What’s Your (Learning) Type: The MBTI Approach to Learning

By Mark Ard

Whats Your Learning Type 1“Hey gurl, you’re an ISFP? I’m an ENTJ, wanna make some flashcards together?”

What? You’ve never used a Myers-Briggs pick up line? Yeah me neither, but if you want to classify and better approach how you relate to knowledge and learning, then hopefully my next couple of posts will help you become a more awesome medical student by better knowing thyself.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is broken down across four domains to determine how individuals perceive, process, and ultimately interact with the world. It’s one of the most researched psychometric personality inventories around.

The 4 Preferences:

• Where you get your energy: Extraversion vs. Introversion
• How you gather information: Sensor vs. Intuitive
• How you make decisions: Thinking vs. Feeling
• How you order your life: Judging vs. Perceiving

In this Part 1, we are going to cover E vs. I and J vs. P

Extraversion vs. Introversion

Whats Your Learning Type 2

The classic question for the E vs. I preference is always “Do you prefer to read a book or go to a party?” But that’s too vague. Is the book you read “Principles of Biochemistry”? No one wants to read that. Are there *refreshments* at this party? Or is this guy invited?

What it’s really asking is where are you reenergized and how do you interact naturally? Do you need to be in your own head for some peace and quiet or get out of it and interact with people? Are you a talker or a listener? Put another way, do you think before you speak, or is your mouth ahead of your brain?

This is important for two reasons. First, you need to know your inherent strengths and weaknesses in medical school. Do you shine when interviewing standardized patients, or do you prefer to let your numbers speak for you. Second, you need to know where to go for recovery. After being forced to interact against the grain of your personality type, you want to “relax” in the way that best fits your type. There are many paths to the same goal, but how you approach different parts of training, what you find “natural” and what you need to practice, and where you go to reenergize, are different for each of us and fall somewhere on the intro- vs extra-version continuum.

Judging vs. Perceiving

Whats Your Learning Type 3

Everyone is a judger when watching American Idol auditions, but for the MBTI, we are concerned with how we order the world. Do you need to control the format and flow of information coming at you (J type), or do you like to be immersed in a learning environment full of change (P type)? Simple test: look at your weekly calendar. Do you have it scheduled to the minute? (Do you schedule sleep??) You might be a J type.

There is a huge difference between the learning environments in the pre-clinical vs. clerkship years. The structure of the classroom and tons of free time to make study schedules and have closure on topics may favor Judgers, but come third year, the Perceivers thrive. Use your type to gain some perspective and find a learning system in which you can succeed.

Next time, we will go over Sensors vs. Intuitives and Thinkers vs. Feelers, probably the most important dichotomies for developing proper study techniques and choosing medical specialties. In the meantime, try a few tests out here and here, or ask if your school offers one. Technically, the only official tests come from the organization’s site, but if you’re getting consistent results on various tests…(something about accuracy vs. precision…) then you might be safe.

And remember, the MBTI is not without criticism. This is awkwardly close to astrology, so don’t use your type as a cop-out. Bolster your strengths, shore up your weakness, and do great things!


Related Articles