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

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!

3 most common INFP Enneagram subtypes

While MBTI is based on how different types process and judge information differently, Enneagram categorizes people based on the patterns of trauma responses and core emotional motivations.

So think of your MBTI type as cognitive habits and patterns, while the enneagram tells you the purpose of these patterns. Two people may have the same tools (the mind) but having different purposes and drive in life will result in two very different characters. Similarly, two MBTI types might be trying to achieve the same purpose in life despite having very different cognitive tools.

Quick definition of INFP personality type


INFP, sometimes called the Mediator or the Idealist, refers to one of the 16 MBTI Types which has a dominant function of Introverted Feeling (meaning individual sense of morality) supported by their auxiliary function of Extraverted Intuition (a.k.a divergent abstracting thinking). They are characterised as gentle, peaceful yet quietly holding down a fountain of passion and optimistic ideals.

The 3 most popular Enneagram types associated with INFP type are Enneagram 4, 9 and 5. To read the full study here, click here. Read more below to find which flavors of INFP do you possess.


Most common: INFP with Enneagram 4 (the Artist)

Enneagram Four, nicknamed the artist or individualist, is described as self-aware, sensitive, and reserved. They are emotionally open, creative, and personable, although they may be grumpy and self-conscious at times. They may feel scornful and exempt from common ways of life if they isolate themselves from others because they feel weak and flawed. Melancholy, self-indulgence, and self-pity are common concerns for them. At their best, they are able to reinvent themselves and change their experiences since they are inspired and very creative. Read more.

To deeply understand their behaviours, we need to understand that Enneagram 4 is in the Heart center (with the primary emotion of shame). They want to feel love and personal significance while avoiding shame (judgement by others). While Enneagram type 2 and 3 also primarily deal with shame, type 4’s unique unconscious coping mechanism is to think of themselves as unique or uniquely defective. This means society can’t judge them on the same standards because they are one of a kind characters with a one of a kind life mission.

Being the most common among INFP, no wonder that  Enneagram 4 INFP fits the typical INFP description so  well: artistic, creative with a deep longing to find and realize their unique paths in life. They make the best poets, artists and entertainers thanks to their keen sense of individualism and emotional sensitivity.

Second most common: INFP with Enneagram type 9 (the Peacekeeper)

The general Enneagram type 9 is characterized as accepting, trustworthy, and steady. They are inclined to go along with others in order to preserve the peace. They want everything to run smoothly and without confrontation, but they may also be complacent, simplifying situations and downplaying any negative aspects. At their Best: tenacious and all-encompassing, they have the ability to unite people and heal conflicts. Read more.

Unlike Enneagram 4, type 9 is in the body triad (together with type 1 and 8), which means they are more driven by a desire for autonomy instead of love. To go a little bit deeper, type 9 is governed by anger (and they resolve by unconscious complete denial of anger) instead of shame. For INFP, this should translate into a more stable and down-to-earth character than the typically turbulent INFP profile because deep down type 9 wants to be left alone instead of seeking love or validation from others like Enneagram type 4 does.

Enneagram type 9 is nicknamed the Peacekeeper. INFPs with this Enneagram are no exception, which means they are happiest and most suited for practical actions instead of creative arts. Think of nurses, peace corp volunteers or even law and security enforcers.

Third most common: INFP with Enneagram type 5 (the Investigator)

Slightly more rare but still the third most common among INFP,  this subtype possesses the inquisitive and powerful mind of Enneagram 5 which is nicknamed the Investigator. Enneagram 5 has the ability to focus and concentrate on very complicated concepts and planning. They might get absorbed with their ideas and imaginative structures while being independent, clever, and ingenious. At their best, type 5 is visionary and pioneering in the pursuit of knowledge. Read more.

While INFP with Enneagram  4 and 9 above are governed by the Heart and Body respectively, Enneagram type 5 is in the Mind triad. This means they care more about security and are more driven by anxiety a.k.a not having enough knowledge to deal with the outside world.

As dark as it sounds, this characteristic anxiety also induces an effortless sense of wonder and curiosity towards the world. People of this type love knowledge and competency. INFP with Enneagram 5 will likely be very suited for serious research and study, especially those that have humanitarian or altruistic bends, like curing diseases or solving hunger.


Of course you can identify with all of these types as we all possess all 9 Enneagram types to different extent. However, you can find your core type much better by pinpointing and relating to the deepest and most overarching pain and desires of the types.

Don’t feel like any of the 3 types above fit? Explore other Enneagram types and decide for yourself at https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/. For INFP, the other Enneagram types are more rare but certainly possible!

The 4 Types Of INFP

The INFP MBTI type is stereotyped as misunderstood, meek and emotional introvert who is obsessed with morality  while having a natural gift for written languages. However, in truth, INFP is a very diverse range of people with varied strengths and interests. Let’s explore 4 main subtypes of INFP which you can better identify yourself with:

The “Marketer”

INFP type often correlates with Enneagram type 4 – the Individualist. Type 4 Enneagram shares many characteristics with the poster child INFP: individualistic, creative, emotional with desire to be unique. Enneagram type 4 can develop wing 3 or wing 5. Enneagram Type 3 is nicknamed the Performer, or someone who is achievement and status-oriented. Meanwhile, type 5 is labeled the Investigator, or someone who is logical and always want to understand things deeper.

Depiction of INFP Marketer in Team

The Marketer is INFP with Enneagram 4 Wing 3. It combines type 4’s knack for creative expression and a somewhat conventional career-focused mindset. They are career-driven and often have lofty goals, taking pride in conveying with passion the values of the brands and products which they believe in.

The Marketer type often has a better time to blend into teamwork and corporate environment compared to INFP 4 Wing 5. They enjoy using their creative ability to produce marketing materials that can touch the audience while enjoy career stability and progression.

The “Bohemian”

Bohemian is defined as a socially unconventional person, often in the arts. This is a pretty apt term to describe Enneagram 4 with wing 5 (4w5) because the 5 wing adds an additional layer of introversion and bizarreness into their perspectives. Enneagram 4 and 5 are both introverted in attitude, resulting in a really introspective and original character.

Unlike 4w3 who is often more comfortable with teamwork and corporate settings, 4w5 Bohemian is truly a lone wolf. The emotionality of type 4 combined with the rationality of 5 itself seems like an oxymoron. Imagine an INFP who has learnt to temper his feelings with logic and objectivity. This type wants their work to be not only unique but also original and insightful. They will more likely do a mundane day job while using their creative talent to produce few but high-quality work compared to the Marketer INFP.

Vincent Van Gogh Enneagram 4w5
Van Gogh is most likely a 4w5 (not necessarily INFP)

Read more: https://enneagrampaths.com/2019/01/13/enneagram-4w3-vs-4w5/

The Turbulent INFP

I use the terminology Turbulent and Assertive from 16personalities.com to describe another pronounced dichotomy among INFP. In fact, the majority of INFP seems to be Turbulent, which is expected among feeling-dominant types. Turbulent is equivalent to Neurotic in Big 5, describing someone who is more prone to worrying, perfectionism and seeking social approval.

The turbulent INFP fits more with the usual expectation of INFP type who is prone to overthinking and perfectionism, the chief cause of their notorious procrastination. Turbulent INFPs are pretty socially-conscious despite being an introvert. They would often worry about meeting conventional social expectations such as career, income, status…

Yet, turbulent individuals are said to be more creative. Having both creativity and perfectionism, they are very capable of producing art masterpieces.

The Assertive INFP

I’m not sure if Assertive INFP are born or grown because neuroticism can change. Many INFPs including myself appeared more turbulent when younger and through repeated self-conditioning, are able to attain better inner-peace to become more assertive.

Regardless, assertive individuals are more self-assured and confident in their abilities, at the risk of being complacent and arrogant. While turbulent INFP are perfectionistic in their work and relentless in self-improvement, assertive ones seem contented and nonchalant. 

At their best, assertive INFP are calm and comfortable in asserting themselves. According to surveys by 16personalities.com, they are more resistant to stress and seem more happy with life. They can also possess more perseverance to pursue their visions as they are less dependent on other people’s approval or conventional expectations.

Conclusion

I understand that if you are an INFP type, you may not like to be pigeon-holed into labels or being categorized as more typical or mainstream. However, the writing above is in no way exhaustive and also limited by my own repertoire of personality psychology. I would say, at the risk of sounding cliche, we are all unique… 

There can be many other personality dimensions yet to be discovered. The personality labels, whether being mainstream or not, only serve to help us better understand our strengths and weaknesses through well-known concepts. You are always encouraged to explore other unique aspects of your individuality so as to grow to the fullest of your potential.

Overall, there are pros and cons for being in each of the INFP subtypes listed above. One type can always learn from the opposite type to become a more balanced and mature individual.

MBTI Superpowers Part 1: The INFP and ISFP

The MBTI is invented by Myer and Catherine Briggs to help people better find a suitable job in the post World War 2 era. They believe that each person has a special role in society according to his or her MBTI type. Today, let’s us explore the roles and super powers of the INFP and ISFP.

INFP’s superpowers: emotional insights, creative expressions or scientific minds 

INFP – the Mediator, leads with Introverted Feeling (Fi) – a powerful yet often misunderstood function. Fi is a moral compass with its root taken from deep inside the human psyche. It is activated especially when one witnesses human suffering and social injustice, which triggers a powerful desire to restore the moral balance to the universe. Fi is somewhat an oxymoron. It is highly subjective based on one’s personal experiences, yet its very basis is the universal and timeless ethical rules of humanity.

Fi is shared between both INFP and ISFP. What makes INFP special is the addition of the auxiliary Extraverted Intuition (Ne). Ne is the master at seeing big-picture possibilities and connecting far-flung dots. It allows the users to easily speak in metaphors and parables  and enable them to be highly creative problem solvers. Writing is a form of complex creative problem-solving as it often involves generating several options and picking the most suitable one to best describe the nuanced meanings ( And Fi is the master at pin-pointing feeling or meaning)

A powerful moral drivers combined with big-picture creativity results in a determined justice warrior who is also a powerful wordsmith. The term warrior may seem strange to describe the peace-loving INFPs who would often start out as highly sensitive individuals who shy away from conflicts or asserting themselves. However, as their Ne perspectives become more developed, they become more eloquent and flexible in navigating the world.

The INFP justice warrior
INFP can combine a powerful sense of justice with vision and eloquence

Ultimately, INFPs are over-represented in professions of writers, film-makers and psychologists. Their Fi and Ne allows them to have a keen structural understanding of human’s motivations and emotional make-ups. This combination also allows them to translate those insights into powerful story-telling device, be it poems or movies, to move thousands or even millions of audience in the moral causes of their interests.

Think of J. K. Rowling or J. R. R. Tolkien who are most likely INFP. Their highly developed Fi and Ne produced highly epic and intricate classics that can resonate and captivate millions of people worldwide. The more scientific-minded INFPs like Mayer Brigg (founder of the MBTI) are gifted psychologists who develop innovative yet practical theoretical frameworks to help generations of ordinary people to understand themselves better. 

The third and more action-oriented INFPs are the true justice warriors who prefer hands-on work such as volunteering, nursing, animal rescuing… Joan of Arc, the famous heroine who mobilized and inspired the French population to fight against the English occupation of France, is often regarded as INFP. Their purity of heart and verbal eloquence can help them easily connect with and inspire people to follow their conviction.

   

ISFP: sensitivity, artistic expression and aesthetic sense

ISFP – The Adventurer, has only 1 letter different from INFP. Yet, that one letter results in fundamental difference. ISFP belongs to the SP (Explorer) group who thrives on spontaneity, sensuality and living in the moment, which is chiefly the result of Extraverted Sensing (Se). Se is a concrete, matter-of-fact way of perceiving which thrives on quick reflexes and fast decision-making.

At the core, ISFP shares with INFP Introverted Feeling. Fi is a powerful emotional motor and its aim is to control the external environment or oneself to restore a feeling of ethical balance. These seemingly passive and meek creatures have a sea of feelings bubbling within, waiting to pour over when there is injustice and unfairness present. Fi is keenly aware and gives absolute respect to individuals’ right to live autonomously without being forced to live against their nature or will.

Picture of a girl showing free-spirit of ISFP
Ultimately, ISFPs dream of living freely as who they are

However, Se instead of Ne results in ISFP being more in-tune with and also, limited by their immediate presence and surrounding. The Adventurer lives in the here and now and their concerns are often confined in themselves and their immediate family or friends. They are quicker with action and their senses instead of words. They make for excellent nurses, care-givers, chefs, painters or even athletes.

ISFP is often said to be the most intuitive among all the sensors personality. Their introversion and sensitivity might allow for a more introspective nature. Well-educated ISFPs also make good social-justice warriors, vehemently advocating for popular causes such as women’s equal rights, animal rights or climate change. They are similar to the action-oriented INFPs but are also more conventional.

ISFPs can also be well-known for their artistic inclination. They often can sing well and have good fashion sense. They are also good at appreciating good vibes and enjoying the finer and luxurious things in life. Their aesthetic talents serve them well in a wide range of outlets, from singing, painting, cooking to architectural designs.

 

ISFP woman enjoys the finer things in life
ISFPs are often the master at appreciating the trendy and luxurious