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FutureNow Article
Thursday, Sep. 20, 2007

Decoding Personality: Why We Compete, Reward & Buy

By Anthony Garcia
September 20th, 2007

trophy.JPGRecently, I’ve had several conversations with clients about rewards and why we compete. So, when I came across this snippet from, it prompted me to share a different perspective:

Author of “Motivation from the Inside Out: Rethinking Rewards, Assessment, and Learning” and “Beyond Bribes and Threats: Realistic Alternatives to Controlling Students’ Behavior”, Alfie Kohn wrote this piece for the New York Times in 1993 about rewards in the workplace not motivating employees the right way.

Kohn suggests that these rewards act the exact same as punishments and create negative work environments.

I call BS on this simplistic presumption. The problem isn’t the reward itself. The problem is misunderstanding the person’s motivations and thereby offering the wrong reward.

Our whole lives are motivated by an internal sense of worth, measured by “rewards” — both internal and external. We’re each addicted to our own reward system. It stains every action we take.

The same applies to the buying process, and to your website.

Creating personas, profiles, and buying perspective for our clients is what we do each day at Future Now. This work is based on our instrument of choice, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Myers-Briggs is commonly used among psychologists, and has the largest database of respondents. Millions take this test annually.

According to the Keirsey Temperament Sorter (define) — which is based on Myers-Briggs but inspired by the ancient Greeks — people default to four primary temperaments:

  • The Artisan (“SP”; Sensing-Perceiving)
  • The Rationalist (“NT”; iNtuitive-Thinking)
  • The Idealist (“NF”; iNtuitive-Feeling)
  • The Guardian (“SJ”; Sensing-Judging)

In our work we focus tightly on how people prefer to behave in the buying process, so we label each temperaments differently to reflect just that. In Future Now-speak:

  • The Spontaneous (“SP”; Sensing-Perceiving)
  • The Competitive (“NT”; iNtuitive-Thinking)
  • The Humanistic (“NF”; iNtuitive-Feeling)
  • The Methodical (“SJ”; Sensing-Judging)

People tend to be surprised when they test themselves and find they’re an SP, SJ or NF. At this point, they’ll often say something like “Well, this doesn’t make sense… I’m extremely competitive!” Of course, most of the successful people we work with often are. Just because you’re not an “NT Competitive” doesn’t mean you don’t compete fiercely; you just compete for different reasons and different rewards.

The Spontaneous often competes and is primarily motivated by the thrill of the winning experience, the adrenaline rush.

The Competitive often competes and is primarily motivated by big-picture status, the trophy on the shelf.

The Humanistic often competes and is primarily motivated by the success of the team, one for all.

The Methodical often competes and is primarily motivated by the satisfaction of a job well done, winning is it’s own reward.

Of course, you’ll likely see a little bit of yourself in each of these — depending on the situation — but you may find one more appealing than the others.

Does this apply to your website? Of course!

Since buying usually triggers reward centers in the brain, these four types of motivations are relevant to the buying process. If you promise the wrong rewards, you’ll create a negative buying experience. Here’s somethings you can do in your product descriptions:

For the Spontaneous, briefly describe the thrill/experience the product provides.

For the Competitive, show them how the product will advance their goals.

For the Humanistic, show them how the product will positively affect others.

For the Methodical, describe in detail how the product will help them get things right.

If you have a minute, share some examples with us of websites that push your reward button — and let us know your temperament. Not sure of your own type? Take an anonymous (and free) online test.

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Comments (13)

  1. I’m a bit biased, but I love this post, Anthony. The funny thing is, I thought I was an “NT Competitive” last year, when I wrote this piece on how to write for different personality types. Turns out I’m an “NF Humanistic”… I test close to NT, but it’s not my preference.

    I’ve also found the same phenomenon with the word “intuitive”. Everyone likes to think they’re an “N – iNtuitive” but it’s just about how you process information. It’s not saying that “Sensing” types don’t have intuition, or that “Judging” types are constantly judgmental. “Perceivers” are fully capable of passing judgment, often with less information. I should know. I am one. :)

    My favorite example of a site that’s perfectly tailored to Humanistic types — without the touchy-feely stereotype — is Pownce. It’s a cool service, but the copy is even better.

  2. I attended a Future Now seminar where they asked the audience, which temperment most describes you? At first, people we reluctant, they weren’t sure whether or not they were methodical, or spontenous? etc. SO finally, a few guys held up their arms claiming they were spontenous. They were asked to browse through a site and display spontenous actions. To their surprise, they weren’t spontenous at all! They turned out to be more methodical/competitive in nature which was impacting the way they navigated through the site. Anyhow you make at a great point Anthony about promising the wrong rewards creates a negative buying experience.

  3. [...] One of our seminar attendees helped us notice something interesting about "Corporate DNA". Something wasn't "write" with her company's messaging. They're large, well-known and have spent decades projecting themselves as a Humanistic culture, with massive, ongoing radio and TV ad campaigns. So, the first thing we noticed on their website was that the copywriting was tailored for Methodical types. (To read more about how we classify personality types into Competitive, Spontaneous, Methodical, and Humanistic, click here.) [...]

  4. Ayat,

    You actually point out another critical point. People may have a preference for a particular type. In other words they may tend to prefer being spontaneous but depending on what they may be browsing (something they are unfamiliar with for example) they may change modes of behavior to more methodical.

  5. [...] Myers-Briggs Temperaments: Why We Compete, Reward & Buy [...]

  6. [...] the bottom of the page, regardless of where their web surfing takes them. This appears to relate to how different personality types interact with the web. Each type prefers to navigate in their own way, and particular groups, like Methodicals and [...]

  7. [...] the four dominant personality types, the slower-paced Methodical and Humanistic fans were the worst hit. Methodicals were upset [...]

  8. Decoding Personality: Why We Compete, Reward & Buy…

    Our whole lives are motivated by an internal sense of worth, measured by “rewards” — both internal and external. We’re each addicted to our own reward system. It stains every action we take. The same applies to the buying process, and to your websi…

  9. [...] this “Brand” carries though to their web site, where the Methodicals can find out the details of why they are the best choice.  I would kill the scroll box, of [...]

  10. Great post! It seems to me that these traits may be as well related to the values that consumers associate with particular product or service… IBM has done some research on this (see post on my Modern Metrix blog:

  11. [...] four Temperaments as described at Future Now: The Spontaneous (”SP”; Sensing-Perceiving) The Competitive (”NT”; iNtuitive-Thinking) The [...]

  12. [...] Anthony Garcia of FutureNow, Decoding Personality [...]

  13. [...] be an investigative reporter, go undercover by transforming myself to think like various different personas to analyze my client’s online performance, and help them make changes that ultimately lead to [...]

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