Myers-Briggs Type IndicatorŪ and Its Offspring
(Keirsey and Birkman)

I have long been a proponent of the Myers-Briggs Type IndicatorŪ (MBTIŪ), a personality-typing inventory ("temperaments") by the mother-daughter team of Katharine [Cook] Briggs and Isabel Briggs-Myers. I encountered the Myers-Briggs inventory during graduate work with Gordon Lawrence at the University of Florida in 1970. Isabel Briggs-Myers was a frequent visitor to campus and worked directly with us.

The Myers-Briggs Type IndicatorŪ (1942) is closely-based on the work of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875-1961). Jung's seminal work is Psychological Types (1921).

You probably found this file by way of my file on learning and teaching styles. I direct you there for further detail.

This article is a discussion of two well-known personality inventories based on the Myers-Briggs Type IndicatorŪ, those by David Keirsey and by Roger Birkman, and how their results relate to one another. Links to on-line test sources are at the bottom of this file.

Birkman's Colors

Roger Birkman's book, True Colors contains a short questionnaire. The reader is sorted into one of four quadrants and assigned a color.

Birkman notes some general characteristics of people in each quadrant, however, the questionnaire results do not reveal a personality type, but, rather, how someone is most likely to approach a group task because of the personality traits each member of the group possesses. Everyone's strengths and weaknesses will influence the process and the outcome.

It's important not only to be aware of one's own preferences and methods, but to understand exactly how they mesh with others' when a collaborative effort is to be undertaken. And, ultimately, how all of them interact, with the goal of a completed task.

Since Birkman's questionnaire is based in Myers-Briggs, knowing your Myers-Briggs personality type will increase the value of your Birkman quadrant placement.

Keirsey's Colors

Keirsey names the four temperaments "Guardians", "Artisans", "Idealists", and "Rationals" and assigns each a color (yellow, red, green, and blue, respectively).

Each of these are subdivided into four, thus yielding the 16 types, as described by Myers and Briggs.

Each of the four subgroups of a color is described by a Myers-Briggs four-letter type. For example, Keirsey's "Guardians" [yellow] are "inspector" [ISTJ] - "protector" [ISFJ] - "provider" [ESFJ] - "supervisor" [ESTJ]).

Notice that each of these yellow subgroups has an S and a J. Similarly, the four green subgroups have N and F. Reds have S and P. Blues have N and T.

These subtypes align exactly with Birkman's quadrants. In particular:

Note: There is a difference between Myers-Briggs types and Keirsey/Birkman colors that bears mention. Myers-Briggs focuses on how people think and how they feel. Keirsey (and, therefore, Birkman) focuses on how people behave. Of course, how people think/feel dictates how they behave, so it devolves ultimately to Myers-Briggs.

The three dovetail neatly, as you would expect, since the Myers-Briggs Type IndicatorŪ is the Grandmama of Them All.

Correlations Between the Three

Keirsey's blue "Rationals" are Birkman's blue "idea-centered" people.

Keirsey's yellow "guardians" are Birkman's yellow "procedure-centered" people.

Keirsey's red "Artisans" are Birkman's red "production-centered" people.

Keirsey's green "Idealists" are Birkman's green "people-centered" people.

Online Assessments

The full personality investory is available from several places on the Internet (with e-mail interpretations) for a fee. Keirsey's 71-question version is available at his site at no charge. To navigate the Keirsey site to find the quiz (it's not easy!): On the lower left corner of the PersonalityZone page, click on "It's free. Find out more." Then click on "Join now," fill out the form on this page (don't use your real name or e-mail address), and click on the large yellow rectangle below the form. Off you go.

See also the MBTI center at the University of Florida. Navigate from the pane on the left.

The problem with Keirsey's free quiz, apart from its cropped nature, is that there is little interpretive material to go with your personality type result. The problem with the on-line version is that you receive e-mail interpretations.

Any personality inventory/psychological test will be more valuable if you have it interpreted by a professional, sitting down with you personally (not an e-mail consult) to help you deal with your reactions. It often is, "Finally I understand myself. It's safe to be who I really am."

Places you might be able to take the inventory and receive a professional, face-to-face interpretation of the results are at university psychology departments, public school district offices, employment services, job counselors, private-practice psychologists and psychiatrists, high school guidance counselors, and so on. You probably will have to pay a fee to take the test and have it interpreted with you.

Note: When you take the inventory, your type descriptors will be something such as: "extraverted intuition with feeling." Ignore this and jot down the four letters of your "type." That's all you need.

copyright 2008, Martha Beth Lewis, Ph.D.
Contact me about reprint permission.

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