The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is basically a personality test. You answer dozens of questions, and based on your answers, you are fit into one of sixteen categories, which apparently describe your way of relating to the world. There are four axes, and you are rated on where you fall on each of them.
The first is the E-I axis, Extraversion vs. Introversion. This axis defines where you get your energy from. Extraverts get their energy from other people, and need to “recharge” in some sort of social situation. Introverts get their energy from within, and need to “recharge” by being alone.
The next is the N-S axis, iNtuition vs. Sensing. Where do you get your information from? Sensers gather information from the world around them, and iNtuits gather theirs from within themselves, from memories and patterns and hunches.
The third axis is T-F, Thinking vs. Feeling. How do you make your decisions? Thinkers make their decisions based on logic and reason, while Feelers make decisions by empathy, thinking within the whole situation and working toward balance.
The final axis is P-J, Perceiving vs. Judging. How structured do you like your life? Judgers like to have decisions made quickly, and move on to the next challenge; perceivers are comfortable sitting in ambiguity, and taking their time.
Each of these axes is a continuum: you’re not either one or the other, you’re shown where you fall on a spectrum. Also, none of these “types” are considered better than another; they are personality preferences, not moral judgments. They don’t tell you how good a person you are, just what type of person you are.
After taking the test, your results give you one of sixteen four-letter personality types, such as “ESFJ” or “INTP.” There are two interesting things about my own history with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.
I’ve taken the full test (not an abridged free version) at least twice, once when I was 17, and once when I was 29. The first time, my type was INTP. This is the archetypal “scientist” type, a person who was very at home in their own head, thinking and analyzing, working alone on problems and finding eventual solutions. This was, in fact, the time in my life when I wanted to be a professional mathematician. Not a bad fit for an INTP. And even though I ended up instead being a professional Christian Education Director for a congregation, I still found myself approaching problems from an analytical, scientific standpoint. Most of the troubles I ran into at that job involved interpersonal relations.
I was at a very different point in my life at age 29. I had recently left the Christian Ed. Director position in order to complete my seminary education and become a pastor. In fact, I’d just completed a three-month program in which one of my goals was to learn how to “move from my head to my heart.” I was trying to learn how to think from an emotional, empathetic place, rather than analytical. I must have succeeded, because I was now rated to be an INFP. I moved from “thinking” to “feeling.” INFP’s are still inward-focused, like INTP’s, but they are more curious about people and loyal to those people and to causes important to them. Apparently a lot of musicians and existentialist philosophers are INFP’s. I’m no longer in the same bucket as Albert Einstein and Abraham Lincoln (assumed to have been INTP’s), but now I’m hanging around Camus, Kierkegaard, and Dostoevsky, not to mention Kurt Cobain and Jim Henson! I’ll take it!
The other interesting thing about this result was the score I got on iNtuition. I said before that it’s a continuum. I don’t remember the numbers, but my INFP score was probably something like 65% I, 59% F, 73% P. Nobody is exactly any of these things. Except me, and iNtuition. Because that was 100%. That means that to every single question on the test that measures the Sensing-iNtuition axis, I answered the iNtuition way. Recall that that axis reflects where you get your information, from the outside world or from within. So this means that I get all, absolutely all, my information from inside. I can see patterns, but I can’t see a sunrise. Maybe that’s why I’ve often thought that being in a sensory deprivation chamber would be intriguing. Because my life already is a sensory deprivation chamber! I’m completely oblivious to the world around me.