What the Myers-Briggs distribution of types really means

NB: this article is now outdated. It was an early draft of the hunter-gatherer hypothesis and contained too many speculative ideas. 

I have come across a couple of explanations what the distribution of the Myers-Briggs types means. One common explanation is that you either belong to a common type (good thing, because it means you aren’t so different) or to a rare type (good thing, because you are something special). Somehow that logic doesn’t seem watertight to me, but in my experience, people often feel pride or relief when they learn about their MBTI. 

However, that doesn’t really answer the question. The answer is very simple, though. The distribution of types represents their past reproductive success.


Looking at the below table is easy to see that there is a rough correlation between income (particularly STJ types) and reproductive success for men. However, that is true for sensors only. For intuitive men, the reverse is true: the ambitious N(T)J types have fewer offspring than the more “relaxed” NP types!



For women, you can interpret the type distribution chart the following way: the more “girly” a woman is the more children she has. This corresponds to the superficial image of women with which we are constantly bombarded by the media.


One thing that is immediately clear from the chart is that intuitives have fewer children. There are several reasons for this:

  1. Intuitives are programmed by evolution to survive during hard times. This makes them want to have fewer children in the first place but invest more resources in the fewer children.
  2. Intuitives are programmed by evolution to delay reproduction. That makes them have children later in life than sensors.
  3. Intuitives are programmed by evolution to avoid reproduction during unsettled times. This explains why the reverse is true for intuitives:  ambitious intuitive types give priority to their career than to having a family life until they feel they can settle down, However, nowadays it may seem to these types that no time is the right time to have children. For sensors career, status and reproduction go hand in hand. For intuitives it means more stress and more reason to delay child-rearing.
  4. Intuitives don’t have the traditional male/female roles. Typically, both partners want to have a career, which makes it really hard to have children. With sensors, the type who is most willing to stay at home (ISFJ) and take care of the children is also the most successful one at reproduction.
  5. Intuitives are choosier when it comes to mate choice (this was highly advantageous in times when survival was difficult) which makes it harder for them to find the right mate.
  6. Intuitives have become rare in our culture (not so in Asian countries like Japan, for example), which makes it even more difficult to find a partner.


Comments

  1. This makes no sense because MBTI type is not an inherited trait. What type your parents are has no impact on your type. So how would reproductive success affect what types are numerous?

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    1. actually there is no reason to believe that "is not inherited", as an INTJ woman I can tell you my family is full of "IN", traits and personalities are in part, inherited, studies with separated twins has confirmed this personality heritage.

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    2. ENTP here

      Perhaps, it's not inheritance but rather more of the environment they've grown up in! Afterall, it's common for offspring to take on the ideologies and reasoning of their parents.

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    3. Hi, to reply to Hesfialtes, I am an ENTJ in a family full of F’s. I am the only T amongst 6 others F’s. Similarly, my sister is the only P amongst 6 J’s. So I’m not convinced it’s completely inherited in regards to seeing hereditary patterns via the mbti

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    4. My sense is that a lot of MBIT is inherited. For example, my father is an ENTJ. I'm an ENTJ.

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  2. I resent the ENFP hunch a little bit....

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    1. apologies... sorry, that was rubbish :(

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  3. Lmao is any of this really true? I was believing it until I read about the ENFP part. I'm a 18 years old ENFP with good grades (while barely giving efforts to study), a large circle of friends and no problem fitting in, and with utter disgust for drugs and zero interest in love as well. You could of course tell me I'm an exception but literally any ENFP I came across and all my research has nothing in common with what you say. Most likely to have bad grades and not fit in? Lmao what is your source for that? One ENFP you met throughout your life?

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    1. Lol I don't know how to edit comments so I also wanted to add how could you know we're not the typical girls either? I'm like the girliest girl in my group of friend and I'm not a risk taker. The only risk I've ever taken are standing up to even teachers when I feel like an injustice is going on. Please share your source or your hunch really means nothing and would make any ENFP doubt your whole post.

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    2. In the end his statement was merely a hunch. The foundation of his hunch was probably basing on ENFP stereotypes which may not apply to every ENFP. Don't take it too seriously, I mean regardless of what mbti type every individual is unique and every ENFP will be different ;D

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    3. ENFP girly girl here as well. I always had great grades in school, and I did not drink or have sex until college. I have been with my husband for 13 years, and I just had my first kid 2 months ago at the age of 32. So I am going to agree that this ENFP “hunch” is probably based off of one ENFP that the author has met in his life ;)

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    4. Apologies to all ENFPs. The hunch was actually based on my early reading about MBTI and a piece of false information about ENFPs :( and what I wrote was complete rubbish.
      I now know who the ENFPs in my life are... I even have an ENFP daughter.
      I know that ENFPs can be brilliant, but they also often struggle at school. See statistic here: https://i.redd.it/yp979b5487u01.jpg (plus I can confirm this from my own experience as I do the MBTI with all my students).


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    5. As a data scientist who scored 10 points below perfect on her SATs, I'm going to say you shouldn't blindly believe images on the internet.

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    6. I want to see peer reviewed papers with details of how they created their study, not just some random graph. I can pick my data in some horribly biased fashion and show you whatever I want. It doesn't actually mean anything.

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    7. I'd also suggest having someone look over your article. It's riddled with grammatical errors.

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  4. Preference and type labels are indirect abstractions which correlate, but far from perfectly, with directly measurable abstractions, which themselves probably have a strong heritable basis (through genes and through upbringing).

    The suggestion that the prevalence of a type is related to the reproductive success of that type is flawed for that reason. If you would make an argument of this nature then the argument should be about the basic heritable traits which underlie the measurable abstractions to which preference and type labels correlate.

    There are many other possibilities that your hypothesis fails to consider (sufficiently):
    - certain preferences/types emerged more recently in the evolutionary history of man and the population has yet to reach the proper equilibrium according to fitness
    - reproductive success within a niche is sustainable without implying success as the major part of the population
    - within preference or type, reproductive success is polarised, and other factors are more important
    - sociocultural factors are sufficiently influential on what is "fit", but so unstable, that any trend may not be relied upon in other periods of history
    I'm sure we can think of many more.

    It's an interesting angle, however.

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  5. I am an ENTJ.

    Good Analysis. And I would read more of your articles.

    But 1 hole in your argument I detected: in the past, Neither N nor S types had access to contraception. So both would produce equally. I can imagine myself in hunter gathered life 10k years ago and not giving fuck how many children I have. Because I can't control that. No contraception.

    I would fuck as many girls as I want because life is short. So sex is more important. Other things come by as time goes on.

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    1. As a man, you might want to have sex with as many women as you like, but N-type women would be more choosy. Thus, N-type could be less common because of N-type women, not because of N-type men.

      However, I do like the author's theory. I'm ENTJ and I don't want children until I'm fully ready. I'm already much better off financially and in maturity than some of my S friends who already have children.

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    2. interesting observation! Well, true, also in my experience. But also many N guys are choosy. The thing is there is a difference between wanting to have sex with as many women as possbile and deterring the one you really want by doing it ;)

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    3. Apparently you have not researched the history of birth control and female prevention of such. Perhaps as an INTP female I understand that women have always needed to choose and we have always found ways to reduce risk of pregnancy. Half a lemon is acidic and a good barrier...and most men would not notice this inserted into a womans vagina as it is much like a cervical cap. this is just one of many ways that women have used nature to keep ourselves from becoming pregnant. HOWEVER...i do think this knowledge of contraception is an outlier trait. It was probably one reason women who were intellectual intuitives were called witches. We know how to control our bodies using the natural resources around us.

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