Saturday, December 29, 2012

Informal Poll: Type and the Arts

In previous posts, I've mentioned how interests and careers aren't useful in determining type. I've also mentioned how N and P seem to correlate heavily with the arts. I got to thinking that type might play a role in either (a)why a person engages in a certain creative activity and (b)which avenues they take when attempting to make a living in their art form of choice. I'm going to temporarily allow Open ID commenting so that people without google accounts can answer. Please answer the following questions:

(1)What, at this moment, do you consider your Myers-Briggs type to be? If you are unsure on any of the preferences please ONLY list the preferences you are sure of. In other words, if you are confident that you prefer introversion and feeling but are unsure on both N/S and J/P please just write "IF". (Or IxFx, I?F?, etc.) It would also be helpful if you mentioned how you came to determine your type. (e.g. did you take the MBTI? Did you take a free test, and if so which one? Did a specific author help you figure out your type, and if so, which one? Did you talk to someone on a message board?)

(2)What area(s) of the arts do you engage in? Please be as specific as possible. So, don't just put theatre, specify whether you are involved with playwriting, directing, puppetry, etc. If you are in the fine arts, mention whether you are a painter, a photographer, in graphic design, etc. This is especially important if you're in the fine arts. I'm construing the arts fairly broadly so creative writing, music, theatre, fine arts, dance and any other art form not mentioned would be relevant here.

(3)If you had to pick a single reason as to why you pursue your chosen area of the arts, what would it be? In other words, why this art form as opposed to another? (e.g. you're talented, you've been doing it since you were a kid, you make money at it, you want to affect others with your work,etc.)I'm looking for extrinsic reasons here.

(4)Is your chosen art form (a)a current career (b)a college major which you hope to someday make a career (c) a hobby or (d)a passion supported by a day job?

(5)In your chosen art form, if you had to pick a single reason why you enjoy it, what would it be? Here, I'm looking for more intrinsic reasons. (e.g. self-expression, reconceptualizing the world, visual problem solving, catharsis, etc)


Friday, December 28, 2012

Judging: On Making and Keeping Plans

So, a lot of the descriptions of the judging preference describes J as "making and keeping plans." In other words, judging types want closure and so once they make plans they tend to keep them. This seems to distinguish them from Ps who may hesitate to make plans or may make plans but easily change them.

Of course, everyone changes plans occasionally. The take-away seems to be that J-types see changing plans as a bigger deal than P-types, so the J-types may be harder to persuade. Generally, extraverted judging types need to have either their values (ESFJ, ENFJ) or the logic of the decision (ESTJ, ENTJ) appealed to in some way. Introverted judging types, having their dominant function be one of the irrational functions (sensing and intuition) are more naturally oriented to taking in new data, and therefore, new data can influence them. However, it should be noted that this is against the backdrop of a personality that otherwise seems rigid and immune to influence. The MBTI Manual describes the IJ types as "the decisive introverts" and describes them as follows:

IJs are introspective, persevering, hard to convince or change, unless compelling data is provided that override a decision or conclusion...they can therefore appear to others to be adamant and inflexible. However, since their perceiving function is the dominant, most crucial one, they will a relinquish a conclusion if provided with new information that contradicts the conclusion, even when it seems to other people that the IJ's decision is firm and intractable.

Since IJs are called "The Decisive Introverts," and since they do seem inflexible to others at times, we can assume that they tend to stick by decisions most of the time. It can be assumed that the new data would have to be significant, and really would need to contradict the previously considered data to persuade them.

By contrast, introverted types are described as "The Adaptable Introverts" and are known for having many changes in one's life course. New geographic locations, new jobs, new careers, new relationships may all be part of the picture. That's because they are constantly using their auxiliary to take in new information, so a matter is never quite settled. When an IP type is unhappy with a situation, they may start considering other alternatives. However, all four will generally be seen by others as being flexible, while tending to feel a greater sense of resolve internally than they usually show. This is the type that is normally adaptable but really digs in their heels on certain issues, after which they can seem quite stubborn. Much like The Decisive Extraverts, you need to appeal to either their values (INFP, ISFP) or logic (INTP, ISTP) to persuade them. The implication, also, is that while usually seeming adaptable, they will suddenly shift if something either offends their logic or values.

So, what does all of this mean?

In a loose sense, making and sticking to plans may relate to judging, since those with a preference for perceiving may both hesitate to make plans and feel a bit confined by them once they do, wanting to be open to new opportunities. When a perceiving type changes plans, it's usually because some other, more appealing opportunity has presented itself. However, for IJs, they'll normally seem pretty reliable (even predictable) but when they change plans, it's not because some other option is more attractive, but rather, some new bit of data has made them reconsider the soundness of the previous decision.

An interesting aside: I've noticed that a lot of introverted judging types, when struggling with anxiety, will tend to make plans quickly but abandon them just as quickly. I wonder if, when feeling particularly anxious, they still desire closure initially, but have a harder time filtering out extraneous data and so are quicker to determine that the new information has changed the previous decision?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

One Way in Which I Use Extraverted Feeling

I mentioned in a previous post that I didn't think I was that good at Extraverted Feeling. Well, my gifts seemed to go over better than expected (only one of them really crossed the "dorky" line). Still, I've been thinking about my use of the Extraverted Feeling. In addition to using it neurotically (such as worrying about offending others) I am most aware of when I use it negatively (such as getting offended, particularly when receiving rude service). However, I've begun thinking about how I use it positively.

One way I use it positively, which is very merged with Introverted Intuition, is by knowing things about people. For example:

(1)Just last night, I had a dream that my husband was stuck in Kansas City. As he sometimes travels for work and can have bad luck with airports sometimes, this dream horrified him a bit. (He has seen instances where bits of my dreams came true.) He just got back from the store. On his way in, he ran into one of our neighbors. Apparently, said neighbor was stuck in Kansas City and was just getting back.

(2)During Occupy Wall Street, I saw a photo of a woman being beaten by the cops. She had claimed to be pregnant and was taken to the hospital. The photo went around a lot. I looked at the photo when suddenly the thought popped into my head she grew up in the foster care system. I wanted to find out more about the case. I stumbled across a small Spokane newspaper which had picked up an article from a larger Seattle paper. For the article, the reporter had talked to her foster mother. (Sadly, the young woman in the photo had some personal difficulties and the foster mother was quoted suggesting the pregnancy had been fictitious.) Apparently, my intuition had been spot-on when I'd identified her as having been in foster care.

(3)Awhile back, I had a dream that an acquaintance was sitting next to me on a plane, telling me how they had just got married. In reality, I had previously seen said acquaintance around several times and they'd never mentioned an engagement, so I just dismissed it as just a funny dream. Next time I saw the person, they had a ring on their finger. They had, in fact, been in engaged and got married--they just were very private about it and had only let close friends in on the secret.

You'll notice that all of these ways of knowing things about people are both trivial and in regards to people I'm not very close to. They're about people who are socially, but not personally, connected--a neighbor, an acquaintance and a news story that was big among my social circle at the time. That's how it works for me. There's an objective quality in the sense that these are social, but not necessarily personal connections(Extraverted Feeling). They're also rather trivial in a way. They're things about people's lives, but not substantial stuff, and so it's hard to tell when it's an intuition versus a random thought or merely symbolic dream.

Interestingly, my mother is an ISFJ and has dreams come true but they often involve major life events, such as someone dying and her finding out later that the old friend really did die. Marie-Louise von Franz talks about this as something that happens with sensing types whose inferior function is intuition. It tends to be tied up in major events (and, in some cases, can even be about something catastrophic). To Sensing types, sudden feelings about people can be overpowering precisely because it's so unconscious. When intuition is habitual, you're used to having as many misses as hits and are more likely to dismiss it. It's interesting that it was my ENTP husband that instantly locked on to it as probably being prophetic. He noticed that it was the truly mundane dreams that wind up being the ones that have some sort of eerie connection to a corresponding reality.

Monday, December 24, 2012

How to Tell if You're an NT or an NF

If you're confused about your type, here are some guidelines to help you decide. I think it's probably best to look at the combo of information processing and judging, since these together may be more informative than preference alone.

Here are the terms given by the MBTI Manual to describe each coupling:

NF:The Enthusiastic and Insightful Types

NT: The Logical and Ingenious Types

SF: The Sympathetic and Friendly Types

ST: The Practical and Matter-of-fact Types

I'm going to discuss the NT and NF types then come back later for the ST and SF types. I can't promise it will be my next post, but rest assured, it will be in the foreseeable future.

I. The NF Types

NFs tend to place their focus on "possibilities for people." I think this means everything from being a novelist with the goal of connecting with others through writing (motive is important here) to being a therapist or a teacher. There is a strong orientation towards communication, as well as an attraction to theories of human or social behavior. Usually, the connection to these things is more interpersonal and values-based than logical. Logic may be employed, but it never dictates what the NF holds to be important. The MBTI manual describes these types as "attracted to new projects, things that have never happened but might be made to happen, or truths that have not yet come to light." Truth here is multi-faceted and inclusive of different viewpoints as opposed to being categorical. It tends to be more tied to meaning and subjectivity.

II. The NT Types

The NT types share the NF's focus on possibilities and patterns, but here the beauty of the thing comes not through subjective meaning but rather through the extent to which the thing follows the rules of logic, and exemplifies a clearly defined and objective truth. Information and ideas are evaluated from a detached, impersonal perspective and it is their seeming cogency that matters. An idea that is incoherent simply isn't worth talking about or investing time in, no matter how much potential for meaning it may have. For this reason, NTs may at times seem to restrict the scope of inquiry more than NFs. The perspective is that it is better to limit what may be explored and maintain coherence than it is to embrace the inscrutable and never be certain about one's understanding.

I Suck at Fe...

So, I just finished wrapping my husband's gifts:

I'm not sure if you can tell by this picture, but I'm terrible at wrapping presents. It's very haphazard. Hopefully, I'm better at selecting gifts than I am at wrapping them. I know that a couple of gifts are things he wanted but some of them might be a bit too...dorky. (And he's an ENTP in the IT industry. :P) We'll see. I was raised in a "fanboy" household, where obsession about all things sci-fi and superheroes was the norm. I developed more of a fascination for the supernatural myself. (This was my favorite comic book as a kid, for example.) None of this, of course, has to do with Extraverted Feeling. After all, I've known my share of ISFJ fan girls. What is Extraverted Feeling, though, is knowing what the other person wants. Is it exactly right? Will they love it? Hate it? Is it too dorky? Not dorky enough? Yeah, see, I suck at that.

Even more than that, though, I suck at knowing what will and will not offend people. I only experience this neurotically, where I'm not quite sure, and I can really miss the mark--being concerned about things I don't need to be concerned about only to completely step in it and do something that completely pisses the person off where (if I can even figure out what the offense is, which I can't always do) I can't quite figure out what the big deal is. That's not to say that I don't care (I think I'm a lot more concerned about this than my ENTP husband, for example, who seems better at Extraverted Feeling than I am, but only bothers with it in certain types of situations). It just is such a totally different sort of way of thinking than I'm accustomed to. To me, it seems like imposing standards and trying to pressure someone into conformity. This imposition can range from having a negative attitude towards people who see social norms as a bit more optional (or may have trouble seeing them at all) to dictating what really ought to be a matter of choice. (This, of course, is not the case for all FJs, but it is one manifestation of the function.)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Type and Conflict

I stumbled across this today.

I found it interesting. It got me thinking about how I am in conflict situations. If it's a close friend, romantic partner or otherwise someone that I care about, I can very much fit the description of FJ:

Once engaged in a conflict, FJs can be intense and emotional and will encourage others to share their feelings and opinions in the hope that this will lead to a resolution. Typically they will equate success in a conflict with the relationships remaining intact and there being no lingering bitterness.

On the other hand, when dealing with things of a more public nature, that's less the case. I often feel like I hide behind logic a bit. My tactic when dealing with conflict with someone where there isn't some sort of important connection is to be as emotionally detached and as logical as possible. I don't generally show too much of myself and the absolute last thing I want in a situation like this is to show anything personal. If the other person tries to make it personal (as in, personal attacks) I'll generally calmly and firmly reiterate my position in a way that implies that it will not be changed, then pull back from the discussion.

I'm usually this way when dealing with people in business situations (such as real estate agents when we were looking for a place or other condo board members). In fact, I'm generally so logical and objective in discussions that, based on some of the debates on the condo board email list, one of my neighbors actually thought I was a lawyer! (As in, suggested I might provide my services for a matter we were dealing with.)

When teaching, I've needed to soften my approach a bit more. If there is a matter where I consider myself to be clearly in the right (such as a grade appeal) I've tended to take more of a TJ approach:

When they are involved in a conflict, their primary need is for closure or resolution—to have it over and done with. They may tend to overlook the emotional content in conflict even though strong emotion does exist.

I've had to learn that this is something that just isn't effective when teaching. For example, when a student comes to me with a grade complaint when they haven't followed the parameters of the assignment (such as skipping the argument portion, when I've specified it should constitute half of the paper) I've learned that it's better in the long run to take the time to discuss the issue in-depth with the student. I'm unlikely to significantly alter the grade (although I might consider allowing the option for re-writes if enough students seemed confused by the parameters) but approachability and accessibility are an important part of the learning process, and so a softer approach can be helpful here.

I'll add, too, since I try to stay detached during disagreements in a professional or public capacity, if I do admit a personal reaction to what's being said, it usually means I in some way consider the person to be a friend. Usually, I'll only do so if the person seems to be crossing a line. In those instances, one would be wise to listen. Fighting dirty* generally won't be tolerated.

*Fighting dirty involves, in my mind, things like personal attacks, repeated moral judgments, and overt and/or insidious forms of peer pressure.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Opening This One Up For Comments

(1)So in this post, I explained what Jung meant about Feeling being separate from emotion. I would think that empathy here would mean empathetic values, and even empathetic connection. I do think perhaps we might want to add the phrase "broadly construed" so we could speak of "empathy, broadly construed." The narrow definition would be what we traditionally think of as people drawn to the helping professions (especially SF) or idealistic causes (NF). Still, Jung advocated a non-rigid approach to his system (and indeed, PT is considered to be by Jungians his most systematic work) so I would think he would support a broader definition of empathy. He does seem to associate empathy with the process of introjection that can take many forms. So, what are some less common examples of empathy that you would associate with Feeling? E.g. besides just the usual accommodation, consensus, altruism and so forth?

(2)Should we distinguish between being emotional and being aware of emotions? I'm not sure about this. NFs seem to be more aware of their emotions than other types, but I've also met some SFs that seem to have a hard time recognizing or delving into negative emotions, often seeming to substitute them with positive, more socially acceptable ones. At the same time, I've known some NTs that can't deal with emotions at all, but I've known some NTs (particularly introverted NTs) that can access them as long as they don't get so intense that they would seriously derail them. (e.g. the "throwing oneself into work" phenomenon). Additionally, NT women that don't wind up in traditional NT roles (e.g. tech industry, or in heavily male-dominated NT academic fields) seem to have better access to them than NT men who got into typically male-dominated, NT fields at an early age. Thoughts?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

What We Mean When We Say "Feeling is Not About Emotions."

I've been studying for my comprehensive exams, which are in early January. While reading Hume, I came across the terms "thinking" and "feeling." He used the term somewhat differently from Jung, but it got me curious, so I pulled out Psychological Types and turned to his definition of feeling. It really clarified the difference between Feeling and emotion for me.

A lot of people like to just treat Jung's distinction as some technical minutiae that complicates understanding. This is inaccurate, but understandably so, since many MBTI authors are woefully inconsistent when they distinguish the two. They'll give lip service to it only in type selection, then turn around and talk about thinking types being detached and unemotional. Type descriptions frequently conflate the two. Additionally, perhaps influenced by Keirsey (who did, in fact, present a separate system), there are a lot of emotional people who want to see themselves as feelers and a lot of detached, usually young, usually male type aficionados that want to see being unemotional as part of the thinking function.

Yet, this is exactly the very sort of conflation that Jung sought to avoid. He is quite explicit that when the feeling function is tied to sensing (meaning, mood and emotion with some sort of physiological component) that you're not dealing with a feeling type. In fact, he says "This characteristic amalgamation is found whenever feeling is still an undifferentiated function, and is most evident in the psyche of the neurotic with differentiated thinking." (PT 435, Hull and Baynes trans.)There are two important take-aways from this: if the person is truly emotional (affective response with physical reactions such as pounding heart, shaking hands, tears, loss of volume control and so forth)this is not differentiated feeling. Second, and this may seem obvious, but Jung thought that the thinking type could be neurotic.In other words, just because you're depressed or anxious doesn't mean you're a feeling type. That seems like it should go without saying, but you'd be surprised.

So what is feeling, exactly? Jung is clear on this point as well. On the next page he provides a definition for feelings. That is, the feeling function in action. This he simply describes as empathy. When well developed, these become empathetic values that provide a consistent and predictable framework for judgments and decisions.In other words, when trying to determine whether you are a feeling type, focus only on how concerned you are with others' emotions, not on how emotional you think you are. It doesn't matter if you spend every single lunch break locked in a bathroom stall crying, or if your mood changes twenty times throughout the course of the day. If the moment you interact with your co-workers, neighbors, friends and the guy that sells you cigarettes at the Quickie Mart, you find that their feelings take a backseat to issues such as analysis, getting things done, accuracy and so forth--you're a thinking type, not a feeling type. That's not to say that, as a thinking type, you don't have compassion. Thinking types can be quite compassionate, but usually they're less enmeshed.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

NFs and the Strong Artistic Theme

Generally, creative writing and the arts get associated with NF. The Strong Inventory's Artistic theme tends to relate to creative writing, journalism, the fine arts and art and design. However, statistically, there does not seem to be a strong correlation between Artistic and F, but rather the strongest correlation seems to be N, followed by P. In this article, the authors account past research correlating MBTI and the Strong, then present their own research.

Here are the artistic results correlated with the MBTI from the earlier version of the strong:

Tuel & Betz (1998) N
Myers et al (1998) N
Myers et al (1998) NFP
Healy (2000)NP

As you can see, Myers did two studies in 1998. One showed only intuition, the other showed N, F and P. However, the F findings were not replicated in the other studies. The sample sizes ranged from 180 (Tuel & Betz) to 370 (Healy).

The authors presented their research, based on samples of students, full time employees and part time employees totaling 4,722 people. Artistic was only statistically significant on N. Thinking corresponded with Realistic and Investigative. Enterprising corresponded with Extraversion. Social corresponded with E and F, whereas Conventional corresponded to S, T and J.

For some reason, CPP tries to attribute Artistic to NF, but the majority of the research doesn't bear that out. As you can see, they have not managed to replicate the NF association to Artistic that they found in one of their studies. I suspect this is because the original description of NF attributed a tendency towards creative expression (especially through writing) and the humanities, and so the one set of results that indicated NFP is consistent with their theory. However, the overall data suggests that Artistic is merely related to N, and possibly P. If you look at the type breakdown from their own handout, every one with Artistic has either N or P in common. Take a look at the following types that have Artistic among the three most common Strong results:

INFJ:N is the preference in common with the results
ISFP: Note the P preference
INFP: N and P
INTP: N and P
ENFP: N and P
ENTP: N and P

A couple of things are worth noting. The first is that the only NT type not represented here is INTJ. (In fact, of all the N types, INTJ is the only one that is not well represented in the artistic theme.) It's also interesting that SFPs are the only S types represented. STPs are not, but neither are SFJs. An important consideration may not be so much what someone is interested in, but why they do it and where they are inspired. (The MBTI does, after all, repeatedly assert that it is not speaking about traits but rather preferences.) Some abstract artists, for example, can be highly logical in their combination of shapes to form a coherent design whose message is more conceptual than personal. A hyper-realistic landscape artist may actively engage their senses, while others may paint scenes that are very social in nature. Within that, are different motives and approaches. I know, for example, artists that approach it (and teach it) as essentially problem solving, whereas others see drawing as "the art of accurate seeing" and even others advise abandonment of inhibitions and not conceiving of the process as depicting a specific object. Artists may, then, vary in orientation and motivation. It's only when NF values come into play (art therapy is one example. Political art is another.) that one can ascribe it to that type cluster.

Some Thoughts on Astrology

Ever notice how when someone gets into the Myers-Briggs or Enneagram and discovers their type, they start exhibiting more of those characteristics?

Since science has become tied with politics, it's become a bit trendy, with the corresponding increase in arm chair scientists. As a result, it has become popular to bash on astrology, pointing out the lack of scientific basis of any sort of causal effect between constellations and behavior.

How old were you when you first learned your sign?

My earliest memory of knowing my sign was somewhere around seven. Granted, this was in the seventies and my mother had an astrologer friend. Still, growing up, I was constantly exposed to information about my sign (Aries). Astrology has been a fairly accepted part of our culture for some time. Although often approached in a light-hearted manner and lacking the seriousness with which we approach, say, religion, it still constitutes a cultural belief. As a cultural belief that has been pervasive in the west for some time, we get told a certain cluster of traits or tendencies are "us" from an early age. As a cultural belief, we can't help but, consciously or unconsciously, adopt some of the traits associated with our sign. If I'm told as an Aries that I'm hot tempered and impulsive, then I'm more likely to notice those instances when I'm hot tempered and impulsive and see them as me. This is part confirmation bias and part socialization. This is independent of whether we intellectually endorse astrology as we get older. When enough people tap into this cultural belief and adopt the relevant traits, astrology becomes "true" in the sense that there is a correlation between one's sign and common traits. Astrology has now reached archetypal status which has become part of our overarching social experience.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Useful Way to Type?

Test results, even the MBTI, can be inconsistent. At the same time, the breakdown of preferences that is typically done in the verification can be misleading, since other preferences can influence expression of type. N and S especially can color both the manifestation of T/F and J/P.

Jungian analyst John Giannini suggests approaching type by looking at the information gathering and judging functions, that is, looking at it in terms of ST, SF, NT and NF. This makes more sense to me than Keirsey's division, which in many ways seems arbitrary as it divides by information gathering and judging functions for the intuitive preference but information gathering and outer-world behavior for the sensing preference. Giannini's suggestion has the advantage of consistency, as well as partially corresponding to the way Jung divided the functions.

Assuming that the person knows either their information gathering or judging function, you could begin by looking at which you're sure of, and see which of the pairs fits better. For example, if you know you're an N but not an F or T, then you might look at NF and NT to see which is the better fit. If you were to be torn between S and N, but know you're a T, you would look to see whether SF or NF sounded more like you. You would then narrow it down by determining which function is your Achilles' Heel. So, for example, if you figured out you were an NF by the above method, you need to figure out then if Sensing or Thinking is your weak spot. This would be the area you have the most trouble, but also the area where you're most easily influenced and the area where you're most sensitive to being criticized. If, for example, you determine from this process that your weak area is Thinking (e.g. the inferior function) then you know you have to be a Feeling type. That would mean that you would either be an INFP or ENFJ. Now all you need to know is either E/I or J/P. If you don't know whether you prefer introversion or extraversion, you can at least determine whether your outer world behavior is done in a judging or perceiving way. So, if you know that you're a J, you know you're ENFJ, even if you aren't sure about whether you're an introvert or extravert. On the other hand, if you know you're, say, an introvert but don't know if you prefer J or P, since you already know you're a dominant feeling type, you know you're an INFP.

The hardest part to this three step system is the second part: knowing the inferior function. Some questions you may want to ask yourself:

(1)What areas are the hardest for you to take criticism? This is valid for both thinking and feeling types, as everyone gets touchy around the inferior function. For example, INTPs can handle all sorts of criticism of their intellectual work but can become extremely touchy when someone indicates that they've fumbled with feeling stuff.

(2)What areas are the most intense for you? Often we feel more alive when we engage the inferior function, precisely because it's neglected so much of the time. For example, some sensing types will have a powerful dream and become convinced that it is a premonition, but this is in stark contrast to an otherwise grounded, present-focused, what-you-can-see-and-touch point of view.

(3)In what area do you really want to do something, but just find that you quickly fall back on the opposite function? A Feeling dominant may find themselves drawn to an area that requires logic and analysis, but quickly become uncomfortable with how their weakest area is exposed and then withdraw from it. This does not mean that a certain type won't try certain majors or jobs. While it can manifest as avoidance, it can equally manifest as finding a way to approach the thing in a way where they can fall back on their dominant function. Take, for example, the discipline of philosophy. This is a fairly NT-discipline in many respects. Jung described Kant as an exemplar for introverted thinking. Now, an ENFJ may undertake serious study and even have an interest in Kant's epistemology, but after a short time in graduate school may decide to pursue an area more in line with her dominant function--for example, environmental ethics. It takes tremendous courage and perseverance, as well as a very modest ego, to trudge through in the face of our inferior function. We may try, but we habitually try to do inferior function related activities through our dominant function. A dominant intuitive may love painting, but find they just can't seem to hold their attention when asked to render a bowl of fruit exactly as it appears to them--although they may be an excellent abstract painter.

Next up: description of the couplings.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Theme for My Blog:

I say this as a statement of fact, not a statement of purpose.

Where to Go (and not go) to take the MBTI Step II

I've taken the MBTI Step II on more than a few occasions. I'll admit, I have a hard time placing myself on this particular system (well, the T/F and J/P measures, I'm pretty confident about I and N). Plus, I'll admit it, I really like taking personality tests. Still, it's an expensive test and, at the end of the accompanying consultation, you'll have presumably verified your type. I figured that you could benefit from my extravagance and get a critique of the various MBTI interpreters available.

Who to take the test from:

Personality Desk: This is Molly Owens' company. She does solid work insofar as she's really on top of things, knows what she's supposed to do and does it. When you buy the report, her site immediately gives you access to the testing site. After you take the inventory, she's fairly expedient in getting your report to you. If at the end of the verification you decide another type is a better fit, she'll send you a new report based on your verified type. This is something MBTI interpreters are supposed to do (it costs them nothing to do this) but, in my experience, many do not. She'll volunteer to do it and get the report to you promptly. She used to do the verification over the phone. Now, she emails you the information to verify, but is available for follow-up questions.

Become Who You Are Terry Marselle is an INFP, and a really nice and helpful guy. He's not set up for you to take the test automatically so after you pay, you have to wait for him to see the email and send you the link. However, it only took a couple of hours to get the link, and it only took that long because he happened to get a request for a high volume of reports from a Russian company. Once I took the test, he got the results to me quickly. He sent me a lot of information about a couple possible types before the session. He also was very clear that there was no time limit on our call and offered to let me contact him for follow-up questions, if I had any after the call. Of all of the MBTI interpreters, he's the one, I think, that gave the verification process the most thought.

Who to Avoid:

Ransdell Associates Stephen Tiebout will use your email to spam you. The spam email came directly from his account. I both emailed and called him (receiving his voicemail) a number of times in the event that it was a rogue spammer accessing his account, but I never got a response and it never stopped.

Paladin Associates Although you have immediate access to the test site, it takes a really long time to get your results. Most interpreters guarantee your results within 12 hours. After 24 hours of waiting, I contacted him. First, my emails were unanswered, then, finally, I managed to get him on the phone. He told me he had generated the report, but would not send it out until the following morning. The only explanation he gave was "I need to make sure there's nothing wrong with your report. I'm a psychologist." I argued back and forth for awhile with him until finally he conceded and sent me my report within an hour. A few days later, I received an email about setting up my consultation. I immediately came back with a number of available times. A few days after that, I got a reply confirming a time. I spoke with his colleague, who did not appear to know much about the MBTI at all. When I wanted to verify my results, her suggestion was that I simply go out and buy Keirsey's book. When I continued to push on the matter, she suggested we go through my facet results. She occasionally would try to get me to talk about my favorite school subject to determine type (again, something Keirsey asserts, but the MBTI merely correlates and does not suggest should be used to determine type). I noticed as we went through and she "asked questions" that she was reading verbatim from the descriptors listed in the participant's manual (not the user's manual, which is considerably more detailed). I got the feeling that she didn't know much about the MBTI. In general, not someone I'd recommend.

So, there you have it. A little bit longer than what I'm going for with my posts, but necessary to give you the full picture of my recommendations.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Why Do People Want So Badly to Be INFJs?

I've reduced my blog to a fairly skeletal format. I felt the need for a change. One thing I'd like to try is doing shorter, but more frequent, posts. So, I'm going to try to get everything out within a few paragraphs.

I'm not sure what it is, but it seems really popular lately to type oneself as an INFJ. For awhile there, there was sort of a precious attitude "We're the rarest of types, so if you think you're one of us, you're probably wrong." Now, though, it has become the Type Six of the Myers-Briggs. When in doubt, type as INFJ seems to be the unspoken rule. In doing so, descriptions of Extraverted Feeling get stretched to the point of almost describing Introverted Feeling.

I see a lot of people that are probably INFPs, INTPs or INTJs typing themselves as INFJ. There's a bizarre sort of question begging in place. The process goes something like this:
(1)I think Person A is an INFJ
(2)Person A does not fit most of the characteristics associated with INFJ type dynamics.
(3)I still think Person A is INFJ.
(4)Person A does fit some of the central characteristics associated with Type X, or at least moreso than INFJ.
(5)The person does not, however, fit some of the peripheral characteristics of Type X
(6)The person must not be Type X
(7)The description must not fully capture INFJ and they're really INFJ
(8)Persons B, C and D will now be typed as INFJ based on similarities to Person A.

Look at the concepts, and take Ockham's razor to it. Look at the type descriptions and see what the best fit is. Then, look at the explanation of the functions and look at how those are present in your personality. If you find yourself uttering the phrase "not fully captured in the literature..." then you're probably stretching the system to fit people (yourself or others) into that type.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Misconceptions About Thinking and Feeling

1.Thinking types don't show emotion

"Emotion" is a complicated term, as I've mentioned before. After all, do you mean emotional reactions (such as rage, crying, anxious shaking, etc)? Do you mean sentiment? I'm going to use the former for my definition. That said, the expression of emotion seems to be more characteristic of extraversion. However, even within the umbrella of extraversion, there seems to be some debate as to whether this means an extraverted attitude or an extraverted function. For example, MBTI author William C. Jeffries* suggests that it is the attitude of the feeling function that relates to emotional expression. In other words, an INFJ will be more emotional than an ENFP and an INTP will be more emotional than an INFP.

Now, there's a difference between the tendency to express emotions and the ability to detect it in others. Many NTs that I've met, particularly when male and introverted, either admit to or demonstrate a marked difficulty in decoding non-verbal cues of emotions in others. It's possible that someone with relatively undeveloped feeling may bracket off their own feelings when making judgments to such an extent that they neglect to attend to others' feelings. In the course of doing this, they may frequently miss the non-verbal cues of others' emotional states. Not recognizing these cues in others, they may also not realize the extent to which they communicate their emotions to others. As the emotions are not being directly verbalized, they may erroneously conclude that they "are not expressing emotion." However, they may be perceived quite differently by those who are more adept at picking up those nuances.**

2.Thinking types are better at logic and/or arguments

This depends. Thinking indicates a preference, not a skill. Logic in the context of decision-making means that the person prefers to make decisions by stepping back from the situation, examining consequences and cause and effect and to a large extent, not letting either their own personal feelings or that of others influence their decision making. This is a very basic definition of logic. It in no way states that the person will have a good grasp of logical fallacies or the rules associated with syllogistic reasoning. Nor does the MBTI (or any tests based on it) measure intelligence. I understand where some of this comes from: self-proclaimed NT Keirsey definitely, in his descriptions of the types, conveniently implies a higher level of intellectual capability to the NTs. Paradoxically, to assume a greater ability for logic based purely on a self-report questionnaire (which, by the way, does not contain a single question requiring complex logical reasoning) draws attention to one's own flawed reasoning.

3.Feeling types are more caring

Just as there are no questions measuring logic on the MBTI, nor is there any good way to measure the extent to which one is oriented towards others. Some people have tried, such as with the EQ, but that seems to measure social skills and interpersonal problem solving as opposed to true empathy. As this article points out, One MBTI researcher found that INFP and ISFJ are the two lowest scorers on EQ tests whereas ENTJ is among the highest. The only clear correlation found was between EQ and Extraversion. Another researcher found that those with dominant Intuition received a high score on EQ. Neither study found any significant correlation between EQ and feeling.

Furthermore, there is a difference between being caring and compassion-based decision making. While it may be true that someone who decides based on compassion may appear more caring, that may not be the reality. A thinking type that uses an objective criteria may feel as much compassion, but they may also determine that the long-term consequences of such an act would be detrimental. After all, tough love is still a form of love. An even finer distinction is between compassion and values: a feeling type may frequently be influenced by compassion but that still is subordinated underneath his or her values. Feeling types can sometimes appear quite harsh to others when a core personal (introverted feeling) or social (extraverted feeling)value is violated.

4.Thinking types don't mind being insulted

Seriously? I don't think I've ever met anyone that truly didn't mind being insulted, and I've travelled quite a bit in my life and met a lot of different people. Thinking types may be sensitive to different things. In particular, conflict may take a bigger toll on feeling types than it does on thinking types, and what the two consider to be insulting may differ, but no one likes to be insulted. Call someone stupid, incompetent or crazy and I'm pretty sure they won't be inviting you over for dinner any time soon, no matter what type they are.

Now, there are two caveats to this. The first is that feeling types may be more likely to take indifferent or straightforward comments as critical when no insult is intended, whereas thinking types may not necessarily perceive these as criticisms. So, we need to be clear here on when we're talking about well-intentioned feedback impersonally delivered or whether we're talking about insults. The former does involve a type difference while the latter does not.

The other factor we need to consider is that introversion and extraversion influence this as well. The MBTI Manual (pg 228) mentions that introverts are intrapunitive whereas extraverts are extrapunitive, generally speaking. What this means is that an introvert, when faced with difficulties, will blame themselves whereas extraverts will blame others. It stands to reason that such an orientation is pervasive across a broad range of troublesome circumstances so in a conflict situation (particularly a bad one) IF types are most likely to blame themselves, being both sensitive to criticism and prone to self-blame and ET types are least likely to blame themselves, being both more tolerant of criticism and less prone to self-blame. However, in the case of IT and EF, you should expect a mix: the IT type may not take offense as easily but when the conflict is in full swing may still suffer from considerable self-blame. An EF type may be more easily offended but may quickly recover by chocking it up to the insensitivity of the person making the comment.

5.Thinking types are scientists and mathematicians, whereas feeling types are artists and writers

I've touched on this one in other posts, so I just have a few last points to add: in addition to the influence of upbringing and education, there is also the issue of conflating the irrational functions with the rational ones. On the Strong inventory, the greatest correlation between the Artistic style (meaning, an interest in creative professions and generally liking to work with creative people) is with N, not F. While some studies have found correlations between Artistic and NFP, others have only found a correlation with N. In four separate research studies (Merriam, Thompson,, 2006), the only one to appear each time was N. The only other recurring pattern, shown in two out of the four, was P. Feeling was only represented in one out of the four studies.

Now, in three out of the four studies, T was the only preference correlated with Investigative, which tends to indicate having more of a research orientation. (One of the four studies showed no correlation with any given preference.) So, it does seem to be the case that thinking types tend to be drawn to professions that allow one to do research. That is not to say that they have a monopoly on the sciences, simply that when determining the type of personality that is drawn to such a profession, thinking seems to be the one preference that commonly occurs. So, even if you can say that thinking types are attracted to the sciences, you can't say that they aren't attracted to, say, being an author or a painter. Looking at the correlations with Artistic, we can infer that, statistically speaking, you might expect to find more INTPs interested in pursuing creative profession than ISFJ.

In conclusion, many of the misconceptions about Thinking and Feeling seem to be due to conflating either the rational functions (T/F) with the attitudes (I/E) or the rational functions with the irrational ones (N/S). Remember, thinking and feeling refers only to how we make decisions and judgments...nothing else.

*Who wrote the book "True to Type" and self-types as INTJ.

**This may frequently be Feeling types, since, being concerned with others' feelings and values, they tend to pay more attention to cues that communicate things like warmth, displeasure, disinterest, etc. However, it can also occur with people of any type where their job success is tied to how they are perceived by others. For example, teachers and sales people often have developed this trait.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

If You're Going to Take a Function Test...

Lately, I've been playing around with various function tests. I had a lot of fun with it, particularly with passing the tests on and seeing how other people I knew scored. Today, I got to perusing some message boards and noticed there was a considerable amount of confusion around the functions. It wasn't always clear that people knew where the functions came from and in many cases, the information was interpreted quite rigidly. I thought it would be helpful to give some information on the functions and proffer some general advice for people that decide to use function tests to explore personality type.

1. Know what the functions are for Jung

In PT, Jung divided the types by two major sections: one was by Extraversion (the "attitude") the other by Introversion. Each section had the sub-section of the "irrational" functions (Sensing and Intuition, also called "perceiving" functions) and the "rational" functions (Thinking and Feeling, also called Judging functions). Each subsection contained descriptions of the two corresponding types. It seems clear that Jung saw a difference, for example, between Extraverted and Introverted Feeling. Most MBTI-based tests don't differentiate. However, there can be marked differences between the extraverted or introverted versions of a function. For example, most MBTI descriptors of Feeling are better suited to Extraverted Feeling than Introverted Feeling whereas most MBTI descriptors of Sensing are better suited to Introverted Sensing than Extraverted Sensing. I've read some people complain about not knowing "the point" of the functions. A lot of this stems from not having read PT, I think. MBTI theory has retained the view of the functions (as indicated by Quenk's work on the inferior function and resorting to it as a "tie breaker" when someone is having a hard time figuring out her type). So, the point of the functions? Well, they're the very building blocks on which the current system is based.

2. If you're going to stick rigidly to the Myers-Briggs interpretation of function order, there is no point in using a function test to explore your type

That said, a major shift occurred when Myers-Briggs became popular. For some time, many Jungians tended to think that the auxiliary function was in the same attitude as the dominant function. With the MBTI came the assertion that the auxiliary function was in the opposite attitude as the dominant, which then evolved into the (from what I understand, still somewhat controversial) view that third function returned to the same attitude as the dominant while the inferior was in the opposite function and attitude. Under the Myers-Briggs theory, if you're an INFJ, your order would go as follows: Introverted Intuition-Extraverted Feeling-Introverted Thinking-Extraverted Sensing. Prior to this, the order would have been: Introverted Intuition-Introverted Feeling-(possibly)Introverted Thinking-Extraverted Sensing.

Now, if you want to use the function test, there's no real point in using it to determine type if you stick strictly to the Myers-Briggs formula. You already have a test for that and (as I'll explain later in that post) expecting it to follow the MBTI pattern could result in some wonky results. On the other hand, if you want an insight into your own type development, or if you allow for the possibility that the attitudes of the second and third functions can be in either attitude and want to discover which is the case for you, it might be helpful. If you are familiar with Spoto's "aberrant types" and want to explore that, it might be useful in that regard as well.

3. Development of use is more dependent on the demands of life than innate personality structure

One interesting trend I've noticed is that a lot of people wind up developing a comfort with the function opposite the dominant but in the same attitude. For example, I've seen ENTPs develop quite a bit of Extraverted Sensing as well. Some ISTJs I've met also seem to have a fairly good grasp on Introverted Intuition. I've met INTPs who, while Extraverted Feeling remains an achilles heel, develop quite a bit of Introverted Feeling. One theory I've come up with to explain this phenomenon is that what makes the inferior function so hard is how it is opposite not just the function but the attitude as well. When one is not good at something but still needs to get through daily life (which requires use of all four functions), they compensate by developing the opposing function in the same attitude. In other words, an ENTP may find it a lifetime task to master Introverted Sensing (and may have very little desire to do so) but developing Extraverted Sensing is much easier. It's closer to their comfort zone, is not nearly as opposed, so they can handle Sensing stuff by approaching it in an Extraverted way. An INTP may have very little hope of mastering social norms (Fe), and may chomp at the bit when wrangling with the sense of inferiority that this presents but may find it easier to dig deep into one's values and find a way to access a universal ideal that creates a sense of personal meaning (Fi). On a function test, this may be reflected in higher scores, so someone with Extraverted Intuition will then have Extraverted Sensing as their second or third highest score. Since most function tests measure a person's identification of skills that they use, such adaptations will no doubt show up in the results.

4. Not everyone develops at the same pace

Beebe originally proposed a developmental range for the functions. However, not everyone has the same level of mastery as adults, so why should it have developed along such lines as children? If you take the MBTI Complete, you'll get a standard report of a few pages. At the end, there's a section on what the personality would be like if either the dominant or auxiliary function was not sufficiently developed. This implies that the type descriptions are reflective of the normal, well-adjusted personality. Still, how many people do you know that are completely well-adjusted and whose childhood experiences fully fostered healthy type development? Some people may have only really developed their dominant function to the point of neglecting their auxiliary, others may have over-developed their auxiliary if their dominant function wasn't well accepted in the home and/or school and so forth. On the MBTI, this isn't a problem, since it's measuring preference, not mastery. However, on function tests, these deficiencies may be more apparent. For example, if you're an INFP male that grew up in a heavily NT environment, then you may find that your intuition is better developed than your feeling. This is what Von Franz refers to as a "distorted type." Once you come to recognize that you are, in fact, an introverted feeling type, your feeling may develop quite rapidly, but prior to that piece of self-knowledge, it was stunted by those early childhood prohibitions. If you look at a function test, your Ne will be higher than your Fi. If interpreted too strictly, one might erroneously conclude that the person is an ENFP or some other types. It's important to remember that a function test can tell you some areas that you might want to develop, but it isn't that great as a strict formula for determining type.

5.Approach it more as a projective test and less like a medical exam

If we go to the doctor we expect there is a straightforward pattern and that if we say we have symptoms A, B and C and/or if a series of tests confirms the presence of A, B or C then we can reasonably sure that we have X. On a projective test, such as the TAT, we might look at pictures and tell a story based on that, which is then used to glean some insight into our psyche. Jung's system is a theory of the unconscious. MBTI practitioners are taught during their training to reference Jung when introducing the MBTI, as Jung's fame helps build credibility. Therefore, if you are the sort that is skeptical about any theory of the unconscious, you're better off finding some other typology, as the unconscious is deeply rooted in the MBTI's origins. For that reason, it is counterintuitive to take a function test and say "if you get this result you must be this type." Rather, approach it as a way to explore patterns from many different angles. For example: why might your Fe be so low? Do you have difficulty accessing Fe? Are you perhaps okay with it but just not very confident about it? Do you have some association (based on group identity, upbringing or negative experiences with very Fe-seeming sorts) that makes you want to disown these traits? Other approaches might be to see what sort of pattern emerges. Are your top 50% all irrational/perceiving types (e.g. all N and S)? Perhaps you need to develop your most conscious judging/rational function (F or T) more. Are your top 50% all introverted? Perhaps you need to develop more extraversion. Getting a better sense of your overall use of the functions might be a helpful starting point for exploration but shouldn't be approached in any sort of "if A then B" fashion.

In summary, the functions are a bit hard to define and pin down, due to their varying levels of development and other factors. Function tests, I believe, can be useful, but also ought not to be approached too rigidly.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Academic Discipline and Types

Is there any benefit, I wonder, to associating certain academic disciplines with type? I mean, aside from the obvious one where it helps to "sell" career counselors on expensive personality tests? (And, in fact, at the MBTI workshop I attended, community college counselors were overrepresented among the participants.) Still, I've wondered if we can honestly say that personality dictates our tastes and interests. In the very least, it seems to be a less important factor than our early childhood experiences in various disciplines. If mom and dad are good at math, you'll get a head start on math and thus be ahead of the curve. Your teachers will express how impressed they are with you, you'll get better grades, perhaps they'll place you into more advanced classes. Math will become a source of confidence. At this point, you'd have to be pretty damned disposed towards hating math to not enjoy it. After all, it's a rewarding experience. By contrast, if your parents are both terrible at art and discourage your attempts at it, avoid any sort of art enrichment programs and so on, you'd have to be pretty damned in love with art to still pursue it. So, it seems that type would, in the very least, be secondary to the sorts of early experiences we have in various disciplines.

Most of the data on type and academic pursuits tend to be limited, old or both. Even if we had recent data, with large samples, replicated by different research teams, I wonder what it would get us. Even if you can demonstrate an overrepresentation in a field, a statistically significant number of a certain type in a field still does not mean that the type is a majority. Such data can cause all sorts of confusion, and often times both the layperson and the MBTI interpreter can come to think of the data as a hard and fast rule on which both type and ideal pursuits can be determined. (For example, when I took the MBTI/Strong awhile back, I was dissuaded from considering philosophical counseling as a career because I came out as INTJ and INTJs don't like "dealing with others' needs." Another time, when my Step II results were being interpreted and I wanted to explore T/F, I was told that my INTP results had to be accurate based on the fact that I'm getting a PhD in philosophy.)

At the same time, there tends to be a lot more heterogeneity among these disciplines than these associations might lead one to expect. One would think that you'd find a lot of Ts in Pre-Med, due to the emphasis on science. Yet, I once had a Pre-Med student give a classic "F" type response on an essay question when she complained that Aristotle ought not to say the things that he does because it could offend someone with different religious beliefs*. While I don't know her type, that combined with the general impression of her personality would make me guess, if I had to, that her preference was for Feeling rather than Thinking. Creative Writing and English Literature are commonly associated with NF, and while my mother (who received her MFA in Creative Writing when I was a kid) is some form of F, my father is most decidedly an ENTJ, has a PhD in Literature, and is a (now retired) Yeats scholar. No one that spent more than ten minutes with him would guess him to be anything other than a TJ. It seems that, much of the time, people confuse the values associated with a discipline with the actual types of the people in them.

The really confusing part about all of this, though, is the way it sort of gets back-doored into the concept. So, say you take the MBTI as part of a workshop. So, you go through this self-select process and pick out which preferences fit. After you've done that, you get your test results back. If you're one of the small handful of people whose self-select matches their test score, you're fine. If not, you're asked to look at short descriptions of your two competing types and choose based on that. So, you've done all of that. Then, though, you start hearing the speaker talk about how "NTs are the guys in IT jobs" and how "NFs are novelists because novels make us care about the characters."** Mentions of an INTJ writer are qualified with remarks about how rare it is for that type to want to write fiction. Even worse, the associations get muddled: in one breath, Feeling is associated with creative writing but in another breath, non-fiction is associated with Sensing. So, suddenly, after having already gone through a couple rounds of self-typing, you're mentally trying to align your various tastes and interests with those aligned to the type. Is it any wonder that during these workshops, people can change their self-typing two to three times during a four day course?

Finally, what type is found in your profession has little bearing on how much you'll enjoy studying it or how good you'll be at whatever application of that thing happens to be associated with developing expertise. The rationale is that we're better off in environments that attract people who are like us and involve lots of activities that come easy to us (typologically speaking). However, there are two big assumptions there: the assumption that we should always stick to what comes easily, for one*** and the assumption that we'll be happier if we're working with people who are typologically close to us. In the latter case, maybe we won't. Maybe we'll get there and find it's the psychological equivalent of being forced as a kid to smoke a whole carton of cigarettes after grandpa caught you smoking. It could just as easily result in conditioned aversion.

I can see no way in which these academic pursuits/type associations won't result in an unnecessary and artificial degree of self-restriction.

*This isn't to say that I don't think Fs can make logical arguments. Of course they can and some NFs, especially when out of preference on either Questioning or Logical,rather enjoy it. There are many NFs in both Philosophy and academia in general. However, the comment on the essay was one of those stereotypical "straight out of the manual" feeling responses.

** Apparently, the MBTI trainer in question thought that all fiction was romance, and didn't consider the existence of things like Mystery, Horror, Sci Fi and so forth.Even if you make the case that all genres involve some emotional connection to characters, that still doesn't negate INTJs as writers. After all, many INTJs want to and do get married, spend time with their families, form deep friendships and so forth.

***Jung would say that this completely misses the point, since we're supposed to move beyond the surface of our personality to incorporate our more unconscious functions.