The effort to categorize humans according to temperaments and types dates back to thousands of years ago. In modern day, the number of personality-typing frameworks have actually proliferated and come in all forms of complexity, application and scientific validity.
On one side of the spectrum there is the infamous horoscope system which enjoys great popularity, but deemed almost superstitious among the more scientific-minded audience. On the other side is the likes of The Big 5 Model which is frequently quoted as the most scientifically validated framework but doesn’t seem to enjoy the same popularity as horoscope or MBTI.
Today, let’s us take a look at the 5 most popular frameworks and understand a little bit deeper about the origins and their applications.
1. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)
The MBTI has an interesting back-story. It was authored by an American mother-daughter duo, Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, in the 1920s. They based their foundation on the work of Carl Jung, the famous Swiss Psychiatrist who developed the Theory of Typology. The two women contributed research and most importantly, created more comprehensive tests and systems of description to improve the applicability of Jung’s esoteric theory. Today the MBTI test is taken over 2 millions times every year.
The MBTI proposes four main ways in which the human mind categorizes and makes sense of information: Sensing, Intuition, Feeling and Thinking, forming the first two dichotomies of Sensing – Intuition and Feeling – Thinking respectively. In short, the more intuitive a person, the more abstract and imaginative are his thoughts. Meanwhile, a person may prefer to either make decisions based on moral values and beauty or logical reasoning instead.
The next dichotomy is Introversion – Extroversion. Introversion is a rather well-known concept heavily popularized in recent years by books such as Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain. In the context of MBTI, it characterizes how a person draws his or her energy from. If he is energized by social setting, he is more extroverted. Meanwhile, introverts are drained by social interaction and gain energy from listening to his inner mind.
The final result after taking the test is a combination of 4 letters, resulting in a variation of 16 personality types.
The MBTI is most frequently used for career planning, relationships, teamwork, self-understanding and personal growth. It is said that the majority of the Fortune 500 companies use the controversial practice of using MBTI for screening job candidates.
According to enneagraminstitute.com, modern enneagram is a synthesis of ancient wisdom traditions dated back as early as 345 AD. So there is no conclusive history about it, but there are several well-known pioneering figures including Armenia-born George Gurdjieff and Bolivia-born Ichazo, who was claimed to be the first person to put together the enneagram system.
Essentially, the Enneagram proposes 9 Higher Qualities or Holy Ideas corresponding to the three Centers of human intelligence, Thinking, Feeling, and Instinct.. Each Holy Idea also has a corresponding Virtue. The Virtues are essential qualities of the heart experienced by human beings when they are abiding in Essence.
As a person loses awareness and presence, falling away into the trance of the personality, the loss of awareness of the Holy Idea becomes a person’s Ego-fixation, resulting in his characteristic Passion. While everyone has the capacity to embody all of the Holy Ideas and Virtues, one pair of them is central to the soul’s identity, so the loss if it is felt most acutely, and the person’s ego is most preoccupied with recreating it, although in a futile, self-defeating way.
So the Enneagram is well-known for it’s 9-point star depicting the 9 main types and their corresponding movements. One arrow will show how a type move towards when healthy and the other shows how it most resembles when being unhealthy. Sound complicated? Not yet. One type can also have additional 1 or 2 wings which are secondary characteristics. The wing can only come from the adjacent type. A type also has 3 possible instinctual variants: social, sexual, and self-preservation.
If MBTI focuses more on how the mind makes sense of information, the enneagram focuses on the underlying spiritual and emotional motives. There has been research showing correlation between MBTI and Enneagram types, but in general, the later expand significantly the understanding about a person’s typological make-ups. Enneagram is well-suited for self-awareness as well as application in career and relationship consultation.
Socionics is a theory of how individuals process and select information. At its centre is the information metabolism model of the psyche, called Model A, and a model of interpersonal relations. It incorporates Carl Jung’s work on Psychological Types with Antoni Kępiński’s theory of information metabolism. From its core theories, socionic extends to categorize and predict individuals’ interpersonal, group dynamics, potential career, societal roles and more.
Socionics was developed in the 1970s and ’80s, primarily by the Lithuanian researcher Aušra Augustinavičiūtė, also known as Aushra Augista. She is an economist, sociologist, and dean of the Vilnius Pedagogical University’s department of family science. Augusta believed that each personality type has a distinct purpose in society, which can be described and explained by socionics.
The socionic test results give you a sociotype denoted by 4 letters, which look remarkably similar to the MBTI results. In fact, many sources agree that you can use your MBTI type as sociotype, just that for introverts, the J and P needs to be reserved. So if your MBTI type is INFP, your sociotype is INFJ and vice versa.
What makes Socionic distinct from MBTI is the 14 Intertype Relations. Using the Socionic relationship chart, you can quickly deduce the type of relationship that two societypes have. There is a ranking of how ideal a relationship is, from the most ideal (duality) to the less favorable such as Conflicting or Supervision. Ultimately, the description for each Relations shed more light on the nature of the interaction, giving insights to better understand and improve the situation.
Even though Socionic’s uses cover many topics including group interactions, career choice and personal value, its main purpose is still about understanding and describing intertype relationships.
The horoscope is also a synthesis of mankind’s tradition to observe the celestial bodies and assign divine meaning to them. Its system encapsulates 12 constellations captured as early as the Babylonian period in 1500 BC and finally set down in Ancient Greece with names similar to what we see today.
On the basic level, there are 12 different signs in the Zodiac, or “circle of animal” corresponding to 12 consecutive periods on the calendar. They belong to 4 main elements: earth, water, air and fire. Each Zodiac sign is supposed to come with a particular set of characteristics and temperaments, which are often derived from the depiction of the sign itself and its element group. For example, the Taurus sign is depicted as a bull so people in this sign are stereotyped as stubborn and loyal. They are also steadfast and sensual because of the earth element.
Diving deeper into the system you will find a myriad of other considerations such as influencing of other signs depending on a person’s relative date of birth, the sun, the moon, governing planets and houses. Interested readers can find out more in detail these aspects in the many online resources available.
The zodiac, even though widely criticised as non-scientific and even a fad, enjoys huge popularity in modern culture. The description is an easy-to-use tool for self-understanding and guidance into career choices and relationship compatibility. Some sources even go as far as having daily or monthly fortune telling for each Zodiac sign.
5. The Big-Five Personality Traits
The Big-Five personality model refers to the 5 basic traits which was widely used for research and journal of psychologists and scientists. It was first started and streamlined since 1930s by psychologists in an effort to produce more concise trait inventories for the field of personality research.
The five factors may be assessed using a number of measures, including self-report questionnaires. A subject is asked to read a number of descriptions or adjectives and to rate the accuracy with which they describe their own personality on a Likert scale (e.g. 1 – Strongly Disagree to 2 – Strongly Agree).
This is a quick description of the 5 traits under the Big-Five model:
Openness: Enjoy to explore and learn new things, being imaginative and have wide interests
Consciousness: People score high on this are methodical, organized, goal-oriented and reliable
Extraversion: Extraverts gain energy from social interactions, having qualities such as being talkative, outgoing and assertive
Agreeableness: People score high on this scale are more compassionate, coopperative and friendly
Neuroticism: Neurotic indivduals are more prone to negative emotions, often seem tense and moody while people score low on this are more self-assured and stress-resistant
The results of these tests estimate how high or low one is on each trait relative to other people. When many individuals take such tests their scores collectively shed light on issues such as how a particular trait tends to correlate with an outcome, such as success in a particular career.
As we can see, one reason the Big-Five is less popular even though it was claimed and refined to be more scientifically accurate, is because it is a rather new framework still pending ongoing research from the scientific communities. There are no central unifying theories or framework to enable a more in-depth exploration like the other 4 system does.