Do personality types exist? (3 insights)

This blog post aims to answer the question, “Do personality types exist?” and explore the concept of personality, its types and their acknowledgement in the community to help understand the answer. 

Do personality types exist?

It cannot be said for sure if personality types exist or not. The existence of personality types is a hot topic in psychology right now, with no clear answers and a need for more concentrated research.

The following are 3 insights into the discussion about personality types- 

  • A recent study states that at least four personality types exist. 
  • Not everyone will fall neatly into one of the four personality types.
  • More research is needed. 

These 3 insights into the discussion about personality types will be discussed in further detail below after taking an in-depth look at personality types. 

What are personality types?

People can be classified based on their general attitude [Extraverted (E) vs. Introverted (I)], one of the two functions of perception [Sensing (S) vs. Intuition (N)], and one of the two functions of judging [Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F)], according to Carl G. Jung’s theory of psychological types [Jung, 1971].

Jung established three types of preferences: dichotomies, dichotomies, and dichotomies (i.e. bipolar dimensions where each pole represents a different preference). Jung also argued that one of the four functions listed above is prominent in a person – either perception or judgement. 

The judging-perceiving connection was presented by Isabel Briggs Myers, a scholar and practitioner of Jung’s theory, as a fourth dichotomy determining personality type [Briggs Myers, 1980] – Judging (J) vs. Perceiving (P).

Extraversion – Introversion is the first criterion, which indicates the source and direction of a person’s energy manifestation. The source and direction of energy expression for an extravert are mostly in the external world, whereas an introvert’s source is primarily in their own internal world.

Sensing – Intuition is the second criterion, and it describes how someone interprets information. Sensing refers to a person’s tendency to believe information received directly from the outside environment. The term “intuition” refers to a person’s belief in knowledge derived mostly from the internal or imaginary world.

Thinking – Feeling is the third criterion, and it describes how a person processes information. Thinking refers to a person’s decision-making process, which is mostly based on reasoning. Feeling implies that he or she makes decisions based on emotion, i.e. what they believe they should do.

The fourth criterion, Judging – Perceiving, describes how a person puts the knowledge he or she has gathered to use. Judging entails organising all of one’s life events and, for the most part, sticking to one’s plans. Perceiving implies that he or she is willing to improvise and consider other possibilities.

All potential combinations of preferences in the four dichotomies above generate 16 different personality types, which signify which of the two poles in each of the four dichotomies predominate in a person. 

Each personality type has a four-letter acronym that represents the appropriate set of preferences –

  • ESTJ
  • ESTP
  • ESFJ
  • ESFP
  • ENTJ
  • ENTP
  • ENFJ
  • ENFP
  • ISTJ
  • ISTP
  • ISFJ
  • ISFP
  • INTJ
  • INTP
  • INFJ
  • INFP

The initial letter of the personality type acronym corresponds to the first letter of general attitude preference: “E” for extraversion and “I” for introversion.

The preference within the sensing-intuition dimension is represented by the second letter of the personality type acronym: “S” represents for sensing and “N” stands for intuition.

The third letter in the personality type acronym relates to the thinking-feeling preference: “T” represents thinking and “F” stands for feeling.

The fourth letter in the personality type acronym stands for a person’s preference in the judging-perceiving pair: “J” stands for judgement and “P” stands for perception.

For example –

  • ISTJ stands for Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, Judging
  • ENFP stands for Extraverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, Perceiving

What are 3 insights about the existence of personality types?

A recent study states that at least four personality types exist. 

Many high school guidance counsellors and self-help book authors favour personality tests, but many scientists don’t. There’s debate among them over whether or not distinct personality types exist at all.

However, a big recent study published in Nature Human Behavior suggests that at least four personality types exist: average, reserved, self-centred, and role model. 

Each one is determined by how much people exhibit five key personality traits: neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.

Average.

Individuals with the average personality type have a high level of neuroticism and extraversion but a low level of openness. This personality type is the most prevalent.

Reserved.

Individuals with the reserved personality type are emotionally steady yet neither neurotic nor open. They are not extremely outgoing, but they are agreeable and responsible.

Role models.

Individuals with the role-model personality type have a low level of neuroticism and a high level of all the other qualities. They are capable leaders who are trustworthy and receptive to new ideas.

Self-centred

Extraversion is quite high in individuals with the self-centred personality type, while openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness are below average. We call these guys jerks in everyday life.

“It appeared that personality characteristics were well-accepted and established in psychometrics, but personality types were not,” says Luis Amaral, a professor of chemical and biological engineering at Northwestern University and a research co-author. 

“I was simply wondering whether the lack of data was the reason why individuals haven’t been able to define personality types?” 

Amaral and postdoctoral colleague Martin Gerlach went over 1.5 million responses to four distinct personality questionnaires from people of various ages all across the world to find a solution to this issue. 

The researchers employed an algorithm to classify the responses into separate clusters and discovered four personality types that occurred with disproportionate frequency across all four survey datasets.

Most people, according to Gerlach, will fall into the average personality type, which is pleasant and conscientious, extraverted and neurotic but not overly open. 

Self-centred personalities, on the other hand, have low openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness but high extraversion. Except for openness and neuroticism, where they are rather low, reserved people are generally steady in all domains. 

Finally, role models exhibit high degrees of extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness while having low levels of neuroticism. These clusters continued reappearing again and over. 

Not everyone will fall neatly into one of the four personality types.

William Revelle, a co-author of the study and a long-time sceptic of personality types, was fascinated enough by the findings to reconsider his position. “These gentlemen convinced me that there are larger concentrations than you would predict by chance,” Revelle adds.

He compares the outcome to glancing at a United States population map. While people dwell all throughout the country, high-density places like New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago, which each has significantly more people than, say, Cleveland or Tallahassee, are easy to recognise.

However, just as not everyone lives in New York City, Los Angeles, or Chicago, not everyone will fall neatly into one of the four personality types; according to Revelle, they’re essentially trait groups that characterise an above-average proportion of individuals. 

Some people fully fit into one of the groups, while others are just vaguely affiliated with one. (“You’re closer to New York than you are to Chicago if you’re in D.C.,” Revelle explains.) Some persons may not be able to fit into any of the categories.

In fact, according to Gerlach, it’s impossible to tell how many people fall into each group precisely because drawing firm lines around them is both difficult and arbitrary. Furthermore, people’s characteristics may alter as they get older. 

For example, a disproportionate percentage of young individuals fall into the self-centred category, whereas older persons and women are more likely to fall into the role model category.

“People are changing,” Amaral explains. “As people mature, they get more integrated into society, gaining more social features.”

More research is needed. 

While the findings add a scientific element to the study of personality, the researchers say more research is needed before the findings can be turned into anything useful to ordinary people, such as personality quizzes that could be used by employers, mental health professionals, or even dating services.

People who are interested may participate in the study by taking an online personality assessment and receiving characteristic feedback from the researchers, which Revelle believes is even more important than knowing your personality type.

“It’s helpful to know how far north or east you dwell,” he explains. “It’s more beneficial than stating where you reside.” The research of the Northwestern team isn’t the only new addition to the subject of personality. 

Researchers from North Carolina State University devised a new personality test based on people’s quick responses to questions regarding the same five major personality traits just last month. 

They’ve even created a service called PerSight Assessments, which they claim can be utilised by businesses who want to learn more about potential employees.

While all four of these personality types are quite widespread, they are not evenly dispersed throughout the population. Women, for example, are more likely to be role models (the group best suited to leadership). 

Self-centeredness is overrepresented among adolescent guys. You’re more likely to fall into the role model category as you become older.

The most important takeaway here is that your personality is flexible and adaptable. Science does not claim that you have a single personality type that you will have for the rest of your life. 

In fact, the research demonstrates how significantly our personalities change over time. If you wish you had a different personality type, you have the ability to change.

However, the authors believe that a scientifically proven personality type test like this might assist company executives in ensuring that staff are well-suited to their positions. 

For example, the Army Research Office of the Department of Defense contributed to the study, and it’s easy to see why they’d be interested in a research-based assessment of leadership potential.

However, those practical applications are still a long way off. For the time being, the major takeaway is that a search that has lasted since at least the time of the ancient Greeks appears to have come to an end: it appears that personality types do exist. Now scientists must figure out how to put the data to good use.

Conclusion – 

This blog post aimed to answer the question, “Do personality types exist?” and reviewed the concept of personality, its types and their acknowledgement in the community to help determine if personality types exist. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have.

References –

KlüVer, H. DO PERSONALITY TYPES EXIST? (2006, April 1). Retrieved from https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/pdf/10.1176/ajp.87.5.781#:~:text=the%20existence%20of%20personality%20types.&text=types%20do%20not%20exist.&text=by%20the%20most%20frequently%20occurring%20forms.%E2%80%9D&text=The%20conceptionalizing%20of%20everyday%20experiences,the%20range%20of%20its%20variations.

Stillman, J. Psychologists Have Finally Discovered 4 Research-Backed Personality Types. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/these-are-only-personalty-types-backed-by-science.html

Personality type. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (2022, January 30). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personality_type

Ducharme, J. These Are the Four Big Personality Types, According to Science. (2018, September 18). Retrieved from https://time.com/5398396/personality-types/

Scientists determine four personality types based on new data. Northwestern University. (2018, September 17). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180917111612.htm

Willard, G. Personality Types Don’t Exist. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cangrade.com/blog/talent-acquisition/personality-types-dont-exist/

Stromberg, J. & Caswell, E. Why the Myers-Briggs test is totally meaningless. (2015, October 8). Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/2014/7/15/5881947/myers-briggs-personality-test-meaningless

Hochwald, L.  What You Think You Know About Personality Types Is Probably Wrong. (2020, April 3). Retrieved from https://www.psycom.net/type-a-type-b-personality-theory

Cherry, K. The Amount of Personality Traits That Exist. (2020, December 14). Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/how-many-personality-traits-are-there-2795430

Pappas, S. Personality traits & personality types: What personality type are you? (2021, November 03). Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com/41313-personality-traits.html

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