Why Jung Matters

This photo shows a bird’s-eye view of a silhouette walking across a terrace. The person is walking in a sliver of light amid shadows. The photo signifies Carl Jung’s shadow archetype and accompanies an article about why Jung matters to personality psychology.

If Sigmund Freud was the king of psychoanalysis, Carl Jung was its crown prince. The two men were friends for a time, then bitter enemies. Yet nearly every idea that followed them in personality psychology can be said to be an afterthought to their contributions.

Recently on The Science of Personality, cohosts Ryne Sherman, PhD, chief science officer, and Blake Loepp, PR manager, spoke with Robert Hogan, PhD, founder and president of Hogan Assessments, about the contributions that Carl Jung made to modern psychology.

Dr. Hogan is an international authority on personality assessment, leadership, and organizational effectiveness. He appeared on episode 73 of The Science of Personality to talk about the importance of Freud.

Now let’s look at Carl Jung and why his work matters.

About Carl Jung

Understanding personality theory starts with the two great figures of Freud and Jung. Dr. Hogan called them the Plato and Aristotle of personality psychology. “They had something to say about almost every single important issue in the discipline,” he added.

Jung was an intuitive introvert with an interest in people and society rather than academic fame. Compared to Freud, who was a rationalist, Jung’s insight into people could seem mystical. He spent most of his scholarly career researching and writing about psychology, the unconscious, and myth and religion.

Freud and Jung had a complicated relationship. Because Freud was passionate about building a following around his own international reputation, he was intolerant of psychologists who disagreed with him. Although at first Jung upheld Freudian thought, he developed his own theories and ended his friendship with Freud. Freudians subsequently defamed Jung, destroying his reputation in a way that still affects the extent to which he is studied today.

Dr. Hogan said, “Personality theory is about the nature of human nature. Part of my mission in running Hogan Assessments is to restore people’s interest in personality theory.”

What Are Jungian Archetypes?

Both Freud and Jung thought that most human behavior was motived by the unconscious. They differed, however, in what they thought the unconscious was. Freud’s view of the unconscious was comparable to thoughts that have been systematically repressed over time. For Jung, on the other hand, the unconscious is the collective memory of the human species. “Freud would regard Jung’s view of the unconscious as hopelessly mystical, and Jung would regard Freud’s view of the unconscious as trivial,” Dr. Hogan explained.

Jung’s perspective is grounded in evolutionary theory. Humans possess a collection of emotions and response patterns from the history of our species. For example, one of our greatest fears is to be alone in a strange place in the dark. Our physical and emotional fear response in these circumstances comes from our collective unconscious, Jung would say.

Jung and Myth

Archetypes are thought patterns that help people make sense of their experience.1 Jung identified numerous archetypes, including the persona, the shadow, and the hero. The famous hero archetype appears in nearly every human culture and follows the same general template. A divine child is raised in humble circumstances, displays supernatural abilities, rises to fame, and is betrayed and sacrificed.

The stories of Hercules, Oedipus, Jesus, Buddha, King Arthur, and Superman all share the Jungian hero archetype. “Certain things happen over and over and over and over again until, at some point, they’re recorded down there in the collective unconscious,” Dr. Hogan said.

Jung and Religion

Humans have three core motivations: (1) getting along, (2) getting ahead, and (3) finding meaning. Religion is one of the most powerful forces in human affairs because it speaks to our desire to commit our belief to an idea. Politics, philosophy, and history can hold similar psychological roles regarding belief.

According to Jung, religion is a universal in human culture. He viewed all religions as having similar underlying structures that allow people to find purpose in their lives. While Freud believed religion was a delusion, Jung took religion seriously. “People need to believe in something, and religion provides an answer,” said Dr. Hogan, explaining Jung’s perspective on the psychological necessity of religion.

Why Jung Matters

Jungian theory has had a significant impact on psychology. Aside from the legacy of his archetypes, which pervade popular culture, Jung invented the word association test. The person taking the test speaks the first word that comes to mind through free association in response to a word, image, or other stimulus. This test is still used in clinical psychology.

The biggest effect that Jung has had on modern culture was by laying the foundational theory for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a widely known personality inventory. The theory came about while Jung was comparing the personalities of Freud and Alfred Adler, another psychologist.

He defined four differences in how people acquired and analyzed facts. Jung noticed that Adler focused his attention on the external world, while Freud focused inside his own head. After focusing their attention externally or internally, some people perceived facts, while others perceived the meaning of the facts. Then Jung saw that some people accepted facts at face value, whereas others filtered facts through their unconscious. Finally, some people judged facts as true or false, while others judged facts as meaningful or meaningless. The MBTI’s creators later applied these four dimensions of discerning, acquiring, processing, and applying information to its development.

Many modern personality psychologists believe that personality causes a person to think, feel, or act in certain ways. That is opposite to Jung’s information-processing theory of personality. “The way you process information—the way you feel about information—is exactly what it means to be different, to have a different personality,” Dr. Hogan said. While there are more dimensions to personality, Jung is both unique and correct when he says that our approaches to learning information contribute to our personalities.

To emphasize the importance of Jungian theory, Dr. Hogan said, “All personality psychology can be seen as an extended footnote to Freud and Jung.”

Listen to this conversation in full on episode 75 of The Science of Personality. Never miss an episode by following us anywhere you get podcasts. Cheers, everybody!


  1. Hogan, R., & Smither, R. (2008). C. G. Jung and Analytic Psychology. In Personality: Theories and Applications. Hogan Press: 77–102.