Sarah Avery (dr_pretentious) wrote,
Sarah Avery

Myers? Briggs? Rest Easy. Your Competition's Not Ready for Prime Time.

twoeleven called my attention to an interesting new personality test based on a "five-factor model of personality." It's intriguing and entertaining, and it might grow up to be useful, but I have serious misgivings about it. Not the same misgivings twoeleven does--his are mostly about the number-crunching of the scores, which I can't pretend to understand. Admittedly, I haven't read up on the research behind the test yet, just taken the 300 question short version and given some thought to the results and interpretive aids that came back. I'm not big on memes, but, as twoeleven says, this one tells you more than "what anime fish you're most like." Even when it's wrong, it's not boring.

(Please scroll down a bit. This is my first attempt at using html to make a table. It's everything I hoped it would be, except that I haven't figured out how to get rid of all the unasked-for white space between the end of this sentence and the table's top row.)
<table border="3" cellspacing="1" cellpadding="1">

DOMAIN/Facet Score My Comments
EXTRAVERSION 74 Not surprising.
Friendliness 88 By this, they mean the impulse to connect with strangers and initiate friendships. I think this is what my grad school friends may have been describing when they called me the Vortex of Schmooze. But really, it's just that people are endlessly fascinating, and I'm prepared to like almost anybody who isn't recreationally cruel.
Gregariousness 85 Enjoyment of large groups, as opposed to the Friendliness facet, which appears to be a measure of one-on-one interaction.
Assertiveness 67 The test thinks I like taking charge. Not quite. If a group of people has a goal, and they all agree about the goal, state the goal, etc., I'm just the person who loses patience with the inertia first and cajoles people into acting on the goal they already have.
Activity Level 21 The designers of this personality test have mistaken physical vigor for a personality trait. This number would be really different if it weren't for the chronic pain.
Excitement-Seeking 47 Another artificially low number. Zero endorphins, minimal effect from analgesics, and none of the sleep phase that mends damaged cells--not a great combination to take bungee-jumping or to the most pit.
Cheerfulness 75 True, even under the most unlikely circumstances. The interpretive text emphasizes that they're measuring positive emotions and negative emotions separately, rather than seeking to figure out where on a single continuum between them a person tends to fall on average. I'm the most cheerful neurotic person you know.
AGREEABLENESS66This domain seems to be about one's beliefs about others and one's view of the individual's proper relationship with the community. I think a couple of scores for the Agreeableness facets say a lot more about the test designer's assumptions about how community works than they say about me.
Trust75The questionnaire's trust questions focus mostly on first impressions and second chances. The questionnaire assumes naivete is permanent. Not really. Yes, I extend my trust, and trustworthy people get to keep it. There is no room in my life for people who, over time, show themselves to be habitual liars or recreationally cruel. I wish them happiness, far away from me, and never believe another word from them.
Morality46The term and the definition they give for the term do not match in any useful way. One wishes, at this point, to hand the psychologists a dictionary. Perhaps the OED. Forthrightness might be a better name for what they say they're trying to describe, but only if the opposite of Forthrightness were Discretion. The questions that I think probably connect to this facet were about volunteering information that's nobody's business to people and organizations who have no business asking.
Altruism75"Altruistic people find that doing things for others is a form of self-fulfillment rather than self-sacrifice." Okay. That sounds so much nicer than my old "martyrdom complex."
Cooperation52Another badly named facet. Compliance is a better encapsulation of the definition they offer. I'm not a big fan of blind obedience.
Modesty8News of my immodesty will surprise no one. But whose opinion on the value of modesty ought to carry weight: that of a pack of academics, or that of Nelson Mandela?
Sympathy97Finally, a facet whose definition actually matches the name given to it!
CONSCIENTIOUSNESS51This domain's all about impulse control and forethought.
Self-Efficacy69By this, they mean confidence in one's ability to accomplish things.
Orderliness25I'll cop to this.
Dutifulness40The questions for this facet were easy to recognize, in retrospect. Those were the questions about following rules and doing what others told me to do. I kept wanting to ask, "Which others? By what authority? Rules like what? Like the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions, or like no white shoes after Labor Day? Social expectations like give alms to the poor, or like snub the brown people?" As in the questions for the Morality and Cooperation facets, the questionnaire makes no distinctions between ethical and unethical rules, between ethical and unethical demands, between valid authority under the social contract and plain tyranny. I believe in both the rule of law and the importance of civil disobedience, and I think the Nuremberg Defense is no defense at all, so I am undutiful, immoral, and uncooperative. At this point, one begins to suspect a political or religious bias on the part of the psychologists.
Achievement-Striving70The test thinks I'm ambitious and driven, but not enough to be a total pill about it. Sounds plausible.
Self-Discipline47I write every day, even when bereaved or suffering from food poisoning, and finished a doctorate, but there are no questions for measuring those sorts of self-discipline. No, I am undisciplined. Because I am insufficiently interested in dieting.
Cautiousness63Another refreshingly accurate use of a word. The score seems plausible, too.
NEUROTICISM72A neurotic writer--surprise! Seriously, though, I think the choice of terms and the definitions of terms for this domain were better thought out than the other domains' were.
Anxiety73I'm a little surprised at how high this score is. Maybe the chronic pain comes into play here. I'm not sure how to reconcile it with my scores in extraversion, gregariousness, assertiveness, self-efficacy, etc. Yeah, I experience anxiety, but it's not like I let that stop me. Maybe this is another way in which the test tries to measure ambivalence rather than flatten it out with misleading averages.
Anger74Sometimes, but I'd hardly call it my base state. How to reconcile this with extraversion, cheerfulness, etc., is, again, puzzling.
Depression66I'm actually surprised this isn't higher, considering the scores for anxiety and anger. If asked to rank the frequency and intensity with which I feel depression, anger, and anxiety, I'd have rated depression as far more frequent and intense than the other two. Chronic pain really sucks.
Self-Consciousness35I imagine that other people will extend trust and patience to me more or less the way I do to them. I wonder if I'm right.
Immoderation94The questionnaire cannot distinguish between drinking coffee and shooting up heroin. Whenever I considered a question about impulse control, I thought about my coffee habit and tried to answer honestly. The long catalog of vices I've avoided successfully all my life does not enter into the equation, apparently.
Vulnerability53No reason to doubt it.
OPENNESS TO EXPERIENCE94I wonder if I'd think this term self-explanatory if I didn't feel so flattered by the score.
Imagination95They think I "use fantasy as a way of creating a richer, more interesting world." Can I blurb my book with that?
Artistic Interests91Another flattering score I'd like to agree with.
Emotionality84This is about self-awareness--an ability to sense, recognize, and articulate the aspects of one's inner life. So, if I'm so emotionally self-aware, what does it say about the test that I disagree so vehemently with some of the test's assessments of my inner life?
Adventurousness61Here, they're talking about desire for travel and novelty, rather than about bungee-jumping. Fair enough.
Intellect66Again, I think they're misusing the word. They tell me I'd rather be interacting with a human being than tinkering with an abstract theory. Okay, yes. But where they're dead wrong is in thinking there's a distinction between puzzling out difficulty and interacting with people. A person is a puzzle. A community is the best puzzle there is. If people and communities are so much easier to think about than, say, particle physics, why do so many science geeks find so many social interactions so difficult? (Anyone who knows my history of mate selection will know that I don't mean that as a value judgment on geekkind.) If people and communities are so much easier to think about than Derridean deconstruction or Lacanian analysis, then why are deconstruction and Lacanian theory such abjectly false descriptions of human experience? (And that is a value judgment, with no goddamn apology.) "Intellect," says the descriptive text, "should not be equated with intelligence. Intellect is an intellectual style, not an intellectual ability." At this point, one wishes to hand the psychologist a thesaurus.
Liberalism90This is the "question authority" facet. They have three different facets that use loaded words and value judgments to valorize obedience (while emphasizing those loaded words in the descriptive text by waving a little flag saying, "we know this word is usually loaded, but we hope you'll pretend along with us that it isn't a value judgment"), and they have one facet that uses a word that's been dragged in the gutter for two generations of partisan politics in order to cast doubt on the virtue of basic critical thinking. I agree with the score, but at this point, one wishes to thrash the psychologist with a thesaurus and then bury him under a cairn of OED volumes. (Maybe the Anger score wasn't overstated.)
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