Personality Styles

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The ways we behave are products of our experiences and our histories. When we meet other people, we should be aware that personalities are complex and can have strong influences on our relationships. Reflection allows us to understand more clearly why we behave the way we do. It also gives us a chance to broaden our personal repertoires of behavior.

Individual Characteristics

All characteristics form a specific individual profile. They include a lot of different aspects. Which of these keywords and aspects characterize you best?

Way of Thinking

Intuition, analysis, openendedness, outcome orientation, structure, feeling, discipline, inspiration, logic, non-conformism...

Acting and Deciding

Process-orientation, decision, feeling, action, thought, judgment, perception, holism, pragmatism, team player, leader, compromise, straightforwardness, trial, plan...

Attitude towards People and Groups

Introversion, extroversion, conversation, reservation, inner thoughts, group activity, individual space, loudness, tranquility, trust, altruism, anxiety, excitement, team, lead, support,...

Sensual Perception

Detail-orientation, the big picture, look, touch, hear, read, diagrams, texts, pictures, sound, smell...

  • Personality indicators like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) analyze and categorize people’s personalities through a series of questions. It is based on the work of psychologist Carl Gustav Jung, Katharine Cook Briggs, and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers.
  • The "Big Five", "OCEAN" or NEO Personality Inventory is another popular example of such a test, widely applied in the digital transformation.

The use of inventories is quite common, especially in the field of personal development. The MBTI is still one of the most popular personality instruments in use. It measures answers in terms of four opposing qualities that characterize a person. Every quality is represented by a letter. Alina may be profiled as INFP, which stands for introversion, intuition, feeling, perception. She is an introverted intuitive team player who wants to involve everyone and prefers to take time making decisions rather than acting quickly.

Joana may be type ESTJ, which stands for extraversion, sensing, thinking, judgment. When she feels sad, she calls her best friends and meets up with them. It is easy for her to find logical solutions to nearly every problematic situation. But when trying to find solutions in a team, she always becomes anxious and impatient.

These two types might not find themselves naturally in a common team. But it might also make sense for them to work together because of the ways their personalities complement one another. Inventories like the MBTI can increase our awareness of certain aspects of our behaviour. Like self-awareness and observation, they give us information about the importance of different attributes. Tests are based on experience with many people and make general statements that summarize statistical probabilities. Inventories are more useful for self-observation rather than exact description. They often lack precision or are ambiguous. [1]

Empathy for Different Personalities, Food for Self-reflection

With these ways of organizing our thoughts about people’s personalities, we can also focus on people’s behavior in teams and understanding and influencing the group dynamics.[2] Furthermore, we might provide learners data for self-reflection.

However, in interpreting information from a moel or even an inventory, you should also be aware that feelings, predictions, and behavior vary from situation to situation. Individuals perform differently in different contexts. Last but not least, one can ask whether the use of clinical psychology inventories suit your purposes in a general way.

Application in Human Resources

Personality inventories are also used to profile applicants in businesses or participants in management trainings. But this is also where the problem of these tests’ lack of scientific reliability should be considered.

Impact of applied behavioral psychology: Digital Transformation

Modelling personality styles is in particular interesting in the data industry today. It is used there for the creation of psychometric profiles, for example for targeted advertising or the individualisation of user experience. Especially the NEO Personality Inventory (also known as Five Factor or as OCEAN model) is playing here an important role.

Researchers like Shoshana Zuboff criticize how psychometric models are constructed and applied - how personality models are used by tech companies in order to understand users better or to sell their data. Especially in the appropriation of personal data in combination with algorithmic processing they see the core of a "surveillance capitalism":

"It is a ubiquitous networked institutional regime that records, modifies, and commodifies everyday experience from toasters to bodies, communication to thought, all with a view to establishing new pathways to monetization and profit." [3].

Especially Zuboff argues, it "unilaterally claims human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioural data" [4]. Such, the collected data only partly would serve the specific purpose of a service offered. By far the largest part, the "proprietary behavioral surplus", would serve as (company-owned, therefore "proprietary") raw material for the actual purpose of predicting and controlling behavior as a citizen, user, consumer or employee.

Critical Reflection of Personality Style Models

In this sense, especially for Education for Democratic Citizenship/Human Rights Education the question arises, for what purpose models of personalities are applied - and for what aim they are constructed.

Because we can expect further Datification of learning processes in the next few years, the immediate question is also which personality models we will use as the basis of evaluation and measurement, how much bias these or the algorithms using them contain, and how we can understand them and, if necessary, competently correct their results.

Nils-Eyk Zimmermann

Nils-Eyk Zimmermann

Editor of Competendo. Coordinator of the project DIGIT-AL Digital Transformation in Adult Learning for Active Citizenship. Secretary of the DARE network. Topics: active citizenship, civil society, digital transformation, non-formal and lifelong learning, capacity building. Blogs here: Blog: Civil Resilience. Email:


  1. Franc Coffield, David Moseley, Elaine Hall, Kathryn Ecclestone: Learning and pedagogy in post 16 learning. A systematical and critical review. Learning and Skills Research Centre, London 2004
  2. N. Zimmermann: Mentoring Handbook - Providing Systemic Support for Mentees and Their Projects; Berlin 2012; MitOst; ISBN 978-3-944012-00-1
  3. Zuboff, S. (2015). Big Other: Surveillance Capitalism and the Prospects of an Information Civilization (April 4, 2015). Journal of Information Technology (2015) 30, 75–89. (page 81)
  4. Zuboff, S. (2018). The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. Profile Books, London 2019, page 8