Q: What do ‘J’ & ‘P’ really mean?
Comparing Jung and Myers
The common modern practice of considering all ‘Js,’ including the ‘I—Js,’ to be ‘Judging types’ and ‘I—Ps’ ‘Perceiving types’ diverges from Jung’s use of the terms to refer to the dominant and may be contributing to a tendency to interpret the fourth letter of the type code in a misleading way. This oversimplification does a disservice to both Jung and Myers: It overrides Jung’s definition of these concepts, and it obscures both the underlying concept of Extraversion in Myers’ J—P dichotomy and the originality of Myers’ and Briggs’ contribution to Jung’s theory.
Jung focused on the types as defined by the dominant function. Although he noted that such types are not likely to be found “in such pure form in actual life” (1971, para. 666), observing that the other less conscious functions would modify the caricatured personalities of his examples, his section on the auxiliary function seems almost an afterthought. Myers filled that gap by designing a way to identify the auxiliary function, thus extrapolating sixteen types by adding the auxiliaries to Jung’s eight dominant-function types.
Jung considered all of the types that the MBTI® code identifies as I—J to be Perceiving types,1 and all I—Ps to be Judging types,2 because of his emphasis on the supreme importance of the dominant function. For ISTJ, for example, introverted Sensing (Si), a Perceiving function, is what is most important. For ISTP, it is introverted Thinking (Ti), a Judging function. It should be noted that Jung’s categorization also implies different cross-type compatibilities and oppositions than does the J—P classification on Myers’ type charts.
Though Isabel Myers appears to have understood, agreed with, and applied Jung’s understanding of ‘judgment’ and ‘perception,’ she also used the terms in a new way. To identify the auxiliary function, Myers needed a way to determine which function is extraverted and the J—P dichotomy was born. She was also trying to reconcile Jung’s theory with Katharine Briggs’ observations of how people use judging and perceiving. According to the MBTI® Manual, “The J—P dichotomy has two uses. First, in conjunction with the E—I dichotomy, it is used to identify which of the two preferred functions is the leading or dominant function and which is the auxiliary function. Second, it describes identifiable attitudes or orientations to the outer world.” (Myers, et al., 1998, p. 26). Myers continued to use the terms the way Jung used them in Psychological Types, as indicating the dominant function, but she also used them for the new purpose of pointing to the preferred extraverted function.
Myers’ and Briggs’ innovative application of Jung’s theory of judgment and perception made later innovations possible, such as Keirsey’s Temperament theory and Beebe’s Eight-Function Eight-Archetype model. But Myers’ J—P language has caused confusion because she used the terms both ways: in her text to indicate the dominant (1962, pp. 9-16); and in her charts to indicate the extraverted function (1962, p. 18). She could perhaps have avoided the confusion if she had called her new dimension something like the ‘JX—PX’ dichotomy, ‘JX’ for Judging extraverted and ‘PX’ for Perceiving extraverted.
It is undeniable that Briggs and Myers identified something real with their J—P characteristics, because this dichotomy has been so reliably used to identify type codes and to enhance personal and work relationships. But is it getting at who we really are? Have we lost something in forgetting Jung’s J—P categorization? If the J—P dichotomy focuses exclusively on our interface with external reality, then we may all be more than we seem, e.g., ‘P’s could be more ‘J’ than they appear and vice versa.
What is your understanding of the theory? What does the J—P score really assess? What are your observations?
1 “The two types just described [Si and Ni dominant] are almost inaccessible to judgment” (para 664).
2 “Both the foregoing types [Fi and Ti dominant] may be termed rational, since they are grounded on the functions of rational judgment” (para 644).
Jung, C. G. (1971). Psychological Types. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Myers, Isabel Briggs. (1962, 1970, 1976). Introduction to Type®, second edition. Gainesville, FL: Center for Applications of Psychological Type, Inc.
Myers, Isabel Briggs. (1998). Introduction to Type®. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc.
Myers, I. B., McCaulley, M. H., Quenk, N. L. and Hammer, A. L. (1998). MBTI® Manual. Palo Alto, CA: CPP, Inc.
Header Image: Man Ray, “Misunderstood,” 1938