I’d like to announce the winners of the 2016 Typology Central Scholarship. The selection process involved a review by the moderation team of applications from 60 students. There were so many strong applications and exceptional essays that we are awarding three scholarships instead of two.
First Prize of $2,000 – Cecily Grace Lahey of Alma College
Cecily is an INTJ who loves learning way too much. Studying personality types has been an interest of hers ever since she accidentally picked up a stack of books on the subject six years ago, and she always enjoys discovering new tools for understanding others better. She is currently transferring from her local community college to Alma College in hopes of finding more elaborate and expensive ways of learning unnecessary but fascinating information while majoring in New Media Studies. Her other pursuits include hiking, reading, acting, gardening, and thinking . . . and analyzing the personality types of random passersby on the street.
Second Prize of $500 - Ian Madden of Truman State University
Ian Madden is an INFP who will enter his junior year at Truman State University this fall, majoring in psychology and minoring in sociology. He loves to read, write and drink coffee. In the future, he hopes to work in counseling or journalism.
Third Prize of $500 - Isabelle Appleton of Vassar College
Isabelle Appleton is an INFP and upcoming sophomore at Vassar College and a prospective Religion and Studio Arts Double Major. She is originally from St. Louis, Missouri and enjoys painting, writing, reading, and contemplative studies.
Congratulations to this year’s winners!! Their bios and essays are shown below.
The 2016 scholarship was limited to the United States. The 2017 Scholarship is now in effect with an application deadline of June 23, 2017 and will be available globally.
Results 1 to 4 of 4
07-17-2016, 05:33 PM #1
Typology Central Scholarship Winners
07-17-2016, 05:37 PM #2
A Dangerous Guess
“It’s all nonsense, you know!” I teased my mother.
“Because it’s pointless. You list all your personality traits, find a label for a person with those traits, and then—what does it tell you? That since you’re that type of person, you have all the traits you just listed. So useful.”
“That’s not the point,” my mother always insisted. “You learn more from knowing your personality type, because it helps you find traits you didn’t know you had.”
“It helps you guess that you have traits you didn’t know you had. And it’s a dangerous guess,” I always maintained.
My mother and I repeated that sort of conversation many times. She believed solidly in the importance and usefulness of personality type systems, and I suspected she was half-right—but I worried. I know now that I was wrong, of course; personality typing is not by any means “all nonsense.” And my mother was right in saying that the point of personality typing is to learn more about ourselves and about others. But my concern was valid. What worried me, as I told her, was that it’s guesswork. We list the details we know about ourselves, receive a label for a person with those qualities, and then extrapolate the qualities of other people with that label to find other qualities we may hold in common. We infer the unknown from the known. That extrapolation is the helpful part—but it’s also the risky part, as well. Sometimes the guesses are right; sometimes they’re dead wrong; sometimes they lead to generalizations and stereotypes. So I struggled for some time with the question of how much we can rely on type theories, and what use we should make of them. But now I think the question hinges on how we treat extrapolation, that dangerous guess. We know, of course, the benefits of extrapolation. After all, without the inference, personality typing only tells us what we already know. But we must recognize the risks and understand how much we can rely on it in order to properly use the results of that dangerous guess. The key to using it, I believe, is to balance our use of the systems with careful observation of real life and real people, because observation plus careful extrapolation equals perception. And perception is what personality theories are really all about.
The great risks of extrapolation are that we will end up with incorrect inferences or that we will generalize our extrapolations too much and end up with stereotypes. The results of such careless blunders are always ugly. Let’s consider incorrect inferences first, since they’re simple and straightforward. I must immediately admit that I’m frequently guilty of incorrect inferences myself. For instance, I thought for years that my younger brother, Daniel, was an extrovert, because he loves talking, so I always asked him to deal with people for me, assuming he would enjoy it. After several years of what I thought a clever bargain for both of us, he began studying personality types for himself and eventually told me my guess was wrong. He is just an introvert who loves talking, as he now informs me too often for me to forget. I’ll take his word for it. I can see now that I took a quality of his, corresponded it to the incorrect type, and then assumed, based on that type, that he had qualities that he in fact did not. I also know what it can be like to be treated as someone you’re not, based on your type, rather than your real personality. For example, our father, who is intensely interested in birth-order theory, often treats Daniel and I as “typical” middle-born children—indecisive, unobtrusive, and secretive. This causes trouble for us, because the “typical” middle-born is nonexistent—it is an average and an estimate, and certainly not a description of either one of us. So the dangers of incorrect extrapolations are clear enough and fairly simple to understand. The remedy, of course, is observation—look carefully and always be sure of your facts.
The other essential function of observation is to counteract generalization, the second danger of extrapolation, which stems from how we use those facts. Generalization is the basis of what I consider the greatest misuse of personality typing: stereotyping, or treating people based on assumptions or generalizations about their types, rather than on their own personalities. I’ve had unpleasant experiences with this kind of misuse. A few months ago, my mother was spending more time than usual researching and using the Jungian, or Meyers-Briggs, system, and she thought and talked about everything in terms of the MBTI types. In a fit of excitement about her new hobby, she made my younger sister, Elizabeth, take a number of tests to discover her personality type. Elizabeth, a clever, humorous, and imaginative thirteen-year-old with a complex personality, had enormous difficulty uncovering a result that made sense to her. Every quiz she took gave her a different result, and she ended up with four different possible types—ENTJ, ISFJ, INFJ, and ENFJ—which all described her just a little bit. This mystified my mother, who became fascinated by Elizabeth’s enigmatic personality. Elizabeth, however, was less fascinated. After a couple of weeks, she confided in me that our mother’s quest to solve the mystery was making her life miserable. “I don’t know what to do,” she said unhappily. “Mama treats me differently every time I change my mind about what my personality might be.” I asked her what she meant. “Well, for example, right now, I think I’m an ENFJ. And since ENFJ’s are feeling types, Mama keeps acting like I’m really emotional and sensitive. But I’m not. I’m still just me.” After I spoke to my mother about the incident, she resumed treating Elizabeth like Elizabeth, rather than as an ENFJ. Elizabeth did, in the end, turn out to be a feeling type, but she doesn’t want us to treat her differently than we did before we discovered the fact.
I wondered for some time about the incident. What did my mother do wrong? Why did her use of personality typing color her view of Elizabeth, and how could she have prevented that unfortunate side effect? I strongly believe that the best counterbalance to prevent generalizations is the same as the best balance overall for extrapolation: observation. It was hard for my mother to see clearly that Elizabeth was just Elizabeth, no matter what her type, and it can be difficult to interact with people as they are. And it’s a difficult balance overall between, on the one hand, treating someone as the stereotype of their personality and, on the other, ignoring theory entirely and thus ignoring what can be a highly useful tool for understanding each other. But balance is possible. We simply need to pay attention. We need to look carefully at what others really do, say, and think, instead of letting ourselves rely on our inferences.
So we have seen that the extrapolation, the helpful part, must be balanced with observation. But the strange thing is that the guess isn’t the only helpful part. I’ve found that the very process of typing someone can lead to better character understanding, because it can actually help us learn to observe better, of all things. For instance, I learned a great deal about my sister from our adventure in trying to figure out what type she was, because we had to think so carefully about her specific qualities. What was more helpful than deciding on her type was discussing with her examples of how she thought and reacted to things in order to type her. It is, I suppose, an unintended benefit of thinking carefully about people. It can sharpen our powers of both observation and deduction. And when we balance inference with observation, we have perception, which can be a priceless tool to help us understand each other . . . and maybe even to make us into better people overall.
07-17-2016, 05:40 PM #3
Truman State University
Typology: A Celebration of Diversity
Paper bubble after paper bubble, I tacked my residents’ names on the bulletin board. My friends Emily and Christian worked hurriedly beside me, struggling to meet my building’s deadline. I was only a few weeks into my sophomore year of college and my first year as a Student Advisor (SA), a live-in peer guide for about 50 residents in my dorm. Every SA had to change their board’s theme regularly, just to keep things exciting. This one in particular was based on a personality test I’d learned about in Positive Psychology, the Values in Action Classification of Character Strengths & Virtues. As we put up the names, we placed colorful bubbles labeled with strengths across the board. The idea was that every resident would take the online test, then move their name to their top strength, showcasing the floor’s diversity.
Every time I placed a name on the bulletin board, I thought about the resident, about where they might fall on the board. There was the resident who, when he wasn’t soaring around campus on Heelys, often yelled at strangers passing through our floor’s lounge from his designated spot on the couch. He was sarcastic and blunt, but one of the most genuine people I’d ever met. There was the one whose eyes lit up when he talked about his favorite bands. On a whim, he’d take off for a concert on a weeknight. The next day, after about 26 sleepless hours, he’d tell me it was “definitely worth it,” a content smile stretching to the bags under his eyes. There was one of my favorite residents, the one who always seemed to be wearing a John Deere hat and a smile. He once wrote around 70 pages of research on grass, not for a class, but because he loved agriculture that much. What made him so special wasn’t just his passion for agriculture, but his tremendously kind spirit as well. Once I said offhandedly that sleep was productive, and weeks later at 2AM, when he saw my light was on, he slipped a note under my door in fine, meticulous cursive: “Sleep is productive. Get some rest.”
I love diversity. My exposure this year to such a wide range of people only made me love it more. Our unique interests, quirks, strengths and weaknesses are the seasoning of life. Through comparison, through our similarities and differences, we can use diversity to appreciate how we contribute to the blend of flavors in the world. What traits do we bring to the table that others struggle with, and vice versa? I love personality inventories because they provide a framework for that search, that self-discovery, and celebrate diversity. In my role as an SA, I have seen firsthand what a valuable tool they can be for personal growth, communication, and empathy.
Some of my fondest memories as an SA are of meetings with my supervisors called one-on-ones. There’s a large emphasis at my university on personal growth through Residence Life, and one-on-ones are a weekly time for counsel and guidance. One of the supervisors I worked with had a wonderful, infectious energy about her. She loved life, she loved people, and she loved the Jungian types. We would sit together in her apartment, and with large eyes and a wide smile, she would gush about the power of typology for growth and understanding. Both of us INFPs, we talked regularly about our shared experience. We shared in the struggle of being introverted as an SA, the importance of carving out time for yourself. We vented about the difficulty of organization as a perceiver and collaborated on specific strategies to tackle more administrative SA tasks. We reveled in the benefits of being a feeling type, in our natural empathy that could be strengthened through SA work. With the framework of our shared type, we worked together on specific weaknesses, we found a language to communicate our struggles, and we found connection through our similar way of looking at the world.
As my supervisor and I discussed typology, I started to look at the world differently. I began to appreciate the diverse perspectives and needs of my residents. When I disagreed with a resident’s political views, I found it easier to stay calm and to stay loving, to understand they had a different way of seeing the world and interacting with society. When I failed to connect with a resident, I stopped rationalizing it as a personal failing on my part or theirs, but started to accept it as a consequence of our innate differences. When a resident was critical of me, I could identify the characteristic INFP sensitivity rising up and work to control it, work to make the criticism constructive.
I recruited another SA and soon we were harassing all of our coworkers to take the test. Although some of them fluctuated between types, the more people who took the test and shared their results, the more I understood the unique way we fit together as a team. People could say, “I fall somewhere between P and J,” and without much elaboration, I understood them more as people. I learned what could irritate them that wouldn’t frustrate me, what little disorganized, scattered things I did that might damage relationships. I started to appreciate my coworkers’ specific strengths, to value the contributions every one of us made as SAs and as people.
I don’t think personality typology is perfect; people don’t always fit into every test’s confines. But I do think that typology can start a conversation, a journey of growth that fosters understanding. Personality testing could prove a powerful tool for crossing the ideological, philosophical lines that divide our world so sharply today. No, typology is not perfect, but it can be beautiful, just as people are imperfect, but beautiful all the same.
When my friends and I tacked up the final paper bubble to my floor’s new bulletin board, we took a step back to look over our finished product. The colorful bubbles with my residents’ names popped from their black backdrop. Over the next few weeks, they would spread from neat rows to every corner of the board. Of course there were a few bubbles that never shifted, but nearly everyone took the test and moved their name. More than once I walked into my floor’s lounge to find someone staring up at the board, just taking in the diversity, the beauty, of our community. The INFPs, the ESTJs, the ISFJs, the band-worshipper, the Heelys-rider, the grass-lover. Despite their differences and because of their differences, what wonderful ways they contributed to that floor. Despite our differences and because of them, what wonderful ways we contribute to this world.
07-17-2016, 05:43 PM #4
I was introduced to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator as a junior in high school by Maya. Maya and I shared all of our classes, though we spent most periods averting eye contact and ignoring each other. She was short with dark hair and a flat, round face. Behind her glasses, her eyes were dark, nearly black, and penetrative—anytime we met eyes, only ever by accident, I immediately felt an overwhelming sensation of invasion. In high school, I was consumed by a desire to be unnoticed. Maya’s presence in all my classes was lurking and unwanted. I knew she saw through me, and I knew my invisibility was expiring.
The first conversations Maya and I had were about Myers-Briggs. We courted each other as friends almost entirely through her explanation of type characteristics and cognitive functions. She drew charts and wheels and lists, explaining the different functions and how they were activated within interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships with both conviction and trust in my own intuition (“Isabelle—I don’t need to explain it to you, just think about it”). Through Maya’s introduction, I began an in depth exploration of the function of personality types within societies as outlets for inter and intrapersonal analysis. I studied both religious and esoteric classification systems, from doshas to astrology, and psychoanalytical classification systems, from Enneagram to temperaments in Socionics.
Myers-Briggs has been highly influential in my life for the past few years. Through Myers-Briggs, I was able to create a structure for introspection, which was very helpful in channeling self-analysis into manageable categories. When I was sixteen, there were so many facets of my personality I hadn’t yet explored, or was too afraid to confront. Through a Myers-Briggs lens, I was able to learn about my subjective experience within a more objective context. The more I learned about the cognitive functions and typical behaviors for INFPs, the easier it became for me to predict my behavior and reaction within different contexts. I also was able to reflect on past experiences, and relate these experiences to other INFPs, or other NFs, or other introverts, and so on. I started to feel more normal—though I was part of a very small community of Intuitives Feelers and an even smaller community of INFPs in my high school, other people like me existed, and these people shared a lot of my fears and anxieties. Myers-Briggs made me feel not as alone.
Once I developed a better understanding of myself through Myers-Briggs, I became fascinated by the interactions between different types. I began to notice the roles different types play in life. For example, INFJs take on a leader or counselor role for me, providing structure, absoluteness, and reciprocity to thoughts and feelings I cannot always articulate. I observe this in my relationships with the INFJs I know, from my mother to Maya to my favorite religious leaders to every person I’ve ever dated. Once I observe these patterns within my own relationships on a microscopic scale, I enjoy observing relationships between these types in a more macroscopic sense. For example, I might learn about the compatibility of Introverted Feeling and Introverted Intuition within INFPs and INFJs, how the Quasi-Identical relationship manifests (see figure), famous INFP-INFJ duos, and so forth.
Figure: Intertype Relationships
Source: Complete relationship chart between psychological ("personality") types
Knowledge of intertype relationships also becomes helpful in a work and school environment. Through Myers-Briggs, I have been able to learn how to more effectively communicate with coworkers and fellow students. For example, I work part-time at a retail store where my boss is an ESFJ. By learning her type, I was able to think about how I communicate with ESFJ friends, and how I could apply learned useful techniques to my communication with her. By examining common miscommunications in INFP-ESFJ relationships, I was able to work to improve weak areas between us. Ultimately, despite some fundamental differences, my boss has become my favorite boss and one of my favorite humans.
Despite success with Myers-Briggs in high school, in college I have encountered a lot of pushback from other psychologically minded friends. They find the methodology and categorization to be limiting and “too corporate.” Amongst other art majors, this idea of systemization is largely frowned upon. And while I do agree that Myers-Briggs categories should never be viewed as an end-all be-all, I do think that categorization has usefulness. Because of Myers-Briggs, I have been able to create a systemized network through which to understand people and myself. I do not find this network to necessary be limiting as long as we all acknowledge that it is not the only lens through which to view a person or oneself. There have been times when Myers-Briggs has been extremely helpful in my interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships. There have also been times when Myers-Briggs could not explain someone or something that I was feeling. Both these experiences are equally valid—though Myers-Briggs is helpful, we would be remised to not also examine the other things that contribute to people’s personalities, from their upbringing to their socio-economic status to their exposure to education, with equal weight. I believe that this is a common misconception with Myers-Briggs, or personality typing in general. We should never expect a system to fully explain our entirely unique selves. There are not just sixteen types of people; there are billions, each distinctive. However, that does not delegitimize Myers-Briggs. There can simultaneously be billions of unique people and sixteen Myers-Briggs personality types—these are not exclusive clauses. The Myers-Briggs test only seeks to be a systematic, psychological, comprehensive lens through which to understand our uniqueness and potentially predict future behaviors. It does not seek to replace our individuality, or to create a hierarchy. Ultimately, it is just a method to better understand interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships.
This desire to understand is fundamental. Innately, we desire to cognize others and ourselves. We are social, we desire to relate, and hopefully we desire to relate amicably. Personally, Myers-Briggs satiates my desire to understand other’s motives and psychological processes. It also helps me to be my best within relationships by highlighting areas of conflict and strength within intertype relations. A love for Myers-Briggs has also worked to bring close to so many other people who seek to know and to understand the world around them. Through Myers-Briggs, Maya recognized my internal world, even before she knew me. And through Myers-Briggs, I hope to see others, beyond the façade they present to the world. Myers-Briggs is an outlet for understanding and relating to people, a way to see and to be seen.
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