Tuesday, April 16, 2013

MBTI #1: the basics

I wrote a brief intro to using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicatior (MBTI) in character development for my April blog tour. It's available at Sharon Bayliss' blog.

This series of posts will try to introduce the basics of Myers-Briggs functions and personality types, with an eye toward using them to develop characters for fiction. Bear in mind that while two people may be the same MBTI type, their upbringing, experiences, culture, etc., will make them express their type in different ways. Maybe they'll get along famously. Maybe they'll just get on each other's nerves.

What they will have in common is what sorts of information they gather most easily, what they prioritize, how they make decisions, and the easiest ways for them to interact with other people.

There are many tests available online, but I'm recommending this one.

Four basic functions
Myers-Briggs defines four basic functions human use to gather, process, and act on information. "Information" can be anything -- data, sensory input, emotions -- and "process" and "act on" can take many different forms as well.

Important point: everyone uses all of their functions. There are no "better" or "worse" functions. What separates the personality types is which functions come naturally, and which are difficult for an individual to work with.

The four functions are: thinking, feeling, sensing and intuition. Abbreviated as: T, F, S, N.

Two orientations
Functions can be Introverted (i) or Extroverted (e), which indicates whether the function looks inward to the self or outward toward other people and the world. Therefore, the four functions become eight: Ti, Te, Fi, Fe, Si, Se, Ni, Ne.

Each of these has a specific definition, which I will go into more detail about in later posts.

Arrays by preference
If everyone uses four functions in a specific order from most preferred (coming the most naturally to that person) to least (those functions that don't come easy) then there are sixteen personality types. Chart of all sixteen and their preferences.

There are four dichotomies in this system -- you're either an I or E, an N or S, an F or T, a J or P. Each of those is actually a continuum between the two extremes. For example, I test as a strong Introvert with very little Extroversion. It's entirely possible to be "borderline" in any of the dichotomies and not have a strong preference for one or the other.


Dominant, secondary, tertiary and inferior
One's dominant function is the one that comes easiest. You're very comfortable using that function, you trust it. It's rarely "wrong." The secondary function supports and reinforces the dominant -- it's also very comfortable and reliable, for you.

For example, as an INTJ (hi, I'm an INTJ) I am very comfortable with my Ni and Te -- working with the abstract ideas that well up inside and translating them into external reality.

The third and fourth functions in one's array -- the tertiary and inferior functions -- don't come so easy. You don't feel so sure about what they bring you, they can be confusing, and you need to work at mastering them.

For INTJs like me, that's my Fi and Se. Since I'm a bit older and I've put in the practice working with my two inferior functions (so that I can use them in writing stories) I am more comfortable with my roiling internal feelings (Fi) and the wealth of sensory details (Se) I can tap into. When I was younger, I was much more angsty and timid in situations full of sensory overload.

What about the other four? 
If there are four-times-two functions and each type is an array of four, what about the other four? Definitions vary, but IMO those missing four functions make up what's called the shadow. Some theories call those your "demons," especially the opposite of your most inferior function. The missing four functions do not come easy to a given personality type, but they can still be used.

As an INTJ, for me those four are Ne, Ti, Fe and Si. This is a good place to repeat: everyone uses all the functions. I have been known to glean things using Ne and Ti, though I have to work at it. I'm still not so good at Fe (tend to use my Se and Ni to approximate.) And I agree, my Si is very much my "demon." Wrestling with that is never a happy thing.

This will all make more sense when I explain the eight functions in more detail. I will also lay out some of the theories about the shadow when I talk about stress.

1 comment:

The Golden Eagle said...

The MBTI is quite interesting. I'm looking forward to your future posts!

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