Creation of the MBTI® Types

About the MBTI® Instrument

Creation of the 16 MBTI® Types

      Sensing     Intuition

To read about all 16 types, click here.

The Foundation for the 16 Types

“To be useful, a personality theory must portray and explain people as they are.”Isabel Briggs Myers, Gifts Differing

Myers and Briggs found to be such an important theory for human understanding, that they created the MBTI® instrument to help people identify their type.

In essence, Jung’s theory is that we have a predisposition to use our energy in certain ways and to process information, or think, in certain ways. Our energy preference (Jung’s attitudes) in combination with the way we think (Jung’s functions) yields eight different patterns, or “psychological types” (also known as the eight Jungian mental processes).

The Four MBTI® Dichotomies – An Extension of Jung’s Theory

Myers and Briggs considered their work to be an extension of Jung’s theory. Based on their study and knowledge of the theory, and the extensive testing of questions on friends and family, the mother-daughter team created a self-report instrument with questions on four separate dichotomies. The questions were constructed to require a person to select from opposite poles on these dichotomies (forced choice questions) to mirror Jung’s opposites. A person’s preferences on each of the dichotomies are scored and reported in the form of a four-letter type code.

The first three dichotomies (thus the first three letters of the type code) came directly from Jung’s theory:

  • Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I) – How our energy most naturally flows
  • Sensing (S) or INtuition (N) – How we Perceive, or take in information
  • Thinking (T) or Feeling (F) – How we Judge, or evaluate information

The fourth dichotomy (and letter of the type code) was added to incorporate what Jung had only mentioned in a brief paragraph in Psychological Types; a secondary or auxiliary function. Jung had created his descriptions of the eight psychological types by writing only about a “superior function” (the dominant function) to the exclusion of the other seven functions. Myers and Briggs saw these descriptions as limiting; not comprehensive enough to account for how we operate in everyday life.

This dichotomy, called the J-P dichotomy ((J) for Judging or (P), for Perceiving) provided a formula for the identification of a dominant function, as well as auxiliary function – turning Jung’s eight types into the well-known four-letter 16 MBTI® types. The dichotomy is an indicator to which kind of function we extravert or show the world:

  • Judging Function (J) — We show the world our Thinking (T) or our Feeling (F) function
  • Perceiving Function (P) — We show the world our Sensing (S) or our INtuition (N) function

The Importance of the MBTI® Structure and 16 Type Codes

With the creation of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® instrument and the resultant 16 MBTI® types, Katharine and Isabel paved the way for the layperson to gain an understanding of their personality type. Equally as important was the resultant opportunity for those interested in human behavior to learn, study, research and create applications for the MBTI and Jung’s theory of typology, in order to help people in many different settings. The popularity of the MBTI® has brought Jungian typology into the mainstream of society and has led to widespread acceptance of Jungian theory in general; it has led to the study and defining / re-defining, of Jung’s eight mental processes, and thus a better understanding of Jung’s typology, than we would ever have hoped to achieve without the indicator.

The creation of the MBTI® personality assessment and the 16 types also led to:

  • A personality classification system that takes into account the whole person – not just traits or behaviors; also known as “whole type” (download Importance of Whole Type PDF)
  • A fuller, more positive, practical and usable lens for understanding self and others, than what Jung had written in Psychological Types
  • 16 type descriptions that people readily relate to, which take into account the interaction of the dominant and auxiliary functions
  • “16 paths to excellence”(Myers) or 16 different approaches to achieving, developing and lifelong learning, honoring the uniqueness of all individuals and their different approaches
  • A naming convention, or common language, which helps us to better describe our styles and behaviors – a way to have a conversation about human thought processes and resultant behavioral patterns
  • A neutral and non-threatening way to look at strengths and weaknesses
  • A personality system that is open and dynamic, and easily recognizable
  • A doorway into Jung’s theory of the psyche and individuation
Other instruments might use the structure and names for the sixteen types but if anything other than the authentic MBTI® instrument was used the results are not MBTI® types or preferences and should not be presented as such. In addition, a person-to-person feedback between practitioner and client is important and the interpretation session should be scheduled before the client receives the results.