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What Role Does Personality Play in Belief/Skepticism?

Emerging church blogger Matt Stone recently posted some extracts from a 2005 article in the Journal of Parapsychology entitled “Personality and motivations to believe, misbelieve and disbelieve in paranormal phenomena”. As the title indicates, the article discusses how personality (e.g. Myers-Briggs types) affects one’s tendency towards skepticism or belief in what they call “psi”, i.e. psychic phenomenon. I’ve not read the entire article (it’s rather long) but the excerpts on Stone’s blog are fascinating. Here’s a few quotes:

Paranormal beliefs and experiences are associated with certain personality factors, including absorption, fantasy proneness, and the Myers-Briggs intuition and feeling personality dimensions. Skepticism appears to be associated with materialistic, rational, pragmatic personality types. Attitude toward psi may also be influenced by motivations to have control and efficacy, to have a sense of meaning and purpose in life.

Research studies have found that belief in paranormal phenomena is associated with the N and F personality factors…. In a study of a technique attempting to induce a sense of contact with someone who had died, 96% of the participants with NF personality types reported after-death contact experiences, whereas 100% of the participants with ST (sensing, thinking) personality types did not have these experiences….

Interestingly, and contrary to what some have suggested, the article states that a strong desire for control is actually more common among skeptics than among psi-believers. It says:

Skeptics also tend to have a greater internal locus of control (belief that they control the events in their lives) than those who believe in psi…. This is consistent with a stronger motivation for control by skeptics or possibly with less belief in supernatural influences.

…The initial evidence suggests that skeptics may tend to have a greater need for control. In fact, the speculations that an illusion of control is a significant factor in psi beliefs have primarily been proposed by skeptics and may be projections of their own needs for control.

If one moves beyond the motivation for control and looks at psi on its own terms, a different motivation emerges as prominent. Many people report experiences of ostensible spontaneous paranormal phenomena that occur without attempting to elicit or control the phenomena…. Even a casual review of these reports indicates that the experiences do not seem to be guided by self-serving, materialistic motivations or needs for control.

Research indicates the primary effect of psi experiences is an altered worldview and an increased sense of meaning and purpose in life and spirituality….

It is also important to note that this article is specifically correlating personality with belief in psi, not with religion in general. In fact it notes that the more skeptical personality types (STJs) are often found in authoritarian religious circles.

People with STJ personality types tend to rise to positions of leadership and authority in hierarchical organizations…. Fudjack and Dinkelaker (1994) noted that the masculine “extraverted/rational-empirical/pragmatic/ materialist” ESTJ personality is prominent in western culture and tends to prefer hierarchical organizations that emphasize power and control rather than creativity and flexibility. Kroeger, Thuesen, and Rutledge (2002) administered the Myers-Briggs personality test to over 20,000 people in all levels of a wide variety of corporate, government, and military organizations. Across these diverse groups, they found that 60% of 2,245 people in top executive positions had STJ personalities (ESTJ or ISTJ). The proportion of STJ types increased as the level on the management hierarchy increased.

Research indicates that the S personality types are associated with conservative religions that emphasize institutional religious authority and tradition whereas the intuitive (N) types are associated with more liberal, subjective, experiential approaches to religion and tolerance for religious uncertainty…. Similarly, greater dogmatism was associated with the S and J personality types….

Other personality models describe related factors like authoritarianism, traditionalism, or right-wing authoritarianism…. Altemeyer (1996) argued that fundamentalism is a religious manifestation of the authoritarian personality. Monaghan (1967) described “authority-seeker” as one of the main motivations for attending a fundamentalist church.

Fundamentalist religions often consider mystical or paranormal experiences as delusions or dangerous events.

All this of course raises some interesting questions about the degree to which personality type influences one’s proclivity towards certain worldviews, whether atheism, authoritarian religion, belief in paranormal phenomenon, or whatever else. For instance, the commentary on Stone’s blog below the article notes, anecdotally, that most people in the emerging church tend to be NFs or NTs (which has certainly been true in my experience – for instance I am an INTJ and my wife is an INFP). I’m curious, for those of you here who have taken the Myers-Briggs test, what is your personality type? If the research plays out, one would predict that most here are probably at least S types.

(Note: most of the ellipses in the quotes above are where I took out the citations to improve readability. If you’re interested in the citations backing up these statements, see the original post.)

  • Milena

    Actually, there’s a thread about the Myers-Briggs test in the forum. I tested as INTJ. Most of the other people who posted over on the forum were either INTJ or INTP.

  • Darryl

    I think experience would indicate that personality is directly responsible for the choices people make, whether religious or not, about world-views. What I think is crucial, and much more complicated to explain, is the process by which, and the factors involved in the turn from belief to non-belief or vice versa across personality types.

  • http://musings.meanderwithme.com Allison

    I’m probably a bit out of the ordinary here as a skeptical ENFP. But, then, I freely admit that the first time I seriously considered the possibility that God *didn’t* exist, it rocked my world. Once I got over feeling lonely (nothing like having a second Person watching your every stinkin’ move), I realized that accountability to me and only me was way better than any “woo” religion or the paranormal could offer.

    My husband is an INTP, and has been skeptical since childhood — the kid the Sunday School teachers asked to not return.

    Now, my father? Totally typical ESTJ complete with a love for “how it’s always been done.” I don’t think he’s even willing to question his faith, lest he realize that god isn’t there.

  • Ben

    According to the test link you gave, I scored ISTP (100% introverted, 38% sensing, 50% thinking, and 33% perceiving.) It didn’t seem to describe me all that well on some things, though.

  • http://ichthyologistbright.blogspot.com Laurie Soule

    I have tested ISTP before, and just did again. At least I’m consistent.

  • Karen Brown

    Well, first post here. And I tested INTP. Seems there IS a bit of a theme, since I was a non-believer (in a family of at least nominal believers) since earliest childhood.

    I was so bad that I didn’t realize people, when praying, actually thought they were talking to someone. I thought it was like, well, the ‘Pledge of Allegience’. after all, nobody’s actually talking to the flag, right? Really shocked me when I found that one out.

    Yeah, I was actually told that I ‘thought too much’ in Sunday School.

  • http://www.runicfire.net ansuzmannaz

    It seems to me that any kind of personality inventory, with generalized categories, would not fit anyone that well on everything. Indeed, one of the posters on the fora mentions a Wikipedia article (not the end-all, be-all of sources, I know) that summarizes questions as to the authority of the Myers-Briggs test. They seem fairly convincing.

    Reading those criticisms (variations in personality type depending upon time of day and number of times taken), it seems like the Myers-Briggs inventory is more of a behavior test than a personality test. It makes me wonder whether modern psychology can create an inventory based on behavioral and neurological psychology that more accurately portrays the range and detail of someone’s personality.

    Edit: Oh, and I consider myself a skeptic, and I tested ENFP: Extraverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving. Though I was weak on the feeling/perceiving and especially weak on the extraverted, I was VERY strong on the intuitive aspect.

  • http://mattstone.blogs.com Matt Stone

    Mike, I appreciate your thoughtful commentary here. Yes, I think the personality type results tends to suggest the type of religion (or irreligion) people may go for as much as whether or not they go for religion.

    As an INTP myself, the expressions of Christianity I find more appealing are those that welcome questioning, experience and creative exploration; the expressions I find least appealing are those which indulge in emotional manipulation, hierachial control and black/white thinking. You might say its a case of A-theism no, but A-clericalism yes.

    You may find it interesting to explore if there are any discernable differences between NFP atheists and STJ atheists. Are STJ atheists more prevalent? Are NFP atheists more prone to “defect” to religion or a softer agnosticism?

    Keep in mind that nautre and nurture both seem to be involved here. Whilst the study indicates personality type is an important factor, experience is indicated as an important factor too

    PS. Personally I would extend that to experience of the divine, but then I’m into experiential religion now aren’t I :-)

  • Nick

    How about we start with the issue that Myers-Briggs test are garbage in the first place and prove absolutely nothing whatsoever?

    The people who made the test (MBTI) had no scientific qualifications at all in psychometric testing. They also were neither psychologists nor social scientists. It’s also based on a non scientific theory by Carl Jung (personality typing) using methods that have been rejected by modern day psychology.

    Many psychologist to this day do not like MBTI regardless how much it’s been tinkered with since it’s inception. I think it’s a bad idea anyway. Nothing more than another pigeonhole idea for use by employers and other institutions.

    The whole idea is totally base on a false premise in the first place. There is no correlation between MBTI and skepticism or belief because the MBTI doesn’t exist in the first place! So no stress.

    You could say that the MBTI is nothing more than another belief system, if it makes you happy. :)

    This is just my two cents worth.

  • Miko

    If the research plays out, one would predict that most here are probably at least S types.

    This would be true no matter what group you tested (within reason), seeing as such a large percentage of the population is. It’s also worth noting that there’s a sizable NT block among those with careers in the sciences, which of course itself overlaps strongly with skeptics and atheists, so I’d be surprised if the percentage of S-types were really statistically significantly above the average of the general population. But all in all it sounds like an interesting area for research, although it’s important to remember that the MBTI is a philosophical taxonomy and not a scientific one. In any event, I’ll be curious what results we end up with here.

    INTP for me, by the way. Strong INT, weak P.

  • Kori

    I’ve always come up “INFP” which is sometimes referred to as “healer” and it describes me far more than marginally well, it’s generally spot on. One or two things were different from me, but the things that were the most common among the tests that I’d taken, that were consistent, were all totally me, and I did always come up to be INFP/Healer more than anything else.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Interesting. Good to know that controlling, dominant personality types gravitate towards the top of heirarchal structures. This means it happens in all human enterprises and not just religion.

  • Miko

    Indeed, one of the posters on the fora mentions a Wikipedia article (not the end-all, be-all of sources, I know) that summarizes questions as to the authority of the Myers-Briggs test.

    The best way to approach the authority is to assume that it has absolutely none. That is, if someone is using it as a component of a hiring process, say, they’re using it wrong. And if someone is treating it like astrology, they’re probably getting results just as invalid as they would with star signs.

    On the other hand, there’s something to be said for it philosophically (in my opinion), as long as you just take it as an indicator of general trends. Also beneficial is the introduction of an X to indicate a trait too weak to label well, which takes care of most of the behavior-related fluctuation. The biggest problem I’ve found is that the (E/I)STJ labels end up describing such a large percentage of the population as to make the labels meaningless.

    Also of note: if you look at almost any book on cold reading, you’ll come across this in the first couple of chapters. So, the people who do that sort of thing seem to think it’s a reliable first approximation of personality type, or at least worthy of consideration.

  • ryot

    In the past I’ve tested as both INTJ and INTP , as well as INFJ (I was very weak on the F/T and J/P part, so it seems to flip flop). Honestly, INFJ describes me with much more accuracy. It’s curious that I’m associated with so many religious figures, like Mother Theresa, but I’m certainly not religious. I don’t mind it though, she is still one of my heroes.

    I always used to worry when I thought I was an INTJ or INTP, and they recommended I become an engineer or scientist, because no matter how interesting I find them (and I do), I would rather spend the rest of my life as a hermit than make a career out of either.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ miller

    I’m a little wary of using this kind of test to learn much about individuals. All personality correlations are statistical; they’re not reliable when applied to small sample sizes (ie oneself).

    I tested INTJ, with N being the strongest. Hey, that makes me the same as you, Mike!

    All this talk about personalities, and no one’s mentioned the stereotypical skeptical personality. Skeptics sort of get a raw deal in pop culture, because in a fictional setting it doesn’t really make sense to be skeptical. The stereotype is that skeptics are unemotional, close-minded, etc. (anyone want to add more?) I’m not sure where that fits in the Myers-Briggs types. Is this stereotype reflected in real life?

  • Kori

    I found this one: http://www.teamtechnology.co.uk/mmdi-re/mmdi-re.htm useful, because it gives the results in relative terms. That is, the result is a grid of all sixteen types, placed based on their relationship to one another, and it shows you the percentage that you came up for each of the types. It also gives a comparison between your two strongest types which I think potentially could produce a much more accurate result for many people, especially the ones who say that they tend to “flip-flop” between two types, or come up weak in one part or the other.

  • Claire

    ai ai ai…… I think there is definitely a correlation between personality types and worldviews, but I can’t think of a worse way to look at than through Myers-Briggs glasses. It’s ok as a party game but useless as a predictor or generator of any useful knowledge.

    Every single time I have taken it, the results change – it flip-flops on everything but the T. Not that that result is unexpected – my response to most of the questions is almost always ‘it depends’, and since the answer has to be yes or no, which I pick is mostly about how they phrased it or how I’m feeling.

    I took it twice at two different sites this evening – one said ESTJ, the other said INTP. How am I supposed to think it’s measuring anything real and doing it accurately with those results?

    It was an interesting study, I just wish they had based it on something more legitimate.

  • cipher

    I don’t trust tests like this. I have to answer most questions with neither Yes nor No, but “Well, sorta”. This experience was no different. And what about a person whose underlying personality may be oriented in one direction, but who has been forced by circumstances to behave in another way altogether?

    Humans are extraordinarily complex. Five decades of experience have convinced me that nothing meaningful can be said about a human being based upon a set of true/false, yes/no questions.

    One thing about this – it’s always struck me that most Christians will make allowances for those living in foreign cultures who haven’t heard of Jesus, but they won’t extend the same courtesy to people in our own culture who haven’t heard in a way that resonates with them, or “gets through” to them. In other words, they can accommodate geographical barriers, but not psychological ones.

    Of course, the Calvinists could explain it all away by saying, “This just proves that God didn’t intend for you to believe.” That is, if psychology weren’t a tool of the Devil.

  • Arlen

    From reading the comments, it sounds to me like there could eb an interesting study done on one’s response to Myers-Briggs testing given one’s results to the Myers-Briggs test!

    I’m an ESTJ; I’m borderline introverted and not at all intuitive (which can sometimes get me into trouble). For the record, I’m also a theist.

  • cipher

    BTW, Mike – that site links to others that give examples of famous people with, supposedly, the same profiles – including historical figures. I was told that I had the same profile as Nathan, the prophet. Please.

  • Wes

    This is what I got on the test you linked to:

    INTJ
    Introverted 67 Intuitive 62 Thinking 88 Judging 22

    But I’m distrustful of these tests. To what degree do things like the Forer Effect bias the results? And can we expect people to reliably know the answer to the questions on the test? A lot of these “personality” tests seem to assume a high level of self-knowledge in people which I tend to think is not safe to assume. People will very often give the answer they think they should give rather than the one that most accurately describes themselves.

    Also, the article you linked to seems to take it for granted that the correlations support the idea that personality determines belief. But why couldn’t the causation be the other way around? To what degree does belief determine personality? If authoritarianism is associated with certain personality types, should we conclude that in Nazi Germany certain personality types became ascendant, or that the inculcation of fascist ideology caused people to adopt personalities more amenable to authoritarianism? How flexible is personality?

  • Ron in Houston

    I’m a very strong INFP. While I agree that personality does have some bearing on one’s spiritual approach, I think it is the makeup of our brains that has a whole lot to do with our religious leanings.

    For instance, I strongly believe that St. Paul suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy. It explains his experience on the road to Damascus as well as other complaints he had about his body. Since his brain caused him to have spiritual experiences, it’s no wonder he was a religious zealot.

    I think there are a lot of atheists who have brains that just don’t give them the type of transcendent experiences that draw people to religion.

  • Adrian

    INTP

    I always find these online tests interesting. INTP is supposed to be relatively rare in the general population, yet we’re massively overrepresented in many online communities. Talk about your self-selection bias!

    The one question that these studies always raise in my mind is about free will. What does it say if we are born with a personality trait that make us much less or more likely to accept religious claims, and what does it say to those who believe that our faith (or lack of faith) will affect us in the afterlife?

  • Justin

    Nick said:

    How about we start with the issue that Myers-Briggs test are garbage in the first place and prove absolutely nothing whatsoever?

    Hear hear!

    Modern personality psychologists don’t use the Myers-Briggs test, which was developed by non-scientists and is not empirically supported. The “Big Five” has been the dominant model of personality since the mid-1980s, so there is no excuse for a 2005 article not using it, if they’re doing legitimate psychological science.

    It’s not surprising that something from the Journal of Parapsychology also used a bunk personality test. It’s junk science all around.

  • TheDeadEye

    Your Type is
    INTJ
    Introverted Intuitive Thinking Judging

    Same as last month.

  • Diane

    I’m ISFJ, a type I hardly ever see anyone mention. The first time I took the test lo these many years ago, I came out as something much more rational and practical, but in reading the description I realized that I am awfully prone to making decisions based on emotion even though I know I shouldn’t. So, I retook with a bit more self-awareness, and ISFJ it is, though I aspire to be a T.

    Not that this test means anything at all, of course!

    When I was in high school, we had an English teacher who had just graduated from college and apparently took lots of psychology that she couldn’t wait to try out on us. We took many personality tests, including left-brain/right-brain tests. I always came out dead center.

  • mike

    You have to consider the fact that you will get a very bizarre sample on a blog. I’m an INTJ, like many of the respondents here. INTJ is one of the least common types, but on the internet we are much better represented.

    Also, it’s tempting to use Myers-Briggs as a pigeonholing tool (even for pigeonholing yourself). It’s best to not use your type as a crutch (or as something that explains everything), but learn also to understand and think like the other types so you can relate better.

  • http://www.skepticalmonkey.com Ted Goas

    “What Role Does Personality Play in Belief/Skepticism?”

    A more humble person accepts that they could be wrong. That’s my take on answering the title of this post.

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    INFJ, although I have also tested INTJ. Once you learn how the test works, you can make it come out however you want though. :-)

    I don’t think this test has any “authority” per se, but it does touch a cord with many people and I think there is some validity to the outcomes matching how people perceive themselves as well as how others perceive them.

    If I ever have time, I want to write about this on Skepchick. I really love the Myers-Briggs stuff and Jungian psychology and I know the skepchick readers will just have a cow complaining how my ideas are not skeptical enough. Heck, I know that. But I do love to kick up the dust.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Fantastic! Thank you Mike, for posting this!

    I’m a recently self-validated ENTP, by the way. Coincidentally, I recently received training to be qualified as an MBTI consultant. I am now licensed to administer the more comprehensive MBTI instruments, as well guide the test takers to self-validate the results.

    MBTI is an instrument that uses Carl Jung’s type theory to sort people according to their cognitive preferences…. PREFERENCES, not behavioral traits. Everything we do in our daily life requires two basic functions: perception and judgment. That is, how our minds gather information and then make decisions based on that information.

    MBTI is a self-awareness tool, and not something to be used to label and judge people, or even to predict. It can sort the different preferences but cannot predict behaviors with any significant accuracy. For example, a naturally left-handed person prefers to use his left hand but may learn to use his right hand with some proficiency out of necessity. But his preference for the left-hand is inborn and will not change.

    Jung’s type theory states that the psychological type is inborn, but not without influence (by society, culture, etc.). It suggests that we are born with our psychological preferences, just as we are born with our physical preferences (i.e. the right-left handedness).

    False results are common, as we are greatly influenced by our environment. The challenge is to try and figure out what our true type is. I, for one, feel so much better knowing my true type. Everything makes more sense now.

    If anyone is interested, please email me through Hemant. I’d love the chance to practice what I’ve learned; as well as help you, Mike, with your research (if it is, in fact, what you’re doing). I am also very interested in the link between personality type and spirituality, as well as genetics and spirituality. ;) Just thought I’d put it out there…

    Here’s an article showing a study done on identical twins, which I had posted on another thread. Very interesting.

  • http://mog.com/sporkyy Todd Sayre

    I remember taking this test back in high school. My English teacher was obsessed with this kind of thing. I remember testing as INTJ back then.

    When I took it now, I scored as an INTP. My percentages were I=100%, N=50%, T=100% and P=11%. So I may be more Perceiving now, but not strongly so.

    I guess I’ve changed (matured?) some in the last decade.

  • http://www.eldugan.com/ Beth

    ENTJ, just like my atheist father who is a psychologist who administers these tests.

  • http://www.bernerbits.com Derek

    I’ve been INTP for several years now. I score very strongly on the former two and very weakly on the latter two (I sometimes score INFJ depending on my mood). Almost straddling the line between NT/NF may have something to do with my being agnostic instead of atheist/theist.

    That’s interesting that ECers are frequently NT/NF…

  • Viggo the Carpathian

    I took the test twice and got different responses. First time I came out INTJ and second time INTP. I knew I had MPD…

  • Karen

    I took the test years ago and I believe I was an INFP. I don’t know how well that fits in personality-wise with being a skeptic, which I strongly identify with.

    Looking over the profile of an INFP, a lot of it fits me perfectly. Except that I am not and never have been a perfectionist or control freak – quite the opposite, actually! ;-)

    Also, given that I (and many others here) were religious and now are not, I don’t know how much personality type could affect belief.

  • http://saliental.blogspot.com/ salient

    You/the article appear to be muddling desire for control (as in control-freak) with internal vs external locus of control.

    People with an internal locus of control recognize that they are largely in charge of what happens in their lives. (Obviously, these people know that external events such as tornados are outside their control.) Peole who feel responsible for their own outcomes are much more likely to wish to make informed decisions based on accurate information. Call them skeptics if you will, but the real point is rationality.

    People with an external locus of control are much less self-actualized than ‘internals’, in that they see themselves as being at the mercy of outside forces. The insecurity associated with this sense of personal powerlessness leads these types to a willingness to seek assistance from magical external powers. Since these types are not well grounded in reality, they care more for external agencies that promise help than for accuracy of information.

    People with an internal locus of control have much less need to control society and other individuals than those who feel themselves at the mercy of external controls.

    Incidentally, I’m consistently E/I, N, F/T, P. The Meyers-Briggs is useful, but not everyone scores neatly into a little box. (Research studies have the inherent problem of cramming results into boxes.) My NT comes out in my being an internal-locus, science-oriented atheist, the F comes out in my being a psychiatrist. The P fits with my being anything but a control-freak.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    It’s interesting to see that no two skeptics are created equal. How can you even draw conclusions on the reliability or the validity of the instrument without taking the official test?

    Obviously, the reliability of the results here will be in question, given the fact that the majority did not take the recommended test. When I get my on-line account set up, I’ll let Hemant or Mike know, and maybe we can all do it again as a group. It will cost me, but I’ll see what I can afford. I’m really curious. My motto is… if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing better. Maybe we can sell our research to the MBTI people. (hehe)

    FYI, I found an interesting study (Mitchell-1981) in the manual which analyzed correlations with factor scores derived from other psychological instruments (FIRO-B, SCII, EPPS, and WVI). Mitchell cautioned against generalizing, but preferences and types significantly associated with each factor were: (I’m only listing a few.)

    – Happy family (harmonious interpersonal relationships with pleasant material surroundings): Highest types – ESFJ, ISFP, ISFJ & ESFP; Lowest types – ENTP. (wow…that’s me!) :( (thus the caution against generalizing.)

    - Variety and challenge (latitude to work creatively on intellectually stimulating problems): Highest type was ENTP; Lowest types – ISFJ & ISFP.

    - Achievement within the system (orientation toward climbing the corporate ladder): Highest type – ESTJ; Lowest type – ESFP, ESTP & ENFP. (The highest six types are all Judging types; the lowest six are all Perceiving types.)

    - Visible autonomy (free expression of views even when at odds with the social milieu): Highest types – ESTP, INTP & ENTP; Lowest types – ISTJ & ISFJ.

    I think the last one will be of some interest to the people here. :)

  • http://www.chedstone.com Roy McKenzie

    I am an ENTP

    Extraverted Intuitive Thinking Perceiving
    Strength of the preferences %
    1 25 38 11

  • Shane

    INTP. Very I and T, a moderately N and P.

    It seems INTP and INTJ are fairly popular here. We should do a poll or something just to find out.

    Although I do share the concerns of an earlier poster about whether or not these categories and the test even adequately capture what we’re trying to measure in a meaningful way. I guess it’s a fun little exercise anyway.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    I guess I should mention that the article didn’t only reference Myers-Briggs. It also deals with several other personality metrics. However, I only quoted the parts that talked about M-B since it’s the only one I was familiar with.

    I find it fascinating that most of the atheists here seem to match the personality types of emerging church folk too (NTs and NFs), especially when these are so rare in the general population. I wonder what that says about both groups?

    From reading the comments, it sounds to me like there could eb an interesting study done on one’s response to Myers-Briggs testing given one’s results to the Myers-Briggs test!

    I had the same thought Arlen. I got a chuckle out of the fact that the first response to a personality test from a bunch of skeptics is to be skeptical about the validity of the test. :)

    BTW, Mike – that site links to others that give examples of famous people with, supposedly, the same profiles – including historical figures. I was told that I had the same profile as Nathan, the prophet. Please.

    Which site? The M-B sorter? I didn’t check that one out thoroughly. Just googled it and grabbed the first one I found.

    One thing about this – it’s always struck me that most Christians will make allowances for those living in foreign cultures who haven’t heard of Jesus, but they won’t extend the same courtesy to people in our own culture who haven’t heard in a way that resonates with them, or “gets through” to them. In other words, they can accommodate geographical barriers, but not psychological ones.

    Just speaking personally, but I’ve “made allowances” in my theology for that kind of thing for a long time now.

    • Max

      I wonder to who the last laugh belongs to when the results as portrayed in this article are in fact really not valide at all. If you read the comments you will see that the author has misinterpreted internal locus of control for a general need for control. I wonder also how you could possibly found it funny that skeptic people have a skeptic behaviour. Do you also get surprised if I tell you that thoughtful people will tend to be thoughtful?

      Once you get over the understanding of this most obvious cause-effect relation, you can ask yourself the relevant question: Which is the most appropriate behaviour to have? I suppose the answer to that depends on what you’re aiming for: The truth or the version that makes you feel better. I suppose we can turn the thing around, a bunch of people with a lack of skepticism will probably think there’s not need for it and never reflect on the validity of what they’re saying. It must definitely feel good to dismiss the whole doubting part.

  • http://mypantstheatre.blogspot.com bullet

    INTJ – or, as I prefer, “Rational Mastermind”

    Muahahaha!

  • Darryl

    I tested out as an INFJ. I read the description of this type, and I found it remarkably accurate. I had no idea that I was so intuitive/feeling. I would have thought myself much more thinking/rational. I do maintain a bit of skepticism about these kinds of categories, but I think it does provide some value to self-understanding. If I had to choose a religion, it would be Jungian.

  • Spacesocks

    “Skeptics also tend to have a greater internal locus of control (belief that they control the events in their lives) than those who believe in psi…. This is consistent with a stronger motivation for control by skeptics or possibly with less belief in supernatural influences.”

    Stronger motivation for control? Wtf? I don’t think either skepticism or woo is about controlling others. I think it’s more likely that people tend to turn to psi stuff when they feel like their lives are out of control, as reassurance that magic will make everything all right. It’s not about being a control freak, it’s about feeling like you’re running your own life.

    By the way, I’m INTP. I believed in God as a child at about the imaginary-friend level, and I thought I might have telepathic powers. But I grew out of that.

  • Aj

    The test says I’m a INTJ, but I don’t put much confidence in such tests. Atheism is not a worldview, it’s a lack of belief.

  • MTran

    Thank you, Salient, for your comments.

    When I read the portions of the article re skeptics “need for control,” and the “obvious fact that the deep hostility of some extreme skeptics indicates an irrational prejudice that needs explanation”, I had a major wtf moment.

    As far as I can tell, the article appears to be little more than boosterism for fans of parapsychology.

    Does anyone here know what sort of reputation the “Journal of Parapsychology” has within any legitimate academic or professional community?

    I mean, the question posed regarding the role of personality or modes of interpreting and interacting with the world vis a vis tendencies toward skepticism is interesting.

    But I don’t see any reason to think that the authors know wtf they are talking about.

  • cipher
    One thing about this – it’s always struck me that most Christians will make allowances for those living in foreign cultures who haven’t heard of Jesus, but they won’t extend the same courtesy to people in our own culture who haven’t heard in a way that resonates with them, or “gets through” to them. In other words, they can accommodate geographical barriers, but not psychological ones.

    Just speaking personally, but I’ve “made allowances” in my theology for that kind of thing for a long time now.

    I know that Mike, but, as I keep saying – you and Julie are the exceptions. There are far more of them than there are of you.

  • http://blueollie.wordpress.com ollie

    Most of the time I test INTJ.

    Yes, I teach mathematics. :)

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    MTran,

    According to David Kiersey’s temperament theory, your statement above sounds extremely NT. Kiersey’s Temperament Theory was developed independently of type theory and the MBTI assessment but later became a tool to use in conjunction with the MBTI to identify the four basic patterns of behavior. Kiersey did not agree with the type theory, by the way. Even the instructors at the workshop I attended had differing opinions regarding the type theory, as I observed through their teaching styles.

    I have my own skepticisms regarding the limitations of the test itself, but I believe in Jung’s theory. That’s why I wanted to learn everything there is to learn about the instrument to perhaps do my own field study (for fun).

    MBTI is widely used in the corporate world for organizational development and marketing. Why would companies spend so much money training their employees in the instrument if it is not proven to be somewhat reliable?

    It is “soft” science, and I know it does not sit well with most of the folks here. But I’m not sure if anyone here fully understands the theory behind it. Not only that, the on-line test is too simplistic and inconclusive.

    Anyway, now I’m looking into the Strengths Finder 2.0 to use in conjunction with the MBTI. The CIA Agent who sat next to me at the workshop recommended it. Great stuff.

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  • Adrian

    MTran,

    Does anyone here know what sort of reputation the “Journal of Parapsychology” has within any legitimate academic or professional community?

    Yeah, it has a (well-deserved) reputation for hucksterism, bias, wishful thinking, quackery and ignorance of the scientific method. I didn’t realize that the initial posting linked to such a disreputable source.

    It’s the academic equivalent of linking to an astrological horoscope or a woman’s magazine personality quiz – entertaining at best, but not educational.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    I didn’t realize that the initial posting linked to such a disreputable source.

    It’s the academic equivalent of linking to an astrological horoscope or a woman’s magazine personality quiz – entertaining at best, but not educational.

    Adrian and MTran,

    I know, I know…. But do you have to throw the baby out with the bath water? You may have a point regarding the link, but don’t you think Mike’s question is valid?

    You don’t have to dismiss the whole concept just because you find one source to be disreputable. C’mon, where is your investigative spirit?

  • Adrian

    Linda,

    I stand by my first response – variations like this seriously undermine issues of free will as it relates to salvation. There are more obvious cases, but this is much more wide-spread.

    The problem with the parapsychology work is that they mesh fantasy with reality seamlessly so they’re useless as a source. You must filter it yourself, so each article can only confirm your views which is a very bad thing in an academic journal.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    I’m not sure the source matters in this case, as we’re simply discussing the correlation of personality type with proclivity towards skepticism or belief. The data presented is therefore relevant regardless of whether you agree with the conclusions the authors of the article draw from it.

  • Justin

    I see the journal source as indicative of research quality.

    As been mentioned, it’s dubious whether the MBTI actually measures something that can meaningfully be called “personality.” There are two big issues: (1) Theoretically, it’s based on introspection and anecdote, which are unreliable. (2) Empirically, it claims that people fall into 16 discreet types, but this categorization is not supported by the evidence. Mainstream psychology views personality as a series of continuous traits, not dichotomous categories (i.e., normally distributed, not bimodally).

    The appeal of the MBTI is magnified by our tendency to accept vague diagnoses as applying to ourselves (see the “Forer effect”).

    The MBTI is likely measuring some sort of individual differences, but there are other, more accepted personality inventories (e.g., Costa and McCrae’s “Big Five” measures). Because the initial concept is muddy, the conclusions are unreliable.

  • angrymormonliberal

    Hey, we did a informal poll on our post-mormon group and the vast majority came out INTJ from that test…

    Very interesting.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    First of all, type is different from trait. Type has to do with preference, and trait has to do with behavior. MBTI is not an instrument to diagnose anything, personality or otherwise. It is merely a self-awareness tool, and thus relies on introspection and self-validation. I don’t see that as a flaw. Who knows ourselves better than ourselves?

    It also is not meant to be looked at as be-all and end-all to determining or categorizing our personalities. It is just one of many tools that are available to help us better understand ourselves and each other. I don’t see what all the negativism is about.

    I thought the subject matter was worthy of discussion. *shrug*

  • Justin

    I don’t want to be too much of a downer or squelch conversation, but to make sure people are aware of the issues surrounding the MBPI. As an experimental psychologist-in-training, it’s a pet peeve that much the public’s perceptions of psychology is the self-help, Dr. Phil kind of stuff that has little relation to what psychological researchers are doing. What the cited article calls “personality” isn’t really, in a scientific sense.

    Also, mainstream personality theories do talk about preferences. To take a minor example, people high on extraversion prefer social situations, in the sense that they tend to self-select into those situations and experience more positive affect when in them. Preferences predicts behaviour because people choose to put themselves in situations that make them feel comfortable.

  • cipher

    it’s a pet peeve that much the public’s perceptions of psychology is the self-help, Dr. Phil kind of stuff that has little relation to what psychological researchers are doing

    You mean, you guys can’t solve a lifetime’s worth of problems in half an hour?

  • one3rd

    I took that test when I was 15, again at 19, and just now at 24. I have always been and am still ENFP. Though I really wanted to enter “maybe” or “that depends” for most of my answers.

  • absent sway

    Fascinating. I’m an INFP, and questioning my faith has been fairly traumatic. I was raised in an authoritarian tradition and have consistently become more and more liberal over the years, even while trying to resist it ;)

  • The name I used before…

    ENFP

  • http://saliental.blogspot.com/ salient

    Justin, I don’t want to squelch your faith in your chosen profession, but, as a practicing ‘shrink’ I can assure you that neither Dr Phil nor experimental psychology have much relevance to the nitty gritty of human psychology. Dr Phil is essentially a showman who prostitutes psychology, and experimental psychology is limited by technical concerns and by ethics.

    I suspect that those of you who have flucutated between F and T on the MBPI are either F/Ts whose most recent decision affected your responses, or Fs whose most recent decision affected your responses. Since our cognitive output is necessarily in the form of thought, people will likely overestimate the degree to which their decisions are based upon logic. It’s not that emotion is unimportant to most Ts, it’s just that logic will win out on most T decisions.

    I think that what the MBPI attempts to measure is probably more relevant to questions of religiosity/atheism than are other ‘measures’ of personality. In say ‘attempts to measure’ merely because self-report can be biased.

    It’s interesting that most respondents are IN__. We shouldn’t be surprised by this — who else would even visit this blog? The ES__s are probably attending parties, visiting family, shopping, in the kitchen, or in the workshop, etc.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    salient,

    As a “shrink” then, do you have an opinion on whether there is a link between our personality type and faith/lack of faith? Do you subscribe to Jung’s type theory? And what role do you think spirituality plays in our psychological well-being? Do you think there’s a difference between those who are spiritual and those who merely follow a religion?

    I do agree with you that MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) does not “measure” personality traits or behaviors. It is merely an instrument to sort our cognitive preferences to one side or the other. I think most people are confused as to the difference between type and trait.

  • http://www.talkrational.org RBH

    Interestingly, and contrary to what some have suggested, the article states that a strong desire for control is actually more common among skeptics than among psi-believers.

    Don’t misinterpret what the study claims. “Internal locus of control” which is characteristic of skeptics does not mean some sort of desire to control other people or events. It means that skeptics attribute the main causes of of events in their lives to themselves — they (we!) have control of (are responsible for) what happens to us. Someone with an external locus of control attributes the events of their lives to outside causation.

  • http://www.talkrational.org RBH

    You wrote

    Interestingly, and contrary to what some have suggested, the article states that a strong desire for control is actually more common among skeptics than among psi-believers.

    Don’t misinterpret what the study claims. “Internal locus of control” which is characteristic of skeptics does not mean some sort of desire to control other people or events. It means that skeptics attribute the main causes of of events in their lives to themselves — they (we!) have control of (are responsible for) what happens to us. Someone with an external locus of control attributes the events of their lives to outside causation.

  • Justin

    salient,

    Oh, no need to worry about squelching my enthusiasm :)

    Of course, experimental psychology is limited by ethical and methodological issues (e.g., you mentioned the problem of self-report). Every science has these types of limitations. Through the self-correcting process of scientific inquiry, we become better at eliminating these errors and generating real truth about how the mind works. If not the scientific method, then what’s the best way of discovering the “nitty gritty” of human psychology? How does that method separate truth from error?

    Linda,

    I do agree with you that MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) does not “measure” personality traits or behaviors. It is merely an instrument to sort our cognitive preferences to one side or the other. I think most people are confused as to the difference between type and trait.

    Count me among the confused. Perhaps you could explain the difference between type and trait, and define “cognitive preference”? I don’t understand how they’re distinct from one another. If you did this in a previous post and I missed it, I apologise.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Justin,

    Perhaps you could explain the difference between type and trait, and define “cognitive preference”?

    I hope I can explain it well enough… this is what I have learned:

    Firstly, traits are universal. We all possess personality traits, which differ only in the amount possessed and can be measured. Tests measuring amounts of trait produce a normal distribution (on a bell curve). Extreme scores are important for discrimination, and too much or too little is often diagnostic. Traits cause behavior.

    Type, on the other hand, is made up of inborn preferences (Jung). The test involves sorting into categories, where the mid-point separating the categories is important for discrimination. This is the reason for the forced-choice questions. It does not produce a normal distribution (S-curve). Scores show confidence in the sorting process. Behavior is an expression of type. It is Jung’s theory that just as we are born with our physical preferences (right or left-handed), we are born with cognitive prefrences as well when it comes to perception and judgment.

    We can talk traits without type but cannot talk type without traits.

    Now, I have my own theory regarding nature vs. nurture. You’ve just inspired me to think it out. Come and think with me on my blog if you’d like. :)

  • MTran

    Linda said:

    MBTI is widely used in the corporate world for organizational development and marketing. Why would companies spend so much money training their employees in the instrument if it is not proven to be somewhat reliable?

    Linda, please forgive me when I say this sounds like a rather naive view of corporate decision making ;-) Have you seen the tv ads for Enzyte, the “Male Enhancement!” product? Enzyte is currently being prosecuted for fraud, yet they continue to run ads that essentially claim: “Could we make these sorts of offers if our product didn’t work?”

    Yes, they can and they do.

    Corporations make and use all sorts of products and services that do *not* do anything they are claimed to do. As for hiring decisions, corporations would rather find an easy work-around for effective hiring practices than take the time, money and effort to provide the sort of training the hiring supervisors need to do their jobs right. Whether the work-around is effective at its task is largely immaterial.

    My experience with these sorts of things is that some jurisdictions make it legally problematic to use the MBTI (and other popular tests) for hiring purposes because they can be so easily misused. The federal American With Disabilities Act also places limits on such pre-employment testing (though they can be used after an offer to hire has been made if they are not used to revoke the decision). Most of the enterprises (private sector, government, and academic) with which I have been associated have made such tests “verboten” for hiring.

    This is not to say that the tests are not useful for corporate development purposes once staff have been hired. There are all sorts of “effectiveness training” programs out there. But to a great extent, supervisors and staff will often report positive results for *any* corporate motivation or training program they are exposed to, sometimes to simply “get along” with management or because “it’s better than nothing.”

  • http://saliental.blogspot.com/ salient

    Linda, I apologize for taking so long to reply — I’m busy.

    I think that there is more linkage between our cognitive style (than our personality type) with faith/lack of faith. There also seems to be a linkage between cognitive style and capacity to heal psychologically (a vast topic, not relevant here). Basically, Ns fare better than Ss in talk-therapies. I have observed (anecdotal, of course) that NTs are less likely to be religious and SFs more likely. (I don’t find Jung useful in my practice.)

    I don’t equate spirituality with religiosity, even though the two can coincide. “Spirituality” covers such a range of behaviors and attitudes that it says rather little. Even “religiosity” covers a multitude of sins. I don’t think that your question can be answered easily, because of the problems with defining the two groups.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Hi, MTran!

    Linda, please forgive me when I say this sounds like a rather naive view of corporate decision making

    I’ll think about it! ;) Actually, you are right. I usually don’t take the word of anyone at it’s face value. If I’m intrigued by anything, I try to find out for myself if it works. That’s why I attended the workshop to find out from the horse’s (MBTI people themselves) mouth what it’s all about. Nothing is without flaws, especially in psychology, but so far, I am of the opinion that it is a very good tool to be used for self-awareness and awareness of others.

    As for hiring decisions, corporations would rather find an easy work-around for effective hiring practices than take the time, money and effort to provide the sort of training the hiring supervisors need to do their jobs right.

    That would be an unethical use of the instrument. Not only that, anyone who has a basic knowledge of how the test works would be able to make the results come out any way they want. If I knew that they were using it for hiring, I would know exactly how to answer the questions on the test, depending on the job description. Not a good idea on the part of the employer.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Thank you, Salient!

    Basically, Ns fare better than Ss in talk-therapies. I have observed (anecdotal, of course) that NTs are less likely to be religious and SFs more likely.

    Makes sense. I agree. SJs also tend to be more legalistic, don’t you think?

    I don’t find Jung useful in my practice.

    Interesting. If I were a therapist, I definitely would lean that way more so than the Freudian concepts. I think becoming aware of our inborn preferences and learning who we really are underneath all the baggage could prove to be very effective in dealing with society’s pressure to be “normal” – the phantom standard that everyone chases, ending up feeling like there’s something wrong with us.

    But then again, I have no psychological background, so I have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m just thinking out loud. :)

  • http://saliental.blogspot.com/ salient

    Linda: “Interesting. If I were a therapist, I definitely would lean that way more so than the Freudian concepts.”

    Happily, the conceptual choices aren’t limited to Freud and Jung! Freud’s description of defence mechanisms is useful, though. Most therapists are quite eclectic, and research indicates that experience rather than school-of-thought correlates with therapeutic outcome.

    Yeah, SJs are probably more legalistic — interestingly I’ve had patients who range from homemakers through artists to PhDs, but no lawyers.

    Justin: “If not the scientific method, then what’s the best way of discovering the “nitty gritty” of human psychology? How does that method separate truth from error?”

    I meant the nitty gritty of human psychology as manifested in ‘psychiatric’ practice. I suppose that depends on what you mean by ‘scientific method’ and ‘truth’ — I merely meant that formal experimentation is not particularly applicable, in that experimental psychology provides information about generalized specifics. (You probably know what I mean — broad points in fine detail.) I’m not saying that experimental psychology is not fascinating in its own right, I’m merely speaking of its therapeutic utility.

    As to ‘truth’, the point is process and understanding of the issues affecting each individual in their turn — therapeutic success suggests that the process has worked for whatever individual. Observation of process/outcome does approximate to generation and testing of hypotheses about mechanisms. It’s a huge topic — excuse me for not condensing it better.

  • MTran

    Salient and Linda,

    I’m having a great time following your discussions here. Can either of you suggest any sites for learning more about your comments on these issues? Reliable sites that amateur observers such as myself might be able to understand without too much effort?

    Linda, could you expand on your comments about distinguishing types from traits?

    Even in my ignorance, though, I think that Salient is on to something with his point about cognitive styles being more indicative than personality types.

    Oh yes, and I meant to thank Adrian for responding to my question several days ago.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    MTran,

    Linda, could you expand on your comments about distinguishing types from traits?

    I’ll try. Like I told salient, I’m not an expert by any sense of the word. That said, the term type refers to our inborn preferences in the way we prefer to use our cognitive functions. Trait refers to the behavior patterns that can be observed. You can study type by observing and analyzing behavior traits.

    For instance, if a person is left-handed and prefers to use their left hand, you cannot know this before observing their behavior. If the person is skilled at also using their right hand and shows the public their right-handed skills only, then there’s no way for the observer to know their left-handed preference.

    You can study traits by observing the behaviors that are caused by those traits. You can draw conclusions based on your observations.

    Type requires self-reflection, self-analysis, and self-validation in conjunction with the observable behavior patterns (traits).

    Traits can be measured, diagnosed, and possibly modified; but types are inborn and can only be sorted. Awareness is the main objective in studying type.

    Those are just my thoughts based on what I’ve been reading and learning.

    I think that Salient is on to something with his point about cognitive styles being more indicative than personality types.

    I’m not sure what is meant by “style”? Salient, are cognitive styles different than cognitive preferences?

    Can either of you suggest any sites for learning more about your comments on these issues?

    There are many links I could post, but since I can only post one, here is one that sums up Jung’s type theory pretty well.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Salient,

    Happily, the conceptual choices aren’t limited to Freud and Jung!

    Yes, I was thinking that as soon as I posted that comment. :) And thank you for sharing your experienced knowledge.

  • Kate Warner

    I’m a female INTJ.


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