A twist in traits

dec steph 104The Myers Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI) is probably  one of the most widely known personality type assessments. Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother Katharine Cook Briggs developed it from theories recorded by the well know psychologist Carl Jung. Neither Myers or Briggs were trained in psychology or psychometric testing, but they did their homework, and learned from people who were. The MBTI was never promoted as a precise psychological test but more of a type sorter to help people understand those that had differing responses to the world around them.

So naturally people would use this inventory to try to determine the personality markers of a creative person.  But, this has not been easy. When David W. Keirsey, author of the book Please Understand Me based on the work of Myers and Briggs, reviewed the types he deduced that the creative artisan personality was likely to exhibit the following:

  • Introversion (rather than extroversion)
  • Sensing (rather than intuitive)
  • Feeling (rather than thinking)
  • Perceptive (rather than judging)

This does not match the highly creative person’s profile based on the Five Factor Model research, which include higher extroversion, openness to experience, and lower agreeableness.  Of course, Keirsey’s ideas are purely theoretical, without research that tested creative populations.

However, there are researchers who did this. The MBTI-Creativity Index developed by Harrison Gough, Ph.D. indicates that creative people  will show the following as the stronger of each pair.

  • Extroversion (rather than introversion)
  • Intuitive (rather than sensing)
  • Thinking (rather than feeling)
  • Perceptive (rather than judging)

Gough’s creative population mainly came from peer-nominated people in the fields of music, art, writing, research science and architecture. J. W. Fleenor also used the MBTI assessment on creative managers and found similar results. However, he found that the introverted personality was more predominant.

I was actually part of some impromptu research on this. A department of twenty artists (including me) all took the MBTI a little over 35 years ago where I worked. Thirteen of the sixteen types showed up and no type was found more than twice. Only one person had Keirsey’s typical artist profile (ISFP). We were all degree-holding artists (fine arts or graphic design) working in the training industry. There should have been a predominant cluster of traits, but there wasn’t. So, much for determining creativity using the MBTI.


Fleenor, J. W. (1997). The relationship between the MBTI and measures of personality and performance in management groups. InC. Fitzgerald & L. Kirby (Eds.), Developing leaders: Research and applications in psychological type and leadership development  (p. 128). Palo Alto, CA: Davies-Black Publishers.
Gough, Harrison. Studies of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator in a personality assessment research institute. Paper presented at the Fourth National Conference on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Stanford University, CA (July, 1981)
Jung,  Carl Gustav (August 1, 1971). Psychological Types (Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 6). Princeton University Press. 
Keirsey, David (1998). Please Understand Me II: Temperament Character Intelligence Prometheus Nemesis Book Company. 
Myers, Isabel Briggs, and Mary H. McCaulley. Manual: A Guide to the Development and Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Palo Alto, California. Consulting Psychologists Press. 1992
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1 Response to A twist in traits

  1. knlistman says:

    Reblogged this on Write about what? and commented:

    The creative Myers-Briggs type is…

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