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  1. #1
    Senior Member marm's Avatar
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    Default Criticisms of Type-Trait Theories

    http://www.fordham.edu/philosophy/da...s/jungmyer.htm
    In closing, I think it will be helpful to present a condensed review of the criticisms I have made against personality type theory, at least in the form it is taking in psychology today. Although several of this points are related, they constitute distinct and separately identifiable problems for the underpinning presuppositions of personality type inventories. And it is this relative independence of so many serious difficulties that suggests just how far from reliable the psychology presented in such personality theories really is.

    -- Naivity in Measurement: Type-trait theories work from concepts of dispositions that generally have broad meanings which have been interpreted different ways in the philosophical discourse of moral psychology, but have often inherit limited, impoverished, or otherwise idiosyncratic construals of these dispositional traits that were fixed earlier in psychoanalytic discourse. Thus, their practitioner's belief that these questions will elicit evidence of just these traits is both subjective and unsupported on its face and often highly distortive. There are several problems here: (A) the questions may be phrased in ways that carry skewed implications about the trait they are being used to measure; (B) a `yes' or `no' answer to the questions could in some cases be evidence not of the disposition which the term actually refers to, but of several others; (C) there may be other questions or observations that would be much better indicators of what this trait-term means; (D) the very concept of the disposition being measured for may be unclear or gerrymandered, the result of a mistaken interpretative focus in earlier moral psychology, and so this single `trait' is actually a partial conglomerate of several other more basic dispositional features.

    -- Relevance and Hidden Variable Problems for Factor-Analysis: Type-trait theorists tend to insist that their results are not philosophically criticizable because they are at least potentially supported by rigorously scientific methodology. The methodology in which they place such faith is regression and factor-analysis to determine if correlations are relevant, if trait-continuaa are orthogonally independent of each other, and if the traits they have selected to measure are `real,' or actually non-independent parts of other traits, or linkages of multiple more basic traits, etc. But this method cannot by itself assure us that other hidden variables would not split observed correlations, link factors formerly thought to be independent, or produce more significant correlations. In addition, it cannot assure us that the variables the analysis has identified are relevant for personality, since that concept has a normative dimension that may reduce the importance of factors the models include, or point to the importance of factors it has not even tried to test for.

    -- Leveling: The type-trait approach treats what may be intrinsically different kinds of factors that help account for consistency of behavior indirectly in interaction with situations, but treats them all as if they were just the same kind of thing of thing --namely traits or types (complexes of traits)-- and thus metaphysically on a par. In particular, these theories tend not to recognize hierarchical differences, i.e. that some `traits' may constitute not tendencies or attitudes simpliciter, but tendencies or attitudes about other traits --a point brought out in recent moral psychology..

    -- False Neutrality: Because they mix together fundamentally different kinds of dispositions, type-trait theories inevitably include --right along with traits that describe different cognitive approaches and interaction styles with no apparent ethical implications-- several other trait-contrasts that reflect moral character, or the `virtues and vices' of the person. Yet because contemporary type-trait theories are at pains to proclaim that the results of their analysis are passing no judgment on the individual, they ingenuously construe every difference in disposition as a `gift' and suggest in practice that none is inherently `bad' or less likely to contribute to human flourishing. This ignores basic insights of the virtue-theory tradition in moral psychology, which recognizes the ineliminably evaluate content of a distinct set of dispositions that are related to choice.

    -- Omission and Bipartitism: Because historical biases unconsciously derived from inadequate moral psychologies influence the selection of relevant traits and types for testing, and the interpretation of what kinds of questions will elicit which traits, type-trait theories of personality tend to leave out altogether, or at least dramatically underemphasize, certain relevant trait and trait-complexes, in particular those relating to volition in the sense distinct from both affect and detached cognition. Type-trait portraits of the `personality palatte' thus typically imply no room for a `middle part of the soul,' and revolve around a global bipartite polarization of the rational vs. the emotional.

    -- Determinism: Because of their historical origins in deterministic moral psychologies, type-trait theories of personality implicitly leave no room for alternate-possibilities freedom or `liberty' in the determination of one's character, if not also in outward action. Like Leibniz, they assume that differences in attitude and behavior between individuals in similar situations must have `sufficient reason,' which can only be an innate cause rather than libertarian choice.

    -- Psychic Alchemy: Taken together, this inherent deterministic tendency in type-trait approaches, their reduction of all relevant dispositional attitudes to one generic level, and their faith in factor analysis yield the sense --which runs implicitly throughout this typology discourse-- that what is being discovered in the analysis of personality traits and types is a kind of `period table' of the basic elements of the soul: just as chemical compounds are the result of the combination of basic chemical elements, so different personalities are the result of a combination of basic dispositional elements, and the type label applying to an individual is almost analogous to a chemical formula. Not only, as we have seen, is the `palette' of dispositional `colors' from which the personality is painted in these theories incomplete; the deeper problem is that unlike molecules, personality may not in fact be a combination of elements at all. This whole paradigm, paradigm, with its associated assumption that we can `prime factor' the soul into a set of basic components, may be fundamentally in error.

    The model on which typology approaches rest is thus one of personality as a `painting' made with an array of primary `trait-colors,' which determines how it will look (perform) in the `lighting' of different situations. This model derives from the empiricist era of moral psychology, and is thus philosophically controversial and cannot be taken for granted. If unity-of-character accounts such as those often found in virtue moral psychologies are more correct, it may be misleading to such an extent that the error colors all subsequent interpretation of data gathered, and cannot reveal itself empirically. Statistical analysis of answers to subjectively designed questions that may only inadequately measure an arguably incomplete and poorly conceived set of traits can hardly contribute anything interesting towards resolving the underlying philosophical disputes at stake here.

    In closing, let me return to the point from which we set out. Some philosophers today believe that philosophers as a group (especially those working in ethics) should recognize and defer to existing `knowledge' discovered in psychology (and the sciences of the mind generally), and therefore limit their theories to those that fit with or are practicable within the frameworks set by psychology and cognitive science. The case of personality type theories, however, shows how backwards this proposed standard is. Philosophers must deal with empirical findings, but neither ethics nor the underlying metaphysics of personhood can be circumscribed in advance by supposedly scientific theories that always embed philosophically controversial assumptions. For sometimes psychologists even erect entire edifices on bits of outdated metaphyics, distorted mutations of once-clear concepts, and threads of flawed moral psychologies, sewn together hodgepodge in a tangled skein that only the philosopher can hope to untangle and follow back out of the labyrinth to their sources.

  2. #2
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    Much of these issues have been addressed in modern theories of personality. Maybe if philosophers read more scientific articles, instead of old literary works in psychology, they would realize their criticism is redundant with what has been already said and is out dated.

  3. #3
    Senior Member wildcat's Avatar
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    Empiricism is experience only.
    The value of experience is that it is not a part of theory.

    Add experience to the theory after the fact.

  4. #4
    Senior Member marm's Avatar
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    I wasn't saying I agreed with these criticisms.
    I just thought it interesting is all.

    I particularly thought the criticism of determinism was unfounded.

  5. #5
    Senior Member wildcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by marmalade View Post
    I wasn't saying I agreed with these criticisms.
    I just thought it interesting is all.

    I particularly thought the criticism of determinism was unfounded.
    What comes after is founded.
    The trail is founded.

    It is only the trail.

  6. #6
    Senior Member marm's Avatar
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    Are you trying to sound like Yoda?

    What exactly are you asking(in normal English)?

  7. #7
    Senior Member INTJMom's Avatar
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    The person who wrote that was obviously more studied on the subject than I am,
    but I think I understood the general premise, and I did heartily agree with several points.

    For those of you who would now like me to site an example, I shall do so.

    Earlier in the week, I took an online test. I remember on several of the questions thinking,
    well, it all depends on the assumption underlying your question.
    If this is merely an S vs N question. and not a question measuring something deeper,
    then I will just give you the shallow answer you're looking for, instead of the truth.

    I only remember one example:
    "Which do you admire more, creativity or practicality?"
    The N answer is "supposed" to be creativity.
    The S answer is "supposed" to be practicality.

    But they asked me which do I admire more?
    I happen to admire those things in others that I cannot do myself.
    Therefore, my truthful answer would have been that I admire practicality more, but at last I had to decide that
    they probably thought that I am a shallow person who only admires in others what I have in myself.

    Therefore, I especially agree with that points the writer made here:

    "-- Naivity in Measurement: Type-trait theories work from concepts of dispositions that generally have broad meanings which have been interpreted different ways in the philosophical discourse of moral psychology, but have often inherit limited, impoverished, or otherwise idiosyncratic construals of these dispositional traits that were fixed earlier in psychoanalytic discourse. Thus, their practitioner's belief that these questions will elicit evidence of just these traits is both subjective and unsupported on its face and often highly distortive. There are several problems here: (A) the questions may be phrased in ways that carry skewed implications about the trait they are being used to measure; (B) a `yes' or `no' answer to the questions could in some cases be evidence not of the disposition which the term actually refers to, but of several others; (C) there may be other questions or observations that would be much better indicators of what this trait-term means; (D) the very concept of the disposition being measured for may be unclear or gerrymandered, the result of a mistaken interpretative focus in earlier moral psychology, and so this single `trait' is actually a partial conglomerate of several other more basic dispositional features."

    The recent enneagram tests I have taken have even been harder to get consistent results with,
    since I don't yet understand that underlying assumptions inherent in the questions.

  8. #8
    a white iris elfinchilde's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wildcat View Post
    Empiricism is experience only.
    The value of experience is that it is not a part of theory.

    Add experience to the theory after the fact.
    Quote Originally Posted by wildcat View Post
    What comes after is founded.
    The trail is founded.

    It is only the trail.
    Quote Originally Posted by marmalade View Post
    Are you trying to sound like Yoda?

    What exactly are you asking(in normal English)?
    ah. please allow me to translate wildcat:

    what he means by the first lines lie in the principles of scientific theory and hypothesis:

    that initial hypothesis (ie, theory) is verified/rejected by actual experimentation (ie, empiricism/experience).

    And therein lies the value of experience: it proves/disproves what was initially a theory.

    In that sense, what one experiences is a fact. And then, how one interpretes/assimilates it becomes one's experiences, as opposed to initial assumptions.

    that's how you get the linkage:
    theory-->fact (actual experience)-->experience (your interpretation/assimilation of it, which in turn, shapes your personality).

    and that's how 'what comes after is founded. the trail is founded. it is only the trail.'

    ie, what one becomes is shaped by one's experiences (what comes after is founded), especially if the experience has been assimilated (the trail is founded). It was the experience which is crucial in the equation, to determine personality.

    in that light, the trail refers to the specific experiences which one encounters in life, which needs to be assimilated in order to determine personality.

    wildcat, do correct elfie if she's wrong, yea.

    cheers.
    You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;
    They called me the hyacinth girl.
    Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
    Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
    Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
    Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
    Looking into the heart of light, the silence.

    --T.S Eliot, The Wasteland

  9. #9
    Wannabe genius Splittet's Avatar
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    I think even the S/N question "are you more creative or practical?" is awful. An important source of practicality can is Te, so especially ENTJs will have a hard time answering this question, because they are typically both very practical and creative. That is the deadly NTJ combination, imagination and ability to effectively translate the vision into result. Another problem is many SPs will answer they are more creative than practical. Many SPs are creative in the concrete would, mixing things spontaneously together, while many are too sensation-seeking to be very practical. Cognitive function testing is truly the best.

  10. #10
    @.~*virinaĉo*~.@ Totenkindly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Splittet View Post
    I think even the S/N question "are you more creative or practical?" is awful. An important source of practicality can is Te, so especially ENTJs will have a hard time answering this question, because they are typically both very practical and creative. That is the deadly NTJ combination, imagination and ability to effectively translate the vision into result. Another problem is many SPs will answer they are more creative than practical. Many SPs are creative in the concrete would, mixing things spontaneously together, while many are too sensation-seeking to be very practical. Cognitive function testing is truly the best.
    You're right on this one (imo) -- I think that's a lousy question because of the ways in which it can be interpreted.

    Also, I think it adds to the S/N rift because S's feel that they're being told they're not creative (and some believe it!) and N's feel like they're being told they are not practical (and some believe that!)

    I think creativity is any situation where one comes up with a novel approach that gets the job done... and so a creative person could be either S or N. Meanwhile, practicality means taking the "realistic" parameters into account and not getting off on some esoteric track, just plowing straight through the necessary effort needed to reach the goal. S and N people can all do this, even while pursuing S or N-flavored goals.

    So the creative/practical box, if examined, seems very sloppy and not helpful for a large section of people.
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

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