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How Do You Learn About Type?


How Do You Learn About Type?

Mark & Carol The Editors, November 1, 2012

George McKim, Persian GateWhich do you trust more to give you reliable information about type: observation or introspection? And what is your type preference?

Of course, all type users rely upon both the observation of others and internal self-reflection to expand and confirm their understanding of personality type. But it seems as though we differ in which one we trust more. This could be a personal, extraversion v. introversion-based bias. But if so, is it influenced by the dominant E or I attitude or by whether one’s preferred perceiving process is extraverted or introverted?

Consider, for example, an INFP and an ENTJ. If the dominant is most influential, then an INFP would likely rely more on self-observation and an ENTJ on observation of others for their type knowledge. But if the preferred perceiving process is most influential, then the reverse would probably be true: An INFP extraverts the perceiving process (Ne) and therefore might trust observation of others more for reliable type information; and an ENTJ, who introverts the perceiving process (Ni), would have more faith in introspection and self-reflection.

What do you rely on most – observation of self or others?

Header Image

George McKim, “Persian Gate” – Courtesy of Lee Hansley Gallery, Raleigh, NC


Mark & Carol The Editors

Mark & Carol The Editors

Editors Carol Shumate, Ph.D., ENFP, and Mark Hunziker, INTJ, founded Personality Type in Depth as a forum to bridge psychological type and depth psychology. Both editors are themselves writers and they work together virtually, from North Carolina and Vermont respectively. Shumate's career has been in journalism, publishing, and higher education, while Hunziker's has been primarily in organization development consulting. Shumate's current project is a book on the Trickster archetype in leadership, and Hunziker's is about depth typology, a term he has coined for the interface of the two fields.

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Comments (2)


I can personally relate to our description of the “continuous loop” of your process. In fact, like all serious students of type, I learn about the function-attitudes from many sources and in a variety of ways. I undeniably LEARN more from observing and ‘interviewing’ others than in any other way; and in terms of frequency and total time spent on it, this is certainly the info-gathering approach that I USE most. I’m an avid observer and add to and tweak my understanding in this way every day. But when I ask myself which data-gathering mode I truly TRUST most, it’s my internal reflection. It is this ‘trust’ or ‘confidence-level’ factor that we’re trying to get at with this question.

When it comes to a function-attitude that I use consciously a lot, have watched myself using and have reflected on that experience; I become quite confident in my conclusions about how that FA works. So if I then came across info from watching others that seems to contradict my internal insights, as I attempt to reconcile the two date-points, I have to admit to weighting the internal one more heavily. If, for example, I fail to reconcile them and they remain mutually exclusive, I am more likely to dismiss the external data as erroneous than to dismiss the internal. (Not that I’m aware of this ever actually happening; but it’s a bias that I feel I need to be aware of.) This bias extends to how I regard other people’s opinions too. If a self-verified EFJ, who I have frequently observed using extraverted feeling with great skill, tells me something about Fe, I will trust that insight far more than one coming from a ‘thinking type’ who I have never observed personally engaging Fe in a conscious way —even if the latter has been observing people using Fe for many decades.

My extraverted co-editor, on the other hand, says quite the opposite. She regards the inherent bias of the ‘subjective’ approach with suspicion; and the ‘objective’ observation of others, therefore, as more reliable. This led us to wonder about a possible E/I connection to this ‘trust’ issue.

I suspect that no matter how well we use all the ‘type-learning-styles,’ we all hold one as the truly ultimate authority. So another way to put the question would be: If you had to choose, which would you believe? —Or a more realistic scenario: in reconciling the two, to which would you give greater weight?

-Mark Hunziker


This was a curious statement to me, because I use both observation and introspection in a kind of a continuous loop, although I would prefer the term “reflection” to introspection, as the latter has a specific meaning in the history of psychology which may not necessarily fit what’s intended. However it’s described, however, it seems to me that these are introversion-related activities, particularly if you want to make a distinction between an observer and a participant.

I observe better when I’m not participating, for instance, which I consider the natural course of events. Observing type in action has its dilemmas and pitfalls of course, because behaviour isn’t necessarily type. You have to ask other questions, either to the observed or to yourself, in order to work out what it is you’
re seeing.

I have no idea whether that relates to my preferences (INTP), but I would offer that being a good observer is outside type considerations (I’ve learned this through observation (!)), particularly when imposing a type framework on someone’s behaviour. There are also notions of other knowledge like cultural and language considerations, understanding the person or persons under observation as well as that the context of a training session, for instance, might not be conducive to the expression of what someone prefers, if they’
re conscious of that.



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