Link to the Home pageLink to the Usability SectionLink to the Photography SectionLink to the Personal Section

Up to the top of the Personal Section

Jungian Psychological Type

A very brief overview of Jungian Type and the MBTI

The theory of psychological type was first described in the early 1920s by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung. During World War II, Isabel Myers and Katharine Briggs developed the first version of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®), to identify personality in four dimensions of psychological type:

These dimensions address habitual preferences, like being right- or left-handed. Other spaces on the Web provide detailed explanations of psychological type, so I haven't included that here. Two webspaces that I particularly recommend for information content (not necessarily web usability, sorry about that) are Team Technology and ARTmadillo Communications.

The MBTI is published by Consulting Psychologists Press. Other instruments have been developed to look at Jungian type in related ways. These include the Duniho and Duniho Life Pattern Indicator (DDLI) and the Keirsey Temperament Sorter. Many people and web pages refer to these (especially the Keirsey) as "short forms" of the MBTI. However, the Keirsey and the DDLI are independent instruments and are based on slightly different views of Jung's theory. A webspace with some valuable information on the use of both type and Keirsey temperament is that of the Temperament Research Institute.

Psychological type in information system development team building

Ergo Sum LogoAs a certified practitioner of the MBTI, I have used Jungian type mostly for computer system development team building, through what I call Ergo Sum workshops. In Latin, the phrase ergo sum means "therefore I am", and reflects the self discovery that an individual can experience. Using the Greek meaning of "ergo" ("work") and the English meaning of "sum," the phrase reflects the synergy that can occur when teams understand and respect their differences, and use them constructively. I work with teams that are already formed; preferably they have worked together for at least a little while, and have had the chance to get to know one another and to notice some of their differences. For an overview of this aspect of type, see my article Personality and System Development: What's the Connection?

Steve Myers of Team Technology has a web page on Jungian type in information systems staff.

Ethics of psychological type

Some people feel that Jungian typology and the instruments that measure it are dangerous because they can be misused and because psychological type can be used to prejudge people and to discount them. This strikes me as a valid concern, and I have in fact seen type used in ways that make me uncomfortable (for example, some employers use type-related "job profiles" in decisions about hiring and promotion). Type is about preferences, not skills -- and besides, there's a lot more to personality than just type. As Isabel Myers said (I think I'm paraphrasing here, not quoting), an INFP is like all other INFPs, like some other INFPs, and like no other INFP.

Notwithstanding concerns about misuse, I think the MBTI can be a valuable tool, both for personal growth and for fostering collaboration within a team. I have seen a lot of "Aha!" experiences when people finally understand the source of a difference between themselves and a loved one or coworker. I have seen a lot of people use this understanding to improve relationships instead of letting their differences work against them. I prefer to "throw out the bathwater and keep the baby" (if you'll pardon the cliche).


Some resources

Here are some links to a few organizations with useful resources -- materials, books, training, etc., related to Jungian type:

A personal note

My own type is INFP. This type is rare in the general population and, although somewhat less rare in the computing industry, is not common there either. From what I can tell, INFPs are found more often in the usability and human-computer interaction (HCI) specialty than in the rest of computing. (Note: This is based on anecdotal evidence and is not a stastically valid conclusion.) For more information on the HCI/usability professional field, see the Usability section of my webspace. For more information on the INFP type, see this INFP Profile (created by the INFP List).


Back to the top of this page

Up to the top of the Personal Section

Copyright © 1997, 1999, 2000, Elizabeth A. Buie. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to print this page or link to it, as long as such use is personal or educational and is not for commercial gain or profit. This material may not be republished or redistributed without permission.
Contact me for more information or to ask about usage permission.

Last updated 30 April 2006, to redo the visual design