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Types of Personality

Types of Personality

The word “personality” often gets used pretty broadly today: we talk of someone “having personality” or “being a personality” – meaning that there’s something particularly expressive or obvious or typical about the way they conduct or express themselves; we talk about showbiz or sporting “personalities” – meaning they have a profile and a way about them that attracts attention. And those understandings are fine, but for our purposes we want to be a bit more specific, and the following ideas on what personality is really all about may be helpful:


“is a stable set of characteristics and tendencies”: that is, not one-off or aberrant behaviors, but “typical” responses and reactions (the person who is typically concerned about time or typically pays attention to how they dress, or who typically thinks carefully and deeply about things);

“is a system which determines commonalities and differences between people”: acknowledging that the tendencies and typical behaviors we see tend to recur among people (“quiet types” and “noisy types”; “detailed types” and “creative types”), and that personality “types” can be grouped;

“may not be understood as the sole result of the social and biological pressures of the moment”: that is, behaviors that are driven not out of a unique momentary need or situation, but rather out of a person’s nature – their “inner being”

What the above ideas have in common is that personality seems to be a result of stable behaviors or characteristics in people which prevail through a long period of time in adult or fully mature individuals. In addition, personality is deeper than surface behavior, attitudes or values and instead is something more substantive about a person. Personality then reflects both innate characteristics (often called our nature) as well as how we seem to learn from other people and the world around us (often called nurture).

How does learning shape personality?

Every individual learns in their own way and each will have a unique combination of cultural background and past experience that has an impact on the way he or she learns. However, there are some useful categorizations that can help you determine how each person learns. For example, some people prefer to process information through text, while others prefer visual images. Some assimilate information best individually, while others would rather work in groups. Another person may grasp information quickly and intuitively, while someone else prefers to learn step-by-step and take time to reflect.

If we consider the cognitive processes proposed by the psychologist Carl Jung (that we will look at more closely in the table below), we will recall that some types have preferences for particular functions such as sensing over intuiting (or the other way round) or thinking versus feeling for instance. These can have a major effect not only on the way we interact with the world generally (the innate “raw material” of our personality), but also on the way we learn. This is not to say that certain “types” are unable to learn in a way which does not suit their personality and preferences, but that some learning experiences will tend to be “quicker to grasp” and to perhaps require less “mental energy” for some over others.

Jung’s “type” based personality theory

Carl Jung’s theories have been around for almost 100 years now and are still very influential on the way that psychologists think about personality. As the table below illustrates, Jung proposed four pairs of “either or” mental preferences or what can be seen as “mental muscles”. We all have both preferences but one in each pair will be dominant over the other. Each item pair is described on the left of the chart with the word in red on the right explaining in one word what it is essentially targeting. Although this is certainly not the only way to classify personality, Jung’s model has been widely used on an international basis and has become the basis of a plethora of books on the subject, as well as spawned the development of many assessments, including the Personal Style Inventory, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and Personality Type Indicator (PTI).

Jungian scales in Psychological Type

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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