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.