testing-personality Voice Acting

Using Myers-Briggs For Character Development

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the Keirsey Temperament SorterAre you running dry on ideas for creating characters?
When developing new characters, you need to think about who they are, where they’re from, what they do, how they think and what matters most to them.
What if instead of starting from scratch every time, you were able to streamline the process by drawing upon a reservoir of personalities from which to shape your character?
Enter the 16 personality types as defined by Myers-Briggs.
Learn more about how to leverage online resources about human behaviour to enrich your character development now.

What’s Motivation Got To Do With It?

Motivation matters. Every good character has motivation, and the clearer your idea of its motivation is, the more convincing your character will be.
If you’ve ever done The MBTI® test (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® Assessment), you walked away with four letters that described your personality, along with a wealth of information about how were made and how you react, respond or engage with the people, places and things around you. You learn about your temperament, how you make decisions, what motivates you and also what might stress you out.

There are four MBTI temperaments, including:

  • The Guardian
  • The Artisan
  • The Idealist
  • The Rational

Having this knowledge is useful on a personal and professional level as it identifies a personality type’s strengths and weaknesses. While the results may not match every aspect of who you are, they serve as a good benchmark in general terms to understand yourself and how to interact with others given your personality and their unique personalities. While MBTI testing has long been a staple in the broader corporate world, and a popular means of understanding varying behavioral dynamics and maximizing both team and individual performance, it’s becoming increasingly popular in creative circles, as well.

16 Personalities

One website that provides a free test of this kind is 16Personalities.com. You could do the test yourself to learn more about who you are, but if you want to skip ahead to learn about the 16 different personality types in general, you’re sure to find valuable learnings that will feed your creative process.
Even just looking at the four categories of personalities is useful in sparking creativity. The four overarching types are described as:

  • Analysts
  • Diplomats
  • Sentinels
  • Explorers

While not true of all actors, many tend to relate most to the Artisan (MBTI) or in the case of the site mentioned above, the Explorer temperament, with a significant number of performers identifying as ESFPs. That said, the characters you play could be any one of the sixteen possibilities represented.
Two actors on stage, Seattle 1973

Who Are You?

Whenever you create a character on your own or audition for a role, you need to think about who that character is in terms of how they see the world and interact with those around them. Here are the four questions you need to ask yourself:

First, are they an introvert or an extrovert?
To put it plainly, an introvert gains energy from being alone whereas an extrovert is energized by being with other people. Someone who focuses on their inner world is considered an introvert versus someone who focuses more on the world around them, who are considered extroverts. No surprise here, but there is a big difference between Introversion and Extraversion.

Second, how do they process information?
Is it all at face value or are they adding to what they see? Does your character think in terms of concrete facts or are they interpreting and adding to what is before them? There is a big difference between Sensing and Intuition.

Third, how does your character make decisions?
Are they looking to logic and patterns or are they taking every situation into account depending on the circumstance and the people involved? There is a big difference between Thinking and Feeling.

Last but not least, does your character roll with the punches or do they want to chart their own course?
How do you organize your life? When dealing with the outside world, someone who prefers Judging needs have things decided whereas someone who prefers Perceiving wants to stay open to new information and options.

Know Thyself, Know Thy Characters

Generating a backstory is just part of the puzzle. Knowing more about how your characters think and why they do the things they do will make character development more methodical and help you make more informed choices as an actor.
I don’t claim to be an expert here but having done an assessment myself and some reading on the topic, thought that this would be an interesting resource for our community to explore.

Have You Ever Taken a Myers-Briggs Assessment?

Be sure to comment on if doing such a test has helped you!
Best wishes,

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  • Avatar for Jack Ward
    Jack Ward
    January 20, 2015, 9:17 pm

    I’ve used this and similar character personality types for a long time. Great to get the juices flowing.

  • Avatar for Lisa Brandt
    Lisa Brandt
    January 21, 2015, 8:07 am

    Hi Stephanie,
    This couldn’t come at a better time!
    Today I have to record a script that features two women talking to each other.
    And I MUST play both women – no subcontracting!
    Thank you!

  • Avatar for Stephanie Ciccarelli
    Stephanie Ciccarelli
    January 21, 2015, 9:16 pm

    Thank you for your comment, Jack! I’m thrilled to hear that you already make use of this kind of resource.
    Take care,

  • Avatar for Stephanie Ciccarelli
    Stephanie Ciccarelli
    January 21, 2015, 9:18 pm

    Hi Lisa,
    What fabulous timing! I’m so glad that you were able to take advantage of this immediately. Let me know how your session went. Splendid!
    Take care,

  • Avatar for Julanne Dalke
    Julanne Dalke
    February 20, 2016, 10:51 am

    Hi Stephanie,
    Thank you for writing the Vox daily. I read every one of them and they are aways useful and inspiring information. In this particular instance I am reminded to use the back story. I recently got my first gig with Voices.com and I record Tuesday. The script is only 15 seconds long but the desired reflection is in the voice of June Cleaver. My good fortune is that I am familiar with the character as I watched those old black and white sitcoms as a child. I love all the helps. keep them coming and again, a big thank you!