Archive for May, 2010

How to comment on blogs…

…without making a fool of yourself

Another subversive comment

Subversive comments also welcome

Following the popularity of my post on How to read academic articles…and stay sane, I thought I would try to explore the subject of commenting on blogs. Obviously, I want you to comment on my blog, but this is advice that could relate to any blog or on-line discussion. I’ve come across quite a few guides on the technical aspects of commenting but none that help you with what to put in your comments. This is my attempt to fill that gap. The tips I give could also be applied to making contributions in meetings or other similarly intimidating activities.

Why don’t you comment?

My stats tell me that at least 500 people a week read this blog, but only a few comment. I really value all the people who do comment regularly or just once, but I would like to find out what stops those of you who don’t.


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What might have been

Wistful thinking

If only...

What if…?

Everyone has moments when they wonder about what would have happened if only they had… got that A grade rather than a B… stuck with the guitar practice… summoned up the courage to ask out that person they admired in secret…

Of course, such musing doesn’t have to be regretful. ‘Imagine if we hadn’t sat next to each other on the train, we might never have got together?’ ‘What if I had gone through with my decision not to look at the job ads that day?’ Thinking like this usually provokes feelings of relief and self-congratulation.

We seem to be drawn to such speculation about things we cannot change and possibilities that no longer exist.

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Do I still like MBTI? (Part 3)

Abstract lights

Sometimes a personality just won’t stand still

In part 1 of this series, I gave my take on some of the weaknesses and limitations of MBTI and its underlying Jungian theory of psychological types. In part 2, I tried to reconstruct Jung’s ideas into a rather over-simplified model of how we deal with information and make decisions, leaving out a few of his most troublesome assumptions. Now I will explain how this model influences my work with clients and how I actually use MBTI in practice.

In defence of dynamics

Before I do that though, having criticised the MBTI, I would like to balance things a little.

One of the criticisms levelled at the MBTI is that, compared to other psychometric instruments, it has poor test-retest reliability. This means that if the same person answers the questionnaire on two separate occasions they might come out with different results. This is a fair criticism if what you are trying to measure is a fixed trait which ought not to change over time.  Part of this is probably due to the arbitrary allocation of people in the middle of the spectrum to one preference or another, something I have never been comfortable with.

However, if Jung’s model is not really about fixed preferences between opposing traits, but a dynamic balance of complementary functions that depend on the needs of the situation as much as the natural inclinations of the individual, then the low reliability of the MBTI may be giving an insight into the adaptability of our brains.

One way of testing this situational hypothesis might involve getting people to focus on a scenario geared towards a particular mode of thinking before they complete the questionnaire. If you made them think about the same scenario before they did it again then test-retest reliability ought to get better, and if you gave them a different type of scenario it should get worse. If anyone knows of any research along these lines, please let me know.

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The decisive moment

Three cars

The red one...no, the yellow one, no...

Choosing an expensive item such as a car can be hard enough. In 2006 Ap Dijksterhuis, a researcher from the University of Amsterdam, made things a bit harder. He gave people various items of information about a selection four of cars and asked them to choose the best option.

The information had been engineered so that each car had a different mixture of positive and negative attributes, but one car was designed to be a best option and another was designed to be the worst option.

Dijksterhuis then divided his subjects into four groups. To two of the groups he only gave four items of information per car (simple condition), whereas the other group had to deal with 12 attributes per car (complex condition).

After reading the information about the cars, half of each group were allowed four minutes to think about their choice (conscious choosers). The other half were given anagrams to complete in order to distract them from thinking (unconscious choosers). They were then asked to make their choice of the best car and their result was compared with the real answer.

In the simple condition (four attributes per car), there was no real difference in success rate between the conscious and the unconscious choosers. However, in the complex condition (12 attributes per car) the people who had been distracted made consistently better decisions than the people who had been allowed to consider the choice.

So, is the unconscious mind better at making complex decisions than the conscious mind?

Dijksterhuis, A. (2006) On Making the Right Choice: The Deliberation-Without-Attention Effect Science, 311(5763), 1005-1007. DOI: 10.1126/science.1121629

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Do I still like MBTI? (Part 2)

In my last post I did some deconstructing of MBTI and the Jungian theory of psychological types that inspired it.

Now I’ll have a go at putting it back together again. Although, as with most of my attempts at reconstructing things I have dismantled, it won’t look the same and I’ll probably have a few bits left over!

I finished the last post by proposing that Jung had, in fact, developed a simple but elegant model of cognitive functions. I’ll start from there…

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