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    Default My thoughts on the Big Five-MBTI Debates (Long!)

    Hello!

    I am a new poster here but a long-time lurker and I thought I'd post my thoughts on the Big Five. I've had an interest in psychology for a while and recently got one in this personality psychology, and I am in college but not taking psychology as a major because I want to focus on my strongest skillsets for my major. I consider psychology an interesting hobby, but not something I'd want to do as a profession. (For profession I am looking into more hard mathematical/computer sciences. I've done computer programming all my life and I do not think I want to waste that very big skillset.)

    Personally, I tend to be a fan more of the Big Five than MBTI. I'd like to make this post to address some points I've seen made against it and also to respond to some of the various stuff seen in this thread.

    The whole MBTI-Big Five contest seems to involve a number of opposing points for which I think the truth is somewhere in the middle even if I believe it is closer to the Big Five side than the MBTI side. I tend to find it goes that way a lot when you have two partisans arguing, that they are very polarized in what they have to say and will not yield any ground to the other.

    The first point I've heard made is that MBTI has types, Big Five does not, types don't exist and continuums do, thus Big Five is right and MBTI is bullcrap. Meanwhile the MBTI says that types exist and in fact that they are quite different. What I think the real truth is is that there is a logical fallacy here. In particular, I think the continuum argument is right in that people's personalities really do follow a continuous distribution; there are no sharply-delinated types diametrically different from each other. (This is what MBTI seems to suggest is really going on, you cannot have any middle ground, you must be one XOR the other because the cognitive functions are different when you flip a letter in the type indicator.) But I think that to then say “types” are useless “because continuum” is to commit a blatant logical fallacy known as the “continuum fallacy” (also “fallacy of the heap” and “sorites fallacy”). What it does is confuse ambiguity and imprecision with falsehood. The real truth is that while the continuum has no non-arbitrary divisions in it, the two ends of that continuum are rather different from each other. Thus while divisions may be arbitrary, having them can still be useful. It would only be useless if there was no difference between different points; but then there would be no continuum at all. We use such imprecise categories (formally called “vague predicates”) all the time – consider, say, the temperature scale, going from “cold” to “cool” to “agreeable” to “warm” to “hot” to “very hot”, etc., or the distinction between a hill versus a mountain when you have a continuous scale of landform height. These categories are all imprecise (when does a hill become a mountain?) yet they nonetheless have their utility and in most cases we can easily tell apart a hill and a mountain. Why can't the same go with human personalities? Ideally, one would use both types of categorization – one's type and the precise, numerical scores of where exactly one falls. E.g. we don't just say “Everest is a mountain”, we also know that it's 8848 m high. The type categorization gives you a general idea of your personality, and the numerical scores refine that. Nothing wrong with that, I'd think.

    Furthermore, there may actually be some evidence that you can get type clusters in the Big Five, that there are statistically-distinguishable subgroups of people who follow certain scoring patterns on the Big Five. The study below is one such I found:

    http://socpers.psihologietm.ro/PDFs/...a%20(2011).pdf

    It suggests the existence of five different type clusters named “resilient”, “overcontrolled”, “undercontrolled”, “strain”, and “passive” among the Big Five. I am not sure how exhaustive all this is; e.g. my Big Five doesn't fit any of those, although the percentages suggest apparently the clusterings were fairly complete, but it's something to play around with. It would be interesting to try reproductions of these results w/various techniques. Apparently there is reproducibility, according to the paper.

    Another point I've heard made is that the MBTI has “theory”, but the Big Five doesn't. I'd say that looking at what's been published, that isn't really quite so. There is some theory, but it's not complete, and based in neuroscience and biology, which seems to make a lot of sense given that our brains are the seat of our consciousness. For example, extroversion has been suggested to be linked to the sensitivity of one's brain's reward system, and conscientiousness to the amount of neurons in one's prefrontal cortex or PFC, the region of the brain associated with “executive functioning”, i.e. planning, impulse control, etc.

    But this theory is not very complete compared to that of the MBTI. However, the problem is that the MBTI's theory does not appear to be scientifically validated; so while it's more comprehensive, it lacks validity. The Big Five's theory is more limited, but validated. Yet I've also heard those who disagree, and I could be wrong on this point. I've also heard it suggested that maybe we could combine the two or some middle ground could be possible, e.g. a more extensive exploration of Jung's theories and attempts at validation, but perhaps the type system would need to be rethought to be more in line with the Big Five. Despite my enthusiasm for the Big Five, Jung was no amateur, I find it hard to imagine he got everything wrong as it seems the “anti-MBTI” crowd likes to make out.

    But the relatively less well-developed theory regarding the Big Five, and its more "empirical" nature, I don't think should be taken as SO much of a minus because very often that's how science works; we first come up with empirical observation, THEN comes theory. Observation may be easy, theory may take much longer. Then theory begets new observation, from which comes new theory. That's how it works in every science, whether a more qualitative one like psychology or a hard quantitative one like physics.

    Another point I often see made is that the Big Five is too “negative”. I can see some of the point in that (e.g. I saw one psych paper that had another proposed type system like the one in the linked paper but called the opposite type of “resilient” “dysfunctional” (correlates to a neurotic ISTP on the MBTI, roughly). Ouch that's judgmental!) and think there's value in almost all of our personalities (the exception may be when something is so extreme it becomes a personality disorder, especially the Machiavellian disorders like Narcissistic and Sociopathy/Antisocial as those can be dangerous to others, not just self. But a normal but “disagreeable” person on Big Five could also be a “blunt brutally honest” one, who while they may not be pleasant to be around, may also make you aware of things you might not have been aware of about you that might hurt but might be good to know! So is it all bad?), but is a personality instrument really any good if it never tells you any of your weaknesses or shortcomings and only tells you positive stuff? What is the point of taking personality tests, then? Are you really interested in self-knowledge or just self-congratulation?

    Another question that was raised here was the idea of switching this site over to a Big Five. I'm not sure I'd agree because MBTI does, I will admit, have its own charm, but nonetheless I would also say that I notice that no other site exists that is like this one but for the Big Five, and I think that's a sore lack.

    However, I would wonder how such a site would be structured. In particular, the whole “type” vs “no type” dilemma seems crucial there. You obviously can't have a continuous number of sub-forums; it must be finite. As I mentioned, research seems like it may have identified some types, however -- it would be interesting to see more on this.

    The other option is to do something like MBTI and divide the scales quasi-arbitrarily into fuzzy categories. That would be exhaustive, but to really be nicer than MBTI I think one should divide each scale into 3 levels, not 2, because scores tend to cluster around the middle, and thus there would be 3^5 = 243 general categories. YIKES. That means 243 sub-forums on your site! This division is actually found in the psychological literature and there is notation for it, as a matter of fact. That is, one can notate one's general Big Five scoring pattern, as opposed to the specific numbers, in a form like this:

    Nx Ex Ox Ax Cx

    where x is either – for low, = for middle, and + for high. And NEOAC -- that's the Big Five traits, of course (less commonly seen and memorable than OCEAN, perhaps): Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness. This ordering also allows one to write, e.g. the correlation between MBTI and Big Five rather nicely, since each of the last four axes lines up with its most strongly-correlated MBTI axis, as follows:

    ISTP correlates to Nx E- O- A- C-
    ISTJ correlates to Nx E- O- A- C+
    ISFP correlates to Nx E- O- A+ C-
    ISFJ correlates to Nx E- O- A+ C+
    INTP correlates to Nx E- O+ A- C-
    INTJ correlates to Nx E- O+ A- C+
    INFP correlates to Nx E- O+ A+ C-
    INFJ correlates to Nx E- O+ A+ C+
    ESTP correlates to Nx E+ O- A- C-
    ESTJ correlates to Nx E+ O- A- C+
    ESFP correlates to Nx E+ O- A+ C-
    ESFJ correlates to Nx E+ O- A+ C+
    ENTP correlates to Nx E+ O+ A- C-
    ENTJ correlates to Nx E+ O+ A- C+
    ENFP correlates to Nx E+ O+ A+ C-
    ENFJ correlates to Nx E+ O+ A+ C+

    (E correlates I/E, O correlates S/N, A correlates T/F, C correlates J/P.)

    since Neuroticism is generally not very well-correlated. Correlation is not exact, but this is commonly it. I think the above table should probably be given as a sticky on this site because MBTI and Big Five are the two most commonly-talked about systems and thus a brief discussion of the relation between them should be given and the table could be handy for those who want to compare and contrast their MBTI and Big Five scores.

    FWIW, the five type profiles identified in the paper are, approximately (see Page “367”), graded according to population norm:

    Resilient: N- E+ O+ A+ C+ (roughly a calm ENFJ on MBTI)
    Undercontrolled: N= E+ O= A- C- (strongly on the E+, roughly a semi-neurotic which could go either ESTP or ENTP. The O is almost smack bang dead center.)
    Overcontrolled: N+ (or N=) E- O- A- C+ (roughly a semi-neurotic ISTJ)
    Strain: N+ E+ O+ A- C+ (roughly a neurotic ENTJ)
    Passive: N- E- O- A+ C- (roughly a calm ISFP)

    What do you think of all these thoughts? Any ideas, comments, counterpoints or critique? (If nothing else I'd REALLY like to see the MBTI-Big Five correlation table made sticky!)

    Thanks!
    Last edited by mike4ty4; 08-22-2016 at 05:58 AM.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by mike4ty4 View Post
    Hello!

    I am a new poster here but a long-time lurker and I thought I'd post my thoughts on the Big Five. I've had an interest in psychology for a while and recently got one in this personality psychology, and I am in college but not taking psychology as a major because I want to focus on my strongest skillsets for my major. I consider psychology an interesting hobby, but not something I'd want to do as a profession. (For profession I am looking into more hard mathematical/computer sciences. I've done computer programming all my life and I do not think I want to waste that very big skillset.)

    ISTP correlates to Nx E- O- A- C-
    ISTJ correlates to Nx E- O- A- C+
    ISFP correlates to Nx E- O- A+ C-
    ISFJ correlates to Nx E- O- A+ C+
    INTP correlates to Nx E- O+ A- C-
    INTJ correlates to Nx E- O+ A- C+
    INFP correlates to Nx E- O+ A+ C-
    INFJ correlates to Nx E- O+ A+ C+
    ESTP correlates to Nx E+ O- A- C-
    ESTJ correlates to Nx E+ O- A- C+
    ESFP correlates to Nx E+ O- A+ C-
    ESFJ correlates to Nx E+ O- A+ C+
    ENTP correlates to Nx E+ O+ A- C-
    ENTJ correlates to Nx E+ O+ A- C+
    ENFP correlates to Nx E+ O+ A+ C-
    ENFJ correlates to Nx E+ O+ A+ C+

    (E correlates I/E, O correlates S/N, A correlates T/F, C correlates J/P.)

    since Neuroticism is generally not very well-correlated. Correlation is not exact, but this is commonly it. I think the above table should probably be given as a sticky on this site because MBTI and Big Five are the two most commonly-talked about systems and thus a brief discussion of the relation between them should be given and the table could be handy for those who want to compare and contrast their MBTI and Big Five scores.

    What do you think of all these thoughts? Any ideas, comments, counterpoints or critique? (If nothing else I'd REALLY like to see the MBTI-Big Five correlation table made sticky!)

    Thanks!
    Reviving old thread.

    I agree with the big 5 vs MBTI correlations you proposed. To enhance it:

    Openness is NP vs SJ spectrum, most to least
    Agreeableness is NF vs ST spectrum, most to least
    Conscientousness is J vs P spectrum, most to least

    On top of that, although it is said that neuroticism does not correlate to Feelings, I believe:
    Neuroticism is F vs T spectrum, most to least.

    Please see:

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