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Personality type

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"Psychological type" redirects here. See Psychological Types for the work by Jung.

The concept of personality type refers to the psychological classification of different types of individuals. Personality types are sometimes distinguished from personality traits, with the latter embodying a smaller grouping of behavioral tendencies.[1] Types are sometimes said to involve qualitative differences between people, whereas traits might be construed as quantitative differences.[2] According to type theories, for example, introverts and extraverts are two fundamentally different categories of people. According to trait theories, introversion and extraversion are part of a continuous dimension, with many people in the middle. While typologies of all sorts have existed throughout time the most influential idea of psychological types originated in the theoretical work of Carl Jung, published as Psychological Types in 1921. Other typologies such as Socionics, MBTI, and Keirsey Temperament Sorter all have roots in Jungian philosophy.

  • Building on the writings and observations of Carl Jung, during WWII Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother Katherine Briggs delineated personality types by constructing the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. This model was later elaborated further by David Keirsey. It is an older, more theoretically-motivated, but quite popular approach to personality traits and is also called the Big Four model, accepting Extraversion vs. Introversion as basic and adding an additional three:
  1. Extraversion vs. Introversion (see above)
  2. Intuition vs. Sensing (trust in conceptual/abstract models of reality versus concrete sensory-oriented facts)
  3. Thinking vs. Feeling (thinking as the prime-mover in decision-making vs. feelings as the prime-mover in decision-making)
  4. Perceiving vs. Judging (desire to perceive events vs. desire to have things done so judgements can be made)
  • This personality typology has some aspects of a trait theory: it explains people's behaviour in terms of opposite fixed characteristics. In these more traditional models, the intuition factor is considered the most basic, dividing people into "N" or "S" personality types. An "N" is further assumed to be guided by the thinking or objectication habit, or feelings, and be divided into "NT" (scientist, engineer) or "NF" (author, human-oriented leader) personality. An "S", by contrast, is assumed to be more guided by the perception axis, and thus divided into "SP" (performer, craftsman, artisan) and "SJ" (guardian, accountant, bureaucrat) personality. These four are considered basic, with the other two factors in each case (including always extraversion) less important. Critics of this traditional view have observed that the types are quite strongly stereotyped by professions, and thus may arise more from the need to categorize people for purposes of guiding their career choice. This among other objections led to the emergence of the five factor view, which is less concerned with behavior under work stress and more concerned with behavior in personal and emotional circumstances. Some critics have argued for more or fewer dimensions while others have proposed entirely different theories (often assuming different definitions of "personality").


  • One example of personality types is Type A and Type B personality theory. According to this theory, impatient, achievement-oriented people are classified as Type A, whereas easy-going, relaxed individuals are designated as Type B. The theory originally suggested that Type A individuals were more at risk for coronary heart disease, but this claim has not been supported by empirical research.[3]
  • Developmental psychologist Jerome Kagan is a prominent contemporary advocate of type theory. He suggests that shy, withdrawn children are best viewed as having an inhibited temperament, which is qualitatively different from other children.[4]
  • As a matter of convenience, trait theorists sometimes use the term "type" to describe someone who scores exceptionally high or low on a particular personality trait. Hans Eysenck refers to superordinate personality factors as types, and more specific associated traits as traits.


The term "type" has not been used consistently in psychology and has become the source of some confusion. Furthermore, because personality test scores usually fall on a bell curve rather than in distinct categories,[5] personality type theories have received considerable criticism among psychometric researchers. One study that directly compared a "type" instrument (the MBTI) to a "trait" instrument (the NEO PI) found that the trait measure was a better predictor of personality disorders.[6] Because of these problems, personality type theories have fallen out of favor in psychology. Most researchers now believe that it is impossible to explain the diversity of human personality with a small number of discrete types. They recommend trait models instead, such as the five factor model.[7][8][9]

Major theories

See also


  1. Personality Type Theory.
  2. Bernstein, Penner, Clarke-Stewart, & Roy (2008). Psychology, 8th edition. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.
  3. Bates, K. L. (2006). Type A personality not linked to heart disease. URL accessed on 2006-11-05.
  4. Kagan, J. (1994). Galen's Prophecy: Temperament in Human Nature. New York: Basic Books.
  5. Bess, T.L. & Harvey, R.J. (2001). Bimodal score distributions and the MBTI: Fact or artifact? Paper presented at the 2001 Annual Conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, San Diego, USA.
  6. Furnham, A., & Crump, J. (2005). Personality Traits, Types, and Disorders: An Examination of the Relationship Between Three Self-Report Measures. European Journal of Personality, 19, 167-184.
  7. Asendorpf, J. B. (2003). Head-to-head comparison of the predictive validity of personality types and dimensions. European Journal of Personality, 17, 327–346.
  8. Pittenger, D. J. (2004). The limitations of extracting typologies from trait measures of personality. Personality and Individual Differences, 37, 779–787.
  9. McCrae, R. R., Terracciano, A., Costa, P. T., & Ozer, D. J. (2006). Person-factors in the California adult Q-set: Closing the door on personality types? European Journal of Personality, 20, 29-44.

further reading

  • Carskadon, T. G. (1999). A grand synopsis of 345 studies in psychological type, 1979-1999. Journal of Psychological Type, 50, 1-43.
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