Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type

Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type

by Isabel Briggs Myers, Peter B. Myers

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Like a thumbprint, personality type provides an instant snapshot of a person's uniqueness. Drawing on concepts originated by Carl Jung, this book distinguishes four categories of personality styles and shows how these qualities determine the way you perceive the world and come to conclusions about what you've seen. It then explains what they mean for your success in school, at a job, in a career and in your personal relationships.

For more than 60 years, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) tool has been the most widely used instrument in the world for determining personality type, and for more than 25 years, Gifts Differing has been the preeminent source for understanding it.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780891063001
Publisher: Quercus
Publication date: 12/15/2010
Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 261,991
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

The late Isabel Briggs Myers devoted her life to the observation, study, and measurement of personality. With her mother, Katharine Briggs, she authored the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® personality inventory. Peter B. Myers, Ph.D., continues research work on the development and application of personality type. Former staff director of the National Academy of Science, he is currently extending the use of the MBTI® instrument worldwide.

Read an Excerpt

Gifts Differing

Understanding Personality Type

By Isabel Briggs Myers, Peter B. Myers

Nicholas Brealey Publishing

Copyright © 1995 CPP, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-89106-074-1


An Orderly Reason for Personality Differences

It is fashionable to say that the individual is unique. Each is the product of his or her own heredity and environment and, therefore, is different from everyone else. From a practical standpoint, however, the doctrine of uniqueness is not useful without an exhaustive case study of every person to be educated or counseled or understood. Yet we cannot safely assume that other people's minds work on the same principles as our own. All too often, others with whom we come in contact do not reason as we reason, or do not value the things we value, or are not interested in what interests us.

The merit of the theory presented here is that it enables us to expect specific personality differences in particular people and to cope with the people and the differences in a constructive way. Briefly, the theory is that much seemingly chance variation in human behavior is not due to chance; it is in fact the logical result of a few basic, observable differences in mental functioning.

These basic differences concern the way people prefer to use their minds, specifically, the way they perceive and the way they make judgments. Perceiving is here understood to include the processes of becoming aware of things, people, occurrences, and ideas. Judging includes the processes of coming to conclusions about what has been perceived. Together, perception and judgment, which make up a large portion of people's total mental activity, govern much of their outer behavior, because perception — by definition — determines what people see in a situation, and their judgment determines what they decide to do about it. Thus, it is reasonable that basic differences in perception or judgment should result in corresponding differences in behavior.

Two Ways of Perceiving

As Jung points out in Psychological Types, humankind is equipped with two distinct and sharply contrasting ways of perceiving. One means of perception is the familiar process of sensing, by which we become aware of things directly through our five senses. The other is the process of intuition, which is indirect perception by way of the unconscious, incorporating ideas or associations that the unconscious tacks on to perceptions coming from outside. These unconscious contributions range from the merest masculine "hunch" or "woman's intuition" to the crowning examples of creative art or scientific discovery.

The existence of distinct ways of perceiving would seem self-evident. People perceive through their senses, and they also perceive things that are not and never have been present to their senses. The theory adds the suggestion that the two kinds of perception compete for a person's attention and that most people, from infancy up, enjoy one more than the other. When people prefer sensing, they are so interested in the actuality around them that they have little attention to spare for ideas coming faintly out of nowhere. Those people who prefer intuition are so engrossed in pursuing the possibilities it presents that they seldom look very intently at the actualities. For instance, readers who prefer sensing will tend to confine their attention to what is said here on the page. Readers who prefer intuition are likely to read between and beyond the lines to the possibilities that come to mind.

As soon as children exercise a preference between the two ways of perceiving, a basic difference in development begins. The children have enough command of their mental processes to be able to use the favorite processes more often and to neglect the processes they enjoy less. Whichever process they prefer, whether sensing or intuition, they will use more, paying closer attention to its stream of impressions and fashioning their idea of the world from what the process reveals. The other kind of perception will be background, a little out of focus.

With the advantage of constant practice, the preferred process grows more controlled and more trustworthy. The children become more adult in their use of the preferred process than in their less frequent use of the neglected one. Their enjoyment extends from the process itself to activities requiring the process, and they tend to develop the surface traits that result from looking at life in a particular way.

Thus, by a natural sequence of events, the child who prefers sensing and the child who prefers intuition develop along divergent lines. Each becomes relatively adult in an area where the other remains relatively childlike. Both channel their interests and energy into activities that give them a chance to use their mind the way they prefer. Both acquire a set of surface traits that grows out of the basic preferences beneath. This is the SN preference: S for sensing and N for intuition.

Two Ways of Judging

A basic difference in judgment arises from the existence of two distinct and sharply contrasting ways of coming to conclusions. One way is by the use of thinking, that is, by a logical process, aimed at an impersonal finding. The other is by feeling, that is, by appreciation — equally reasonable in its fashion — bestowing on things a personal, subjective value.

These two ways of judging would also seem self-evident. Most people would agree that they make some decisions with thinking and some with feeling, and that the two methods do not always reach the same result from a given set of facts. The theory suggests that a person is almost certain to enjoy and trust one way of judging more than the other. In judging the ideas presented here, a reader who considers first whether they are consistent and logical is using thinking judgment. A reader who is conscious first that the ideas are pleasing or displeasing, supporting or threatening ideas already prized, is using feeling judgment.

Whichever judging process a child prefers he or she will use more often, trust more implicitly, and be much more ready to obey. The other kind of judgment will be a sort of minority opinion, half-heard and often wholly disregarded.

Thus, the child who prefers thinking develops along divergent lines from the child who prefers feeling, even when both like the same perceptive process and start with the same perceptions. Both are happier and more effective in activities that call for the sort of judgments that they are better equipped to make. The child who prefers feeling becomes more adult in the handling of human relationships. The child who prefers thinking grows more adept in the organization of facts and ideas. Their basic preference for the personal or the impersonal approach to life results in distinguishing surface traits. This is the TF preference: T for thinking and F for feeling.

Combinations of Perception and Judgment

The TF preference (thinking or feeling) is entirely independent of the SN preference (sensing or intuition). Either kind of judgment can team up with either kind of perception. Thus, four combinations occur:

ST Sensing plus thinking
SF Sensing plus feeling
NF Intuition plus feeling
NT Intuition plus thinking

Each of these combinations produces a different kind of personality, characterized by the interests, values, needs, habits of mind, and surface traits that naturally result from the combination. Combinations with a common preference will share some qualities, but each combination has qualities all its own, arising from the interaction of the preferred way of looking at life and the preferred way of judging what is seen.

Whatever a person's particular combination of preferences may be, others with the same combination are apt to be the easiest to understand and like. They will tend to have similar interests, since they share the same kind of perception, and to consider the same things important, since they share the same kind of judgment.

On the other hand, people who differ on both preferences will be hard to understand and hard to predict — except that on every debatable question they are likely to take opposite stands. If these very opposite people are merely acquaintances, the clash of views may not matter, but if they are co-workers, close associates, or members of the same family, the constant opposition can be a strain.

Many destructive conflicts arise simply because two people are using opposite kinds of perception and judgment. When the origin of such a conflict is recognized, it becomes less annoying and easier to handle.

An even more destructive conflict may exist between people and their jobs, when the job makes no use of the worker's natural combination of perception and judgment but constantly demands the opposite combination.

The following paragraphs sketch the contrasting personalities that are expected in theory and found in practice to result from each of the four possible combinations of perception and judgment.

Sensing Plus Thinking

The ST (sensing plus thinking) people rely primarily on sensing for purposes of perception and on thinking for purposes of judgment. Thus, their main interest focuses upon facts, because facts can be collected and verified directly by the senses — by seeing, hearing, touching, counting, weighing, measuring. ST people approach their decisions regarding these facts by impersonal analysis, because of their trust in thinking, with its step-by-step logical process of reasoning from cause to effect, from premise to conclusion.

In consequence, their personalities tend to be practical and matter-offact, and their best chances of success and satisfaction lie in fields that demand impersonal analysis of concrete facts, such as economics, law, surgery, business, accounting, production, and the handling of machines and materials.

Sensing Plus Feeling

The SF (sensing plus feeling) people, too, rely primarily on sensing for purposes of perception, but they prefer feeling for purposes of judgment. They approach their decisions with personal warmth because their feeling weighs how much things matter to themselves and others.

They are more interested in facts about people than in facts about things and, therefore, they tend to be sociable and friendly. They are most likely to succeed and be satisfied in work where their personal warmth can be applied effectively to the immediate situation, as in pediatrics, nursing, teaching (especially elementary), social work, selling of tangibles, and service-with-a-smile jobs.

Intuition Plus Feeling

The NF (intuition plus feeling) people possess the same personal warmth as SF people because of their shared use of feeling for purposes of judgment, but because the NFs prefer intuition to sensing, they do not center their attention upon the concrete situation. Instead they focus on possibilities, such as new projects (things that haven't ever happened but might be made to happen) or new truths (things that are not yet known but might be found out). The new project or the new truth is imagined by the unconscious processes and then intuitively perceived as an idea that feels like an inspiration.

The personal warmth and commitment with which the NF people seek and follow up a possibility are impressive. They are both enthusiastic and insightful. Often they have a marked gift of language and can communicate both the possibility they see and the value they attach to it. They are most likely to find success and satisfaction in work that calls for creativity to meet a human need. They may excel in teaching (particularly college and high school), preaching, advertising, selling of intangibles, counseling, clinical psychology, psychiatry, writing, and most fields of research.

Intuition Plus Thinking

The NT (intuition plus thinking) people also use intuition but team it with thinking. Although they focus on a possibility, they approach it with impersonal analysis. Often they choose a theoretical or executive possibility and subordinate the human element.

NTs tend to be logical and ingenious and are most successful in solving problems in a field of special interest, whether scientific research, electronic computing, mathematics, the more complex aspects of finance, or any sort of development or pioneering in technical areas.

Everyone has probably met all four kinds of people: ST people, who are practical and matter-of-fact; the sympathetic and friendly SF people; NF people, who are characterized by their enthusiasm and insight; and NT people, who are logical and ingenious.

The skeptic may ask how four apparently basic categories of people could have gone unnoticed in the past. The answer is that the categories have been noted repeatedly and by different investigators or theorists.

Vernon (1938) cited three systems of classification derived by different methods but which are strikingly parallel. Each reflects the combinations of perception and judgment: Thurstone (1931), by factor analysis of vocational interest scores, found four main factors corresponding to interest in business, in people, in language, and in science; Gundlach and Gerum (1931), from inspection of interest intercorrelations, deduced five main "types of ability," namely, technical, social, creative, and intellectual, plus physical skill; Spranger (1928), from logical and intuitive considerations, derived six "types of men," namely, economic, social, religious, and theoretical, plus aesthetic and political.

The Extraversion-Introversion Preference

Another basic difference in people's use of perception and judgment arises from their relative interest in their outer and inner worlds. Introversion, in the sense given to it by Jung in formulating the term and the idea, is one of two complementary orientations to life; its complement is extraversion. The introvert's main interests are in the inner world of concepts and ideas, while the extravert is more involved with the outer world of people and things. Therefore, when circumstances permit, the introvert concentrates perception and judgment upon ideas, while the extravert likes to focus them on the outside environment.

This is not to say that anyone is limited either to the inner world or to the outer. Well-developed introverts can deal ably with the world around them when necessary, but they do their best work inside their heads, in reflection. Similarly well-developed extraverts can deal effectively with ideas, but they do their best work externally, in action. For both kinds, the natural preference remains, like right or left-handedness.

For example, some readers, who would like to get to the practical applications of this theory, are looking at it from the extravert standpoint. Other readers, who feel more interest in the insight that the theory may provide for understanding themselves and human nature in general, are seeing it from the introvert point of view.

Since the EI preference (extraversion or introversion) is completely independent of the SN and TF preferences, extraverts and introverts may have any of the four combinations of perception and judgment. For example, among the STs, the introverts (IST) organize the facts and principles related to a situation; this approach is useful in economics or law. The extraverts (EST) organize the situation itself, including any idle bystanders, and get things rolling, which is useful in business and industry. Things usually move faster for the extraverts; things move in a more considered direction for the introverts.

Among the NF people, the introverts (INF) work out their insights slowly and carefully, searching for eternal verities. The extraverts (ENF) have an urge to communicate and put their inspirations into practice. If the extraverts' results are more extensive, the introverts' may be more profound.

The Judgment-Perception Preference

One more preference enters into the identification of type — the choice between the perceptive attitude and the judging attitude as a way of life, a method of dealing with the world around us. Although people must of course use both perception and judgment, both cannot be used at the same moment. So people shift back and forth between the perceptive and judging attitudes, sometimes quite abruptly, as when a parent with a high tolerance for children's noise suddenly decides that enough is enough.

There is a time to perceive and a time to judge, and many times when either attitude might be appropriate. Most people find one attitude more comfortable than the other, feel more at home in it, and use it as often as possible in dealing with the outer world. For example, some readers are still following this explanation with an open mind; they are, at least for the moment, using perception. Other readers have decided by now that they agree or disagree; they are using judgment.

There is a fundamental opposition between the two attitudes. In order to come to a conclusion, people use the judging attitude and have to shut off perception for the time being. All the evidence is in, and anything more is irrelevant and immaterial. The time has come to arrive at a verdict. Conversely, in the perceptive attitude people shut off judgment. Not all the evidence is in; new developments will occur. It is much too soon to do anything irrevocable.


Excerpted from Gifts Differing by Isabel Briggs Myers, Peter B. Myers. Copyright © 1995 CPP, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Nicholas Brealey Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Preface xi
Publisher's Note xvii

Part I Theory
Chapter 1 An Orderly Reason for Personality Differences 1
Chapter 2 Extensions of Jung's Theory 17

Part II Effects of the Preferences on Personality
Chapter 3 Type Tables for Comparison and Discovery 27
Chapter 4 Effect of the EI Preference 53
Chapter 5 Effect of the SN Preference 57
Chapter 6 Effect of the TF Preference 65
Chapter 7 Effect of the JP Preference 69
Chapter 8 Extraverted and Introverted Forms of the Processes Compared 77
Chapter 9 Descriptions of the Sixteen Types 83

Part III Practical Implications of Type
Chapter 10 Use of the Opposites 115
Chapter 11 Type and Marriage 123
Chapter 12 Type and Early Learning 131
Chapter 13 Learning Styles 139
Chapter 14 Type and Occupation 149

Part IV Dynamics of Type Development
Chapter 15 Type and the Task of Growing Up 167
Chapter 16 Good Type Development 173
Chapter 17 Obstacles to Type Development 181
Chapter 18 Motivation for Type Development in Children 185
Chapter 19 Going On From Wherever You Are 191

Endnotes 203
References 205
About Isabel Briggs Myers 207
Full-Size Type Table 212
Index 215

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Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous 10 months ago
Isabel really clearly illustrates here how we can use the power of our own personalities to help our relationships, work and life; for example, a Sensing friend might realize our iNtuitive nature and adjust their factual and practical mind to accept that we like to theorize and daydream. Or an Extraverted sister might understand our Introversion and not volunteer us to go on stage at the local magic performance. Mrs. Myers helps us to understand our differences and adjust our own traits to accommodate those traits to help us understand a cousin or colleague, or even use our differences to help each other balance out and combine our strengths to make something wonderful happen. I am an ISFP and though I'm usually quite soft-spoken, this book helped me to open up and become slightly more comfortable with talking. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It was easy to understand, enlightening, helpful, and very usable in everyday life. I recommend it very much!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have found the Myer-Briggs psychometric test to be incredibly insightful; really the best test out there. The results captured my personality outstandingly well. I would recommend this book to just about anybody; you can learn so much about yourself, that you may be shocked at how well the book knows you. However, it can be difficult to maneuver the book because the sections are not well organized-- it would be best if there were a section on determining your personality type and then a separate section for each of the 16 types. Also, I felt that it lacked clarity in many parts. For example, I wasn't sure if i was Sensing or Intuitive because both sounded like they could apply to me. Other than that, it's a great book, and the research within it has become quite famous.
PastorBob on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While ironically not as strong as Kiersey's "Please Understand Me II", this basic introduction to the MBTI by the original Isabel Briggs Myers and her son Peter is nevertheless a useful book to have on hand. Based on Jung's personality types, Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother Katherine Briggs developed a means of expressing and analyzing the types in relation to people's normal lives. This book pursues that aim with chapters discussing not only the various personality types, but also as they may apply to education, career, marriage and children.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
RolfDobelli More than 1 year ago
Isabel Briggs Myers, who had no training as a psychologist, broke new ground when she applied Carl Gustav Jung’s psychological types to healthy individuals. She writes that each person has unique innate gifts, and that makes human interaction singular and challenging. This classic textbook – though repetitive, scholarly and laden with technical tables – can help you understand how to deal with personality types that differ from your own. Briggs Myers (in collaboration with her son, Peter B. Myers, who wrote the preface) developed this text as an outgrowth of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which she created with her mother, Katherine Cook Briggs, to help place women in jobs when World War II took most able-bodied men out of the US workforce. Most of its information is enduringly useful, though the chapter on marriage seems mired in an earlier time. getAbstract recommends this book’s insights and communication lessons; it can help readers better understand themselves, their bosses, their staff and their loved ones.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
LunarCamel More than 1 year ago
If viewed as supplemental to understanding the personalities around you, not as a fixed slate of conformity, "Gift Differing" is extremely interesting and insightful. It is based on the theories of Carl Jung, yet more humanized in many respects, it could be read to improve understanding of his theories also. Overall, if you are interested in gaining insight into other(possible0modes of thought, the book is great. I found it useful for finding new character traits in Novels as well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago