# Thread: Using the Random Walk Hypothesis to Explain Personality Volatility

1. ## Using the Random Walk Hypothesis to Explain Personality Volatility

Using the Random Walk Hypothesis to Explain Personality Volatility

Some time ago, Blackcat raised the issue of people who have personality preferences that are split down the middle—say a preference that is so close to its alternative that it makes saying one is definitively X quite meaningless. Generally, when theories lack the capacity to explain and predict phenomena that exist outside its circle of conditions, either a new theory is adopted or an existing theory is expanded on and/or updated to accommodate the “new” goings-on. Various ideas were put forth. One was that preferences on the margin ought to have a category of their own. Others were put forth still more. Given this, and my curiosity in regards to people with personalities that change, we need a mathematical principle for explaining this phenomenon. My thesis is that personality volatility is to a great extent explainable by the Random Walk Hypothesis.

The Random Walk—sometimes called “the drunkard’s walk”—is based on the idea of a drunkard in a narrow corridor that can only lurch forward and backward. In order for his movements to be considered random, three conditions must be met: (1) He has to be equally likely to lurch forward as backward. (2) He has to lurch forward by exactly the same distance he lurches backward. (3) He has to lurch once every constant time interval. In effect, one can think about this geometrically with the aid of a probability distribution bell curve with the drunkard’s highest probability at his current position, and declining probabilities the further forward and backward from that point.

I begin with the supposition that all things of nature follow rules. Nowhere is there any irregularity. Rules can be deterministic and probabilistic depending on the frame of reference and what is being measured. If one flips a coin, the side it will land on is based on a probability. Yet, an extensive case study of a coin flip that is caught on camera and slowed down can demonstrate that given how the coin was tossed and the external conditions one can calculate that it was determined by physical laws. We conclude that the one does not exclude the other; the important thing is that each system is consistent.

If all things of nature follow rules, then personality, which is part of nature, would also have to follow rules. Just as the coin toss can be looked at from a physics perspective and a probability point of view, so too can personality variation be looked at from the one and many others. In effect, this essay argues that many volatile personalities that fluctuate can for all purposes of probabilities be explained by the Random Walk Hypothesis.

If one is on the margin of perceiving and judging, as many are, then at any given time one is equally likely to have an instance of judging as one is likely to have an instance of perceiving. Thus, the best indicator of whether one will be more inclined to judge or perceive tomorrow, is whether one judged or perceived today. This must be the case given the probability distribution curve where the highest probability of one’s future state is one’s current state. The further away the less probable. Yet, if people do indeed consistently test on the line--say between a preference of perceiving and judging--then over the long-run we should expect to see corrections. (I.e. if one has had 9 instances of judging in a row, but is on the line between judging and perceiving, then over the long-run this should correct quite naturally since the line is the rule, and fluctuations from one side to the other and back are only temporary and stochastic).

We may also apply the Random Walk principle to a conversation between two people with very similar personalities. Indeed, if we take a case of two INTPs, then how the conversation plays out may be understood by applying the Random Walk principle. Random Walk tells us that one INTP is just as likely to talk as the other. Further, if talking at T1, then this is the best indicator that there will be talk at T2. This can explain, for instance, why once INTPs of similar minds start talking, they can go on for hours. But if a silence ensues, then Random Walk tells us that if silence at T15, then the highest probability is silence at T16, and the conversation may never restart or reach its previous level.

In summary, we have concluded that personality volatility and interactions between similar minds may be understood by applying the Random Walk principle. It is true that Random Walk is stochastic, while the application of other scientific laws will show that phenomena manifests in a way that is more deterministic than probabilistic. However, I have argued that the one does not exclude the other, and that the utility of each depends on what is being measured and what angle one is approaching a given phenomenon from. This small essay has given one such approach—namely, the Random Walk principle. This prinicple can help one assign probabilities to the future states of volatile personalities.

2. Ok a couple of thoughts..

I have a freind who says his persoanlity changes, at home v's work, etc. I'd say without question or doubt he is an SJ in denial... he is constantly an SJ.... but may not have preference to choose that description of himself when doing the test.

I personally think that there are very, very few people who see big changes in their personality that are not minute movment over considerable time. I am inching towards introversion (still very E), I may well get there in 15 years time, but I wont wake tomorrow at this without a fair bit of trauma.

Finally the person on the edge of a category, sadly we need to live with people, it's a factor of research questionnaires not thier personality... its the tool that s bad at measuring not that their core personality changes in any real way, just MBTI is not sensitive enough to pick up the very few people who are on the borders IMO

MBTI is a segmentation tool, and the differentieators are not big enough to compesnate for the paragraph above, it's faulty measurment not wooly people

3. I miss your brain Pro.

4. Originally Posted by tinkerbell
I personally think that there are very, very few people who see big changes in their personality that are not minute movment over considerable time. I am inching towards introversion (still very E), I may well get there in 15 years time, but I wont wake tomorrow at this without a fair bit of trauma...its the tool that s bad at measuring not that their core personality changes in any real way, just MBTI is not sensitive enough to pick up the very few people who are on the borders IMO
It does not follow from the fact that something is true of you that it is true for everyone. Thus, while it might take you 15 years to be an introvert does not necessitate it taking another that quanta of time. Nevertheless, if a person is on the line, you see, then we mine as well say they are in quantum superposition (in a sense) because they are neither judger nor perceiver until one or the other manifests, but because they are on the line, then the probability of one, for all purposes of further reasoning, is just as likely as the probability of the other. And thus Random Walk is a perfectly applicable tool. Whether or not they are actually on the line is a question of testing, yes, but my argument already supposes this in order to deduce further knowledge.

5. Originally Posted by Provoker
It does not follow from the fact that something is true of you that it is true for everyone. Thus, while it might take you 15 years to be an introvert does not necessitate it taking another that quanta of time. nevertheless, if a person is on the line, you see, then we mine as well say they are in quantum superposition (in a sense) because they are neither judger nor perceiver until one or the other manifests, but because they are on the line, then the probability of one, for all purposes of further reasoning, is just as likely as the probability of the other. And thus Random Walk is a perfectly applicable tool. Whether or not they are actually on the line is a question of testing, yes, but my argument already supposes this in order to deduce further knowledge.
I agree that just because it's true of me doens't mean its true of others, or not as that may be... but in terms of the questionnaire I do quant research for a living so I do have a degree of expertise in codifying loose people and why they are loose etc.

I don't buy the bold part... I do segmentation surveys as part of my day job... a badly constructed segmetantion leaves a certain amount of unclassifiable people.... a well constrcuted one has significantly less unclassifiable cases.

I'd say it's not peoples personality that are "borderline" (and I mean that in a non psyciatric way), but a fundemental fall in the segmentation device that is known as MBTI.... the 16 profiles are not STABLE enough for purpose....

IMO

* They work for a lot more people, but some people also lack self awareness (like my first paragraph above).

If the segmentation questionnaire was more reliable, then there would be less floating cases, however the * point will remain, but that doesn't mean it's the surveys fault, thats the users inability to codify themselves (the guy in questions was screamingly ESTJ).

Sorry I'm not sure I'm helping wiht your thinking at all..... sorry

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