Myers-Briggs Personality Test

The following is a further explication of the Myers-Briggs personality test that we have discussed in earlier posts. Abby has put together an introduction to the test that should give you a good overview of it. In addition, she has provided a link to a website where you can take the test yourselves. Then, if you like, you can take it as if you are Louisa and/or Martin (and hopefully base your answers to the questions on what you know about them through the show) to come up with their profiles. It will be interesting to see how similar our results are and how they compare to what Abby’s findings are. Of course, all of this is meant to be a fun exercise and not predictive of anything. We hope you enjoy this as illuminating, yet simply another way to look at these characters.

Abby writes:

The post “Dr. Martin Ellingham, Patient” seems to have sparked an interest in learning more about the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). While I am not an expert in the MBTI, I do use it with most of my clients in order to 1) understand them better; 2) help them understand themselves better; and 3) help them understand other important people in their lives. So, what follows is an explanation of the MBTI model, as I understand it.

There are a number of personality instruments that have been developed over the years. Some are meant to help mental health practitioners with diagnoses; some for use by business and government for hiring purposes; and a few meant to help people understand themselves better. The MBTI is in the latter category, and, as such, does not pathologize. Indeed, every type in the MBTI model is deemed as having the same worth as any other.

The MBTI was developed by a mother-daughter pair of researchers, Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, based on Carl Jung’s work on archetypes. The MBTI looks at four aspects of how we function in the world. Each of these four aspects has two possibilities, or preferences, as they are referred to. So, a person who takes the test ends up with four letters, which is their type. The four dichotomous aspects are Extraversion/Introversion (E/I), Intuition/Sensing (N/S), Feeling/Thinking (F/T), and Judging/Perceiving (J/P). It is important to understand that each of these four dichotomous pairs falls on a continuum. That is, we are not all one and none of the other.

The first, E/I, describes how people “recharge their batteries”. It also involves whether we focus our attention primarily on the outer world or on our inner world. So, the questions to ask yourself are 1) When you are tired at the end of the day, do you recharge by going out and being with friends (E) or by going home and being by yourself (or with one or two other close people)(I)? 2) When you are at a party, do you feel energized (E), or do you tire out early in the evening (I)? 3) Do you consider yourself an observant person (E), or do you miss things because you are so focused on your inner life (I)?

The second aspect, N/S, describes how a person gathers information, or perceives things. Sensing types perceive things through their five senses, and are concrete thinkers who tend to be practical people focused on facts and details. Intuitive types perceive things through internal processes in the mind. They are abstract thinkers, who tend to see the big picture and are interested in theory. So, if there were a group of people tasked to do a project, the intuitives would be the ones to come up with the overarching ideas, while the sensing types would take those ideas and figure out how to make the project happen.

The third aspect, F/T, describes how a person makes a decision, after gathering information through intuition or sensing. This is the only aspect where there is a statistical gender difference: Men are 60/40 T/F, while women are 60/40 F/T. Thinking types base their decisions on logic, while for feeling types incorporating values and human impact are important. So, if you have a married couple, where the husband is a thinking type and the wife is a feeling type, and they are planning a road trip, the husband would likely choose the most direct route (logic) to their destination, while the wife would likely want to make a detour to visit Grandma (values/people).

The fourth aspect, J/P, describes how we structure our lives. Judging types tend to be organized, to like routines and schedules, and are good at completing tasks. They also tend to have fixed ideas about how things should be. Js love the closure that comes when a decision is made and feel anxiety when things are open-ended. Perceiving types, on the other hand, are not comfortable with routines and schedules, but prefer a lot of flexibility. They tend to be spontaneous people who are open and flexible in their thinking. They love possibilities, and so feel anxious when having to make a decision, because once the decision is made, all of the other possibilities disappear. Because of their love of possibilities, Ps tend to jump from one task to the next, not finishing the first before they start the second.

As was said above, all of the pairs should be viewed as being on a continuum. Therefore, we may be 60% feeling and 40% thinking. If we are close to 50/50, we will display behaviors of both preferences. If we are more toward the ends of the continuum, we will mostly show our stronger preference. We can, and should, draw on the less preferred preference when appropriate. So, going back to our couple taking the road trip, the husband would be able to see his wife’s point about visiting Grandma, even though his mind didn’t automatically go there. And, his wife is perfectly capable of seeing the logic of taking the most direct route. The MBTI is not about putting people in boxes, but simply to help them understand their “default settings”.

If you would like to take the test yourself, here is a free website: www.psychology-tools.com/myers-briggs-type-indicator. If you take it, be sure you answer the questions quickly, not thinking too much. It’s important to answer as you really are, not the way you wish you were or think others want you to be.

After reading this post and perhaps taking the test, please jump in and make your guesses as to Martin and Louisa’s types. Once we have some responses, I will share my guesses with you. Keep in mind, there are no right or wrong answers on this, because these are fictional characters (WHAT?!) we are talking about. I look forward to reading your replies.

Originally posted 2014-12-20 13:35:57.

22 thoughts on “Myers-Briggs Personality Test

  1. Maria

    Wonderful topic – thank you, Abby, for this great summary! I first learned about the MBTI some time ago and have been interested in it ever since. It has been criticized as being reductive, in that it classified all people into just 16 types, but I think this overlooks the continuum aspect that Abby mentions. Two people of the same type can still be very different.

    This is an interesting meta exercise, because I think speculating on what type other people might be is itself more appealing to certain types. Personally, I love it. 🙂

    As far as Martin and Louisa go, here goes. I think Martin is clearly ISTJ (“The Inspector”) and towards to the extreme end of each aspect. This type is described on various sites as “quiet, serious, earning success by thoroughness and dependability…They are practical, matter-of-fact, realistic and responsible. ISTJs are logical, methodical, meticulous in attention to detail, more enthusiastic about sharing factual information than exploring abstract concepts or unproven ideas” (we’ve certainly seen this in Martin’s inappropriate little lectures to Louisa!). They are not what we would typically think of as creative. Good careers for ISTJ’s include anything that has clear procedures and expectations, such as law enforcement and indeed, surgery. General practitioner is a harder fit because it requires so much interaction with and attunement to others (an ISFJ would probably have an easier time).

    (Of course you could say that Martin’s background and upbringing have led to some of his behaviors and beliefs, but I think you could also say that his type led him to respond to these events in the way that he did).

    With Louisa, the only aspect I feel pretty sure about is F/T. We see that she makes decisions impulsively and based on her feelings, which points to an F orientation. The other aspects I find harder to characterize. One reason might be that she is closer to the middle on the continuum. On the N/S scale, I would probably put her closer to S. She is a teacher, which calls for creativity and abstract thinking, but she is also an administrator who thinks in concrete and practical terms, as we saw, for instance, in her preparation for the interview. As far as the E/I goes, she’s obviously more extroverted than Martin (probably just everyone is!), but how extroverted is hard to say. She socializes, likes to be with other people, and cares about others’ feelings, but it’s hard to tell whether she gets energy from that or recharges by being alone. But let’s call her E. As far as J/P goes, although she can be impulsive, I think she likes routine, a schedule, and organization (we see this often in how she deals with the schoolchildren. It strikes me that we are often shown her disciplining them, as opposed to instances where she is encouraging spontaneity and creativity, for instance) and feels anxious with ambiguity. From the start, she wants a clear direction in her relationship with Martin, as opposed, for instance, to letting things unfold and seeing where they lead.

    So in sum, I guess I would expect Louisa to be ESFJ. And like Martin, she is in a good job for her type. ESFJ’s (“The Provider”) are well suited to professions like elementary school teacher, school administrator, and child care provider.

    Very fun exercise, Abby!

  2. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Maria, you’ve done a great job of thinking this through. I am just the moderator here, but thank you for giving us such a thorough assessment with good evidence to back it up. I look forward to seeing other ideas and Abby’s too.

  3. Abby

    Maria, thank you for your thoughtful analysis. You have certainly presented good evidence for your conclusions. After we get a few more replies I will tell you what my guesses are.

  4. Em

    Thank you, Abby, for laying such a great framework for this discussion! Some time ago, I attempted to identify Martin & Louisa’s MBTI types, and came up with INTJ for Martin, and ESFJ for Louisa. After reading Maria’s comments above, I would adjust my determination to ISTJ for Martin, as he does present as a concrete thinker, who is very pragmatic and fact-based (my original “N” may have been skewed by the questions posed on the online test I took way back when).

    Of interest to me is the challenges faced by Martin and Louisa (and couples or partnerships in real-life situations), because of their opposite attributes/preferences. Notably is the T/F aspect, as I think Martin and Louisa display strong preferences on either end of this spectrum.

    I would love to delve into this more, but sadly my real-life to-do list will prevent me from any in-depth discussion, at least until the New Year! Looking forward to reading other people’s perspective and suggestions 🙂

  5. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    It’s nice to have you join the conversation Em. I think we will all be better able to contribute following the holidays. The blog is open for comments, but since many of us are busy, we can continue to discuss the Myers-Briggs results into the New Year. Happy Holidays to all!!

    (I plan more posts on other topics in 2015.)

  6. Santa Traugott

    I wonder about the test-retest reliability of the MBI. I guess one taking the test at two different times would probably (and I mean that statistically) fall into the same categories, but perhaps the percentages would be different? I say that because on several of the questions, I could have gone either way, and I wonder how much of the response choice is based on how one feels at the moment? I’m sure though that this has been extensively researched. At any rate, I was a little surprised by how I scored and I’m not sure if that score would be accurately estimated by most of the people I’m acquainted or even friends with. And that’s all just to say that guessing Martin or Louisa’s MBI placement is really hard, in that we’re really not acquainted much with their interior life.

    So I see Martin as Introverted, definitely. Hard to see a disagreement about that. While I see him on the sensing rather than intuitive side, I’m wondering if it’s as entirely lopsided as one might think. Clearly, we see him almost completely oblivious to Edith’s designs on him, to Mrs. Tishell’s mad infatuation, and mostly, to how Louisa feels about him. But he is a master diagnostician, but I have to think that he is putting things together at a level that is almost not conscious, and that he arrives at diagnoses with a flash of insight — is that intuition? in fact, what exactly intution, if it is not putting together things at a level that is not conscious, and having what seems like a sudden burst of insight, but really is the result of our brain working quite logically to put things together? Anyway… I also have to wonder about how much of his obliviousness or inability to intuit what it is that people want from him is more blocked than non-existent. What if he’s schooled himself over the years NOT to pick up emotional signals b/c usually they’re so disappointing and/or hurtful?

    Similarly, while he is clearly a Thinker, rather than emotive (except when it comes to irritability), I have to wonder how much of his rationality is a product of his fear of or inability to handle — denial, perhaps — of his own deep emotions?

    And I would say he is J, rather than P. So ISTJ, but with the comment that the S and T probably describe his defensive structure as much as anything else. I don’t think that matters, tho, for the purposes of the MB test. But I’d ask Abby if she has a sense whether, after some period of therapy, a person’s place on the MBI does actually change? That’s another part of the question I opened with, about test-retest reliability.

    I actually am much less ambivalent about Louisa. I think she is pretty clearly Extroverted, more Intuitive than not (although she can be oblivious also), Feeling more than Thinking, and more Perceiving than Judging. So the exact opposite of DM. How does that usually work out in relationship terms?

    BTW, I was re-reading a post of April, “An in-depth look at Louisa” and struck by the relevance here of DM’s reply about humors. She ends it with the remarkable statement that Louisa’s temperament is “sanguine,” and that this is exactly what DM is afraid of and that this is not an accident of the writing, but purposeful. I would add, that’s what he is both afraid of and drawn to, a conflict which is perhaps related to their difficulties.

  7. Maria

    Santa raises some interesting questions that I’d like to take a stab at responding to. But Abby, as the expert, please correct anything I get wrong!

    First, the test-retest reliability question. I’ve taken the test (actually, I think they call it an inventory, not a test, to make clear that it really is not a test) several times and gotten the same result every time. Of course, I’m an n of 1, which is hardly a significant statistical sample, but I’ve heard the same from other people. The percentages vary a bit, but my type is always the same. I think the items are written in a way that accounts for being able to go either way on some of them (I know it’s all backed up by substantial research, although I don’t know the details). As far as one’s type being accurately estimated by friends and acquaintances goes, that’s the interesting part about it! What we project is not necessarily how we actually are. Not that we’re being deliberately deceptive, but for I’s especially, so much of the personality is interior that it is not necessarily easily seen by others. I often find it extremely difficult to guess at someone’s type. If they’ve taken the MBTI and know what it is, sometimes I’m surprised, sometimes not.

    The second thing is, one problem with the MBTI is that designations for the four aspects is kind of misleading. In the S/N function, the N, “intuitive”, doesn’t mean ‘intuition’ in the way that we normally think of it. Everyone has that to some degree, and as Santa says, the way a diagnostician puts things together is a good example. Myers and Briggs were differentiating the way that people take in information, whether primarily by the senses or more as holistic whole seen more for its possibilities than its details. For instance, if an S and N were asked to describe a room, an S might tell you the size, number of windows, position of the door, color of the walls, height of the ceiling, etc. An N would note that the room felt cozy or impersonal, how taking out a wall and adding a window would affect its relationship to the rooms around it, etc. So when a doctor makes an intuitive diagnosis, he/she is still adding up a series of specific facts based on experience.

    A third interesting question is whether Martin’s rationality is a produce of his denial of feelings. I think there’s definitely something to that, but not that that means he is really a cover F. Rather, I think that the type he already is conditions his responses. Anyone with his upbringing would carry deep trauma and scars from it, but in a person with a different type, they would manifest differently.

    I am not Abby or an expert, but from everything I’ve read, one’s type doesn’t change. However, certain aspects come more to the fore at certain stages of life, and the so-called ‘shadow’ side, i.e., the opposite of one’s natural preference, also plays a part.

  8. Santa Traugott

    Thanks, Maria! Then definitely, I would have to put Martin as an S rather than N. Much more likely to see the trees than the forest, or the details rather than the impression.

    I’m in agreement with you about Martin not being a “cover T’ — you are what you are, as the MB measures it. I still have to think, though, that to the extent some of these traits (if that’s the right word) are not hard-wired, that they can be altered over time, by life experiences or treatment in therapy. Maybe just shifted on the continuum, but perhaps over into another classification, depending on how borderline in the first place.

    Interesting, your reference to “the shadow self.” Is that Jungian? maybe it’s time to bring that into play, as well!

  9. Maria

    Sorry, I meant a ‘covert’ F, but I see you understood what I meant (cover T, covert F, same thing :))!

    I do agree with you in part about change in some of the preferences being possible, and certainly change is what therapy and life in general are all about! In the MBTI, I think it can occur, for instance, in the J/P function. Since neither extreme is useful in every situation, it’s helpful to understand when the other preference might be better and to actually apply it. Similarly, someone who’s a strong T and makes decisions based on logic and practicality can benefit from going with their feelings in some situations, and vice versa.

    But I think the thing is that the natural preference (again, sort of a misnomer; maybe ‘inclination’ is a better word) still remains. What changes is your ability to recognize it and then use that knowledge in interacting with the world, and in accepting yourself. Another example: a friend of mine used the expression “learned extroversion”, which I thought was great to express the idea that introverts can be extroverted when the situation demands or it’s useful for whatever reason.

    The ‘shadow function’ is a another whole big complicated topic – I need to do some more research on that! But yes, it is definitely Jungian, since the MBTI itself is based on Jungian type psychology theory.

  10. Abby

    Mona, I think the current version of the MBTI has 94 questions (88 in the European English version). The site that I sent you to is not the official version and has 70 items. It take about 15 minutes. I sent you to that site because it is free, unlike the official MBTI site.

  11. Abby

    I just wanted to let you know that I have not forgotten about you. I am currently out of town on vacation so may not be able to share my thoughts until I get back after the 1st.

  12. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I have been under the assumption that we are all taking the holiday period as a break and we will resume writing comments and new posts once the New Year has begun. I’m hoping to return to our discussion of the MBTI once we enter January and everyone is done with family and travel events.

    Please keep checking for more discussion in the near future. I wish you all a great week and a good start to 2015. My New Year’s wish is that I will continue to see comments from those of you who have become regulars and many of you who read the blog but haven’t yet made many comments. The blog continues anon!

  13. Frankie

    Martin is intj. Louise is istj. I can always tell the F’s from the T’s in real life anyway due to facial expressions. So I do believe she is istj in real life. So perhaps I am typing her to what she really is in real life. But she def seems istj to me in the show. He in real life from interviews I have watched is a strong F and an introvert he is very shy and humble in real life which is why he is such a brilliant actor in portrayinh this intj aspergers doctor in doc martin. Brilliant show.

  14. Amy Cohen

    Fascinating discussion! I wish Abby had returned with her conclusions. (Or are they in a later post perhaps? Since I tested very strongly as ISTJ, I am now worried that I may be too much like Martin! I agree that he is Introverted, Sensing, Thinking and Judging (not that there’s anything wrong with that). As for Louisa, I’d say that she is balanced on the I/E because although she is outgoing with people, she doesn’t seem to get her energy from them large groups, but rather from one-to-one situations where she is more reflective. On the S/N, again I see more S than N. As someone said above, she is an administrator and disciplinarian who focuses on facts and rules and observations at work, and she certainly doesn’t get the big picture of Martin, does she? On the T/F, definitely F. She is impulsive—grabs Martin first, kisses him first—rather than thinking. She accepts his proposal impulsively—would a thinking person do that? (But then again he made the proposal—but that was aberrational for him.) And finally as for J/P, I think she is J—she likes things done and decisions made. Both Martin and Louisa hate having things left undecided, which is why S7 was so hard for them and for us to watch.

    So overall, Martin is an ISTJ, Louisa either ESFJ or ISFJ. I’d love to hear what someone says about the compatibility of such a couple. Especially since I came out ISTJ and my husband as ESFJ!!

  15. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I know you know that none of this is something to hang one’s hat on. These designations are just another attempt at adding insight into people. But it’s fun to think about all of this and I’d love to see what anyone with knowledge about such designations would add.

  16. Amy Cohen

    I take it Abby never came back with a further discussion. And yes, I take all these things with a grain of salt. Not quite like astrology, but merely a tool used to help analyze someone’s personality.

  17. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    You know, I looked back over the comments today and realized Abby did not respond again. I bet that was an oversight on her part. Abby may still be reading this blog from time to time. There’s still time for her to add her view, and I hope she will.

  18. Abby

    I have gotten several emails from people who are wondering if I ever posted my thoughts on Martin and Louisa’s MBTI types. I did post a lengthy analysis on January 7, 2015 under the heading “And We’re Back”. Hopefully those of you who are interested can find it.

  19. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Sorry Abby. I forgot your answer was given on the post called “And We’re Back.” Thanks for reminding us and chalk this up to a mental lapse on my part. I hope that isn’t a sign of anything!!

  20. Amy Cohen

    Yep, I found it today after posting that. Unfortunately I missed all these posts when they were first published, so I am slowly catching up as Karen re-posts the old posts a few at a time. I did comment at “We’re Back,” and I really appreciated your insights! Thanks, Abby.

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