"Suppose it is so that people differ in temperament and that therefore their behavior is just as inborn as their body build. Then we do violence to others when we assume such differences to be flaws and afflictions."
- David Keirsey, Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types

Temperament and Type

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Philosophers through the ages have repeatedly grouped innate dispositions into just a handful of categories. From as far back as two thousand years ago, excesses of blood, black bile, yellow bile, or phlegm were thought to lead to cheerfulness, somberness, enthusiasm, or calmness. While more contemporary psychologists like David Keirsey moved past the emphasis on body fluids, they seemed to all speak categorically about different but still respectable styles of being human.

Keirsey was inspired by the work of Isabel Myers and Katheryn Briggs whose personality-typing instrument measured an individual's preferences for Carl Jung's four cognitive functions: the perceiving functions of Sensing (S) and Intuition (N), and the decision-making or judging functions of Feeling (F) and Thinking (T). The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator provided Keirsey with a field of attributes with which to differentiate four broader categories of motivating temperaments: the SP Artisan, SJ Guardian, NF Idealist, and NT Rationalist. As we all have access to each of Jung's four functions, the word preference is key.

Regardless of whether we're born with preferences or acquire them sometime in our youth, the fact is, we wind up more adept with some functions than others. While we may not be the best at handling details, for instance, we may be great at seeing the bigger picture. We can allow these differences to feed frustration and miscommunication with people having other preferences, or we can choose to instead focus on how we might compliment one another.

As Isabel Briggs Myers and Peter Myers write in Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type, "When two people reach a deadlock over the handling of a given situation, the trouble may be a result of their difference in type, which has interfered with their communication. When two people have not known the same facts, or not considered the same possibilities, or not foreseen the same consequences, each has only an incomplete knowledge of the problem. They must put it all together. Each needs to use all four processes, however well or ill developed: sensing to gather the relevant facts, intuition to see all measures that might usefully be taken, thinking to determine the consequences, and feeling to consider the impact of these consequences on the people involved. The pooling of their respective perceptions and judgments offers the best chance of finding a solution valid for them both."

Additional information can be found on the Wikipedia page on Temperament and Type.


Baron, Renee
What Type Am I? Discover Who You Really Are
New York: Penguin Group, 1998

This overview gives light-hearted coverage of the essential components of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Complete with cartoons!

Keirsey, David
Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types
Prometheus Nemesis Book Company, 1984

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is used to arrive at four basic temperaments similar to those chronicled over the centuries. The content includes implications for the development of significant relationships, parenting, and leadership styles.

Keirsey, David
Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence
Prometheus Nemesis Book Company, 2006

Keirsey expands the content of his previous book by mapping each of the four basic temperaments to certain strengths in intelligence: tactical, logistical, diplomatic, and strategic.

Myers, Isabel Briggs, and Myers, Peter B.
Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type
Mountain View, California: Consulting Psychologists Press, 1995

This is a must-have book for anyone interesting in reading about the content behind the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator from the perspective of one of the original creators.

Tieger, Paul D., and Barron-Tieger, Barbara
Nurture By Nature: How To Raise Happy, Healthy, Responsible Children Through the Insights of Personality Type
Little, Brown and Company, 1997

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is used to help parents recognize and respect personality type in children.

Tieger, Paul D., and Barron-Tieger, Barbara
Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type
Little, Brown and Company, 2001

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is used to expand the conversation on "good fit" work solutions.

Wyman, Pat
Three Keys To Self-Understanding: An Innovative and Effective Combination of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Assessment Tool, the Enneagram and Inner-Child Healing
Gainesville, Florida: Center for Application of Psychological Type, Inc., 2001

Wyman offers abbreviated explanations of both the MBTI and the Enneagram (one chapter each) and an interesting perspective on how both are integral in understanding self. Discounting any emphasis on wings, subtypes, or degree or level of mental health or spiritual state, Wyman presents her own theory on why individuals operating out of the same Enneagram number can appear to be so different: differing Core Selves as profiled by the MBTI assessment. She proposes that internal tension and conflict results from incompatible qualities of one's Myers-Briggs type and Enneagram type. As a psychotherapist working almost entirely with women, she believes the only way to resolve the tension and conflict is through Inner-Child Healing (which she discusses at greater length). Wyman presents many tragic case studies, but manages to remain witty as well as pointed in her overall writing style.

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