Are Type Preferences Balanced?
Mark & Carol The Editors, May 2, 2012
In Douglass Wilde’s article about his method of calculating the function-attitudes from MBTI® scores (right), he adds his voice to the persistent minority who challenge the conventional wisdom about the sequence of function-attitude preferences. Even if we question his design or conclusions, the success of the teams that were built upon this approach suggests that consideration of his method and reexamination of our own assumptions is warranted. By downloading the Wilde Worksheet for Computing Function-Attitudes, you can test these formulations for yourself. What do your results say? Do you think they reflect innate preference? How do they compare with your traditional MBTI interpretation? Which version feels more like your true type?
I find this to be very interesting work, and wonder whether Doug Wilde may indeed have found a way to get directly at function-attitude use and/or development. However, I’m skeptical of the idea that it also reveals innate function-attitude preference, as he believes. Self-reporting responses are notoriously influenced by environmental influences on the respondents, and unique development patterns are reflected in the results too. It is for these reasons that we are taught that only the individual can determine his or her true type—not the instrument and not the observer. Sometimes reliable verification can take years of informed, careful self-observation, and skilled coaching of this process by type professionals can be so challenging that it’s virtually an art form.
The author believes that he has confirmed finding new configurations of natural function-attitude preferences by observing the students, with special attention to those whose results appear to show preferences that don’t fit with those predicted by the principles of type dynamics. But the subjective verdict of any single practitioner on this does not constitute verification. In fact, there may not be any single reliable methodology for testing this proposition conclusively. The distinctions between developed, naturally preferred function-attitudes and developed, but non-preferred, function-attitudes are simply too subtle and elusive. So I ask myself, ‘What would it take to erode my confidence in traditional Jungian psychological type theory and the principles of balance, tension, adaptation, and growth upon which it is founded?’ It would take the testimony of a large number of expert type users, talking about their own typology; and even then, the feedback could be easily skewed in one direction or another by how one evaluates type ‘expertise.’
But it is healthy to challenge our assumptions periodically, and Dr. Wilde’s work gives us reason for just such a reassessment. I hope that type users will consider, discuss, and test these ideas, and that this will eventually lead to a convincing accumulation of evidence on this point—and perhaps even lead to advances in understanding that we haven’t yet imagined. In the meantime, I’ll continue using the traditional Jungian framework while also experimenting to find out what these “quantitative typology” formulas might reveal about the development and use of the function-attitudes in myself and my clients.
Doug Wilde’s adaptation of the MBTI® scoring system combines the attitude with the function rather than scoring them separately. This certainly appears to be closer to Jung’s intent than the standard method (although, granted, we don’t know CPP’s algorithm) since Jung describes the types via the function-attitudes, not just the functions. I’m not sure it’s sensible to slice and dice the extraversion-introversion score and divvy it up the way Wilde does to get the function-attitudes, but this is a question I have about the standard scoring system as well. So, that issue apart, I’ll focus my comments on the possible meaning of Wilde’s results.
That Wilde’s system can produce high scores in two functions in the same attitude could be due as Mark Hunziker observes, to use and development brought on by stress (overactive defenses) or environmental conditioning such as work requirements, without necessarily indicating innate preference. Same-attitude preferences are not unknown, but is this phenomenon normal or desirable? Lenore Thomson’s work describes a tendency for immature individuals to overuse the tertiary (at the expense of the auxiliary) because it’s in the same attitude as the dominant. John Beebe has observed that some clients come to therapy because their auxiliary functions have been suppressed, hence they rely on the same-attitude functions and get out of balance. Wilde’s variant results, if legitimate, could have four possible explanations: Perhaps a) these individuals are not yet mature and tend to overdo their dominant attitude; b) these individuals are mature but ‘aberrant’ or ‘unstable’ types, as Angelo Spoto calls them; c) the psyche is not a balancing machine as Jung proposes; or d) the psyche balances in a different way than that proposed by conventional “type dynamics.”
To determine which of these is true, we would need to see a theoretical explanation for Wilde’s results. How does his scoring system reveal the balancing of function-attitudes that Jung’s theory proposes? What purpose would it serve the psyche to have dominant and auxiliary in the same attitude? An answer would require a lot of data-gathering to learn how the FAs manifest in the double introverts and dual extraverts, and then an analysis of those results to reconcile them with Jung’s theory—or to produce a variation on his theory.
Like Mark, I suspect that Wilde’s scoring system is measuring use and development if it’s measuring anything, not innate preference, just as I believe the standard MBTI scoring system is often measuring use and development. That’s what we need the feedback session to determine. Whatever the case, I can envision using both scoring methods to obtain maximum information about a client, as long as we don’t overlook the feedback session, or the theory behind the assessment.