Extraverted Sensing, the MBTI, and the Improviser™ Temperament..Some Questions Answered


Author: Linda Berens


I have attended every international APT conference since 1981 and this conference was for me one of the most gratifying. Over the years, I have tried to find words to explain how using temperament can help people in clarifying type, in knowing themselves and constructively bridging differences. Not until recently have I found a language in the "new science." Not until this conference with Scott Blanchard's keynote, did I feel the message was really "heard." This probably says something about an INTP trying to convince with logic while an ESFP has more success with personal stories. It also says something about the test of time. At any rate, I am glad Scott made the message so clear and real. I only hope to add a little theory and explanation of why I think temperament worked when type alone didn't.

So what difference can temperament make? Scott indicated the MBTI® alone would have identified him as an ENFP and the descriptions didn't really fit. His feedback givers used temperament descriptions as well as full type. It was the temperament description of the Improviser™ (_S_P) temperament that provided Scott with the value (relevance) of type. What do the temperament descriptions bring that type alone, even full type and type dynamics, doesn't?

Complex Living Systems-Patterns

In our session on Personality and the New Science at APT XI in Kansas City and again at APT XII in Boston, Stephanie Rogers and I presented information about the importance of taking a multifaceted look at such complex living systems as human beings. In order to know a complex living system, we need to look at pattern, structure and process. Quite similar patterns of behavior can be found in work by David Keirsey, Eduard Spranger, Ernst Kretschmer and described by many others for over 25 centuries. Refinements made in Keirsey's work, provide a description of four broad patterns-the temperaments. The temperament pattern is a broader level of classification than full type. Temperament adds information not present in the more differentiated classification of the sixteen types and not available in the preferences.

How is temperament different from type? "I've never needed temperament, I get all I need from my understanding of type dynamics. Does temperament add anything other than describing commonalties in a grouping of four types. Couldn't you just take any four types and group them?"




Adapted from Linda V. Berens, Understanding Yourself and Others®: An Introduction to the 4 Temperaments-4.0 (Telos Publications, 2010) *Used with permission.                
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The accumulation of traits, or even dichotomous differences do not reflect the pattern. Meaningful information lies in the relationship between the core needs, core values, favorite abilities, time sense, attitudes, communication style and characteristic behaviors. Our temperament targets display the information better than any words can. Think of this Improviser™ temperament "target" as a sphere, sliced in half so you can see the relationships of the characteristics of the Improviser™ pattern.

Needs, Values, Abilities . . .

Psychological needs are as essential to our existence as physical needs like water, air and food. If these psychological needs do not get met, psychological "death" and dysfunctional behavior result. Core needs for the Improviser™ include having the freedom to respond to impulses, the freedom to choose the next action they are going to take. Psychological death for an Improviser™ is to have no impulses to respond to or to be so bound and constricted they cannot respond to any of the impulses they have. This does not mean they are always impulsive. It simple means that Artisans are the masters of action-moving quickly to seize the moment especially when these actions/impulses are in line with some outcome or result they are trying to achieve. This is their other core need-to have the ability to make an impact. This need to make an impact does not always mean to "perform" and get applause. It means to see a tangible result from their actions.

Favorite abilities provide a means to get the needs met even further. It is in operating, troubleshooting, maneuvering around obstacles, tactics, performing, adapting, promoting etc. that Artisans meet their needs for having an impact, getting results and having the freedom to respond to impulse.

The core needs, values and abilities are true for each of the four types that embody the Improviser™ temperament. (ESFP, ESTP, ISFP and ISTP). As a broader classification, good temperament descriptions must be true for all four of the types that share that temperament theme. Many are not. For example, much of what is said about the Improviser™ temperament is mostly accurate for the extraverted Artisans (ESTP and ESFP).

How did temperament make a difference in helping Scott Blanchard find his "true" type? When a description, such as a temperament description, centers around the core needs, the individual readily recognizes something profound about themselves that wasn't known before. It is a validating, affirming experience. Se, Improviser™ Temperament and the MBTI®

So, why can't Scott have a preference for N and still be an Improviser™? Do you have to be the type that goes with the temperament or can you have one temperament and another type? After all, he scored N on the MBTI®. Chances are much in the ENFP descriptions would fit Scott in a rather haphazard way. Especially since much of what is often said about all those with preferences for N and F is basically about people and values. When the _NF_ descriptions are lacking the abstract focus on meaning and purpose, they do not differentiate between Catalyst™ temperament and the Feeling function. One only has to listen to Scott for a little while to recognize how concrete and practical he is. His preference is clearly for Sensing and extraverted Sensing at that. You could argue that the essence of the Improviser™ temperament is embodied in extraverted Sensing as dominant, so why do you need temperament? While it is true that Isabel Myer's descriptions of extraverted sensing types were a great deal of what drew David Keirsey to the MBTI®, using the Improviser™ temperament as a cross check is even more useful when Se is auxiliary. Then, the essential information provided by temperament significantly increases our understanding of the ISTP and ISFP types.

Problematic Definitions of N

In our work, we have found that a vast number of_ S_Ps select "N" responses rather than the "S" responses on the MBTI® , Their behavior and reports have been taken as typical of those with a preference for N. Because of not using the added information in the temperament model or not paying close attention to Jung's definitions and Myers descriptions, the observations of people with _S_P preferences have filtered back into the mainstream definitions of N. When we go back to Jung's descriptions, we find these descriptions have veered off course from the original meaning.

Complex Living Systems - Multiple Lenses Make Us More Accurate

One of the gifts I have received from working with an expert in artificial intelligence is the understanding that in order to adequately understand complex living systems, like people, we need to use multiple models or lenses. Temperament, used with interaction styles, mental processes, type dynamics, type development along with the MBTI® gives us a better chance at accuracy than any one of these alone. How wonderful it was to have representation of these multiple lenses at APT XII!


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