Myers-Briggs Pseudoscience?

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Ego
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Myers-Briggs Pseudoscience?

Post by Ego » Thu Jul 17, 2014 11:46 am

http://www.vox.com/2014/7/15/5881947/my ... nt=tuesday

Interesting reading:
Jung's principles were later adapted into a test by Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers, a pair of Americans who had no formal training in psychology.
If there were good empirical reasons for these strange binary choices that don't seem to describe the reality we know, we might have reason to seriously consider them. But the fact is that they come from the now-disregarded theories of a early 20th century thinker who believed in things like ESP and the collective unconscious.

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Felix
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Re: Myers-Briggs Pseudoscience?

Post by Felix » Thu Jul 17, 2014 11:54 am

Did we assume this is science? I always saw it as more of a concise statement of what your current preferences are, not some immutable personality type.

Also don't ditch ESP - the collective unconscious doesn't like that at all. ;)

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Re: Myers-Briggs Pseudoscience?

Post by Chad » Thu Jul 17, 2014 11:56 am

Yeah, I didn't realize it was quite that unscientific. I knew that, as with almost all psychology, it stands on shaky tough to prove ground, but I didn't realize it was quite this unproven.

Though, are we being hypocrites by requiring the creators of this to have a degree? We always suggest that we don't need college.
Last edited by Chad on Thu Jul 17, 2014 12:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Myers-Briggs Pseudoscience?

Post by Ego » Thu Jul 17, 2014 12:03 pm

I don't mind the fact that they don't have a degree. What I mind is that they were Human Resources professionals. Has anything useful ever come out of an HR department? Ever? They are the administrators of the collective consciousness.
Last edited by Ego on Thu Jul 17, 2014 12:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Myers-Briggs Pseudoscience?

Post by Felix » Thu Jul 17, 2014 12:05 pm

Total Quality Management.

*ducks away*

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Re: Myers-Briggs Pseudoscience?

Post by Chad » Thu Jul 17, 2014 12:09 pm

Ego wrote:I don't mind the fact that they don't have a degree. What I mind is that they were Human Resources professionals. Has anything useful ever come out of an HR department? Ever? They are the administrators of the collective consciousness.
That is an extremely valid point.

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Re: Myers-Briggs Pseudoscience?

Post by jacob » Thu Jul 17, 2014 12:36 pm

I think the main problem that psychologists have with the MBTI is this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Not_invented_here

The fact the MBTI shows correlation with their preferred test of the same thing, aka the Big5, not withstanding. This correlation means that MBTI is just a different mapping of the same underlying structure.

You tell me what your MBTI types is with percentages, and I'll tell you what your Big5 score is.

Now it can be argued that the theoretical basis of MBTI is outdated or vague, but using that as a main critique when the types themselves seem to be quite descriptive of people just means that some people are unable to tell the difference between the literal and figurative. "Nnnnngg... description as used does not match Webster's dictionary. Brain hurts. Can't think. Reality conflict."

The critique that the discriptions match any personality either shows that people aren't being honest with themselves or that they simply don't know themselves very well. I can't see why the Big5 wouldn't have exactly the same problems, namely because the testing is quite similar.

Overall, I'm pragmatic when it comes to tools. Does the MBTI work? Yes. Is it useful? Yes. Is it some god-given dogmatic truth about the world? No.

I think of the MBTI as a handy taxonomy that can quickly sort people into descriptions that are rather solid. Now a description/classification is not a theory (<- I'm using the scientific definition of theory here. Not the layman). However, I frankly doubt that psychologists posses much of a theory of psychology either given that much of their research is based on the behavior of small groups of western cultured undergraduate who are paid $5 for an hour of their time, neatly summarized with archaic t-tests of the 19th century.

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Re: Myers-Briggs Pseudoscience?

Post by Ego » Thu Jul 17, 2014 1:12 pm

Yeah, I can see how it can be useful. But there is a downside to myers briggs that I don't like at all and was not mentioned in the article. Expectations. The moment I learn that I am an ENTJ, the subject-expectancy effect can strengthen and solidify those characteristics.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subject-expectancy_effect

Rather than emphasizing the fluidity and the momentary aspects of the test - I am thinking like this today - it seems to encourage a fixed thinking about them - this is who (how) I am. I am a ENTJ and Es are like this so, oh well, that's just me. Notice how we say, "I am an ENTJ".

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Re: Myers-Briggs Pseudoscience?

Post by jacob » Thu Jul 17, 2014 1:38 pm

Ego wrote: Rather than emphasizing the fluidity and the momentary aspects of the test - I am thinking like this today - it seems to encourage a fixed thinking about them - this is who (how) I am.
I disagree. Whether to see the results as descriptive or prescriptive is in the eye of the beholder. (As with practically any test, the scientific understanding/world-view would be that tests are ALWAYS descriptive.) A prescriptive interpretation is not prevented by saying that the results are fluid or momentary, especially when it seems that they aren't---at least not in the short or medium run. For example, if the test result say you're thinking like this today, how does that prevent a prescriptive interpretation? It definitely doesn't work that way when people read horoscopes.

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Re: Myers-Briggs Pseudoscience?

Post by jacob » Thu Jul 17, 2014 1:43 pm

@cael - Apples and oranges. MBTI identifies preferences, not states or traits. If anything, the main interpretative problem is in thinking that an ISTJ would always be better at say accounting than an ENFP regardless. However, preference is not the same as absolute skills.

Confusing self-preference with skill or society-imposed preferences is what makes the test tricky.

I wouldn't really fault the test for being susceptible to "operator error".

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Re: Myers-Briggs Pseudoscience?

Post by Ego » Thu Jul 17, 2014 2:32 pm

jacob wrote:
Ego wrote: Rather than emphasizing the fluidity and the momentary aspects of the test - I am thinking like this today - it seems to encourage a fixed thinking about them - this is who (how) I am.
I disagree. Whether to see the results as descriptive or prescriptive is in the eye of the beholder. (As with practically any test, the scientific understanding/world-view would be that tests are ALWAYS descriptive.)
Just because something is descriptive in theory does that mean that in practice it is not prescriptive? I agree that it is a tool, and as a tool it can be used in a variety of ways. But I find it hard to believe that telling someone they are for instance a T as opposed to an F wouldn't someone influences how they see themselves and consequently how they engage with the world.

Image

Here is an example of how a supposedly descriptive test can unwittingly become prescriptive.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTghEXKNj7g

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Re: Myers-Briggs Pseudoscience?

Post by jennypenny » Thu Jul 17, 2014 2:53 pm

I've always wondered if a person's MBTI type affected their opinion of the test. People with I N T J preferences rely mostly on internal cues and constructs.* People with E S F P preferences rely more on external cues and constructs. I can see where someone with a preponderance of, or higher scores in, the latter might see their personality as more fluid and dependent upon external conditions. I could see them resisting the test more than someone who has stronger I N T J preferences, who probably views those preferences as fixed.

Psychodemia's disregard for the test doesn't invalidate it IMHO, especially if what I just said is true. I can't imagine many INTJ's pursue careers in psychology.


*I don't think constructs is the right word, but you know what I mean.

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Re: Myers-Briggs Pseudoscience?

Post by Ego » Thu Jul 17, 2014 3:02 pm

Hum. Your preferences dictate how you see the test.....That's an excellent point.

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Re: Myers-Briggs Pseudoscience?

Post by GandK » Thu Jul 17, 2014 3:19 pm

I find MBTI to be a useful paradigm for self growth and (to a lesser degree) communication.

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Re: Myers-Briggs Pseudoscience?

Post by jennypenny » Thu Jul 17, 2014 3:25 pm

I don't know. Maybe it's just much easier for people with I N T J preferences to take the test? I have no problem answering Yes or No to a one-sentence question. Maybe other types feel like they need more information before they can answer?

Does anyone know what types Myers and Briggs were? (can't search--on my phone)

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Re: Myers-Briggs Pseudoscience?

Post by jacob » Thu Jul 17, 2014 3:44 pm

@Ego/jennypenny - FWIW I find it hard to believe that telling someone whether they're F or T actually does influence them. Seriously. That is, I can admit to the possibility intellectually, but I can not empathize with the notion. It's too alien.

Then again, MBTI tells me that as an INTj, I have little respect for authority, so of course I am compelled [by the description] to think/feel this way ;)

Incidentally, I'm pretty sure David Keirsey is an INTP and I'm moderately sure that Isabel Myers was an INFP. Also noteworthy is that the INTJ-MBTI forums are some of the biggest on the internet whereas the forums of some of the other types, such as, you guessed it, ESFP, are practically dormant/non-existent.

http://whichmbtitype.wordpress.com/2012 ... ggs-myers/ (says INFJ)
http://www.knowyourtype.com/myers-briggs/isabel-myers/ (says INFP)

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Re: Myers-Briggs Pseudoscience?

Post by jennypenny » Thu Jul 17, 2014 4:16 pm

I'm not saying that awareness of a person's type influences their self-assessment, although there is lots of evidence of that with astrological signs. I'm wondering if the test is more suited to I N T J types, and therefore more accurately identifies those people and predicts their behavior.

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Re: Myers-Briggs Pseudoscience?

Post by Ego » Thu Jul 17, 2014 4:23 pm


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Re: Myers-Briggs Pseudoscience?

Post by jacob » Thu Jul 17, 2014 6:52 pm

I will go as far as to agree that using MBTI in the hands of some HR drone in order to assess applicants future promotional path is a bad idea. However, like with guns, it's just a tool. If its potential, for better or worse, is not understood by the user, it's better not to use it at all than to misuse it.

Personally, it's hard to overstate how useful I've found MBTI. It's in the top-3(*) of life-changing discoveries I've made.

(*) The other two being learning that the idea of eternal progress is simply the dominant myth of western civilization, but still a myth, and the fact that money-can-make-more-money---something that's obvious to Americans but not to Danes.

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Re: Myers-Briggs Pseudoscience?

Post by Ian » Thu Jul 17, 2014 9:11 pm

The MBTI is pseudoscientific enough that I don't like seeing it used to make serious decisions or taking a major place in the workplace, but I don't like to use the term pseudoscience because I don't think it's on the level of vaccine/autism types. I think it has a place in people's thinking, partially for the reason I'll get into below.
jennypenny wrote:I'm not saying that awareness of a person's type influences their self-assessment, although there is lots of evidence of that with astrological signs. I'm wondering if the test is more suited to I N T J types, and therefore more accurately identifies those people and predicts their behavior.
I don't have hard evidence, but I'd strongly suspect that INTJs and a few other personality types agree more with their results. I also feel as though the MBTI did a lot of provide validation for certain personality types - you don't have to go very far back in history to find social books that describe things we'd call introverted as simply bad. I could be wrong about this, but I think it's plausible that the test has been embraced partially because it provides a significant segment of the population with a way to legitimize their experiences.

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Re: Myers-Briggs Pseudoscience?

Post by Felix » Fri Jul 18, 2014 3:43 am

Is saying ESFPs don't believe in Myers-Briggs types like saying that cancers don't believe in horoscopes?

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Re: Myers-Briggs Pseudoscience?

Post by GandK » Fri Jul 18, 2014 5:29 am

Ian wrote:
jennypenny wrote:I'm not saying that awareness of a person's type influences their self-assessment, although there is lots of evidence of that with astrological signs. I'm wondering if the test is more suited to I N T J types, and therefore more accurately identifies those people and predicts their behavior.
I don't have hard evidence, but I'd strongly suspect that INTJs and a few other personality types agree more with their results.I also feel as though the MBTI did a lot of provide validation for certain personality types - you don't have to go very far back in history to find social books that describe things we'd call introverted as simply bad. I could be wrong about this, but I think it's plausible that the test has been embraced partially because it provides a significant segment of the population with a way to legitimize their experiences.
It's more about lack of utility for people whose world view happens to match society's. Our culture itself is extraverted sensing. So when my husband, an ESTJ, takes the test and hears about his tendencies, his response is "Of course that's how I see things!" Our culture - business culture, especially - validates and values his point of view, his strengths, and even his weaknesses. It wasn't less accurate for him at all, or less predictive, or that he didn't agree with his results as much as I agreed with mine (INFJ). The test results simply held no new information for him. It was like taking a lengthy test to inform him that the sky is blue. And equally useful. He was much more intrigued by my results. "You really think like this? And other people do too?! That's... weird."

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Re: Myers-Briggs Pseudoscience?

Post by jacob » Fri Jul 18, 2014 9:44 am

This! --- That's what I wanted to write.

First and foremost---and I believe this was part of the original intention of, at least, Keirsey's books (Please Understand Me I && II)---was to provide this validation of other types. As you say, extraverts and sensers, and in particular the combination, are automatically validated by western society. In particular, being the majority, they don't even had to try to understand most other people and in turn be understood by most other people.

Prior to MBTI and personality typing in general, I thought that all humans had opinions that were logically derived by reason following from basic axioms. If we had a disagreement it should consequentially be a simple matter of tracing the reasoning back to these axioms to figure out where the divergence was. I naturally assumed that everybody operated this way and that everybody had a natural interest in deep exploration of their own personal thinking.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered---after long arguments from my dorm neighbor---that apparently some people reach decisions based on a completely alien technology called "feelings". That, in fact, most people do not build elaborate mental systems of the world. That, most people can't readily explain why they hold a particular opinion. That, in fact, most people DO NOT enjoy picking apart arguments and building them back up.

Frankly, before that I naively thought that people who didn't make reasonable sense simply suffered from some kind of dimwitted craziness. Maybe their reasoning was a fault. Maybe their systems were broken. Maybe they had issues. That was pretty much the lesson I took away from almost 15 years of "English"-classes; why don't we ever get to read about normal people [like me, an intj].

Well, turns out, I was the odd one.

Also I think NTs, maybe INTJs the most, have a very easy time taking the test. Do you prefer this or that? That's not a hard question to me. I know exactly what to answer because the answer is quickly available to me in one of those mental systems I've built up. I also understand the test so I know the intention of what's being asked. For example: "Do you prefer facts or theory?" This is an S vs N question. Now, personally I prefer facts, but that's because I make my own theories. So while technically, I should answer facts (S), I need to answer theory (N).

Now ask an SJ or SP the same question, and they need to remember particular instances of when they did this or that? Maybe they need to check their legal compass (the SJ compass is more a question of law than ethics I find) or tradition or what's supposed to be right? Or what their employee training told them was the right thing to say. And so on. This makes it easy to get the wrong answers.

In any case, I've found it very helpful on an interpersonal basis. It helps me understand why my SJ wife will cross a street in front of a car "because there's a stop sign so it has to stop" and I hold her back "because traffic law in itself does not prevent the car from running you over if the driver hasn't seen you". As well, why I worry "that the dog theoretically could run out in front of car because the leash is long enough" and she doesn't "because he's never done that before". And so on.

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Re: Myers-Briggs Pseudoscience?

Post by Chad » Fri Jul 18, 2014 9:51 am

jacob wrote: Frankly, before that I naively thought that people who didn't make reasonable sense simply suffered from some kind of dimwitted craziness.
I'm not sure MBTI fixed this for me. :D

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Re: Myers-Briggs Pseudoscience?

Post by akratic » Fri Jul 18, 2014 1:10 pm

I found this article pretty weak.

His support for finding the MBTI "totally meaningless" is essentially:
1) ad hominem attacks
2) appeals to authority
3) a mistaken belief that MBTI forces things into binary choices such as E or I. Yet what the test gives you is specifically a place on the E - I spectrum, etc. Core texts on the subject like Please Understand Me hammer the spectrum thing in over and over. Just because the book then goes on to discuss caricatures of each type doesn't mean that you then throw the whole spetrum thing out the window. Specific test givers might fail to emphasize the spectrums, but that's a problem with the test giver not the test.
4) an unsubstantiated appeal to the Forer effect when the MBTI categories are neither vague nor broad nor particularly positive.
5) low test-retest reliability

1) and 2) above are just textbook logical fallacies and can be discarded. 3) and 4) just tell me that the author doesn't really understand the MBTI (or that I don't?). 5) is the only point I see any merit in. Yet I find it hard to wrap my head around as I personally have near perfect test-retest reliability down to the specific part of each spectrum... across different decades of my life, across different versions of the test, across times when I was a student or times when I was a vagabond.

If I had to guess the low test-retest reliability is downstream of people not understanding the spectrum thing. Like if I score just on the I side of E-I one day, and then just on the E side the next, it would be wrong to conclude that the test is unreliable (I then E). The correct interpretation is that both tests I was near the center of that spectrum.

All that said, here's what I think is actually the biggest problem with the MBTI:
6) less insightful for people near the center of the spectrum(s)

For each spectrum, the closer you are to the middle, the more you kind of naturally understand both sides, and the less a description of the ends of the spectrum applies to you. You could still use the descriptions to help understand other people that aren't in the middle, but you could already kind of do that on your own given where you started.

My personal theory of people who fully understand the categories and the spectrums etc., but just plain don't get anything out of them is that these people are middle-of-the-MBTI-spectrums people. There's nothing wrong with that and plenty of people should be in the middle of every personality dimension anyway. Obviously though you couldn't claim that MBTI is useless for everyone just because the four dimensions in it aren't particularly useful for you.

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