Personality type refers to the psychological classification of different types of individuals. Personality types are sometimes distinguished from personality traits, with the latter embodying a smaller grouping of behavioral tendencies. Types are sometimes said to involve qualitative differences between people, whereas traits might be construed as quantitative differences. According to type theories, for example, introverts and extraverts are two fundamentally different categories of people. According to trait theories, introversion and extraversion are part of a continuous dimension, with many people in the middle.
Clinically effective personality typologies
Effective personality typologies reveal and increase knowledge and understanding of individuals, as opposed to diminishing knowledge and understanding as occurs in the case of stereotyping. Effective typologies also allow for increased ability to predict clinically relevant information about people and to develop effective treatment strategies. There is an extensive literature on the topic of classifying the various types of human temperament and an equally extensive literature on personality traits or domains. These classification systems attempt to describe normal temperament and personality and emphasize the predominant features of different temperament and personality types; they are largely the province of the discipline of psychology. Personality disorders, on the other hand, reflect the work of psychiatry, a medical specialty, and are disease-oriented. They are classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), a product of the American Psychiatric Association.
Types vs. traits
The term type has not been used consistently in psychology and has become the source of some confusion. Furthermore, because personality test scores usually fall on a bell curve rather than in distinct categories, personality type theories have received considerable criticism among psychometric researchers. One study that directly compared a “type” instrument (the MBTI) to a “trait” instrument (the NEO PI) found that the trait measure was a better predictor of personality disorders. Because of these problems, personality type theories have fallen out of favor in psychology. Most researchers now believe that it is impossible to explain the diversity of human personality with a small number of discrete types. They recommend trait models instead, such as the five-factor model.