2013-12-31

ISFJ

A Facebook friend posted the result of an online version of the Myers Briggs[1][2] [personality] type indicator.[3]

He posted the result because the description of the personality type, ENFJ, is so strikingly different from the person you meet. The "mentor", or "teacher", is a warm, open, altruistic and charismatic leader who sees potential in everyone. My friend is a surly individual contributor and member of Mensa with few friends and no people skills.
It's funny, haha.

My Facebook friend strongly rejects my description of him. He points out that people project an image of themselves that depends on context. He further suggests that the image I project, in the contexts in which he knows me, is consistantly that of a wanker.
I did the test myself and came out as ISFJ. Then I redid it to become something more uncommon. I didn't lie, truth is variable when it comes to people. For example, when a person does charitable work because he or she wants to help those in need, but also because he or she derives satisfaction from being viewed as a "good" person, then we tend view the self serving aspect as the "true" motive.

Depending upon how you interpret yourself and your motives you can without dishonesty manipulate the test to give the answer you want.

In the end I settled on ISFJ because it seemed to have to most in common with the person I consider myself to be. For example, one of the characteristics of ISFJs is their ability to understand and empathize; they are keen observers of people. While I make a lot of observations about the people around me, it's hard to tell if I am as startlingly accurate as an ISFJ is supposed to be. One of my observations is that people tend to reject my observations, and I tend to conclude that I am correct and they're either dishonest because they don't like the implications of my observations or not self aware enough.[4]
The whole thing made me think about logic. An important part of Myers Briggs is to differentiate between the people who make decisions based on and are motivated by logic and those driven by intuition.[5]

There is a huge problem here, while  logic is a mode of thinking based on impartial observation and causality it also has a strong positive connotation.
Not only does logic have a higher intrinsic value than intuition; colloquial dichotomy places logic against irrationality rather than intuition.

This is further complicated by gender roles. Men think things through and women do this magical intuition thing. We pretend that these are complementary and equally important skills but logic is still valued higher than intuition.

Gender normative thinking also associates intuition with emotion, empathy, fear, helplessness and logic with objectivity, calm, strength and competence.

Some people, such as myself, reject gender norms so forcefully that when faced with a choice we always chose the one associated with the other.

No matter what though, everyone considers themselves logical because who is going to stand up and say: "I am irrational"?

It becomes a problem of definition. Myers Briggs places logic and intuition at the different ends of the spectrum, but we don't.

We consider mathematics a skill based on logical reasoning and those who are mathematically inclined logical. A child who on math tests in school provide the answer without the derivation and gets it right most of the time is considered to have an aptitude for math and therefore for logical thinking. Often they don't explain how they arrived at their conclusion because it's just so stunningly obvious to them.

But that's not logic at all.

Logic is the ability to use pieces of information to reach a conclusion. A person who uses logic to arrive at an answer is able to explain the steps that got them there. These kids, whether they have an aptitude for math or not, are using their intuition. When I think about people I base my conclusions on the things I observe. I don't use that magical female intuition, I can justify my conclusions. I consider them logical based on the evidence. Depending on the conclusion, I may react with compassion and my behavior toward a person will reflect that compassion. That makes me emotional.

But I value logic and people and their and my emotions.

We view logic and emotions as mutually exclusive. A logical and analytical person is a dispassionate and distant observer, a person who doesn't engage. What I feel has nothing to do with my use of logic. Neither does my ability to assess the validity of my thinking. A person who just knows, is intuitive and a person who arrives at a conclusion step by step is logical. It doesn't matter if either is right in the end.

Our connotations, value systems and ideas about gender make Myers Briggs an indicator of who we want to be, who we should be, who we are expected to be, how we group concepts and the roles and behaviors we attribute to different categories of people.
It's total bullshit.

  1. http://www.myersbriggs.org/  ↩
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myers-Briggs_Type_Indicator It's worth noting that while Myers and Briggs were both women the photo the heads the Wikipedia article is of Carl Jung. Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers extrapolated their type indicator from Jung's work, but they created it; it should be their photos above the ingress. Marie Curie does not grace Ernest Rutherford's Wikipedia page even though he derived his work from hers. That's not logic, that's preference for a gender.  ↩
  3. http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp  ↩
  4. Consider my Facebook friend'sobservations about my observations.  ↩
  5. Note that throughout this blogpost I am somewhat inconsistent with regards logic, intelligence, feeling, emotion and intuition, but hopefully my ideas about how they're connected makes it clear that I am not using them interchangeably. 

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