Posts Tagged personality
When clients talk about the kind of organisations they would like to work for, what words do they use?
The list could go on and on. However, according to one group of researchers, when we evaluate an organisation we tend to use four main dimensions to categorise them.
What is your decision-making style?
Do you actually have one…or many?
In much of the literature on decision making approaches, there is a tendency to allocate people to one of a number of different categories or styles.
For example, you might be classified as (Scott & Bruce, 1995):
- Rational – You tend to make decisions in a logical and systematic way
- Avoidant – You tend to avoid making important decisions until the pressure is on
- Dependent – You tend to make important decisions by consulting other people
- Intuitive – You tend to make decisions by relying on your instinct
- Spontaneous – You tend to make impulsive decisions
This seems to me to be overly simplistic and that is also the conclusion of a paper by a group of Israeli psychologists.
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.
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…
A while ago on LinkedIn someone asked a question about why many career coaches persist in using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) when it seems to be lacking in validity as a testing tool. A number of other contributors joined in the criticism, describing MBTI as being on a par with horoscopes as well as attacking its Jungian origins and amateur-led development. I threw a few comments into the debate to defend MBTI, mainly because I like being a devil’s advocate rather than because I’m a wholehearted believer in the instrument.
Even though I am a qualified practitioner and have used it fairly extensively, I do have a number of doubts and criticisms about the MBTI and Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types on which it is based.
In this post I would like to talk about some of those reservations and ask some questions about what MBTI is all about.
In the next post I will attempt to look at how, despite these reservations, some of the concepts of MBTI can be useful in helping people with career decisions that goes beyond an unconvincing matching of personality types to particular occupations.
For those readers who are not familiar with MBTI concepts and terminology, you might want to do a quick bit of background reading first.
Having recently run a workshop on differences in cultural communication, my eye was caught by a fascinating study just published in the Journal of Occupational and Organisational Psychology. The authors were looking into the explanations people from different countries gave for their career changes. The reasons given were divided into internal factors (e.g. desire for a change, wanting to develop) and external factors (e.g. organisational restructuring, luck). So far, so standard attribution theory.
The interesting bit was when they looked at country differences. The career changers from the USA exclusively gave internal reasons for change, whereas those in China gave mostly external reasons. Career changers in Europe tended to offer a mixture.
Imagine that a small hamlet of 600 people has been struck down by a potentially fatal disease. A health expert comes to you and offers two possible treatment programmes:
- If you follow Programme A 200 people will be saved
- If you follow Programme B there is a one-third probability that all 600 will be saved, but a two-thirds probability that no-one will be saved.
Which would you go for?
Now, let’s imagine that neither Programme A or B is viable. Instead, the boffin proposes another two treatment programmes:
- If you follow Programme C 400 people will die.
- If you follow Programme D there is a one-third probability that no-one will die and a two-thirds probability that 600 people will die.
Which would you choose now?
This probably didn’t trip you up — you may have spotted that programmes A and C are exactly the same and programmes B and D are exactly the same. However, when these choices were presented separately to two groups of people, those who were given programmes A and B mostly chose A, and those who were presented with C and D mostly chose D (Entman, R. M. (1993), Framing: Toward clarification of a fractured paradigm. Journal of Communication 43(4) 51–58.)
Presenting the options in a slightly different way with different wording resulted in people making radically different decisions. This is an example of a cognitive bias — a repeatable irrationality in the way we tend to think and make choices. This particular cognitive bias is called framing (or possibly the pseudocertainty effect), but dozens of them have been identified.
Read the rest of this entry »
Rita Carter is a science writer who has written a number of books on the human brain and how it works. Her most recent book is called Multiplicity and it examines the idea that we do not have one consistent and constant personality or identity. Instead, some psychologists suggest that we have a number of different personalities inside us, linked to different clusters of memories. The different situations and contexts we experience prompt different mini-personalities to take control of our thoughts and actions.
A similar theme is approached from a slightly different angle by Peter MacIlveen and Wendy Patton from Queensland University of Technology in their article ‘Dialogical self: author and narrator of career life themes’ in the International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance (Volume 7, Number 2, August, 2007 – or try here for an alternative version).