Posted by: Edward | September 24, 2008

Understanding Jungian Typology

Jungian Typology, which was further developed into what is now referred to as the Myers-Briggs Typology Index, has been one of my more important tools for understanding people, including myself. The system has sixteen personality types derived from four binary distinctions. These distinctions are introversion vs. extraversion, sensing vs. intuitive, thinking vs. feeling and judging vs. perceiving. The types are named with a four letter code for example INTP stands for Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Perceiving and ESFJ stands for Extraverted Sensing Feeling Judging.

Objection Overruled

The primary objection that I hear to the typology system is that people don’t fit into neat boxes. In one sense the objection is right people don’t fit neatly into boxes but the objection is based on a misunderstanding of the system. The types are not boxes that people are contained within but are more like a framework on top of which people are built.

Typology is basically the operating system layer of the human mind. It defines the basic functioning and it is up to the individual how they develop past that. The person is responsible for what programs they install. Like an operating system for a computer the type doesn’t make anything impossible but it does make various functions easier or harder.

Basic Structure

The four distinctions interact with each other so single letter difference in the type code changes everything. The Intuitive/Sensing distinction and the Thinking/Feeling distinction are known as the functions. The Intuitive/Sensing distinction is the perceiving function, or how you take in information, while the Thinking/Feeling distinction is the judging function, or how you make decisions. The Introversion/Extroversion distinction is known as your orientation. An extrovert is outward facing while an introvert is inward facing. The Perceiving/Judging distinction is sometimes referred to as the lifestyle. Perceivers tend towards scalar distinctions while Judgers tend towards binary or larger chunk distinction making.


An intuitive takes in information as gestalts or abstracted patterns and tends to deal with reality in terms of what things mean rather than what they are. A sensor on the other hand sticks closer to direct sense perception and tends to concentrate on details. Thinkers make decisions by comparing factors in conscious awareness while feelers make decisions based on their feelings which blossom out of their unconscious minds. So an NT type makes a decision about the meaning of the situation by consciously thinking about it. While an SF type makes a decision about the sensory details of the situation based on the feelings their unconscious provides for them.

Functional Preference

The P/J switch determines whether the perceiving or judging function is outward facing and the E/I switch determines whether outward facing or inward facing functions are primary. So an INTP faces outward with his intuition but his inward facing thinking is primary. This leads to what is called the functional preference description of a type. For an INTP this is Ti Ne Fi Se or in order of relative importance to the type Introverted Thinking, Extroverted Intuition, Introverted Feeling and Extroverted Sensing. For an ESFJ this is Fe Si Te Ni, which is they lead with their outward facing feelings.

Using Typology

One of the things that functional preference reminds us of is that we have all four functions even if we don’t emphasize them equally. We can pay attention to and develop the functions we don’t use as much to make ourselves better rounded as human beings. Figure out what functions you favour and practice paying attention to the ones you generally ignore. It will expand your appreciation of the world and your potential for action.

In addition to this we can use our understanding of this system to help us in interacting with people of different types. The first thing to realize is that people think differently than the way we do. The conclusion an ESTJ comes to about a situation will not be the same as the one an INFP does. This is because they are looking at different information and using a different mental system to make a decision about that information. If you want to communicate with people it helps to give them information suited to how they operate. It also helps to realize that you may have to translate what another type communicates to you into something more suited for your type.

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  1. […] post by Edward and software by Elliott […]

  2. Addendum

    Here are some other resources

    an online test:

    about the types:

  3. I had always discounted the Myers-Briggs, but you’ve presented it in a very useful light. I’ll have to re-test myself again.

  4. This is great stuff. Thanks for posting it. I’ve personally been in a long phase wherein I’ve focused studies and considerations on cognitive restructuring and personality transcendence. But I’ve recently been increasingly interested in personality theory, because surely one can better (re)program him/herself if he has a more expert knowledge of the operating system.
    Interest usually moves in cycles for this human animal.
    Have you read “Spiral Dynamics” by Beck and Cowan?
    Also I’ve recently found Concept Mapping intensely interesting.

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