Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A Change of Personality (again)

Myers-Briggs typology is interesting. It's a crude measure, at best, and part of me really thinks that it's little more than your standard mediaeval world system worked over in new clothes, and hence not much improved over astrology.

Every time I take a test, I come out as a slightly different personality type. Back in 2003 I was an ISTJ, then swung to ISTP a year or so later. It turns out the tests typically have a very low test-retest repeatability, which makes me even more suspicious of the system...

I've now gone ultra fluffy, and have tested as INFP.

Strength of the preferences %

Wow - so not like me. I must be having a lame pathetic day. However, it seems slighty more like my work style - I was given a Myers Briggs derived test at work recently, and came out triple-high showoff and handwaver, which was entertaining - in fact, good at everything except acting on stuff. Perhaps the triple high accounts for everything except the introvert, explaining the changeable results for the three tests.

On the other hand, it could just be a faulty, crude tool for understanding a person?


Chris said...

It's reasonable to be suspicious of personality testing, but I rate Myers-Briggs and its related methods quite highly as far as these things go.

And yes, thinking of it as an 'upgrade' to astrology isn't too bad a view - I'm not in any doubt it will be eventually replaced by something better, but right now it's looking like the best game in town as far as developing and maintaining a common language for personality description.

The first thing you have to accept, however, is that paper tests are not very good tools. They can be a stepping point, but you can only learn so much from them and, yes, you will test differently by different instruments on different days.

Also, the 'types' in Myers-Briggs aren't really types - think of the Myers-Briggs instrument as describing an eight-dimensional personality space. [Even though its arranged into axis, the opposing facets can be independently expressed]. Each 'type' that is coughed up for you represents a point in that space - but you, complex human being that you are - occupy something like a *region* in this space. Therefore each measurement you make with an MB instrument (a paper test, say) provides a boundary condition for the part of this state space which is native to you. (This paragraph may read as nonsense, however!)

The problem is that the things being tested are present in everyone to differing degrees, and expressed to different degrees at different times. But still, there are good longitudinal studies showing that core preferences persist throughout a person's life.

The problem, then, is how you get to those core preferences and, sadly for today's quick fix generation, you have to work at it. You can do this with a psychologist or similar individual, or you can do it on your own if you are willing to spend the time studying it.

If you are interested, I have some pieces on Temperament Theory on my blog which cover it in some detail; I prefer Temperament Theory to Myers-Briggs these days, for reasons too technical to be worth going into, but they're just different versions of the same thing. I guess this is the place to start if you're interested:
But don't worry if it doesn't interest you!

From what little I know about you, I can have a go at deriving your preferential type.

Firstly, I suspect your two primary Temperaments are Artisan and Rational. Your interaction style appears to be introverted, so basically your core type (in Myers-Briggs) would be either ISTP or INTP. Chances are you will be somewhere in this general territory, and any test results you get that differ from this will only differ in at most one letter.

When you tested INFP, you were coming up weakly as F (just 12% more than T) but other than this, you were in the INTP/ISTP area where I would suggest you would be testing. In Temperament Theory, this reflects greater influence from the Idealist temperament. Chances are you are individuating into Idealist from Rational - in essence, people begin with a core temperament and gradually explore the other facets as they grow in experience. Or, the paper test may have just been inaccurate - as all paper tests of personality are! :)

Anyway, if this does interest you, please take a look at the material about Temperament Theory on my site , or alternatively get a book on the subject (I recommend Linda Berens, personally, although Keirsey is more popular).

And if not, then please accept this overlong comment as your exclusive free gift. :)

Best wishes!

kim said...

Hi Chris!

Yes - I saw your posts on typology, and originally came across MB/Temperament Theory in your GDC talk back when. I will admit that I didn't read them closely (althgough I did read them!) as I find the language used in a lot of psychology writing quite difficult. I've read a fair bit of Freud and related post-psychoanalytical critical theory in my time, so I have the rudiments of the language, but I've never read widely enough in the Jungian side of things to feel fully comfortable with having a good analytical/semantic handle on the subject.

I follow your description of the typology test as a set of coordinates to a rough personality space - I'm imagining a variable 3d landscape within a set of cartesian coordinates - kind of Zarch-y! - now, with only a few of the hills in regular habitation. That makes more sense, and I feel less inclined to kick at the somewhat reductionist view of mapping it on to an understanding of the renaissance/mediaeval humor systems, and so on. I think that system of making correspondances to other world-systems and archetypes was something I took issue with in Jung, feeling it was all a little bit of a pseudoreligious sleight of hand, coming out of theosophy. As I say, thought, I'm not really widely read enough for this to be a valid oppinion on the subject!

So - interestingly, the mutable spaces on the N/S - T/F - P/J bit would (mathematically) correspond to that odd triple high score in the work test.

The key point you make is about that quick fix, though. I'm fully aware that paper tests are at best crude instruments, and I approach them in much the same way as I would a horoscope; as a set of words that might prompt a bit of further thought around an issue, rather than a concrete predictor of behaviour or facts.

Suggesting, I think, much more F than T :)

Chris said...

It can be hard to read Jung now for exactly the reasons you outline - theosophy does not enjoy the same status it did at the end of the nineteenth century. ;)

Still, I personally enjoy abducting different belief systems to get at the core ideas underneath. Perhaps I'm just funny that way. :D

Have fun!


Adam said...

Have you tried PersonalDNA?