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I'm on a bit of a Myers-Briggs spree at the moment (which is dangerous, because it is so easy to read way more into it than you are supposed to).

For those of you who are not familiar with it, it is a personality test based on theories by Carl Jung, to determine how you are "wired", and find your preferences within work, relationships etc. A free test for those of you who are curious is found here: MBTI Test

This question popped into my mind while listening to an episode of Writing Excuses, where they discussed their different approaches to writing: two of the guys were discovery writers, that just started writing and then let the story go wherever the characters and their minds took them. The third guy was an outliner who had to have the whole story planned up front; all the structure laid out before he filled in the meat on the story.

This got me thinking about a correlation with the MBTI, where the last of the four letters (J or P) indicate whether you are more of a "happy-go-lucky" person (P) or in need of more plans and structure (J).

Being a strong P myself, and a discovery writer to boot (not in the start-your-computer sense), I feel there might be a connection here, but have no evidence to support it.

Does anyone know more about this, or may share their personality/writing style combo to give the theory some data?

(MBTI may also be a good place to look for inspiration and for finding specific traits when creating characters.)

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Thanks for specific and interesting question! –  Daniel Excinsky Nov 25 '10 at 10:25
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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Psychological research suggests that personality type is correlated to word patterns (Pennebaker & Graybeal, 2001). Personality is also known to be strongly related to creativity (Wolfradt & Pretz, 2001). Some aspects of personality (neuroticism, extraversion) can be accurately judged from writing (Argamon, Dhawle, Koppel & Pennebaker, 2005).

So in a way personality influences writing style quite a bit.

The problem you face is that MBTI is a rather old test (so be careful with judging too much from it ;) and is not used in research anymore. People tend to use the NEO-PI more these days. There are correlations with extraversion (pretty much the E/I scale on MBTI). But otherwise people tend to find relationships with traits that have no direct equivalent in MBTI.

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Very interesting. After thinking about this for a bit, it also struck me that the E/I part probably has some influence on the discovery/outline style as well, since E's tend to "think by speaking", whereas I's usually do their thinking before they open their mouths/notebooks/word processors –  erikric Nov 26 '10 at 9:50
    
I'd like to point out that just because the MBTI isn't used in research doesn't make it any less useful. Jung (whose typology the MBTI is based on) was a "depth" psychologist and was quite clear that typology delved into areas that he felt simply couldn't be researched. So you have to take it with a grain of salt as it isn't backed by research, but I think there are still useful things to be learned from it. –  Jason Baker Jan 13 '11 at 2:28
    
@Jason There's already a flamewar about this exact topic elsewhere on this site. –  Jakub Hampl Jan 13 '11 at 6:58
    
@erikric neat, i'm one of those that think by speaking which is why i find it nearly impossible to edit after it has gone from now to then, but easy to just type what i'm thinking but unlike what that last part says i've at the best of times have many a paragraph sitting fully formed on my tongue just waiting to get captured. –  Dan D. Feb 16 '11 at 1:24
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Tests like that can only be effective up to a certain extent. The problem is, in a room of 10 writers you would probably have 10 different writing styles. Tests like the one you mention cannot hope to be able to categorise people that effectively, so it is very variable. How someone writes could be due to any number of things.

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As any part of cognitive process, writing just can not be based only on the authors personality type.

So, even if you know what certain type in some specific test one person is and he wrote a book, you can be sure of that another person of this type may write completely another thing, in another genre, style, whatever.

The equation of thinking has just so many variables that human mind will never know them all. To begin I can mention experience, ability to dream up, knowledge, feelings at moment of writing, another art components surrounding you at the moment of writing, etc., etc.

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There's an article in composition studies that supports your ideas. A brief description and the link can be found here:

http://edutechwiki.unige.ch/en/Writing-to-learn#MBTI_and_writing

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when providing links please summarize their relative content, in case some day the link itself goes dead. That way all information on your answer won't be lost. –  justkt Sep 8 '11 at 13:01
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On the test, I'm in the "slight" category on three out of the four axes, which includes the judging - perceiving one that you're concerned with. I tend to work with outlines, but if the story takes me elsewhere, I don't force it. I usually find myself in the wild west when I'm getting near the end of a project. (I write song lyrics.) This may support your theory. Contact me privately if you'd like numbers.

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