Relationship of Temperament to Jung's Types and to the MBTI®


Author: Linda Berens


Temperament is frequently used in conjunction with the MBTI. Historically speaking, the work of Isabel Myers took place independent of the work of David Keirsey, even though much of their work was done during some of the same time frame. During World War II, Myers sought to create a self-report instrument that would allow Carl Jung's theories of psychological types to help end human suffering and to help people choose work that better suited their natures. Keirsey was busy as a fighter pilot during that time, but upon completion of his military service he began his studies as a psychologist. In his research, he came upon the work of Ernst Kretschmer, Eduard Spränger, and many others prior to them who seemed to be describing similar patterns of behavior. When he was introduced to the work of Myers, he found her descriptions to work better for two of the four temperament patterns (Improviser™ and Stabilizer™) than any he had encountered thus far. He found the other descriptions also worked well. Thus the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator began to be used in conjunction with the ages-old temperament theory. Keirsey formally introduced the four temperament patterns at a conference on the MBTI in Philadelphia in 1979, where he was a keynote speaker. Isabel Myers was open to his ideas, but her illness and subsequent death kept their dialog from continuing. Keirsey had just published Please Understand Me, which has since sold over a million copies, with no big publisher behind it. During this time, the use and popularity of the MBTI have been increasing and temperament theory has been widely used with the MBTI.

How Are They Different?

Keirsey's temperament theory is founded in the gestalt field-systems view of human nature, which looks at the interactional and pattern qualities of whole systems rather than isolating and measuring parts. Jung's theory describes patterns of mental processes. These intrapsychic processes cannot be directly observed. (Although recent advances in technology hold some promise here!) If we say that personality is a system, then Jung focused on the dynamic qualities of the system within itself. Keirsey focused on the pattern qualities of the system as it interacts with other systems. The MBTI detects categories of preferences rather than measuring how much of a trait one exhibits. The type pattern exists as a whole, and the MBTI code points to the pattern rather than a combination of independent preferences. However, in actual use of the MBTI, these preferences have often been described by many as if they are measurable traits and as if they can be combined to produce a "type." Now, after over twenty-five years of use, most expert MBTI users are realizing the unintended consequences of using the instrument in that way. Most recently the focus has been on the type dynamics and the resulting patterns.

In looking at how temperament relates to the MBTI, it is important to remember that the results of any instrument are just an artificial snapshot in time. Also, an instrument is not the theory. The results of an instrument are neither the whole of a theory nor the whole of a personality. This is why ethical and competent users of the MBTI follow the face-to-face feedback standards of self-selection and validation by the client. One must not assume the results of the MBTI (or any other instrument) are one-hundred percent accurate. They must always be validated through an exploratory process such as we describe for temperament in this book.

How Do They relate?

Keirsey's temperament patterns (extended out to the four variations of each) meet Jung's theory at the level of the sixteen type patterns. The four-letter codes produced by the MBTI, when they are accurate and verified for individuals, match Keirsey's sixteen type patterns. While at first glance the matching process looks illogical, it occurs at a deep theoretical level when comparing Jung's and Kretschmer's original works. More importantly, it occurs on a descriptive, behavioral level. Following is the temperament matrix with the four-letter MBTI codes.

Temperament and the MBTI Code

Given the organizing principles of the temperament patterns of needs, values, and talents, we like to use the following explanation to link Jung's theory with the four temperaments.

The eight cognitive processes described by Jung are used to meet the needs and promote the values of the temperament pattern. Certain of these processes suit the pattern so well that the preferences for these processes match the preferences indicated by the four-letter MBTI codes as follows:

Improviser™ _S_P

Artisans can meet their needs for impact and freedom best through the process of extraverted Sensing. This process keeps them tuned in to the needs of the moment and they can readily take tactical actions and seize opportunities. How else would one recognize an opportunity? Thus all Artisans have S and P in their codes. Directing Artisans have S, T, and P in their codes, and Informing Artisans have S, F, and P in their codes.

Stabilizer™ _S_J

Guardians can meet their needs for membership and responsibility best through the process of introverted Sensing. They make sure the world will go on by referencing what has gone before. Their vast data bank of stored images and impressions informs the decisions they need to make to preserve the community through logistical actions. All Guardians have S and J in their codes. Directing Guardians have S, T, and J in their codes, and Informing Guardians have S, F, and J in their codes.

Theorist™ _NT_

Rationals meet their needs for knowledge and competence through the mental processes of iNtuiting and Thinking-in both the extraverted and introverted modes. The organizing frameworks and models of the Thinking judgment process used with iNtuiting allow them to readily comprehend complex subjects without experiencing and memorizing, which is time consuming. Since they are dealing with the world of theories and strategy, they prefer objective decisions. All Rationals have N and T in their codes. Directing Rationals have N, T, and J in their codes, and Informing Rationals have N, T, and P in their codes.

Catalyst™ _NF_

Catalyst™s meet their needs for meaning and identity through the mental processes of iNtuiting and Feeling-in both the extraverted and introverted modes. Both Feeling judgment processes give them ways to act that are congruent with higher purposes in life (one's own and others'). It is only through examination of the meaning and the pattern of information provided by the iNtuiting process that they can apprehend what will be or what is significant in the long run. All Catalyst™ have N and F in their codes. Directing Catalyst™ have N, F, and J in their codes, and Informing Catalyst™ have N, F, and P in their codes.


This matching of the codes is not necessarily derived from the MBTI results, but from a matching of the best-fit type patterns. MBTI results might be different from the best-fit type pattern. The MBTI instrument was designed to "indicate," not measure, and is best used as a data point to guide you in a direction. It is not meant to be used as a "test-and-tell" method of discovering your best-fit type pattern. A process of self-discovery is always recommended to clarify your best-fit type pattern.


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