Jung’s Theory of Psychological Types

Explain C.G. Jung’s theory of psychological types as a developmental model

As Anthony Stevens (1990) details, Jung’s theory of psychological types has many precedents in psychology and the philosophy of mind; it can be seen to be connected to such notions as Hippocrates’ concept of the four temperaments, its medicalisation in Galen’s four humours, the ancient Egyptian systems of astrology and the Chinese binaries of Yin and Yang. Jung, however, in his essay ‘A Psychological Theory of Types’ (1960) despite acknowledging his debt to such systems, stresses the notion that his theory can be distinguished from such intuitive ones through its use of scientific and analytical understanding, as he states:

The historical retrospect may set our minds at rest as to the fact that our modern efforts to formulate a theory of types are by no means new and unprecedented, even if our scientific conscience no longer permits us to revert to these old, intuitive ways of handling the question.[1]

As this paper shall assert, this image of change and continuity is crucial in understanding how Jung’s theory has and can be used as a developmental model to examine not only childhood development but that of the whole lifecycle. Jung’s theories on this area can be seen as a being constantly adapted by himself and others to widening their theoretical importance and, more importantly perhaps, to broaden their practical application. To this end, this paper is divided into three main sections: the first looks at Jung’s theory of psychological types as laid out in texts such as ‘A Psychological Theory of Types’ (1960), The Development of Personality (1981) and Psychological Types (1983); the second section looks how this was adapted and altered by Isabel Myers and Katherine Briggs (Myers, 2000; Myers, 1962; Bayne, 1997) and lastly, the third and final section details briefly how each of these has been used as a full developmental model in practical psychology and developmental science. It is hoped then that this paper represents not only a historical explanation of Jung’s theories but how they fit into a developing discipline.

Jung describes the basics of his theory of types concisely in the introduction to the work Psychological Types (1983):

In my practical work with nervous patients I have long been struck by the fact that besides the many individual differences in human psychology there are also typical differences. Two types especially become clear to me; I have termed them the introvert and the extraverted types.[2]

There are two things of interest in this simple statement: firstly, as we have already stated Jung asserts the scientific method of his research (his theory arises out of observations in a clinical setting) and secondly, as Stevens (1990) details, Jung’s theory of types aims to accommodate both individual difference and universal similarity. The two basic psychological types in Jung’s framework, the introvert and extrovert, describe the basic relationship the individual has with the world and the objects around them: the extravert is defined by an outward flowing of libido, and as Fordham (1964) states “an interest in events, in people and things, (and has) a relationship with them and a dependence on them.”[3] The extravert draws energy from the world in which they inhabit and as Jung (1983) states, is more likely to have a ready acceptance of external events and happenings. They also show a need to be influenced by events happening to them and will have moral and ethical leanings that gravitate towards the collective[4]. The extravert is likely to be more willing to share views, to engage with others and to see their ideas as existing within a network of influencing factors (Shamdasani, 2003: 68).

Conversely, the introvert presents us with the opposite view, as Fordham (1964) details:

The introverted attitude, in contrast, is one of withdrawal; the libido flows inward and is concentrated upon subjective factors, and the predominating influence is ‘inner necessity’. When this attitude is habitual Jung speaks of an ‘introverted type’.[5]

The introverted type, then, is happiest alone, ‘in their own company’ (to use Jung’s own phrase), draws energy from solitude, is more likely to formulate their own ethical judgements and frameworks, has a tendency towards pessimism and anxiety and finds safety and warmth with other people only when security has been established and the relationship boundaries have been fixed (Jung, 1983: 142-5).

As we can see here, Jung’s basic taxonomy recognised only two general types and each of these corresponded to the individual’s interaction with themselves and the world about them. In his work ‘Psychological Types’, however, Jung also characterises ‘four basic psychological functions’ that he lists as: thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition. Each of these functions, taken as individual tropes and as two pairs of binaries (thinking/feeling and sensing/intuiting) enables us to frame not only the two basic types per se but how they are manifested in situation and behaviour. The two basic types and the four functions can be combined to form a series of eight major psychological types that serve to define and characterise an individual’s psychic propensity (Extraverted thinking, Introverted thinking, Extraverted feeling, Introverted feeling and so on). As Jung explains, this grouping was seen more as a flexible framework than a rigid method of pseudo-scientifically condensing the richness and breadth of humans as a species.

As Stevens (1991) details, although these initial eight types have been expanded upon and used as the basis for psychometric testing, Jung’s interest in them was largely clinical, his writings outline how they can be used to understand the ways in which individual’s react to their environment and how clinical and pedagogical strategies can be formulated to best work with an individual’s own behaviour. As Knox (2003) suggests, the eight basic types of Jungian theory can be seen more as a method of classification than a developmental model. Whereas Jung’s concept of the archetypal lifecycle employed similar processes of taxonomy (the notion of life stages for instance) it was Isabel Myers and her mother Katherine Briggs who were to take Jung’s work and fully utilise it as a developmental model.

As Myers (2000) details, the Myers-Briggs model expanded on Jung’s original thesis by adopting and adapting the concepts of the ‘dominant’ and the ‘auxiliary’ functions, this allows for the types to be seen, not so much as a series of binaries, but as a set of dichotomies that can be used to measure the relative make up of personality types within each individual. This resulted in an expansion of the eight types to sixteen, each of which was assigned a series of letters that allowed psychologists to formulate questionnaires and to calibrate results, as Myers herself details:

Jung’s theory and the 16 MBTI types do not define static boxes; instead, they describe dynamic energy systems with interacting processes.[6]

The Myers-Briggs adaptation of Jung’s original types made it possible for them to be used in more general, non-clinical situations (Waktins and Campbell, 2000). The sixteen types in the Myers-Briggs system have specific characteristic traits that can be used as a developmental model, not only in terms of how the individual may react to the changing life stages outlined by Jung (childhood, adolescence, early maturity, mid-life transition, middle age, late life transition, late maturity, death – [Stevens, 1990: 62]) but also in terms of the challenges that face individuals everyday. Myers (2000) for instance outlines the ISTJ individual (Introverted Sensing with Extraverted Thinking) as having:

…a strong sense of responsibility and great loyalty to organisations, families and relationships in their lives. They work with steady energy to fulfil commitments as stated and on time. They go to almost any trouble to complete something they see as necessary but baulk at doing anything that doesn’t make sense to them.[7]

Myers (2000) places such descriptions within a developmental context that highlights problems and potential areas for growth, asserting for instance that ISTJ personalities can “become rigid about time, schedules and procedures” and “find it difficult to delegate” (Myers, 2000: 14). Alternatively, those classified as ENFP (Extraverted Intuition with Introverted Feeling) can be described as innovative, stimulated by new people, see connections where others don’t and are likely to be curious, creative, imaginative and spontaneous. In terms of personal development, however, they can become frustrated “become scattered, have trouble focusing (and) be easily distracted” (Myers, 2000: 21).

We can see how the Myers-Briggs model not only adapts the taxonomy of Jung’s original classification but also expands its uses – employing it far more as a general developmental model than a clinical tool, as Allen and Brock (2003) state:

(The MBTI is) a tool for assessing those individual differences and has given millions of people a positive understanding of their own patterns of communication as well as an understanding of the mutual usefulness of differences.[8]

As McCaulley (2000) suggests, Myers-Briggs Type Indicators can be used a developmental and psychometric model in many areas of counselling and education to determine such things as teaching styles, lifestyle strategies and methods of dealing with challenges and life situations. The development of type is a process that continues throughout one’s life: youth is seen as the stage in which we develop the dominant and auxiliary functions that form a major part of one’s personality, midlife allows us to develop and set the third and fourth functions and the latter stages of life allow us to adopt a lifestyle that is in conjunction with our own type preferences. As McCaully (2000) states, here Jung’s theory of psychological types and his theory of the developing lifestyle can be seen to coincide, with the latter being able to be used as a way that individuals can negotiate the former. Psychological types, especially as they were framed and described by Isabel Myers and Katherine Briggs, can be used as a basis with which to formulate strategies that aid in the transition from one life stage to another. As a developmental model then it seeks to be both descriptive and curative. Isabel Myers saw the a whole range of uses for Jungian psychological types as a developmental model, most notably in the area of education and child development, for instance she states that

It is particularly important to apply the ethics and values of type to relationships with children. Often in trying to meet a child’s needs, adults assume that what has worked best for them will also work best for the child. Lack of validation or acceptance of one’s preferences as a child can lead to low self esteem, defiance or adaptation of that creates strain.[9]

The Jungian based MBTI developmental model has been used by all manner of different disciplines from management practice (Davidson Frame, 2003, Bess, 1995) to education (Morgan, 1997) from organisational theory (Schneider and Smith, 2004) to religion (Watts, Nye and Savage, 2002). Its use by such a wide variety of fields is surly a reflection of its place as a model that seeks to understand both individuated personality and universal archetypes. Also, as we have seen, it is a theory is constant evolution and one that is being utilised by an ever growing range of academic and practical disciplines.


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