An Introduction to the Four Temperaments

Well, what are the four pairs? They are: NF, NT, SJ, and SP. There is no order of importance; they’re all equally important. We merely put them in alphabetical order. These four letter pairs represent the four main temperaments. NF stands for the Idealist, NT is the Rational, SJ is the Guardian, and SP is the Artisan. Now, we know what you’re thinking. You’re asking, “How does ‘S’ relate to ‘realism’ and ‘N’ to dreaming,’ and so on?”

Timeout, then, for a short technical diversion. We explain this, however, reluctantly, at the risk of confusing the issue. Nevertheless (for the curious), “S” stands for “sensing,” “N” stands for “iNtution,” “T” is for “thinking,” “F” is for “feeling,” “J” is for “judging,” and “P” stands for “perceiving.” Kind of confusing, isn’t it? That’s why I prefer to stick with the “trait words” listed above. Keep your eye on them.

Now, before we get into this any further, we have to acknowledge that we are boiling down well over 100 years of disciplined and painstaking scientific research by many great men and women. Since, however, the purpose is to aid in your Quest for Ivy and not to educate you about the history and felicities of those pioneers of psychology, we’ve chosen to omit the background information. For those of you who want to go deeper, just Google “type and temperament.” You’ll be overwhelmed with information.

What will you get out of the ten-minute investment that it takes to do one of these? First, you’ll learn which of the four temperaments you are. Second, once you know which pair of letters applies to you, you’ll be able to use this information to help you find not only better candidate colleges but also possibly the right major. As a bonus, you may even be able to confirm which careers may be best suited to bring you success and happiness. Obviously, knowing all this before you start your application essays will make writing about yourself a lot easier and-surprise-even enjoyable.

If you tend to be cynical, you may be sneering right now, thinking, “Yeah, right. In ten minutes I’m gonna find out all that.” No, that’s not what we said. What we said was that in ten minutes, you’ll know what your temperament is. Armed with that knowledge, you’ll then be able to scan some of my information later on in this article that explains how temperament relates to college and the great liberal-arts tradition of the top schools. You’ll also be able to peruse a list of selected careers that relate well to your specific temperament. That will take longer than 10 minutes. Maybe 30. Bottom line: you’ll come out of this article knowing a lot more about yourself and your possible future than you did coming in. Promise.