DL Fowler's Blog

Was Lincoln an ‘S’ or ‘N’ on Myers-Briggs?

Here’s a revealing insight from William Herndon, Lincoln’s law partner who was possibly his closest personal relationship between 1844-1860. It gives us a peek into the way Lincoln processed information in making decisions.

It adds fuel to both sides of the question, was Lincoln an S or an N under the Myers-Briggs personality classification. S is supported by the observation below that he was a “Sensationalist” (meaning he relied heavily on information he could experience with his senses). N comes into play when we consider that Lincoln insisted all things needed to fit into an overarching theme, in his case that theme was Law. (The notion that Lincoln believed that all things must fit within an overarching framework — which for him was ‘universal law’ — is supported by the large body of his writings.)

“He despised speculation, especially in the metaphysical world. He was purely a practical man. He adopted Locke’s notions as to his system of mental philosophy, with some modifications to suit his own views. He held that reason drew her references as to law, etc., from observations, experience and reflection on the facts and phenomena of Nature. He was a pure sensationalist […] He was a materialist in his philosophy.”

It’s important to note that the Myers-Briggs scoring for each of the four factors uses a continuum, rather than an absolute either/or. Consequently, Herndon could be telling us that Lincoln was both S and N to some degree – possibly a bit more S than N.

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