Is Jung’s Typology Concerned with Facial and/or Bodily Features?

Short answer: No.

In recent times (i.e. 2007 to now) there has been a surge in popular interest in relating facial and/or bodily features to psychological type. The people who indulge in these sorts of correlations rarely bother to address the question of why there should even be such correlations besides the fact that it would be neat and intuitively pleasing if there was.

But alas – just because something would be nice if it was so,  it doesn’t mean that it actually is so. In the entire history of psychology and psychiatry, very little actual evidence has been produced that links somatic and facial features to a person’s personality. As mentioned, the people who claim that there is a noticeable link between a person’s physiology and a person’s type rarely provide any discussion of why this is so – they simply present their posited correlations as a matter of course; a matter of natural extension of the field of typology. These people do not seem to take stock of the fact that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence (and that, given the failure of professional scientists to find links between physiology and personality, these claims are extraordinary). Nor do they seem to be aware that they are actually contradicting Jung, who had the following to say about his typology:

The question of psychological and physiological types is a complicated one. Kretschmer’s types are based primarily on somatic criteria. My typology is based exclusively on psychological premises which can hardly coincide with physiological or somatic qualities. (boldface added)

Reference: Jung. Letter to Ernst Hanhart. 18 Feb. 1957. Published in C.G. Jung Letters, vol.2 Routledge & Kegan Poul 1976 pp. 346-7

And furthermore:

[My typology is] is not a physiognomy and not an anthropological system. – Jung

Reference: Jung. Psychological Types p. xv PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS 1971 ed.

And again:

My intentions and interests are also in no way directed to characterology, but in complete contrast, to typology. … [It is] a schema with which I can order psychological material. – Jung, October 20th, 1932

“Unlike Freud who [had] the assumption of the sovereignty of the physical constitution, trying to turn everything back in theory into instinctual processes conditioned by the body, I start with the assumption of the sovereignty of the psyche.” – C.G. Jung: Psychological Types, 1921

“Jung’s typology omits any reference to bodily characteristics and is confined to the classification of normal psychic data. This should be noted.” – E.A. Bennet: What Jung Really Said, 1967

“[Jung’s] contribution was a purely psychological classification into the now familiar categories.” – Joan Evans, Taste and Temperament, 1939

Thus, as a minimum, the people who engage in such practices (linking physiology to psychological type) owe their audience a reasoned explanation of why they engage in this sort of distortion and of what proof lies at the heart of their adherence to such a method. (“I seem to have noticed this tentative correlation,” is a fair statement. “Obviously Fe users have wider smiles than Fi users because I have noticed it myself,” is not.)

Obviously, we do not know why people engage in “face reading” practices when they should be concerned with psychological types other than the fact that face reading makes intuitive sense in the same way that graphology, and other such practices seems to make sense to some people. But if we were to venture a guess we would say that some of the people who engage in these practices are often the same people who are bad at cognitive meta-representation, that is, who are bad at picking up on the inner workings of the people that they are observing. As a consequence, the psychologically oriented method of typing seems uncertain to these people and they will therefore naturally want something more “certain,” more tangible, and so they resort to facial features when attempting to type.

But of course, that’s just a guess.

Update January 2013: The writer Marcel Proust has commented on such practices in his book, Remembrance of Things Past:

We pack the physical outline of the creature we see with all the ideas we have already formed about him, and in the complete picture of him which we compose in our minds those ideas have certainly the principal place. In the end they come to fill out so completely the curve of his cheeks, to follow so exactly the line of his nose, they blend so harmoniously in the sound of his voice that these seem to be no more than a transparent envelope, so that each time we see the face or hear the voice it is our own ideas of him which we recognize and to which we listen.

Which is, if you will, a poetic description of the error that one makes oneself so prone to when attempting any kind of face reading: That of experimenter bias.

Update March 2013: It seems this idea is becoming more and more popular online (with some proponents even purporting the purely mental approach of classical Jungians to be ‘pseudoscience’ even while their own physiological systems feature *no* ways of guarding against experimenter bias.

In the meantime it strikes us, however, that the approach where one aims to arrive at Jungian types by way of body language or facial features is far more Freudian than Jungian. We have already quoted Jung above to say that his system was exclusively mental, and here is Freud’s preferred approach to the matter:

Observation teaches us that individual human beings realize the general picture of humanity in an almost infinite variety of ways. If we yield to the legitimate need to distinguish particular types in this multiplicity, we shall, at the start, have the choice as to what characteristics and what points of view we shall take as the basis of our differentiation. For that purpose physical qualities will doubtless serve no less well than mental ones; the most valuable distinctions will be those which promise to present a regular combination of physical and mental characteristics.

Reference: Freud: Libidinal Types in The Penguin Freud Library vol. 7 p. 361

Indeed, even as they were enemies, Freud and Jung were in agreement that Freud attempted to create a mind-body synthesis, like modern online face readers and body language readers, whereas Jung preferred to separate the two entirely.

Jung: “Unlike Freud who [had] the assumption of the sovereignty of the physical constitution, trying to turn everything back in theory into instinctual processes conditioned by the body, I start with the assumption of the sovereignty of the psyche.” (Psychological Types §968)

 

19 Comments

  1. Axel Nilsson says:

    I’m guessing you guys have checked out Pod Lair?

  2. admin says:

    No. We only know them by name.

  3. Ric Velasquez says:

    Lol, you guys would love Pod’Lair.

    I don’t think it’s too difficult to see why the idea that a person’s appearance and a person’s type correlate would be appealing to some people. Imagine that you could glance at a person, and just by seeing what their eyes look like, immediately know what their character was like within seconds. That’d be a cool superpower to have, right? Unfortunately, some people kind of take it one step further and actually act as though they can do that, using loads and loads of confirmation bias to help them along. So they’ll look at somebody’s eyes or hand movements or whatever, decide they’re an INFJ, and then completely block out all evidence to the contrary. Then when you ask them to explain how exactly personality type and appearance are linked, they’ll tell you something along the lines of ‘well it’s difficult to explain but it’s obvious that the obvious patterns are there obviously’, ignoring the fact that they’re using evidence so selectively that they’re the ones who are actually creating these perceived patterns in the first place.

    Amusingly, I see a lot of people who try to work out what people’s types are based on their looks, and then go on to tell you that there’s a correlation between looks and personality type. Well yeah…of course there’s going to be a correlation between a person’s looks and their personality type if you’re typing them based on what they look like in the first place.

  4. admin says:

    Hi Rick, cool comment. :-)
    Well, we have no interest in any kind of ‘war’ with anyone, but relying on your report, it just seems exceedingly uphill to claim that one has discovered a valid method of face reading (if that is indeed what they claim) when every attempt to validate this kind of approach, from 1910 to now, has failed. But you never know.

  5. Axel Nilsson says:

    Pod Lair is a religion not science :D

  6. avogadro says:

    Hi guys, I couldn’t find a better place where to say this so decided to do it here. I looked at the ENTP celebrities that you’ve listed and it’s not very precise. For example Michel Foucault has never been a psychologist, where did you get information that he was? He’s a pure philosopher. Same goes for Slavoj Žižek. They both have written about history and some terms of psychoanalysis, but they’ve never been actual psychologists or psychoanalysts.

  7. admin says:

    Foucault became very interested in psychology. He got a degree in philosophy and a degree in psychology.
    http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Foucault

    You appear to be right about Zizek, though.

  8. [email protected] says:

    Cognitive processes are unrelated to character-which most certainly cannot be discerned via body language. Rather
    cognitive type is concerning cognition of the neurological variety which is related to body movements. In any case, all typing takes into account sensory data in a effort to make a conclusion. Only an Ni-type with little understanding of their own inferior process would think they could type people without sensory data(without reading bios, watching video clips). It’s impossible to type sans sensory data, hence Celebrity Types, which utilizes all manner of the sensory to form a judgement about famous people. Cognitive Type is doing this with high accuracy.

  9. [email protected] says:

    Also, what is this ‘purely mental’ method of typing that you lay claim to? Do you draw celebrity names from a black hat and intuit their type from there? It is this type of magical talk that misleads people about Ni dominates. We are not fairies, nor are we psychics. We simply have strong confidence in our ability to know things without recognizing our data gathering Se process.

  10. admin says:

    Rather cognitive type is concerning cognition of the neurological variety which is related to body movements.

    How do you know that type is related to body movements?

    It is an assumption that you are making in spite of the fact that scientists have been trying to link up body shapes / body movements etc. to personality for more than a hundred years and failed to produce any credible results.

  11. admin says:

    re: “Also, what is this ‘purely mental’ method of typing that you lay claim to?”

    For practical purposes we assume sovereignty of the psyche, just as the quotes above explain.

    Practically, this means that if a person’s words and speech patterns point to a certain type, then that will trump whatever body language, body movements, or facial features that that person has.

    ***

    As stated in our last comment, we are skeptical and do not believe that body language, body movements, or facial features have anything to do with Jung’s typology (and nor did Jung). Therefore it is best if the people who believe that there is such a connection find some other typology to work from, to avoid imbuing the Jungian terms with methodology and meanings which are not native to them. (But of course, people can do as they please.)

    ***

    Luckily, the people who believe that body language, body movements, or facial features actually say something about a person’s type are in a fortunate position: They can conduct a controlled experiment where they observe non-famous people in interviews without sound. Based on the body movements, they can then note down their estimates of what types those people are. If their results are consistently on the mark, then that should convince the skeptics, including us :-)

  12. owls says:

    It makes perfect sense that body language can contribute [not be the sole determination of, but contribute] to typing someone. An INTP is not going to have the same body language as an ENFJ, for instance, because their core motivation is very different, and that is going to show in how they interact with the world and how they present themselves.

    When you discuss psychological types, you’re discussing body language to a large degree, whether you realize it or not. Dominant Fe’s are typically warm, outgoing, considerate; dominant Ti’s are generally withdrawn, cerebral, etc. These are sense impressions.

    ”They can conduct a controlled experiment where they observe non-famous people in interviews without sound. Based on the body movements, they can then note down their estimates of what types those people are.”

    Why, in an experiment concerning one’s sense impressions of a particular type, would you cut out such an important factor as *speech*?

    Rejection of Se as a valid form of perceiving the world is a little obvious here. You’re proposing a very black-and-white, all or nothing rejection of sensory data.

  13. owls says:

    I thought of an example.

    Björk http://bit.ly/1lOiUFV
    Arnold Schwarzenegger http://bit.ly/1iE6KL6

    Just by looking at these two pictures alone, and without knowing anything about their personalities, it’s easy to see that they’re radically different people. Arnie is a typically upright and serious politician and Björk is some kind of fey forest creature.

    Björk I believe is an ISFP and Mr Schwarzenegger an INTJ. Compare them to other celebrities of their type, and you will start to see similarities emerge. Pretty much all ISFPs are going to have that dreamy, childlike quality that you can see in Bjork’s picture, that you can plainly see without really having to know her. It’s in the way she holds herself, her expression, choice of clothing, etc… She is comfortable presenting herself like this because Fi can have that sort of child-like nature.

    Try to imagine an INTJ presenting themselves the same way… it would be completely odd and out of character. They tend to hold themselves upright, take themselves seriously, etc because their Te compels them to present that sort of image to people.

    Cognitive functions don’t just affect how you process the world, but how you present yourself to it. So the messages someone sends about themselves, consciously and unconsciously, via body language, seem like a very valid indicator of type to me.

    Hope I haven’t rambled on too much :)

  14. admin says:

    You’re not really arguing that bodily features are relevant to Jung’s typology; you’re just assuming it.

    >Why, in an experiment concerning one’s sense impressions of a particular type, would you cut out such an important factor as *speech*?

    It’s called controlling for variables. A basic part of the scientific method.

    >Rejection of Se as a valid form of perceiving the world is a little obvious here. You’re proposing a very black-and-white, all or nothing rejection of sensory data.

    Functions aren’t skill sets that can only be applied to certain spheres – they’re modes of consciousness that structure what goes on in the psyche. That means that there is no shutting out of Se.

    That said, if it could be shown that there was a scientific basis for face reading, we would have to take it more seriously. But as we have examined here, prolonged analysis of a person’s face or bodily features is actually likely to lead to error: http://www.celebritytypes.com/blog/2014/02/an-update-on-face-reading-2014/

  15. Greg says:

    Hmm…5000 years of Ayurveda in India would seem to indicate that psychological type is intimately connected with bodily constitution…Sheldon also developed a crude model (ectomorphic, mesomorphic, endomorphic), but it’s nowhere near as refined as the concept of prakriti in Ayurveda. Understanding the patient’s physical constitution is absolutely central to the diagnostic process. There are several kinds of physical constitutions commonly found: Vata, Vata-Pitta, Pitta, Kapha-Pitta, Kapha, Vata-Kapha and Vata-Pitta-Kapha. Together Vata, Pitta, and Kapha correspond roughly to ectomorphism, mesomorphism, and endomorphism. Ayurveda assigns very distinct personality characteristics to each of these constitutions. I myself am not nearly as widely-read as the authors of this site concerning typology, but I have observed that physical constitution (NOT body language, movement, facial features) follows psychological type quite closely. One neat trick that was taught to me by Ayurvedic physicians is to look at the height of the ear on the side of the skull (look at the bottom of the ear where the ear canal opens) relative to the top lip of the mouth. In endomorphs, the ear will be relatively lower. In ectomorphs it will be above where the bottom of the nose meets the top lip. In any case, I have never met an ectomorphic INTJ. I have also never met an endomorphic INTP. The former are all universally on the endomorphic side, the latter on the ectomorphic side. Tracking the Elusive Human goes into some detail about this, but Ayurveda is still much more thorough in its descriptions…

  16. Guardian says:

    I don’t know where else to post this comment. I have a request: could you please type Nathan Lane? I’ve heard others say he’s an ESFJ, but I’d like to know what your team thinks about him in terms of MBTI.

  17. Anita says:

    what about eye movement? People with the same type “move” their eyes in the same way.

  18. hannah_s says:

    Anita,

    I don’t think things like the movement of a person’s eyes are a particularly good way to type people. But it would be interesting if it was true. :)

    Could you give a list of celebrities you’ve observed, with their typings and notes on eye movements? I’m particularly interested in the similarities and differences between eye movements of people of the same and different types.

    Also, going through all the types and giving notes about what eye movements to expect would be interesting. :)

  19. Jonah says:

    On the topic of eye movement, there used to be a great website that had videos of people using all 8 of the cognitive functions—only showing dominant usage of the function (rather than secondary, tertiary, inferior or otherwise)—and you could learn to recognize things like the “100-yard-stare” of Se.

    There is also a great image on voice patterns and different types. Like Se types supposedly begin and end sentences with a “bang”—with a more enunciated, striking word, or topic word—whereas Ni types fade in, hit the idea and trail off.

    If I had to guess some of the eye tracking things to look for, it would be something like this:

    Ti – looking at own forehead
    Te – focused, furrowed brow
    Se – 100 yard stare, blank, deep/soulful eyes
    Si – looking but slightly distant/recollecting while looking, soulful eyes
    Fe – “smizing,” smiling with eyes
    Fi – listening, paying close attention
    Ne – bright eyes, throwing glances, funny expressions
    Ni – bright eyes, sparkly, glimmering intelligence, “knowing looks”

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