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A New Look at Jungian Dimensions


Explanations > Preferences > A New Look at Jungian Dimensions

Identity: Outer vs. Inner | Focus: Narrow vs. Wide | Decision: Rational vs. Emotional | Control: Manage vs. Adapt | So what?


The Jungian Type Inventory model, used by instruments such as the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI) and the Keirsey Type Sorter, uses some fairly impenetrable naming that are based in history rather than  being designed to help understand what they are all about.

Here, then, is a suggestion for perhaps more appropriate names for the four dimensions, along with a view on what the dimensions really mean.

Identity: Outer vs. Inner


MBTI classes this dimension as being about 'energy', but this is a rather confusing term. What, psychologically, is 'energy'. We may feel energized or drained, but what is the underlying psychological principle?

Jungian models name the first variable as Extraversion vs. Introversion. In this, the extravert seeks energy in social situations, interacting with others. The introvert, on the other hand finds parties exhausting and 'recharges their batteries' by having time alone.

A confusion about this naming is that many understand 'extraversion' as meaning 'loud' and 'introversion' as 'shy', yet introverts often have many friends while extraverts are seldom brash.


An alternative view is to consider this to be about how a person gets their sense of self, of who they are, their identity. Identity is a deep human need and much of what we do is to build and support it.

We gain identity more through outer means through paying attention to how others view us, hence socially constructing our selves. Social Identity Theory describes how we gain identify from a group. In the Looking-glass Self, we see ourselves more through the eyes of others.

With an inner construction of the self, we spend more time reflecting and thinking about who we want to be, rather than worrying about how others view us. This gives the benefit of greater independence, but at the price of lower social acceptance.

We very largely use both inner and outer means to construct our identity. The useful question that this dimension brings up is the extent to which we depend on others rather than our independent thoughts.

Focus: Narrow vs. Wide


In the Jungian model, this dimension is about our approach to data and information, although the curiously-named dimensions of Sensing vs. Intuiting give little indication of this.

In paying attention to information, sensors seek detail while intuitors look to the big pictures. Sensors prefer facts, while intuitors prefer ideas.


When looking around us, we have two zones of focus, a very narrow zone of attention around the size of a coin, and a broad area that reaches out to the periphery of our vision. This dual focus has evolved to allow animals to see threats while they pay close attention to an object of special interest. 

Focus is a function of brain hemisphere, with a narrow focus associated with the left brain and a wider focus coming from the right brain. This is in slight contrast to the traditional view of left brain being logical and right brain being creative, although these are still explained quite well by narrow-wide focus.

Just because we have a preference for narrow or wide viewpoints, this does not mean we ignore the other perspective. The key is where we start, with close attention to the detail or the big picture. People who prefer a close focus build up to the big picture while those who start from the top break downwards. And when both perspectives are combined, we start from the middle and work outwards.

Decision: Rational vs. Emotional


The classic Jungian typologies also frame this as decision-making, which continues to make sense. The naming of the dimension as Thinking vs. Feeling is also relatively close to the suggested alternative, although there is an implication about 'feeling' that there is no thinking involved or connected more with empathy and other people.


In making decisions, we use both logic and emotion, thinking and feeling. In structure, although we may think we make a logical decision, the point of decision has a significant emotional component. We feel that we have thought enough and we

With a rational approach, the focus is on the thinking process that leads up to the point of decision, while with an emotional focus the decision itself is where the focus is, with attention to how it feels as a guide to the decision. Certainly, a focus on feeling will more likely take other emotional components into account, including social issues involving other people. The rational approach, on the other hand, seeks that which is correct and truthful, with less attention to values and what is good and 'right'.

Control: Manage vs. Adapt


In MBTI, this dimension is, perhaps confusingly, spoken of as being to do with 'lifestyle' and 'how you live'. The dimensions of Judging vs. Perceiving are also confusing.

Judging seems to be evaluative and more about decisions based on rules or superior status. It is described as being about structuring and planning one's life, rather than letting things happen.

Perceiving seems to be about inferred personal meaning rather than fact. It is described as being around acting and making decisions when it becomes necessary rather than doing things ahead of times.

Judgers and perceivers may view each other with disdain or irritation as they see the other approach as foolish and impractical. Judgers see perceivers as chaotic while perceivers see judgers as spending time that may be wasted.


We all have a need for a sense of control, which is perhaps even deeper than the need for a sense of identity (as it is related to basic survival). Note that is a 'sense' of control, which is based in how we feel rather than actually having control. This leads to two views on how to get that sense: to pre-emptively control

Those who try to manage the situation believe the best approach is to gain control and retain control. They plan carefully and then continuously manage the situation in order to ensure their plans happen as intended.

Those who adapt believe that it is impractical and a waste of energy to try to manage every situation, so they keep an eye on things, navigating and nudging events as they adapt to the world rather than expecting the world to adapt itself to their desires. They decide what they want based on what happens rather than first wanting and then trying to

It can be said that adapters succeed more, as success is meeting desires and they change their desires as well we their actions. Adapters may also be more collaborative as they cope with the needs of others and so may achieve things where managers fail as they try to bulldoze people in their way. It may also be said that managers are more successful at creating significant change and achieving ambitious goals.

So what?

Use the updated view as a way both to revise your understanding of the Jungian type model and also as a way to work differently with other people.

See also

Jungian Type Inventory, The CIA Needs Model


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