Type Bias in Group Activities


I first became aware of a potential bias problem at the APT conference in Phoenix when I went to a session that grouped people by functional pairs. In the ST group there was one person, ISTJ, and in the SF group there were two people, both ISFJ. As I listened to the report outs from these two groups, I noticed the influence of the Guardian temperament theme as well as their preferences for Sensing and Feeling processes. It was richer and more meaningful than when I've seen similar break outs with SFP and SFJ both in the SF group and STP and STJ in the ST group.

I think we sometimes create bias and disadvantage when we group people in workshops by functional pairs. NT and NF get at temperament information as well as function information. ST and SF get at function information. Therefore, the descriptions and production is more likely to be richer with NT and NF groups.

On the other hand, it is possible we do a similar disservice when we group by temperament. (I can't believe I said that!!!!, but I must admit it could be true.) Guardians (SJ) and Artisans (SP) still get short shrift. I've especially found this to be the case when the groups are not balanced with some SF and ST in each.

I'm not saying to not group people, but for us to be aware of the unintended consequences of doing so. I am not recommending always grouping by 8 or 16 types. People can't handle that much at once and it usually isn't an appropriate focus or even possible.

Frame the breakout question carefully.
I think we need to carefully frame the breakout question to try to get at either temperament or functional pair information. Each model brings different information to the interaction. Temperament questions need to be broad and to get at temperament-related core psychological needs, values, or talents. Function questions need to get at what the functions represent. The functions, as Jung described them, are processes such as ways to receive information and ways to evaluate it.

Debrief carefully.
The next challenge is in the debrief, because the learners in a workshop do not compartmentalize. They bring their full type to the chart, not just their temperament or their preferred mental processes. The skilled facilitator will know what to comment on and how to frame what might be temperament information rather than function information as examples of the rich variety, rather than examples of what is being "taught" or illustrated.

Use all the models in the background.
You don't have to teach participants all the models, just use them in the background. Each model (temperament, interaction styles or Jungian types) or aspect of a model (functional pairs, things-in-common) brings different information to our understanding of ourselves or each other. Some models are more relevant to certain situations and applications than others. While you choose the model that is an appropriate focus for the group, you as a professional need to have all of the models operating in the background. In this way, you can make the learning more elegant and more powerful. You also are less likely to create unintended bias and undesirable stereotyping.