Wednesday September 20, 2017

Personality Types and Gender Stereotypes

By UD Women's Center

You may have heard of the Myers-Briggs type indicator before, have taken a version of it online to assess your personality type, or even done research around how it is used in the workplace. The Myers-Briggs type indicator (MBTI) is an instrument  that categorizes individuals into 16 personality types based on their responses to forced-choice questions. Based on psychological theory, MBTI is a powerful tool for understanding ourselves and others.

Have you ever considered how gender or gender stereotypes intersect and impact MBTI personality types? In other words, does gender play a role in determining your MBTI personality type? Could an individual’s MBTI personality type be influenced or informed by gender stereotypes? The MBTI instrument is designed to unearth our innate preferences - what is natural to us rather than what is a product of our culture and environment.  But it’s important to note that all of these categorizations are preferences and can change depending on an individual’s setting or circumstances. To understand the role gender may play among MBTI personality types and ultimately whether or not stereotypes influence the outcome, let’s first understand the four dichotomies of the MBTI identifies:

Introversion - Extraversion (I - E) Where you get your energy.
Introverts prefer self-reflection, while extroverts like to talk through ideas with others.
Sensing - Intuition (S - N) How you process information.
Sensers focus on concrete ideas and trust their own experiences. Intuitors imagine whole realms of possibility and search for meanings and patterns.
Thinking - Feeling (T - F) How you make decisions.
Thinkers aim to be objective in their decision-making and focus on facts. Feelers make values-based decisions that honor individuals.
Judging - Perceiving (J - P) Your preferred lifestyle.
Judgers are typically organized and like having order and structure, whereas perceivers are more spontaneous.

According to data collected by MBTI, the only significant difference between genders occurs within the Thinking - Feeling dichotomy. The majority of women (roughly 75%) fall into the feelers category, whereas less than 45% of men can be categorized as feelers. This means that nearly 55% of men are considered thinkers compared to 25% of women. This data seems to perpetuate the gendered idea of a people-oriented, emotive woman and a logical, practical man.

Is this simply how men and women are wired, or are there some gendered biases and stereotypes at play? For many women, there are certain expectations set by society, the media, and even family or peers to be more nurturing and accommodating. It has only been in the last half century that women have actively been a part of the workforce and have pursued careers outside of the home. This can make one wonder, is it possible that women are culturally indoctrinated to respond as a feeler given the expectations set by society rather than her own innate preferences? When we do think of women thinkers, often we think of women who take charge and are perceived as bossy (particularly in the workplace). Growing up, many women thinkers were often criticized for not being nice enough or taking competition too seriously.

These gender stereotypes are also damaging to men. Although nearly half of all men (roughly 45%) can be categorized as feelers, men are often conditioned to be tough and not show emotion beginning from a young age. Growing up, many felt like they didn’t measure up to what a man “should be” and were more uncomfortable with competition and conflict.

In reality, the Thinking-Feeling dichotomy simply comes down to how you prefer to make decisions. Feelers approach the decision-making process by considering other individuals involved before taking action, often asking themselves, “given the circumstances or the people involved, what is the next logical step?” On the other hand, thinkers will simply ask themselves, “what is the next logical step?”

So, the simple answer is yes, gender plays a role in determining personality type through MBTI, but the biases and stereotypes at play are a reflection of society and how we condition and expect men and women to perform and act given their gender roles. Let’s move beyond dichotomies because all personalities and preferences are valid; neither one is good or bad, right or wrong- and all are needed.

 

Curious to discover your personality type? Take a free version of the MBTI or read more about the 16 personality types.

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