Myers-Briggs and Mental Disorders: Another Example

I decided to not share this example in yesterdays post because I couldn’t quite remember how I had seen the connection between their type and their psychological disorder, but I remembered! 

I have a friend who is convinced she has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and her conclusion is well-founded. Her Myers-Briggs type is INFJ so her dominant function is Introverted-Intuition and her auxiliary function is Extraverted-Feeling. Common problems with perception dominant types is that they have a much harder time making decisions because they spend so much time taking in information that they find it difficult to come to a concrete conclusion about it. 

In the case of my friend her room is this safe place that she has created for herself where everything is where it is supposed to be so she doesn’t have any information to take in and then make a decision about because it’s already taken care of. I think that her Obsessive-Compulsion may stem from the fact that she gets very anxious about having to make decisions because there is so much information for her to sort through that she can’t make them as quickly as she thinks other people expect her to. So her room being filled with things that are just right and where they are supposed to be is basically like a haven of concrete decisions that she does not have to worry about making. 

Again, this is just an observation I have made, I am not trying to say that every single INFJ has OCD. I apologize in advance if I offend anyone. What do you guys think? Have you made any similar observations in your own life? Let me know!

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9 comments
  1. Staffan said:

    Perhaps you are more of a critic of the MBTI than you realize. They don’t categorize people just for the sake of convenience or as an approximation but insist that there is a bi-polar distribution – the exact opposite of the bell curve which the test data (and all other trait measures) indicate. In Lenore Thompson’s book it says explicitly that scoring evenly is a sign of crisis or transition.

    The thing about the JP dimension is that it only claims to show which function you deal with the outer world with. But in order to prove it they would have to have a test that clearly separates inner and outer world items. So without this distinction the JP scale only measures which function you use the most – the juding or perceiving. The rest is an interpretation, just like the interpretation that traits have a bi-polar distribution.

    So there isn’t really any evidence of switching preferences. But there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. You can see this in the rest of the research on personality too. There is overwhelming evidence that the basic traits all show cross-situational consistency. This means that a person who is impulsive, analytical or whatever, will be so across most situations. Now the inner and outer world provide lots of different situations across which there would be no such consistency at all – if we are to believe in the MBTI.

    All the evidence suggest that we have a simple dimensional model. That you (and I) have preference for introversion and intuition, and a slightly less strong preference for feeling. Anything beyond that is speculation against existing evidence as far as I can see. And again, they can easily test their theory by creating a questionnaire that measures things like extraverted intuition and introverted feeling and show that there is a class of people who will systematically combine these. In fact, they’ve had half a century to do so and it’s not rocket science.

    They would then have evidence and revolutionize psychology by disproving things like normal distribution and cross-situational consistency of traits. Why would anyone not want to do that? My answer is someone who has invested a lot of prestige in their theory, and who have a big revenues from their test (a million tested every year in America alone).

  2. Staffan said:

    No, that’s not what I mean. I mean that I don’t believe in a labor division of functions into the inner and outer world. I believe we use two functions and that some are more focused on the inner world and some on the outer world – introverts and extraverts.

    Taking information from the inner world doesn’t require intuition, only memory. And you still have the problem that their main function isn’t looking anything like Jung described it. Taking in lots of information isn’t really intuitive either since that’s more about hunches and educated guesses. Intuition is fast and often make instantenous decisions. This waiting for all the facts sound more like an introverted sensor to me.

    For the reasons I mentioned above, I don’t think the INTJ’s main function is extraverted thinking. I think it’s thinking – which they apply more often to the inner world because they are introverted. Keep in mind that I don’t believe in the existence of cognitive functions.

    The perceptive function, I believe does more than that. Otherwise they wouldn’t differ in character, only in content. I’d say that attitude is what makes people take in information from the outer or inner world. The extravert will stay at the party because his friends want him to, while the introvert will go home because he isn’t enjoying himself.

    These complications make the whole idea of type dynamics so insidious – there is so much complexity that you can see what you want to see. But you can’t measure it and as the decades drag on it seems clear that this will never happen. Have you never asked yourself why? They could construct a test and show it’s validity and revolutionize psychology. Instead they stay away from academic research and have their own little society. There is a reason for everything.

    • I’m sorry that this reply is coming so late, but I just read your comment again today and I have a response to it.

      Firstly, I’m a little confused about the first portion of this. Are you saying that the two functions are exclusively introverted or extroverted? So they only apply to either the inner world or outer world?

      And the intuition is not what results in taking information from the inner world. It’s the combination of the extroversion or introversion and the perception of judgement. The first letter of a type determines whether the dominant function is focused on the inner or outer world, because it wouldn’t make sense if an extraverts main function dealt with their inner world because they by definition are external world people. The fourth letter of a type determines how that person interacts with their outer world, either with their perceiving or judgement function. In the case of the INTJ, their fourth letter determines that they interact with their outer world via their judgement function, Thinking. Since they are introverted this will be their secondary function, so their main function is introverted intuition. Since intuition is a perception and not a judgement function, they will spend more time reflecting on the information that they have taken in, or perceived, before they make a judgement based off of their logic, or Thinking.

      Intuition and being intuitive are not one in the same. Jung describes introverted intuitives as those who seek to perceive the meaning of events, but have no interest in playing a role in the events. This perceiving is not sitting around waiting for facts, it’s building off of what they perceive to interpret meaning behind it. Since their perception function is their dominant function and their judgement or decision making function is secondary, they will spend a lot of time collecting more and more information before jumping to conclusions and making a judgement. Intuition has to do with seeing the bigger picture instead of all of the individual components.

      As I have stated above, the INTJs main function is not extraverted thinking, it’s introverted intuition.

      What I meant when I said, “perceptive function” was the fourth letter, which isn’t a function at all, just a determinate for which function is used to interact with the outer world. The perception functions are Sensing or Intuition which in summary determine whether someone takes in information from their five senses, or if they pay more attention to patterns/possibilities in the information they receive. An example of this that I think might work is that when a Sensor is sad they will recognize that and then they will try to not be sad because most people who are sad, Sensor or Intuitive, will try to stop being sad. Whereas a sad intuitive will still try to stop being sad, but they will consider why they are sad and what it could mean that they are sad because of that, and they will continue to discern larger meaning behind their emotion. So there is a huge difference in character because everyone will go through these processes in their own way and it will also be affected by their extraversion or introversion as well as their judgement function of thinking or feeling AND whether or not their perception function is their main function.

      So, their “attitude” does determine whether it is the inner or outer world they perceive information from. But in Myers-Briggs, this “attitude” is the first and fourth letters of the type.

      Also, they have come up with a test, the difficult part is that there is so much gray area in personality. It’s not an either or, it’s a spectrum. Also I suggest the BIG 5 Inventory if you are interested in a different take on personality.

      • Staffan said:

        Hi again,

        Not sure how to explain myself but I’ll give it a try. First off, I understand the MBTI model, I just don’t agree with it.

        My view of Jungian typology is that it most likely is a matter of three independent factors – similar to the Big Five being five factors that are largely independent. The three factor would be extraversion/introversion, thinking/feeling and intuition/perception. Like if a person scores sufficiently high on the Big Five conscientiousness we’d call him or her conscientious, we would also call someone scoring sufficiently high on any of these scales for instance introverted, thinking and intuitive. We can also say that the function that has the strongest score is the main function (which you could do in Big Five or any other model too if you like).

        However, since there is no evidence of any switching of preferences or functions when dealing with the inner and outers world. So the INTJ doesn’t have introverted intuition andextraverted thinking. He or she has a preference for introversion, thinking and intuition. And judging by the description of this type, the main function is thinking. Like any other person he would have to use his less preferred attitude and functions too at times, we have no reason to believe that in being extraverted he would use thinking more than intuition.

        This solves the puzzle of how that type can have introverted intution as the main function, since Jung describes introverted intution as something new agey and mystic and the INTJ is closer to a cerebral nerd. And it solves similar pardoxes for the other types as well.

        “Also, they have come up with a test, the difficult part is that there is so much gray area in personality. It’s not an either or, it’s a spectrum. Also I suggest the BIG 5 Inventory if you are interested in a different take on personality.”

        Yes, it’s a spectrum rather than either or, but that’s what a dimensional model is for – describing the continuum of personality. The typology on the other hand really is either or – thinker or feeler, extravert or introvert etc. Two persons can differ by 20 points on a scale of the MBTI and still be categorized as feeler while two others can differ by one point and be categorized as thinker and feeler. Also, there are no behavioral traits that have this bi-polar distribution. They tend to have a normal distribution, like the bell curve. Even the MBTI scores have a normal distribution but is then sorted into heaps of supposedly distinct categories.

        I’d like to see that test. Is it a real test with documented validity rather than some online quiz type of test? Other psychologists have suggested that the MBTI be remodeled as I’ve described above and that this would most likely improve the validity and reliability. But I have never seen any response to that from the MBTI community. There is one guy, Reynierse, who has been a bit critical of the MBTI in their journal but that’s as far as it goes. But things may have changed, I don’t know…

        The Big Five has better psychometric properties but if I have to choose between the two, I still side with the MBTI, for various reasons,

        http://staffanspersonalityblog.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/the-battle-of-the-giants-big-five-versus-mbti/

        • Ah I think I know now what other information I need to share with you about myself.

          I view the Myers-Briggs as a spectrum in and of itself, with no “either or” for any of the traits. Very rarely do people test 100% for any of the traits, as with myself I tested about 40/60 for T/F when I took the test. I think that this is something that people should take note of because that 40 score for Thinking does have an effect on my personality and my traits. I think that if people don’t consider those parts than the Myers-Briggs is no more useful than Astrology.

          So with this view of mine there is something to provide evidence for switching back and forth between preferences for functions. For myself I am an INFP, and my P/J is about 80/20 I believe, and since this is the letter that determines which function I use in the external world, that means that about 80% of the time I use Intuition and 20% of the time I use Feeling, which would also mean that about 80% of the time I use Feeling in my internal world, and about 20% of the time I use Intuition in my internal world.

          So the evidence for switching preferences can be found in the persons fourth letter score.

  3. Staffan said:

    I have a little bit of OCD; I spend around 5-20 minutes on rituals. I match the INFP description, although I’m a bit skeptic of the MBTI, at least the type dynamics of it. It’s possible that they’ve made a poll of this at personalitycafe.com.

    • That’s interesting that you match the INFP description, I myself am an INFP as well. But if I may as, what makes you a bit skeptical of the type dynamics?

      • Staffan said:

        Mainly the idea that we use some functions to deal with the inner world and other to deal with the outer. I just can’t see that in myself or anyone else. I use plenty of intuition in dealing with myself as well as others. I’ve never met a thinker who is only logical towards others but not regarding his personal life. What I can see is that one function often is stronger than the other, and that one is usually the one that the MBTI claims is dealing with the outer world. I’d simply call that the main function. Think about how Jung describes the functions, introverted intuition is about self-actualization, state of mind, mystical experiences or exploring the mind. I have never seen any indication of this matching an INTJ. What I have seen is that INTJs will engage intuition to help their Thought however – because they are thinkers with auxilliary intuition.

        Then there is more objective criteria like the fact that there is no test or other measure to verify or falsify the idea of cognitive functions. When people can deliver evidence but choose not to, that makes me very suspicious.

        • I would have to disagree with your thinking that the dominant function should be the one that is dealing with the outer world. If this were so, then there would be no need for the word introvert. An INTJs dominant function is introverted intuition not because its about self actualization or any of that, its because they take the information that they base their logical judgements off of from their inner world. It also means that they spend more time taking in information before making a decision about something. The reason you would think their extraverted thinking would be their dominant function is because you are a part of their outer world so that is probably the only function you ever actively see them using. But its not that they are only logical towards themselves, they are by definition a thinker and therefore make all judgements based on their logic. The perception function simply determines whether the information is taken from the inner or the outer world to then make a decison on.

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