In the 1940’s Isabel Briggs Myers and Katherine Briggs had a desire to make Carl Jung’s psychological theories of personality more understandable and useful for individuals.  Thus, they developed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator; in essence, a personality test. Myers and Briggs based their theory on Jung’s four preferences:[2]

  • Introversion (I) or Extroversion (E)
  • Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)
  • Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
  • Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)

Myers Briggs Personality Test Sorts Temperaments; photo by Cheryl WeldonCredit: photo by Cheryl Weldon

The Myers Briggs Test 

Using these preferences, Myers and Briggs identified 16 personality types based on the combinations of each of these preferences.  These preferences are INFP, ENFP, INFJ, ENFJ, ISFP, ESFP, ISFJ, ESFJ, INTP, ENTP, INTJ, ENTJ, ISTP, ESTP, ISTJ, and ESTJ.[2] 

When scoring the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) individuals have a dominate preferences (first two highest categories) and a secondary preference (next two highest categories).  In short, this four letter code determines the indicator type of the person’s personality.   

The MBTI is an instrument that has been proven to be valid and reliable.[2]  Unlike other personality tests, though, the MBTI does not measure traits, abilities or character.   The MBTI measures preferences.  As with most true psychological personality tests, the MBTI is usually administered by and results discussed with qualified professionals.  


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Keirsey Focuses on Temperaments Rather than Types

David Keirsey adopted Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types and Myers and Briggs method of measuring types and adapted them for his clinical practice.[1]  Keirsey wanted to go one step further in helping individuals understand types without having to memorize 16 types.  Thus, he examined the types as they pertain to temperaments.  Keirsey contends that unlike Hippocrates who describes the four temperaments by the four bodily fluids; the temperaments are better described by the four Greek gods commissioned by Zeus.[1]

Keirsey and Marily Bates, in their book Please Understand Me, describe the four temperaments as Apollo (spirit), Dionysus (joy or release), Prometheus (science) and Epimethean (duty).  They use these four temperaments to better explain the 16 types of the MBTI. 

The Dionysus Personality Temperament (the Artisan)

The Dionysus temperament is likened to the SP types (ISTP, ESTP, ISFP, ESFP) of Myers-Briggs.[[1]  The SPs are impulsive and for them, action is the thing.   SPs relish the freedom of action.   They are often described by friends as exciting, optimistic, and full of fun.  

The Dionysus temperament tends to be witty and charming.  The SP is process-oriented rather than concerned with completion.  The SP lives very much in the “here and now.”

The Epimethean Temperament (The Guardian)

The Epimethean temperament is the SJs (ISFJ, ESFJ, ISTJ, ESTJ) of the MBTI.[1]   The SJs exist primarily to be useful to the social units to which they belong.   The SJ strives to belong, but only when it is earned.  SJs desire to be the caregivers rather than cared for; the givers rather than the receivers. 

 The SJs have a more parental attitude toward life and are compelled to be bound and obligated rather than free and independent.  The SJ is prepared and stoic; entitlements, titles and traditions are important.    Friends describe the SJ as a “pillar of strength,” reliable, and steadfast.

The Promethean Temperament (the Rational)

The Promethean temperament is the NTs (INTP, ENTP, INTJ, ENTJ) of the MBTI.[1] According to Keirsey and Bates, while SPs and SJs each make up approximately 38 percent of the population, the NTs only comprise approximately 12 percent. NTs’ focus is power, not over people but of nature itself.  They strive to understand, control, predict and explain realities.  They want competency and revere intelligence. 

Because of this desire for competency, the NTs are the most self-critical of the four temperaments.  The quest for knowledge and thirst for excellence puts the NTs in the category of “all work and no play.”  Others may feel intellectually inadequate around the NT.

The Apollonian Temperament (the Idealist)

The final temperament is the Apollonian temperament, the NFs, the intuitive-feeling types (INFJ, ENFJ, INFP, ENFP).[1] The goal of the NFs is the search for self; in becoming self and thus never achieving self.  It is a contradiction that the other temperaments cannot truly understand.   It is the self-actualization of a perfect being.

Everything in the life of the NF must have meaning.  NFs tend to see potential good in people and often end up in careers that help cultivate the potential of others.   They are perfectionists in that the realities of finished tasks rarely meet the expectations of the conceptions.

Personality tests are but one instrument in finding the right career path. Whether using the MBTI or Keirsey’s theory of temperaments; understanding these personality types and temperaments is beneficial in career planning.  Finding compatible jobs results in higher job satisfaction and success.


The copyright of the article Myers Briggs Personality Types and Keirsey’s Temperaments is owned by Cheryl Weldon and permission to republish in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.

Keirsey Temperament Sorter