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 Post subject: Myers-Briggs, redux
PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2005 2:52 pm 
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I finally took a Myers-Briggs test yesterday primarily because I wanted to understand what it was that everyone on these messageboards was talking about. ;) In fact, I took more than one, because I was at first surprised by the results, and it turns out that I'm a consistent ENTJ, in a messageboard world of INTJs, INFPs, INFJs, and INTPs.

Well, we all share the N...

I have a few questions that might serve as the starting point for a discussion.

- Myers-Briggs types are supposed to provide some guidance as to how one prefers to behave, not how one actually behaves, right? I see how this might be effective for "distinctively expressed" personality types. How useful is it as a predictor of preferred behavior for "moderately expressed" personality types closer to the middle of the continuum? For example, if people are almost as likely to prefer the introverted course of action in a given situation as the extroverted one, then how much does it tell us that they might prefer the extroverted situation slightly more than half of the time?

- Is it really true that personality types cannot evolve slightly over time, again particularly for moderately-expressed preferences? It seems intuitively obvious to me that people with significant aspects of two attributes - say, sensing and intuition - could have their dominant preference switch from one to the other. OR: if this is explained by life circumstances causing the true dominant preferences to be expressed more strongly, or to recede...then, what use can you make of the Myers-Briggs typology? If your "true" preferences remain constant throughout your life, but your life circumstances keep you from expressing or even knowing them - for example, one site gave the example of an INFP who often tests as an ENFP or an ENTP.... What use can you make of personality type when you cannot be sure that your test answers, or the preferences you seem to have now, are true expressions of your underlying dominant preferences?

- What happens in the hypothetical case that someone consistently tests 50/50 for one or more of the four continuums? Are there a significant number of people who exhibit no strong preferences in certain cases?

- What ethical issues are involved in personality type indicators? I've seen Person X state that it's no wonder they get along with Person Y, because their personality types are compatible. What about X blaming personality types when she doesn't get along with Z? What if X decides that she would only consider A and B as dates, but not C or D, because C or D have less compatible personality types? What about recruiters using this test for interview purposes? (Obviously, a test of personality preferences - and on one which it is infinitely easy to lie - is not really the best indicator of anything, but is it ever used?)

In essence...
The thought of the MBTI being used for anything other than self-analysis troubles me greatly. As a self-analysis tool, its utility seems to me to be limited (for moderately expressed preferences) to a reflection of current-day preferences, which could change. (On one test, I scored 56% on the I --> E continuum, which is about right - I have strongly extroverted and strongly introverted elements to my personality. Right now, the extroverted elements dominate slightly. The preference is weak right now, and I'm convinced it could swing either way depending on what happens in my life - either become more strongly expressed, OR be replaced by a slight preference for introversion. Can someone explain to me why this reasoning is incorrect?)

I'm hoping that people with a better understanding of these concepts can enlighten me. These are just the first thoughts that came to mind after receiving my personality type results.

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Oh, you will see me thrive
Can't write my story
I'm beyond the archetype
I won't just conform
No matter how you shake my core
'Cause my roots, they run deep, oh

When, when the fire's at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They're whispering, "You're out of time,"
But still I rise
This is no mistake, no accident
When you think the final nail is in, think again
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2005 9:35 pm 
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Quote:
Myers-Briggs types are supposed to provide some guidance as to how one prefers to behave, not how one actually behaves, right? I see how this might be effective for "distinctively expressed" personality types. How useful is it as a predictor of preferred behavior for "moderately expressed" personality types closer to the middle of the continuum?


Still fairly useful. Remember, even if someone is only a moderately expressed N, they will still act like an ENTJ or INTP or whatever. Most preferences tend to be moderately expressed, anyway.

Quote:
Is it really true that personality types cannot evolve slightly over time, again particularly for moderately-expressed preferences?


Yes and no. The basic rule is that if you are born an ABCD you will die an ABCD. This does not mean that your personality will not change – your preferences grow and develop, and you get more comfortable with using your tertiary and inferior functions and you get older (trying to type elderly people can be hard for this reason). On top of that, other aspects of your personality are shaped by your experiences.

Quote:
What happens in the hypothetical case that someone consistently tests 50/50 for one or more of the four continuums? Are there a significant number of people who exhibit no strong preferences in certain cases?


Most people are something. There are a few odd cases where they don’t exhibit a strong preference, in that case the mystery preference is indicated by an X. For example, INXP.

Quote:
What ethical issues are involved in personality type indicators? I've seen Person X state that it's no wonder they get along with Person Y, because their personality types are compatible. What about X blaming personality types when she doesn't get along with Z?


She may very well be right.

Quote:
What if X decides that she would only consider A and B as dates, but not C or D, because C or D have less compatible personality types?


This strikes me as quite sensible. The personality types that I would consider dating are very few.

Quote:
What about recruiters using this test for interview purposes? (Obviously, a test of personality preferences - and on one which it is infinitely easy to lie - is not really the best indicator of anything, but is it ever used?)


Some people do make potential employees take it. Others, no doubt, look for it in people they interview. Naturally, some types are more suited to some jobs than others. Still, cases of potential employees being turned down purely on the basis of type are probably very rare.

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In essence...
The thought of the MBTI being used for anything other than self-analysis troubles me greatly.


I’m one of those people who tries to type everyone that I meet. It gives me some idea how to handle them. This is the single most useful use of the MBTI IMHO. I’ve never had any issue with using it this way IMHO – we all try to ‘type’ the people that we deal with, even if we have no idea about personality types. We know that people are different, and need to be catered to differently. The MBTI lets us do this with greater precision.

Quote:
As a self-analysis tool, its utility seems to me to be limited (for moderately expressed preferences) to a reflection of current-day preferences, which could change. (On one test, I scored 56% on the I --> E continuum, which is about right - I have strongly extroverted and strongly introverted elements to my personality. Right now, the extroverted elements dominate slightly. The preference is weak right now, and I'm convinced it could swing either way depending on what happens in my life - either become more strongly expressed, OR be replaced by a slight preference for introversion. Can someone explain to me why this reasoning is incorrect?)


It could be unclear – that’s quite possible. Some preferences are a bit murky. As you get older, you will also become more comfortable with introversion (assuming that you are dominantly extraverted).


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2006 1:59 am 
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of Vinyamar
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This whole thing freaks me out. Like I said before, the intricacies of the human mind cannot be defined in 4 "types". Those who think it can are either deluded or misguided.

What sort of rational person believes he can pigeonhole people so easily? And if he believes he can, what rational person would want to?


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2006 2:29 am 
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You and I don’t seem to agree on too much, do we, Alatar? ;)

Alatar wrote:
This whole thing freaks me out. Like I said before, the intricacies of the human mind cannot be defined in 4 "types". Those who think it can are either deluded or misguided.


Type is not the be-all and end-all of personality. It has two limitations – it is fairly general, and fairly basic. General, in that no two people are alike, even people of the same type, and basic, because our personalities are also shaped by our experiences.

We are all unique, but some of us share certain characteristics. I’ve noticed that I am very similar in many ways to my INFJ friends, but there is something different in the way we make decisions. I’ve noticed that I’m also similar to my ISTJ friend, but he just didn’t seem to think like I did. I also noticed that, for all our differences, my ENFP friend and I seemed to think in very similar ways. When I found out about the MBTI, it all made sense.

The value of the MBTI has been proven to me empirically. I have seen it work, and seen the predictions that it makes come true again and again. People do not always act according to type, but they do so most of the time. Personally, arguing that classifying people according to personality type is foolish strikes me as being about as logical as denying that different races exist.

It’s also worth noting Jung’s house analogy. If a human personality is a house, then their type is the foundation and basement. Their experiences make up the upper floors. Still, how one’s experiences shape them comes back quite often to their type.

Alatar wrote:
What sort of rational person believes he can pigeonhole people so easily?


Me. It isn’t always easy, though.

Alatar wrote:
And if he believes he can, what rational person would want to?


Me again. It makes life just that bit easier when you can understand the people you’re dealing with just that bit better. It makes me more tolerant of others as well – what I previously dismissed as stupidity or immaturity I can now recognise as someone else’s way of thinking. This, I think, is the greatest thing about the MBTI.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2006 10:51 am 
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Actually Lord_M, I agree with a lot of your posts, but the MBTI thing just boggles the mind. I believe that once you start pigeonholing people into "types" that you devalue their uniqueness (is that a word?). I find it insulting that anyone would think to define me in 4 letters. I understand what you say about it only being a generalisation, but if it's only a generalisation, why bother? The fact is that people base their judgement of others on this simplistic filing system. People should not be categorised and filed. It shows no respect.

Alatar


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2006 11:16 am 
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You raise a common criticism of the MBTI. Personally, though, I believe that types do exist, and that there is no point denying it. I like the idea that people's behaviour can follow patterns, that they are not totally unpredictable and random and that my quirks aren't personal failings that mean that I should consider a career as a hermit. Even if I didn't, it still wouldn't change the fact that, as far as I can see, people fall into types. It's just how it is, and I'm better off for knowing about it.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2006 6:34 pm 
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Alatar, have you ever noticed that the vast majority of people on our messageboards are IN (introverted intuitives)? Beyond Tolkien, it is the biggest reason so many people here have become friends - this particular activity (internet messageboards) attracts a type that is relatively rare to find in RL. Have you ever heard people on the boards say that they feel like people here "get" them more than their RL friends & family? That there are a lot of like-minded people here? It's not because of Tolkien, it's because of MBTI. Knowing that information is at the very least, quite interesting, but it is also potentially valuable knowledge for improving one's life socially. It's not about "pigeonholing" each other but about understanding our similarities and differences. I can hardly see how that could be a bad thing.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2006 7:19 pm 
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yovargas wrote:
Alatar, have you ever noticed that the vast majority of people on our messageboards are IN (introverted intuitives)?


Well, no... since I don't know or care what any of your "types" are. Calling people "IN" is just another way of categorising people by their hobbies and interests and is no better than the snotty journalists who refer to Tolkien fans as spotty teenagers with no life. It's a generalisation. The fact is that I'm far more interested in our differences than our similarities. I look around and see a hugely diverse community with a common passion. You see a bunch of IN's who are only here because that's their "type".

Incidentally, what "type" do you think I am? Lets put this to the test. You've all known me for nearly a year now, some for more than that. Define me with your four letters and I'll take the test to see if you're right or wrong.

Fair?


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2006 7:37 pm 
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Sounds fair to me. :)

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2006 9:03 pm 
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Calling people "IN" is just another way of categorising people by their hobbies and interests


Not true at all. It's fundamental characteristics about both the way that we think and the way that we interact with people. Much more significant than merely hobies and interests.

I would wager that you are an NF. More specific than that gets tricky and LM is better at this then me, but I think you're probably NFP. It's near-impossible to tell E vs I (extrovert vs introvert) online, but even though most of us are I, you strike me as an E. So I put you down as an ENFP. Don't take the tests because the tests can be highly misleading (people often answer for what they want to be or what they've been convinced they are, as opposed to what they are most naturally). Instead, go read the ENFP description and see if you think it fits (also read the INFP since, as I said, the I/E is hard to tell online).

If I'm right and it does fit you and you think it's just coincidental or just a generic, horoscope-y "this description will fit anybody" sort of thing, go read the descriptions for your type opposite, the STJ, and see how much that wouldn't have fit you.

Edit:
A link to type descriptions:
http://www.personalitypage.com/high-level.html

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2006 9:17 pm 
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I was actually going NFJ or possibly NTJ for Alatar, but it is hard to tell because we do not know how he acts in real life.

Alatar wrote:
I look around and see a hugely diverse community with a common passion. You see a bunch of IN's who are only here because that's their "type".


We're here because of a general interest in Tolkien, but we are more likely to be here because of our type. Do you suggest that TORC, b77 or HoF are a perfect cross-section of society?


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2006 11:24 pm 
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May I just crashtacklehug tp for expressing reasoned doubts on this subject and Alatar for expressing exactly what I've always thought about this subject? :love:
This has threads on TORC and b77 and so many followers that I've never mustered up the resolution to simply say that (or the energy to put together a well-argued doubt), but, well, what Alater said! :)

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 12:07 am 
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Well, Al?

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 12:18 am 
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Well, I've done the Myers-Briggs test and find it perfectly fascinating ... and helpful. :)

And I am a person who cannot STAND labels and categories.

I am, however, intensely interested in personalities and what makes people tick. MB is just a tool for that, that's all. And personally I find it quite fascinating and enlightening.

I am INFP - and how. Here is the detailed profile:
http://www.personalitypage.com/INFP.html

But I don't think one should presume to know, just from another person's posts, what kind of Myers-Briggs profile they have.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 9:40 am 
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So lets see, according to yova I'm either INFP or ENFP but of that only the NF part is fairly sure.

Lord_M has me as either NFJ or NTJ.

So basically the only thing that two people can agree on for sure about me after knowing me for a year is that I'm definitely N?

It doesn't sound like a very good system if it can't be reverse applied. It's like horoscopes. It's easy to say after the fact, "Well of course you'd say that cause you're an INFP" but if you can't tell from my years posting habits what my category is then I hate to say it, but it kind of proves my point.

Anyway, I said I'd play along so I will. I'm off to look at the tests and desriptions and see what they say.

I'll report back later.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 10:15 am 
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Well, well...

The test picked a completely different type to what I had selected from the profiles.

Which do you want?


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 12:01 pm 
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It can be reverse applied, but with some difficulty to someone you don't actually know in real life. For example, you've known me for as long as I've known you - how much could you tell me about what sort of a person I am, what I do in different situations, what inspires me, what are my habits and mannerisms, ect? For people in real life, I can usually make fairly shrewed guesses at type, and usually improve my relations with them because of it.

And please don't bring horoscopes into this... :help:


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 2:07 pm 
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So, what would people say I am? :D

I can't remember whether I've taken the test back on TORC, I'd like to take it again nevertheless.
I love personality tests - if you read my lj, you'd see that about each third post has one - I just don't take them seriously.
I'm afraid that, like for Alatar, horoscopes came to my mind, too, in thinking about this. There's always a lot they get right, in horoscopes as well as personality tests, and you go "whoa, how did they know this?" - but I still wouldn't advise taking this as more than a bit of fun.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 2:24 pm 
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My therapist had several books on MBTI on her bookshelf, as well as a neat little plaque-thing declaring what her type was. Apparently, she found it valuable enough to take seriously.

Al, we haven't exactly "known you" for a year as this environment rarely suits itself to getting to know a person deeply. But from what I have seen, I'm very confident that you're an NF, NOT an NT. What kind of NF is hard to say, but I still say ENFP is a good guess.

hobby, I'm betting you are an IXTJ. If I didn't know how heavily Ns dominated this place, I'd guess ISTJ, but odds are it's INTJ. Go read those two descriptions and tell me what you think.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 2:30 pm 
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Well, if you're going by what the test said I am, you're spot on. However, you told me not to go by the test and instead to pick the description that I felt best described me.

ENFP is described thusly:

Enthusiastic, idealistic, and creative. Able to do almost anything that interests them. Great people skills. Need to live life in accordance with their inner values. Excited by new ideas, but bored with details. Open-minded and flexible, with a broad range of interests and abilities.

None of that really rings true to me. The more detailed description did fit better, but this one is an uncomfortable fit at best.

My own choice would have been:

ESFJ

Warm-hearted, popular, and conscientious. Tend to put the needs of others over their own needs. Feel strong sense of responsibility and duty. Value traditions and security. Interested in serving others. Need positive reinforcement to feel good about themselves. Well-developed sense of space and function.

Now what does that tell you?


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