8 Things That Are Wrong with Online Typology

List written by David Austin, edited and used with permission. Commentary by Ryan Smith.

  1. The scores and scores of fake Ni types. (“I sometimes know things. Therefore INTJ.”)
  2. Armchair “experts” who peddle wild home-grown definitions about their type and functions while having no real knowledge. (“Ni is very objective.”)
  3. The extreme pushback from aforementioned “experts” when someone makes an effort to argue their case. (“Your article? It sucks! Why? I can’t be bothered to say. It just does! Your claim? It’s also wrong. Why? Because you suck.”)
  4. People with too black and white an understanding of the theory. (“I can type anyone with 100% accuracy in 10 minutes. I learned on YouTube.”)
  5. People who want to be experts so badly that they mislead other people and/or cannot brook criticism. (“Look at all my blog followers!  My popularity proves I’m right!”)
  6. The wild fabrication of claims in lieu of proper arguments. (“I’ve met Obama a couple of times and observed him up close. There’s no way he can be a P. I also met Jung the other day and he told me that he was INFJ.”)
  7. The pervasive use of shaming – again with no real arguments. (“Anyone who doesn’t believe that Donald Trump is ENTJ doesn’t know ANYTHING about the system.”)
  8. The shameless stealing of the few good points going around. (“That long post you made there, laboriously unearthing a good insight? I’m going to re-state that as a one-liner and imply that it was something I thought of myself.”)

Breaking things down, almost all of these problems can be traced back to people not doing research. The foundational works of the Jungian type system are Jung: Psychological Types (1921), van der Hoop: Character and the Unconscious (1923) and Conscious Orientation (1939), Von Franz: Lectures on Jung’s Typology (1961/71),  as well as Myers: Gifts Differing (1980). Together these five works form the outline of all interpretations of Jungian typology that rely on a psychodynamic foundation and use the popular four-letter type codes.

This means that other popular works, even bestselling works (such as Keirsey’s Please Understand Me II), are not seminal to the theoretical construct that underlies Jungian typology. Indeed, Keirsey and his son have, by their own admission, in the main moved away from using the four-letter codes that were invented by Myers, precisely because their interpretation of typology is different from that of Jung and Myers. Notably, Keirsey & son don’t use functions, and their approach is behavioral, not psychodynamic.

The point is not to say that Jung, Myers, von Franz, and van der Hoop were right about everything. But since people on the internet make up wild claims about the concepts involved in the theory, it is often practical to point to how all of the seminal authors were in basic agreement with regards to the nature of the functions as well as most other things besides. However, there are still disagreements between the four authors mentioned here. For example, Myers and Hoop say that the Si types tend to be practical, while Jung says that they tend to be impractical. As a rule, Jung and von Franz are appreciative of S types, while Myers and Hoop are more biased against Sensation, and so on.

Jungian typology is a deductive theory at its core. This means that it must ultimately rely on some measure of philosophical definition and elucidation of the concepts and constructs involved. Thus it is never enough to simply appeal to empiricism, or to what is “right before our eyes,” when discussing the matter of someone’s type or what the nature of a certain function is. A criticism that aims to be final must thus also be a criticism that presents its own considerations on the concepts involved, or which points out exactly where the alleged error lies. And the people who do not feel obligated to do so are truly the people who don’t know ANYTHING about the system. ;-)

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  1. I’ve seen these armchair experts on YouTube as well. One in particular puts words in his son’s mouth because knowing his son’s type apparently makes him a mind reader. He also coaxes guests into answering questions the way their temperament should. With another guy, it’s obvious he’s making stuff up as he goes along. It’s no wonder that MBTI can feel horoscope-y at times.

  2. Well written. When i first started out, i made some of these mistakes as well. I don’t make judgements like that anymore. I leave it to the true professionals like you guys.

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