Somatotype and Myers-Briggs

Myers-Briggs is an extension of Jung’s system of psychological types.  The glaring problem with the Myers-Briggs personality classifications is that it is based on the idea that everyone can be put in an either-or category. You have to be either Extraverted or Introverted.  You must be a Sensation type or an Intuitive type.

You are either a Thinking type or a Feeling type.  You are put in either the Perception box or the judgement box.  The test questions are built on this assumption forcing the test-taker into choosing between opposites.

Nature doesn’t work that way.  For an example consider the weather. Suppose you applied the either/or model to weather prediction.  You decide 50 degrees Fahrenheit is the midpoint for temperature.  You make the midpoint for humidity 50%.  You make the midpoint for wind speed 25 miles per hour.  There is no partly cloudy.  The sky is either sunny or overcast.  The weatherman looks at the data and discovers it’s 52 degrees, the humidity is 55% the wind is 19 miles per hour and there are clouds low on the horizon.  So how does he describe the weather?

“Today its going to be overcast, hot and humid with a light breeze”
Is that a useful description?  That’s what can happen with a test like the MBTI.  It is no wonder that the Myers-Briggs has reliability problems.  So many people fall into the middle ranges that only a slight change in mood, health, amount of sleep, general stress levels can push a person into a different category.  You only need to browse the MBTI discussion boards to see how many people are struggling with variable test results.

Yet, millions believe it.  Fortune 100 companies make personnel decisions based on it.  Career consultants steer clients into occupations because the tests say they are a perfect fit.  Dating services make similar matches.

It is tempting to just discard the MBTI because of these well-known problems.  But it is important to find out what is working well enough to hold the interest of so many people.  So what IS working?  Humans are attracted to idea systems.  Figuring out all those combinations of dichotomies is very engaging.  The promise of discovering your real self among the various permutations of functions and attitudes drives a person to achieve some kind of closure.

The most valuable part of the process is that one of the 16 types is bound to fit comfortably enough to be declared a match.  Once that happens you have a convert.  And as so often happens the convert is so elated with their salvation that they set out on a path to enlighten friends and family. Eventually, you have a network of people discussing their sacred callings. As flawed as the process is, it still produces clusters of traits that probably describe real persons.  This is no less true of astrology and the four humor temperament theories.  Although the scaffolding has long been removed by the scrutiny of the scientific method, the buildings still remain standing. The buildings are the type descriptions and are useful in discussing personality.  Consider astrology as an example.  Science has shown that the position of planets, whether at conception or birth can’t explain personality.  Still, some people feel their astrological sign explains it all.  It isn’t unreasonable to believe that at least one out of four people will find one particular “sign” will be at least 50% accurate in its description of their personality.  That’s sufficient to win a convert.

Let’s look a little closer at the problem of the bipolarity of the MBTI (Jungian) functions and attitudes.  The main problem is that all the functions are necessary to all organisms.  We all think, feel, do and see. We differ however in our preferences for these functions.  Some of us are DOERS while others are FEELERS.  Some of us are THINKERS and others are SEERS.  This is what is referred to as our dominant function.  If we add a secondary (auxiliary) system to the mix (temperament means “mixture”) we then become FEELING-DOERS, THINKING-SEERS, DOER-THINKERS for a total of twelve combinations.  If you consider the rejected, weakest, inferior function/system, you have 24 permutations.  Note that this means you can have THINKING-FEELERS, and DOER (Sensation)-SEERS (Intuition). Jung never figured that out.

We need to remember that types necessarily create some boundary problems.  They are convenient for zeroing in on a probable space but each person must be considered as an individual person situated on a continuum of dimension variables.  For instance, what does it mean when your dominant function is only slightly higher or equal to your auxiliary function. It makes a real difference.

Let us now attempt to map onto the Triangular Somatotype Chart, the probable location of the various MBTI personalities.  Remember my typological scheme involves twelve primary types (24 types if you include the inferior system).  Some of these will fit perfectly.  Others are at best educated guesses.  If there are only twelve primary types it can be expected that some of the MBTI types will prove to be redundant or not different enough to really be considered a distinct type.  As of this time there really is no written test that you can rely on to settle the matter. Some may say that this is a perfect scenario for a pseudo-science.  If test results don’t match the somatotype you can simply plead that the test is invalid or that the subjects are severely disturbed.


It is clear that pencil and paper personality tests have failed because of the obvious problems of reliability and validity.  Some kind of objective measurement would solve these problems.  There needs to be a way of bypassing the black box.  The data goes in and like a roulette wheel no on knows where its going to stop spinning.  Sheldon and others have suspected that there might be physical correlates of temperament.  The problem is finding out which physical measurements are likely to be useful. Phrenology (head bump mapping) was a noble attempt.  It was scientific because its statements were falsifiable. Unfortunately, for the phrenologists their theory was shown to be false.  At this point if a person continues to believe phrenology then they are no longer behaving as scientists.
Some try to group Sheldon with the phrenologists.  This is a mistake.  No one has ever attempted to duplicate Sheldon’s research.

There have been attempts to correlate questionable paper and pencil tests with Sheldon’s somatotyping but these attempts were not exactly the same thing Sheldon did.  But, nevertheless, there were low correlations in the direction Sheldon would have predicted.  So, Sheldon’s work was never proven false.  Sheldon relied on several consultations with a subject for close to a year with each of the 200 subjects he rated in his temperament research.  The fatal public relations flaw is that Sheldon assessed the temperaments himself raising the issue of the “halo” effect where a researcher is suspected of seeing only data that supports his theory.  But no one tried to repeat his research using a disinterested group of psychologists to collect the temperament data by means of similar interviewing techniques.

There is another way this could be investigated.  Suppose you got a group of 200 or more people with the same somatotype?  Let them discuss their lives with each other in an online social network situation.  If there are strong similarities they will most likely discover them.  My prediction is that significant discoveries would emerge from this process.   It is at least as important as mapping the human genome.  Just think what it would mean to have an accurate method of determining a person’s temperament.  It is not out of realm of possibility that  a paper and pencil test might emerge from such research that would really be accurate and at the same time could be cross checked against physical measurements.



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