We can divide frameworks that address temperament differences into Psychological Typologies (that tend to focus on disfunction), Educational Typologies (that tend to focus on learning styles), and Business/Organizational Development Typologies (that tend to focus on work and communication styles).
The spectrum of psychological thought includes many perspectives on personality and a number of formal typologies. Three of the more formal typologies are briefly discussed here for comparison.
The DSM scheme is the most common typology used in mental health settings. It is a pure pathology model, with difference defined in terms of deviation from a norm. It is useful for making distinctions between patterns of severe mental disturbance (and for filling out insurance forms). It has little value for the task of understanding diversity.
Myers-Briggs Typology Indicator—
Developed from the theoretical work of psychiatrist Carl Jung, the Myers-Briggs system has probably the most in common with the Creative Systems Personality Typology. It divides personality into 16 types based on questions designed to separate people along four polarities: introversion vs. extroversion, intuiting vs. sensing, thinking vs. feeling, and perceiving vs. judging. It shares with the CSPT an ability to address diversity separate from health and disease and an appreciation of a wide range of personality tendencies.
The CSPT steps beyond the Myers-Briggs in a number of ways. While Myers-Briggs focuses only on diversity, the CSPT addresses both diversity and issues of capacity/health/symptomology. The CSPT is dynamically based in a deeper sense than the Myers-Briggs and is thus a more effective tool for understanding the why of personality characteristics and subtleties both in personality differences and potential complementarities. The CSPT brings the body into our conception of the psyche, creating a fuller and more living picture of personality and better depicting types where body intelligence is primary. (Early/Lowers, for example, are pretty much left out in Myers-Briggs.) And while Myers-Briggs focuses solely on individuals, Creative Systems thinking views individuals systemically, both in terms of their place within other systems (family/community/culture) and their place in time (point in creative tasks, relationships, lifetime, or the lifetime of culture).
In general, people who appreciate the Myers-Briggs tend as well to appreciate the CSPT. A common comment: “It honors diversity like Myers-Briggs, but does it from a deeper place. It is a more subtle and dynamic, and because of this more broadly and creatively applicable.”
The Bioenergetic Typologies—
Originated by Alexander Lowen and John Pierrakos and developed in a modified version by Stanley Keleman, these typologies are mentioned here because their central focus is the body—an ingredient missing in both DSM and Myers-Briggs. Their primary shortcoming is that they are largely pathology models and thus limited in their capacity to help us understand the creative complementarities of diversity.
The importance of learning style diversity is becoming more and more recognized in educational circles. In response we are seeing a growing array of typologies framed in educational language.
Some focus primarily on the modalities or “intelligences” used in learning. At the simplest level we find popular notions such as “left hemisphere” and “right hemisphere” thinking. Howard Gardner at Boston University School of Medicine delineates seven different intelligences: linguistic, musical, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. Yale University psychologist uses what he calls a “triarchic” model of intelligence, dividing the pie into componential (analytic), experiential (creative), and contextual (street smarts) intelligence. Barbe and Swassing focus on three modalities: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic/tactile.
Other systems focus on various other variables. Herman Witkin asks whether a person’s functioning is more or less “field dependent” or “field independent”—the degree to which cognition is tied to context. Anthony Gregoric analyzes thinking style along two continua: abstact vs. concrete, and sequential (linear) vs. random (divergent). Bernice McCarthy’s popular 4MAT system is based on David Kolb’s dual continua: for perception, concrete experience vs. abstract conceptualization, and for processing, active experimentation vs. reflective observation. (It is notable in this context for the fact that it relates learning styles to stages in the learning process.)
Such educational models (and there are many more) are useful for distinguishing the different ways people process information. Some address aspects of complementarity. Few are of great help for looking beneath cognitive style to issues of value or to underlying dynamics. They tend to be of practical use for the classroom, but leave one wanting significantly more depth.
BUSINESS AND ORGANIZATIONAL DEVELOPMENT TYPOLOGIES
Business is another area where we are seeing a rapidly growing recognition of the importance of understanding personality diversity. The Myers-Briggs is used increasingly in business settings as are a number of more simplistic typologies such as Harvard Professor David McClelland’s division of people into “achievers,” “affiliators,” and “influencers.”
The use of personality typologies in business puts its emphasis on using a knowledge of diversity to facilitate communication and to increase effectiveness in work teams. Models used in this way generally ignore such things as underlying process, body dynamics, symptom patterns, and interplays with cultural dynamics.
The Creative Systems Personality Typology can be used in any of these settings by framing its ideas appropriately and adjusting the depth and complexity of the ideas to the audience. It includes the strengths of each of the above approaches and steps beyond them into new, more dynamic territory.