Why MBTI Mistypes Everyone

Before we begin this topic we must define “What is a mistype?” Cognitive Type and MBTI are two separate systems, and therefore the two typing systems may not always cross over, so that being a type in one may have no correlation to any given type in the other. We can rightly say that it’s possible to be INFP in the MBTI and NiFe in CT if we draw no parallel between them. But insofar as the two systems share some theoretical similarities in the eight functions, we can explore why discrepancies arise between both interpretations. Thus for the purpose of this article, I’ll be referring to the MBTI as it relate to CT’s own analogous types, with “mistypings” specifically being a misalignment to CT’s results even if the label properly reflects the person’s self-assessment according to MBTI descriptions.

The diagram above is a graphical approximation of how types appear to mistype themselves when comparing their MBTI self-assessments to CT visual readings. A red arrow going from one type to another signals a strong tendency to mistype in the direction of the arrow. So an arrow going from ISTJ to INTJ means that the ISTJ (which is analogous to SiTe in CT) tends to type as an INTJ in the MBTI. From there we see that the real INTJs (NiTe analog) will tend to type as either themselves (a circular arrow) or mistype as INTPs. The same applies to the blue arrows, which signal less common trends. As you can see the majority of mistypings are magnetically headed in the direction of the four INxx types. A real ESFJ (FeSi) will mistype as an ENFJ (FeNi), and a real ENFJ will mistype as an INFJ (NiFe). Like a game of musical chairs, most types will tend to perceive themselves in the direction of INxx and INxP more specifically.

Why do these Mistypings happen?

There are several structural reasons for why this trend emerges in the MBTI, which we’ll be discussing down below, starting at the beginning of a person’s exposure to MBTI. For those who are typology veterans please bear with me. I have to start with the most basic assumptions, but I’ll explain the more complex cases in sections #2 an onward.

1. Letter Code Reliance

The standard MBTI is traditionally approached by newcomers in the form of a psychometric questionnaire which assigns one of 16 personality types to you. With no prior exposure to any different concepts, one’s initial type is necessarily decided by an affiliation with a 4 dichotomy system (E/I, S/N, T/F, J/P). However, which preferences you’ll choose are skewed in a predetermined route before you even take the questionnaire, due to the framing of the 16 types.

I-vs-E

The standard MBTI frames the question of Introversion and Extroversion in terms of socialization levels. It asks questions such as whether one prefers to be alone on a Friday evening or go out with friends. Or whether we’re more of a partygoer or a social recluse. But this dichotomy, in CT, has nothing to do with people. It would be better framed in terms of energetic attention towards objects (abstract or tangible) or to subjects. But in framing these questions as social in nature, people of all 16 types will identify as introverted if they have general anxiety, depression, difficulties with communication, a disagreeable temperament, shyness or a number of other variables at play in their personal journey.

But perhaps more importantly, the types of people who are greatly preoccupied with questions of self-identity and personality (and who would be voluntarily taking this questionnaire to find out about themselves) are those reclusive people of all types and shades. It therefore happens that the majority of voluntary takers of personality assessments will type as introverted due to their attitudinal focus being veered away from people and social domains or activities. Far fewer will type as “E” unless they have an exceptional reason to believe that describes them. This is reflected in the mistyping trends, with ENFPs typing as INFPs with striking regularity, and ENFJs typing as INFJs and so forth.

S-vs-N:

This dichotomy is perhaps the most askew, with both a bias of intelligence and creativity subtly woven into its descriptions. The S dichotomy is framed in terms of attention to facts/details and what is self-evident at the expense of ability to imagine alternatives and hypothetical/future scenarios from the present. The N dichotomy is framed in terms of attention to patterns, concepts, creativity and innovation at the neglect of attention to sensory details. Placed in this framing, we are faced with quite the false dichotomy. A defining attribute of human beings is the capacity to perceive patterns, think conceptually and imagine hypothetical outcomes to scenarios. All individuals share these essential elements of cognition, as well as the ability to take in sensory inputs. Neither facet can be used to form any legitimate division between people.

But the framing of the dichotomy also allots more attributes to the N dimension; essentially describing N’s as able to absorb sensory details but also read between the lines, while the S dimension is purported to stop at the details themselves. Few people would willingly evaluate themselves as unable to read between the lines, as being unimaginative, unintelligent and/or conceptually constrained to only what can be observed by the senses. Because of this, the majority of typology enthusiasts will initially identify as N types regardless of which type forms their cognitive apparatus. Indeed, they are not wrong to do so, as they are properly describing themselves according to the framing of the system in place. They’re correct in viewing themselves as “N” types if the alternative means lacking several essential features of cognition.

F-vs-T:

Together, these first two dichotomies form the bulk of MBTI self-typings with the majority of type enthusiasts identifying as INxx types. The bottom two letters are the only ones which can be said to reveal any differences in temperament, beginning with T vs F. This dimension is meant to measure a preference for ethics (F) over logic (T) but in practice this dichotomy measures something far more akin to agreeableness and disagreeableness as defined by the Big Five. Identifying with F amounts to an affable temperament, a tendency to be openly affectionate, caring, empathic, self-sacrificing and guided by the heart. Identifying with T amounts to being emotionally removed, stoic, calculating, preferring a level head to one swoon by feelings, having lack of fear of being frank and a tendency to not yield to social norms or customs.

But none of these traits actually reveal the priority of Te/Ti or Fe/Fi in the psyche. In CT this division is better represented as seelie/adaptive (“F”) vs unseelie/directive (“T”). For example, a directive Fe-lead will not be accommodating to others, will tend to be disagreeable, will prefer having a level head and will tend to be reserved in their affection. Oppositely, a Te-lead that is seelie will strive to be caring, affectionate, empathic and self-sacrificing. It’s because of this that someone such as a directive INFJ (NiFe) will almost certainly mistype as an INTJ and an unseelie INFP (FiNe) will mistype as an INTP. This dichotomy is essentially descriptive of the attitude of one’s heart. It has far less to do with the nature of the higher/lower functions and more to do with whether one’s heart is open or guarded.

P-vs-J

Lastly, the P and J dichotomy measures whether a person lives their life in an open-ended fashion (“P”) or with a sense of structure (“J”). Here P types are described as disorderly, chaotic, free-spirited, fluid and unconcerned with dutifulness or organization. J types are described as conscientious, dutiful, organized, industrious, seeking to narrow in on ideas and to implement them. This also relates to the Big Five personality trait Conscientiousness. It essentially describes a strong Pe ego or development (P) versus a strong Je ego or development (J), but like the above category it does not necessarily indicate Pe is above Je in hierarchy. For example, we will often come across NiFe-Se who will identify as ___P or FiNe-Te identifying as ___J. In the CT system, subtype or ego-fix on their own have the ability to dictate whether a person will identify as P or J through this metric. However, the presence of Te in any hierarchical position may also cause an identification with ___J due to how it can produce minor organizational quirks even when not fully developed or ego-fixed.

What the four INxx Types Translate to in CT:

As is already quite evident, these four dichotomies are absolutely incapable of isolating one’s cognitive type; determining little apart from the attitude of the heart and whether the ego is more closely affiliated to a Pe or Je process. And when these four are put together, identification with the four common INxx types amounts to little more than:

  • INTP = Any of the 16 types (IN) who has a directive/disagreeable/unseelie attitude (T), and who has poor development of their Je function.
  • INTJ = Any of the 16 types (IN) who has a directive/disagreeable/unseelie attitude (T), and who has a strong development of their Je function.
  • INFP = Any of the 16 types (IN) who has an adaptive/agreeable/seelie attitude (F), and who has poor development of their Je function.
  • INFJ = Any of the 16 types (IN) who has an adaptive/agreeable/seelie attitude (F), and who has a strong development of their Je function.
2. Reverse-Deducing Functions after learning about the 4 Letter Code

Now, not all typologists are bound by these misconceptions or fixed in this limited understanding. After passing through the initial learning phase, a new set of concepts are introduced: the 8 functions. The types are re-framed as being a set of four functions (i.e. INFP = Fi+Ne+Si+Te). No longer are people comparing themselves against the J and P definitions. Instead in order to discover whether they are INFJ or INFP, the conversation shifts to whether they have Fi or Fe, or whether they have Ni or Ne.

But this itself presents a great deal of problems. The functions are often ill-defined, having just as many problems as the 4 dichotomies. The breadth of a function’s metabolism has no fixed barriers among theorist, creating a wide range of interpretations which may appeal more to some people than others – causing members of the community to select the interpretation that best suits their self-perception.

These new conceptual tools are both invigorating and easily mishandled, opening the door to confirmation bias where one’s interpretation of their functions is tinged already by their affiliation with their 4 letter code. The structure of the MBTI makes it so there is a strong tendency to reverse-deduce the 8 functions after having learned about the 4 letter code. This fallacy usually congeals like so: “I scored INTP… that means I have Ti+Ne”

It’s standard practice to implement a deduction of this sort in the MBTI, but it’s fundamentally incorrect. One shouldn’t start by saying “my preferences are I+N+T+P …therefore I use Ti+Ne” any more than one should say having four legs, a tail and fur makes you a dog. The supposed 1:1 relationship between scoring INTP and the actual TiNe cognition –as defined by CT– is nonexistent. As we’ve  demonstrated with the content above, typing as INTP amounts to little more than identification with a disagreeable attitude and Pe over Je. But because of the structure of the MBTI, the NiFe-Ti who initially scores as INTP now comes to reverse-engineer a concept of his thoughts through the assumption that he has Ti+Ne. The NeFi-Te Eccentric Nerd likewise rationalizes his actions through the framework of Ti+Ne, as does the TiSe-Ni and the relaxed NiTe-Se.

Rationalization and Personal Theory

As people dive deeper into the phenomenon of the 8 functions, having begun from a place of the 4 letter code, they will rationalize their behaviors in accordance with the initially suggested 1:1 relationship between the 4-letter code and functions. The NiTe (as per CT) who first mistyped as INTP will search within for their “Ti” and find something which they’ll then attribute to their Ti concept. And by the time they know better than to start deducing their functions through the dichotomies, they have already done so and embedded many core ideas into their ego. Much of what drives typology is a quest for self-identity which cannot easily escape the biases that come with the ego. And the ambiguity and flexibility of the function descriptions allows for each individual to construct an idea of the function based around their subjective experience — regardless of what their type may actually be. Therefore, each individual forms a new iteration of the MBTI system centered around their own personality. The 8 functions present an open canvass for endless speculations. Being entirely removed from any physical quantifier or to any metric of falsification, all is open to interpretation and the subject is free to weave their own narrative around the functions; embedding their own idiosyncrasies into the definitions they formulate in their mind. Therefore, the introduction of the functions into the mix does not necessarily lead to a correction of type but just as commonly leads to a reinforcement of initially skewed ideas.

This predicament is of no fault of the learner, but is due to the very architecture of the MBTI which condones the activity and leaves the verdict of type up to the individual to decipher. And with no way to know for certain what a function’s true description is, this proves an impossible task. A feedback loop inevitably develops where the mistyped learner –once matured– takes it upon him or herself to write new profiles from how he has come to understand the process in himself. Over time, this further leads to the intermixing of opposite traits in all the function descriptions of MBTI. It is no exaggeration then to consider the collective public corpus of MBTI function descriptions as being the aggregated metabolic rationalizations of people who first identify with the corresponding 4 letter codes. And due to the subtlety of language, it is not until a physical metric is introduced to check these descriptions for validity that these improper rationalizations can be appropriately teased apart to create function descriptions from rightly typed individuals that are reflective of a greater reality outside of  subjective perceptions.

3. Lack of Development Levels & Fetishization

In addition to these complications, the MBTI suffers from another critical limitation; the exclusion of an understanding of development levels. In CT we understand that a type does not come in one developmental arrangement but in eight possible forms. The development level used for typings by the MBTI is closest to what CT calls “standard development” or “l—” where the first function is fully conscious with the remaining three being subconscious or progressing deeper into the unconscious. However, our observations have shown that types can develop any of the remaining three functions up to comparable levels to the dominant function. Each of these additional development levels creates significant differences in psychology, mitigating the negative effects associated with an unconscious process. Without an understanding of this variability within type, the MBTI can only reliably type people who have standard development.

Associated with the concept of development levels is that of fetishism, which is defined as a gravitation towards a lower function and an ego fixation with its nature independent of whether the function is fully conscious or unconscious. A TeNi who fetishizes their seelie Fi and who seeks to gain from it greater empathic qualities & personal understanding will mistype as an FeNi. The FiNe scientists who fetishizes his Te through a deep affection for physics will type as TiNe. And because the MBTI has no theoretical apparatus to address such peculiar cases, these individuals are almost always mislabeled towards the vector of the fetish. Even imagining a scenario where an MBTI learner has roughly the correct metabolic understanding of the functions, a mistyping may still happen due to how types fetishize their other functions when they are seeking integration into consciousness.

As more parts of oneself are embraced and integrated into your being (namely the lower two functions), one’s personality shifts further away from the standard definition of the type. In a stroke of irony, the more developed your psyche is, the higher the chances are of a mistype occurring in the MBTI. In CT this issue is remedied through the acknowledgement of subtypes, which can accurately identify what particular development path each person has taken.

4. Submersion & Personal Journey

Lastly, the MBTI will mistype individuals due to a lack of consideration of exceptional circumstances such as those brought by a mental illness. General anxiety, depression, mania, avoidant personality disorder and other conditions will greatly alter the expression of type. Indeed the FeSi, when plagued by anxieties or depression, will scarcely identify as an extroverted type. Their depression may lead also to an apathetic attitude, a lack of emotionality and passion which may be misinterpreted as a natively “T” attitude. Like development levels, this facet must be considered and calibrated for, in order to ensure a proper typing. In CT, these submerged individuals are identifiable by the flat affect signal, allowing us to correct for this anomalous factor.

In Summary

The MBTI has a maximum accuracy limit based on the omission of important variables that are necessary for the proper identification of type. And within the bounds of what it does measure, significant theoretical problems still persist due to a lack of an objective metric for falsifiability and an exclusive dependency on self report.