Abstract

This article presents a synopsis of different theories of personality types and how these types impact group projects and work in engineering. It compares and contrasts the different theories of personalities. Emphasis is placed on discussing which personality types work well with others within the realm of engineering. Case studies are also examined, and focus on group experiences in the past.

Theory, Background, and Other Explanation as Required

Origin of Idea of Personality Types

The idea that people have different kinds of personalities has been around since ancient Greece. Personality is a group of characteristics of a person that define their emotions, reactions, and motivations in different conditions. Certain groupings of these characteristics are what define a personality type. These aspects of a person’s personality can also be broken up into two ways to measure a personality; one through characteristics that are general and can apply to many people in a population. An example of this would be extrovert/introvert. Extroverts tend to be more outgoing and expressive with their thoughts and actions, whereas introverts keep to themselves more. The second way would be to take in a specific person’s set of characteristics and give a more specific personality type that would apply to that person. Many different kinds of personality tests have been developed to determine and characterize these different kinds of personalities.

Evolution of Theory of Personality Types

The Greek physician Hippocrates first came up with the idea that a person can have one of four different temperaments: sanguine, choleric, melancholic and phlegmatic. Sanguine people are very sociable and like to live spontaneously. People with a choleric temperament are very ambitious and outgoing. Melancholic people are very serious and like to do things on their own. People with a phlegmatic temperament are very peaceful and consistent. These personalities are very simple to evaluate, but the theory overlooks many other characteristics that determine a personality (Keirsey 1984).

Examples and Analysis of Personality Tests

Four Temperaments

There are many different personality tests that exist to evaluate type, but in this section three different ones will be compared and contrasted. The Four Temperaments model by Hippocrates was further developed by David Keirsey, who created four temperaments based on the personalities of four Greek Gods- Dionysus, Epimetheus, Prometheus, and Apollo. This theory combines the traits of sensing/intuition and judging/perceiving to come up with a temperament. The Dionysian temperament is a sensor and a perceiver (SP). SPs are very action-oriented and often impulsive. They are also very free-spirited and live for the moment. People with a Dionysian temperament like to operate without limits (Keirsey 1984). The next temperament is the Epimethean temperament, which is a sensor and a judger (SJ). SJs have a strong sense of duty and caring for others. SJs also need to have responsibilities and need to feel useful (Keirsey 1984). People with a temperament based on Prometheus rely on both intuition and thinking (NT). NTs want to acquire competencies and are very self-critical. At times, NTs can be perfectionists and can make people around them feel inadequate in regards to intelligence (Keirsey 1984). The fourth temperament is the Apollonian temperament, which relies on both intuition and feeling (NF). NFs tend to pursue extraordinary goals and rely on self-realization in trying to find an identity. NFs also tend to be very good writers and use that skill to show a sense of mission for a cause of theirs (Keirsey 1984). This personality theory is based on how a human perceives an environment and acts in it.

DISC Assessment

The second personality test that will be discussed is the DISC assessment. The purpose of the DISC assessment is to help people better understand themselves and to help them learn to modify their behavior when interacting with others. This theory was developed by William Marston, and tests four personality traits: Dominance, Inducement, Submission, and Compliance, to see which of those characteristics people are strong in. People who have Dominance (D) place emphasis on overcoming obstacles to attain a goal. They are very direct and blunt and place significance on results and challenges. People who are D style also can be stubborn and aggressive (Marston 1999). On the other hand, Compliance (C) is the opposite of Dominance. People who are C style have more humility and timidity. They also know how to accept orders from someone who has more authority and are very realistic. Compliance can be associated with both fear and religion (Marston 1999). The second set of traits DISC measures is Inducement and Submission. People with Inducement (I) are very persuasive and able to win people over to their cause. They are also captivating to others and have a lot of charisma. People with C style try to influence other people and can be alluring (Marston 1999). Conversely, people who have Submission (S) are very softhearted and benevolent to others. They are also very altruistic and often willing to comply with others. People with S style are accommodating and considerate when interacting with other people (Marston 1999). This personality theory is based on how people interact with one another.

Myers-Briggs (MBTI)

The third personality test that will be analyzed is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, often known as MBTI. Myers-Briggs has four different pairs of preferences it measures. They are extrovert/introvert, sensing/intuitive, thinking/feeling, and judgment/perception. Since there are 2 different options for each of the four preferences, there are 16 different personality types that a person can get. Extrovert/introvert measures how people best get energized. Extroverts (E) get their energy from interacting with other people, whereas Introverts (I) get their energy from their thoughts and ideas from within (Kroeger 2002). Extroverts are very outgoing and talk to people a lot, coming across as sociable. Introverts prefer to talk to a few people and interacting with fewer people. Extroverts also tend to share their thoughts freely, whereas introverts thoroughly process ideas before sharing them. The next set of preferences, sensing/intuitive, determines how people gather information about everything around them. Sensors (S) are very practical and realistic, whereas Intuitives (N) think big picture and are theoretical (Kroeger 2002). Sensors prefer receiving exact information and specific facts, whereas Intuitives prefer big ideas and conceptual information rather than facts. The third set of preferences is thinking (T) vs. feeling (F), which measures how people go about making decisions. Thinkers are very objective and base decision on facts, whereas Feelers are subjective and base their decisions on emotion. Thinkers are firm in their decisions and detached from emotion. Feelers take circumstances into account for decision-making and are very emotionally invested in their choices (Kroeger 2002). The fourth set of preferences measures the kind of environment people create around them. The two options are judgers (J) and perceivers (P). Judgers like to have a lot of structure and order, while Perceivers are very tentative and spontaneous with their schedules. Judgers like to have a lot of control over plans and have a fixed itinerary, whereas Perceivers go with the flow and like to be very flexible (Kroeger 2002). These four sets of preferences then make up a complete personality for an individual. For example, someone who is an ENTJ is extroverted, intuitive, thinking, and judging. This personality type is considered to be robust and outwards with their big ideas. They have a big desire for control and leadership, and are often considered to be natural leaders (Kroeger 2002).

Compare and Contrast of the Three Personality Tests

While the Four Temperaments and DISC assessments both have four different personality types that can define a person, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator has 16 personality types, so it allows for more specific profiles of people to be developed. The flipside to this is that the Four Temperaments and DISC tests are less complex and more straightforward, giving a simpler personality type. A key difference between the Four Temperaments and the DISC assessment is that the Four Temperaments focus on whether or not someone is practical in what they say and do, whereas the DISC assessment focuses on how a person asserts him/herself to another person. MBTI combines both of those focuses, and for the purposes of studying engineering students and how they work in groups, the best method of personality test is MBTI, as it gives the most specific personality type of the three and measures four preferences, whereas the other two tests only measure two preferences. Another major benefit of MBTI is that it is very occupational focused (Briggs Myers 1980), which works well when analyzing engineering students.

Case Study

A study on personality types was undertaken at the University of Spain in a project management class for students in their engineering program. Within this are students concentrating in mechanical, electrical, and production engineering. The groups were between 12-17 students and there were 8 groups total in the class (Rodriguez 2013). Within each group there are subgroups according to specialty and tasks. A Myers-Briggs test was given to everyone in the class at the beginning of the semester. The two most prevalent personality types were ISTJ (26.67%) and ESTJ (20%). This can be expected as both types are very results oriented and are very practical, which are good traits in an engineer.

The students were randomly distributed into the 8 groups regardless of personality type. Two groups ended up being predominately ESTJ and ISTJs. Two groups had significant clusters of ENTJs, and the rest of the groups showed random variation. The technical qualities of the work, the documentation quality, and the management of the group and its work measured the quality of the work produced by the groups. At the end of the semester, two of the groups were considered to have done above average work, four of the groups average work, and two of the groups below average work. One of the groups consisted of ENTJs, ESTJs, and ISTJs, led by an ENTJ. ENTJs are very good natural leaders as they are very deliberate in their strategies and goals. ESTJs and ISTJs respond well to this type of leadership, as they are very focus driven (Omar 2010). One potential drawback of all of these TJs is that they rather be right than liked, but since there were only 3 Feelers in the group, this problem was mitigated. The other successful group had a similar mixture of personality types. One of the groups that underperformed had a leader with ENTP, which usually have a visionary leadership style (think Steve Wozniak). As they are very independent, they expect others in their group to be independent as well. Since this group had a lot of ISTJs, who need direction and specific tasks, the group failed due to the clash in styles.

MBTI Survey to Junior and Senior Electrical and Computer Engineering Students at Tufts University

Survey Format

An electronic version of a MBTI survey from Please Understand Me by David Keirsey was placed on a survey website for Tufts students called Tufts Qualtrics. See the Exhibit section for the survey. The survey was distributed to senior and junior Electrical and Computer Engineers at Tufts to complete, and there were 22 responses.

Survey Results

ENFJ

12.50%

INFJ

3.13%

INTJ

 

12.50%

ENTJ

12.50%

ENFP

0.00%

ENFP

0.00%

INTP

1.56%

ENTP

1.56%

ESFP

0.00%

ISFP

0.00%

ISTP

0.00%

ESTP

1.56%

ESFJ

15.63%

ISFJ

0.00%

ISTJ

40.63%

ESTJ

21.88%

1) ISTJ, 41%

2) ESTJ, 22%

3) ESFJ, 16%

4) ENTJ, 13%

5) INTJ, 13%

Analysis of Results

ISTJ makes sense for an engineer’s personality type because a person with ISTJ is very organized and methodical in his or her work. ISTJs are also reliant on facts rather than big ideas, which is useful in tackling engineering problems. ESTJs are practical and detail-oriented in their work. ESFJs thrive with structure and organization, and also use facts rather than ideas. ENTJs and INTJs are focused on coming up with the next great idea and are great problem solvers.

Application to My Senior Design Project

Personality Types of My Group Members

Personality types apply to senior design in many ways. Most groups consist of more than one person, and my group contains 5 people. It is very important to understand everyone’s personality types in order to learn how they work and communicate best to get the most out of them. It is important to do some sort of personality test assessment when working in a group, whether an actual one such as MBTI or just noting people’s personalities and tendencies.We are a group of five senior electrical engineers working on a senior design project to make hardware-based toys to help preschoolers learn to sequence. The MBTI personality types in my group are as follows: ESTJ, ESTJ, ESTJ, ENTJ, and INTJ.

Analysis of Group Dynamics Based on Personality Types

Each of us has primary authority over a specific toy, but we also have a lot of assignments that need to be completed as a group. The ENTJ tends to initiate contact to delegate tasks regarding these group assignments. This makes sense, as the ENTJ is a natural leader. One of the ESTJs also tends to help delegate assignments and makes sure everyone’s portion is on time. This also makes sense, as the ESTJ is life’s natural administrator and want to get the job done. Often times the INTJ in the group suggests things that can be improved upon, and this once again makes sense, as INTJs like to improve everything. This nice balance of needing improvement, being very practical and on time with tasks, and leading with a big picture perspective makes for a good balance with our group dynamics.

Conclusion

While there are many personality tests available, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator test works best for engineering students, as it gives a detailed personality assessment and uses 4 traits to define a personality. A case study on a senior capstone course at the University of Spain and a survey of Tufts Electrical and Computer Engineering students show that certain personality types are more prevalent than others, in particular ISTJ and ESTJ. The case study and my senior project have shown that a good mix of personality types can enhance a group’s dynamic and bring out the best in other engineers. These findings are important because this knowledge about personality types can help engineers better communicate and work with one another.

Cited References

  • Briggs Myers, I., & Myers, P. B. (1980). Gifts Differing. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc.
  • Keirsey, David, and Marilyn Bates. Please Understand Me: Character & Temperament Types. Del Mar, CA: Prometheus Nemesis Book, 1984. Print.
  • Kroeger, Otto, Janet M. Thuesen, and Hile Rutledge. Type Talk at Work: How 16 Personality Types Determine Your Success on the Job. New York: Dell Pub. 2002. N. pag. Print.
  • Marston, William Moulton. Emotions of Normal People. London: Routledge, 1999. Print.
  • Omar, M., Syed-Abdullah, S., & Hussin, N. (2010, December 5). Analyzing Personality Types to Predict Team Performance. 2010 International Conference on Science and Social Research, 624-628. Retrieved February 26, 2014, from IEEE Xplore.
  • Rodriguez Montequin, V., Mesa Fernandez, J., Villanueva Balsera, J., & Garcia Nieto, A. (2013, November). Using MBTI for the success assessment of engineering teams in project-based learning. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 23(4), 1127-1146.

See Also