So.. I’ve been reading this book gifted to me by a great iFriend who thought that all of my ruminations on here about MBTI might be furthered by taking a gander at this here, book:
Lenore Thomson, Personality Type: An Owner’s Manual. Shambhala Publications Inc.: Boston, MA. 1998.
.. and this friend was correct. Many thoughts that I’ve had about MBTI, Functions, etc. have been altered since I started reading this book.
Most surprising, perhaps, is that reading this book has made me question the underlying assumptions of the whole MBTI system more than I ever have before. Specifically, it has made me really think about the whole set of constructs involving “functions” and the ways in which people talk about the functions (namely iNtuition(Ni, Ne), Sensation (Si, Se), Thinking (Ti, Te), and Feeling(Fi, Fe)) and how these functions actually function within the human mind.
Importantly, it has made me want to take a further step back and wonder whether the “functions” should be treated in the way that they have been in MBTI, and especially whether they should be addressed as Thomson does, which is often as if they were almost quasi-independent conscious entities inhabiting our heads and fighting battles over who has control over our everyday actions, perceptions and thoughts.
The one thought I wanted to get out today was that rather than thinking about functions, what I think I’m coming to believe is that the MBTI system is helpful in acknowledging that there are four kinds of activities that humans all have to engage in that shape a lot of how we interact with the world. These activities are:
a)Recognizing and interpreting patterns (iNtuition)
b)Sensing and reacting to the details of immediate reality (Sensation)
c)Applying logical and abstract rule systems upon data to organize and evaluate it (Thinking)
d) Applying a set of values criterion towards our social interactions with other humans and groups (Feeling)
Now.. what I think is also an important insight of the MBTI system is that individuals have different strengths/talents with regard to these four kinds of activities and that they have preferences towards which of these they like to engage in. One could also describe this by saying that individuals tend to be more dominant in one (or actually a combination of two) of these kinds of activities–it plays a more central role in their lives and comes more naturally to them–and that the other activities play lesser roles in their lives.
I would also be willing to go a bit further and state that it does seem to be true that there are some recognizable patterns amongst the populace with regard to how these different processes are combined–such that there are–to at least some extent–recognizable “groups” of people who combine two of the functions in a way that makes their behavior relatively similar amongst them. However, I do think that this observation can be pushed too far and that many in MBTI get caught up trying to create an abstract system that has more theoretical elegance to it than is warranted by the actual application of these processes in real life human affairs.
Finally, I would also argue that the MBTI observation that these activities can take place within an internal/subjective or external/objective context and that these contexts shape the activities in important ways–is very, very insightful and useful. Again, I think that this contrast can be pushed too far in certain people’s understanding and application of MBTI–but I do think that this is a very fruitful avenue to explore and flesh out..
In any case–that’s my first observation of the book–and, again, it is a kind of negative observation in that the arguments in this book have made me more suspicious of the structure of MBTI than I had previously been.
As it stands, I’m about 60% of the way through the book and will probably start throwing out more observations of it as I get through more of it.
Any and all comments from those who have read it are encouraged and welcome!