Analysis of MBTI type patterns in college scholars

Analysis of MBTI type patterns in college scholars

Wendy A. Folger

In this study, the MBTI was administered to recipients of competitive scholarships (full tuition, room, board, and stipend) awarded to the brightest incoming freshmen at Central Michigan University (based on GPA, essay and interviews). The purpose was to assess where Thinking is expressed in the personalities of gifted and talented college students. A five year population of Centralis Scholars, N=93, was examined to see if and how it might differ from the CAPT Reference group, N= 28356. Fifty seven percent of the scholars had results with Thinking evenly split between being in the Inferior and Tertiary. The remaining scholars (43%) had thinking in their Dominate or Auxiliary. The results suggest that logic may be in the unconscious of gifted and talented individuals, which tends to defy conventional wisdom.


Drawing on an investigation by Eick (1988), the authors reviewed the results of gifted and talented elementary students, as assessed using the Murphy-Meisgeier Type Indicator for Children ([MMTIC] Meisgeier & Murphy, 1987). In this study of second and fifth grade gifted students, the results appeared to be very unusual. By taking the results of the MMTIC assessment and observing the Type Table, the tertiary and inferior aspects of the Types were 100% Thinking. Since this finding was taken from a small sample (N=26), no conclusions could be drawn. Thus, other studies over diverse populations with larger numbers would be required to assess where Thinking is expressed in the personalities of the gifted and talented among us. The authors of this research chose to use archival records of college scholars who were assessed using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), Form F (Myers & Briggs, 1990), for the years 1990-1994.

The Centralis Scholars Program at Central Michigan University is a competitive scholarship program for high school seniors and community college students with a grade point average (GPA) of 3.5 or higher Central Michigan University (Central Michigan University [CMU], 2000b). The candidates are invited to compete for these scholarships and are chosen on the basis of GPA and a written essay. If a student is granted a Centralis Scholar Award, the student will receive the full cost of tuition, fees, room and board, and a small stipend for books and supplies. These awards are renewable up to eight semesters as long as the student maintains at least a 3.25 GPA while attending the university (CMU, 2000a). Because of the very nature of these awards, The Centralis Scholars at Central Michigan University represent the very best and brightest of the student population.

Much of the work surrounding the clusters of subgroups who share common response patterns have given those using the MBTI tremendous insight into how these subgroups process information, make decisions, and solve problems. There seems to be enough evidence to lead most educators and others to assume that the gifted and talented among us score higher on tests of science and mathematics. Conventional wisdom gives logic a high priority in the learning process. Few would conclude that gifted learners do not employ Thinking as the rational process to utilize logical principles. Were the elementary gifted students an anomaly of some sort? How could they have Thinking, which is a preference for making decisions objectively, in their Inferior or Tertiary Function? Are the gifted learners, with their learning styles incorporating high motivation, high achievement and demonstrating exemplary aptitudes, actually using the valuing process Feeling to make their decisions?

Exploring the Tertiary and Inferior

Johnson (1991) urges, “Please remember that the shadow in Jung’s early usage, was anything that lay in the unconscious part of one’s personality” (p. 42). In theory, the gifted children that were discussed earlier are rejecting Thinking in their decision-making process. Thus, Thinking is in the unconscious.

Miller (1989) credits Jung for identifying four functions as opposite pairs in the personality.

Each of us is predisposed to develop

one or the other of each of these pairs

of opposites and posit them in our

personality, while the opposite functions,

which are rejected, are relegated

to shadow status as inferior functions.

These, then, add to the potential of

the undeveloped self along with the

inferior attitude in the shadow. (p. 88)

The author then explains by example that Thinking types deny their opposite Feeling characteristics, and Feeling types likewise tend to hang on to their Feeling characteristics. Thus, the conclusion is drawn that the preferred function Feeling is sustained rather than drawing upon the undesirable function Thinking.

Quenk (1993) indicates that a lowered level of consciousness causes one to draw upon the unconscious, “The most different approach possible is likely to be the least familiar, most undeveloped, and unused aspects of the personality, which we now recognize as the inferior (and often the tertiary function as well)” (p. 49). In discussing the hidden aspects of personality, “Jung believed that the auxiliary and tertiary could achieve some degree of differentiation, but was quite clear that it was necessary that the inferior remain outside conscious control” (Quenk, 1993, pp. 53-54).

Thompson (1996) states,

The significance of the inferior function

is twofold. The first is that being

inferior, this function tends to manifest

in a more primitive and archaic

form when it enters consciousness.

Thus, we tend not to be very proficient

at using it. (p. 9)

Murphy (1992) explained that,

The inferior function is so called

because it is the last to develop. During

the growing years, a person may

not be able to use the inferior function

as effectively or efficiently and

may have a difficult time meeting

expectations that require the use of

the inferior function. (p. 13)

The author then describes functions in terms of lacking in development. “Behaviors affected by an undeveloped or underdeveloped function will be less mature and less effective than behaviors affected by a well-developed function” (p. 15).

Murphy makes it clear that human beings are not restricted from utilizing less-preferred functions, but states, “Even though the inferior function does develop, its effectiveness as a part of the personality is less developed and less mature than all the other functions” (p. 14).


The purpose of this study is twofold; first, develop a Type Table to address the Centralis Scholars Tertiary and Inferior functions. Second, use the Type Table to determine statistically if the scholar’s personality types are over-represented or under-represented in relation to the general population.

Applying Granade and Myers’ (1987) Selection Ratio Type Table (SRTT) computer program, a frequency distribution of types was generated. A five year population of Centralis Scholars, N = 93, was examined to see how it differs from the CAPT reference group, N = 28,356. Both groups answered the Form F MBTI instrument. Selection ratios and Chi-squares statistics were generated to provide results (see Type Table).


The Type hypothesis provides a basic framework for understanding how personality type is related to attitude and function in human beings. Bly (1989), in reporting on the Jungian analyst von Franz in explaining the shadow as part of the psyche, “tells of an occasion when Jung, impatient as always with Jungians, dismissed a nit-picking discussion of the concept by protesting, ‘This is all nonsense! The shadow is simply the whole unconscious'”(p. 2).

The Centralis Scholars study resulted in 57% with Thinking in the “whole unconscious”. Evenly distributed, 26 scholars had Thinking in their Inferior, and 27 in their Tertiary (N = 93, 53 = 57%). The remaining 40 scholars had Thinking in their Dominant or Auxiliary (N = 93, 40 = 43%). Jungian followers will draw their own conclusions as to how this evolves in the gifted and talented.

The Type Table provides a percentage for each type and a selection ratio indicating representation in relation to the norm. A ratio greater than 1.00 indicates overrepresentation. A ratio of less than 1.00 indicates that the type is underrepresented in relation to the reference group. In a grouping of 16 personality types, 8 are over represented and 8 are underrepresented. In an observation of Dichotomous Preferences, Sensors are under-represented and Intuitives are over-represented, both at the .01 alpha level. Pairs and Temperaments have some interesting Chi square findings. Introverted Perceivers are over represented at the .05 level. Sensing Thinkers are underrepresented at the .01 level of significance. With only 8 Sensing Perceivers in the group of 93 scholars, the under representation is significant at the .05 level. Intuitive Perceivers have an alpha of .01 indicating over-representation. Introverted Intuitives show a Chi square significance level at .001. The Introverted Sensors are at the .01 level of significance and underrepresented in comparison to the normative CAPT group.


Few educators would conclude that a 5-year sample of the best and the brightest would yield such results. Over 50% of the individual scholars assessed devalued the decision-making function Thinking. Are we observing Whole Type development? Are the 53 over represented Feeling types engaged in some form of emotional intelligence? Is the collective unconscious at work here? The suggestion is made that this is an area of promise. These findings raise a variety of concerns about learning styles and cognitive mapping.


By assessing scholars using the MBTI, it may be possible to come to some agreement on learning theory. This study needs to be replicated. Better yet, a longitudinal study of the developing child and the mature adult is a possible research direction. Eigenberger, Sealander, Jacobs and Shellady (2001) studied critical thinking as both an attitude and a skill. Future educators were found to lack interest in critical thinking and were uncomfortable with such a tendency. One can only generalize that Thinking, as measured by the MBTI, constitutes critical thinking. Nevertheless, 57% of the gifted and talented Centralis Scholars had Thinking as a lowered level of consciousness. Jungian theory postulates that when one draws upon this unconscious, “The most different approach possible is likely to be the least familiar, most undeveloped, and unused aspects of the personality, which we now recognize as the inferior (and often the tertiary function as well)” (Quenk, 1993, p. 49).

To speculate that a high percentage of academically talented individuals bypass logic in their decision-making is truly controversial. Even more controversial is the notion that the success of these scholars is predicated upon Goleman’s (1995) contention that emotional intelligence can matter more than IQ.

Table 1.

Distribution of MBTI Types for Centralis Scholars N=93

Sensing Types Intuitive Types

With With With With

Thinking Feeling Feeling Thinking



N= 1 N= 7 N= 5 N= 6 D T

%= 1.08 %=7.53 %= 5.38 %= 6.45 G R

I= 0.12 I=1.06 I= 1.21 I= 1.14 E O



N= 2 N= 1 N= 13 N= 11 R R

%= 2.15 %=1.08 %=13.98 %=11.83 C T

I= 0.63 I=0.26 I=1.96 I=2.31 E S



N= 1 N= 4 N= 11 N= 5 I T

%= 1.08 %=4.30 %=11.83 %= 5.38 V R

I= 0.31 I=0.87 I=1.10 I= 0.90 E O



N= 7 N= 9 N= 3 N= 7 D R

%= 7.53 %=9.68 %= 3.23 %= 7.53 G T

I= 0.83 I=1.30 I= 0.59 I= 1.13 E S

N % I

E 47 50.54 0.94

I 46 49.46 1.07

S 32 34.41 0.71 (#)

N 61 65.59 1.28 (#)

T 40 43.01 0.89

F 53 56.99 1.11

J 45 48.39 0.88

P 48 51.61 1.15

IJ 19 20.43 0.78

IP 27 29.03 1.46 (“)

EP 21 22.58 0.90

EJ 26 27.96 0.98

ST 11 11.83 0.47 (#)

SF 21 22.58 0.95

NF 32 34.41 1.24

NT 29 31.18 1.33

SJ 24 25.81 0.79

SP 8 8.06 0.54 (“)

NP 40 43.01 1.48 (#)

NJ 21 22.58 1.02

TJ 21 22.58 0.74

TP 19 20.43 1.14

FP 29 31.18 1.15

FJ 24 25.81 1.05

IN 35 37.63 1.68 *

EN 26 27.96 0.97

IS 11 11.83 0.50 (#)

ES 21 22.58 0.91

Notes concerning symbols followine the selection ratios:

(“) implies significance at the .05 level (Chi-square>3.8)

(#) implies significance at the .01 level (Chi-square>6.6)

* implies significance at the .001 level (Chi-square>10.8)

% percent of total choosing this group who fall into this

I self-selection index: ratio of percent of type in group to percent in


Base population used in calculating selection ratios: Form F, Base

total N=28356. Source MBTI Type Table, Center for Applications of

Psychological Type


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