Thoughts on Myers-Briggs
Here, I try to be reasonably concise but complete in my thoughts about Myers-Briggs. It would be interesting to see how people differ in opinions.
I expect people to post their own views on personality or respond to the posts others (including myself) make.
I summarize the beliefs I hold at the top, as well as experiments I'd like to see done. The rest are my thoughts in more detail.
Beliefs/Hypotheses I Hold
- The Forer Effect is the result of the similarities among human beings.
- Big Five Theory is a description of descriptions of personality
- Behavioral models are useful, but behaviorsm is too limiting. I believe there are actually things underneath driving us, defining our needs, and determining the themes of our lives.
- We are not "tabular rasa" but are born with some innate tendencies. These tendencies in-turn color our interactions with the environment, while the environment shapes our personalities further.
- Temperaments and Interaction Styles are excellent ways to behaviorally get a first guess on the personality.
- The top two cognitive functions do determine type, and are important to understand for growth…i.e. I believe Isabel Myers's extrapolation of Jung's work was reasonably sound. However, unless obvious, I don't believe it is easy to type people directly like with functions.
- Jung was onto something with archetypes, and with Function-attitudes (functions).
- John Beebe was onto something with Archetypal Complexes, and that Berens was tracking the same something.
- Lenore Thomson was onto something with the tertiary temptation as well.
Experiments I'd like to see done
- Have people read descriptions and are asked how well it describe someone they know well. See if similar thing to Forer Effect shows up. This would add weight to the hypothesis that the Forer Effect is the result of the similarities human beings.
- See the difference in Forer Effect between random descriptions given to people, and descriptions given to people that are supposedly based on a highly accurate personality test.
- See if people accept inaccurate beliefs more readily if embedded within accurate descriptions.
- Do a Big-Five like factor analysis on the descriptions of things.
- take sections of the population skewed by personalities based on the Big Five itself, and see if different factors don't emerge from different segmentations of personality.
The Forer Effect is the observation that individuals will give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of their personality that supposedly are tailored specifically for them, but are in fact vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people.
Is it possible that the descriptions are indeed accurate? ...even if the accuracy is the result of the Forer Effect…that is, even if they describe many other people?
Human beings have a lot in common, and if the Forer Effect may simply be a reflection of that. It would be interesting to have people read descriptions and are asked how well it describe someone they know well.
Or is that people accept descriptions that don't apply to them simply because it is generated by a test that is supposed to describe their personality? I'd like to see the difference in Forer Effect between random descriptions given to people, and descriptions given to people that are supposedly based on a highly accurate personality test.
Do people accept inaccurate beliefs embedded within accurate descriptions? That would be another interesting thing to test, because it would mean the Forer Effect feeds on it self.
Descriptions, 3rd person vs. 1st person
There is an interesting dynamics tests that give descriptions back as a result of questions asked about descriptions. One would expect that a description built from descriptions a person agreed described himself/herself, would be agreed upon as well.
I would expect a similar story in 3rd person descriptions. The 3rd party would read a description of the person the same as what they answered as descriptions in the questionnaire.
If the Forer effect is cold reading, then a description based test being fed back to a person is warm reading. But in either case, the descriptions themselves can be helpful to people who need their own descriptions given to them from outside.
Also, the descriptions would be different depending on who was describing it. There is an interesting classification scheme for "traits" known as Johari and Nohari windows. Each window is split into four categories…Arena (known to both self and others), Blind Spot (known to others but not self), and Façade (known to self but not others). The Johari window describes positive traits, the Nohari, negative ones.
So here we see some value. If the person describes to others things about themselves that others do not know, it may be fruitful. Similarly, an outside party tells someone how they are perceived would also be helpful. The languages of personality systems can serve as a short had for this sort of communication.
In a way, the results of the Big Five tests are nothing more than regurgitations of the test questions. The only real difference is that the Big Five aggregates the descriptions and then gives you where you are in comparison to the population on the five factors. That is the extent of the value of the Big Five…it lets you draw comparisons between yourself and a larger population. It may in addition, serve as good reflection of your beliefs about yourself, and if used with a Johari/Nohari-like technique, then it may further inform you how others perceive themselves compared to you.
I am not disputing the "truth" of the Big Five model. I am, however, disputing how much Big Five Theory can be used a description of personality. In short, I posit that the Big Five Theory (the theory being that personality has five factors, specifically Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism) is a description of descriptions of personality.
The Big Five is based on the Lexical Hypothesis. The lexical hypothesis states that
the most salient and socially relevant personality differences in people’s lives will eventually become encoded into language. I find this hypothesis rather dubious. Certainly some things will become encoded into language…but I believe that this encoding will distort and filter the true aspects of personality.
This brings up some questions for me. Will majority opinion of a population skew how "traits" are associated with each other in a 3rd party based evaluation of personality? On self-report based personality descriptions, will we again only see the associations people make about themselves? This too could be largely skewed from their actual personalities.
It would be interesting to do a similar factor analysis on the descriptions of things. I think you will find a similar (though not exactly the same) framework as the Big Five (designed for people) appear. If this occurs, then the hypothesis that the Big Five is a description descriptions would gain more weight.
Also, it would be interesting to take sections of the population skewed by personalities based on the Big Five itself, and see if different factors don't emerge from different segmentations of personality. This too would mean that the Big Five Theory is more an artifact of language and culture than a true description of personality.
It is further interesting that four of the dichotomies have strong correlations to 4 of the Factors (Neuroticism was explicitly left out because the Myers-Briggs community wanted to use the understanding of personality to help people work together and understand themselves and others). Of course, the Big Five factors are not the MBTI dichotomies in disguise, they are quite different. However, perhaps it can be taken as evidence that the scaffolding on which the MBTI was developed, the theory itself, has some validity.
Getting to the "Core" of People's Personalities
Ultimately, so far, we have talked about adjectives…traits that people have. We can alternatively look at verbs, what people do. This would lead to behavioral descriptions of people. But really, both trait-based and behavioral descriptions are at a surface level. They don't delve deeper.
Behavioral models are quite useful, but behaviorsm is too limiting. I believe there are actually things underneath, driving us, defining our needs, and determining the themes of our lives. I think a good theory of personality should attempt to get at this core.
I also believe we are not "tabular rasa" but are born with some innate tendencies. These tendencies in-turn color our interactions with the environment, while the environment shapes our personalities further.
To this end, I really like the approaches that the theories of Temperament and Interaction Syles use. They look at traits and behaviors and use that evidence to get a good idea of what is diving people, defining their needs, etc.
Of course circumstances and environmental factors will change what traits people develop, but I believe there are almost always enough clues on the surface (for Temperaments and Interaction Styles) to piece together the core.
As far as Myers-Briggs related temperaments, there are 4 of them. They can be called different things based on who is describing them.
I'll give the descriptions of all 4 temperaments, along with the core needs of that temperament:
- Artisans(SPs) are often epicurian, spontaneous, restless, entertaining, impulsive, present oriented, fast-reacting, risk-taking, improvising, and cynical. They often like seizing opportunities, making an impact, using colloquial language, and telling stories. They are often good at tactics, variation, contextual thinking, promoting, adapting, and performing. Often, they make skilled troubleshooters, negotiators, operators, and players. They usually value action, skilled performance, variety, fraternal relationships, excitement, stimulation, aesthetics, and immediate adventure. Their core needs are the freedom to act on impulses and the ability to make an impact.
- Guardians(SJs) are often economical, structured, dependable, appraising, meticulous, past oriented, cautious, careful, responsible, standardizing, fatalistic, and authority centered. They often like stabilizing organizations, using customary language, and making comparisons. They are often good at logistics, measurement, sequential thinking, supervising, protecting, and providing. Often they make skilled stabilizers, monitors, and conservators. They usually value security, hierarchical procedures, stability, group relationships, rules, regulations, conformity, and the preservation of social groups. Their core needs are having a place of belonging and meeting the responsibilities of a duty.
- Rationals(NTs) are often theoretical, cold, logical, oblivious, critiquing, perfectionistic, infinite-time oriented, problem-solving, analytical, inventing, and skeptical. They often like forming hypotheses, gaining knowledge, using precise language, and thinking in conditionals. They are often good at strategy, analysis, differential thinking, marshaling, designing, and categorizing. Often they make skilled visionaries, directors, engineers, and inventors. They usually value intelligence, scientific inquiry, logical consistency, expert relationships, concepts, ideas, progress, ultimate truths, and theories. Their core needs are gaining knowledge, competence, mastery, and self-control.
- Idealists(NFs) are often spiritual, warm-hearted, involved, praising, impressionistic, future oriented, inspiring, empathic, imagining, credulous, and relationship centered. They often like creating harmony, using global language, and thinking in metaphors. They are often good at diplomacy, interpretation, integrative thinking, counseling, revealing, and facilitating. Often they make skilled catalysts, mentors, foreseers, and advocates. They usually value self-actualization, cooperative interaction, unity, empathic relationships, ethics, morality, authenticity, and an ideal or meaningful world. Their core needs are having a unique identity of meaning and significance.
Although our core needs are, in a way, invisible, the way to tell what they are is my looking at what gives you energy and vitality as opposed to draining you of life and energy. If your core needs are being met, you will be full of life, when they are not being met, you will be drained of life.
There are four interaction styles to complement the four temperaments. Each temperament has one type for each of the 4 interaction styles, and each interaction style has one type for each temperament.
- Get-Things-going Style(ESFs and ENPs) People who like to get things going tend to be energetic, animated, gregarious, expressive, enthusiastic, engaging, persuasive and casual. They have talents for making preparations, discovering new ways of seeing things, sharing insights, exploring options, facilitating, catalyzing, energizing, brainstorming, and persuading. They have an urgent need to involve people, and aim to get an embraced result. Their core belief is that it's worth the energy to involve everyone and get them to want to do what needs to be done. They have faith that whatever emerges form the interaction will move people forward.
- Behind-the-Scenes Style(ISFs and INPs) People who like to be behind the scenes tend to be quiet, agreeable, friendly, approachable, unassuming, accommodating, conscientious, and patient. They have talents for supporting others, defining specifications, clarifying values, producing high quality results, searching for commonalities, encouraging participation, reconciling inconsistencies, and sustaining effort. They have a pressing need to integrate things, and aim to get the best result possible. Their core belief is that it is worth the time to integrate and reconcile many inputs. They have faith that people can make it al work out in the end.
- In-Charge Style(ESTs and ENJs) People who like to be in charge tend to be energetic, confident, composed, in control, commanding, straightforward, decisive, and sociable. They have talents for supervising, mobilizing resources, mentoring, executing actions, leading to a goal, actualizing a vision, accomplishing through people, and providing resources. They have an urgent need to accomplish tasks and aim to get an achievable result. Their core belief is that it is worth the risk to go ahead and decide or act. They have faith that people can control whatever happens.
- Chart-the-Course Style(ISTs and INJs) people who like to char the course tend to be quiet, informative, reserved, intense, calm, private, planful, and focused. They have talents for outlining/planning agendas/logistics, conceptualizing end results, foreseeing how people will respond, figuring out what needs to be done, monitoring progress, illuminating, devising a plan, and giving guidance. They have a pressing need to anticipate things and aim to get a desired result. Their core belief is that it is worth the effort to think ahead to reach the goal. They have faith in their process to get where they want to go.
Types, Archetypes, Functions
There are many other things that make our picture of personality much more rich and that are embraced by the Myer-Briggs community. For instance type flavors (independent vs. participative, mainstream vs. counterculture, global vs. local, hard vs. soft), and life themes (athletic, artistic, community, establishment, political, growth, academic, entrepreneurial). Multiple intelligences (verbal-linguistic, musical-rhythmic, visual-spatial, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, naturalist, interpersonal, and intrapersonal), and preferred modalities for learning (Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic) make the picture still more rich. There is also family influence, career choice, cultural effect, and gender difference.
But to delve deeper into the subconscious and unconscious... I think function-attitudes (also known as just "functions") are important. I believe that Jung was onto something with archetypes(innate universal psychic dispositions that form the substrate from which the basic themes of human life emerge), and with Function-attitudes. For Jung there are two attitudes, introverted and extraverted, and for each of the attitudes, there are 4 possible functions, Sensing, iNtuition, Feeling, and Thinking, yielding 8 function-attitudes.
In Myers-Briggs typology two functions define a type…a primary function and an auxiliary function. In healthy individuals, the two functions should have opposite attitudes. In addition one should be a judging function (either thinking or feeling) and the other a perceiving function (either sensing or intuition).
I believe the top two cognitive functions do indeed determine type, and are important to understand for growth…i.e. I believe Isabel Myers's extrapolation of Jung's work was reasonably sound. However, unless obvious, I don't believe it is easy to type people directly with functions.
I believe John Beebe was onto something with Archetypal Complexes, and that Linda Berens was tracking the same something with the "lasagna model".
The model is as follows:
- Hero / Heroine (superior or dominant function)
- Father / Mother (auxiliary function)
- Puer / Puella (tertiary function)
- Anima / Animus (inferior function)
- Opposing Personality (same function as #1 but with opposite attitude)
- Senex / Witch (same function as #2 but with opposite attitude)
- Trickster (same function as #3 but with opposite attitude)
- Demonic Personality (same function as #4 but with opposite attitude)
I also believe Lenore Thomson was onto something with the tertiary temptation as well. The tertiary temptation occurs when we rely on our tertiary function which has the same attitude as our primary, creating an imbalance of attitude and leading to unhealthy mode if engaged in for a long period of time.
Forer effect - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Johari window - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Big Five personality traits - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Understanding yourself and others ... - Google Books
Understanding Yourself and Others ... - Google Books
Multiple intelligences & personality ... - Google Books
Visual Auditory Kinesthetic Learning Styles
Jungian archetypes - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Evolving the Eight-Function Model (by John Beebe) : Type Insights