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  1. #1
    Senior Member ChildoftheProphets's Avatar
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    Default Scientific Validity of Personality Classifications and Tests

    As a former NT myself, scientific validity still has a very meaningful place in my heart, and I wonder what you NTs have to say about the theories of Myers-Briggs, Keirsey, and most recently Helen Fisher (who independently recreated Keirsey's temperments on top of several nuerochemical premises).

    Many say their theories lack validity when compared to the Five Factor Model, and perhaps the biggest problem is that there hasn't been enough research done using the other theories, especially Fisher's.

    Any thoughts?

    I personally find Fisher's model to be much more useful and explanatory than the Big 5, but I'm not entirely sure why.
    "In the opening and shutting of heaven's gate, are you able to play the feminine part?" -- Lao Tzu

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    He marks - not that you won or lost -
    But how you played the Game."
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    “Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules.” -- from The Catcher in the Rye

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    Member peterk's Avatar
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    Keirsey's theory of temperments only has his book explaining it as far as I know. Some other authors have jumped on his bandwagon. In "please understand me" by Keirsey there is a type test but he doesn't give any psychometric data(statistics) on it's validity or how it compares with the MBTI. The MBTI has Jung's theory behind it and a lot of exerimental data. The Five Factor Model has no theory behind it, just empirical evidence. By the way, some time ago the authors of the Big Five set out to disprove the MBTI using the Big Five test but to their suprise the Big Five test validated some of the MBTI's results. Can you give a reference to any works by Helen Fisher?

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    Senior Member ObliviousExistence's Avatar
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    they are all bunk, all pathetic failed attempts to create a logically coherent model out of Jungs work on psychological types. Pseudoscience under the guise of science.
    "He was free, free in every way, free to behave like a fool or a machine, free to accept, free to refuse, free to equivocate; to marry, to give up the game, to drag this death weight about with him for years to come. He could do what he liked, no one had the right to advise him, there would be for him no Good or Evil unless he thought them into being." JP Sartre

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    Quote Originally Posted by peterk View Post
    The Five Factor Model has no theory behind it, just empirical evidence.
    Which is why it's one of the only ones (if not THE only one) generally considered acceptable in the academic field of psychology.

    I think that, even with the FFM, there is significant controversy over what can be extrapolated from their findings. That is, I think it's not even a sure thing among psychologists that the FFM can predict behavior. The correspondence between the model and behavior is a sticky issue, and (so far as I know) personality psychologists using the FFM tend to ignore the importance of behavioral correlation, which has left them open to all kinds of criticism from those using other psychological approaches (especially those who place heavy importance on behavioral measures.) I would think that complicating things by introducing highly theoretical typologies of personality (with roots in psychoanalysis, no less) would produce no "better" results in terms of empirical validation.

    Quote Originally Posted by ChildoftheProphets View Post
    I personally find Fisher's model to be much more useful and explanatory than the Big 5, but I'm not entirely sure why.
    That's because the FFM doesn't really explain anything. It is simply a descriptive taxonomy that breaks human personality down into five broad traits. It's not its own, overarching theory; it doesn't explain things like a theory does. Empirical evidence gained using the FFM (for example, studies showing up to .3 correlation between traits and trait-behavior in job-performance) is sometimes instantiated in arguments for trait theory. But trait theory is separate from the FFM.
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    Member peterk's Avatar
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    It would seem to me that a psychological test which has a theory behind it, MBTI, would generate more confidance in it than a test with no theory behind it, FFM. Doesn't the MBTI validate Jung's theory of psychological types just a little bit?

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    Blah Orangey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peterk View Post
    It would seem to me that a psychological test which has a theory behind it, MBTI, would generate more confidance in it than a test with no theory behind it, FFM. Doesn't the MBTI validate Jung's theory of psychological types just a little bit?
    I think "confidence" in a personality measure in psychology probably has more to do with its empirical substantiation than its theoretical background (or lack thereof.) The only reason a "theory-less," descriptive taxonomic system like the FFM is successful where stuff like MBTI is not is because, as a broad description of traits that provides no causal explanations, on its own (though keep in mind that people have tried to use FFM experiments as evidence in arguments for general trait-theory), as to the existence of traits and their relationships to one another and/or to behavior, it does not overstep its empirical bounds. It doesn't attempt to explain more than it legitimately can, and is thus okay. Of course, as such it's usefulness is limited, but that's a whole other avenue of criticism.

    A commonplace MBTI claim to the effect that, for example, INTPs are less in tune with their emotions because their Fe is in the inferior position, and this causes them to appear cold or obnoxious to others is a theoretical explanation of behavior that cannot be substantiated empirically. It's like psychoanalysis; it may have some modicum of descriptive accuracy, and even potentially some predictive ability, but science, which is concerned with establishing theories that refer to an objective, measurable reality, can have nothing to say about it one way or another. We can't set up an experiment that will determine, in some way, whether it's true that Fe is really inferior for INTPs or not. It's classically unfalsifiable (though the jump from unfalsifiability to pseudo-science is not immediately warranted, as any good philosopher of science knows.) That is, unless someone comes along and finds some way of linking Jung's traits to some biological part of human brain-functioning, and offers some way of explaining their organization in individuals in a way that mirrors MBTI type organization, then MBTI is not a part of science. That's not to say that others can't use MBTI to do certain psychometric studies (i.e., correlations to job-performance, SAT performance, whatever); it's just that MBTI theory, which explains and justifies its own typological taxonomy, cannot be verified via empirical means. At least not yet. We can't "verify" whether it's really true or not that function order determines facility. Or even that functions exist or that, if they do, they go in any particular order.

    Additionally, personality taxonomies or trait-measures (FFM included) are plagued with methodological problems in general. In the first place, self-report and factor analysis, the methodological staples of personality psychology, have been criticized; the inherent subjectivity of personality terms in natural language pretty much disallows for any "real-world" or "universal" reference, as people will answer self-report tests in certain ways depending upon their personal understanding of the terms (which is subject to a variety of cultural/societal/situational influences that cannot be weeded out experimentally.)

    In the second place, it's logistically impossible to carry out the kind of experiements that would be necessary to measure an individual's behavior over time and across situations, which is basically the only way any meaningful relationship (or lack thereof) between (supposedly) stable character traits and behavior could be ascertained. And unless a significant correlation can be demonstrated, then ANY personality taxonomy will be limited to describing broad traits that don't correspond in trait-specific ways (or correspond only in a limited, unexplained way) to individual behaviors in individual situations. Such limitation is also a limitation to the usefulness of the model (clinical or otherwise.)

    I don't know what you mean when you ask "doesn't MBTI validate Jung's theory of psychological types?" MBTI theory is different from Jung's; how could it "validate" Jung's theory if it is pretty much its own, different (albeit related, or derivative) theory? And if by "validate" you mean empirically, then MBTI isn't going to be "validating" anything anytime soon.
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    Member peterk's Avatar
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    MBTI theory is an extension of Jung's theory: the 16 types are implicit in his theory. The fact that his theory came before the test is a powerful indication that that part of Jung's theory has some validity. The goals of the MBTI are more diffuse than most other tests,i.e., it is not as explicit about things as say the MMPI-2 and that is one of its strengths. It is a mistake to divorce MBTI theory from Analytical Psychology because they could enrich eachother. Why theorizing about types is more prevalent outside Analytical Psychology is a mystery to me. It is treated like a stepchild by the Jungians. Psychology is nowhere near to being a science. It only uses the scientific method and not until there is a mathematical theory of the mind, (and I believe there is a mind distinct from the brain but generated by it) that can make predictions and have them verified by experiment will it become a true science. In some sense Jung's theory of psychological types was a prediction and the MBTI test(and it is a test because it tests you to see what type you are) is the experiment which
    has plausible results for the theory.

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    Senior Member INTP's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChildoftheProphets View Post
    As a former NT myself
    type doesent change, so you either never was and nt or you still are nt. cba to read more of this topic
    "Where wisdom reigns, there is no conflict between thinking and feeling."
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    @.~*virinaĉo*~.@ Totenkindly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChildoftheProphets View Post
    As a former NT myself, scientific validity still has a very meaningful place in my heart, and I wonder what you NTs have to say about the theories of Myers-Briggs, Keirsey, and most recently Helen Fisher (who independently recreated Keirsey's temperments on top of several nuerochemical premises).

    Many say their theories lack validity when compared to the Five Factor Model, and perhaps the biggest problem is that there hasn't been enough research done using the other theories, especially Fisher's.
    From what I know, Big Five / OCEAN has more corroboration statistically.

    But there's tons of papers out about various tests and validation, just Google the topic and they'll pop up. I think an issue with the other tests is that they were derived more from a systematic approach to theory than derived straight from data.
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

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  10. #10
    Senior Member ChildoftheProphets's Avatar
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    Thank you all very much for this input--and please keep it coming!

    @ Jennifer:

    A week or two ago I did google this subject, but I didn't find as much as I would have liked. Still, it did lead me to Typology Central, and these replies have been way more helpful than google was!

    @ the INTP from Finland:

    Why can't personality type change? No matter where a person stands on the nature-nurture debate, either environmental conditions or chemical-related gene-expressions could produce changes in behavior, and thus theoretically change their personality.

    (My theory on what happened to me in high school, which I cobbled together from two evolutionary psychologists' descriptions of stress-response as well as Helen Fisher's temperement theory, is that I adapted to the overpowering coercion of a stronger social group by increasing my reliance on emotional negotiation while decreasing my reliance on intellectual attack. This adoption of "tend-and-befriend" behavior lowered my testosterone levels, switching my personality from that of the NT Rational to that of the estrogen-drenched NF Idealist.)

    @ Orangey and Perterk:

    I hadn't really thought about that before; there's no theory at the bottom of the OCEAN! The dimensions it uses to describe people may be the most accurate, but not most useful.

    Lol, maybe the Big 5 needs an abbreviation system like MBTI does: something like "OCEAN xxxxx," where each x equals a number between 1 and 3, to indicate the degree of each trait. Still, this does seem kind of cumbersome . . .

    Anyway, Helen Fisher's last book, as far as I know, is Why Him? Why Her?, and she also has her own website:

    Dr Helen Fisher - Biological Anthropologist - Home Page

    Also, the basic premise of her personality theory is that the behaviors of Artisans, Guardians, Rationals, and Idealists (whom she calls Explorers, Builders, Directors, and Negotiators) are based on the dopamine, serotonin, testosterone, and estrogen systems, respectively.

    Based on what you guys have said, she may have more empirical evidence than Kiersey does, although still not enough to make SciAm Mind happy (I read an article last year that critiqued her findings).

    @ ObliviousExistence (or anyone who wants to comment):

    What would you suggest be done to make MBTI and other temperment theories more scientific?
    "In the opening and shutting of heaven's gate, are you able to play the feminine part?" -- Lao Tzu

    "For when the One Great Scorer comes
    To write against your name,
    He marks - not that you won or lost -
    But how you played the Game."
    -- Grantland Rice

    “Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules.” -- from The Catcher in the Rye

    "The only rules that really matter are these: what a man can do, and what a man can't do." -- Jack Sparrow

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