The four preferences in Myers-Briggs personality types

The four preferences

When we talk about preferences in the context of Personality Type, we are talking about the different ways people choose to take in information, look at the world around them, and make decisions. For example, a personality type might "prefer" to take in as much information as possible in a literal, concrete manner (via Sensing,) while another type "prefers" to filter incoming information for meaning and value (vis iNtuition.) The sixteen personality types prefer to do things differently, and these preferences are the backbone of type theory. While most people can use all of the personality functions with some degree of success, the functions that we prefer are likely to feel more natural, and come to us more easily.

We recognize four preference poles in Psychological Type theory:

  • Extraversion OR Introversion

  • Sensing OR Intuition

  • Thinking OR Feeling

  • Judging OR Perceiving

  • Extraversion and Introversion

    When we talk about "extraversion" and "introversion", we are distinguishing between the two worlds in which we all live—our inner and outer worlds. When we are dealing with the world outside of ourself, we are "extraverting". When we are inside our own minds, we are "introverting".

    We are (E)xtraverting when we:

    We are (I)ntroverting when we:


    Within the context of personality typing, the important distinction is which world we live in more often. Do we define our life's direction externally or internally? Which world gives us energy, and which takes it away?


    Sensing and Intuition

    The S/N preference refers to how we gather information. We all need data on which to base our decisions, which we gather through our five senses. Jung contended that there are two distinct ways of perceiving the data that we gather. The Sensing preference absorbs data in a literal, concrete fashion, while Intuition generates abstract possibilities from information that is gathered. Sensers take in all available data, while Intuitives filter incoming information and don't take everything in. All types use both Sensing and Intuition, but with varying degrees of frequency, effectiveness and comfort.

    We are (S)ensing when we:

    We are i(N)tuiting when we:


    Within the context of personality typing, the important distinction is which method of gathering information do we trust the most? Do we rely on our five senses and want concrete, practical data to work with? Or do we trust our intuitions without necessarily building upon a solid foundation of facts?


    Thinking and Feeling

    When Jung studied human behavior, he noticed that people have the capability to make decisions based on two very different sets of criteria: Thinking and Feeling. When someone makes a decision that is based on logic and reason, they are operating in Thinking mode. When someone makes a decision that is based on their value system, or what they believe to be right, they are operating in Feeling mode. We all use both modes for making decisions, but we put more trust into one mode or the other. A "Thinker" makes decisions in a rational, logical, impartial manner, based on what they believe to be fair and correct. A "Feeler" makes decisions on the individual case, in a manner that is consistent with their value system.

    We are making decisions in the (T)hinking mode when we:

    We are making decisions in the (F)eeling mode when we:


    Some decisions are made entirely by Thinking or Feelings processes. Most decisions involve some Thinking and some Feeling. Decisions that we find most difficult are those in which we have a conflict between our Thinking and Feeling sides. In these situations, our dominant preference will take over. Decisions which we find easy to make and feel good about are usually a result of being in sync with both our Feeling and Thinking sides.


    Judging and Perceiving

    The Judging and Perceiving preferences, within the context of personality types, refer to our attitude towards the external world, and how we live our lives on a day-to-day basis. People with the Judging preference want things to be neat, orderly and established. The Perceiving preference wants things to be flexible and spontaneous. Judgers want things settled, Perceivers want things open-ended.

    We use our (J)udging function when we:

    We use our (P)erceiving function when we:


    We all use both Judging and Perceiving as we live our day-to-day lives. Within the context of personality type, the important distinction is which way of life do we lean towards, which are we more comfortable with.

    The differences between Judging and Perceiving are probably the most outwardly obvious of all the four preference poles. People with strong Judging preferences might have a hard time accepting people with strong Perceiving preferences, and vice-versa. On the other hand, a "mixed" couple (one Perceiving and one Judging) can complement each other very well, if they have developed themselves enough to be able to accept each other's differences.