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 in order 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 a lot of 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 a quick user modeling. I didn’t feel comfortable by using just my observation skills and choosing traits that seems to me most likely to that person.

My goal was to find a solution that was suitable 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 the context of a user testing. Besides to apply MBTI method there are rigorous and extensive methodology, but for my purpose of creating a basic “personality modeling” I realized that I had to sacrifice thoroughness in order to gain in speed and efficiency. That’s why I decide to apply a very simplify questionnaire to identify MBTI type, that give 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 a lot of information about those types of people, and the end result will be in general much more consistent that relying solely on my intuition.


HOW?

The method I apply consist, as I said, in a very reduced questionnaire to determine the MBTI four letter code. Between 4 and 16 questions, depending on the available time, and the type of study that is being carried out. For in-deep interviews normally you 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 just check a table to locate the appropriate keywords (personality traits) for that personality-type.

Step 1. We ask participant to choose within alternative sentences.

Two questions by MBTI construct help us to identify more extreme types, or more ambiguous cases, but if you prefer could group all sentences from same type in a single phrase, or even split the two sentences in four, reducing thereby 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 to 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 like to describe things in a figurative, poetic way. [Intuition N]

Step 2. Check personality types 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 suits more to you participant, considering both the above self-reported data and face-to-face in-line reading, behavior and body language.

So now you have a lot of information available (check references at the bottom) about each personality type that will helps you to make a clear mental model of that person.


WHAT?

IMPORTANT: Describe MBTI method require several post just for it, so I will present the method shortly, but you must check the references to understand better what MBTI is.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator it is a psycomethric method (1940s) based on Carl G.Jung Theory of Psychological type (1020s). In MBTI method, personality types are defined based on four main 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 his or her attention and energy  — on people and things in the outer world, or alone in the inner world.

2. Information: Sensing or Intuition. Refers to how one prefers to deal with information — by focusing on the basic information, or by interpreting and adding meaning.

3. Decisions: Thinking or Feeling. Refers to decision making — objectively, using logic and consistency, or subjectively, considering other people and special circumstances.

4. Structure: Judging or Perceiving. Refers to how one interacts with the outer world — with a preference towards getting things decided, or for staying open to new information and options.

MBTI code Personality User Personas

WHY?

Why identify personality traits it is important?

  • 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 better determine what need each user-type.
  • Personality will be use for established persona behavior and response during the construction of an Experience Map.
  • Personality tags and Openness/Neuroticism gauge are a clear tool for help Product Managers, developers and designer 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 tends to just point out some personality traits that seems 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 -extremely 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?


RESOURCES

Table of Personality traits by MBTI

(!) Important: I created this table using information from different sources, and in some cases, make my own 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).

Full questionnaire:

Q. Which statement describes you better?
(Choose the sentence with what you feel more identified)

KEEP LEARNING…

I warn you that the MBTI is extremely addictive and fun!

The Myers & Briggs Foundation

Nice explanation of several personality theories and methods, incluidng MBTI and ‘Big 5’ Factors:

Similar to MBTI, also based on Jungian typology

Personality-type details:

By the Myers & Briggs Foundation

MyersBriggsTypes

Take a test!. Online versions of MBTI test: