Typology is a system of grouping individuals together based on certain traits. These are not physical traits, but rather cognitive and/or behavioural traits making up a single personality. For example, saying that everyone who is outspoken, determined, and witty is a certain personality type.
While typology is fun, it's important to understand that, currently, it has no scientific basis. With this in mind, typology should not be used in an authoritative way, and it should not be treated as if it's the be-all and end-all. Typology has the potential to be harmful, as it can create "qualitative" dichotomies, treating one group as superior. In other words, if certain personality types are treated like they have better traits than others. Dichotomies also fail to recognise that personalities exist on a spectrum. There's no metaphorical switch that can be turned on or off to determine whether someone is shy or not. Shyness, just like any trait, exists as a range.
This post will mostly be an infodump, but I hope that I can share it with others who are interested in learning more about a specific model, or even typology in general. My personal favourite is the Enneagram.
- 1 MBTI
- 1.1 Cognitive Functions
- 1.1.1 Feeling
- 1.1.2 Thinking
- 1.1.3 Intuition
- 1.1.4 Sensation
- 1.2 Myers-Briggs Model
- 1.3 Grant-Brownsword Model
- 1.4 Function Stacks
- 1.1 Cognitive Functions
- 2 NERIS
- 3 Enneagram
- 4 Big Five
- 5 Type A/B
- 6 Temperament
- 7 Socionics
- 8 Keirsey
- 9 Gallery
- 10 Conclusion
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) was originally developed by mother and daughter, Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers. It's based on Carl Jung's theory of cognitive functions; however, Briggs and Myers themselves had no background in psychology nor science. The MBTI Manual has since been updated by Mary H. McCaulley, who was a professor in the UF's Clinical and Health Psychology department. She and Myers also established the UF's Typology Laboratory together.
The MBTI uses cognitive functions. Jung's theory suggests there are four basic ways we take in and process information: feeling, thinking, intuition, and sensation. Feeling and thinking are both considered "judging" functions, while intuition and sensation are considered "perceiving" functions. This is because we use the feeling/thinking functions to make decisions (in other words, "judge" what the best and/or right thing to do is), and we use the intuition/sensation functions to perceive the world and the information in it. According to his theory, we all have a "primary" function, which is the one we are influenced by the most. We also have two "auxiliary" functions helping us, almost like a second-in-command. And lastly, we have an "inferior" function, which is our weakest and least used. It's repressed, and Jung considered it the easiest way to access one's unconscious mind.
Jung also theorised that we all have "attitudes," which refers to whether someone has a preference for introversion or extraversion. Introverted attitudes involve the internal world (eg. one's thoughts and beliefs) and extraverted attitudes involve the external world (eg. one's behaviour). All of the functions apply to both the internal and external, whereas in the Myers-Briggs model, each function has an introverted and extraverted counterpart. For instance, when the intuition function affects one's morals, this can be considered introverted intuition. According to Jung, our primary function would operate in our preferred world (so the internal world for those with an introverted attitude and the external world for those with an extraverted attitude), and the other three functions would operate in the opposite world. This could be visualised as either EIII or IEEE, where the first letter represents the primary function.
Feeling refers to the process of determining something's value, in the sense of acceptance or rejection. It involves judging without the intention of using logic-based reasoning.
Introverted Feeling (Fi)
Introverted feeling refers to one's values, morals, individualism, etc. Those with a more dominant Fi often have strong morals, a strong sense of self, and good intrapersonal skills.
Extraverted Feeling (Fe)
Extroverted feeling refers to a desire for harmony or keeping the peace. Those with a more dominant Fe often have strong cognitive empathy and understand the needs of others.
Thinking refers to the process of connecting things through concepts and existing knowledge.
Introverted Thinking (Ti)
Introverted thinking refers to the understanding of personal ideas and inner thoughts. Those with a more dominant Ti often try to be analytical, follow structure, and think rationally.
Extraverted Thinking (Te)
Extroverted thinking refers to conveying one's thoughts using knowledge and reason. Those with a more dominant Te often have the ability to be concise and favour logic-based arguments over emotional ones.
Intuition refers to perceiving things through hunches and/or visions. In other words, it conveys our perceptions through passive, unconscious methods.
Introverted Intuition (Ni)
Introverted intuition refers to knowing something subconsciously. Those with a more dominant Ni often have strong conviction, see the bigger picture, and reach conclusions without knowing exactly how.
Extraverted Intuition (Ne)
Extroverted intuition refers to noticing patterns and connections in the world. Those with a more dominant Ne often brainstorm and express themselves using ideas or concepts.
Sensation refers to perceiving physical stimuli, the five basic senses: sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell.
Introverted Sensation (Si)
Introverted sensing refers to using past experiences to understand the world. Those with a more dominant Si often prefer tradition, routine, and rules.
Extraverted Sensation (Se)
Extroverted sensing refers to using one's senses to take in information. Those with a more dominant Se often enjoy spontaneity and trying new things, and may pick up on details that others do not.
Using the cognitive functions, Myers and Briggs developed psychological types. But rather than the functions each working in both the internal and external world, they stated that each function must either be introverted or extraverted, which turned Jung's four basic functions into eight. And unlike how Jung's theory involved a primary function, two auxiliary functions, and an inferior function, Myers and Briggs replaced "primary" with "dominant," and they replaced the second auxiliary function with the name "tertiary" function. This means that using the Myers-Briggs model, we have a dominant function, an auxiliary function, a tertiary function, and an inferior function. Aside from the name change, these all have a similar role as before.
Types were categorised using letters. The first letter would either be I or E, the second letter would either be N or S, the third letter would either be F or T, and the last letter would either be P or J. Using the Myers-Briggs model, the first letter comes from one's dominant function, and whether it is introverted or extraverted (eg. EXXX if the dominant function is extraverted). The second letter comes from whether intuition or sensation is more dominant (eg. ESXX if sensation is the dominant or auxiliary function). The third letter comes from whether feeling or thinking is more dominant (eg. ESTX if thinking is the dominant or auxiliary function). And the last letter comes from whether the auxiliary/tertiary functions are judging or perceiving (eg. ESTP if the auxiliary/tertiary functions are feeling or thinking).
William Harold Grant, Alan Brownsword, Magdala Thompson, and Thomas E. Clarke developed another model that added two more functions. In their model, if the primary/dominant function is extraverted, the auxiliary function is introverted, and vice versa. This means that types in this model would either look like EIEI or IEIE. The P/J would be determined based on which extraverted function was most dominant. If it was an Ne or Se, they were considered perceivers, and if it was an Fe or Te, they were considered judgers. For example, an INFJ has a dominant Fe while an INFP has a dominant Ne. This is often referred to as the "function stack," and it was incorporated into the MBTI Manual. They furthered this idea by deciding that the dominant function would be the opposite of the inferior function, and the auxiliary function would be the opposite of the tertiary function. So if someone's dominant function is Ni, their inferior function must be Se, because introverted intuition and extraverted sensation are opposites.
If you don't understand all of that right away, don't worry. Here is a list of what type each stack would indicate:
- Fi > Ne > Si > Te ➝ INFP
- Fi > Se > Ni > Te ➝ ISFP
- Fe > Ni > Se > Ti ➝ ENFJ
- Fe > Si > Ne > Ti ➝ ESFJ
- Ti > Ne > Si > Fe ➝ INTP
- Ti > Se > Ni > Fe ➝ ISTP
- Te > Ni > Se > Fi ➝ ENTJ
- Te > Si > Ne > Fi ➝ ESTJ
- Ni > Fe > Ti > Se ➝ INFJ
- Ni > Te > Fi > Se ➝ INTJ
- Ne > Fi > Te > Si ➝ ENFP
- Ne > Ti > Fe > Si ➝ ENTP
- Si > Fe > Ti > Ne ➝ ISFJ
- Si > Te > Fi > Ne ➝ ISTJ
- Se > Fi > Te > Ni ➝ ESFP
- Se > Ti > Fe > Ni ➝ ESTP
The NERIS Type Explorer (more commonly known as the 16Personalities test) uses the same acronym format as the MBTI; however, it does not use cognitive functions, or any Jungian concepts for that matter. Instead, the NERIS model resembles the Big Five, which is trait-based rather than type-based. Each letter represents a different trait, and users are assigned these traits based on where they fall on each scale. The first letter will either be an I or an E depending on whether the user is more introverted or extraverted. It's important to note that introverted and extraverted are used differently here than in the MBTI. With NERIS, introversion applies to those who prefer solitary activities and feel drained from social interaction, while extraversion applies to those who prefer group activities and feel energised by social interaction.
The second letter will either be an N or an S depending on whether the user is more intuitive or observant. Intuitive refers to those who are very imaginative, open-minded and curious. Observant refers to those who are highly practical, pragmatic and down-to-earth. The third letter will either be an F or a T depending on whether the user relies more on feeling or thinking. Feeling refers to those who are sensitive and emotionally expressive. Thinking refers to those who focus on objectivity and rationality, prioritizing logic over emotions. The fourth letter will either be a P or a J depending on whether the user prefers prospecting or judging. Prospecting refers to those who are very good at improvising and spotting opportunities. Judging refers to those who are decisive, thorough and highly organized.
Unlike the acronym used by the MBTI, NERIS includes a fifth letter, just like the Big Five. This fifth letter will either be an A or a T depending on whether the user is more assertive or turbulent. Assertive refers to those who are self-assured, even-tempered and resistant to stress. Turbulent refers to those who are self-conscious and sensitive to stress.
These types are then grouped into roles. Those with the intuitive and thinking traits (XNTX) are called Analysts. Those with the intuitive and feeling traits (XNFX) are called Diplomats. Those with the observant and judging traits (XSXJ) are called Sentinels. And lastly, those with the observant and prospecting traits (XSXP) are called Explorers.
NERIS also has strategies for users depending on what traits they have. Those with the introverted and assertive traits (IXXX-A) are recommended to follow the Confident Individualism strategy. Those with the extraverted and assertive traits (EXXX-A) are recommended to follow the People Mastery strategy. Those with the introverted and turbulent traits (IXXX-T) are recommended to follow the Constant Improvement strategy. And lastly, those with the extraverted and turbulent traits (EXXX-T) are recommended to follow the Social Engagement strategy.
The Enneagram of Personality (often just called the Enneagram) is a model that uses a nine-pointed figure inside of a circle. The shape itself is often called an enneagram, nonagram, or nonangle. Each point represents one of the nine types, which are numbered 1-9. Unlike the MBTI, which is about the human conscious, or NERIS, which is about personality traits, the Enneagram is about what drives us. In other words, it's about our desires, fears, goals, objectives, etc. Type 1 desires fairness and integrity, and it fears being corrupt or out of control. Type 2 desires to feel loved and accepted, and it fears the opposite. Type 3 desires to feel valued and/or to be valuable, and it fears failure or feeling worthless. Type 4 desires to express itself and to be unique in doing so, and it fears being without an identity or being insignificant to the world. Type 5 desires to be competent or to master their field, and it fears being useless or incapable. Type 6 desires to feel safe and supported, and it fears the opposite. Type 7 desires to feel content and fulfilled, and it fears feeling trapped or deprived of excitement. Type 8 desires to be in control of its own life, and it fears being controlled by others or hurt/violated by others. And lastly, Type 9 desires to feel at peace with themselves or to feel whole, and it fears losing others.
Alongside a main type, everyone also has what are called "wings," which is the type next to their main type that fits them the most. For example, a Type 6 could have Five (6w5) or Seven (6w7) as their wings, but not both. In the case of Type 1 and Type 9, these two would be considered next to each other on the enneagram and could therefore act as wings (eg. 1w9 or 9w1). Wing theory is used in most versions of the Enneagram, but not all.
The types are put into three groups (called centres): head-based (also known as head, thinking, reason, anxiety, or fear), heart-based (also known as heart, feeling, shame, emotion, or image), and body-based (also known as gut, doing, instinctive, action, rage, or anger). Types 5-7 are head-based, Types 2-4 are heart-based, and Types 1, 8, and 9 are body-based. In this theory, everyone has one primary head-based type, one primary heart-based type, and one primary body-based type. These three types are then put together in order of which has the strongest influence. For example, someone who is 837 is mostly influenced by their body-based Type 8. Their heart-based Type 3 would come next, and their head-based Type 7 would come last.
Instinctual variants (also called instinctual subtypes) are the instinctive drives that we develop. They affect our enneatypes even further. The different subtypes include social (so), self-preservation (sp), and sexual (sx). Social refers to the need to get along or belong in groups, self-preservation refers to the need to protect oneself or meet one's needs, and sexual refers to the need to connect with important others or partners. Despite the use of the word "sexual," this subtype can refer to things such as friendships as well. Due to the misunderstanding that it only involves sexual relationships, the names "one-to-one" and "intimacy" are also used.
We all have one dominant subtype (most developed), one auxiliary subtype (next most developed), and one inferior subtype (least developed). For example, those who are so/sx (social dominant, sexual auxiliary, self-preservation inferior) are mainly governed by their instinctive need to belong in a community while their need for survival-based materials and physical safety takes a backseat.
The Big Five personality traits (also known as OCEAN) is a model that groups personality traits together to create scales. These include: openness (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious), conscientiousness (efficient/organized vs. extravagant/careless), extraversion (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved), agreeableness (friendly/compassionate vs. critical/rational), and neuroticism (sensitive/nervous vs. resilient/confident). Rather than being assigned a personality type, individuals are told whether they were high or low on each scale (and usually given percentages or scores).
Certain studies suggest that genetics play a role in one's Big Five traits; however, the model has received plenty of criticism as well. For example, certain traits are often treated as a deficit or inferior to others (eg. having low openness).
The Type A and Type B personality hypothesis dates back to the 1950s, and it only involves two personality types: Type A, which is more competitive, impatient, and aggressive, and Type B, which is more relaxed, easygoing, and non-competitive. These types can be simplified further, where Type A represents high-stress individuals and Type B represents low-stress individuals.
This hypothesis was mostly developed to show that high stress levels increased one's chances of developing heart disease. It uses dichotomies to separate those with a "Type A Behaviour Pattern" (TABP) from those without it. Type B was less about what traits it possessed and more about its lack of Type A traits.
The four temperament theory is a model that dates back to Ancient Greece (specifically Classical Greece). It involves four personality types: choleric, melancholic, phlegmatic, and sanguine. Combinations of these types are often used as well. The types were named after the bodily humours, an outdated concept of what bodies consist of. Choleric comes from yellow bile, melancholic comes from black bile, phlegmatic comes from phlegm, and sanguine comes from blood.
Those who are choleric are considered to be extroverted, ambitious, and independent. Those who are melancholic are considered to be introverted, deep, and detail-oriented. Those who are phlegmatic are considered to be quiet, sympathetic, and relaxed. And those who are sanguine are considered to be extroverted, talkative, and enthusiastic.
Aside from personality traits, the four temperaments are often associated with specific seasons, elements, and qualities. Choleric is linked with summer and fire, and it's described as being warm and dry. Melancholic is linked with autumn and earth, and it's described as being cold and dry. Phlegmatic is linked with winter and water, and it's considered to be cold and moist. And sanguine is linked with spring and air, and it's described as being warm and moist. "Cold" can be compared to introversion, "warm" can be compared to extroversion, "dry" can be compared to emotional instability, and "moist" can be compared to emotional stability.
The DISC assessment uses an altered version of the four temperaments, where choleric becomes "dominance," melancholic becomes "conscientiousness," phlegmatic becomes "steadiness," and sanguine becomes "influence." We all use a combination of these and favour one "style." The styles use the first letter of each type (eg. someone who favours conscientiousness would be C style). These are also called "types" (eg. C-type) or "personalities" (eg. C-personality).
Not only are they associated with personality traits, but each style has been given values and fears as well. They can also be combined. For example, someone who is mostly dominant and partly influential would be Di, and someone who is equally dominant and influential would be DI (notice the capital letter). Someone who is mostly influential and partly dominant would be Id, and someone who is solely dominant would just be D.
Some versions of the DISC model will put the letter of the main style first instead of using upper case and lower case letters to show predominance. In this case, something like CS and SC would have two different meanings.
Like the MBTI, socionics uses Jung's cognitive functions and also adds four functions, meaning the MBTI and socionics both use eight functions. In the case of socionics, these include: introverted ethics (relations), extroverted ethics (emotions), introverted logic (laws), extroverted logic (pragmatism), introverted intuition (time), extroverted intuition (ideas), introverted sensation (senses), and extroverted sensation (force). These are often represented by geometric symbols.
One's type is determined by their two main functions (one introverted and one extroverted). The first letter can either be E for ethics, L for logic, I for intuition, or S for sensation. The second letter can be the same; however, if the first letter is an E or an L, the second letter can only be an I or an S, and vice versa. The last letter can either be an I for introvert or an E for extrovert. This is based on whether the first function was introverted or extraverted. For example, someone with extraverted sensation and introverted logic would be SLE. These sixteen types all have social roles associated with them.
Each socionic type can be further divided into two categories based on whether someone prefers their perceiving (base) function or their judging (creative) function. Those without a preference do not have a subtype. But for those with a subtype, it is usually added at the end of their acronym. For example, an SLE could either be an SLE-Ti or an SLE-Se, with the former signaling a preference for logic (judging) and the latter signaling a preference for sensation (perceiving).
There are many different systems for notating one's subtype. As shown above, adding the subtype to the end of the acronym is very common; however, there are also systems that show how strong someone's preference is. For example, one system will add a number between 0-3, 0 indicating the lack of a subtype and 3 indicating a strong subtype. The number would be added to the acronym like so: SLE-3Ti.
The Keirsey Temperament Sorter (KTS) is similar to the MBTI, but rather than involving cognitive functions, it was based on the four temperaments. Each temperament was divided into two groups (called roles), and then those were divided into two sub-groups (called role variants). The four temperaments were renamed as Artisan, Guardian, Idealist, and Rational. Artisan and Guardian are both observant (assigned as S for the MBTI acronym), while Idealist and Rational are both introspective (assigned N for the MBTI acronym). Artisan is considered tactical (SP), Guardian is considered logistical (SJ), Idealist is considered diplomatic (NF), and Rational is considered strategic (NT).
From there, each temperament can fit into one of two roles: informative or directive. Informative roles will either add an F or a P to the acronym, depending on the existing letters, and directive roles will add a T or a J. Lastly, these can fit into one of two role variants: expressive or attentive. Expressive will add an E and attentive will add an I. So as an example, an Idealist who is informative and expressive would be an ENFP.
There are many ways to group personality traits, and while many models use similar charts, acronyms, backgrounds, etc, the slightest of difference can greatly change someone's result. For instance, NERIS and the MBTI use similar acronyms; however, the meaning of each letter is incredibly different. Using the NERIS model, an INFP might be imaginative, sensitive, emotional, and disorganised. They might have their head in the clouds and dislike social events, or even be shy. Meanwhile, an INFP in the MBTI have a dominant introverted feeling function, an auxiliary extraverted intuition function, a tertiary introverted sensation function, and an inferior extraverted thinking function. This means that they have a strong sense of self and understand their emotions well. They think using concepts and past experiences as opposed to something more concrete, and they might be rather routine-based or value structure. Already, this contradicts the NERIS INFP, which is disorganised and spontaneous because of its prospecting (P) trait.
- MBTI ➝ INFJ
- NERIS ➝ INTP-T
- Enneagram ➝ 4w5
- Tritype ➝ 415
- Instinct ➝ so/sx
- Big Five ➝ high O, medium C, low E, medium A, medium N
- Type A/B ➝ Type B
- Temperament ➝ Melancholic
- DISC ➝ SC-type
- Socionics ➝ EII-2Ne
- KTS ➝ Counselor (INFJ)
The most accurate way of discovering your type is to do research and type yourself manually; however, this isn't an option for everyone. Online quizzes are a fast and easy alternative, so I've included the tests that I find to be more accurate. But keep in mind: online quizzes always have the potential to mistype you, so take your result with a grain of salt. It's also important to note that neurodivergence can affect one's result, because their responses to questions might be influenced by a symptom/trait. For instance, an ADHDer with impulsivity might say they are spontaneous or leave things to the last minute, but in actuality, they may prefer structure, so they would most likely end up being mistyped when using a quiz.
Personally, both my MBTI type and my NERIS type would drastically change whenever I took quizzes. And this didn't make sense, as it goes against the very nature of "types." I went from an INFP to an ENTP to an ISFJ, and so on. It turned out that five things (that I know of) were affecting my answers: mood swings, social anxiety, ADHD-PI, MDD, and being autistic. I was coming across as incredibly introverted, emotional, and disorganised one day, and aggressive, rigid, and insensitive the next. In fact, this is still an issue for me, where quizzes constantly get my result wrong. Which is why I got into typology in the first place. I needed to be able to type myself without using tests, because unlike tests, I understand the nuances of myself and my motivations.