Valid or pseudo science? A brief history of the MBTI

Carl Jung and cognitive functions

Carl Gustav Jung (1875 – 1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology. He was one of the best students and confidants of Sigmund Freud, a forefather of modern psychology who is well known for the discovery and study of the unconscious. The unconscious is defined as a reservoir of feelings, thoughts, urges, and memories that are outside of conscious awareness. Many of these unconsciousness are influenced by our early memories as an infant and young child.

While Feud theory is only about the personal unconscious, Carl Jung studied and developed the unconscious further to show the collective unconscious, which represent a form of the unconscious common to mankind as a whole and originating in the inherited structure of the brain. It is distinct from the personal unconscious, which arises from the experience of the individual.

He was the first to distinguish the two major attitudes or orientations of personality – extroversion and introversion. He also identified four basic functions (thinking, feeling, sensing, and intuiting) which in a cross-classification yield eight pure personality types. He advocates for individuation, which can be defined as the achievement of self-actualization through a process of integrating the conscious and the unconscious.

Jung’s theory is less mainstream than Freud’s as it is very abstract and related to the magical realm of dreams and historical symbols… However, the testimonials for the soundness and usefulness of his work are the continued development of his theory into more structured framework by renowned psychologist in the field such as Isabel Myers, Linda Beren, Lenore Thompson, Dario Nardi..

About the MBTI

The MBTI by Isabel Myer is probably the most popular (extremely popular to be exact) with 1.5 million people taking the official test each year and almost 90% of Fortune 500 companies using them. Its popularity certainly drew criticism with questions from the scientific community about its validity and reliability as a test.

Jung’s theory is less mainstream than Freud’s as it is very abstract and related to the magical realm of dreams and historical symbols… That is one of the main reason for the MBTI being questioned in its scientific foundation as well as the its accuracy as a psychomtric test, which is another matter and debate on its own.

However, the testimonials for the soundness and usefulness of his work are the continued development of his theory into more structured frameworks by renowned psychologist in the field such as Isabel Myers, Linda Beren, Lenore Thompson, Dario Nardi…

Recent discovery in cognitive science does reveal and prove that introversion and extroversion exist as real pattern in the brain with extroverts having the thinking and talking parts wired together while for introvert, they can work independently. Dario Nardi’ Neuro science of brain scan book, he used EEG method to show that across hundreds of participants, similar MBTI types do have similar brain activity patterns at work or when in flow.

Example of brain scan images of different MBTI types – Credit to Dario Nardi

Quotes

One of the reasons for learning about type is to recognize that we are constantly motivated, simply by the way we’ve established our neural networks, to shape reality along particular functional lines. Another is to recognize the possibilities for growth and change that exist within—and apart from—the framework we have created for ourselves.

Even small changes in our usual way of doing things can make big differences in the way our brain is operating. We develop the ability to think in new ways, and this stimulates creative change in all areas of our lives.

Personality Type: An Owner’s Manual

Why Does Your MBTI Make You A Late Bloomer

Source: truity.com

Let’s face it, even in the 21st century, what society defines as success is still very much materialistic. Whether someone is considered to do well in life depends on how high is his or her earning, his material possession and other status symbols including having (attractive) romantic partners.

The average income chart above by MBTI types portray a perspective of success. The highest earners on average are ENTJ and ESTJ while the lowest earners are INFP and ISFP. Overall, higher scores on extraversion (E), thinking (T), sensing (S) and judging (J) better predict financial success.

The reason that I phrase this article as “late bloomer” is because even though there is no survey that I know of, I do believe the material gap between types will lessen as people become more mature and balanced. The second reason is that even if the gap is still there, you will better accept who you are and the non-material and non-traditional sense of success that you create, which will give you better self-confidence and happiness down the road.

Introversion

There has been a rising support for the power of the introvert in the past decades with many books and articles that talk about the hidden advantage of being an introvert. They might be stereotyped as wallflowers who are meek and easily pushed over.

The truth is that introverts are not the minority. They are almost equal in the share of population as extroverts and introversion and shyness are not the same, though they can be easily mistaken. Introversion simply means the information pathway/ processing is longer and consumes more energy. Hence, introverts tend to think more and are easily overwhelmed and overloaded by external stimuli.

It’s easy to see how introversion leads you to become a late bloomer. Life is tough and complicated at the start. You can easily be overwhelmed by the world when younger and it will take longer for introverts to consolidate and master this wave of insights and nuances in their brilliant but overwhelming minds. 


Not only can introverts catch up with extroverts later in life in material success, their insightful minds allow them to excel in highly skilled and specialised careers such as writer, scientist and philosopher. These careers might not be the best paid, but they have the potential to be highly celebrated and propel society forward.

FEELING

If your type has letter F instead of T, you lean more towards feeling, which has to do with either intrapersonal or interpersonal relationships than efficiency and logic (T).

Feeling (Fi) can either be introverted or so-called intrapersonal (most dominant in INFP and ISFP) or extraverted/interpersonal (Fe) (which is dominant in ENFJ and ESFJ). Introverted feeling will likely have it the hardest at younger age because it is very hard to express and easily misunderstood. It is primarily concerned with moral right and wrong, living authentically and freely according to their inner compass of beauty.

This inward feeling may make you artistic yet impractical because deep down you yearn to express something of profound beauty but also makes you unable to take on more practical tasks and jobs, which feels inauthentic to your being. It will take time and sometimes luck to find a path that is both spiritually fulfilling yet lucrative. Introverted feelers like ISFP and INFP make the best artists and poets but their path will be long and rocky.

Extraverted feeling users, especially introverted ones (INFJ and ISFJ) would also feel underpar because they find it hard to assert themselves and risk upsetting others. This function chiefly concerns maintaining a harmonious social atmosphere, causing you to feel it hard to just simply put people aside to get what you want. But humans are ultimately social creatures and being able to get on the good sides of the group often can take you far ahead, including in finance and career.

INTUITIVENESS

I believe the Intuitive (N) – Sensing (S) dimension is the most interesting yet often overlooked in MBTI. Only about 25% of the population are intuitive, so they are way more rare than introverts! You can think of the intuitive-oriented person simply as a nerdy book-smart kind of person who is more interested in philosophy and theories than concrete facts and actions.

Intuitives, especially INFP, INTP, ENFP and ENTP (extraverted intuition) are often scattered-brain big-pictured people who have a hard time being decisive. To them the world is full of possibilities where traditional and well-accepted concepts like marriage, houses, children and even money should be questioned and explored.

With so much information and so many questions being shifted and synthesized, no wonder it takes longer for them to reach a stable stage in life. They make for smart students but somewhat clueless and restless young or even middle-aged adults while their sensing-dominant peers have happily accepted and settled into more traditional paths and roles.

However, the gift of this unconventional and big-picture mindset is the potential for paradigm shifting and holistic perspectives. Survey might suggest that intuitives earn slightly less than sensors but one reason is because the former takes longer to systhesise their perspectives, which can go beyond the immediate needs of themselves and families to challenge the status quo and propel society’s understanding forward. They make for wise and profound innovators and teachers of arts, philosophy and sciences.

So in conclusion, even if you are at the receiving end of all the disadvantaged factors above, like even in the case of INFP and ISFP, don’t be discouraged. Your mind is uniquely created for a special purpose with unique strengths and values. Of course life is tough for everyone and everyone needs a certain degree of material and practical success, but social contribution and your path to success are just not in a traditional sense. Your life purpose might be more towards helping others or helping society make new breakthroughs or to find the secrets of the universe, at the expense of the practical aspects – and that is ok!