Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
Myers-Briggs is one of the most popular personality systems, which is used for understanding peoples' innate cognitive proficiencies in a nutshell.
A person's type is consistent from birth until death (except in case of severe brain injury or mental illness), though it describes a path of possibilities rather than a static state. So each type grows and changes, but in a way characteristic of that type.
It's difficult to explain this system to someone completely unfamiliar with it, because it's fairly complex and it requires a lot to be understood all at once before any of it begins to make sense. I'll try my best to explain it as I see it.
Each person is assigned a four-letter type, like this:
Each of the four letters has two possible values, resulting in sixteen types in total. Let's dissect it a bit!
What the letters mean
IntrovertIntroverts focus their main attention inwards. They need quiet time to recharge. Their dominant cognitive function is an introverted one (explained in more detail later!).
ExtrovertExtroverts focus more on the external world than their inner one. They need external stimulation to feel energised. Their dominant cognitive function is an extroverted one.
iNtuitiveIntuitives favour abstract ideas, ranging from fantasy to quantum physics. They're intrigued by new and unusual things. They may feel detached from the 'real world', or might come across as quirky or odd.
SensingSensors are strongly linked to the physical, real world, and are more at home with practical, pragmatic pursuits. They prefer familiar, popular, or 'normal' things.
FeelingFeelers give their subjective, personal values and hunches the most weight when making decisions, even if those feelings don't make sense. They are naturally concerned about how their actions will make others feel.
ThinkingThinkers consider logical conclusions and objective facts and data more important than their own feelings. They're more focused on attaining goals than on how others feel.
JudgingThe J means that the person's conscious extraverted function will be either Thinking or Feeling. Judgers usually prefer to plan in advance, and may be more opinionated than Perceivers.
PerceivingThe P means that the person's conscious extraverted feeling will be either iNtuition or Sensing. Perceivers may be more inclined to take things as they come than to judge or plan for them.
So, for example:
INFJ means 'Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Judging'.
ESTP would be 'Extroverted Sensing Thinking Perceiving'.
INTP would be 'Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Perceiving'.
Do you get it?! Do you understand?!?! I sure hope so!
If you've been paying attention, you may already be thinking:
Balderdash! I am capable of both thinking AND feeling! Of both sensing AND intuition! This rot is complete and total balderdash! Pfah!
In those words exactly. It's a valid thought to have, of course, but the system doesn't try to claim that you're ONLY one way or the other, that you're completely incapable of using the letters you don't have in your type. It's all about preferences, not limits.
The whole system is built on eight cognitive functions. These could be seen as the 'vital statistics' of your mind, in a way, and you have points in all of them. You'll continue to accumulate points in them through life experiences. However, two of them will grow faster and have higher initial values than the rest, and these are what determine your type!
The eight cognitive functions are grouped as a pair of pairs of pairs.
Thinking and Feeling are called the Judging functions,
while Sensing and iNtuition are called the Perceiving functions.
Each one comes in an introverted or extroverted version; the introverted ones are 'directed inwards', and generally private, while the extroverted ones are 'directed outwards', and manifest in interactions with the world.
That gives these eight functions, which are often referred to by the two-character shorthand indicated in the dark bar thing:
IntrovertedThese functions are directed inwards, towards the internal world.
ExtravertedThese functions are directed outwards, towards the external world.
PerceivingThese four functions are all about gathering and storing information.
Introverted iNtuition- Ni is a timeless function; it generates abstract concepts from within which don't necessarily have any direct relation to the real world.
- While Ni sees ideas from many different angles, it is inclined to narrow down the possibilities to one 'correct' one. This results in a desire for closure and a tendency to be picky.
- Ni-dominant individuals may find themselves feeling detached from reality fairly frequently.
Extraverted iNtuition- Ne is a future-oriented function; it sees possibilities.
- Ne is used to find abstract connections between observations; this can lead to novel, imaginative humour, as well as innovation.
- Ne sees a nebulous cloud of possibilities, but gives each one equal weight, which can lead to great skill with brainstorming and tolerance of others' ideas, but trouble with decision making and procrastination.
Introverted Sensing- Si is a past-oriented function. Si-dominant people have excellent memories, and are often able to recall specific details.
- Si is most comfortable using information and experiences that it is familiar with. Si learns best through hands-on practice rather than reading dry theory.
- Si thinking is characterised by the use of concrete forms and categories, archetypes; ideas of how every object or practice 'should' be, which results in discomfort when something deviates from this ideal form.
Extraverted Sensing- Se is a present-oriented function, strongly related to 'living in the moment'. It wants to make an immediate, physical impact.
- Se is about being finely attuned to and aware of the physical, concrete environment. Se-dominant people are often athletic, with excellent hand-eye coordination.
- Se also focuses on physical appearances; what's really, clearly, obviously there.
JudgingThese four functions are all about processing information or forming opinions.
Introverted Feeling- Fi is used to judge oneself according to a set of subjective personal opinions and beliefs. Rather than judging others, it's about comparing oneself to those others, to see whether you are 'good enough'.
- Fi is sensitive and emotional, hard to quantify, and doesn't necessarily 'make sense'.
- Fi types have difficulty expressing their feelings because they're directed inwards; while they feel things very deeply and intensely, they may come across as guarded or unemotional to others.
Extraverted Feeling- Fe is used to judge others and the external world using a set of personal subjective beliefs which might not necessarily be grounded in evidence or logic.
- Fe is about sensitivity to the feelings of others; it is strongly associated with empathy. As such, Fe types strive to maintain harmony and good relations with others.
- Fe is very expressive; it leads to the free sharing of thoughts and feelings, with animated faces and bodies and much variation in tone of voice.
Introverted Thinking- Ti is used to judge one's own perceptions according to objective, impersonal logic, patterns, rules and criteria.
- It deals with systems, order, and reason. These tend to be personal systems that aren't necessarily dependent on external evidence.
- It tries to make sense of information that exists within the mind; to categorise it and give it structure.
Extraverted Thinking- Te is used to judge others' work and systems using objective, impersonal logic and facts. Te is often used for giving hard but fair criticism, debate, and leading others.
- Te works with established information; Te people will not believe something unless given solid evidence, and tend to believe that evidence conquers all.
- Since it's impersonal and detached from subjective emotional experience, Te types tend to communicate in a somewhat blunt manner.
Each person has a different level of proficiency with each one. Some people find Fe (extroverted feeling) the most natural thing in the world, but struggle with Ti (introverted Thinking). Other people might feel really comfortable when using their Ni (extroverted intuition), but when they have to use their Se (extroverted sensing), they struggle and feel clumsy and strained.
The Function Stack
I've mentioned things like "their dominant cognitive function is an introverted one" a few times now, and it's finally time to explain what on Earth that actually means!
Each type is defined by four of the eight cognitive functions, arranged in an order of preference. That order is called the function stack. The function stack always contains two extroverted and two introverted functions, and all four categories - Sensing, iNtuition, Feeling and Thinking - are represented once.
The order of prominence looks like this:
DominantThis function acts as the 'captain' of the ship, so to speak; it's the thing that comes most easily to the person, which they'll enjoy the most and fall back into when they relax. What they were born to do! They're consciously aware of this process, and in control of it.
AuxiliaryIf the dominant function is the captain, this is the 'first officer'; it's always there in the background, but it's ultimately subservient to the dominant. This too is a conscious function.
Its direction (introverted or extroverted) is the OPPOSITE of the dominant... meaning that for introverts, their interacting-with-the-world extroverted conscious function is their auxiliary, and for extroverts, their inner-contemplation introverted conscious function is their auxiliary.
TertiaryThis is a weaker, subconscious function that nevertheless affects the working of the mind significantly. It could be seen as an engine that works in the background to process what's going on in the conscious mind.
Its direction is the same as the dominant, so for an introvert, for example, most of their inner contemplation would be coloured by their dominant, but the tertiary would serve as a strong undercurrent as well.
InferiorThis is the weakest function, also subconscious. It tends to emerge in times of stress, and may be seen as the person's 'bad side'.
It's the exact opposite of the dominant... So for someone with Fe as their dominant, it'd be Ti. For a Si-dominant, it'd be Ne.
There are two introverted functions and two extroverted ones, and their order follows a pattern. For introverts, the dominant and tertiary are introverted, while the auxiliary and inferior are extroverted (i e i e). This is because their most natural form of thinking is directed inwards; they still have SOME conscious method of taking in and interacting with the external world, but it's not as important or finely-tuned as their inward-facing one. Similarly, extroverts have the opposite pattern (e i e i), because they focus on the external world more naturally than their inner one (though they're still consciously capable of that too).
The letters tell you the stack!
Many people new to Myers-Briggs - my past self included - wrongly read the four-letter types in a restrictive way. They'd see ISTJ, for example, as an introvert who is good at sensing, thinking, and judging, and... that's it. They can't do feeling, intuition or perceiving at all.
Many of those many people would likely object to something as unrealistic as that, and indeed they should, since that's NOT what the type codes mean!
The four letters merely refer to the order of the cognitive functions. These rules are followed:
The first letter (I or E) determines the direction of the dominant function (the first in the stack).
The fourth letter (J or P) determines the type of the extraverted conscious function. That is, the way in which they interact with the external world, which for extroverts is their dominant, and for introverts is their auxiliary.
The second column (N or S) is called the perceiving column, and the third (T or F) is the judging column. So, if the final letter is a J, the letter from the judging column is used for the extraverted conscious function. The letter from the perceiving column is used if it's a P.
I know that's a lot to really take in all at once, so I'll provide some examples of how it can be actually used!
I'll use this type again, because it's the one that I am:
First of all, you can see that it's Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Judging. That tells you at least something, but understanding the cognitive functions that it describes tells you much more!
Remember, each type has four congitive functions that it operates on. The first two are conscious, and the second two are subconscious, with the fourth in particular arising mostly when stressed. I'll use these four slots to represent the stack:
In case you've forgotten:
The first slot is the dominant.
The second is the auxiliary.
The third is the tertiary.
The fourth is the inferior.
Two of these four functions will be introverted, and two will be extroverted. It's that way for every type! There's a reason for this. One of the conscious functions is used for interacting with the outer world, and the other is used for interacting with the inner world. Both are necessary, since everyone explores both of these worlds consciously! The two subconscious functions add colour to these introverted and extraverted ways of exploration, because nobody's one-dimensional.
The order of the introvertedness or extrovertedness of the functions is easy to work out! They alternate, and the first one is determined by the first letter in the four-letter code. So for an INFJ, the order would be i-e-i-e; their dominant and tertiary are introverted; they're best at exploring their inner world. However, when they do interact with the outside world, they tend to naturally do so using on their auxiliary and inferior functions.
If the type were ENFJ, then the order would be e-i-e-i!
So now for INFJ we have:
The fourth letter - the J in this case - tells us the type of the conscious extroverted function. The way in which they interact with the external world!
J means that the judging column would be used... Remember, that's the third letter, which is this case is an F.
That means that INFJ's extraverted conscious function - its auxiliary - is extraverted feeling (Fe).
That indicates that INFJs tend to be empathetic and sensitive; they're concerned with how people around them feel. They also tend to judge external situations (and people) using subjective feelings and personal values rather than cold, hard facts or logic.
The letter from the four-letter code (INFJ) that we've not used yet - the second one in this case, the N - is used to fill in the remaining conscious slot.
As such, you can see that INFJ's dominant, most important slot is filled by introverted intuition (Ni).
So you can see that INFJs tend to be most at home with fantasy and abstract concepts, which form inside their own minds. They prefer closure, and tend to narrow down possibilities to one 'correct' one, which can lead to 'choosing sides' very clearly, as well as decisiveness.
Ni and Fe together create an idealist sort of mentality. They care deeply about the feelings of themselves and others, and they hold their subjective values very close to their heart, using them - rather than cold facts or logic - to make decisions. They're fond of fantasising and seeing things in abstract terms detached from reality; this tends to make them crave a peaceful, ideal world, and that idealism is what drives many of their actions. Their Ni leads to narrowing down to one 'correct solution', which makes them feel that their ideal way to do things is really the only truly satisfying way for them to be done.
Many, many sources online describe each Myers-Briggs type using paragraphs of text describing how they look as a whole, and while I do think that these can be quite valuable, I'm hoping to show you here that you can know a lot about a type just from seeing its four-letter code. You don't really need a long description, when you can work out the cognitive functions yourself!
Knowing the two conscious functions tells you most of what you'd need to know about that type, or a person who is of that type. INFJs are introverted, sensitive fantasisers, and that really does tell you a lot.
Let's get to the other two functions now, though. Even though they're subconscious and harder to spot in people, they still do affect the person's personality quite a bit.
You can easily work out the inferior (fourth) function because it's the opposite of the dominant. The functions are paired up, you see, so that the other in each pair is the opposite.
The opposite of N (iNtuition) is S (Sensing), and vice versa, for example, because they're both in the Perceiving pair.
Similarly, the opposite of T (Thinking) is F (Feeling), because they make up the Judging pair.
The opposite of introversion is extraversion... so the opposite of Ti would be Fe. The opposite of Ni would be Se. You see?!
As such, we can see here that the inferior is the opposite of Ni, which is extraverted sensing (Se).
Being the inferior function, it doesn't come up much. I know that for me, as an INFJ, my Se mainly manifests as a *dislike* for extraverted sensing things like sport, overindulgence, physical roughness, and aggressiveness. Other INFJs' Se is shown in their carefully maintained (but usually quirky) wardrobes, or overindulgence in food and such when they're upset.
Each stack always contains a member of all four pairs (T, F, N and S), because we're all capable of all kinds of processing. T is missing here, so it's easy to fill in the remaining (tertiary) slot like so:
For INFJ, introverted thinking (Ti) is the internal processor that tries to make sense of and organise their own thoughts. They want their own ideas to make sense, but ultimately it's less important - and consciously thought about - than their Ni or Fe.
Did this make sense?!? I know that I personally struggled to wrap my head around this stuff for a while, but eventually I reached a point where it all just suddenly CLICKED, and made sense! If this is all just whoosing over your head right now, it'll probably just take a bit of time to fully process it! It's really, really useful once you do reach that point though, I think, because the four letter codes start to actually *mean* something, and they succinctly tell you so very much about a person's preferences and mental strengths.
Let's do that again with another, very different type:
That's Extraverted Sensing Thinking Perceiving. The 'opposite' of INFJ!
We start with the four slots:
Extraverted types (those that begin with an E) have their functions in the order e-i-e-i. This is because their dominant way of behaving is through engaging the external world. They do still focus on their inner world, just not as much.
So now for ESTP we have:
The fourth letter - the P in this case - tells us the type of the conscious extroverted function.
P means that the perceiving column would be used... That's the second letter, which is this case is an S.
That means that ESTP's extraverted conscious function - its dominant - is extraverted sensing (Se).
That indicates that ESTPs tend to be very focused on the physical world around them. They tend to have excellent hand-eye coordination, and athletic skill comes easily to them. They're more likely than other types to make their point either through physical contact (hugs, punches) or physical displays (voice raising, big gestures, etc). They enjoy visceral, adrenaline-pumping physical thrills, and they want to make an immediate physical impact in the present moment.
The letter from the four-letter code (ESTP) that we've not used yet - the third one in this case, the T - is used to fill in the remaining conscious slot.
As such, you can see that ESTP's auxiliary slot is filled by introverted thinking (Ti).
The ESTP's inner world tends to be hard, or tough; defined by objective truths, facts, systems and data rather than mushy feelings or emotional values. They have those too, of course, it's just that they're less prominent.
Se and Ti together tend to lead to a fascination with gadgets and machines; physical things with hard, clearly-defined rules. Systems, in the physical world. They also tend to be competitive and more prone to one-upmanship than tender consideration of other people's sensitive feelings.
The inferior is the opposite of Se, which is introverted intuition (Ni).
And the final slot is filled with the letter that's not been used yet:
For ESTP, extroverted feeling (Fe) subconsciously colours their interactions with others. It makes them friendly, even if they don't really think consciously about trying to be. It also means that, despite their auxiliary Ti, the opinions that they actually voice can sometimes come across as half-baked or based entirely on hunches. Possibly.
As you can hopefully see, INFJ and ESTP have the same four functions, just in a different order. It leads to completely different personalities, though; the order really is very important!
Chances are that you might be curious about what the function stack of a specific type is. The examples above show you how to work it out yourself, but you can also use this tool thing to conveniently find out!
All you have to do is enter a four-letter type into the box below, and it'll generate the four cognitive functions associated with that type.
The sixteen Myers-Briggs types can be grouped into four groups of four, called 'temperaments'. The four types in each temperament tend to have similar outlooks on life and ways of interacting with the world.
These are quite distinct from the OTHER four temperaments described on this site, by the way!
I've seen them referred to by different names in various places... "Keirsey Temperaments" - which focus on how each temperament fits into the working world - seem to be one of the most common; it uses the labels Guardians/Artisans/Rationals/Idealists. I've also included alternate names for each temperament that I've seen elsewhere.
They're all just basically synonyms trying to create the same picture, though, and in no way does any of this mean that ONLY SP types can create or ONLY NTs are intelligent and everyone else is a moron. That'd be silly! Instead, the labels are just meant to convey the overall feeling that you might get from briefly meeting someone from one of these categories, or the areas in which they function best.
Overseers / Guardians / Protectors
These types have Si (introverted sensing) as their conscious introverted function.
Their roles often end up being logistics-based; providing for physical needs and maintaining order.
SFJs often have supporting roles. The archetypical kindly mother figure who gives you a hug and a nice hot cup of cocoa when you're feeling down would probably be an ESFJ or ISFJ.
STJs can come across as orderly and business-like. The archetypical bureaucrat would probably be ISTJ, while a strict, commanding manager figure might be ESTJ.
Creators / Artisans
These types have Se (extroverted sensing) as their conscious extraverted function, and as such prefer to work with their hands and experience physical thrills.
They are 'tactical' in the sense that they focus on producing tangible results in the present moment.
SFPs are improvisors. They intend to make an impression through engaging people on an emotional level.
STPs are expeditors. They make things, or cause things to happen in the present moment.
Intellectuals / Rationals
These types' conscious functions are intuitive and thinking, meaning that they prefer the abstract, specifically in terms of systems and facts and logic (hard science being a good example).
They are strategic in the sense that they think in the long term and about the big picture, turning their focus well beyond the present moment.
NTPs are constructors, who build systems and invent new concepts.
NTJs are arrangers. They create plans and new rules for others to follow.
Idealists / Dreamers / Visionaries
These types' conscious functions are intuitive and feeling, meaning that they prefer abstract, idealised fantasies based around personal values and feelings, rather than the real world or cold systems and facts.
They are diplomatic in that they are focused on people, and how they feel, rather than objective, impersonal goals or the physical environment.
NFPs are mediators. They want to maintain peace and happiness between people through tolerance and understanding.
NFJs focus on encouraging personal development. They help others to understand themselves (as an example, I'm an INFJ and I've made this site!).
Many people take tests to determine their Myers-Briggs type, but they can never really be relied on. The only way to really be sure of your type is to understand the system on a conceptual level, and to do a lot of introspection.
If you've read the rest of the content on this page, then this simple tool might aid you in finding your type!
Essentially, you just have to select the two functions that you think best describe how you interact with the external and your internal worlds. Once you understand those, then you've basically found out your type!
As with all personality test things, it's crucially important that you think in terms of how you usually are, or how other people who know you might think of you, rather than how you feel today or have felt recently.
I feel that iNtuitives have an advantage here, since they're used to seeing things in terms of the big picture, while Sensors tend to rely on real experiences instead... So if you're really struggling to think how you 'usually' are, perhaps that in itself could be a sign that you're an S type?
Though people with conscious Ne (external intuition) struggle to make decisions, because their minds constantly branch out every idea into alternate possibilities and 'what if?'s... Hmm.
So good luck, anyway!!
Which of these best describes the way you interact with the external world?
|I live in the moment and like to experience adrenaline and physical thrills. I prefer activities or work where I have to physically use my hands or body. I want to see quick, tangible results of my actions.|
|I constantly see novel connections between the things that I observe. I'm forever of thinking of new ways to see the world, and new possibilities for every outcome, but I struggle to decide on things because they all seem equally valid!|
|I'm very sensitive to the feelings of other people; I've always been naturally empathetic. The idea of other people being upset or hurt bothers me a lot. My face and voice are very expressive; I change my facial expression and tone of voice very frequently, and they clearly reflect my current mood.|
|I like it when things work and make sense. I wish to maintain ordered systems that run properly in a logical way. It bothers me when the facts aren't right. If someone is wrong about something, I will tell them so. There's no need to sugar-coat the truth.|
Which of these best describes the way you interact with your internal world?
|I have an excellent memory and remember specific details very well. My inner world is mostly a web of experiences that physically happened to me. I also feel like everything has a way that it's 'supposed to be'.|
|My inner world is mostly made up of fantasies and original ideas. However, they're finely-refined ideas; the best way to do things. I do not tend to consider multiple different approaches to the same idea equally valid; I'm most satisfied when I've found one best solution.|
|I'm sensitive and easily hurt. I often wonder whether I'm good enough for other people. I think about my self-esteem a lot.|
|My own logical, ordered systems are important to me. I want my ideas and thoughts to make sense. I tend to create elaborate internal systems to classify my thoughts and observations.|