The Fundamental Four

Exploring the deepest motivational drives

MBTI, ABCD and the Fundamental Four

The unifying themes underlying Jungian typology and Theodore Millon's theories.

I'm an ENFJ.

I'm an ENFJ. (Photo credit: MTSOfan)

I have an abiding interest in personality theory and before people jump at me as to why I am still stuck with MBTI and Jungian typology when validated and consensus alternatives like Big 5/OCEAN or other biologically based models like Eysenck’s or Jeffery Gray’s  or Cloninger’s are readily available, let me clarify that I have deep respect for these new theories and have attempted a synthesis between these different theories many times in the past.  

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In my earlier postings, I have touched upon personality from both factor-analytical traits based perspectives and models based on biological and genetic underpinnings. Developmental and stage based approaches like Erikson’s or Selman’s or Loveienger’s theories is another prism via which I have tried to shed light on the phenomenon of personality. What I have not touched till now, and shied away from, are various perspectives on personality from a psychoanalytical angle—be it Freudian or from Fromm—the psychologist whose book Anatomy of Human Destructivity drew me to psychology in the first place and had a seminal influence on me.

However, it also remains the fact that MBTI is the most well-known personality inventory and classification system that people are aware of and has almost achieved a cult status. Some people consider MBTI types no more predictive or valid than your sun signs, but I beg to differ. I took MBTI way back in college (and came out INTJ), then in the era of internet boom experimented a lot with Keirsey temperament sorter (even joined some mailing groups corresponding to my typology) - and in between for a brief period  was coming out as INFP; and yesterday after a long time I took a brief test based on MBTI, and found that I have now morphed into an ENFJ. (I had been consciously working on my extraversion and feeling aspects and was glad to see that I have succeeded there!) As you can see, I fit the careers predicted for ENFJ’s to the T: I fancy myself a psychologist, I have taken counseling training and believe myself to be a natural at that; I am at a middle management position in my organization as part of my day job which involves computer programming. SO I am making the best of both worlds where ENFJs are predicted to prosper!!

But anyway enough about the sample size 1 self-validation of MBTIJ; what I want to do here is relate the MBTI to my ABCD framework and the four fundamental polarities as proposed by Theodore Millon.

First a recap:

A stands for Affect based or physical/sensation based dimension where the polarity of pain and pleasure is at play.

B stands for Behavioral dimension that can be at the polar extremes of being too active or too passive.   

C stands of Cognitive dimension where your cognitive focus can be narrow (tied to intelligence/ intellect) or more broad and diffuse (related to creativity/ openness).

D is for Drive/Dynamics – the motivational/ social/ value based dimension where one is either driven by self-interest or by needs of and empathy for significant others.

It’s important to note that A & D typically work together – the Emotional-Motivational Matrix; while B & C are more tightly coupled and make the Cognitive-Behavioral Matrix.

So how does that relate to MBTI factors?

To recap:

I is for Introversion and E for Extraversion and people differing on this dimension differ in what energizes them most or depletes them most—other people or time-with-self. While extraverts have a more outgoing/socializing and active nature, introverts are more private, pensive, and if I may say so, passive nature. The most striking differences are observed at behavioral level and fit the active-passive polarity.

N is for Intuition and S is for sensing and this dimension distinguishes between how people gather data to make decisions or in other words their predominant information gathering schema. This is closely tied to the Affective or physical/sensation based dimension and while focusing on details and experiences, and making decisions in an effortful and painstaking manner primes one towards pain and misery; the intuitive way of gathering data and making decisions is much more fun/pleasurable/liberating.  

T is for Thinking and F is for Feeling and this dimension again governs what is at the top of our mind while making decisions or what is indeed guiding our actions—whether its rational and deliberative thinking that is steeped in self-interest or whether it’s irrational, empathy based, touchy-feely concern for others that guides our actions. I typically think of F as being more about people orientation/mentalistic and related to DMN, while T as more task oriented/analytical and related to TPN.

Finally, J is for Judging and P is for Perceiving and this dimension codes for how you habitually live your life—whether spontaneously/chaotically or in a planned and deterministic manner. It’s clearly tied to cognitively based executive functions - where one could either live with too much (cognitive/ behavioral) structure (a narrow approach) or avoid structure and live without much structure in one’s life ( a broader approach).

And just like A & D are tightly coupled so too the NF, NT, SF and ST are at a different conceptual and predictive level within the MBTI framework.   

To me the fact that the oldest ‘modern’ personality system lik e MBTI is also resonant with the ABCD/fundamental four model and the newer biological/genetic/factor based theories also align well with that model bodes well for the eventual simplification and unification of different personality systems.

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Sandeep Gautam is a software developer and psychology enthusiast.

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