MBTI: exploring the S/N axis

I’m of the opinion that the enneagram correlates to the Jungian functions quite well, but that the MBTI frequently measures these badly. Probably the best measuring is for T/F, while E/I can relate to ‘social’ rather than ‘actual’ introversion. The worst-measured, IMHO is the S/N axis. Depending on type, this can skew in a particular direction, give random or biased results, and in some cases actually reverses the orientation. J/P is also problematic at times since it -theoretically – measures the total orientation of all the functions – an INTP and an INTJ have zero functions in common – but may actually vary independently.
As part of analyzing the relationship between the enneagram I’m setting out here to
a) show the questions that are most problematic, i.e. S/N.
b) explain the problems with these in general.
c) lay out likely problems by type, correlating to the enneagram.

The following is a list of the questions from the MBTI which it uses to determine an “S” (sensation) or “N” (intuition) orientation. A scores as sensation, B scores as intuition.
These are listed for the purpose of discussion/criticism, and are not reproduced with any intent to challenge copyright, etc. It is particularly interesting to look at these questions in isolation, since in the context of doing the test problems are less obvious – some of them might just be assumed to be T or F questions, for example.
Part I: The Questions 

2. Are you more:
a. Realistic than speculative
b. Speculative than realistic

3. Is it worse to:
a. Have your “head in the clouds”
b. Be “in a rut”

9. Are you more attracted to:
a. Sensible people
b. Imaginative people

10. Are you more interested in:
a. What is actual
b. What is possible

16. In doing ordinary things are you more
likely to:
a. Do it the usual way
b. Do it your own way

17. Writers should:
a. “Say what they mean and mean what they
say”
b. Express things more by use of analogy

23. Facts:
a. “Speak for themselves”
b. Illustrate principles

24. Are visionaries:
a. somewhat annoying
b. rather fascinating

30. Common sense is:
a. rarely questionable
b. frequently questionable

31. Children often do not:
a. make themselves useful enough
b. exercise their fantasy enough

37. Are you more frequently:
a. a practical sort of person
b. a fanciful sort of person

38. Are you more likely to:
a. see how others are useful
b. see how others see

44. Do you go more by:
a. facts
b. principles

45. Are you more interested in:
a. production and distribution
b. design and research

51. Are you more likely to trust your:
a. experience
b. hunch

52. Do you feel:
a. more practical than ingenious
b. more ingenious than practical

58. Do you prize more in yourself:
a. a strong sense of reality
b. a vivid imagination

59. Are you drawn more to:
a. fundamentals
b. overtones

65. In writings do you prefer:
a. the more literal
b. the more figurative

66. Is it harder for you to:
a. identify with others
b. utilize others
Part II: Does it work?
Here lets look at how well the questions fit into the Jungian ‘functions’.
Note that Jung considers introverted intuition and extraverted intuition to be separate functions, and likewise with introverted sensation/extraverted sensation.
“Introverted sensation” is described as highly subjective and irrational – giving an ‘artistic’ view, rather than a realistic one. As such, qualities like ‘imagination’ and ‘impracticality’ are qualities which can be associated with Si. Questions which measure these, largely overlook introverted sensation (e.g. 2,3,9,10,24,37,45,52,55 )
The form of intuition here, is likewise primarily of the extraverted type. Introverted intuition is something not that well described by Jung (with his focus on symbols and the collective unconscious). Whereas extraverted sensation reaches out toward the object (libido being invested in the object), introverted intuition is formed as a counter to it and has a distinctly negative quality – what problems would occur from trying to possess the object? However, the introverted intuitive may not seem so ‘imaginative’ or ‘unorthodox’ . (e.g. qu 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 24, 30, 37, 58). Qu. #59 (fundamentals vs. overtones) almost taps into advanced Ni’s focus on finding something under the surface that “doesn’t fit” and so redefining the problem (the “twist” in a story) but isn’t well-expressed.
In general, both extraverted-thinking and extraverted-sensation are ‘practical’ and are ways to deal with the outside world. Question 16 (=”do you do things in a weird way for no real reason?”) reflects the sort of bias here – the test being designed by an introverted feeling/extraverted intuitive “INFP” (4w5), and calibrated against this, the question’s answer assumes not just extraverted intuition, but that extraverted intuition is substituting for an extraverted inferior thinking function. #16 could also go the other way to b) for a Te-dominant who does things ‘unusually’ by calculating the best way to do it all the time [e.g. my dad, 1w2, would be an ENTJ and had a particular way of washing dishes which always started with glasses, then cutlery, then plates, then pots etc., to maximize cleaning or something. The same sort of mechanical precision went into everything].
qu. 17 and qu. 65 – literal vs. figurative – are essentially the same question, and overlook how analogies actually frequently have a ‘feeling’ quality. While analogies are sometimes illustrative, frequently they make an emotional point, hence the role of such things in politics (“would you eat a jar of jellybeans if three of them would kill you” – the Trump immigration slogan). Thinking types may be less fond of analogies because they can be used to ‘sell’ bad ideas by ignoring details or focussing on emotive facts.
Another a class of questions here measure ‘abstraction’ which can be a function of e.g. introverted thinking. This would include 23 and 44 (facts vs. principles), 37, 45 (design vs. implementation), 52 (ingenuity), imagination (58) and maybe 51 (hunch). 23 and 44 actually almost perfectly encapsulate the difference between “extraverted thinking” and “introverted thinking”.
Finally, a very few questions assume that S types are particularly insensitive or prone to ‘utilize’ people (=correlates more to T). These would include 31, 38, 66, and again show that the test designer had high F and N, sometimes finding it difficult to tell which is what.
Note that the questions are also inherently biased toward “S”, given that they produce 75% majority for sensation rather than a 50/50 split.

Part III: correlation of this to the Enneagram
My theoretical matchup of functions to the enneagram by type is pretty much as follows, based on evaluation of people and attempting to read authors and determine their primary functions.
Note that the first (type) function appears more or less automatically, the second function develops later, with over time the 3rd function growing and so their being a rebalancing of 2nd/3rd. Development of the 4th function is particularly slow and painful.

functionmap

 

1: Extraverted Thinking.
2: Extraverted Feeling.  2w1 has a stack of Fe/Si/Ne/Ti. 2w3 has a stack of Fe/Ni/Se/Ti. Overall the 2w1 uses Ne as a ‘fuzzier’ Te.
3: Extraverted Sensation. /w2 has Ti (keeping Fe as tertiary and promoting inferior), /w4 has Fi.
4: Introverted Feeling. 4w3 has Se secondary, 4w5 has Ne secondary. /w5 has especially poor ‘extraverted’ parts of feeling, but also some capacity to do introverted thinking.
5: Introverted thinking. /w4 has some ability to do Fi as well, and an outward-focussed Ne secondary. /w6 actually has an Se secondary, with particularly complex thinking that’s actually a combination of Ti+Ni.
6: Introverted intuition. /w5 should be “Fe” secondary, but may also strongly develop tertiary thinking (Ti), making T/F hard to determine. /w6 adapts 7 extraverted intuition into extraverted thinking.
7: Extraverted intuitive. /w6 adapts Six Ni into Ti, /w8 has Fi [7 default, keeping Te in stack because of the disintegration arrow to One]
8: Extraverted Sensation. /w7 has Ti auxiliary (Ti and Fe due to 5 integration and disintegration arrow), w9 has Fi secondary (adapted from 9 “Fi”).
9: Introverted sensation. /w8 has Fe secondary (modified from 8 Se), /w1 has Te secondary (One).

So – what are the likely problems here with measurement by type?
*One, Two: The main function is generally measured accurately. A 1 or 2 may be socially introverted, in which case they might show as an IXTJ or IXFJ (mixing up actual function order – the inferior function is type-determined and type-diagnostic).
For Twos especially, the MBTI is much better at finding ‘extraverted’ intuition or sensation, so the MBTI might well pick up the 3rd function rather than the 2nd, reversing their S/N.

*Three: MBTI often scores Threes high in E and S, but 3s also score high in ‘J’, being especially motivated and always ‘doing’.
*Fours: a 4w5 will likely score extremely high-N [INFP], which is accurate but emphasized by the test particularly. Some 4s seem to score higher in “J” – this is most likely a result of a 3-wing, with 4s not really being strong in extraverted feeling. [also, occasionally a 2 may be misclassified as a 4].
*Fives: Fives of either wing may score as INTPs (though ISTP is possible, being more likely for 5w6s with a ‘light’ 6-wing but partly resulting from inherent S-bias). 4w5 may score more in the middle with T/F. Fives might score toward “J” as a result of inferior feeling, in some cases, or other reasons.

*Six:  their Ni-dom is largely undetectable by the test, meaning they will more frequently score as S due to inherent S-bias of the test. As noted above, questions on ‘imagination’ overlook how 6s are likely to use imagination ‘negatively’ rather than ‘positively’, and so be more conformist (a Six getting a dog wonders if it will get on with the cat or annoy the neighbours or bite their child, balancing that against how well it safeguards the house).
Sixes also score somewhat extraverted, despite their orientation being technically ‘introverted’. Actual results are highly variable, 6w5s seem particularly likely to score as INTJs and be mistaken for Fives.
*Seven: Sevens mysteriously alter between Ne and Se primary when tested on the MBTI. 7s tend toward Ne-primary, probably scoring higher in N for /w6 (actually due to Ti mismeasurement), or higher in S in 7w8 (due to Te mismeasurement). Some also score over the ‘S’ cutoff due to the tests inherent bias toward S.

*Eight: Eights are probably extraverted sensation, though /w9 adds more introversion. Introverted feeling in /w9 may be mis-scored lower by the test – Fi really reflects ‘awareness of own feelings’, rather than being strongly moral in nature [which is confirmed somewhat by One, being the most moralizing of the types despite or because of a tendency to ignore their own feelings]. 8w7 [Ti aux.] are probably likely to score somewhat toward N. Se may also be misread as “Te”. Overall, 8s seem to score all over the place on MBTI.

*Rather than scoring all over the place, Nines consistently score ‘wrong’. Nines typically score as INFPs, due to a combination of the tests’ particular tendency to pick up mainly extraverted sensation, and slightly to their particular sensitivity to others (unrelated to their functions?). Nines shows a strong bias toward P despite having theoretically extraverted feeling or thinking (/w1 would probably have slightly more “J”).
Nine’s have a particular sensitivity to artistic or aesthetic factors, with probably a particularly good visual imagination and memory (whereas pure Ni can be more ‘conceptual’ in nature). Nines also have a tendency to notice bodily sensations that’s higher than other types. These factors are largely overlooked/scored poorly.

 

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