After my last two posts – Mob Deprogramming and MBTI and Pair Programming – I felt I needed more data on MBTI types in software development. I did after all base most of the latter post on just the one study.

So I started looking for more data sources and reading up on what others were saying about personality types in software development. My first comment must be:

Stop labelling each other and yourselves so blindly based on a single personality type definition! MBTI only scratches the surface and can never completely encapsulate the full human condition. It’s a sketch at best, not a blueprint!

Calm down!

Now…on to my findings.

An interesting aspect is the US-centric approach we often take in methods of software development.

While the data I have collected is too small to draw any certain conclusions, it hints at a slightly different make up of types among software developers depending on which country we are in. Different personality types are drawn to software development in India than in the US. The national culture, as well as corporate culture plays a big role in how work is organised and valued, making different types drawn to “the same job”. For example, in a culture where a firm hand and strict discipline is valued highly, you might get a different type working in a kindergarten than you would in a hippie commune.

I updated the list of MBTI types based on four different sources*, and it turned out slightly different than the first one.

SW DevsTypeGeneral PopDiff
18%ISTJ12%50%
17%ESTJ9%89%
8%INTP3%166%
8%INTJ2%300%
7%ESTP4%75%
6%ISTP5%20%
6%ENTP3%100%
6%ISFJ14%−57%
5%ENTJ2%150%
4%ISFP9%−55%
4%ENFP8%−50%
4%ESFP9%−56%
3%ESFJ12%−75%
3%INFP4%−25%
2%INFJ2%0%
2%ENFJ3%−33%

I found a lot of people claiming INTP to be the most common personality type among software developers. I found this strange, as none of my sources indicated this. But when I calculated the difference between software developers and the general US public I understood why.

There is a clear over representation of INTP among software developers – almost 170% more. However, INTJ was even more over represented at three times more than the general population. But still, in actual numbers, ISTJ and ESTJ appear to be the most common type.

Another one that sticks out is ENTJ, which is not surprising when thinking about all the strong willed, confident, driven but also arrogant and impatient tech entrepreneurs – or entreprenerds as some might call them.

The numbers also, once again, falsifies the old notion that programmers are introverts. There is a slight over representation in the data I have found (54% in developers vs. 51% in the general population), but it’s so small I think it falls well into the margin of error. And even if correct, the difference is so small that it hardly can be called a significant personality trait in developers.

T on the other hand can easily be said to be a significant trait in developers.

The least likely type to work in software development appears to be ESFJ. In fact, all the F (feeling) types are under represented, which is very interesting. It hints at the often occurring problem when developers struggle to understand the users – who might be Fs – and users might be unable to express their needs in a way that developers can understand.

Being a feeling type myself, and working in software development, I might have to look further into this.

* Sources:
https://oro.open.ac.uk/24433/7/EBAA5796.pdf
https://ir.lib.uwo.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=1005&context=electricalpub
https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1511/1511.04411.pdf
http://www.wiete.com.au/journals/GJEE/Publish/vol13no2/02J-Capretz-L-F.pdf