There seems to be 2 myths (or perhaps more accurately “oversimplifications”) that exist around the MBTI preferences of Thinking and Feeling.

Myth 1 – Men are thinkers and women are feelers
Myth 2 – Thinking is a superior function to Feeling

If I harken back to university days and saw these two statements as a logic problem I might assume based on these myths that men are ….

FULL STOP Required here …I can’t even say what I was going to type

— so before I give a third myth any more credence let me focus on myth number 1.

The simple truth is that either sex can have a preference for either function. There are men with a preference for Feeling and women with a preference for Thinking.

Statistically there may be a higher number of males who are Thinkers. I have heard it suggested that there might be a cultural influence to these numbers as males may answer according to cultural expectations.

Last year at the MBTI Conference held by Psychometrics Canada Chuck Pratt Chuck Pratt , a former member of the U. S. Coast Guard for 23 years, posited an interesting theory. He felt that there were more men who actually had a preference for Feeling in the Coast Guard than the official scores would indicate. The expectations of their training would predispose individuals to choose answers swayed toward Thinking. (As an aside this is another reason that MBTI assessments from qualified professionals include a guided self determination of best type fit.)

Our expectations of males and females in society in general are still tainted by the cultural and perhaps physiological influences that mark our behaviour. Does it make sense that males are genetically wired to be hunters and that this may align more with thinking? And that females are genetically wired to be play the gathering nurturing roles that may be more aligned with feeling? There are a lot of assumptions in those statements and the exceptions are just as valid – if not more so.

Rather than oversimplify or over complicate the matter, this trainer suggested that we think in terms of the Thinking /Feeling dichotomy as having 4 parts – Thinking/Males, Thinking/Females, Feeling/Males and Feeling/Females.

He did an exercise where an individual asked the above 4 groups for feedback about whether their hair was in good enough shape for an important job interview in two hours time. Here’s how people responded:

Feeling/Female – You look great! Who you are is what counts.

Feeling/Male – What do you need to do to do the best you can?

Thinking/Female – How much time do you have? Perhaps you have time to get a comb out at the hairdressers.

Thinking/Male – Get a haircut.

The Feeling/Female and the Thinking/Male had responses that fit our stereotypes. We need to expand our perceptions beyond these stereotypes to include men who have a preference for Feeling and women who have a preference for Thinking. You think I protest too much and that we have evolved beyond this limited thinking? Ask any high school teacher if girls aren’t still dumbing down so they don’t compete with the boys.

My hope is that we be aware of our assumptions about gender and preference.

I would love to hear from Thinking/Females and Feeling/Males about their experience in the workplace.

Next post I will talk about one aspect of Myth #2….

Category: MBTI Facts
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4 Responses to “MBTI Myth Busting -Gender does not Determine Thinking and Feeling Preferences”

Roni Taylor June 25, 2009

I’m Thinking/Female. I may be an extreme case: my childhood was the kind that people now describe with terms like “emotionally unavailable”. I’m also very intelligent and went to a girls school, so “dumbing down for the boys” was never a factor in my education. This Thinking/Female was made, not born.
Nevertheless, others might relate to my stories:

At work I’m generally considered to be fairly outspoken, competent and passionate (read: “loud”). I usually end up with the unofficial title of Team Systems Expert in whichever team I work in (I’m no expert – I’m just not afraid to play around with our system).

I did spend a few years in management and performed poorly. My first team was wonderful (almost all of them were Thinking types) and we quickly built a culture of ideas swapping and problem solving. My manager was Feeling/Female but I rarely needed her assistance.

My second team however (lots of Feeling types, and a more stressful environment) decided fairly early on that I was a heartless bitch.
They launched a campaign against me that I naively dismissed as childish and petulant. We had a job to do and I wanted us to get on with it. They hated me.
I’m sure they had no idea how much they were hurting me personally. I’ve always been very good at keeping my real feelings to myself at work (and still am – I consider this proper and professional). In hindsight I realise this probably alienated them even more – they may have even performed better for me if I HAD let them see me broken down in tears like a weakling.
Meanwhile, I had no idea how much this was hurting me professionally. My manager was also a Feeling type. He considered my team’s constant whinging about me to be an indication of my poor performance. He kept trying to give me advice about managing their perceptions and emotions but his advice never made any sense to me. He was no better at dealing with a Thinking type than my staff were.
Around the same time my marriage was breaking down, so I was in no emotional state to sort all this crap out on my own. I abandoned all management aspirations and have never gone back.

My roles since then have better suited my type. I’m happier in a hands-on role where other people’s feelings are not my responsibility. I’m exactly the same person but the traits that so infuriated my underlings are easily accepted and often welcomed by my peers – even the Feeling types.

My current manager is another Feeling/Male. We clash whenever I’m unhappy with my own performance. He gets upset because he can see me getting frustrated and he tries to tell me I’m doing fine, don’t worry about it. This annoys me because I expect a manager to be unhappy with poor performance, not coddle me. Then he gets more upset because I’m getting upset. And so on.
I usually end up rescuing this situation because a) he’s my boss, and b) he’s a good deal younger than me so I can take maternal pity on him. We have the kind of rapport now where I can tell him “just shut up and let me sulk” and he leaves me to sort out my performance on my own.
His latest Feeling idea was to have regular, individual meetings with us to chat about what’s going on in our lives and other warm and fuzzy rubbish. I was resistant, of course. I tried to talk about work but he insisted these chats were meant to be personal. So I told him: “well, last weekend I got laid. Happy Roni.” Yeah, I know that was mean, but at least our talks are strictly work related now. Poor boy 😉

Vlad June 28, 2009

How large were the four groups in Pratt’s exercise?

Sandy McMullen June 29, 2009

In the exercise Chuck had 4 people leave the room and hen he told one volunteer the scenario of the impending job interview and hair concern. People came in one by one and were asked by the volunteer for some feedback.

I suppose there could have been different results but since this seems to be one of his standard exercises he must get enough similarity in the results to show 4 different voices that align with his position.

My “take away” was simply that it reminded me not to make assumptions based on gender.

Killer B September 9, 2011

The statement “Men are thinkers and women are feelers” is overgeneralizing. Is it a myth? Well, the statement “ALL men are thinkers and ALL women are feelers” is obviously false. “SOME men are thinkers and SOME women are feelers” is true. What about “MOST men are thinkers and MOST women are feelers?” Going by statistics alone, this may be true, but there are two problems:
1) How big is the sample size?
2) How diverse is the sample?
3) Where do we define the line between “many” and “most”?

In any case, from my own experiences, it’s about 50/50 with the men I know and about 90/10 in favor of “F” with the women I know. The two women I know of that have a “T” preference also have an “I” preference. Perhaps it could be because it’s difficult for them to get along with other females growing up, as they tend to get shunned away and, as Roni Taylor mentions from her own experiences, get dismissed as “bitchy” (or just plain aloof or unfeeling).