The following is adapted from Linda V. Berens and Dario Nardi, The 16 Personality Types: Descriptions for Self-Discovery (Telos Publications, 1999) *Used with permission.
The most frequently given answer is that they are shadows of a ball or sphere. Of course, by now you have looked at the next graphic and seen that they are shadows made by different shapes.
Notice what the three objects have in common-
they are circular in some way. Knowing about the different personality type patterns can also help you see some qualities you have in common with friends, family, and coworkers.
Personality type patterns are like these shadows. When trying to understand personality, all we have to judge a person by is outer behavior-we don't see the motivation behind the behavior. People can display the same behavior for very different reasons. Therefore, it is important to not overgeneralize and make assumptions, yet it is useful to make guesses and hypotheses. Knowing which type pattern fits you best can help you understand what is behind your outer behavior. Knowing about the patterns of your friends, family, and coworkers can help you meet them at their view of the world, rather than just reacting to their outer behavior.
The context or situation is also important in determining what behavior we engage in. We are not limited by our personality "types." The best-fit type pattern is the one we "prefer," the one that comes most naturally to us and that we are most likely to practice and develop. We can remain flexible and adaptable. Sometimes the environmental context can make figuring out who we are confusing because we look like one pattern in one setting and another in other settings.
For the different shapes to cast the same shadows, the light has to be at a certain angle. If we change the light, we see a differently shaped shadow.