What Is Personality?

Almost everyday we describe and assess the personalities of the people around us. Whether we realize it or not, these daily musings on how and why people behave as they do are similar to what personality psychologists do.

While our informal assessments of personality tend to focus more on individuals, personality psychologists instead use conceptions of personality that can apply to everyone. Personality research has led to the development of a number of theories that help explain how and why certain personality traits develop.

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The Personality Theory of Carl Jung

Understanding Introversion, Extroversion, and the Eight Orientations

Carl Jung created eight distinct personality types. These orientations are the pairing of two attitudes: introversion and extroversion, and four functions.

In 1907, Carl Jung met Sigmund Freud in Vienna. Jung had been interested in Freud’s ideas regarding the interpretation of dreams. Likewise, Freud took an interest to Jung’s word association task that he used to understand the unconscious processes of patients. In fact, Freud invited Jung along for his now-famous appearance at the Clark conference in 1909, Freud’s first trip to America.

After some argument over the validity of psychoanalysis, Jung and Freud went their separate ways, and Jung went on to develop the analytical psychology, which differentiated the personal unconscious from the collective unconscious, which reflects the shared unconscious thoughts among humans. Another notable contribution to psychology involves Jung’s personality theory, which was particularly notable due to its definitions of introversion and extroversion.

Jung’s Introversion and Extroversion Attitudes

The first of Jung’s general psychological types was the general attitude type. An attitude, according to Jung, is a person’s predisposition to behave in a particular way. There are two opposing attitudes: introversion and extroversion. The two attitudes work as opposing, yet complementary forces and are often depicted as the classing yin and yang symbol.

The introvert is most aware of his or her inner world. While the external world is still perceived, it is not pondered as seriously as inward movement of psychic energy. The introverted attitude is more concerned with subjective appraisal and often gives more consideration to fantasies and dreams.

The extrovert, by contrast, is characterized by the outward movement of psychic energy. This attitude places more importance on objectivity and gains more influence from the surrounding environment than by inner cognitive processes.

Clearly, it is not a case of one versus the other. Many people carry qualities of both attitudes, considering both subjective and objective information.

Jung’s Four Functions of Personality

For Carl Jung, there were four functions that, when combined with one of his two attitudes, formed the eight different personality types. The first function — feeling — is the method by which a person understands the value of conscious activity. Another function — thinking — allows a person to understand the meanings of things. This process relies on logic and careful mental activity.

The final two functions — sensation and intuition — may seem very similar, but there is an important distinction. Sensation refers to the means by which a person knows something exists and intuition is knowing about something without conscious understanding of where that knowledge comes from.

The Eight Personality Types Defined by Carl Jung

  • Extroverted Thinking – Jung theorized that people understand the world through a mix of concrete ideas and abstract ones, but the abstract concepts are ones passed down from other people. Extroverted thinkers are often found working in the research sciences and mathematics.
  • Introverted Thinking – These individuals interpret stimuli in the environment through a subjective and creative way. The interpretations are informed by internal knowledge and understanding. Philosophers and theoretical scientists are often introverted thinking-oriented people.
  • Extroverted Feeling – These people judge the value of things based on objective fact. Comfortable in social situations, they form their opinions based on socially accepted values and majority beliefs. They are often found working in business and politics.
  • Introverted Feeling – These people make judgments based on subjective ideas and on internally established beliefs. Oftentimes they ignore prevailing attitudes and defy social norms of thinking. Introverted feeling people thrive in careers as art critics.
  • Extroverted Sensing – These people perceive the world as it really exists. Their perceptions are not colored by any pre-existing beliefs. Jobs that require objective review, like wine tasters and proofreaders, are best filled by extroverted sensing people.
  • Introverted Sensing – These individuals interpret the world through the lens of subjective attitudes and rarely see something for only what it is. They make sense of the environment by giving it meaning based on internal reflection. Introverted sensing people often turn to various arts, including portrait painting and classical music.
  • Extroverted Intuitive – These people prefer to understand the meanings of things through subliminally perceived objective fact rather than incoming sensory information. They rely on hunches and often disregard what they perceive directly from their senses. Inventors that come upon their invention via a stroke of insight and some religious reformers are characterized by the extraverted intuitive type.
  • Introverted Intuitive – These individuals, Jung thought, are profoundly influenced by their internal motivations even though they do not completely understand them. They find meaning through unconscious, subjective ideas about the world. Introverted intuitive people comprise a significant portion of mystics, surrealistic artists, and religious fanatics.

Applying Jung’s Orientations to a Complete Personality

A person is not usually defined by only one of the eight personality types. Instead, the different functions exist in a hierarchy. One function will take have a superior effect and another will have a secondary effect. Usually, according to Jung, a person only makes significant use of two functions. The other two take inferior positions.
In his 1921 work, Psychological Types, Jung compared his four functions of personality to the four points on a compass. While a person faces one direction, he or she still uses the other points as a guide. Most people keep one function as the dominant one although some people may develop two over a lifetime. It is only the person who achieves self-realization that has completely developed all four functions.