Neurolaw: Law and Personality Type
This is the third in a series of articles on applying neuroscience to law. The author describes how Myers-Briggs Personality Types can help lawyers better understand and serve their clients.
Both nature and nurture, genetics and life experience, appear to influence our conscious and unconscious preferred and non-preferred attitudes and functions, as described by Psychiatrist Carl G. Jung (Psychological Types, 1925), and adapted for practical application by Isabel Myers, and her mother, Katherine Briggs, in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, MBTI®.
After graduation from law school, I was asked to join the FSU faculty and secure funded research applying Personality Type in public education and corrections. As Assistant Professor of Communication, and research Project Director for Governor Ruben Askew’s Task Force on Disruptive Youth, I had the opportunity to conduct research with Isabel Myers and her Associate, UF Psychologist Mary McCaulley, help them establishing the Center for the Applications of Psychological Type CAPT in Gainesville, Florida, incorporate and serve as Board Attorney for the Association of Psychological Type, International APTi, and report our research results in publications and seminars.
I DISCOVERED PERSONALITY TYPE
A friend gave me a copy of the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Manual during my pre-law school years Directing College Speech and Debate Programs. My life long search for “what makes people tick” attracted me to the Myers-Briggs Types as a way to help myself, and others, better understand and appreciate the mutual usefulness of our individual differences. During a law school study break, I developed a Discovering Personality Type social intermix allowing participants to discover Type differences by interviewing each other. This activity generated high interest motivating insightful questions. Isabel Myers endorsed my Discovering Personality Type group exercise, included with her papers preserved at the University of Florida, and reminded me that the Myers-Briggs is called an “Indicator,” to encourage our own personal journey to self-discovery, not a “Test,” to define who we are, “Frank, if someone does not agree with their Type Indicator results, tell them to throw those results in the nearest waste basket and continue their journey.”
YOUR TYPE PREFERENCE: COLUMN E OR COLUMN I?
Your preference for (E)xtraversion or (I)ntroversion may be indicated by your choice of:
|Outer World||OR||Inner World|
|Breadth of Interest||OR||Depth of Interest|
|Job Results||OR||Idea Behind Job|
MORE (E) CHOICES indicate a preference for (E)xtraversion skills, and you can use your non-preferred (I)ntroversion skills when you need them, but you cannot use both at the same time. You direct your energy flow into the outer world of people and things. You tend to act before reflecting and are more socially connected than the those who prefer (I)ntroversion skills that you may consider anti-social. For example, Your preference for (E)xtraversion tends to improve your communication and social skills to maintain many friendships and interests.
The more time you spend using your (E)xtraversion action skills, the less time you spend using and improving your (I)ntroversion reflection skills. You take time to develop skill in your non-preferred (I)ntroversion skills to inform and support your (E)xtravert experiences.
MORE (I) CHOICES indicate a preference for (I)ntroversion, and you can use your non-preferred (E)xtraversion when you need it, but you cannot use both at the same time. You direct your energy flow into your inner world tending to reflect before acting with fewer, deeper, more intense friendships and interests than those who prefer (E)xtraversion, who you may consider shallow. For example, your preference for (I)ntroversion motivates you to prefer working alone and relying on yourself. You come out for someone, or something, you care about then return to inner world.
The more time you spend using your (I)ntroversion reflection skills, the less time you spend using and improving your (E)xtraversion action skills. You take time to develop skill in your non-preferred (E)xtraversion to inform and support your (I)ntroversion understanding.
(E)XTRAVERSION SOCIABILITY AND (I)NTROVERSION REFLECTION IN EDUCATION
My preference for (I)ntroversion clashes with a debate student indicating a strong preference (E)xtraversion. I ask that she work on her speech in an office, alone, to save time, leaving her a can of soda on the desk. She hesitatingly agrees. I leave, closing the door and observing, unseen, In a few moments, she opened the door, sees no one in the hall, picks up the can of soda, leaves the room and begins engaging with two other students in the doorway of the building. I approached her asking if she had finished her speech, she cheerfully responded, “I’m just taking a short break.”
The next day, I ask her to work on her speech, with other members of the debate team, in a conference room. She actively engages in preparing her speech while talking to others. Her fellow debate team members called her “motor mouth,” which she laughingly did not deny. I asked what she will do if required to be, or work, alone, having spent so little time developing her non-preferred (I)ntroversion. She admits being concerned about the possibility of being alone, and avoids being alone, but did not know what to do about it. I advised read an interesting book, alone, before going to bed. The first week, only read 15 minutes, and add 5 minutes a week until she gradually worked up to reading, alone, for an hour before going to sleep. By gradually developing comfort being alone, she is developing the ability to function in her non-preferred (I)ntroversion.
(E)XTRAVERSION SOCIABILITY (I)NTROVERSION REFLECTION IN LAW PRACTICE
A very” talkative” client, demonstrating a strong preference for (E)xtraversion, enters my law office seeking a divorce, barely settles in a seat asking. “How soon can we get this over with,” indicating the next relationship is waiting in the car. (E)xtraverts tend to have many friends, often with little time for deep friendships, that provide alternatives when their current “significant other” isn’t “working out.” If the client is willing to consult their non-preferred (I)ntroversion, calm reflection on relationship needs may balance demanding wants that frustrate their preferred (E)xtraversion.
A very “quiet” client, demonstrating a strong preference for (I)ntroversion, enters my law office to ask about divorce, sinks deeply into a seat relating painful marital difficulties and wanting to know how to “fix” their relationship. They know the pain they have in their current marriage and repeat over and over their attempts to fix things, fearing that their next relationship will be worse than being alone. (I)ntroverts tend to have fewer friends (but deeper friendships) seeming to take a long time settling into a relationship, and an even longer time leaving that relationship. If the client is willing to consult their non-preferred (E)xtraversion action on relationship needs may balance preferred (I)ntroversion denial.
About the Author
Frank Natter was known as “The Psychologist Lawyer” during his law practice and adjunct college teaching. His J.D. Law, M.S. Communication, reflects his interest in human behavior, expressed in publications and seminars on Psychological Type and Communication for legal and medical professionals, students, clients, and the general public. Residing in a 55+ community, facilitating focused senior small group discussion sessions (recorded, posted on YouTube during Pandemic) to preserve cognitive function for independent living, provides him an opportunity to continue sharing personal and professional experience that matters to himself and others.