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What is Personality Type?

*Content is adapted from the MBTI Practitioner Learning Module.

Personality can be described as the habitual ways in which people think, feel, and act on most occasions, or all the qualities and characteristics a person exhibits. A person's behaviour can be described as actual acts, observable, and the result of a complex mix of factors. 

Psychological type is the term used to describe the 16 personalities in the Myers-Briggs system, based on the work of mother and daughter team Katherine C. Briggs and Isabel B. Myers. Briggs and Myers studied the theory of personality presented by Carl G. Jung in his seminal work ‘Psychological Types’, (1921). They applied his ideas to family and friends and furthered their understanding, developing the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) instrument to help make Jung’s theory understandable and useful in people’s lives.

Drawing on her mother’s research, Myers began writing items and testing them using a small criterion group whose types she was confident of. Through this process, she developed increasingly robust forms of the MBTI instrument. Importantly, the Myers-Briggs system describes healthy, normal, and natural differences between people and provides a positive language to discuss and respect them. The terms ‘psychological type’ and ‘personality type’ are used interchangeably to mean the same thing.

Psychological type is one feature of Jung's broad understanding of psychological functioning. Jung observed that normal, healthy people had opposite ways of dealing with the world and processing and evaluating what happened around them. Based on both his observations and extensive clinical experience, he concluded that people tended to use their mind in opposite ways in several areas. 

Jung's Psychological Type Theory

The Mental Processes

Jung observed that individuals tended to have opposite ways of perceiving (taking in information) and judging (coming to conclusions or making judgements about what they have perceived). He called the two opposite ways of perceiving Sensation (sensing in MBTI usage) and Intuition. The opposite ways of judging he termed Thinking and Feeling. Sensation, Intuition, Thinking and Feeling are referred to as the mental processes.




Jung stated that people use all four of these mental processes in daily life but tend to be naturally drawn to just one of the oppositive ways of perceiving and one of the opposite ways of judging. These two preferred mental processes are central to Jung's theory of psychological types. 

Opposite Orientations

Jung had earlier observed that individuals tended to focus their attention and energy on, and to be more energised by, one or two opposite orientations: 

  • Extraversion: Orientation toward the outer world of people, objects, and activities. 

  • Introversion: Orientation toward the inner world of ideas, memories, thought, reflection and experiences.


Everyone typically prefers one of these opposites over the other and uses it most comfortably and automatically.

Development of the Types
These three opposite ways of using one's mind (Extraversion or Introversion, Sensing or Intuition, and Thinking or Feeling) are the essence of Jung's type theory and subsequently of the MBTI instrument. Jung, Myers, and Briggs all believed that each individual has an innate disposition to develop a preference for one or the other side of each pair of opposites, to use their preferences more comfortably and more often that their opposites, and to develop personality characteristics that result from exercising their preferences. Further, they stated that their interactions among these personality preferences form distinct personality types. 

The Role of the Environment

It can be inferred from Jung's writings that he saw the environment as influencing personality development. Family, cultural norms, education, training, and other environmental factors may support, suppress, or modify the ways people use and express their innate preferences. Both nature and nurture play a role in individual development. The MBTI assessment is designed to assist respondents in identifying the nature part of their personality - their innate dispositions. 

Nature vs Nurture
Orientation of Energy
The Basic Mental Processes

The characteristics associated with the mental processes and orientations

Where you focus your energy and attention

Directing energy mainly toward the outer world of people, objects, activities, and action. 

People who prefer Extraversion like to focus on the outside world. They direct their energy and attention outward and are energised by interacting with people and taking action. 

Directing energy mainly toward the inner world of thoughts, impressions, and ideas.

People who prefer Introversion like to focus on their own inner world. They direct their energy and attention inward and are energised by reflecting on their own and others' ideas, memories, and experiences. 

Extraversion (E)

  • Focus attention outwards

  • Trust and are most comfortable in the outside world

  • Energised by interacting with others and from taking action

  • Ideas develop by talking them out with others

  • Works things out by talking

  • Have a broad range of interests and friends

  • Expressive

  • Do not like to spend much time in own company

  • Like to interact with large groups and many people

  • Learns best by talking things through

  • Are comfortable taking the initiative at work and in social situations

Introversion (I)


  • Focus attention inwards

  • Observe before deciding whether or not to interct

  • Trust and most comfortable in their inner world

  • Learn best by observing, reading, writing, reflecting

  • Works things out internally

  • Energised by thoughts and taking in experiences

  • Think through ideas before discussing them

  • Have a deeper and smaller range of interests and friends

  • Contained

  • Content to spend a considerable amount of time in own company

  • Like to interact with small groups

  • Tend to focus in depth on a few interests

  • Take the initiative when required by the situation or when the issue is important

You are the best judge of your type, so it’s up to you to make the final decision about your type. Your MBTI type preference is just an indicator of your possible type.

Also, remember, whilst learning about your own type is very useful for personal development, it is also important to learn about the other types so that you can relate to them better.

Once you have decided which of the two attitudes and four functions are your likely preferences, read the description about it. If you have still not decided which four letters best suit you, read a few descriptions and see which one best describes you.

Explore your type

The 16 Types in Brief

The four letters of your MBTI type combine and interact with each other to give your whole psychological type. There are 16 possible combinations that result when one preference from each of the four pairs of opposites (E-I, S-N, T-F, and J-P) combine.




















These combinations are called personality types, or psychological types, and are designated by the four letters representing their four component preferences.

Each type is greater than the sum of its parts, the preferences interact dynamically to create a hierarchy of preference within the processes (S, N, T, and F), from most to least preferred. The specific ways in which the preferences in each type interact were identified by Jung and expanded on by Myers and Briggs. The dynamic nature of personality type is the essence of the Jung psychological theory and the MBTI framework. 

Here are short descriptions of each of the 16 Personality Types in Brief. Each type will have things in common with adjacent types, with types in the same half of the table and in the same column or row. You may see aspects of yourself in several of the descriptions, however there should be one that describes you at your most comfortable.

The 16 Types in Brief
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