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Type and Typing


Explanations > Preferences > Type and Typing

Categorization | Typing systemsPlusses and minuses  | So what?


Typing as discussed here is nothing to do with keyboards or printing. It is about classifying people into different types.


One of our deep needs is to understand, and the way we do this is by classifying and categorizing the world around us, putting things neatly into boxes. We use this approach for one another as well. When we meet a person, we desperately try to find which box to shove them into. Are they the nurturing 'mother nature' type or and aggressive 'dominator'?

Typing systems

There are a wide range of systems that have been developed to identify preferences and type, either for general 'personality' understanding (such as Myers-Briggs) or as focus in specific areas (such as the Kirton Adaptor-Innovator Index in creativity).

Some of these systems are fairly open whilst many are proprietary and secretive. Generally speaking they are commercial items that are used to make money is made by selling courses, examinations, consulting and the questionnaires ('instruments') that are used to determine your preferences.

The common approach to sharing information on these is that descriptions of the types and their underlying preferences are widely available, but you have to pay to get your hands on the instruments (thus creating a tidy revenue stream). More money is made and the integrity of the system protected by ensuring that only accredited people can administer the instruments.

Preferences in type

A common way of creating types is to group preferences together. Myers-Briggs does this by using four two-ended scales and hence creating sixteen different types.

As preferences change, so also can types change. Preferences may change as you learn - even by considering types and preferences themselves, you can decide that a preference you have is not what you really want.

Plusses and minuses

The value of typing

When we type people, it gives us a simple classification that helps them and us to understand why they behave the way that the do. It helps improve communication as well as general human understanding.

People working in teams often use them to understand one another and compensate for missing types. There are typing systems that are deliberately aimed at teams, such as the Belbin system.

The dangers of typing

One of the things that we tend to do when we are categorizing people is that, even though this typing may be based on an analogue scale, is to put them into one of a limited number of typed boxes. We are effectively saying 'the world is made up of 16 (or however many) types of people and no others.

Typing systems do not always get it right. How you answer the questions may depend on the context in which they are asked. You may not be able to answer some questions, so make up an answer (a 'neutral' middle score could mean 'I have no opinion' or 'I am equally balanced').

Not everyone agrees with their types - typically around three quarters. This may be due to a limited instrument, people being unsure about questions, subconscious bias in questions (although a good test will compensate for this) and contextual factors.

So what?

Use typing systems to help understand people and hence interact and influence them, but beware of the stereotyping that can occur.

You can use instruments for the best accuracy of assessment (although these are still not perfect) and you can also make rough assessments by observing people in action and guessing their type from your knowledge of the system.

Just by showing someone their type, you can have a significant effect on their understanding of themselves and hence how they think and act.

See also


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