Thursday, September 30, 2010

Personality Type of your Character

I've been deep into researching my characters for my new project. Since my story explores the genetics of personality (in other words, which personality traits are inherited and which are more affected by environment), I've been spending a lot of time reading scientific journals, reviewing study data, and exploring psychological testing. I feel like I've been learning a new language.

In the course of researching, I came across a few web-based versions of the Myers-Briggs personality test (based on research by Karl Jung). This test breaks down personality into four main categories:
  1. Whether you get your energy from inside or outside sources (Extraverted or Introverted)
  2. How you taking in information (Sensing or iNtuitive )
  3. How you make decisions (Thinking or Feeling )
  4. How you operate on a day-to-day basis (Judging or Perceiving)
Based on these categories, there are 16 personality types. For example, ESTP means Extraverted, Sensing, Thinking, Perceiving and describes someone who is outgoing, perceptive, likes concrete problems to solve, and bases decisions more on logic than intuition.

I thought it would be interesting to take the test, answering the questions the way I thought my MC would answer. By reading the summary of her personality type, it gave me a little more parameters for her development. Although I would never develop a character based soley on this, but I did feel a bit more tuned into the psychology of my character (incidentally, she is IFSJ which means she is introverted, feeling, sensing and judging).

If you are interested in trying this out (either for yourself or your characters):
  • Similar Minds has a number of personality tests, including a short version of the test Jung here
  • The Personality Page, which has a lot of info, including career and relationship info relevant to the types. There's also a test, perhaps more complete than the free tests you can find) which is $5 per test.
  • A easy-to-use grid of learning styles based on the 16 types from SUNY Oswego here 
If you do give this a try for your characters, it would be great if you could stop back and report whether you found it useful.


  1. Thanks for a fun post! I took the MB test years ago. Today's personality test came out the same. And I'm happy with that.

  2. Ooh nice one! I intend to try it on my characters soon i will let you know how it goes. This is a very good Idea.

  3. One thing that bugs me is when characters don't stay true to the personalities the authors create for them. You know what I mean? Like someone who kicks a puppy isn't going to become a fulltime caregiver for an aging parent, unless there's some kind of major life change going on, and it would be so major that it should be a theme of the book.

  4. This is cool.
    My MC is: Extroverted, Intuitive, Feeling and Perceiving. Pretty accurate

  5. I've taken that test several times. I'm an EXFJ (the X is because I test dead equal between sensing and intuitive every single time I take the test). They say that the test isn't really accurate until after about the age of 25 because we change so much until about then. We use it in the office world because if you know what your coworkers *coughbosscough* is it helps with how your present material.

    For example, we had one boss who was an J. He was really into the details, so the finance people presented the proposed budget to him with tons of detail. He retired and his replacement was a P--big picture kind of guy. Unfortunately they presented the budget to him the same way they'd done to his predecessor. They took a very different approach the next year.

    When I first took a class where we learned about this, our instructor talked about how she's an introvert. Introvert doesn't mean not being able to deal with people; it means you draw you energy from being alone. The instructor was a counselor and had just moved in with her sister, who was a flaming extrovert. The instructor dealt with people all day, so when she got home she needed to have some solitude to reenergize. But her sister wanted to be around people and talk. The instructor finally asked her sister is she could just keep the apartment silent for an hour. The sister just went out and hung with friends. Things worked great.

    Along those lines I had a friend who is an extrovert and worked in an office all by herself. Her only contact with people was via phone, and not much of that. She had been living alone and moved in with a friend. Unfortunately, the friend was an introvert who was an insurance broker. As with my instructor, when she came home she'd go to her room, close the door, and not be seen for hours. My poor friend said even though she wasn't living alone anymore felt lonelier than she ever had before.

    Sorry this is so long. Personality types really can help us understand ourselves and the people around us.

    Can't wait to hear about your project!

  6. Quite an interesting thought. I wouldn't have thought to do something like this, but now that you mention it, I might just. I certainly sounds amusing, and potentially useful,even.

  7. I'm an INFJ (I's been a while), but I try to write ESTP -- how's that for a split-personality?