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MBTI & Stereotypes

Posted by Jan Craft - Monday, December 17, 2012

Dec 17

MBTI® & Stereotypes

It is my experience that the single biggest difficulty in the facilitation of MBTI® workshops is working against the stereotyping of Jung’s vocabulary by the culture. Nowhere is this more challenging than in the use of the terms extraversion and introversion, the modern meanings of which are far removed from Jung’s original intention.

In the introduction to his seminal work Psychological Types® ©1921 Jung states that in his practical medical work he has "been struck by the fact that besides the many individual differences in human psychology there are also typical (or typological) differences. Two types especially become clear to me; I have termed them the introverted and the extraverted types".

Jung goes on to describe these types in this way “one individual is determined (or attracted) more by the objects of his interest, while another is determined more by his own inner self...we naturally tend to understand everything in terms of our own type.”

The culture has, over time, adapted Jung’s terms and applied them in a very broad sense to indicate that extraverts are often gregarious and fun loving, with lots of friends and living in the moment whilst their introverted counterparts are withdrawn private people with few friends and a tendency to being somewhat shy and preoccupied with deep thoughts. Whilst elements of these behaviours have some basis in Jung’s theory, they generally operate out of a misunderstanding of their intended meaning.

As these terms are now loaded, they increasingly present an impediment for individuals seeking to self select their type. For example a participant in a recent workshop had been typed with a preference for extraversion in the Form M Myers Briggs Type Indicator® assessment and their preference for extraversion was validated by their peer group in the workshop activities. They owned  to feeling "at home" and comfortable in the extravert group, but despite this maintained a view that they were introvert. Interestingly enough they were unable to identify the qualities of introversion with which they felt a connection. It is absolutely valid for any individual to choose not to choose a type preference for themselves, however, I could not help but wonder what was it about the term 'extraversion' that made self selection of this preference so challenging. 

The culture seems to use these terms as either/or propositions and Jung himself was very aware of this difficulty. He states “...everyone possesses both mechanisms, extraversion as well as introversion, and only the relative predominance of one or the other determines the type" Carl G Jung - Psychological Types ©1921

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