According to Carl G. Jung’s theory of psychological types [Jung, 1971], people can be characterized by their preference of general attitude: Extraverted (E) vs. Introverted (I). Their preference of one of the two functions of perception: Sensing (S) vs. Intuition (N). And their preference of one of the two functions of judging: Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F). The three areas of preferences introduced by Jung are dichotomies (i.e. bipolar dimensions where each pole represents a different preference). Jung also proposed that in a person one of the four functions above is dominant – either a function of perception or a function of judging. Isabel Briggs Myers, a researcher and practitioner of Jung’s theory, proposed to see the judging-perceiving relationship as a fourth dichotomy influencing personality type [Briggs Myers, 1980]: Judging (J) vs. Perceiving (P)
The first criterion, Extraversion – Introversion, signifies the source and direction of a person’s energy expression. An extravert’s source and direction of energy expression is mainly in the external world, while an introvert has a source of energy mainly in their own internal world.
The second criterion, Sensing – Intuition, represents the method by which someone perceives information. Sensing means that a person mainly believes information he or she receives directly from the external world. Intuition means that a person believes mainly information he or she receives from the internal or imaginative world.
The third criterion, Thinking – Feeling, represents how a person processes information.Thinking means that a person makes a decision mainly through logic. Feeling means that, as a rule, he or she makes a decision based on emotion, i.e. based on what they feel they should do.
The fourth criterion, Judging – Perceiving, reflects how a person implements the information he or she has processed. Judging means that a person organizes all of his life events and, as a rule, sticks to his plans. Perceiving means that he or she is inclined to improvise and explore alternative options.
All possible permutations of preferences in the 4 dichotomies above yield 16 different combinations, or personality types, representing which of the two poles in each of the four dichotomies dominates in a person, thus defining 16 different personality types. Each personality type can be assigned a 4 letter acronym of corresponding combination of preferences:
In the rest of this article we will speak about the four types of scientists. given that, the traits possessed by successful scientists are seldom examined systematically in college or graduate school. They are not the traits that one would choose in an idealized characterization of a scientist. Nor are they revealed by courses and tests. Most courses and tests emphasize temporary fact accumulation, a worthy but largely unnecessary acquisition in an age of ready access to reference information. Some personal characteristics are so pervasive among scientists that they appear to be essential for scientific success. Others are common, advantageous, but not essential.
1. Scientists with ISTJ or ISTP Personality :
The Data-Driven Nerd
These are guys and gals who seem to spend every waking hour in the lab. They’re precise and thorough. They like new technologies that get them better — and more, always more — data. They hate writing up their papers because there’s never enough good data to say something definitive. They generally see no need for (and have no patience for) journalists, unless lapsing into an effusive geek-out moment over some surprising new data.
Rosalind Franklin (the meticulous X-ray crystall-o-grapher) whose work formed the backbone of Watson and Crick’s DNA discovery. According to PBS: “Rosalind Franklin always liked facts. She was logical and precise, and impatient with things that were otherwise.”
2. Scientists with INTJ or INTP Personality:
The Theory-Driven Nerd
These are big-thinking intellectuals who build systems and make wide-sweeping hypotheses. They love giving long keynote lectures at scientific conferences. They listen to classical music in their rich mahogany offices while writing up their papers, in which they’re likely to quote philosophers or drop in bad poetry.
Albert Einstein. According to his Nobel Prize write-up, “Einstein’s gifts inevitably resulted in his dwelling much in intellectual solitude.”
3. Scientists with ESTP Personality:
The Data-Driven Adventurer.
These are the doers. The field scientists — archaeologists, geologists, deep-ocean divers — who want to be the first to discover something, no matter what the risk. The forensic scientist who scrapes underneath dead fingernails. The microbiologist who works with Ebola. Other appropriate cliches: They’re not afraid to get their hands dirty, plunge right in. They’re straight-shooting, fast-talking. They live in the here and now.
Neil Armstrong. He blasted through the atmosphere, lived on dehydrated food, put on that silly helmet, and collected the Moon rocks. But I bet it was a bunch of ISTJs who studied their geological composition.
4. Scientists with ENTP Personality:
The Theory-Driven Adventurer.
Lastly, there’s my favorite kind of scientist (if only because they make the best protagonists): the Theory-Driven Adventurer. They’re problem-solvers, multi-taskers, broad thinkers. They love showing off their skills and playing with big, impressive toys. Journalists like labeling them as ‘rebels’ and, especially, ‘mavericks’.
Craig Venter, who spent months and months sailing his personal yacht around the world to collect microbial samples for gene sequencing. His most clever nickname is ‘Darth Venter’; the least clever, ‘asshole‘. (The last time I posted this, one of my readers argued that Venter hasn’t made any theoretical advances, and that Charles Darwin might be a better archetype. Maybe, maybe…but as I responded then, Venter does seem to think about the genome holistically. For example, he was one of the few people who said, from the beginning, that sequencing the genome will not be the answer to all of the world’s diseases. Also, as I’ve written about, Darwin doesn’t seem like much of a maverick.)
If he is not a “Good” scientist, he is not a good “Scientific” supervisor!
I think “typing” actually gives useful insight into what it means to be a scientist. You’ll notice that each of these types contains a T. In the Myers-Briggs code, you can be either a T (‘Thinking’) or an F (‘Feeling’). When making decisions, Ts prefer to “first look at logic and consistency”. Yup, that sounds like a scientist. Fs, in contrast, “first look at the people and special circumstances”.
I’ve never met a scientist who looks at the outliers first. choose your supervisor wisely !
These types are not absolute, but rather generalizations of an individual’s typical preferences. Obviously Rosalind Franklin cared about theories, too, and Einstein cared about data and Neil Armstrong probably did some kind of lab work on the way to getting that aeronautical engineering degree. In the same vein, my own typing of ISTJ is more accurate than I first realized. Although I still shudder at the idea of a market surveys, it turns out that my job requires quite a bit of inspection, truth-telling, and ‘Just the facts, Maam‘s.
- Briggs Myers, I., & Myers, P. B. (1980). Gifts differing: Understanding personality type.
- Virginia Hughes
- Why The Myers-Briggs Personality Test Is Misleading, Inaccurate, And Unscientific
- 16 personalities