30 September, 2008

Me, Katharine, and Isabel

My whole family puts a lot of bloody stock in horoscopes. My Dad, even as a member of the church, frequently laughs at me and my "typical scorpio ways." For those of you who don't know what that entails, it means I'm prideful, passionate, suspicious, obsessive, and overly defensive. Yeah, whatever, stars.

I have always considered a lot of that "personality stuff" like the color test, blood type personalities, and whatnot to be a modern sort of voodoo, and worth about as much respect. Not to mention I have always believed that people identify with what they are conditioned to identify with, so if you see a horoscope that says something vague and universal like, "you feel strongly about the things you feel strongly about" of course you're going to think "OH MY GOSH! THAT"S SO ME!" before thinking hey, doesn't everybody feel that way? Then I moved in with Celia, whose boyfriend has more faith in this MBTI than I have in gravity, climbing equipment, and the innate goodness of mankind. Possibly combined.

From Wikipedia:

"The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment is a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions. [...] The original developers of the personality inventory were Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers. They began creating the indicator during World War II, believing that a knowledge of personality preferences would help women who were entering the industrial workforce for the first time identify the sort of war-time jobs where they would be 'most comfortable and effective'."

On one hand, it does my heart good to know the MBTI was made by women, ostensibly to help women. I inherently trust female psychologists more, both because I am also a woman and because I tend to assume women know what they're talking about when it comes to feelings (leaving myself as the obvious exception).

So I'm preconditioned to want to believe in this stuff, but at the same time, Nathan's investment in it kinda freaks me out. I mean, you can't honestly base a decision like who to live with or who to marry on a four-letter permutation, can you?

Let's dig a little deeper, shall we.

The other day I met another one of Cel's friends who is invested in MBTI to the point of writing a book about it. Possibly his doctoral thesis. I'm fuzzy on the details. I don't remember how this came up, but Cel at some point turned to him and asked, about me, "So what is she?" What ensued was easily one of the most awkward, yet coolest conversations of my life. After 24 hours, Alex looked into my eyes (sounds weird, but apparently that was a dealbreaker/dealmaker of some sort) and pronounced me an INFP.

Initially, I was pissed that this dude I had just met was making all these crazy assumptions about who I am and what my priorities in life are. But for someone who had just met me, he was pretty spot-on. He kept tricking me, the devil. For example, one point of the conversation went something like this:

Me: I tested 100% on the J .
A: That means you want to be a J. But you're really a P.
Me: (feel momentarily stupid, then indignant) What are you talking about? You don't know me!
A: Ha! Ps don't like to be labeled.
Me: (foiled again ... silent)

Apparently my new friend is a local celebrity of sorts, and lots of people (well, let's face it, lots of women ... a contributing factor could be that this guy is pretty easy on the eyes) look to him as a sort of guru for relationships. That would annoy the heck out of me (I can barely handle my roommates' drama, let alone the drama of every chick in Provo), but he doesn't seem to mind being hounded by people with questions about whether an introverted feeler would work with an extroverted thinker jingle jangle. He really wants to help. It blows my mind. But I think the big reason behind the investment people make in this, and Alex's rock-star status, is that the MBTI is pretty convincing. I am, partially mind you, but still, convinced that it has merit.

According to this fairly legit-seeming website, an INFP has the following characteristics:

--quiet (by nature, yes. in practice, no.)
--creative (I like to think so)
--sensitive (sometimes to my detriment)
--perceptive (it even says so in my patriarchal blessing!)
--often seem shy (why I have so few second dates)
--deeply committed to causes and relationships (ask my mom about my picketing phase)
--guide their behavior by their value system (yeah, OK)
--deeply religious (once I found the right religion)
--like privacy (yup)
--a perfectionist (ask my mission president ... poor man)
--unduly preoccupied with finding a soulmate (I don't want to talk about it)

OK. I identify with all of that. Especially the part about balancing privacy with wanting a deep, committed relationship. And the part about seeming shy. But to make my research a little more effective, I decided to look up my opposite: the ESTJ. And here is what we found:

--tend to do things out of a sense of duty (I am terrible at that ... which is reason number 5678 why BYU is so hard for me)
--good memory (I do have that)
--natural leader (not really)
--can be manipulative (I don't think I'm like that)
--good at strategy, often win at games (I only win at Candyland, which is based on luck or, in my case, cheating)
--law-abiding (again with the rules thing. I suck at rules. Which is why I am a stellar cougar. And why I always cheat at Candyland.)
--loyal (I do identify with that)
--bad listener (nope)
--"Would make a great military commander" (Pfttt hahahahahaha)
--Have difficulty forgiving people (hmmm ... yeah)

In summary, there must be some merit to this test because unlike a horoscope, I don't identify with each one based on my mood. Supposedly, my "perfect match" is an ENFJ, an guy not as shy as me and whose head isn't as far in the clouds. I can see that. Maybe I will try and find one of those this time around, instead of the type I've been going for lately: JERKs. Those just don't jive with me! I'm sorry! It could never work!

In case you didn't catch that, I was making fun of Nathan. All in good fun. I'm going to have to keep thinking about this, though. I couldn't make this the foundation of my life without some real thought. And reading the Book of Mormon. Wait, what?


Grant said...

David Keirsey is the recognized expert on personality theory. Myers-Briggs was sort of an early implementation of it.

Early personality theorist postulated that since people are attracted to their opposites, the perfect match would be opposite letters in each of the personality dimensions. Later research indicates that while that pairing is common, an even more common pairing is to have the same second letter and flip all of the other ones.

Inasmuch as your personality is INFP, the most likely pairing for you is ENTJ or ESTJ.

I say "inasmuch" because it is notoriously difficult to judge someone else's personality. Differences in personalities frequently have more to do with different motivations than different actions, so it's almost impossible to tell someone what their personality is without being in their head. The tests are carefully constructed to compensate for the type of self-reporting biases like you suggested in your post. For that reason I would be skeptical of the supposed perception of that dude who was trying so hard to impress.

So anyway, I'm glad you are down with the temperament sorting. I was heavily influenced by it from a young age. It's a little scary because reading about personalities while having a notion of what your personality is already tends to cause you to accentuate your characteristics going forward. And yes, I was looking only for INFJ and ISFJ mates as I dated. Ashley is the latter. :)

Ashley said...

I'm actually an ESFJ, but the first letter is the least significant and I'm on the borderline either way.

And he's not kidding. He's tested everyone who's let him. Ever. It was one of the first things we did when we hung out.