Using MBTI To Shape User Persona's Personality
This article was written by Silvana Churruca between 2011-2014. Silvana is a UX Designer & Researcher with a strong multidisciplinary background: starting with Graphic Design, Arts and Communications, and later specializing in Cognitive Systems and Interactive Media, Product and Project Design Management and Communication Design Theory. Follow Silvana on her LinkedIn.
You are interviewing some people for building your User Personas or perhaps to explore how they will react to different product solutions. Then you realize you need to know some personality traits to understand why they react the way they do.
But how to identify personality traits in a quick feasible, and credible manner instead of just based on observation?
I make myself the same question some time ago, and here is how I solve it using MBTI.
Perhaps you have seen on my layout for User Personas, an area dedicated to “Personality.” Personality is a conflictive element that seems to exist in many research models and discussions about such a complex subject. But my purpose was not to achieve a deep understanding of personality but found some elements that would allow me to outline some personality traits for quick user modeling. I didn’t feel comfortable using just my observation skills and choosing features that seem most likely to that person.
My goal was to find a suitable solution for daily practice, taking into account available resources and the necessary velocity required by agile methodology. That’s why I decide to use a well know personality modeling: the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), to quick draft personality.
The original MBTI questionnaire count with 93 forced-choice questions making their use unlikely in user testing. Besides applying the MBTI method, there is a rigorous and extensive methodology, but for my purpose of creating a basic “personality modeling,” I realized that I had to sacrifice thoroughness to gain in speed and efficiency. That’s why I decide to apply a significantly simplified questionnaire to identify the MBTI type, which gives me a quick idea of the silent personality traits for that persona-type.
This way, if I roughly identify the personality-type, I can resort to much information about those types of people, and the result will be, in general, much more consistent than relying solely on my intuition.
As I said, the method I apply consists of a significantly reduced questionnaire to determine the MBTI four-letter code. Between 4 and 16 questions, depending on the available time and the type of study carried out. For in-deep interviews, you usually have more time, but when you are running a performance lab test in most cases, time is a scarce resource.
Once I have the MBTI type, I check a table to locate the appropriate keywords (personality traits).
Step 1. We ask the participant to choose within alternative sentences.MBTI questions help us identify more extreme types or more ambiguous cases, but if you prefer to group all sentences from the same type in a single phrase, or even split the two sentences in four, reducing the possibility of a tie is given. When I get a draw, let my impressions of observation help me clarify the answer.
For example, 2 Questions regarding MBTI Information construct: how one prefers to deal with information?. (See complete questionnaire below)
Which statement describes you better? (Choose the one you feel more identified)*Question 1:I tend to focus on the reality of how things are. I pay attention to concrete facts and details. [Sensing S]-OR-I tend to imagine the possibilities of how things could be. I notice the big picture, see how everything connects. [Intuition N]
Question 2:I prefer ideas that have practical applications. I like to describe things in a specific, literal way. [Sensing S]-OR-I enjoy ideas and concepts for their own sake. I want to explain things in a figurative, poetic way. [Intuition N]
Step 2. Check personality types of characteristics
Finally, once you have the user MBTI type, means the four-letter code, you check the below table “Personality traits by Personality Type“ to select the characteristics (keywords) that suit more to you, participant, considering both the above self-reported data and face-to-face in-line reading, behavior, and body language.
Now, you have much information available (check references at the bottom) about each personality type that will help you make a transparent mental model.
IMPORTANT: Describe the MBTI method require several posts just for it so that I will present the technique shortly, but you must check the references to understand better what MBTI is.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a psychometric method (the 1940s) based on Carl G.Jung Theory of Psychological type (1020s). In the MBTI method, personality types are defined based on four primary constructs: Favorite world, Information, Decisions, Structure (preferences). Each one is defined by opposite pairs (dichotomies). From all possible combinations results, 16 personality-types.
MBTI constructs (preferences):
1. Favorite World: Extraversion or Introversion. Refers to where and how one directs their attention and energy — on people and things in the outer world, or alone in the inner world.
2. Information: Sensing or Intuition. This refers to how one prefers to deal with data — by focusing on the necessary information or interpreting and adding meaning.
3. Decisions: Thinking or Feeling. Refers to decision making — objectively, using logic and consistency, or subjectively, considering other people and exceptional circumstances.
4. Structure: Judging or Perceiving. This refers to how one interacts with the outer world — with a preference towards getting things decided or staying open to new information and options.WHY?
Why identify personality traits it is essential?
- Any user modeling will be complete without a personality profile. We know now that most human decisions are driven by personality and mood.
- Help us to create more realistic scenarios and mental models for each user persona.
- Help us to determine better what needs each user-type.
- Personality will be used for established persona behavior and response during the construction of an Experience Map.
- Personality tags and Openness/Neuroticism gauge are a precise tool for help Product Managers, Developers, and designers to put on the persona’s shoes.
- Once you have many interviews of the same user persona type, you may found out some personality traits are more likely of that group.
I have the impression that in most cases, particularly with small UX teams, practitioners tend to point out some personality traits that seem more prominent during the interview, without applying any particular method and guided primarily by the subjective observation… at least that was what I did before, Instead with this method -overly simplified- I feel I have a more reliable tool for lead my observation and achieve some understanding of the different personality traits. What do you think?
Table of Personality traits by MBTI
(!) Important: I created this table using information from different sources, and in some cases, make my interpretations trying to link personality traits with preferences when interacting with systems, so if you want to be more rigorous, please use the MBTI profiles that you can find in the references (Keep learning).
Q. Which statement describes you better? (Choose the sentence with what you feel more identified)
I warn you that the MBTI is exceptionally addictive and fun!
Excellent explanation of several personality theories and methods, including MBTI and ‘Big 5’ Factors: