Keirsey Temperament Sorter

David Keirsey (1984) combined Kretschmer's temperament hypothesis with Jung's behavior description, and with Nietzsche's and Spitteler's Greek typology. Keirsey notes themes in the various observations and the consistent tendency of human behavior. He observed four patterns: Sensing Perceiver (SP), Sensing Judger (SJ), Intuitive Thinker (NT), and Intuitive Feeler (NF). These four patterns are temperaments-the way in which human personality interacts with the environment to satisfy needs.

Keirsey believed that by knowing a person's type we can "...anticipate rather accurately what we will do most of the time" (p.27). He stated that temperament:

"...can denote a moderation or unification of otherwise disparate forces, a tempering or concession of opposing influences, an overall coloration or tuning, a kind of themtization of the whole, a uniformity of the diverse. One's temperament is that which places a signature on each of one's actions, making it recognizably one's own" (p.27).


SPs must be free to do as they wish. Today must be enjoyed, for tomorrow never comes. Duty, power, and spirit are of secondary, if any, importance to the SP. They are, in essence, impulsive. They want to be impulsive. Goals are fewer and more tentatively held. If the ties become too numerous or too binding, then the SP is likely to become restless and perhaps experience the urge to take off for somewhere else. SPs are suject to functional lust: a hunger for action without fetter or constraint. They thrive on situations where the outcome is not known. The SP has been known to create a crisis just to liven things up a little. The SP must drive the bulldozer, fly the plane, fire the gun, toot the horn, wield the scalpel, brush or chisel. There is something about tools which attract SPs. Cultural approval provides the male SP with a far greater opportunity to express his prefereces for action than the female SP. The SP is frequently described as "exciting, optimistic, cheerful, light-hearted, and full of fun." They tend to be charming and witty conversationalists: they lend an electricity to the environment. SPs can easily become bored with the status quo: they need to vary their work patterns. The SPs behavior is not subordinated to an end because the behavior is its own end. A hole is to dig, a door is to open, a hall is to run in, a bell is to ring, a mountain is to climb. Performers in the arts are likely to be SP. In a real sense, the SP does not work, for work implies production, completion, and accomplishment. The SP has no such desire for closure, completion, finishing: they are process-oriented. They tend to gravitate towards jobs where action is involved. The SP of all types, is likely to answer the call to wander and can sever social ties more easily than can others. They live esprit de corps, are loyal to their brothers, and defends their group agains all attacks. Because the SP often leaps before they look, they are often prone to accidents (pp.30-39).


Like the SPs, SJs comprise roughly 38% of the population. The SJ must belong, and this belonging has to be earned. Dependency for the SJ is neither a legitimate condition nor desire. The SJ feels guilty for his dependency as if derelict in his duty and negligent of his obligations. Morover, he must be the giver, not the receiver; the caretaker, not the cared for. School is made for the SJ and largely run by SJs. By the time the SJ shows up for school he has already shifted from the fraternal to the paternal outlook.. They are compelled to be bound and obligated. The SJ lives a Stoical ethic. Hierarchical structure of society is the essence of society. The Boy Scout's motto, Be Prepared, must have been made up by a strong SJ; surely SJs invented the Boy Scouts and preside over Boy Scout groups across the nation. Above all else, the SJ is prepared. The SJ's desire to be useful often come in the guise of membership hunger. To belong to social units is central to his style. Tradition becomes more and more important as SJs get older. They also have a keen sense for detecting ingratitude and lack of appreciation, dealing as they do in giving, service, and care. They cannot ask for gratitude or appreciation because it is their duty to give, serve, and care for. They feel obligated, responsible, and burdened, and want to feel that way. There is no mystery surrounding the SJ's choice of work. The institutions call him and he comes to them to establish them, mature them, and maintain their continuity and perpetuity. Teaching, preaching, accounting, banking, clerking, medicating, rehabilitating, securing, insuring, managing, selling, providing. Conservation can be so strong in the SJ that it colors most of his actions and attitudes; If I don't then who will? The SJ knows as well as others that change is inevitable, necessary, and even, on occasion, desireable; but it should be resisted when it is at the expense of the tried and true, the accepted and approved. Title and entitlement are important to SJs. They are society's natural historians. The SJ is truly the stabilizer of the social and economic world. They give a good day's work for a good day's pay and cannot understand who does not. They have a well-developed sense of tradition. such terms as "steadfastness, dependability, stability, reliability, salt-of-the-earth, pillar of strength" all describe the SJ (pp.39-47).


NTs are rather infrequent; 12% of the population. Power fascinates the NT. Not power over people, but power over nature. To be able to understand, control, predict, and explain realities. Scratch a scientist and you will find a scientist. Nts love intelligence, which means: doing things well under a varyiety of corcumstances. They are wanting to be competent. There is an urgency in his desire. NTs must improve. The NT is the most self-critical of all styles. He badgers himself about his errors, taxes himself with the resolve to improve, and ruthlessly monitors his own progress. The NT has a number of should knows and should know how to's. They run a kind of bureaucracy of excellence and thus can be a perfectionist. The NT never believes that he knows enough, or that he does well enough. His ordinary performances are thus viewed as short of the mark, and the NT experiences a pervasive sense of inadequacy. The NT will schedule their play, and during their playtime tax themselves with improving their recreational skills. Nts expect very little from others, since clearly they do not know much, nor can they do much well. The NT sends the message to others that they are expected to at least attempt to achieve at the same exacting standards as the NT imposes on himself. In their communication, an NT is likely to speak with little or no redundancy; terse, compact, and logical. They ahve a deep reluctance to state the obvious. NTs are serious about the knowledge they must have to be competent and fequently gain proficiency in their field. They are puzled by the world around them and are not satisfied with non sequitur answers from their elders. Learning is a 24-hour preoccupation; they have a passion for knowing. Science, technology, philospophy, mathematics and logic, manufacturing, criminology, cardiology, securities analysis-all appeal to NTs. An NT likes to learn about competing ideas and is usually able to give them consideration with an open mind. They are vulnerable to the all-work-and-no-play syndrome. They are at times the eccentric genius. NTs enjoy playing with words, finding pleasure in exploring verbal intricacies. They tend to focus on the future. What matters most is what might be and what might happen next. The past is useful only as a means of giving direction to the future and for decifering the lessons of history (47-57).


The NF cannot really grasp the others' commitment to what seems to the NF to be false goals. For the NF pursues a strange end, a self-reflective end which defies itself: becoming. The NF's search for self is circular and thus perpetual: How can one achieve a goal when that goal is to have a goal? Self-actualization is important: How can I become the kind of person I really am? Their endless search most often causes them guilt, believing that their real self is somehow less than it ought to be. The NF needs to hae meaning. Self-realization for the NF means to have integrity, that is, unity. TO have integrity is to be genuine, to communicate authentically, to be in harmony with the inner experiences of self. The NF brings to each relationship a heightened sense of meaning, lending drama to the events in those relationships. The NF is seldom miserly in the energy and time they are willing to devote to a relationship. The search for meaning as a necessary pilgrimage for all people is advanced by NFs in their writings; the pen is mightier than the sword. NFs heavily populate the professions of psychiatry, clinical and counseling psychology, the ministry, and teaching. If the NF does go into teaching, they gravitate toward higher education. They tend to see potential good in everyone and often devote their lives to cultivation of this potential. NFs, as a group, show little interest in buying and selling or any commercial occupations. They prefere to work with words, and need and want to be directly or indirectly in communication with people. NFs report that they are subject to an inner voice which urges them to be real, authentic, meaningful. The NF works toward a vision of perfection: the perfect work of art, the perfect play, novel, film, the perfect relationship. And, of course, once the work is done, once the creation is created, it never seems to live up to the magnificance of its conception. The NF can be an intellectual butterfly, flitting from one idea to another, a dilettante in their pursuit of knowledge. Their hunger is not centered on things but people; they seek relationships-it vibrates with interaction (pp.57-66).

On-Line Version of the Keirsey Temperament Sorter

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    Peter L. Heineman
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