or sexuality and be The Fashionista or a Chivalrous Pervert or a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Their top skill is "tactics" or handling themselves for the moment. They think "quickly" while Rationals think "deeply".
- Idealists are "spirtitual people" who hunger after "something higher"; they may not even know themselves what their "something higher" is. Idealist characters might be a Knight in Shining Armor, a Good Shepherd, The Heart or The Messiah. If an Idealist is not The Chosen One, he or she will act like it anyway. The Idealist skill set is "diplomatic"; they are good at inspiring people.
- Rationals are "mental people" and hunger after knowledge and for skills as something to possess-like a Technician-rather than as something to play with-like a Performer-as in the Artisans' case. A Rational is likely to be a Badass Bookworm, a Guile Hero, or a Gadgeteer Genius. Their top skill is "strategy" or planning. An Artisan knows how to do things and doesn't need to ask why. A Rational knows what to do and why to do it.
For fun, see Examples of Myers-Briggs Personalities in Stories
Many evil things there are that your strong walls and bright swords do not stay. You know little of the lands beyond your bounds. Peace and freedom, do you say? The North would have known them little but for us.
- ESTJs (Supervisors) are very practical and make good administrators, with a good eye for detail and a flair for setting up logical systems. They sometimes overlook feelings and mood, though. Tend to resemble Tsundere in fiction.
- ISTJs (Inspectors) are orderly, dependable, practical and dutiful above all. They prefer working with facts and can be conservative in their loyalty to traditions. Tend to resemble The Stoic in fiction, and can become Knight Templar at their worst.
- ESFJs (Providers) value security and enjoy making others feel well-cared-for. They are loyal to the belief system of their environment (as opposed to an internal one) and can be outspoken when others fall out of line. Tend to fall somewhere between Manic Pixie Dream Girl and The Caretaker in their portrayals.
- ISFJs (Protectors) are loyal, orderly and sensitive. They can be very shy around people they don't know, but are the sort of person who will always remember your birthday, and are never accidentally offensive. Tend to closer from The Caretaker and The Stoic when in Fictionland.
At that sound the bent shape of the king sprang suddenly erect. Tall and proud he seemed again; and rising in his stirrups he cried in a loud voice, more clear than any there had ever heard a mortal man achieve before.
- ESTPs (Promoters) are very good at convincing others to do things their way. Having said that, they developed this skill because they are the best at improvising towards a desired result, and enjoy sharing the finer experiences in life with friends.
- ISTPs (Crafters) are structurally oriented and very good at understanding how things work. Quiet, analytical and private, they nonetheless gravitate towards Xtreme Sportz and other high-speed, high-risk hobbies. Typical ISTP characters might be Blood Knight, or Glory Seeker.
- ESFPs (Performers) live in the moment, learn by doing, and enjoy promoting harmony and fun. This is a team player of the highest degree, but only if they aren't bored. They also enjoy their creature comforts. They can be anywhere between The Casanova and Good Bad Girl in current portrayals.
- ISFPs (Composers) live in the moment and are easy-going, preferring a "live and let live" approach. They don't like confrontations and sometimes keep their mouths shut for that reason. They can be anything in portrayals, though mostly a Tsundere type B.
"Speak no evil of the Lady Galadriel!" said Aragorn sternly. "You know not what you say. There is in her and in this land no evil, unless a man bring it hither himself."
- ENFJs (Teachers) are good at making a lot of friends and facilitate community-building without even thinking about it; they act as a counter-balance to almost all social situations. See The Ace, and rarely the broken one in fiction.
- INFJs (Counselors) are private, preferring one-on-one friendships to crowds, and often quiet about their own feelings. They are often creative and artistic, and prefer to operate behind the scenes. Often Waif Prophet, Psychologist Teacher, Spirited Young Lady.
- ENFPs (Champions) like to change things for the better, and have contagious enthusiasm, but no patience for crossing I's and dotting T's. They are good at anticipating the needs of others, but crave attention and recognition. Often shown as a Ditzy Genius or Drama Queen in light works, although darker works may depict them as the Manipulative Bastard to the ENTP's Magnificent Bastard. May surprise people by becoming the Determinator if given a cause/person to champion that they truly feel for or believe in.
- INFPs (Healers) are absolute idealists: they have values inside them which they really, really want to live by. This makes them good at encouraging other people's growth, but also raging perfectionists. See Jeanne d'Archétype or even Incorruptible Pure Pureness. The Messiah is quite frequently an INFP taken Up to Eleven.
Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.
- ENTJs (Fieldmarshals) enjoy making plans and carrying them out. They make really good leaders, but have trouble not being objective and accounting for emotions. They are fact-driven and good at highlighting inefficiencies. Possibly a Corrupt Corporate Executive or Evil Overlord as a villian, or a more person-oriented version of The Chessmaster.
- INTJs (Masterminds) are pragmatic and logical, and are not scared to tell someone (or themselves) when they're being stupid. They emphasize efficiency, making them simultaneously loners and excellent leaders. Many Spocks and Byronic Heroes (as well as The Chessmaster, especially in fiction) fall into this category.
- ENTPs (Inventors) are clever and analytical, often with quick wits and a quicker tongue. They are very good at thinking outside the box, but (like ENFPs) are easily bored. Frequently a Trickster. A common type among Magnificent Bastards.
- INTPs (Architects) are loners with a love of information and a knack for logic and knowledge. This can lead to Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness, but also the opposite, as INTPs are best at describing complex ideas simply. Frequently The Spock, The Professor, an Absent-Minded Professor and sometimes Mad Scientist falls into this category.