Personality Type

What it is

Psychological type (also called Jungian Type or Personality Type) is a framework for understanding differences in how people take in information and make decisions; it involves a dynamic system of psychological energy and processes. It is not a labeling system. Just about 100 years ago, Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung articulated his theory of psychological types, or personality preferences. Just as everyone fortunate enough to have full use of their physical abilities can sign their names with either hand, we can all use all of the eight mental preferences that Jung described.

Further, just as we can practice dribbling a basketball or playing the piano with either hand, we can practice with all of the mental preferences to improve our skills. Maturity requires it of us. However, four of the mental preferences come more easily, taking less effort and energy. The eight mental preferences are laid out below, in their pairs.

Jung began by pointing out that perhaps the most notable difference in personalities is whether we prefer to attend to the external or internal world.

  • People who prefer Extraversion gain energy from action and interaction. They need activity or other people to do their best work and find satisfaction in the day.
  • People who prefer Introversion gain energy from solitude and reflection. They need time to reflect and process their thoughts to find satisfaction in the day.

The second set of preference pairs describes two ways of perceiving the world. While all of us can do both, we prefer one of these and place more trust in the information it provides to us.

  • Sensing types first pay attention to reality and past experiences. They see the pieces, the facts, the aspects of reality conveyed through their five senses.
  • Intuitive types first pay attention to hunches, connections and realities. They see the whole, a synthesis of perceptions and conclusions.

The third set of preference pairs describes two ways of coming to closure, or to judgment. While all of us can do both, we prefer one of these–we use it first.

  • Thinking types first apply objective criteria to decisions, including logic, precedents being set, and universal principles
  • Feeling types first apply subjective criteria to decisions by stepping into the shoes of those involved and considering values

The last set of preference pairs describes what we do in the external world–do we perceive or judge externally? Balance in the world of type means spending adequate (not equal) time gathering information (Perceiving) and making decisions/coming to closure (Judging). And, that means we all need to access our extraverted and introverted sides to access Perceiving and Judging.
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The value to you

Psychological Type is a tool that seems simple and straightforward, yet it isn’t simplistic. It’s also a versatile tool. Thousands of studies have demonstrated Psychological Type’s utility. A sample of areas in which it can help:

  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Career planning
  • Teaching and learning
  • Spirituality
  • Improving health, fitness and well-being
  • Dealing with stress
  • Resolving conflict

Researchers have linked Psychological Type with elements of neuroscience, strengthening our understanding of both. Read more about the neuroscience of personality.