The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and talented adolescents:
FEELING BOYS AND THINKING GIRLS:
TALENTED ADOLESCENTS AND THEIR TEACHERS
Jane Piirto, Ph.D. (ENTP)
Director of Talent Development Education
Ashland, OH 44805
This article appeared in the Proceedings of the CAPT conference in Orlando, Florida in March 1998
The MBTI was administered to 226 tenth and eleventh graders who qualified as gifted and talented. Sixty teachers of the talented and 25 elementary and high school teachers were also administered the MBTI. Talented teens preferred ENFP. Gender differences were calculated as well among artistic youth and academically talented youth. Male artistic youth preferred F and academic females preferred T. Teachers of the talented preferred ENFJ. Other teachers preferred ESFJ. Implications for teaching these students are discussed.
FEELING BOYS AND THINKING GIRLS:
TALENTED ADOLESCENTS AND THEIR TEACHERS
The MBTI has been widely used in education, and a few studies have focused on differences between teachers preferences and the preferences of artistically and academically talented youth. Myers and McCaulley (1985) described studies of National Merit Finalists (INFP), of gifted seventh to ninth grade males (ENTP) and females (ENFP); of creative men (INTP) and creative women (INFP), and of schoolteachers (ESFJ). Ns received higher grades than Ss and Js received higher grades than Ps. The MBTI has been found to be associated with academic aptitude: Myers and McCaulley said, "To the extent that academic work requires the ability to deal with concepts and ideas (I), and with symbols and abstractions (N), academic aptitude should be, and is, associated with a preference for introversion and intuition" (p. 123). Feeling types score higher when verbal strengths are called for, and Thinking types get higher scores when analysis is in order. Perceptive types have greater breadth of knowledge than J and usually score higher on aptitude tests. However, J types get higher grades than would be expected by their aptitude scores because they organize their work and meet deadlines.
If a student is interested in the subject, higher grades result no matter what the type preference. However, there are more S students in remedial programs. EP students often find school confining and they rebel and so they also may be found having difficulty academically. NP students often make multiple choice questions more complex than necessary. More INP students choose independent study as an avenue to obtain their educations that is, those INPs who have the discipline to work without nudging. Students most likely to go on to graduate school after college were NT types. Students least likely to go on were ES types. More INs like to read and they score higher on reading tests than do ESs. The hypothesis for this difference is that introverts are concerned with ideas and the intuition function is concerned with symbols. Introverts do better creative writing but there is no difference in extraverts and introverts in expository writing. In writing, sensing types like clear assignments with data that is concrete and provable. Intuitive types focus on meaning and then draw facts and data to prove their hypotheses. Thinking types can organize their material with clarity and can categorize and classify. Feeling types have difficulty working from outlines and may use emotion rather than logic to make their points. Judging types must collect a lot of information so that they can write with ease; otherwise, they will write slowly and with great difficulty. They may revise too much and be too hard on themselves and the quality of their work. Perceptive types often keep collecting information and have difficulty finishing, revising, and cutting (Myers and McCaulley, 1985).
Introverts do not like experiential learning, but prefer to learn through lecture and structure. Extraverts like group learning if they are with like ability students and do not have to do the work for the group. Intuitive types prefer to learn by the inductive method, similar to that advocated by Bruner. They like self-paced learning and like to study on their own. They like essay examinations, feel academically superior to other students, and have high self-expectations for high grades. Faculty like their insightful remarks and approach. Sensing types can memorize easily and like to do so but they have trouble generalizing from examples to form concepts. They like to plan their time and to work systematically. Thinking types like order and logic in their courses and prefer structured experiences and clear goals. Feeling types often feel their social life interferes with their studies, and they prefer to complete assignments with group projects. Perceptive types prefer to learn in issues- and problem-based forums, and since they often get started late on their projects, they cram for tests and let their work pile up through procrastination (Murphy, 1992; Myers and McCaulley, 1985; Myers with Myers, 1980).
First of all, what is the most commonly found MBTI type for educators? Betkouski and Hoffman (1981) studied 1389 public school teachers ranging from Canada to California, and Florida. Their study found that the MBTI type, ESFJ, seemed to represent the majority of these educators: E=51% to 57%; S=53% to 75%; F=55% to 66%; and J= 63%. In the general population, E=75-80%; S=60%; F=65% of females and 35% of males; and J=60%. Thus it can be seen that the teachers are close to the general population in preference. About two-thirds of elementary and high school teachers prefer J, with about half of elementary teachers and 40% of high school teachers preferring SJ. N teachers are more prevalent in high school, with about half preferring N, while about a third of elementary school teachers prefer N. Only about a third of elementary teachers and high school teachers prefer P. Thus the high preference for P in talented students outnumbers those of their teachers and of the society at large. It is notable that most Rhodes Scholars, chosen for their scholar-athlete qualities, prefer P.
The ESFJ teachers are exceptionally dependable, precise, critical of detail, hardworking, and expects others to be likewise. They have a deep respect for facts, and are particular about detail and routines. These educators are friendly, tactful, sympathetic, and need human contacts. They also show a great deal of loyalty to respected persons, institutions, and causes. Their foremost interest is in the direct and visible effects that situations have on peoples' lives.
This research project was designed to explore the relationship between the intuitive (N) preference versus the sensing (S) preference and the judging (J) preference versus the perceiving (P) preference on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) taken by talented students and their teachers.
The MBTI was taken by 226 talented students in grades ten and eleven. The students attended special summer institutes in 1989, 1991, 1995, and 1997. The students for 1989 and 1991 attended a special institute in the arts (N=99; M=33, F=66), and the students for 1995 and 1997 attended a special institute in academics (N=127; M=36, F=91). Students were identified by the Ohio Rule for Foundation Units for the Gifted and Talented and represented 35 counties in the state. Two groups of teachers were also administered the MBTI. Group one was 60 teachers training to teach the gifted and talented. A second group of 25 regular classroom teachers was administered the MBTI.Human subjects guidelines were followed.
A comparison study was done with the artistically talented population, using the High School Personality Questionnaire (HSPQ), and it was postulated that artistic males possess the personality attributes of tender-mindedness and sensitivity to a greater degree than a comparison group of other males and females (Piirto and Fraas, 1995). They also score higher on the second order factor of creativity and lower on the tough poise. The hypothesis of androgyny in students who create in the musical arts was confirmed by Wubbenhorst (1994).
Evidence clearly confirms that gifted and talented students prefer N and P quadrants of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. The composite population type preference was ENFP. However, the preference for Introversion (I) among the talented students was greater than that in the general population (with over 60% of the males and about half of the females). Males in the artistic group were found to prefer feeling (F) to a statistically significant greater degree than either the males in the academically talented group or males in a comparison group. The preference for P among the artistically talented males was above 90%, and 64% of the total group preferred P. The females in the academically talented group preferred T to a greater degree than females in the normal population, with 47% of the girls preferring T. See Figures 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 and Table 1.
The teachers training to teach the talented had a composite MBTI preference of ENFJ. The other group of teachers had a type preference of ESFJ, confirming larger earlier studies such as that by Betkouski and Hoffman (1981).
This section discusses the implications of these findings for N and P talented students and for T females who are often taught by Sensing and Judging preferring female teachers.
The academic group females preferred thinking (T) more than females in the artistic group and a comparison group of females. The findings were statistically significant [p=.005] in supporting past and current research that there are a greater number of N and P preferences generally and more T female preferences in artistically and academically talented students compared to the general population. Almost half (47%percent) of the academically talented females preferred T, while in the general population only 25% of females do. Females who prefer T often encounter resistance to their objective and emotionless affect. Both female and male teachers may find them boyish and cold and they may not have their academic need to find out appreciated. These girls often fight both the female stereotype of emotional caring and the expectations of society that they enter female-dominated professions such as teaching. They often enter male-dominated professions such as mathematics, science, and administration where they continue to experience this dual challenge.
A key component for any child's education is the teacher. The teacher is the driving force and the variable that makes a measurable difference in classroom dynamics. Denovellis and Lawrence (1983) pointed out that the teacher's natural inclinations for a particular classroom atmosphere can be usefully studied in patterns provided by the MBTI. The teacher's type can be seen as an intervening variable that may nurture or nix a child's learning experience. For this reason acknowledging the MBTI types for teachers is necessary before addressing how the student's MBTI types will affect the teacher's delivery of instructional strategies within the classroom.
The teachers of the talented preferred N. The N types when coupled with the F types show genuine concern about all aspects of the welfare of their students social as well intellectual development. These teachers also prefer to interact on an individual basis and often will individualize instruction as needed. The presence of more N preference among teachers choosing to teach the gifted and talented might be an indication that they have gravitated towards teaching students who have similar preferences to theirs. Discovery learning, inductive teaching, and project-based assignments are preferences for Ns.
Within the various realms of the education profession, the types seem to gravitate to certain areas based on their combination type. While NFs are about one-third of the teachers, few teachers prefer SP or NT. NTs usually prefer to teach in college; only about 8% of K-12 teachers are NTs. Those who prefer NT are often gaining the experience to get into graduate programs in order to become college professors. ENFP student teachers are often very popular among the students, but few of them seem to continue in the teaching profession. Keirsey (1978) said, "SJ teachers . . . are not only the types most likely to choose teaching (56% of all teachers), but they are also the types who are most likely to stay in teaching as a lifelong career" (p. 6). The SJ type teacher may be especially intimidating to a sensitive artistic male, for 97% of the artistic males in this study preferred P, and in the creative males described in Myers and McCaulley (1985) 97% of the 112 creative men preferred N. Teachers of the talented as well as regular classroom teachers need to be aware of this finding.
If most educators tend to fall into the S type, how will they meet the needs of the N preferring students that exist in their classrooms, for it is the truth that most talented students are in the regular classroom most of the time during their elementary school years. The answer lies in having a full understanding of the attributes of the N and S types. Briefly, the S type relies on their senses for understanding and learning. They perceive reality as pieces funneled through their senses. If they can not use their senses, learning will be minimized. On the other hand, the N type is quite the opposite. They rely on their hunches or inner sense. They perceive reality as a world of opportunity and possibilities. The big picture is clear to them and they create ways to be an integral part of it. As teachers understand these differences between the insight-driven N students and their own preference for the concrete S activity, they can then begin to plan and implement the mode of instruction that will produce the highest results for each type's learning preference.
The NPs may have a particularly difficult time being understood and challenged by their SJ teachers in the elementary and high school, but as they grow older, more N teachers will appear (however, these will most likely be NJs, although P preferring professors seem to gravitate towards the arts), and in fact, studies of college professors have shown that most of them prefer N (for example, see Cooper and Miller, 1991). It could be said without much irony that those with the preference for P are poetic visionaries, and their visions are often undervalued in a prosaic work and school environment.
McCaulley (1976) states that each of the type combinations seems to have its greatest opportunity of success and satisfaction in fields that more closely match the characteristics of that type. According to Jones and Sherman (1979), NPs require the most counseling. They often seem more non-conformist to rules and regulations, and are willing to lock horns with authority. These students can be procrastinators but are usually good at making the system work for them. What should we do for these students? In my book Understanding Those Who Create, I synthesized many studies of innovative and creative people. These studies have overwhelmingly shown that the NP preference dominates, in science, mathematics, the arts, and business (Piirto, 1998). For example, in discussing the overwhelmingly TJ business climate, Reynierse (1997) said, "Although entrepreneurial P managers may be a source of discomfort within bureaucratic J organizations, in a business environment where change is perpetual and stability and control an illusion, they are probably essential for any organization to remain competitive."
Unfortunately the present educational system and the real world resist adjusting to or accommodating these NP characteristics and the androgynous male Fs and female Ts. Jones and Sherman (1979) suggest students need to become aware of their types and taught the advantages of using their inferior functions for surviving in the classroom and in the world. Though the SN types are thought to be inborn differences and quite resistant to change, the TF and JP types seem to develop as learned behaviors and are more flexible to changing. However, more tolerance of these artistic and academic Ns and Ps may also be called for. The world of the school is indeed duplicated in the world of work, but the world as a whole needs the talents of its Ns and Ps, who may receive irretrievable damage from having their creativity stifled in the SJ school by unaware J teachers who may not appreciate their N and P viewpoints, styles, insight, and perspicacity.
Betkouski, M., & Hoffman, L. (1981). A summary of Myers-Briggs Type Indicator research application in education. Research in Psychological Type, 3, 3-41.
Cooper, S., & Miller, J. (1991). MBTI learning style-teaching style discongruencies. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 51(3) 699-706.
Denovellis, R., & Lawrence, G. (1974). Correlations of teacher personality variables and classroom observation data. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL.
Gantz, B., Ramsey, L., Steele, K., Tabacca, G., Piirto, J., & Fraas, J. (1997). Quantitative analysis of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) from Ohio Summer Institutes at Ashland University. An inquiry seminar paper for the Masters Degree. Summer, 1997.
Jones, J.H., & Sherman, R.G. (1979). Clinical uses of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Research in Psychological Type, 2, 32-45.
McCaulley, M.H. (1976). The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the teaching-learning process. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL.
Murphy, E. (1992). The developing child. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.
Myers, I.B., with Myers, P. (1980). Gifts differing. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.
Myers, I.B., & McCaulley, M.H. (1985). Manual: A guide to the development and use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.
Piirto, J. (1998). Understanding those who create. Scottsdale, AZ: Gifted Psychology Press.
Piirto, J., & Fraas, J. (1995). Androgyny in the personalities of talented teenagers. Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, (2), 93-102.
Reynierse, J. H (1997). An MBTI model of entrepreneurism and bureaucracy: The psychological types of business entrepreneurs compared to business managers and executives. Journal of Psychological Type, l 40, 3-19.
Wubbenhorst, T. M. (1994). Personality characteristics of music educators and performers. Special Issue: Assessment in music. Psychology of Music, 22(1) 63-74.
(Some of the literature search was done by Beth Gantz, Lynn Ramsay, Katherine Steele, and Gina Tabacca for their paper referenced here. They are thanked here with grateful acknowledgement.)
Figure 1: Introversion/Extraversion in Talented Teenagers, Teachers of the Talented, and Other Teachers. Figure 2: Sensing/Intuition in Talented Teenagers, Teachers of the Talented, and Other Teachers. Figure 3: Feeling/Thinking in Talented Teenagers, Teachers of the Talented, and Other Teachers. Figure 4: Judging Perceiving in in Talented Teenagers, Teachers of the Talented, and Other Teachers. Figure 5: Feeling/ Thinking in Artistic Malesand Academic Males. Figure 6: Feeling/Thinking in Artistic Females and Academic Females.