Carl Jung’s theory of Psychological Types is founded on his empirical observation of basic human Cognitive Functions. It is a deep, rich, complicated theory full of insight into human behavior, with endless potential to increase self and other understanding.
The most familiar adaptation of this work is the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Myers Briggs wanted to popularize Jung’s Type work, and in this they have been immensely successful. The MBTI is used extensively in corporations, and in educational, counseling, and therapy settings. There are numerous adaptations of their work, endless forums discussing their types, and countless quizzes that aim to tell you everything from your Star Wars MB type to the MB type of your cat! If you find MB interesting, you are likely to really enjoy digging deeper with the Cognitive Functions.
However, the MB system is an oversimplification of Jung’s original work, and as such, many people become frustrated with it. For example, the MB test is set up in a forced choice format to bin you into one Preference or the other for each of their four Dichotomies. This strikes a lot of people as artificial. If you agree, you are absolutely correct! According to Jung’s original theory, every person has and uses all four of the Functions (S, N, T, F) and both Attitudes (E, I). However the order of personal preference of use differs, and the MB test is designed to try and pull out that order by forcing you to pick between options.
Frustrations with the MB system often result from major misconceptions about what the different Preferences tell you about a person. For example, if you are an Extravert (E) in the MB system, this does not necessarily mean that you are a social butterfly, that you party a lot, or that you have a large group of friends. It is quite possible to be a shy Extravert without time to socialize beyond a close knit group of friends.
Additionally, there are many factors that can cause you to test incorrectly. Misconceptions about the Preferences are just one factor! The family and culture you grew up in is very likely to influence your personal outlook on what is acceptable, which in turn can influence how you try to be and therefore how you test. People act differently when in work mode versus in their personal lives, so if you are answering questions based on what you DO, this will depend on if you’re thinking about work or home. Also, if you are under a lot of stress at the time of taking the test, or if you happen to be putting a lot of effort into a particular area of your life (developing your EQ, for example) this will also impact your test results.
As a consequence, people will take the MB test (or often short, unofficial, unverified online versions of it) and come out with different results at different times, calling the credibility of the system into question. In fact, even if you take the official MB test, no set of questions can pin down the intricacies of a human being. It can require multiple conversations with a Type consultant well versed in Typology to tease out enough of the complicating factors to discover your “best fit type.”
This, of course, is just your general “type” in a general system. This is what is called a “model” in scientific terms. No scientific model ever invented accurately explains every detail of any system, but that is not the point. A model gives us a framework for thinking about and experimenting with the system, and that is the purpose of Jung’s model.
Without this understanding, people regularly question the utility of the MB tests. It can seem like a very stereotyping system that aims to box the tremendous variety of human nature into a small number of narrow categories. In fact, some of the sources of type descriptions (most of which are unrelated to the actual Myers & Briggs Foundation) are stereotyped to the point of insult.
Jung’s system however is dynamic and alive. The Functions in his system vary over time and maturity as we become more consciously aware of them. There is an interplay between them within us, as if we really had multiple personalities battling for our attention. Understanding how this works and influences our actions and reactions in daily life can provide immense clarity and relief.
Jung was forthright about the limits of his system. He was clear that it was limited and could not explain all aspects of human personality. He stated upfront that it was empirically induced based on patterns that he observed in his clients. He stated his intent to provide merely a framework for increased understanding and his hope that further work would provide far more information. Parallels between his work and other attempts to understand humans have been found throughout history, and I believe the growing field of neuroscience will shed much more insight into the inner workings of our cognition in the near future.
In the meantime, I encourage you not to allow prejudice against MB or psychology in general to cause you to miss the depth of benefit to be found in Jungian Psychological Type theory. Please contact me if you would like to learn more about the Functions and their impact on your life!
Contact me now to ask questions or to schedule your Function Type Consultation!