Psi man mascot

Jung's Personality Typology

Jung was a trait theorist in addition to his other work. Jung invented the extra­version/intro­version dichotomy that became one of the Big Five traits, verified repeatedly as important in distinguishing between personalities.

Extraversion, in Jung's scheme, was an outward turning of goal-directed energy. Jung thought extraverted people chan­neled their life energy into activities and social involvement. Introverts, by contrast, were turned inward, more interested in the life of the mind than the events of the outside world.

This is subtly different from the popular interpretation of extraversion as socia­bility, introversion as shyness. To Jung, it was all about where you focused your mental energies. Extraverts found interest and complexity in the outside world; introverts found it within.

If you remember primarily your reactions to a party, rather than the events of the party itself, you are an introvert. Jung recognized himself as an introvert, because he was more often interested in his mental reactions to life events than the events themselves.

How did Jung explain extraversion and introversion?

Jung's concept of extraversion vs. introversion proved very influential and durable, but Jung did not think one dimension was enough to capture the complexities of human personality. Therefore Jung proposed a finer grade of distinctions to supplement the introversion/extraversion distinction.

What are distinctive features of the rational type? What are two sub-types?

Jung observed that some people seem to use their conscious minds all the time, making value judgments about what way to direct themselves (and being able to report these value judgments in words). Jung called the active, decision-making individuals rational or judging types.

Jung said rational types come in two sub-types: the feeling type and the thinking type. The feeling type makes decisions according to emotional evaluations (for example, marrying somebody out of love).

The thinking type makes decisions based on conscious calculations (for example, marrying somebody who will someday be rich). Both the thinking and feeling types are rational personalities because both are conscious of the decision-making process. They are not impulsive. They ponder decisions.

Jung also identified two irrational types of personality. These are people who rely on perception or intuition to guide decision-making.

Irrational types tend to be rooted in the present. They are more likely to make snap decisions or do impulsive things, and they are less likely to have a specific explanation on hand if asked why they did something. They are more likely to answer, "I don't know" or "Because I like it" without further explanation.

Some irrational types emphasize sensation. They respond to external stimuli and are quite attentive to sensory perceptions, which guide their actions in a way they might be at a loss to explain.

Such a person might be found wandering in a meadow on a pleasant morning, drinking in the sights and sounds. He or she might enjoy the sights and sounds of a nightclub for no reason the person could identify except enjoying the atmosphere.

What are distinctive features of the "irrational" type? What are two sub-types?

Other irrational types use intuition. Jung defined intuition as unconsciously derived inner knowledge or knowledge of unknown origin.

Like the sensation-oriented person, the intuitive person reacts or makes decisions without knowing exactly why. Decisions "happen" rather than being planned out. This is similar to the perceptual type, except with the intuitive type, the information guiding behavior comes from inside rather than outside.

What was a goal of personality development?

Jung said all four patterns are present in all people to some degree, but one or two usually dominate the personality. An intuitive person was not likely to be tuned in to sensory stimuli, for example.

Individuals were not doomed to be limited this way. Jung felt that a goal of personality development was to have access to as many of your talents and abilities as possible, which meant getting familiar with all four function types.

How does one come up with six Jungian traits?

The extraversion/introversion dimension can vary independently of the four subtypes. Thus there are eight types (2x2x2) described by combinations of Jungian traits, if you accept the way Jung analyzed personality.

Isabel Myers Briggs, co-author of the Myers-Briggs Inventory (below), added another dimension: Judging vs Perceiving. She felt that Jung's categories involved where information came from (inside vs outside, senses vs intuitions, thinking vs feeling).

Briggs added another dimension for whether that information was organized. A judging type organizes life events and sticks to plans. A perceiving type is more improvisational and inclined to explore alternative options. Added to Jung's dichotomies, this yields 16 types (2x2x2x2).


The Myers-Briggs Trait Inventory was developed by a mother-daughter pair intrigued by Jung's theory. The Myers-Briggs Trait Inventory (MBTI), has been popular for many years despite the fact that it was constructed by amateurs who had neither clinical experience nor academic degrees.

After taking the MBTI or a similar test, you can identify yourself with four letters. This categorizes you as one of the 16 possible types, given four different dichotomies as described above: the three suggested by Jung plus the judging vs perceiving dimension added by Isabel Myers Briggs.

For example, an "ISFJ" would be an Introverted person who emphasized Sensing over intuition, Feeling over thinking, and Judging over perceiving.

What is the MBTI?

I am apparently an INTJ, using this system. I must be introverted because I remember all my dreams and do not particularly like social ceremonies or unnecessary external activities.

I am the thinking type, always aware of what is going through my mind. I am intuitive. And I am apparently a judging type because I make long term plans and complete them.

A web site says of INTJs, "It's lonely at the top, and being one of the rarest and most strategically capable personality types, INTJs know this all too well." So I should be favorably disposed toward the MBTI.

Unfortunately, the MBTI has numerous shortcomings as a psychological test. This is discussed in some detail on a meaty Wikipedia page about the test. For example:

Between a third and a half of all published material on the MBTI comes from a foundation that profits from sales of the test.

Studies endorsing the MBTI are "methodologically weak or unscientific."

Suggesting linkages between MBTI types and managerial effectiveness permit "no definitive conclusion."

Only the introversion-extraversion scale of the MBTI shows high validity.

The MBTI does not predict specific outcomes related to personality or career.

The test relies on retrospective self-reporting and is not objective, plus it is easy to fake.

The terminology is vague and general, allowing any kind of behavior to fit any personality type.

Wikipedia also offers a quote from "psychometric specialist Robert Hogan." He wrote: "Most personality psychol­ogists regard the MBTI as little more than an elaborate Chinese fortune cookie..."

Jung Types and the Big Five

The MBTI is not a valid psycho­metric instrument. However, on a basic descriptive level, the four personality dimensions in it correspond well to four of the five Big Five personality traits.

For example, the dimension added by Isabel Myers Briggs, judging vs per­ceiving, relates to dependability (one of the Big Five traits). That is because the judging type was defined as one who plans and then finishes the job.

Jung's thinking vs emotions dimension corresponds to the Big Five trait of emotionality. Jung's introversion/extraversion dimension was in the Big Five list from the start.

Intelligence is also included in the Big Five (as the fifth dimension). Of the Big Five traits, only agreeableness does not appear in Jung's system or the MBTI.

As a description of important traits, then, the MBTI is just fine; it is very similar to the Big Five traits. As a psychometric testing instrument, the MBTI falls short.

Those are two different things. A descrip­tion of traits is one thing. A testing instrument, an operational definition of how to measure those traits, is some­thing else. Because the way it was con­structed (the choice of questions and the method of administration) the MBTI is an instrument with low predictive validity.

That is important because, as noted in Chapter 1, all forms of validity boil down to predictive validity. If one wishes to use the Big Five traits to predict something, one is better off using other psychological tests based on the Big Five, rather than the MBTI.

Write to Dr. Dewey at

Don't see what you need? Psych Web has over 1,000 pages, so it may be elsewhere on the site. Do a site-specific Google search using the box below.