In our psychology class today, we covered the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which is probably the most widely-used psychologically-validated personality test in this country, and probably the world. While I have taught this to hundreds of adults, it was particularly satisfying to cover this material with this age group (middle school to young teens). As opposed to adults, who usually have at least some inkling about some of the MBTI traits, this age group has usually never been exposed to these terms before. But as it is presented, you can really see them taking it in and applying it to themselves and other people among their families and friends. And I personally think this is a fabulous thing to expose them to early, because I think understanding Myers-Briggs differences between people can really reduce judgement and conflict between people, whether applied to your family, your friends, your community, or your world.
There are four trait continuums in the Myers-Briggs test:
Extrovert (outward focused, get energy from social interaction) vs. Introvert (inwardly focused, gets energy from being alone)
Sensory (gets information from senses, usually linear and sequential thinker, focused on the tangible, component thinker/sees trees rather than forest) vs. Intuitive (gets information from mental connections between items, usually broad/web-like thinker, focused on patterns and relationships, big picture thinker/sees forest rather than trees)
Thinking (makes decision based on logical, rational, data-driven process) vs. Feeling (makes decisions based on feelings, emotions, or non-logical process)
Judging (prefers life that is known, routine, fixed, organized, closed-ended or settled) vs. Perceiving (prefers life that is casual, flexible, changing, unpredictable, open-ended or unsettled)
I tried to come up with an experiential exercise to help introduce each trait. For Extrovert vs. Introvert, I had one side throw a ball into a bag held by a partner on the other side after saying a word they related to the word “outgoing.” The other side had to get the ball out of the bag, say a word they related to the word “introspective,” then throw it back to the other side. The point of this exchange, besides having them think about what it is to be outgoing (extroverted) or introspective (introverted), is that extroverts are always willing to throw the conversational ball to you, but introverts usually have to go within (in this case, within the bag) before coming up with a conversational ball to return to the other side.
For Sensory vs. Intuitive, I gave them slices of apples, told them to look at them, feel them, smell them, then close their eyes and eat them, then write down what they noticed/thought about. Some people stuck strictly to describing the apple (Sensory information). Others began to drift off to other topics: from apples to oatmeal (from eating apple cinnamon oatmeal) to thinking about being hungry (or not) to eating something else to nutritional science to something as far flung as Reese Witherspoon (OK, so that was me, but it’s not as crazy as you might think...apples made me think of apple picking, which made me think of the rumor that Taylor Swift went on an apple-picking date with Jake Gyllenhaal, which made me think about him breaking up with...Reese Witherspoon!) The answers to this question helped them see who stuck to more tangible or sensory information, and who wandered over to the realm of the Intuitives.
For Thinking vs. Feeling, I gave them this dilemma. Our class of eight students have been offered an all-expense-paid trip to a fabulous place that everyone would enjoy (such as Disneyworld). However, the offer is only good for a maximum of six students. Should we turn it down if everyone can’t go? Or if we accept, how do we decide who should go and who should be left behind? Again, there isn’t a right or wrong answer to this. However, during the discussion of their reasoning in answering this question, it was pretty easy to see who was thinking logically(give preference to those who haven’t been before, or just choose randomly, etc. ) and who was thinking emotionally (we should stay instead of leaving people out, or I would rather not go then leave a friend behind).
For our final trait (Judging vs. Perceiving), I gave them an easy example: Describe the scene at your house as you prepare to come to the coop where the class is being given today. A few had stories of a quiet, organized, prepared morning (everyone Judging), but most of the students were telling tales out of school, confessing that their mothers were yelling at them to hurry up because they were running late (Judging parent, Perceiving children) or children who were fussing at their parents to hurry up or they would be late as the mother was still running off sheets for today’s class (Judging children, Perceiving parent).
This was a fun, but more accessible way, to present the MBTI to the students. After each trait discussion, we also created a continuum in the classroom and had the students place themselves where they thought they were on each trait (extreme E, slight E, borderline E/I, slight I, exteme I, etc.). Then they are supposed to go home and take an online MBTI test and see if their test results fit where they rate themselves.