MBTI: Functions vs Traits, Criticism & Correlation

I have an interest in psychology in general, but anyone who reads my blog knows that I have particular love for all things Jung (specifically Jungian typology as it was more fully developed with Myers-Briggs).  I came to MBTI through my studies of Jung and esoterica.  I was studying Tarot and noticed some correlations people had made between the card suits and Jungian functions.

However, like Jung, my interest in the esoteric is rooted in my desire for truth and so I’m not content to look at pretty diagrams of possible correlations.  So, I’ve studied the theoretical and scientific side of it well enough that I have a broad grasp of all the details and different viewpoints.

Anyone who has been on a type forum or checked out the variety of info available on the web quickly will realize that there is much debate and disagreement.

There is Myers-Briggs versus Kiersey, and then there are Berens’ Interaction Styles that attempt to bridge the two (also, Berens based her model on that of DISC which is something entirely else).  There is Beebe’s function roles which puts the functions in one order versus Thomson who puts them in another order.  Then there is the Russian field of Socionics which (mixing in some other theories) interprets Jung entirely different than Myers-Briggs (and some of the Socionics supporters claim that Kiersey fits their model the best).

The real interesting debate, though, is those who claim that the MBTI isn’t scientific and that Trait Theory (the favorite Trait Theory being FFM, aka the “Big Five”).  It’s this last area of disagreement that I was just now considering in some recent web-searches, but it’s something I’ve considered off and on these last couple of years.  I would gladly give up MBTI if it proved entirely or mostly false an unuseful, and so it’s an important to determine what is presently known.

There are several criticisms often stated:

  • Limited peer review research
  • Bimodal theory is disproven by trait research
  • Unreliability because of low incidence of test result repeatability
  • Neuroticism is excluded

Well, I don’t plan on answering all of those criticisms.  I’m not an expert and so my opinion isn’t all that important, but I am a very curios cat.  I will say that I doubt at present any absolute conclusions can be made.  These are worthy criticisms to consider, but further research is required.  Also, even if the MBTI is imperfect and requires improvement, that isn’t a reason to scrap it.  Research improves theories and so thinking of MBTI as a static belief system is far from helpful.  Furthermore, Jungian typology goes beyond just the MBTI (in more than a half century, numerous theories and tests have been created, and some of these are based on different premises such as not forcing bimodal results).

Here are some things that I found interesting which support various aspects of the MBTI:

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (Wikipedia)

What Did Isabel Do? Insights into the MBTI

A “Big Five” Scoring System for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

Hierarchical Confirmatory Factor Analysis of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Score Reliability Across Studies

Reliability of the MBTI® Form Q Assessment

Myers-Briggs and Four-Type Structure

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: Mapping to Circumplex and Five-Factor Models

MBTI is NOT a pseudoscience. Check your facts, nay-sayers!

MBTI: INFPs & INTPs, Global Chatter & Theory

I was talking to someone online about INFPs and INTPs.  It reminded me of my days at infp.globalchatter.com which is a now defunct forum.  :(  *sigh*

It was nice to summarize my experience and understanding.  So, I thought I’d share my thoughts here with some links to cached pages from the INFP forum.

 - – -

FIRST RESPONSE:

Hello.

Your query amuses me. I understand. Life is more confusing than the strict personality types can portray. It took me a long time to make sense of it all.

I guess theoretically I could be a Thinking person. It doesn’t really matter to me how I’m labelled by others, but I’ll give you the reasons I identify with INFP.

I took many online tests and I always tested as INFP. I joined an INFP forum and it was utterly amazing how similar I was to many people there. I did meet some other INFPs who were more of an intellectual bent (afterall, INFPs have Ne just as much as INTPs). I finally took the official test (including the Step II) and I tested as INFP.

I’ve had to study theory to a great extent to understand my sense of being an INFP (by the way, many INFPs love theory especially as it relates to psychology as the MBTI was developed by an INFP; I had my best discussions on an INFP forum with a mix of INFPs and INFJs).

There are two ways of understanding an extremely intellectual INFP.

First, there is Beebe’s function roles. The auxiliary for INFPs is Ne which when strongly developed can lead to an intellectual bent. INFPs use Ne to deal with the world and so intellectuality is one way INFPs learn to adapt (and to protect their Fi). This especially makes sense when you consider that the INFP’s inferior (Te) is also (according to Beebe) their aspirational. INFPs, as long as they don’t become psychologically stunted, will always feel lacking in the Te department and will be drawn towards this ability (either in developing it or attacking it).

Apparently, I inherited my grandmother’s INFP-like genetics; but, as I was raised by two Te parents (one being a dominant Te intellectual), I had Te modelled for me. I aspire to prove myself to my dad through intellectuality, but in INFP fashion I see intellectuality as an ideal of truth (i.e., authenticity; there is no greater ideal for an INFP).

Secondly, there is MBTI Step II. I’d recommend you check out this test and maybe take it as it gives a much more nuanced view of type. Each function is broken down into 5 factors. Very few people fit perfectly into a specific type, but on any given factor it isn’t unusual to be strong. A factor that goes against the overall function description is called out-of-preference (OOPs).

There were only 2 OOPs in my test. I was strongly Questioning rather than Accomodating (which the latter is a factor of Feeling). And I was strongly Methodical rather than Emergent (which the latter is a factor of Perceiving). So, to be precise, I’m a Questioning, Methodical INFP: who is precise, challenging and wants discussion; and who is more intellectually organized.

However, there is one further aspect to consider. In the MBTI Step II results, it is also shown how your results compare to others who test as the same type. It’s perfectly normal for an INFP to test as strong in Questioning and Methodical. Interesting!

Furthermore, from a traits viewpoint, type theory doesn’t make any sense at all. Most people test in the middle rather than strongly to either side. Barcode (barcode9588) points this out in her later videos and as INTP she is drawn to the scientific precision of the traits model. However, as an INFP, I think the Jungian model captures a more subtly nuanced understanding that science as yet doesn’t know how to test for.

I hope that is helpful. If you want to study it more for yourself, I can give you some website and book recommendations.

I’d be curious to know what type you’ve tested as. Are you wondering about Thinking and Feeling in your own experience?

Nice to meet you,
Ben

 
 - – -
  
SECOND RESPONSE:
 
Hello
 
Do you ever visit online typology forums? I learned the most about typology in discussions with people of the same or similar type as it helped me to understand why differences exist. Maybe it’s an INFP thing, but I appreciated seeing how people wrote about their experience as it related to type descriptions and theory.
 
That relates to your first question. For an INFP, subjectivity and objectivity aren’t as easily separated… and it seems somehow different than it is for most INTPs.  But, in general, my observations are that a less mature INFP will have less sense of objectivity and a less mature INTP will have less sense of subjectivity. 
 
The difference is that both an INFP’s auxiliary Ne and their aspirational Te can attract them to objectivity (logic, rationality, etc.), but an INTP also has auxiliary Ne and so is more rooted in the abstract.  The INFP’s Fi balances the abstract Ne whereas the INTP’s Ti magnifies the abstract Ne.  Or that is how it seemed to me when dealing with INTPs on various forums including INTP Central.
 
It’s hard to describe the difference and I don’t know if you understand what I’m trying to communicate.  There are different aspects to this.
 
First, INFPs’ greater potential for mixing subjectivity and objectivity allows for them to be (when mature and confident in themselves) more aware on multiple levels. What I mean is that INFPs can divide or spread their focus on what to an INTP may seem like unrelated areas. 
 
A group of INFPs discussing a topic will be just as wide-ranging as a group of INTPs in terms of ideas.  But the INFP group won’t focus as exclusively on just the ideas.  INFPs love ideas and love abstract theory.  It’s just INFPs also love relationships, emotions, and subjective values; and INFPs are equally trusting of rational thought and non-rational hunches. On top of that, INFPs (along with INTPs) love imagination and considering possibilities, and so they’ll go where ever their curiosity leads them.
 
For INFPs, they simultaneously think and feel out a set of ideas and the people discussing those ideas. INFPs are very aware of the subjective and inter-subjective.  They can learn to be very good at reading people, and so they look at what is assumed/implied and not just what is overtly stated.  INFPs can be downright paranoid about the unstated. They want to know a person’s motivation… the person’s true, authentic self even. A discussion is not only an opportunity to learn new information or a new perspective but also an opportunity to observe human nature in action.
 
This is why INFPs love MBTI. It allows them to simultaneously explore the subjective and objective.  INTPs, on the other hand, love MBTI maybe just as much but they focus on theory and data to the extent that (especially in a debate) they can almost forget that psychology is about real people (i.e., non-abstract entities; although well-developed INTPs can be extremely perceptive of others; as it’s their aspirational, INTPs potentially could develop Fe more than INFPs).
 
Furthermore, there is also an element in how ideas are seen to be connected and how they’re communicated.
 
Thinking causes INTPs to be more competitive and it can give an aggressive (or even snarky) edge to their Ne (this is more how an INFP perceives it and not how another INTP might perceive it). Feeling causes INFPs to be more collaborative and it can give a more child-like imagination/playfulness to their Ne (also, it causes the INFP to become more emotionally invested in or even identified with the ideas/views being discussed or rather what is perceived as being behind those ideas/views). Of course, the situation can be entirely different when other function roles are in play such as being in the grip of the inferior (when INFPs can become very intellectually combative and dismissive; I recently wrote a blog post about Beebe supposedly considering INFPs to be the most judgmental type – http://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2009/12/11/infp-most-judgmental-type/).
 
Also, INTPs can at times be extremely nitpicky. If an INTP isn’t relaxed, it’s hard to know what they actually think because when INTPs feel uptight or on the defensive they can become overly analytical and confrontationally contrarian.  Even when relaxed, INTPs often act less immediately friendly (i.e., easygoing, inviting, emotionally open; especially a group of INTPs where they can sometimes require a hazing period for new members).  INFPs, however, want to be included and want others to feel included (i.e., touchy-feely; on an INFP forum, smiley faces and *hugs* are very common and new members are made to feel welcome). They would rather laugh with you than at you. 
 
INFPs are less concerned about analytical details or even the exact logic (although they can learn to highly appreciate those things if it becomes central to their value system).  INFPs have a slightly more holistic way of thinking than even INTPs because for an INFP thinking includes the subjective.  Ideas are about abstract and objective thought, but ideas are grounded in human experience and profound feelings/values which aren’t always so easily communicated.  If the INFP never fully develops their intellect and never learns to integrate their Fi and Ne, then they might feel very divided and pulled in too many directions.  Some INFPs avoid this fate by simply not developing their intellects and dismissing objective thought by idealizing something else (love, peace, God, universal health care, etc.).
 
Of course, both types are similar in that they use Ne to perceive connections and patterns, to create models that express their internal understanding.  The main difference to understand is between Thinking and Feeling.
 
INTPs will appear more formalized in their thinking (more analytically careful, more logical, more concerned about precise definitions).  As such, INTPs focus on distinctions (which applies equally to people as to ideas… meaning that many INTPs probably feel more autonomous or even isolated than INFPs).  INTPs have more clear sense of what is intellectually correct or false, and so temd to be very intellectually opinionated.  I think this can lead to a hierarchical way of thinking we’re ideas are ranked according to their superiority (this may be even more true for NTJ types). 
 
INFPs, on the other hand, are more accepting of different ideas as simply being different intellectual perspectives.  They’re less attached to intellect in general (but specific intellectual ideas or theories may become entangled with their deeply held values) and so are more open to trying to understand another’s perspective (as long as the other is willing to do the same).  INFPs have a clear sense of right/wrong, but it just plays out differently on the intellectual level.  Instead of focusing on distinctions, INFPs want to know how ideas (like people) relate (because ideas also are experienced subjectively… not just thought but felt and contemplated upon, and must be translated into their personal Fi understanding).  As a model of thinking, relationship leads to a more lateral (rather than hierarchical) way of determining truth.  INFPs are emotionally snesitive and so they don’t enjoy heated debate as much as INTPs.  INFPs, instead, seek out agreement and common ground.  A correct idea is only as meaningful as it’s connection to authentic understanding (which includes the authentic truth of what it means to be human).

 
Did I end up answering your questions?  Much has been written on these topics in books, websites and forums… certainly, my view is just one of many.  I’m not sure if I’m in a position to conclusively answer your second question about the possiblity and commonality of rational/logical INFPs.  I have met many intellectual INFPs, but extremely intellectual INFPs do seem relatively uncommon as compared to INTPs.  According to theory, no INFP is primarily intellectual in the sense of the NT pairing.  A more practical possibility to consider, using trait theory, is whether there are people who not only are in the middle of Thinking and Feeling but who are born with or learn early on a proficiency in using both.  To tell you the truth, I haven’t looked extensively into trait theory and so I don’t know what researchers have concluded.
 
Anyways, all that I’ve written is based on my studies of the typology theories of others, but it also includes much of my own theorizing based on my own observations.  I can’t claim I’m absolutely correct in my conjectures.  It’s just what has made sense to me up to this point. 
 
If you’re interested in seeing the origins of my personal theorizing, I did manage to dredge up a few cached pages from a now defunct forum (infp.globalchatter.com).
 
INFP subypes?
Page 2 (not found in Google cache)
 
Thinking Styles and You: Part II
 
Levels/Layers of Individuality
 
As I remember it, I started the “INFP subtypes?” discussion thread before I had heard of the MBTI Step II.  So, my theorizing in that thread probably can for the most part be explained by Step II’s more detailed factor analysis, but it was fun to look back at my developing thoughts on the matter.  I mentioned in that thread Dario Nardi’s subtypes as presented in his book Character and Personality Type.  Nardi claims he based his subtypes partly on his own observation of working with clients combined with some theoretical knowledge such as life themes, but I’ve never come to a conclusion about whether Nardi’s subtypes make sense to me (I will say I like the series of books that were made by Dario Nardi and Linda V. Berens which are some of the best introductions to type theory, and I’m very intrigued by Berens’ Interaction Styles).  I generally prefer to think in terms of Beebe’s role functions (see these articles: Evolving the eight-function model; and Type and Archetype - Part One and Part Two). 
 
There are a lot of other good resources out there: Personality Type by Lenore Thomson and The Lenore Thomson Exegesis Wiki, Compass of the Soul by John L. Giannini, Facets of Type and Functions of Type by Gary Hartzler and Margaret Hartzler, Building Blocks of Personality Type by Leona Haas Integrity in Depth by John Beebe, and Pathways to Integrity by Blake Burleson.  If you prefer learning by discussing with others, then I’d recommend the forum Typology Central which has a good mix of different types and is a very active community.  If you want an even more detailed understanding about personality, I’d research other models such as Trait Theory (Big Five, for example, has been correlated with MBTI) and Ernest Hartmann’s Boundary Types (there are some books and research papers on the topic, but here is a short introductory article, How “Thin” Are Your Boundaries?; also these types have also been correlated with MBTI and are similar with many other psychological categorizations).  The closest to an overview on my thoughts on personality types can be found in my post Psychology and Parapsychology, Politics and Place.
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