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MBTI: 4 Dichotomies


Two Pairs in Two Attitudes

Carl Jung defined two pairs of psychological preferences – one for how we take in information (Perceiving) and one for how we make decisions based on that information (Judging) – along with two attitudes (or directions), which he called Introversion and Extraversion. The result of combining these preferences and attitudes is eight "cognitive functions". Four of the functions are "introverted"; four of the functions are "extraverted".

All people have access to all eight CognitiveFunctions. However, different "Types" use the different functions with more (or less) comfort and ease. (Consider left- and right-handed people. They have different brain wiring and different preferences for using their "dominant" hand. But that doesn't mean that a left-handed person can't use their right hand and vice versa. Similarly, no amount of skill in using the right hand will turn a left-handed person into a right-handed person.)

In creating her indicator, Isabel Myers developed an additional pair of preferences (J/P) that she felt was implied in Jung's work. This pair describes how someone likes to live their 'outer life'.

The main objective of the MBTI instrument is thus to identify four basic preferences in mental processing - one from each of four dichotomies:

In the MBTI, the I/E (Introversion / Extraversion) dichotomy describes a person's dominant function. The J/P pair describes their extraverted function; that is, the function they show externally and use to interact with the world.

For an extraverted person, the extraverted function is also the dominant. For an introverted person, the extraverted function is the auxiliary.

A Habitual Choice Between Rival Alternatives

These dichotomies should not be viewed as scales for measurement of traits or behaviors. Rather, the intent is to reflect a habitual choice between rival alternatives.

As an analogy, consider right-handedness or left-handedness. Most people expect to use both their right and left hands; however most people also automatically reach (or write, or catch, or throw) first with the hand they prefers.

Similarly, while every person is assumed to use both poles of each of the four dichotomies, they tend to prefer one "pole" over the other, feeling more comfortable with that mental process. Most people respond first or most often with their preferred functions or attitudes.

It's a question of innate preference, not of skill or desire or practice.

Processes and attitudes

  • Attitudes referring to extraversion (E) or introversion (I).


In terms of the theory, people may reasonably be expected to develop greater skill with the processes they prefer to use and with the attitudes in which they prefer to use these processes. For example, if they prefer the extraverted attitude (E), they are likely to be more mature and effective in dealing with the world around them than with the inner world of concepts and ideas. If they prefer the perceptive process of sensing (S), they are likely to be more effective in perceiving facts and realities than theories and possibilities, which are in the sphere of intuition. If they prefer the judgment process of thinking (T), they are likely to have better developed thinking judgments than feeling judgments. And if they prefer to use judgment (J) rather than perception (P) in their attitude to the world around them, they are likely to be better organizing the events of their lives than they are to experiencing and adapting to them. On the other hand, if a person prefers introversion, intuition, feeling, and the perceptive attitude (INFP), then the converse of the description above is likely to be true.

Index Preferences

Between E — I

E Extraversion
I Introversion

Affects Choices as to
Energy flow: mainly to/from the outer world (E) or mainly to/from the inner world (E) of the mind.


Between S — N

S Sensing perception (via the 5 senses)
N Intuitive perception (via the unconscious, ideas, possibilities)

Affects Choices as to
Which kind of perception is preferred when one needs or wishes to perceive information


Between T — F

T Thinking judgment (objective)
F Feeling judgment (subjective)

Affects Choices as to
Which kind of judgment to trust when one needs or wishes to make a decision


Between J — P

J Judging
P Perceiving

Affects Choices as to
Whether to deal with the outer world in the judging (J) attitude (using T or F) or in the perceptive (P) attitude (using S or N)




Previous: Psychological Patterns
Next: The 16 Types

-- Main.VickiBrown - 02 Jun 2013
Topic revision: r7 - 02 Aug 2016, VickiBrown
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