The short answer: Yes. According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®) assessment, each person is born with an innate personality type.
Let’s take a closer look at how we know that your Myers-Briggs® Personality is innate.
What does the MBTI say about personality type and birth?
One of the most common questions people ask about personality and The MBTI is whether these characteristics are mostly nature, mostly nurture, or just coincidence. In other words, is personality an inherent feature that each of us is born with, is it the result of how we are raised, or is it more or less random?
According to MBTI theory and the foundational psychological research of Carl Jung, the answer is that personality type is innate, and every person is born with one of sixteen different personality types. From this perspective, having a certain personality type is similar to being right-handed or left-handed; everyone is hardwired with specific preferences and tendencies which do not change, even if that person can develop the skill of behaving in a different manner.
For example, right-handed people do not stop being right-hand dominant even if they learn to write or do other things with their left hand. Similarly, an INTJ does not stop being an INTJ even if they learn to socialize with large groups of people or empathize with others to a greater degree. According to the MBTI framework, one’s Myers-Briggs personality type is present from birth.
How do we know that people are born with their MBTI personality type?
In addition to the MBTI theory, there is significant evidence that people are born with their MBTI personality type.
Personality Type Doesn’t Change
The strongest evidence that people are born with their personality type is that personality type does not change over time. This fact may seem to run counter to your personal experience, particularly if you know someone who used to be reserved and later became more social.
However, this is not actually a contradiction. As demonstrated in the handedness example above, an introverted person can still learn to socialize effectively and even start to enjoy doing so. In fact, most people learn to think and interact in new ways throughout their lives. At the same time, their innate preferences do not change. After exerting energy in social interaction, an introvert will still need time alone to recharge their batteries.
To make the distinction between personality type and behavior more explicit, psychologists use two different terms: personality type is an individual’s innate and unchanging personality. In contrast, personality traits are the behaviors through which personality type manifests. While each person is born with an immutable personality type, their behaviors may change in different contexts and even throughout their lives to express various aspects of their personality type.
Moreover, it is known that as people age, and in the mid to latter part of one’s life, one tends to begin to utilize their less preferred functions of their personality or better known as their non-dominant personality functions. For example, over the years, an introverted person might begin to feel slightly more comfortable with public speaking, however this will generally, and most of the time, not come as natural as it might to an Extraverted individual.
You can indeed expand on your abilities and thought processes in relation to your personality dichotomies that are non-preferred at birth and throughout your life. In fact, persons are encouraged to expand as such to be able to understand and relate to others better in personal relationships, work environments, education settings and team building.
Some team members who prefer feeling over thinking may see the ISTJ’s introverted-thinking as cold or unkind. However, the ISTJ is just using logic to make decisions and not considering how his/her/their decisions might affect others. It would behoove ISTJ team members to learn more about Feeling types’ thought processes and perhaps attempt to integrate some of these practices for the betterment of team cohesiveness and team moral.
MBTI and Genetics
We all know that children resemble their parents and grandparents. For example, people frequently make comments such as, “He gets his attention to detail from his mother” or “She’s a born salesperson, just like her grandfather.” The question is whether these features are innate and inherited genetically or whether they are handed down by being overtly taught and learned.
Research that has delved into this question supports the idea that MBTI Personalities may have a genetic component and is, therefore, innate from birth. The strongest evidence comes from studies that compare identical twins who were raised in the same household to those who were raised apart, for instance, if they were adopted by different families or brought up by divorced parents (e.g., Bouchard & Hur, 1998).
While the results of these studies are somewhat nuanced, the researchers’ overall findings show that twins tend to have similar personalities regardless of whether they were raised together or apart. These similarities suggest that MBTI type has a genetic component. Moreover, similarities in personality seem to correlate with the amount of genetic material shared among siblings (e.g., Stansbury & Coll, 1998).
The personalities of identical twins, tend to be more similar than those of fraternal twins. Full siblings, have personalities that are the least similar out of the three groups: identical twins, fraternal twins, and non-twins.
While considering studies of genetics and personality, it is important to keep in mind that many complex factors go into how those genes are expressed. Therefore, variation in personality traits or behaviors among siblings or parents does not provide evidence against the innateness of personality type from an MBTI perspective. As per additional research, another study was performed showing that personality is indeed heritable, to a certain degree of 40%. (Krueger & Johnson, 2008; Turkheimer, Pettersson, & Horn, 2014; Vukasović & Bratko, 2015)
Variation in Children’s Personalities
Anyone who has spent significant time around children knows that every child is different. Parents might take notice to how their ISTJ daughter, who excels in math and science, has an ENTP brother who wants to be a composer. In many cases, these personality characteristics express themselves before there is any significant environmental influence.
It is not suitable for a child to take an MBTI assessment, but there is some varying evidence of a relationship between early childhood temperament and adult personality type. For example, extroverted adults may have been active children who were deeply engaged with their environment. In contrast, children who are described as reserved or prefer relating to other children in one-on-one situations or in small groups can tend to grow up to be introverted adults.
It is important to point out that one’s personality type is not fully formed until early adulthood, generally around age 25. However, some aspects of personality type can be seen in children from a young age as explained.
Citations and References
Bouchard, Jr, T. J., & Hur, Y. M. (1998). Genetic and environmental influences on the continuous scales of the Myers‐Briggs Type Indicator: an analysis based on twins reared apart. Journal of Personality, 66(2), 135-149.
Stansbury, V. K., & Coll, K. M. (1998). Myers-Briggs attitude typology: The influence of birth order with other family variables. The Family Journal, 6(2), 116-122.
(Krueger & Johnson, 2008; Turkheimer, Pettersson, & Horn, 2014; Vukasović & Bratko, 2015)