The Myers-Briggs Temperament Indicator is a method of popular psychology which some people believe measures and typifies how people perceive the world and make decisions. Whilst not accepted as scientific, it is nevertheless a popular method of categorizing people as it it simple enough for most people to understand. It is related to Big Five Personality Traits indicator and HEXACO indicator.
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 in the belief that it will help 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:
- Introvert vs. Extrovert: How people regain their energy. Extroverts mostly recharge from interacting with the external world around them; being alone for too long drains them. Introverts find more interest in dealing with mental constructs, ideas, and imagination, and regain their energy from quiet time alone with their thoughts; socializing for too long drains them.
- Sensing vs iNtuition: This scale measures source from which someone's learning is based. Sensing people go for concrete facts, while Intuitors focus more on abstraction. Sensors look at the immediate picture, and Intuitors see the forest for the trees.
- Thinking vs Feeling: Thinkers prefer to make decisions on the basis of impersonal inputs and effects (often left-brain), and Feelers make decisions based on how events affect people personally (often right-brain).
- 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.
A fifth dichotomy is sometimes also measured, though is not found on the original scale, and plays more of a role of determining inner feelings regarding an issue.
- Assertive vs. Turbulent: A person's security in their decisions and identity. Assertive people are, like the name implies, often very secure in their decisions and are confident in how they appear to others. Turbulent individuals are those who find themselves constantly questioning what others may think of what they choose to do, not to mention their own opinions of themselves.
Now, the complicated part is where we combine all four main scales together into one of sixteen types. Since a person can score anywhere on all four scales, all of the results have to be combinatoric, 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: Guardians (∞S∞J), Artisans (∞S∞P), Rationals (∞NT∞), and Idealists (∞NF∞).note
- SJ 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. Their relational lives to anyone close to them tend to be of an overseeing, protective nature. 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. Most violently protective and jealous lovers (and their Up to Eleven cousin Yandere) tend to fall within this category.
- SP Artisans are "utilitarian people" who prefer to live one day at a time. They may spontaneously pursue activities that offer fun or pleasure. Artisan characters might be a Blood Knight (ESTP/ESFP), Cold Sniper (ISTP), Gadgeteer Genius (ISTP), or Glory Seeker (ESTP/ESFP), and express themselves with their prowess. Or they might express themselves with their looks and be The Fashionista (ISFP/ESFP) or a Chivalrous Pervert (ESTP/ESFP). Their top skill is "tactics" or handling things for the moment. They focus on the "short-term" while Rationals focus on the "long-term."
- NT Rationals are "psychological people" and hunger after knowledge 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 (ENTP/INTP), The Chessmaster (INTJ/ENTJ), The Spock (INTJ/INTP) or a Guile Hero (ENTP/ENTJ). Their top skill is "strategy" or planning. While an Artisan knows how to do things, a Rational knows why do them.
- NF Idealists are "spiritual people" who hunger after "something higher", even those who are not sure themselves what their "something higher" is. In any case, almost always guaranteed to be The Fettered and prefer Honor Before Reason. Idealist characters might be a Knight in Shining Armor, a Good Shepherd, The Heart, or a Messianic Archetype. 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.
This model has been heavily criticized by psychologists for over-reliance on false dichotomies and black-and-white thinking for the creation of its supposed "types" — for example, the test focuses on parsing whether someone is a pure "Thinking" person or a pure "Feeling" person, which is often taken as there being no possible overlap between the two, despite the fact that in real life, most people are somewhere in the grey area between the two, and which mindset they prefer to resort to (if not a combination of both) is heavily reliant on the situation — and for treating vague, heavily subjective questions with more than two possible answers as infallible sources of hard, objective information, as well as its consistent failure to produce replicable data. Subjects who retake the test after a few weeks have a 50% chance of being "typed" as something completely different from what they were the first time, despite having answered as honestly as the dichotomous questions would allow them to both times.
Note that most testers do have a sliding percentage scale on which category the subject has traits, and that the type may change during the lifetime and life situations. For example, an INTJ ("Mastermind") personality may develop ENTJ ("Field Marshall") traits when learning social skills and taking leadership responsibility, or INFJ ("Counselor") if he learns to rely on his emotions and feelings aside his cold reasoning skills. While the four axes (introverted-extraverted, intuitive-sensing, thinking-feeling and judging-spontaneous) certainly do exist, they are fluid, not immutable and not binary exclusive. MBTI is considered more useful as means of self-knowledge and self-development than a recruitment tool.
While the MBTI can be an useful tool on understanding various people and how they tend to act, the greatest problem with MBTI is the weak prognosis value. MBTI can tell fairly reliably on how people select their careers. It cannot tell how well they succeed on their careers. For example, an ENTJ is likely to become a leader or manager, but MBTI will not tell whether or not he will be a successful one or a failure.
For fun, check out the info provided by The Other Wiki, learn more information and take a test to determine your temperament here and here, and see Examples of Myers-Briggs Personalities in Stories. Also, check out cognitive functions.
- 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.
- ISTJs (Examiners/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, while in comedies they tend to be The Comically Serious. In group situations, they're usually the Only Sane Man or the skeptical Agent Scully.
- ESTJs (Executives/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 the feelings of others, though. Tend to resemble Type-A Tsundere in fiction. You'll often see them in the role of Da Chief, and they may have Control Freak tendencies.
- ISFJs (Nurturers/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. Bad moods tend to come from Anger Born of Worry. Tend to be The Caretaker and The Stoic when in Fictionland. When female, they're often the Girl Next Door or the Betty.
- ESFJs (Caregivers/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. They're stereotypically seen in the role of the standard sitcom mother, with associated tropes such as Team Mom (shared with ISFJ), Mama Bear and My Beloved Smother. Expect male characters of this type to shed Manly Tears.
- 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.
- ISTPs (Mechanics/Crafters) are drawn toward using tools of any typeartistic (musical instruments), technological (computers), or martial (weapons). Although they are introverts, they tend to be authoritative in their interactions with others and can be forceful. They focus on accomplishing tasks efficiently and skillfully. To master the tool of their interest, Crafters require a certain degree of seclusion in which to practice. The result is often a virtuosity that other types find difficult to match. A typical ISTP character might be a Cold Sniper, a Combat Pragmatist, a Gadgeteer Genius, an Omnidisciplinary Scientist, or a Science Hero.
- ESTPs (Conquerors/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 their experiences in life with friends. Can often be a Competition Freak or a Boisterous Bruiser. Male examples are often The Casanova or The Rock Star, while women of this type are the Veronica.
- ISFPs (Peacemakers/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, to the point where they frequently get the role of The Everyman or the Lead You Can Relate To. They can be prone to Dogged Nice Guy tendencies.
- ESFPs (Ambassadors/Performers) live in the moment, learn by doing, and enjoy promoting harmony and fun. This is a team player, but only if they person isn't bored. They also enjoy their creature comforts. They can be anywhere between The Casanova and Good Bad Girl in current portrayals. You'll also frequently see them as the Comedic Hero or the Large Ham.
- Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.
- INTJs (Analysts/Masterminds) are pragmatic and logical, and are not scared to tell others (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 or The Strategist, especially in fiction) fall into this category. They'll often be the ones at the center of a Jerk-to-Nice-Guy Plot, while female examples may be the Defrosting Ice Queen.
- ENTJs (Commanders/Fieldmarshals) enjoy making plans and carrying them out. They make really good leaders, but have trouble being non-objective and accounting for emotions. They are fact-driven and good at highlighting inefficiencies. Possibly a Corrupt Corporate Executive or Evil Overlord as a villain, or a more person-oriented version of The Chessmaster. When shown in positive light, definitely a Reasonable Authority Figure.
- INTPs (Logicians/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, Absent-Minded Professor, and sometimes Mad Scientist fall into this category. The NP portion of their personality, however, gives them a creative and chaotic streak that contrasts with their outward mannerisms and gives them their "architect" title. Woe to the foe who mistakes their love of complexity for the INTJ's rigid planning or their eclectic set of mastered skills for the ISTP's narrow focus, only to find themselves on the wrong side of Xanatos Speed Chess or Suddenly Always Knew That.
- ENTPs (Originators/Inventors) are clever and analytical, often with quick wits and a quicker tongue. They are very good at thinking outside the box, but can also be, like ENFPs, easily bored. Frequently The Trickster. A common type among The Chessmaster. They often enjoy sarcastic or offensive jokes and trolling, with less mature examples becoming the Equal-Opportunity Offender.
- "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."
- INFJs (Confidants/Counselors) are private, preferring one-on-one friendships to crowds, and often quiet about their own feelings. They are known for their ability to read people, though they generally operate behind the scenes. Tend to be the Psychologist Teacher or The Shrink. In fantasy, they're often Seers or oracles.
- ENFJs (Social Workers/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, or the Prince Charming. Frequently the protagonist at the center of A Protagonist Shall Lead Them.
- INFPs (Mediators/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 easily offended when their values are violated. See Jeanne d'Archétype or even Incorruptible Pure Pureness. The All-Loving Hero is quite frequently an INFP taken Up to Eleven. In children's fiction, they're almost inevitably a Friend to All Living Things, while adult-oriented works may see them as The McCoy.
- ENFPs (Inspirers/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 they also crave attention and recognition. They (like ENTPs) get bored easily. Often shown as a Ditzy Genius or Drama Queen or in light works, although darker works may depict them as the manipulator to the ENTP's The Chessmaster. Female examples tend to be the Manic Pixie Dream Girl while males are often Keets. May surprise people by becoming the Determinator if given a cause/person to champion that he or she truly feels for or believes in.