Personality theories, types and tests

Personality types, behavioral styles theories, personality and testing systems - for self-awareness, self-development, motivation, management, and recruitment.

Motivation, management, communications, relationships - focused on yourself or others - are a lot more effective when you understand yourself, and the people you seek to motivate or manage or develop or help.

Understanding personality is also the key to unlocking elusive human qualities, for example leadership, charisma, and empathy, whether your purpose is self-development, helping others, or any other field relating to people and how we behave.

The personality theories that underpin personality tests and personality quizzes are surprisingly easy to understand at a basic level. This section seeks to explain many of these personality theories and ideas. This knowledge helps to develop self-awareness and also to help others to achieve greater self-awareness and development too.

Developing understanding of personality typology, personality traits, thinking styles and learning styles theories is also a very useful way to improve your knowledge of motivation and behavior of self and others, in the workplace and beyond.

Understanding personality types is helpful for appreciating that while people are different, everyone has a value, and special strengths and qualities, and that everyone should be treated with care and respect. The relevance of love and spirituality - especially at work - is easier to see and explain when we understand that differences in people are usually personality-based. People very rarely set out to cause upset - they just behave differently because they are different.

Personality theory and tests are useful also for management, recruitment, selection, training and teaching, on which point see also the learning styles theories on other pages such as Kolb's learning styles, Gardner's Multiple Intelligences, and the VAK learning styles model.

Completing personality tests with no knowledge of the supporting theories can be a frustrating and misleading experience - especially if the results from personality testing are not properly explained, or worse still not given at all to the person being tested. Hopefully the explanations and theories below will help dispel much of the mystique surrounding modern personality testing.

There are many different personality and motivational models and theories, and each one offers a different perspective. The more models you understand, the better your appreciation of motivation and behavior.

Personality Theories and Models - Introduction

Behavioral and personality models are widely used in organizations, especially in psychometrics and psychometric testing (personality assessments and tests). Behavioral and personality models have also been used by philosophers, leaders and managers for hundreds and in some cases thousands of years as an aid to understanding, explaining, and managing communications and relationships.

Used appropriately, psychometrics and personality tests can be hugely beneficial in improving knowledge of self and other people - motivations, strengths, weaknesses, preferred thinking and working styles, and also strengths and preferred styles for communications, learning, management, being managed, and team-working.

Understanding personality - of yourself and others - is central to motivation. Different people have different strengths and needs. You do too.

The more you understand about personality, the better able you are to judge what motivates people - and yourself.

The more you understand about your own personality and that of other people, the better able you are to realize how others perceive you, and how they react to your own personality and style.

Knowing how to adapt the way you work with others, how you communicate, provide information and learning, how you identify and agree tasks, are the main factors enabling successfully managing and motivating others - and yourself.

Importantly you do not necessarily need to use a psychometrics instrument in order to understand the theory and the basic model which underpins it. Obviously using good psychometrics instruments can be extremely useful and beneficial, (and enjoyable too if properly positioned and administered), but the long-standing benefit from working with these models is actually in understanding the logic and theory which underpin the behavioral models or personality testing systems concerned. Each theory helps you to understand more about yourself and others.

In terms of 'motivating others' you cannot sustainably 'impose' motivation on another person. You can inspire them perhaps, which lasts as long as you can sustain the inspiration, but sustainable motivation must come from within the person. A good manager and leader will enable and provide the situation, environment and opportunities necessary for people to be motivated - in pursuit of goals and development and achievements that are truly meaningful to the individual. Which implies that you need to discover, and at times help the other person to discover, what truly motivates them - especially their strengths, passions, and personal aims - for some the pursuit of personal destiny - to achieve their own unique potential. Being able to explain personality, and to guide people towards resources that will help them understand more about themselves, is all part of the process. Help others to help you understand what they need - for work and for whole life development, and you will have an important key to motivating, helping and working with people.

Each of the different theories and models of personality and human motivation is a different perspective on the hugely complex area of personality, motivation and behavior. It follows that for any complex subject, the more perspectives you have, then the better your overall understanding will be. Each summary featured below is just that - a summary: a starting point from which you can pursue the detail and workings of any of these models that you find particularly interesting and relevant. Explore the many other models and theories not featured on this site too - the examples below are a just small sample of the wide range of models and systems that have been developed.

Some personality testing resources, including assessment instruments, are available free on the internet or at relatively low cost from appropriate providers, and they are wonderful tools for self-awareness, personal development, working with people and for helping to develop better working relationships. Some instruments however are rather more expensive, given that the developers and psychometrics organizations need to recover their development costs. For this reason, scientifically validated personality testing instruments are rarely free. The free tests which are scientifically validated tend to be 'lite' introductory instruments which give a broad indication rather than a detailed analysis.

There are dozens of different personality testing systems to explore, beneath which sit rather fewer basic theories and models. Some theories underpin well-known personality assessment instruments (such as Myers Briggs®, and DISC); others are stand-alone models or theories which seek to explain personality, motivation, behavior, learning styles and thinking styles (such as Benziger, Transactional Analysis, Maslow, McGregor, Adams, VAK, Kolb, and others), which are explained elsewhere on this website.

In this section are examples personality and style models, which are all relatively easy to understand and apply. Don't allow providers to baffle you with science - all of these theories are quite accessible at a basic level, which is immensely helpful to understanding a lot of what you need concerning motivation and personality in work and life beyond.

Do seek appropriate training and accreditation if you wish to pursue and use psychometrics testing in a formal way, especially if testing or assessing people in organizations or in the provision of services. Administering formal personality tests - whether in recruitment, assessment, training and development, counseling or for other purposes - is a sensitive and skilled area. People are vulnerable to inaccurate suggestion, misinterpretation, or poor and insensitive explanation, so approach personality testing with care, and be sure you are equipped and capable to deal with testing situations properly.

For similar reasons you need to be properly trained to get involved in counseling or therapy for clinical or serious emotional situations. People with clinical conditions, depression and serious emotional disturbance usually need qualified professional help, and if you aren't qualified yourself then the best you can do is to offer to help the other person get the right support.

Beware of using unlicensed 'pirated' or illegally copied psychometrics instruments. Always check to ensure that any tools that are 'apparently' free and in the public domain are actually so. If in doubt about the legitimacy of any psychometrics instrument avoid using it. Psychometric tests that are unlikely to be free include systems with specific names, such as DISC®, Situational Leadership®, MBTI®, Cattell 16PF, Belbin Team Roles. If in doubt check. These systems and others like them are not likely to be in the public domain and not legitimately free, and so you should not use them without a license or the officially purchased materials from the relevant providers.

Personality Types Models and Theories

As a general introduction to all of these theories and models, it's important to realize that no-one fully knows the extent to which personality is determined by genetics and hereditary factors, compared to the effects of up-bringing, culture, environment and experience. Nature versus Nurture: no-one knows. Most studies seem to indicate that it's a bit of each, roughly half and half, although obviously it varies person-to-person.

Given that perhaps half our personality is determined by influences acting upon us after we are conceived and born, it's interesting and significant also that no-one actually knows the extent to which personality changes over time.

Certainly childhood is highly influential in forming personality. Certainly major trauma at any stage of life can change a person's personality quite fundamentally. Certainly many people seem to mature emotionally with age and experience. But beyond these sort of generalizations, it's difficult to be precise about how and when - and if - personality actually changes.

So where do we draw the line and say a personality is fixed and firm? The answer in absolute terms is that we can't.

We can however identify general personality styles, aptitudes, sensitivities, traits, etc., in people and in ourselves, especially when we understand something of how to define and measure types and styles. And this level of awareness is far better than having none at all.

Which is purpose of this information about personality and style 'types'. What follows is intended to be give a broad, accessible (hopefully interesting) level of awareness of personality and types, and of ways to interpret and define and recognize different personalities and behaviors, so as to better understand yourself and others around you.

The Four Temperaments - aka the Four Humours/Humors

The Four Temperaments, also known as the Four Humors, is arguably the oldest of all personality profiling systems, and it is fascinating that there are so many echoes of these ancient ideas found in modern psychology.

The Four Temperaments ideas can be traced back to the traditions of the Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations over 5,000 years ago, in which the health of the body was connected with the elements, fire, water, earth and air, which in turn were related to body organs, fluids, and treatments. Some of this thinking survives today in traditional Eastern ideas and medicine.

The ancient Greeks however first formalized and popularized the Four Temperaments methodologies around 2,500 years ago, and these ideas came to dominate Western thinking about human behavior and medical treatment for over two-thousand years. Most of these concepts for understanding personality, behavior, illness and treatment of illness amazingly persisted in the Western world until the mid-1800s.

The Four Temperaments or Four Humors can be traced back reliably to Ancient Greek medicine and philosophy, notably in the work of Hippocrates (c.460-377/359BC - the 'Father of Medicine') and in Plato's (428-348BC) ideas about character and personality.

In Greek medicine around 2,500 years ago it was believed that in order to maintain health, people needed an even balance of the four body fluids: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. These four body fluids were linked (in daft ways by modern standards) to certain organs and illnesses and also represented the Four Temperaments or Four Humors (of personality) as they later became known. As regards significant body fluids no doubt natural body waste products were discounted, since perfectly healthy people evacuate a good volume of them every day. Blood is an obvious choice for a fluid associated with problems - there'd have generally been quite a lot of it about when people were unwell thousands of years ago, especially if you'd been hit with a club or run over by a great big chariot. Phlegm is an obvious one too - colds and flu and chest infections tend to produce gallons of the stuff and I doubt the ancient Greeks had any better ideas of how to get rid of it than we do today. Yellow bile is less easy to understand although it's generally thought have been the yellowish liquid secreted by the liver to aid digestion. In ancient times a bucketful of yellow bile would have been the natural upshot, so to speak, after a night on the local wine or taking a drink from the well that your next-door neighbor threw his dead cat into last week. Black bile is actually a bit of a mystery. Some say it was congealed blood, or more likely stomach bile with some blood in it. Students of the Technicolor yawn might have observed that bile does indeed come in a variety of shades, depending on the ailment or what exactly you had to drink the night before. Probably the ancient Greeks noticed the same variation and thought it was two different biles. Whatever, these four were the vital fluids, and they each related strongly to what was understood at the time about people's health and personality.

Imbalance between the 'humors' manifested in different behavior and illnesses, and treatments were based on restoring balance between the humors and body fluids (which were at the time seen as the same thing. Hence such practices as blood-letting by cutting or with leeches. Incidentally the traditional red and white striped poles - representing blood and bandages - can still occasionally be seen outside barber shops and are a fascinating reminder that these medical beliefs and practices didn't finally die out until the late 1800s.

Spiritually there are other very old four-part patterns and themes relating to the Four Temperaments within astrology, the planets, and people's understanding of the world, for example: the ancient 'elements' - fire, water, earth and air; the twelve signs of the zodiac arranged in four sets corresponding to the elements and believed by many to define personality and destiny; the ancient 'Four Qualities' of (combinations of) hot or cold, and dry or moist/wet; and the four seasons, Spring, Summer Autumn, Winter. The organs of the body - liver, lungs, gall bladder and spleen - were also strongly connected with the Four Temperaments or Humors and medicinal theory.

Relating these ancient patterns to the modern interpretation of the Four Temperaments does not however produce scientifically robust correlations. They were thought relevant at one time, but in truth they are not, just as bloodletting has now been discounted as a reliable medical treatment.
But while the causal link between body fluids and health and personality has not stood the test of time, the analysis of personality via the Four Temperaments seems to have done so, albeit tenuously in certain models.

The explanation below is chiefly concerned with the Four Temperaments as a personality model, not as a basis for understanding and treating illness.

Early Representations of the Four Temperaments as a Personality Model

Richard Montgomery (author of the excellent book People Patterns - A Modern Guide to the Four Temperaments) suggests that the origins of the Four Temperaments can be identified earlier than the ancient Greeks, namely in the Bible, c.590BC, in the words of the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel, who refers (chapter 1, verse 10) to four faces of mankind, represented by four creatures which appeared from the mist:

"As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle." (from the Book of Ezekiel, chapter 1, verse 10)

Montgomery additionally attributes personality characteristics to each of the four faces, which he correlates to modern interpretations of the Four Temperaments and also to Hippocrates' ideas.

Four Temperaments - Earliest Origins

N.B. The Ezekiel characteristics, (bold, sturdy, humane, far-seeing), do not appear in the Bible - they have been attributed retrospectively by Montgomery. The describing words shown here for the Hippocrates Four Temperaments are also those used by Montgomery, other similar descriptions are used in different interpretations and commentaries.

Later, and very significantly, Galen, (c.130-201AD) the Greek physician later interpreted Hippocrates' ideas into the Four Humours, which you might more readily recognize and associate with historic writings and references about the Four Temperaments and Four Humours. Each of Galen's describing words survives in the English language although the meanings will have altered somewhat with the passing of nearly two thousand years.

see chart

The Four Temperaments or Four Humors continued to feature in the thinking and representations of human personality in the work of many great thinkers through the ages since these earliest beginnings, and although different theorists have used their own interpretations and descriptive words for each of the temperaments through the centuries, it is fascinating to note the relative consistency of these various interpretations which are shown in the history overview table below.

Brewer's 1870 dictionary refers quite clearly to the Four Humors using the translated Galen descriptions above, which is further evidence of the popularity and resilience of the Four Temperaments/Humors model and also of the Galen interpretation.

The Four Temperaments also provided much inspiration and historical reference for Carl Jung's work, which in turn provided the underpinning structures and theory for the development of Myers Briggs'® and David Keirsey's modern-day personality assessment systems.

David Keirsey's interpretation of the Four Temperaments is expressed by Montgomery in a 2x2 matrix, which provides an interesting modern perspective and helpful way to appreciate the model, and also perhaps to begin to apply it to yourself.

Again bear in mind that nobody is exclusively one temperament or type. Each if us is likely to have a single preference or dominant type or style, which is augmented and supported by a mixture of the other types. Different people possess differing mixtures and dominances - some people are strongly orientated towards a single type; other people have a more even mixture of types. It seems to be accepted theory that no person can possess an evenly balanced mixture of all four types.

Most people can adapt their styles according to different situations. Certain people are able to considerably adapt their personal styles to suit different situations. The advantages of being adaptable are consistent with the powerful '1st Law Of Cybernetics', which states that: "The unit (which can be a person) within the system (which can be a situation or an organization) which has the most behavioral responses available to it controls the system".

The ability to adapt or bring into play different personal styles in response to different situations is arguably the most powerful capability that anyone can possess. Understanding personality models such as the Four Temperaments is therefore of direct help in achieving such personal awareness and adaptability. Understanding personality helps you recognize behavior and type in others - and yourself. Recognizing behavior is an obvious pre-requisite for adapting behavior - in you, and in helping others to adapt too.

Overview History of the Four Temperaments - or Four Humours

From various sources and references, including Keirsey and Montgomery, here is a history of the Four Temperaments and other models and concepts related to the Four Temperaments or Four Humours. The words in this framework (from Hippocrates onwards) can be seen as possible describing words for each of the temperaments concerned, although do not attach precise significance to any of the words - they are guide only and not definitive or scientifically reliable. The correlations prior to Hippocrates are far less reliable and included here more for interest than for scientific relevance.

Ancient dates are approximate. Some cautionary notes relating to the inclusion of some of these theorists and interpretations is shown below the grid. For believers in astrology and star-signs please resist the temptation to categorize yourself according to where your star-sign sits in the grid - these associations are not scientific and not reliable, and are included merely for historical context and information.

see chart

Empedocles (c.450BC), the Sicilian-born Greek philosopher and poet was probably first to publish the concept of 'the elements' (Fire, Earth, Water, Air) being 'scientifically' linked to human behaviour: in his long poem 'On Nature' he described the elements in relation to emotional forces that we would refer to as love and strife. However 1870 Brewer says that Empedocles preferred the names of the Greek Gods, Zeus, Hera, Poseidon and Goea. (1870 Brewer, and Chambers Biographical, which references Jean Ballock's book, 'Empedocle', 1965.)

Aristotle explained four temperaments in the context of 'individual contribution to social order' in The Republic, c.325BC, and also used the Four Temperaments to theorise about people's character and quest for happiness. Incidentally 1870 Brewer states that Aristotle was first to specifically suggest the four elements, fire, earth, water, air, and that this was intended as an explanation purely of the various forms in which matter can appear, which was interpreted by 'modern' chemists (of the late 1800s) to represent 'the imponderable' (calorie), the gaseous (air), the liquid (water), and solid (earth).

Paracelsus was a German alchemist and physician and considered by some to be the 'father of toxicology'. His real name was Phillippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, which perhaps explains why he adopted a pseudonym. According to Chambers Biographical Dictionary he lived from 1493-1541, which suggests that his work was earlier than 'c.1550'. Keirsey and Montgomery cite the connection between Paracelsus's Four Totem Spirits and the Four Temperaments, however there are others who do not see the same connection to or interpretation of the Four Totem Spirits. If you are keen to know more perhaps seek out the book The Life Of Paracelsus Phillippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, by A Stoddart, published in 1911, referenced by Chambers Biographical.
Hans Jurgen Eysenck was a German-born British psychologist whose very popular scalable personality inventory model contains significant overlaps with the Four Temperaments. It's not a perfect fit, but there are many common aspects. See the Eysenck section.

Galen was a Greek physician (c.130-201AD - more correctly called Claudius Galenus), who became chief physician to the Roman gladiators in Pergamum from AD 157, and subsequently to the Roman Emperors Marcus Aurelius, Lucius Aurelius Commodus and Lucius Septimus Severus. Galen later interpreted Hippocrates' ideas into the Four Humours, which you might more readily recognise and associate with historic writings and references. Galen's interpretation survived as an accepted and arguably the principal Western medical scientific interpretation of human biology until the advancement of cellular pathology theory during the mid-late 1800s, notably by German pathologist Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902, considered the founder of modern pathology), in his work 'Cellularpathologie' (1858), building on the work of fellow cellular scientists Theodor Schwann, Johannes Muller, Matthias Schleiden and earlier, Robert Brown.

Beware of erroneous correlations between the various sets of four temperaments, humours, elements, body organs, star-signs, etc - it's easy to confuse so many sets of four. I believe the above to be reliable as far as it goes. Please let me know if you spot a fault anywhere. Also remember that the correlation between these sets is not precise and in some cases it's very tenuous.

The above table of correlated four temperaments and other sets of four is not designed as a scientific basis for understanding personality - it's a historical over view of the development of the Four Temperaments - included here chiefly to illustrate the broad consistency of ideas over the past two-and-a-half thousand years, and to provoke a bit of thought about describing words for the four main character types. Keep the Four Temperaments in perspective: the history of the model provides a fascinating view of the development of thinking in this area, and certainly there are strands of the very old ideas that appear in the most modern systems, so it's very helpful and interesting to know the background, but it's not a perfect science.

You'll see significant echoes of the Four Temperaments in David Keirsey's personality theory, which of all modern theories seems most aligned with the Four Temperaments, although much of the detail has been built by Keirsey onto a Four Temperaments platform, rather than using a great amount of detail from old Four Temperaments ideas. The Four Temperaments model also features in Eysenck's theory, on which others have subsequently drawn. To a far lesser extent the Four Temperaments can also be partly correlated to the Moulton Marston's DISC theory and this is shown in the explanatory matrix in the DISC section. Jung, Myers Briggs® and Benziger's theories also partly correlate with the Four Temperaments; notably there seems general agreement that the phlegmatic temperament corresponds to Jung's 'Intuitive-Thinking', and that the choleric temperament corresponds to Jung's 'Intuitive-Feeling'. The other two temperaments, sanguine and melancholic seem now to be represented by the Jungian 'Sensing' in combination with either Jungian 'Feeling' or a preference from the Myers Briggs® Judging-Perceiving dimension.

The Four Temperaments are very interesting, but being over two-thousand years old they are also less than crystal clear, so correlation much beyond this is not easy. Connections with modern theories and types and traits, such as they are, are explained where appropriate in the relevant sections below dealing with other theories.

Dr Stephen Montgomery's 2002 book 'People Patterns' is an excellent guide to the Four Temperaments, in which he provides his own interpretations, and explains relationships between the Four Temperaments and various other behavioural and personality assessment models, notably the David Keirsey model and theories. Incidentally Montgomery is Keirsey's long-standing editor and also his son-in-law. Keirsey's acknowledges Montgomery's depth of understanding of the Four Temperaments in Keirsey's book, Please Understand Me II, which also provides a very helpful perspective of the Four Temperaments.

Carl Jung's Psychological Types

Given that Carl Jung's psychological theory so fundamentally underpins most of the popular and highly regarded personality systems today it makes sense to explain a little about it here.

Carl Gustav Jung was born 26 July 1875 in Kesswil Switzerland and was the only son of a Swiss Reformed Church Evangelical Minister. According to Maggie Hyde who wrote the excellent Introduction to Jung (Icon Books 1992), he was a strange melancholic child who played his own imaginary games, alone, for the first nine years of his life. Eight of Jung's uncles were in the clergy, as was his maternal grandfather, who held weekly conversations with his deceased wife, while his second wife and Carl's mother sat and listened to it all. A recipe for Jung's own extraordinary personality if ever there was one. The boy Jung was raised on diet of Swiss Protestantism and pagan spirituality and seemingly his only outlets were his father's books and sitting on a big rock. Poor kid... His weird family clearly had a lot to with Jung's troubled young life and his psychotic break-down in mid-life, and his ongoing obsession with trying to make sense of it all.

It is amazing that from such disturbed beginnings such a brilliant mind could emerge.

Jung's work and influence extend way beyond understanding personality - he is considered to be one of the greatest thinkers ever to have theorized about life and how people relate to it. For the purposes of this explanation however, we must concentrate on just the relevant parts of his work - Jung's Psychological Types - or we'll be here forever.

Carl Jung was among many great personality theorists who drew inspiration and guidance from the ancient Greek Four Temperaments model and its various interpretations over the centuries. Carl Jung's key book in this regard, which extended and explained his theories about personality type, was Psychological Types, published in 1921. His theory of Psychological Types was part of a wider set of ideas relating to psychic energy, in which he developed important concepts for clinical psychological therapy and psycho-analysis (psychiatric diagnosis and therapy).

It's helpful to note that Jung approached personality and 'psychological types' (also referred to as Jung's psychological archetypes) from a perspective of clinical psychoanalysis. He was a main collaborator of Sigmund Freud - also a seminal thinker in the field of psycho-analysis, psychology and human behavior. Jung and Freud were scientists, scholars, deeply serious and passionate academics. They were concerned to discover and develop and extend knowledge about the human mind and how it works. They were also great friends until they disagreed and fell out, which is a further example of the complexity of the subject: even among collaborators there is plenty of room for disagreement.

In psychoanalysis, it is important for the analyst to understand the structure or nature or direction of the 'psychic energy' within the other person. More simply we might say this is 'where the person is coming from', or 'how they are thinking'. Logically if the analyst can interpret what's going on, then he/she is better able to suggest how matters might be improved. As with any analytical discipline, if we have some sort of interpretive framework or model, then we can far more easily identify features and characteristics. Jung's work was often focused on developing analytical models - beyond simply being a psycho-analyst.

Modern psychometrics has benefited directly from the analytical models that Jung developed for psycho-analysis, and while this section is essentially concerned with explaining the model for the purpose of understanding personality types, if you can extract some deeper therapeutic knowledge and self-awareness from the theories and ideas which underpin the models, then I would encourage you to so so. There is enormous value in deepening understanding of ourselves as people, and Jung's ideas help many people to achieve this.

Jung accordingly developed his concepts of 'psychological types' in order to improve this understanding.

The fact that Carl Jung's 'psychological types' structure continue to provide the basis of many of the leading psychometrics systems and instruments in use today, including Myers Briggs® and Keirsey, is testimony to the enduring relevance and value of Jung's work.

Jung's Ideas about the Conscious and the Unconscious

First it's important to understand that Jung asserted that a person's psychological make-up is always working on two levels: the conscious and the unconscious. According to Jung, and widely held today, a person's 'psyche' (a person's 'whole being') is represented by their conscious and unconscious parts. Moreover, a person's conscious and unconscious states are in a way 'self-balancing', that is to say - and this is significant - if a person's conscious side (or 'attitude') becomes dominant or extreme, then the unconscious will surface or manifest in some way to rectify the balance. This might be in dreams or internal images, or via more physical externally visible illness or emotional disturbance. Jung also asserted that at times in people the unconscious can surface and 'project' (be directed at) the outside world, particularly other people. This acknowledgement of the power of the unconscious features strongly in the thinking of Freud and notably in the underpinning theory of Transactional Analysis (it's a big section - take time to look at it separately).

Jung's Psychological 'General Attitude Types' - Introverted and Extraverted

Jung divided psychic energy into two basic 'general attitude types': Introverted and Extraverted.
These are effectively two 'type' behaviors that combine with others explained later to create Jung's psychological types. Moreover Jung's Introvert and Extravert 'general attitude types' feature strongly as two opposite characteristics within very many modern personality systems, including Myers Briggs® and Keirsey.
The 1923 translation of Jung's 1921 book Psychological Types uses the words Introverted and Extraverted to describe these types, which in German would have been Introvertiert and Extravertiert. Some interpretations of Jung's ideas use the alternative words Introvert and Introversion, and Extravert and Extraversion to describe Jung's types. The word Extravert was devised by Jung, which is how it appears in German. He formed it from the Latin words 'extra' meaning outside, and 'vertere' meaning to turn. The words extrovert, extroverted and extroversion are English adaptations which appeared soon after Jung popularized the word in German. Both 'extra' and 'extro' versions are acceptable English. Jung formed the word Introvert from the Latin 'intro' meaning inward and 'vertere' to turn.
The word 'attitude' in this sense means a deeper more settled mode of behaviour than the common day-to-day use of the word.

In his 1921 book Psychological Types, Jung described the introverted and extraverted general attitude types as being:

".... distinguished by the direction of general interest or libido movement..... differentiated by their particular attitude to the object.."


"....The introvert's attitude to the object is an abstracting one.... he is always facing the problem of how libido can be withdrawn from the object...... The extravert, on the contrary, maintains a positive relation to the object. To such an extent does he affirm its importance that his subjective attitude is continually being orientated by, and related to the object...."

(The 1923 translation by H Godwyn Baynes is understandably a little awkward for modern times. 'Abstracting' in this context means 'drawing way', from its Latin root meaning. 'Libido' in this context probably means 'desire', although the word seems first to have appeared in earlier translations of Freud, who used it in a more sexual sense.)

Both attitudes - extraversion and introversion - are present in every person, in different degrees. No-one is pure extravert or pure introvert, and more recent studies (notably Eysenck) indicate that a big majority of people are actually a reasonably well-balanced mixture of the two types, albeit with a preference for one or the other. Not black and white - instead shades of grey.


  • Psychic energy is directed out of the person to the world outside them
  • Objective - outward
  • "... Maintains a positive relation to the object. To such an extent does he affirm its importance that his subjective attitude is continually being orientated by, and related to the object...." (Jung)
  • "An extravert attitude is motivated from the outside and is directed by external, objective factors and relationships" (Hyde)
  • "behavior directed externally, to influence outside factors and events" (Benziger)


  • The person's psychic energy is internally directed
  • Subjective - inward
  • ".... attitude to the object is an abstracting one.... he is always facing the problem of how libido can be withdrawn from the object...." (Jung)
  • "An introvert is motivated from within and directed by inner, subjective matters" (Hyde)
  • "Behavior directed inwardly to understand and manage self and experience" (Benziger)

Jung's 'general attitudes' of Introverted and Extraverted are clearly quite different.

It is no wonder then that strongly orientated extraverts and introverts see things in quite different ways, which can cause conflict and misunderstanding. Two people may look at the same situation and yet see different things. They see things - as we all tend to - in terms of themselves and their own mind-sets.

It is almost incredible to think that these words - extravert and introvert - that we take so much for granted today to describe people and their personality and behavior, were not used at all until Jung developed his ideas.

Without wishing to add further complication Jung said that extraversion and introversion are not mutually exclusive and will be self-balancing or compensating through the conscious and unconscious. A strongly outward consciously extravert person will according to Jungian theory possess a compensatory strong inward unconscious introvert side. And vice versa. Jung linked this compensatory effect for example to repression of natural tendencies and the resulting unhappiness or hysteria or illness.

We are each born with a natural balance. If our natural balance is upset due to repression or conditioning then our minds will in some way seek to restore the balance, which Jung saw as the power of the unconscious surfacing as 'the return of the repressed'.

Jung's Psychological Types - The 'Four Functional Types'

In addition to the two attitudes of extraversion and introversion, Jung also developed a framework of 'four functional types'.

Jung described these four 'Functional Types' as being those from which the "...most differentiated function plays the principal role in an individual's adaptation or orientation to life..." (from Psychological Types, 1921) By 'most differentiated' Jung meant 'superior' or dominant.

Jung's Four Functions contain significant echoes of the Four Temperaments and of the many related four-part patterns or sets ('quaternities') that relate to the Four Temperaments, dating back to ancient Greece and arguably earlier, although Jung's ideas are more a lot sophisticated and complex than the Four Temperaments model.

Like many theorists before him who had attempted to define personality Jung opted for a four-part structure, which he used alongside his Introverted-Extraverted attitudes:

Jung's Four Functions of the psyche are:

  • Thinking and
  • Feeling

which he said are the functions that enable us to decide and judge, (Jung called these 'Rational') and

  • Sensation and
  • Intuition

which Jung said are the functions that enable us to gather information and perceive (Jung called these 'Irrational').
Significantly Jung also asserted that each of us needs to be able to both perceive and to judge (gather information and decide) in order to survive and to carry on normal functioning behavior.

And he also said that in doing this each of us prefers or favors one of the functions from each of the pairings.