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  1. #1
    Senior Member burymecloser's Avatar
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    Arrow Critiquing Keirsey

    David Keirsey is among the most influential and widely-read writers on personality typing, but he effectively ignores functions, and some members of this forum dismiss his work as elementary or even useless.

    Keirsey was my primary background when I joined this site, and I would be very interested in a detailed critique of his work. Alternatively, if anyone wants to mount a passionate defense of Keirsey, I'd be interested in that, too.

    Quote Originally Posted by simulatedworld View Post
    if you think about E/I and P/J in Keirsey's terms, you get the meanings all wrong. "I plan and work hard" doesn't make you a J, and "I don't like to be outgoing with random new people a lot" doesn't make you an I.
    Quote Originally Posted by burymecloser View Post
    Could you expand on this? When I joined this forum, Keirsey was my primary frame of reference. I spent over a decade thinking I was INTJ before I learned the basics of function theory, and now believe I'm probably INTP.

    I'd be really interested in a detailed critique of Keirsey, though I still believe his work is important and has some value.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member KDude's Avatar
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    I'm reading Lenore Thomson's book right now, and I thought it was interesting that she pointed out how Keirsey kind of wanted to dismiss the idea of there even being much difference between ESFP and ISFP... It's in the beginning of her chapter on IFPs..I can't recall what Keirsey text she is referring to, but that seems careless. Even though ISFPs are "sensate" experiencers too, being Fi dominant could be a huge difference. It is for me at least.

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    not to be trusted miss fortune's Avatar
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    I think that Keirsey's work is basically an example of a Lie to Children... an oversimplification of a more complex concept in order to make it more accessable to the masses than the origional theory was... Kind of like the difference between the Lion King and Hamlet

    The more you understand, the more useless Keirsey's concepts seem
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  4. #4
    Administrator highlander's Avatar
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    There are some interesting things in Kiersy - like the 4 types of leadership (tactical, logistical, diplomatic, and strategic) for example. A lot of it though seems fictionally romanticized to me. It is a bit like reading the fairy tale version of typology.

    The success of the books probably has more to do with "first mover" advantage than anything else - making the concepts accessible to a broader audience as has been explained.

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  5. #5
    veteran attention whore Jeffster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by whatever View Post
    I think that Keirsey's work is basically an example of a Lie to Children... an oversimplification of a more complex concept in order to make it more accessable to the masses than the origional theory was... Kind of like the difference between the Lion King and Hamlet
    I'm really glad you made this comparison. I like The Lion King a heck of a lot better than Hamlet!

    The more you understand, the more useless Keirsey's concepts seem
    False. I've found exactly the opposite to be true. The more I understand, the more I see his basic concepts play out in real life, and am aided in my communication with others tremendously.

    Simplification is a GOOD thing, people!

    Accessibility is a GOOD thing!

    Complex does not equal better!

    It seems to me that people that are more interested in mental masturbation that produces nothing but theoretical circles diss Keirsey. Those that appreciate the differences in people and the practicality of bridging those differences in communication praise him.

    It's like they hate the fact that someone simplified their oh-so-intellectual club of I'm-so-smartness. Magic P has even admitted this before. That he wants this exclusive club of people who DEEPLY UNDERSTAND this theoretical cloud of gas rather than a mass of people having an effective tool for action.

    The thing is, there's no reason you can't have both. If Fi'ing your Ni-Ne up your Te's Ti until the cows come home is what makes you happy, than knock yourself out. But don't bash Keirsey just because he doesn't join your circle jerk, and actually found ways to connect with people who are more interested in what's actually useful in reality.
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  6. #6
    not to be trusted miss fortune's Avatar
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    I just think that it's inadequate to explain differences, though it's adequate to explain similarities

    I didn't say Keirsey was BAD, I just said that his version is the more accessable version of the theory to interest more people. I just don't see it as being as descriptive... for instance, why my ISTJ uses S in such a different way than I do... it might as well not be the same function
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  7. #7
    Habitual Fi LineStepper JocktheMotie's Avatar
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    Personally, I find Keirsey useful for on the spot, quick typing of behavior, not necessarily what I would consider personality. To me, personality encompasses psychological motivations and tendencies that may or may not lead to certain behaviors. Keirsey's method would suggest that your underlying motivations, or "why" you arrive at certain conclusions and behaviors are largely irrelevant in comparison to whatever behavior you express to the world.

    I think in his goal, describing 16 expressed behavioral types, he is successful. The system must be judged both on its own merits and its ability to be applied. I found that his method was interesting and useful; abstract vs. concrete, and cooperative vs. utilitarian are good metrics for comparing behavior. However, I think he does his system a disservice borrowing the nomenclature of MBTI to name his types. It gives the illusion that the systems are compatible, when they are two very different things. Also, an individual's behavior changes a lot in different environments. You can probably be about 3 different Keirsey types throughout your day, depending on environmental demands. And without taking a cognitive approach, and only relying on external observation as judging criteria, the system is not useful in terms of self discovery and personal analysis, but more useful as a way to categorize those around you. The system seems far more outside oriented, than inner oriented.



  8. #8
    ⒺⓉⒷ Eric B's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KDude View Post
    I'm reading Lenore Thomson's book right now, and I thought it was interesting that she pointed out how Keirsey kind of wanted to dismiss the idea of there even being much difference between ESFP and ISFP... It's in the beginning of her chapter on IFPs..I can't recall what Keirsey text she is referring to, but that seems careless. Even though ISFPs are "sensate" experiencers too, being Fi dominant could be a huge difference. It is for me at least.
    That was PUM 1, p. 203, where he says that the ISTP is more like the ESTP than the INTP. Lenore is coming from a more purer Jungian outlook, where there were really only eight types (the dominant function), and the auxiliary is a bit less prominent than in type as commonly viewed where the dom and aux seem to carry equal weight in shaping the behavior.

    I can see it both ways. I might have the same dominant ego-goals as the ISTP, but that auxiliary in practice does make a signifficant difference, and I will be more like an ENTP in many ways.

    Keirsey is simply a division of the types into leadership skill groups, while Interaction styles are social skill groupings, and cognitive processes are a third angle to group the types from, that is truer to Jung's original conception.
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  9. #9
    reborn PeaceBaby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeffster View Post
    But don't bash Keirsey just because he doesn't join your circle jerk, and actually found ways to connect with people who are more interested in what's actually useful in reality.
    An excellent point and post, Jeffster.

    I still find much relevant in Keirsey's work, and it is an engaging read for anyone new to the subject or someone you want to get acquainted with the subject, but has some inner resistance. It's engaging. Relates to real world examples. More people find that ... interesting.
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  10. #10
    ^He pronks, too! Magic Poriferan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by burymecloser View Post
    You're up, MP.
    [I wrote this quickly, so it's sloppy, probably not that well structure, and full of typos I would assume]

    There's a line, it came from Mencken, that went like this: "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong."

    I always think of that one when discussions of Keirsey's temperament system arise.

    Often, the proponents of Keirsey's work say it is easy to understand, and easy to apply quickly, and really makes the world nice and tidy. Perhaps so, but it does these things by making totally invalid inferences.

    What are the problems with the temperament model?

    Well, as you noted, Keirsey threw out the cognitive processes. What he is left with is a system where you can only categorize people based on their behavior. In a nutshell, it's a psychology measure that never questions how anyone thinks.

    That obviously seems silly, but to elaborate, the problem is that what someone does, like how punctual they are or how cleanly they are, as well as what sort of tenets people subscribe to, like political ideology, are all things that can be arrived at through many different trains of thought. It means that merely observing that a person has certain habits and certain ideologies does not tell you how they perceived or reasoned their way to that point. Trying to type someone on these observable traits will quickly show people to be typological contradictions in Keirsey's system.

    Now granted, you cannot know anything about a person by means other than observable traits, technically. But the cognitive model tries harder to get at someone's abstract thinking (often through words as much or more than deeds), and this also why questions on a cognitive test tend to be very general. Kerisey's approach is ridiculously specific. It actually suggests typing people on observations like whether or not they keep surfaces clear and clean. But that doesn't give you any understand of the person's mind. It basically only tells you what you already just observed.

    And let's look at the reasoning in Keirsey's own writing. He has very little logical framework in his books. Much of what he wrote is based on his personal experience. That's inconistent, incomplete, and hard to apply. Personal experience alone is not very reliable. Furthermore, outside of that, he makes the odd choice to reach back to the antiquated temperament systems of people like Hippocrates. His reasoning (which strikes me as incredibly ISTJ) is that this is the pattern that has been passed down for ages, and he basically just figures from there that it has enough merit to imitated. I found this decision to also be poorly reasoned.

    And there's the fact that, because of how his sytem works, the temperaments are very archetypical. I don't believe the cognitive types, if properly applied, pidgeonhole's anyone or leaves anybody unrepresented (though if you see the way SimulatedWorl applies it, it does in that case). Keirsey's temperaments do, on the other hand. They are inflexible archetypes which go into too much detail per type profile without accounting from all the range of possibilities. He's typing people on so many behavioral details that it should lead to far more than 4 binary variables, and that in turn should lead to far more than 16 types. But again, he's more content to just smash everyone into those details

    And that being said, there aren't even really 16 types, because Keirsey gets so carried away with his temperament idea that it starts to devour the types. Some more than others. Perhaps because he fancies himself an NT, he gave the most comprehensive treatment to the NTs. The SJs he treats the worst. Each temperament follows a pattern akin to just one of its types. The Guardians are ESTJs, the Artisans are ESTPs, the NFs and NTs are more even, but they are basically INFJs and INTPs.

    The types that are most different from the archetypical type of the temperament are therefore the most poorly accounted. ISFJs, ISFPs, ENFPs, and ENTJs are sort of poorly explained and represented.

    So I stick with the cognitive processes. They are an ecompassing and consistent logical framework which can be worked out deductively and applied flexibly, and they actually reflect a person's thought processes, instead of making hasy conclusions from someone's lifestyle habits.
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