Keirsey Temperament Sorter

The Keirsey Temperament Sorter (KTS) is a self-assessed personality questionnaire designed to help people better understand themselves, first introduced in the book Please Understand Me. KTS is closely associated with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI); however, there are significant practical and theoretical differences between the two personality questionnaires and their associated different descriptions.

Historical development

See also Historical Development of Theories of the Four Temperaments
David Keirsey developed the Temperament Sorter after being introduced to the MBTI in 1956. Tracing the idea of temperament back to the ancient Greeks, Keirsey developed a modern temperament theory in his books Please Understand Me (1978), Portraits of Temperament (1988), Presidential Temperament (1992), Please Understand Me II (1998) and Brains and Careers (2008). The table below shows how Myers' and Keirsey's types correspond to other temperament theories, dating from ancient times to the present day.

Date Author Artisan temperament Guardian temperament Idealist temperament Rational temperament
c. 590 BC Ezekiel's four living creatures lion (bold) ox (sturdy) man (humane) eagle (far-seeing)
c. 400 BC Hippocrates' four humours cheerful (blood) somber (black bile) enthusiastic (yellow bile) calm (phlegm)
c. 340 BC Plato's four characters artistic (iconic) sensible (pistic) intuitive (noetic) reasoning (dianoetic)
c. 325 BC Aristotle's four sources of happiness sensual (hedone) material (propraietari) ethical (ethikos) logical (dialogike)
c. 185 AD Irenaeus' four temperaments spontaneous historical spiritual scholarly
c. 190 Galen's four temperaments sanguine melancholic choleric phlegmatic
c. 1550 Paracelsus' four totem spirits changeable salamanders industrious gnomes inspired nymphs curious sylphs
c. 1905 Adickes' four world views innovative traditional doctrinaire skeptical
c. 1912 Dreikurs'/Adler's four mistaken goals retaliation service recognition power
c. 1914 Spränger's four value attitudes artistic economic religious theoretic
c. 1920 Kretschmer's four character styles manic (hypomanic) depressive oversensitive (hyperesthetic) insensitive (anesthetic)
c. 1947 Fromm's four orientations exploitative hoarding receptive marketing
c. 1958 Myers' Jungian types SP (sensing perceiving) SJ (sensing judging) NF (intuitive feeling) NT (intuitive thinking)
c. 1978 Keirsey/Bates four temperaments (old) Dionysian (artful) Epimethean (dutiful) Apollonian (soulful) Promethean (technological)
c. 1998 Keirsey's four temperaments Artisan Guardian Idealist Rational
Keirsey, David Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence. 1st Ed., Prometheus Nemesis Book Co. ISBN 1885705026.
Montgomery, Stephen (2002). People Patterns: A Modern Guide to the Four Temperaments. 1st Ed., Archer Publications. ISBN 1885705034.

About the sorter descriptions

Temperament can be seen like the rings of a tree:

  • The inner ring - abstract versus concrete

According to Keirsey, everyone can engage in both observation and introspection. When people touch objects, watch a basketball game, taste food, or otherwise perceive the world through their five senses, they are observant. When people reflect and focus on their internal world, they are introspective. However, individuals cannot engage in observation and introspection at the same time. The extent to which people are more observant or introspective directly affects their behavior.

People who are primarily observant are more 'down to earth', more concrete in their worldview, and tend to focus on practical matters such as food, shelter and their immediate relationships. Carl Jung used the word sensing to describe concrete people. People who are primarily introspective are more 'head in the clouds', are more abstract in their world view, and tend to focus on global issues. Carl Jung used the word intuition to describe abstract people.

  • The second ring - cooperative versus utilitarian (pragmatic)

Keirsey uses the words pragmatic and cooperative when comparing the differing temperaments. People who are cooperative pay more attention to other people's opinions and are more concerned with doing the right thing. People who are pragmatic (utilitarian) pay more attention to their own thoughts or feelings and are more concerned with doing what works. There is no comparable idea of Myers or Jung that corresponds to this dichotomy, so this is a significant difference between the work of David Keirsey and that of Isabel Myers and Carl Jung.

This ring, in combination with the inner ring, determines a person's temperament. The pragmatic temperaments are Rationals (pragmatic and abstract) and Artisans (pragmatic and concrete). The cooperative temperaments are Idealists (cooperative and abstract), and Guardians (cooperative and concrete). Neither Myers nor Jung included the concept of temperament in their theories.

  • The third ring - directive versus informative

The third ring distinguishes between people who primarily communicate by informing others versus people who primarily communicate by directing others. Each of the four temperaments is subdivided by this distinction for a result of eight roles.

The directive roles are Operators (directive Artisans), Administrators (directive Guardians), Mentors (directive Idealists), and Coordinators (directive Rationals). The informative roles are Entertainers (informative Artisans), Conservators (informative Guardians), Advocates (informative Idealists), and Engineers (informative Rationals).

  • The fourth ring - expressive versus reserved (attentive)

The fourth ring describes how people interact with their environment. Individuals who primarily act before reflecting are described as expressive, whereas people who primarily reflect before acting are described as attentive. Each of the eight categories can be subdivided by this distinction, for a total of 16 role variants. These 16 role variants correlate to the 16 Myers-Briggs types.

The expressive role variants are Promoters (expressive Operators), Performers (expressive Entertainers), Supervisors (expressive Administrators), Providers (expressive Conservators), Teachers (expressive Mentors), Champions (expressive Advocates), Fieldmarshals (expressive Coordinators), and Inventors (expressive Engineers).

The reserved role variants are Crafters (reserved Operators), Composers (reserved Entertainers), Inspectors (reserved Administrators), Protectors (reserved Conservators), Counselors (reserved Mentors), Healers (reserved Advocates), Masterminds (reserved Coordinators), and Architects (reserved Engineers).

The following table shows how the four rings relate to one another and to the various temperaments.

Temperaments and Intelligence Types
Temperament Role Role Variant
Idealist (NF)
Mentor (NFJ)
Teacher (ENFJ): Educating
Counselor (INFJ): Guiding
Advocate (NFP)
Champion (ENFP): Motivating
Healer (INFP): Conciliating
Rational (NT)
Coordinator (NTJ)
Fieldmarshal (ENTJ): Mobilizing
Mastermind (INTJ): Entailing
Engineer (NTP)
Inventor (ENTP): Devising
Architect (INTP): Designing
Guardian (SJ)
Administrator (STJ)
Supervisor (ESTJ): Enforcing
Inspector (ISTJ): Certifying
Conservator (SFJ)
Provider (ESFJ): Supplying
Protector (ISFJ): Securing
Artisan (SP)
Operator (STP)
Promoter (ESTP): Persuading
Crafter (ISTP): Instrumenting
Entertainer (SFP)
Performer (ESFP): Demonstrating
Composer (ISFP): Synthesizing

The Four Temperaments

  • Artisans are observant and pragmatic. Composers, Crafters, Performers, and Promoters are the role variants contained within this temperament. Their greatest strength is tactical variation. Their most developed intelligence operations is either expediting or improvising.
  • Guardians are observant and cooperative. Protectors, Inspectors, Supervisors, and Providers are the role variants contained within this category. Guardians seek membership or belonging and are concerned with responsibility and duty. Their greatest strength is logistical intelligence. They excel at organizing, facilitating, checking, and supporting.
  • Idealists are introspective and cooperative. Healers, Counselors, Champions and Teachers are the role variants contained within this category. Idealists seek meaning and significance and are concerned with finding their own unique identity. Their greatest strength is diplomatic intelligence. They excel at clarifying, unifying, individualizing, and inspiring.
  • Rationals are introspective and pragmatic. Architects, Masterminds, Inventors and Fieldmarshals are the role variants contained within this category. Rationals seek mastery, and self-control and are concerned with their own knowledge and competence. Their greatest strength is strategic intelligence. They excel in any kind of logical investigation such as engineering, conceptualizing, theorizing, and coordinating.

The Eight Roles

  • Operators are observant, pragmatic, and directive. Crafters and Promoters are the two role variants of the directive Artisans.
  • Entertainers are observant, pragmatic and informative. Composers and Performers are the two role variants of the informative Artisans.
  • Administrators are observant, cooperative, and directive. Inspectors and Supervisors are the two role variants of the directive Guardians.
  • Conservators are observant, cooperative, and informative. Protectors and Providers are the two role variants of the informative Guardians.
  • Mentors are introspective, cooperative, and directive. Counselors and Teachers are the two role variants of the directive Idealists.
  • Advocates are introspective, cooperative and informative. Healers and Champions are the two role variants of the informative Idealists.
  • Coordinators are introspective, pragmatic and directive. Masterminds and Fieldmarshals are the two role variants of the directive Rationals.
  • Engineers are introspective, pragmatic and informative. Architects and Inventors are the two role variants of the informative Rationals.

Myers-Briggs Types versus Keirsey's Temperaments

The type descriptions of Isabel Myers differ from the character descriptions of David Keirsey in several important ways:

  • Myers primarily focused on how people think and feel; Keirsey focused more on behavior, which is directly observable.
  • Myers' descriptions use a linear four-factor model; Keirsey's descriptions use a systems field theory model.
  • Myers, following Jung's lead, emphasized the extraversion/introversion dichotomy; Keirsey's model places greater importance on the sensing/intuition dichotomy.
  • Myers grouped types by ‘function attitudes’; Keirsey, by temperament.

Myers grouped types according to cognitive function: the ‘thinking type’ grouping for those with dominant thinking; the ‘intuitive type’ grouping for those with dominant intuition; the ‘feeling type’ grouping for those with dominant feeling; and the ‘sensing type’ grouping for those with dominant sensing. Keirsey's temperaments correlate with Myers' combinations of preferences: Guardians with sensing plus judging (SJ); Artisans with sensing plus perceiving (SP); Idealists with intuition plus feeling (NF); and Rationals with intuition plus thinking (NT).

Myers paired ESTJs with ENTJs, ISFPs with INFPs, INTPs with ISTPs, and ENFJs with ESFJs because they share the same dominant function attitude. ESTJs and ENTJs are both extraverted thinkers, ISFPs and INFPs are both introverted feelers, INTPs and ISTPs are both introverted thinkers, and ENFJs and ESFJs are both extraverted feelers. Keirsey holds that these same groupings are very different from one another because they are of different temperaments. ESTJs are Guardians whereas ENTJs are Rationals; ISFPs are Artisans whereas INFPs are Idealists; INTPs are Rationals whereas ISTPs are Artisans; and ENFJs are Idealists whereas ESFJs are Guardians.

See also


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