Can a Person’s MBTI Change? (A discussion about MBTI)

In this brief guide, we will try to answer the question “can a person’s MBTI change?”, and also delve deeper into the Myers Briggs Type Indicator as well as the Myers Briggs Categories.

Can a Person’s MBTI Change?

The straight answer to the question “can a person’s MBTI change” would be no, a person’s MBTI can’t change, at least not drastically, but then at the same time, one needs to remember that no person is a sum of their parts and that even though the MBTI types usually describe very well what the person must be like, they are not all that is present in your personality.

MBTI is based on Carl Jung’s theory of personality that talks about the different functions in a person’s cognition that decide how the person processes and gathers information, and the relative strength of these functions is usually what forms the function stack that the MBTI type or someone’s personality is based on.

The MBTI type is made up of 4 letters, each of which alludes to a given category of personality or cognitive function that will be discussed later.

Many people may ask, “Can a person’s MBTI type change?” but what they need to ask is, “What determines a person’s MBTI type?”, the answer to which is, in a large part, environment.

The environment is one of the biggest factors in what determines our personality types, and this is why the huge debate about Nature vs Nurture even exists.

Take an example of someone who usually casual and spontaneous and likes adventures and going into new situations, but at the same time they may have a great structure to their work and they may have a rather rigid manager who likes to keep that structure as is, in this case, the person’s schedules or their preferences may develop and change over time.

Another example might be that if you are at a job where you need a lot of structure and you still like working there, you may change how you think and over time you may start thinking that way.

What this tells us is that while a person’s MBTI type, on the whole, may not change, most of their individual traits may still be subject to change because that is just how human beings work.

Our brains evolve constantly, and with them so do our personalities, and therein lies the problem with type theories of personality in general; they reduce the person to a type and seek to explain why they do what they do, and this leads to confusion and questions like “Can my MBTI type change?” when they feel like they have grown out of a phase.

Personality Change and Neuroplasticity

Personality change may in large part be attributed to a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity, which is a fairly recent concept and has been researched a lot lately and refers to the capacity of the brain to make new connections and grow and change over time.

Neuroplasticity was originally used more in terms of providing hope to people who have suffered from traumatic brain injuries or strokes, and they have somehow gotten parts of their brain-damaged; in these cases, neuroplasticity was brought into the picture so that the functions from that damaged part of the brain could somehow be localized to the other healthy parts of the brain.

Researchers figured out ways in which a change in the functional location of a lost skill could be brought about through vigorous mental exercise which formed new connections of neurons in the brain, which would allow, for instance, someone who had suffered a stroke and lost the ability to speak, speak again, at least a little bit.

To understand how personality change comes into the picture with neuroplasticity, one needs to know about the case of Phineas Gage, who every psychology graduate or even undergraduate will likely know.

Phineas gage suffered a traumatic brain injury when a rod went through his forehead, piercing the front of his brain, which is known as the frontal lobe and is responsible for a lot of the cognitive functions we use in our day to day lives.

Phineas Gage got better, somehow, and he did not suffer a loss, thankfully, of any of the major functions he required to be alive; what he did suffer from, was a massive personality change.

Almost overnight, as his brain changed, so did Phineas. He was a fun, pleasant guy before his accident, and after the incident, he became sullen, moody, and easily irritated.

He eventually resorted to substances and had to quit his job, and it was all attributed to the brain injury, because apart from that there had been nothing else, and the change was so sudden ti could not be attributed to post-traumatic stress or any other mental illness.

What this shows us is that changes in the brain lead to massive changes in the personality, and even in people who don’t suffer that kind of injury, their neurons still change and develop over time, and your personality type 10 years from now might be totally different.

Myers Briggs Type Indicator

When someone asks “Can a person’s MBTI type change?”, it is important to understand exactly what we are looking at in the MBTI system, and for that an analysis of what the test measures and what it seeks to tell you is crucial.

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator is built on the principles given by Jung about the cognitive functions that underlie our thoughts, behavior, and actions.

According to Jung these functions are rather oriented to the outside world (Extroversion), or they are oriented to the internal or inner world (Introversion).

When these functions are put together layer by layer in order of which one is most dominant and which is inferior, it creates a collection called a function stack, and these functions stacks are essentially the basis of MBTI types and vice versa.

We say vice versa because MBTI also makes use of a factor called Judging or Prospecting/Perceiving, which refers to whether the person is more present at the moment and driven by their environment, and leaning towards gathering data, or whether they like to be more thoughtful and logical or driven by analysis of the data that is being provided to them.

According to the Myers Briggs Type Indicator website, the difference between perception and judgment is as follows:

“Perception involves all the ways of becoming aware of things, people, happenings, or ideas. Judgment involves all the ways of coming to conclusions about what has been perceived. If people differ systematically in what they perceive and in how they reach conclusions, then it is only reasonable for them to differ correspondingly in their interests, reactions, values, motivations, and skills.”

The description for the Myers Briggs type indicator is best understood in the words of the makers themselves, and this is the basic information about the test from the Myers Briggs Foundation website, which also describes all the types and functions in great detail:

“In developing the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator [instrument], the aim of Isabel Briggs Myers, and her mother, Katharine Briggs, was to make the insights of type theory accessible to individuals and groups. They addressed the two related goals in the developments and application of the MBTI instrument:

The identification of basic preferences of each of the four dichotomies specified or implicit in Jung’s theory.

The identification and description of the 16 distinctive personality types that result from the interactions among the preferences.”

Excerpted with permission from the MBTI® Manual: A Guide to the Development and Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®

Favorite world: Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world? This is called Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I).

Information: Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning? This is called Sensing (S) or Intuition (N).

Decisions: When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances? This is called Thinking (T) or Feeling (F).

Structure: In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided, or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options? This is called Judging (J) or Perceiving (P).”

The categories mentioned in the above description are explained in detail in the next column.

Myers Briggs Types

Each of the personality types under the Myers Briggs Type Indicator is a collection of one of 4 things:

  • Where you focus your attention – Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I)
  • The way you take in information – Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)
  • How you make decisions – Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
  • How you deal with the world – Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)

These categories make up all the personality types under the Myers Briggs system and each of these is discussed below.

Extroversion vs Introversion

Extroversion is defined as being oriented towards the outside world and wanting to be more present in the external reality than the internal fantasy.

Extroversion in this theory is not only about being with people or going to parties, and introversion is not just about sitting alone in a dark room and avoiding people.

What it means is that the introverts inner world is richer and more developed, and they may be likely to pay more attention to it, but they may well be a people’s person and like hanging out with people just as much.

On the other hand, it is just as likely that an extrovert would want to be away from people from time to time, but at the same time they will be more dependent on the external world for cues or information and the would likely prefer it over their inner world.

According to the Myers Briggs Foundation, these statements might apply to an extrovert, for instance:

“The following statements generally apply to me:

  • I am seen as “outgoing” or as a “people person.”
  • I feel comfortable in groups and like working in them.
  • I have a wide range of friends and know lots of people.
  • I sometimes jump too quickly into an activity and don’t allow enough time to think it over.
  • Before I start a project, I sometimes forget to stop and get clear on what I want to do and why.”

Sensing vs Intuition

The sensing vs intuition category of the Myers Briggs personality categories defines how the person takes in information from the environment or from their own internal world.

The sensing function may seek out information and be more precise and organized about it, seeking things in an orderly fashion and laying it out as such to be analyzed and assessed.

The intuition function is exactly what it sounds like, it refers to more obvious and connected data, and it collects and stores data in the form of complicated webs where the information is made up of nodes, and a single thing could activate a node and all the relevant information may make itself available.

According to the Myers Briggs Foundation, sensing might feature some of these statements:

  • “I remember events as snapshots of what actually happened.
  • I solve problems by working through facts until I understand the problem.
  • I am pragmatic and look to the “bottom line.”
  • I start with facts and then form a big picture.
  • I trust experience first and trust words and symbols less.
  • Sometimes I pay so much attention to facts, either present or past, that I miss new possibilities.”

Thinking vs Feeling

The thinking category in the Myers Briggs personality types refers to the ability to sort through data in a precise and rational way, without being too focused on the values or beliefs of the individual themselves or their environment.

Feeling, on the other hand, is a function that focuses on emotions, beliefs, and values, either the person’s own or those of the people around them.

According to the Myers Briggs foundation, these are statements that may apply to the Feeling type:

  • I have a people or communications orientation.
  • I am concerned with harmony and nervous when it is missing.
  • I look for what is important to others and express concern for others.
  • I make decisions with my heart and want to be compassionate.
  • I believe being tactful is more important than telling the “cold” truth.
  • Sometimes I miss seeing or communicating the “hard truth” of situations.
  • I am sometimes experienced by others as too idealistic, mushy, or indirect.

Judging vs Perceiving

Judging vs perceiving functions have been discussed previously, so instead of reiterating, let us look at the statements that may apply to both of these processes:

Judging:

  • “I like to have things decided.
  • I appear to be task-oriented.
  • I like to make lists of things to do.
  • I like to get my work done before playing.
  • I plan to work to avoid rushing just before a deadline.”
  • Sometimes I focus so much on the goal that I miss new information.

Perceiving:

  • I like to stay open to respond to whatever happens.
  • I appear to be loose and casual. I like to keep plans to a minimum.
  • I like to approach work as a play or mix work and play.
  • I work in bursts of energy.
  • I am stimulated by an approaching deadline.
  • Sometimes I stay open to new information so long I miss making decisions when they are needed.

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we tried to answer the question “can a person’s MBTI change?”, and also delved deeper into the Myers Briggs Type Indicator as well as the Myers Briggs Categories. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Can a Person’s MBTI Change?

Can a person’s personality type change?

Yes, a person’s personality can change, both over time and with a conscious effort on the part of the person themselves.

Can you be two MBTI types?

Yes, you can be two MBTI types because humans exist primarily based on their environment and therefore their perosnality types may change over time, and therefore their MBTI types may also be subject to change.

Which personality type is manipulative?

The destructive ENFP personality type may be the most manipulative out of the MBTI subtypes.

Otherwise, the most manipulative personality subtype may be the antisocial personality, narcissistic personality, or Machiavellian personality.

Citations

https://mbtitraininginstitute.myersbriggs.org//

https://www.16personalities.com/articles?category=core-theory

Divya is currently a Clinical Psychology Trainee in a Master of Philosophy program and holds a Master’s in clinical psychology. She has a special interest in Personality studies and disorders, having researched the subject before, and Neuropsychology; with an additional interest being Mood disorders. She likes to write about Psychiatric issues, having worked in multiple specialty setups during her time as a clinical psychology student, and in her free time she likes to cook and read.

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