Wednesday, November 19th, 2008
Back in the mid-to-late 80’s, when Corey worked on the Atari ST, we looked forward to reading articles by David Small. David invented the Magic Sac, a device that allowed Atari ST owners to run Macintosh software on their ST systems. One of David’s articles talked about the Myers-Briggs personality classification system and a wonderful book called Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types, by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates. Please Understand Me explains the system and includes a test to find your own classification.
Reading that article gave us a fascination for classifying people and fictional characters by the Myers-Briggs system. Lori even keeps notes on the personality type of each of her D&D characters. So it’s not a coincidence that there is a close correspondence between the character classes in The School for Heroes and some of the M-B types.
Here’s a quick explanation of the system. There are four scales that, combined, measure personality. People can fall anywhere on each scale, but for simplicity are classified according to the endpoints. (This bothers Corey, who prefers “fuzzy” measurement systems, but that might just be because he’s a strong “P” on the Myers-Briggs scale.) Um, right, distraction. Let’s try this again. Here are the scales:
- Introvert < ————————————> Extravert
- iNtuitive <————————————> Sensing
- Thinking <————————————> Feeling
- Judging <————————————> Perceiving
Introvert vs. Extravert
The Myers-Briggs system defines an Introvert as someone for whom social interaction (such as at a party) drains energy, and an Extravert as someone whose energy level goes up when they’re surrounded by strangers.
Intuitive vs Sensory
An Intuitive person is one who is interested in meaning and ideas, while a Sensory person prefers more concrete things they can sense.
Thinking vs Feeling
Thinking people value logic and a scientific approach to knowledge, while Feeling people care more about emotions and art.
Judging vs Perceivers
Judging people like order, structure, and system, while Perceiving people prize flexibility and spontaneity. Judgers are happiest once a decision has been made or a task completed, while Perceivers are happier when the task is in progress and the decisions are still open.
Personality types are abbreviated by the first letter of the word (or “N” for “iNtuitive”, since “Introvert” stole the “I”). A person with an ESTJ personality tends to be good at getting things done, but may lack flexibility. They like to work and be with other people, deal with concrete things, solve problems by logic, and finish tasks. That person’s opposite, an INFP, tends to be a dreamer, perhaps an artist or writer. They are uncomfortable around strangers (but very loyal once they get to know someone). They think a lot about ideas hidden meanings, feelings, and emotions. They prefer to philosophize about an issue and take their time thinking about it than jumping to a conclusion that might be wrong.
Interesting, the personality types are not created equal. With 16 archetypes to choose from, some are much more “popular” than others. In the U.S., 52% of the population are ES types (ESTJ, ESTP, ESFJ, or ESFP – each about 13%), 24% are IS, and 20% EN, leaving only 4% for the IN categories. (Last time we looked, Corey was INTP and Lori was INFJ. Guess which of us is better at finishing projects? ) People do seem to shift categories over time; Corey used to be more Extraverted, but has definitely moved to the Introverted side of the equation over the last 15-20 years. The most critical differences are between the four base pairs – SJ, SP, NF, and NT. The E/I scale seems to be a little less important. If you’re Intuitive, the biggest difference is between Thinkers and Feelers, whereas among Sensing personalities, whether they are Judging or Perceiving is the most important difference.
There’s a lot more to the system, particularly about where conflicts are likely to occur between people of conflicting personality types. An ESFJ manager of an INTP programmer will probably think the programmer is indecisive and doesn’t finish tasks on time. That programmer might think her manager is illogical and often makes hasty, bad decisions. By understanding your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of your family and co-workers, you can better understand their thought processes and why they act the way they do.
What about our school class archetypes? We tried to create a balanced system that reflects that not all heroes have the same personality. We want people to be able to discover who they really are
Warriors > Sensory Judgers
Warriors tend to fit the SJ personality type. They like direct action and straightforward decisions. They get things done and make good leaders. Warriors are underrepresented in The School for Heroes compared to the outside world, because many of them are outside playing sports or working with their hands; fewer find their way to the Web or our site. Those who do find us make great additions to the school because they act as catalysts to get everyone moving.
Wizards > Intuitive Thinkers
Wizards tend to fall into the NT category. They like to research, consider all the possibilities, and make well-reasoned judgments before they make a decision. Programmers make likely Wizards. Since those are also people who are likely to browse the Web, we have a much higher representation of Wizards in The School for Heroes than you will find in the general population.
Paladins > Intuitive Feelers
We also have a higher-than-usual complement of Paladins. A lot of that is self-selection because – to many people – Paladins are Heroes and vice versa. Our site says “The School for Heroes” and that idea is attractive to Paladins. Most Paladins are NF personalities. They like philosophies, ideals, and the big picture. They care about people and want to help them. Paladins are the most likely to volunteer for a charity event or the Peace Corps. But the path of the Paladin is by no means the only way to be a Hero.
Rogues > Sensory Perceivers
Rogues can be troublemakers, but they can also be a valuable resource for shaking up a sleepy enterprise and coming up with unique flashes of insight. They tend to be SP personalities – They like excitement, risk, and action with unknown results and consequences. Oh, I think we mentioned that there are no Rogues in The School for Heroes; how could someone who likes to stir up trouble or tweak others want to be a hero? Despite this incongruity, there are still some people who take the Hero Test that seem to come out as Rogues. (We try to integrate them into the new Bard class.)
Bards – the Versatile Class
Bards are usually a hybrid of SP and NFP personalities (not too many Bards have Judging personalities). They are usually Extraverts, although some composers and writers can be Introverted, yet still successful as Bards. They are the communicators, the entertainers, and sometimes the shakers-up of staid traditions (especially those Bards who started out as Rogues). Bards like excitement, but they deal with it in indirect ways rather than by taking direct action as a Warrior might.
Whatever your archetype, there is a place for you in The School for Heroes. We hope that the Hero Test will help you to understand your own personality type a little better. Knowing what drives your decisions may also help you to get along with others of conflicting personality types… or in the case of Warriors, other Warriors when they both want to lead.
Keirsey also has a more recent book, Please Understand Me II, on the subject. We can also recommend Do What You Are, by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger.
Incidentally, for another fun take on the archetypes as related to gaming character types, check out this Monkey, Ninja, Pirate, Robot article. The second page of the article has a fun table suggesting all sorts of correspondences with the “big 4” personality types (SJ, SP, NT, and NF).