Personality Tools: Keirsey Four Temperaments vs. Carl Jung’s Cognitive Functions
Great podcast again this week!
Listen, could you please enlighten me on the temperaments thing? MBTI has the sensing types grouped as STs and SFs, and [David] Keirsey has them as SJs and SPs.
Why, and what’s the difference if the first letter is about gathering information and the second one about make decisions. It’s a bit confusing to me why Keirsey would use Js and Ps instead of Ts and Fs.
– Julian Lee
There are actually a couple of schools of thought about Myers-Briggs. If you’re not familiar with them it can get really confusing, especially when people start referencing each methodology without naming it assuming you already know what they’re talking about.
While more are springing up, the two most popular ways of understanding Myers-Briggs are Carl Jung’s “cognitive functions” and David Keirsey’s “Four Temperaments.”
Each starts out with the four dichotomies of Myers-Briggs and then branches out to two different roads. So, when you begin a dialog about Keirsey Four Temperaments, you’re (at least temporarily) suspending a conversation about Jungian cognitive functions.
Jungian cognitive functions is the theory that there are eight primary mental processes the brain uses to learn new information and evaluate that information, or make decisions. There are four learning functions (called “perceiving processes), and four decision-making functions (called “judging processes”). Depending upon your Myers-Briggs type, you will have one of the learning processes and one of the decision-making processes as your favorite.
The learning processes are based on the Sensor/iNtuitive dichotomy, with each having an extraverted and an introverted expression, or version of itself. So, the four processes are Introverted Sensing, Extraverted Sensing, Introverted iNtuition and Extraverted iNtuition. The decision-making processes are based on the Thinker/Feeler dichotomy, and they also have an introverted and an extraverted expression. They are Introverted Feeling, Extraverted Feeling, Introverted Thinking and Extraverted Thinking. (Each of these processes correlate to different Genius Styles in the Genius Style Assessment.)
In the Keirsey Four Temperament model, there is no mention of cognitive functions. This is mostly due to Keirsey himself finding cognitive functions to be without much use. Instead, he harkens back to older models which frequently place people into a four quadrant system. You can see strong correlations to the ancient model of Sanguine, Melancholy, Phlegmatic and Choleric types.
This was a good choice on Keirsey’s part – his Keirsey Four Temperament model became one of the most accessible entrances into Myers-Briggs of all time, with his book Please Understand Me outselling even Isabel Briggs-Myer’s book Gifts Differing. Approximately 40 million people have taken the Keirsey Temperament Sorter.
The Keirsey Four Temperaments
SJ, or “The Guardian”
These would be anyone who has tested out as a Sensor and a Judger. The Myers-Briggs types that qualify are ESTJ, ISTJ, ESFJ, ISFJ. Keirsey describes them as finding a place to belong, to contribute to society, and have a sense of security and confidence in their abilities, is key to the Guardian’s sense of well-being.
SP, or “The Artisan”
These would be anyone who has tested out as a Sensor and a Perceiver. The Myers-Briggs types that qualify are ESTP, ISTP, ESFP, ISFP. Keirsey describes them as having a life of action and freedom is what makes an Artisan tick and gives them a sense of being alive.
NF, or “The Idealist”
These would be anyone who has tested out as an iNtuitive and a Feeler. The Myers-Briggs types that qualify are ENFJ, INFJ, ENFP, INFP. Keirsey describes them as seeking to have a life of meaning, to help themselves and others grow to be the best that they can be. They do not want to be a copycat of someone else, but want to be seen as a unique and valuable individual.
NT, or “The Rational”
These would be anyone who has tested out as an iNtuitive and a Thinker. The Myers-Briggs types that qualify are ENTJ, INTJ, ENTP, INTP. Keirsey describes them as the drive towards constantly increasing their knowledge base and being highly competent is what gives Rationals a sense of personal satisfaction.
Why does Keirsey pair together Sensors with the Judger/Perceiver dichotomy, but iNtuitives with the Thinker/Feeler dichotomy?
That’s a great question. I don’t know if I’ve ever read Keirsey explain it (and if you have, please share in the comments!), but I have a theory on why it works.
Sensors understand information primarily using their senses because they are interested in what is reliable and verifiable. That makes them focused on their environment, the world that is accessible through the senses. The Judger/Perceiver dichotomy describes your relationship with your environment. Judgers like their environment to be organized, and Perceivers prefer their environment to be open-frame. (See more in the blog post, “What is a Judger and What is a Perceiver?“)
So, it makes sense that, to a Sensor, their preferred relationship with the environment would be the most influential component. Which gives you SJ and SP.
iNtuitives, on the other hand, understand information in a more conceptual way. They like asking “What if?” questions and speculating on what for the moment may only exist in their imagination. If the question that drives you is “What if?” it’s logical that vetting those ‘what if’ scenarios would be extremely necessary.
So, it makes sense that, to an iNtuitive, the dichotomy that informs how they evaluate information – Thinking or Feeling – becomes the most influential component. Which gives you NT and NF.
If you attempt to find cognitive functions in the Keirsey Four Temperament model, you won’t get very far. While the SP and SJ temperaments allow for shared functions (all SJs use Introverted Sensing, or “Memory” in the Genius System, and all SPs use Extraverted Sensing, or “Sensation”), the same doesn’t apply to the two iNtuitive temperaments. That because you need to know the Judger or Perceiver dichotomy preference to determine cognitive functions.
I think we all have a desire to overlay the models we become familiar with to 1) understand them better; and 2) give it a sense of elegance. In the case of Jungian cognitive functions and the Keirsey Four Temperaments, I found it far more helpful to study them on their own first. There WILL be similarities, but there won’t a perfect correlation between the two.
That is, I haven’t found it yet. 🙂
p.s. Here’s a handy-dandy lexicon of basic terms used in Myers-Briggs (and models that are related to Myers-Briggs):
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Thanks so much for this explanation. I’m a huge Keirsey fan, without the background for MBTI’s cognitive and judging functions. While your explanation is clear, I’m okay with Keirsey’s 4 Temperaments model—so much easier to use, explain to others, and illustrate. I’m still your fan, too, though. 🙂
One should point out, btw, that the David Keirsey above (with the quote from 2011) is the son of the David Keirsey whose books everyone reads…
That’s a good piece of information to have. Thanks for the clarification.
Your theory on why Keirsey would pair Sensors with the Judger/Perceiver dichotomy makes perfect sense. How would you explain though why Isabel Myers-Briggs has Sensors paired with the Thinker/Feeler dichotomy, just like iNtuitives, in “Gifts Differing”?
Also, since Sensors tend to be more focused on their environment, what’s verifiable, is it safe to say that even introverted Sensors are by default more extroverted, fundamentally, than extroverted iNtuitives, since they live in that more verifiable thus external world, while iNtuitives, even the extroverted ones, tend to live more in their heads, their own vision(s), which is by default a more introspective way of dealing with reality, even if the iNtuitive is extroverted?
I think Isabel paired them casually, since there’s going to be similarities between both styles of Sensors (Memory and Sensation) and both style of Thinkers (Accuracy and Effectiveness). They’ll have some cross-over interests and skills, which is what she references. It’s more of a compare/contrast style of teaching the four dichotomies. But unlike Keirsey, she doesn’t pair them to create a new model, nor does she give them precedence over learning the more valuable cognitive functions.
As far as Sensors being more extraverted… I wouldn’t say this is the case. For example, the way the mental process of “Memory” works (aka “Introverted Sensing,” the primary cognitive function of ISxJs) is almost like a snapshot of a moment to be collated later. To truly understand how things work, Memory people carefully review their impressions of experiences they had in the concrete world. After all, what is more reliable than a concrete experience that you’ve had time to ruminate over?
That said, the rumination is done in the “inner world.” Which is why those impressions may or not may not be totally accurate. (As Marcel Proust said, “Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were.”) But to the Memory person they are reliable and verifiable and feel very concrete, even if the result is entirely subjective and born from introversion.