Self-Made Man

Self-Made Man

Posted on Mar 18th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade

This book is about a lesbian who dressed up as a man.  Its not my normal kind of reading material.  The premise of it sounds like superficial amusement, a catchy idea in a world glutted with such books.  I was very surprised by how insightful she was, and not a bad writer either.

The subject of this book is sorta in my realm of interests.  Gender roles is a fascinating lense through which to see the world.

I’ve read many of the popular books in this field.  There is the clasic Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.  John Gray’s ideas are mostly stereotypes with some decent observations.  In the integral field, David Deida and Carol Gilligan are often talked about.  Deida’s advice may be good for manly men, but from reading him I came to realize that I must not be a manly man.  He does admit that his advice is for the masculine… which equally applies for women as for men.  Anyways, his ideas didn’t fit my self-understanding.  Carol Gilligan is more interesting to me, but I haven’t studied her too closely.

I wonder to what extent these gender theories are about actual biological differences.  I’m sure genetics play a big part, but so do culturally-learned roles.  Even on the genetic level, there is great variety.  I think about this primarily from a Myers-Briggs perspective.  The gender theories I’ve come across seem to be speaking about the same division as Jung’s Thinking and Feeling.  A majority of men have a Thinking function preference. and a majority of women have a Feeling function preference.  But its not a large majority in either case… approximately around 60-70%.  So, that leaves 30-40% of people who don’t fit the expectation.  That ain’t small potatoes.

To get back to Vincent, she said she was a tomboy growing up and people perceived her as a masculine woman.  And she was surprised that, as a man, she was perceived as effeminate.  This also fits in with function preferences. Women who prefer Thinking still don’t come out as strong on that preference as most Thinking preference men, and ditto for men who prefer Feeling.

In case you’re wondering, I’m one of those Feeling type of guys which would probably explain why Deida didn’t do much for me.

Vincent did come to the conclusion that there are distinct differences between men and women, but she also observed how much gender roles are taught… sometimes to a harsh degree.  She was playing a role and she found dressing the part was important.  Especially for men, clothing such as a suit can act as a uniform and people will treat you accordingly… even when they claim and seem to consciously believe they’re treating you gender-neutrally.

From her experiment, Vincent learned something maybe even more important.  She got into the mindset of her character to the point that she considered it self-hypnosis.  Later on, she became a bit lazy and partially let her disguise down, but people still treated her like a man.  She found that people to an extent believed what she believed.  Even she, after the experiment was over, had difficulty getting back into her normal mindset.  Even though it didn’t feel natural to her, she became used to acting that way, the role became an ingrained habit.  She had only tried this for a year or so, but just imagine about the identity role one pretends to be for years and which is constantly reinforced by everyone around you.

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Online Debates: Ideology, Education & Psychology

Internet discussions more often than not drive me bonkers.  I’ll mention some data and immediately someone will question and criticize the data.  If they’re a more worthy opponent, they’ll ask for specific sources.  I usually comply and then add even more data just to further support my argument.  The other person may offer data too, but they rarely cite the data and it’s even more rare for them to offer multiple sources.  Most “debates” never get past mere opinionated nitpicking.

I mentioned one example in a previous post.  I gave specific data and quotes from specific sources and framed it within the larger context of scientific consensus… and the other person acted like it meant nothing at all.  As a person who respects facts, I find it odd that many adults (who are potential voters) have such a dubious relationship to facts.  If someone shares facts with me that prove I’m wrong, I accept my being wrong and I do further research to better inform myself.  This attitude of intellectual humility and curiosity seems not to be shared by many people… or at least not many people I meet online which may or may not be a representative example of the American public (but if I had to guess, I’d think that the average internet user is more intelligent and better informed than the average non-internet user).

I just experienced another example.  This one was on Youtube and it was also about the scientific consensus of climatology experts.  Youtube has very limited word count for comments which makes intelligent debate a bit constrained, but I was up for the challenge.  I first mentioned some facts withou citing them, partly because Youtube doesn’t allow comments with url addresses in them.  Some person questioned the validity of my data and offered some other data which they didn’t cite either.  I felt lazy and didn’t want to try to figure out where he was getting his data, and I wasn’t in a mood for debating to any great extent.  So, I just offered the url addresses (by replacing the “.” with “DOT” which Youtube allows) of several scientific articles and Wikipedia articles (and the Wikipedia articles cited many scientific articles). 

My “debate” partner responded by saying that what I was referring to wasn’t peer reviewed and I assumed he must be talking about the first set of data I mentioned.  I had been looking at this data recently and I knew it came from the University of Illinois, but I didn’t know if it was or wasn’t peer reviewed.  I did a quick websearch and found it had been peer reviewed.  This is so typical.  If you look at people’s nitpicking, it is often unfounded.  I suppose people like this just hope you won’t actually check it out for yourself.  Why would this person lie to me just to try to win a debate?  It only took me maybe a minute or so to disprove his claim.  Does this person normally get away with such lies?  Are most people unwilling to check the facts for themselves?  Do most people not know how to use a search engine to find information quickly?

The ironic part was this person said the media is always lying.  So, I pointed out to him that, whether or not the media was lying, it appeared that he was lying or else uninformed.  He never responded back to further challenge me nor to admit to being wrong.  His only objective was to “win” the debate at all costs.  When it became apparent he wasn’t going to “win”, he simply abandoned ship.

I have an online “debate” like this probably on average of once a week (sometimes less when I’m not in a commenting mood).  I don’t go looking for idiots.  It’s just that the idiots are often the ones most willing to brazenly challenge any opinion (no matter how factual) that disagrees with their opinion.  To be fair, there are also many reasonable people online.  My experience, though, that the line between idiotic and reasonable often becomes rather thin when it comes to political and religious ideology.  Even when faced with the facts, few people are willing (or able?) to change their mind.

Why is this?  I’ve studied psychology enough to realize that humans are mostly irrational creatures, but I’m constantly amazed by how irrational certain people can be.  I seem unwilling and unable to accept the fact that most people aren’t capable of intelligent debate.  Part of me thinks that if I present the facts in a fair manner and make a reasonable argument that I can expect the same in return.  Apparently, I’m the irrational one for feeling frustrated by the inevitable irrationality of human nature.

But I do have reason for my irrational hope for rationality.  I occasionally have very intelligent debates with people online and these people even sometimes change their minds when offered new information… I even change my mind sometimes when presented with new information by an intelligent person.  Most often these people seem to be more liberal, libertarian or independent-minded. 

I’ve found that the only subjects that regularly attract intelligent conservatives are economics and sometimes philosophy/theology, but these are subjects that aren’t as easily determined factually according to scientific research (including psychological research).  Conservatives tend to argue more from a perspective of principles that they support with historical examples.  To conservatives, the past is where they look to verify a theory or claim.  I guess that is fine as far as it goes, but it makes for difficult debating because the attempt to understand principles and history is easily swayed by subjective biases.

For example, many libertarians and fiscal conservatives like to talk about free markets.  The problem is that it’s almost impossible to ascertain what this means.  The idea of a “free market” is highly theoretical if not outright idealistic.  No free market has ever existed.  Furthermore, no free market could ever exist because it’s merely a relative label of a market being more free than some other market.  There is no ultimate freedom of markets.  So, these debates lead off in all kinds of directions such as referencing “experts”.  The issue I have with experts in fields such as economics is that expertise is much more subjective in that there is less hard data.  Many of the economic models that have been relied upon have been proven wrong.  It’s almost impossible to scientifically study markets in that confounding factors can’t be easily controlled.

But even intelligent libertarians sometimes are wary of actual scientific data.  Libertarians don’t trust government.  Since scientists sometimes get government grants, scientists can’t be entirely trusted either.  For some reason, libertarians think corporate sponsored scientists would be more trustworthy.

Conservatives in general are more mistrusting of objectivity.  I’m not quite sure what is the reasoning behind this.  Some intelligent conservatives I’ve met actually agree with me about humans being irrational and that seems to be their reason for mistrusting objectivity, but this is a more intelligent argument and probably doesn’t represent the opinion of average conservatives.

To be fair, the smartest people of all probably are independents.  From the data I’ve seen, independents (and the American public in general) are socially liberal and fiscally conservative.  The question is which is the cause?  Do smart people tend to be socially liberal and fiscally conservative?  OR do social liberals and fiscal conservatives tend to be smart?  Or is there a third causal factor?  MBTI iNtuition and FFM “openness to experience” correlate with testing high on intelligence and correlate with high representation in college.  Also, these psychological functions/traits correlate to liberal attitudes, but I’m not sure how they may or may not correlate to fiscal conservatism.  (There is a nice site about politics and psychological types: http://www.politicaltypes.com.)

Some of the most intelligent debaters will be the MBTI NT types (iNtuition Thinking).  I know that INTPs tend to be self-identify as politically independent and I suspect the same would be true for INTJs.  NTs probably either vote with Democrats for reasons of social liberalism or with libertarians for reasons of it being a third party, but I some NTs might vote Republican for reasons of fiscal conservatism or else for reasons of principles.  I’m not sure how many NTs vote Republican, but polls I’ve seen show that ENTJs are more conservative (probably because TJ – Extraverted Thinking – is their primary function).

So, I can presume that most often, when I’m enjoying an intelligent discussion, I’m probably interacting with a socially liberal iNtuition type.  I don’t know what good this knowledge does for me.  Maybe it helps me to be more forgivng (this person sure is stupid… it’s too bad they were born that way). 

To be more optimistic, psychological research doesn’t show that most people fit in absolute categories.  Most people can learn non-preferred thinking styles and learn to develop weak traits.  Education should teach people how to use all parts of their mind.  The fact that so many people lack critical thinking skills is a failure of our education system and shouldn’t be blamed on individuals.  College favors iNtuition types.  Most professors and college-level teachers are iNtuition types and most of the coursework is more appealing to iNtuitive types.  It’s hard for a strong Sensation type to do well in traditional schooling.  Who can blame them that they don’t go to college or have bad experiences at college?  Who can blame them for falling prey to the notion that college is controlled by liberal elites?

Considering that the MBTI shows Sensation types represent the largest portion of the population, it is quite sad that our education system has the hardest time reaching this category of person.  Sensation types don’t have as much natural talent for abstract thinking and critical thinking.  Sensation types are better with concrete information and concrete learning.  Too much of higher education deals with abstractions and theories.  Dumbing down higher education isn’t the answer.  I think we should have more alternative routes of education. 

When I was in highschool, my best friend was very much a Sensation type who took many alternative classes involving technology.  He was good working with machines and with computers, but he wasn’t extremely smart in terms of intellectuality.  Alternative classes served him well in terms of preparing him for a job in the real world.  The potential criticism, though, is whether he was prepared for being a well-rounded and well-informed citizen.  I suspect not.  The highschool I went to didn’t require students take classes in logic and critical thinking.  The classes in general seemed rather dumbed down.  Unless you were taking college prep classes, you wouldn’t be intellectually challenged.

I feel frustrated.  I don’t want to blame the average person for not being well educated, but I do feel pissed off that our education system has failed these people and so created an intellectually inferior society.  Even news reporting seems dumbed down for the masses.  Shouldn’t the education system and the media, instead, serve the ideal of uplifting the masses by informing them?

Even with intelligent people, I think the education system has often failed.  College is less focused on providing a liberal education and created well informed citizens.  College has merely become a career path.  Many have talked about the problem of specialization of knowledge.  People go to college only to become isolated in some particular field and outside that field they may be largely ignorant. 

People, whether well educated or not, seem less capable of understanding the larger context.  Maybe it’s always been that way.  If so, I hope it’s changing.  I probably shouldn’t expect the education system to do anything more than create good workers… as that seems to be its primary purpose.  My hope is more in the realm of media technology.  The traditional media has been failing for a long time, but the new media has been very successful.  The most well informed people are those who use the new media to inform themselves.  And, because of the new media, the uninformed (be they the average public or the average politician) can no longer spout misinformation without being challenged.

So, to return to the original topic of online debates, maybe a purpose is served by all of the ideological conflict found in the forums and comments sections around the web.  The people who weren’t educated well in school get confronted, whether they like it or not, with new information and with actual critical thinking skills.  Some people might just become even more ideological in response, but many others will learn to be more intelligent debaters.  Even debates where people deny expert opinions may serve a purpose in that a discussion then ensues about the definition of ‘expert’.  The question about the new media is whether the positives will outweigh the negatives.  The uninformed have the opportunity to become even more polarized and entrenched in their views by isolating themselves in forums of the likeminded, but those who want to be informed have more opportunity than ever to do so… and there are many in the middle who are neither extremely ideological nor extremely motivated to learn.

My hope is that the internet remains an open resource and open platform for public debate.  My other hope is that the internet my force the education system to improve by offering both teachers and students to become more well informed.  Students now no longer have to solely rely on the information given by teachers, and teachers no longer have to solely rely on the information that was given to them when they were students.

Political Charts: Ideology & Psychology

http://knowinghumans.net/2009/01/extra-nolan-chart-dimensions.html

The problem I see with political identifications is conflation of factors. 

A major confusion is that few people seem interested in the connection between political views and personality traits.  There has been a lot of psychological research.  There are three models that have been used for political research: MBTI, FFM, and Hartmann’s Boundary Types.  All of those models have been correlated to varying degrees.

When I read many political descriptions, I immediately notice that personality traits and types are being described.  Let me use some examples.

MBTI Intuition is correlated with Openness to Experience and Hartmann’s Thin Boundary Type.  This psychological characteristic correlates to many liberal tendencies: more open and less fearful of the new experience, more hopeful/optimistic about future possibilities, more willingness to experiment, more accepting of those who are different.  Et Cetera.

Boundary types are particularly helpful.  Thick Boundary types prefer clear rules and principles, strong hierarchies and established lines of authority.  Thick boundary types separate imagination from reality, subjectivity from objectivity.  Thick Boundary types want to keep things the same, want to maintain the familiar and known.

The main issue is separating out the psychological elements from the ideological elements… if it is possible.  I wonder what would be left of a political chart if the psychological elements were entirely removed.

http://www.zianet.com/ehusman/weblog/2006/06/nolan-chart-inadequacy.html

Nice analysis.  I’m mostly interested, at the moment, in how the US two party system evolved.  There is one point I would clarify.  You said:

“In America, liberals were cut from their decentralized, agrarian roots and put in search of a new philosophy.”

I wouldn’t agree that the liberals were cut off.  It was more that politics and agriculture were becoming increasingly influenced by industrialization.  The main influence of industrialization was centralization of power and wealth.  It became possible for farmers to work larger fields and so the small family farmer became a less successful model.  In early US, farmers were the common working man, but this changed with industrialization.  The new common working man was the factory worker, and this is the demographic the liberals became identified with in the decades after the Civil War.

Many liberals still wanted power that was decentralized from an elite and instead controlled democratically.  However, centralization of power had gone so far that the only way to counter it was with a different centralization of power.  Worker Unions formed and they fought for laws to legislate the abuse of over-centralized capitalist power.  Decentralization is simply impossible in an industrialized world without dismantling industrialization.  Either power gets centralized in a capitalist elite or a political elite.  From the view of the common working man, the Federal government is a safer bet than the Robber Barons.  At least, Federal government offers the hope for democracy.

During and after WWI, the conservatives retold the narrative of the working class.  Using war patriotism, they were able to undermine the worker’s unions and align worker’s with capitalist interests (redefined as America’s interests).  A major force in causing this redefintion was the KKK and the film The Birth of a Nation.  The KKK encapsulated the new conservative ideology: patriotic nationalism, traditional family values, white culture, anti-immigrant sentiments, and fundamentalist Christianity.  They appealed to the anger and values of many working class people, but the KKK membership was mostly middle and upper class citizens.  The KKK was a gentlemen’s club filled with politicians, judges, police chiefs, and business owners. 

This is how the pro-capitalist conservatives captured the working man vote.  They attacked the blacks and the immigrants.  The conservatives told the working class that there is pride in being a good white person working hard for your family and your country.  This is your country.  You are the true Americans, not the blacks, Chinese, or Mexicans, not the “hyphenated Americans”.

Psychology of Politics, Development of Society

I’ve been thinking out some complex issues and data.  In particular, my mind has been stuck on the issue of liberal and conservative. 

This relates to personality types and traits, but furthermore it relates to genetics.  Scientists have discovered specific genes that correlate with specific tendencies of political attitudes.  That isn’t exactly surprising as trait research has already determined many psychological differences are passed on from parent to child.  But this is particularly paradigm-shifting on the level of politics.

I plan to write more about this, but I just wanted to outline my thinking for the moment.  There are multiple facets that interrelate in ways I’m trying to determine.

There does seem to be an evolutionary angle that would be very important.  Different genetics enhanced species survival as humans developed ever more complex societies.  One theory I came across proposed that liberal genetics are a more recent evolutionary adaptation.  As humans spread out from Africa, specific traits became more desirable: curiosity, openness to new experience, adaptability, empathy, diplomacy, ability to imagine new possibilities and consider multiple perspectives, etc.  These are all traits that research has proven are correlated with each other, and they together seem to create the framework for the liberal attitude.  Still, the older genetics remained useful because any given society would still need the majority of its population to be fairly conservative in order to create social stability and cohesion.

This development happened when humans were still hunter-gatherers, and so at that time the genetic differences wouldn’t have been as magnified.  With the rise of settled agrarian cultures, an entirely new way of social organization became possible.  This was a traumatic time in the devlopment of the human species.  It’s been a while since I’ve read Paul Shepard, but as I recall he saw this era as being pivotal where something irreversibly switched in the human brain.  This was the beginning of civilization.

I was just tonight reading again some of Derrick Jensen’s The Culture of Make Believe.  I consider him to be one of the most important writers of the twentieth century.  I’d forgotten much of the specific ideas in this book, but one particular thing stood out.  He goes into great detail about how civilization rests on the back of slavery.  Every civilization was built with slave labor (including the early democracies).  Even the modern industrialized nations with their supposed democracies and free markets are dependent on slave labor and sweatshops in the third world countries.  Many of the earliest immigrants to the Americas were indentured servants and slaves.  Civilization as we know it would collapse if there wasn’t some class of people enslaved or in oppressed servitude. 

(I also wonder how this fits in with prostitution as the oldest profession and temple prostitutes who lived in servitude.  In early civilization, prostitution represented the civilizing of primitive desire as the temple prostitutes served the highest ideal of their societies and the temples they worked in were at the center of those cultures.  The example that comes to mind is “The Epic of Gilgamesh” where the wild man is civilized by a prostitute.)

Jensen’s explanation of all of this is just brilliant.  Combined with Shepard’s work, this explains a lot about how we became this way.  The earliest records of humans are about the laws upholding civilization and these laws speak about slavery (e.g., Code of Hammurabi).  The Old Testament in various stories and the 10 commandments promotes slavery.  The Christian Gospels even promote slavery.  The Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans all were dependent on slavery.  Until modern times, few people even thought too much about slavery being a bad thing.

However, some people back then began to question such issues.  During the Axial Age, the origins of modern Enlightenment ideals began to take root.  Those early ideals were in complete conflict with the very structure of civilization and that conflict persists to this very day.  So, where did this conflict come from?

Earlier in social development, humans perceived the world animistically.  According to Julian Jaynes, the very understanding of the individual as clearly separate from the world didn’t even fully exist throughout much of early civilization.  It was a slow shift while individuality formed.  As division of labor in society became more important, so division of labor within the human mind became more important.  The world and the gods stopped being experienced as immediately alive realities.  The world became objectified and so did humans.  Individuality and objectivity go hand in hand, and this is what allows for the objectivication of humans in the form of slavery.

This growing sense of individuality came to a crisis point during the Axial Age.  The brutality of slavery had become very apparent, and people began hoping for something more.  People were less satisfied to simply be in servitude whether to other people or to the gods.  The divine had become distant within hierarchical society, and in response the desire for divine closeness became extremely strong.  Humans started to perceive the divine as being among humans which is reminiscent of the animistic past, but this divine closeness was now built on a relationship of individuals as equals.  The first communes formed which was out of which Christianity took root.  However, Christianity and all of the Axial Age religions were brought back in line with hierarchical slave society, and the brief glimmer of the Axial Age prophets was almost entirely forgotten for the next thousand years.

However, it was never entirely forgotten.  The Axial Age ideals were the liberalism of their day.  I wonder if that liberal urge that kept popping up relates back to the genetics that first formed when humans left Africa?

It seems like there has always been this push and pull within human society that is shown in the the earliest historical records.  Since civilization began, this concept of progress formed.  Civilization is dependent on endless progress and this seems to relate to its dependence on slavery.  In order to maintain a slave population, the early civilizations (as well as later civilizations) were forced to be constantly at war by attempting to conquer other people.  Enslave or become a slave.  Endless progress, endless growth, endless conquering, endless usurpation… which continues to modern civilization as well (even if endless wars now have a larger global context). 

This is where I’m feeling a bit murky.  Civilization is simultaneously built on this ruthless progress, but civilization wouldn’t have been possible without those early liberal traits of diplomacy and whatnot.  This seems to be a part of that internal conflict that is the very fabric of civilization.  As society became more hierarchical and more divisioned, the liberal traits of curiosity and experimentation were focused towards technological innovation.  Even fairly early in Greek society, a well-educated leisure class had already taken hold (with Socrates being the ultimate representative).  The liberal instinct in some ways became even more important as empathy and diplomacy would’ve been absolutely vital during this time of cultural clash.

There was a shift that happened after the Axial Age.  The liberal instinct had a temporary burgeoning in society, but the liberal instinct was looked upon with ever greater suspicion as Empire building became the central impulse.  The Roman Empire as it was inherited by Christianity was quite oppressive, and it didn’t take long for the heresiologists to oppress the liberal impulse within Christianity itself.  This is where many see the proper beginning of Western civilization.

Ever since that time, the conflict between the liberal and conservative impulses has led to much violence.  But, with the Protestant Reformation and the Renaissance, the liberal impulse began to have greater influence than it had in a long time.  Also, progress began to happen more quickly.  The liberal impulse is the gas pedal of civilization, but this is balanced with the brake of the conservative impulse.  The fight between the two hasn’t been pretty.

The main issue isn’t specific beliefs or values.  Liberalism and conservatism are relative tendencies.  What was liberal during the Axial Age has become the norm for modern Western civilization.  Generally speaking, even modern monotheists have forsaken their own texts in denying slavery.  The conservative impulse wants to hold on to what has become the norm which is perceived as being traditional.  It’s not important, however, that the perceived traditional values actually correspond to the actual historical tradition.  For example, family values have been centrally important for all of Christian history, but what Christians today consider as family values isn’t what the early Christians considered family values (and Jesus himself didn’t value family at all).  So, liberal and conservative are dependent on the historical context which is always changing with the endless progress that we call civilization.

This has served us moderately well up to this point.  Even so, we find ourselves at a new crisis point and so some people conjecture that we’re experiencing a new Axial Age.  It does seem that the level of cultural mixing in modern society hasn’t been seen in Western civilization since the earlier Axial Age.  The religious sensibility forming now is to Christianity as Christianity was to Judaism, and I think this would explain why fundamentalists have essentially created a new religion that has little to do with early Christianity (which fits into the ideas of Karen Armstrong).

Much of what I’ve talked about can be explained using the model of Spiral Dynamics which would add a lot of much-needed detail.  The history following the Axial Age I somewhat explained in my post Just Some Related Ideas and Writers which basically follows a Jungian view of Western development.  But there is a further aspect that is more central to my thinking at the moment.  Along with Jensen’s The Culture of Make Believe, I’ve also been re-reading Compass of the Soul by John L. Giannini.  The two books make for good companions as they both analyze Western society from different perspectives. 

Giannini’s book is helpful because he is coming from the Jungian tradition, and more importantly he combines his roles as Jungian analyst and MBTI practitioner.  He carefully considers Jung’s view on personality as it fits in with Western sociohistorical development.  He sees a split in our society between tendencies towards the personality types of ESTJ and INFP with the former dominating the Western psyche since sometime shortly after the inception of Christianity.  Essentially, ESTJ and INFP are just a more complex way of saying conservative and liberal.

However, this more complex language is helpful because it’s grounded in decades of psychological research.  Also, it brings me back to where I began this post.

(I want to note one other book: The Trickster and the Paranormal by George P. Hansen.  The author discusses two issues relevant to this post.  He discusses Max Weber’s theory about how rationalization and bureaucratization increases as society becomes more complex and hierarchical.  He also discusses Ernest Harmann’s boundary types.  He mentions research that shows thick boundary types with their conservative attitudes tend to promoted to upper management in hierarchical organizations.  Any major organization is hierarchical and so our society in general is ruled by thick boundary types which is just another way of stating the theory Giannini puts forth.  These highly promoted people tend to have thicker boundaries than even the average person and so the people at top perceive and behave differently than the lower classes.  A seeming implication of this is that even Washington Democrats will be more conservative than the average liberal.) 

The reason I’m so interested in all of this is two-fold. 

The most obvious reason is that the conflict between liberals and conservatives is the most intense that I’ve seen in my lifetime.  And it’s a rather personal issue as I’m liberal and my parents are conservative. 

Secondly, I suffer from obsessive curiosity syndrome.  I feel compelled to try to understand the society I was born into.  There seems to be a narrative to our culture and I suspect that it’s our collective unawareness of this narrative that keeps us stuck in it.  We play these roles we are given and we come to identify with them.  Some of this is genetics and so can’t be changed, but genetics are just predispositions.  I want to believe that the liberal and conservative impulses don’t have to be eternally at odds.  Maybe I’m just a dreamy-eyed liberal with my head in the clouds.

 – – –

Let me give this some more contemporary context.

I’ve been doing some web research on personality types/traits, political attitudes, and career predispositions.  Here are some of the ideas I’m tossing about at present:

The problem with liberal and conservative as labels is that they’re highly relative.

The vast majority of scientists and journalists identify as liberal (or at least they do in the US), but it just means that these groups of people identify as more liberal than how they perceive the general population of their particular society.  In the most general usage, conservative means what is traditional or conventional and liberal means what is not limited to the traditional or conventional.  As such, liberal journalists are only moderately liberal.  They’re liberal because they aren’t perfectly aligned with the average person (or rather they don’t perceive themselves as such), but they’re clearly moderate in their being closer to the mainstream than they are to radicals on the fringe.

However, different societies will vary greatly in their political spectrum.  It’s probably true, though, that scientists and journalists in any society will be comparatively more liberal because those professions seem to demand a liberal mindset (at least liberal in terms of personality traits).

The further issue is how close is the correlation between liberal as political self-identification and liberal as personality trait.  Research on personality traits show that they can’t be categorized as either/or, black/white.  Some people are on the extreme ends, but most people are near the middle.

There is no one way to define these terms.  Liberal and conservative can apply to many issues, and so a person can be simultaneously liberal on some issues and conservative on others.  And any given issue can only be labelled as liberal or conservative relative to the context of the societal norms and the historical era.  Many political positions that seem conservative in a modern industrialized society would be deemed liberal (even radically liberal) in pre-modern and non-industrialized societies.  Liberal and conservative are labels that are inseparable from confounding factors of individual and collective development.

With development, other issues such as intelligent and morality have to be considered as both of those relate to intelligence.  There is a correlation between liberalism and IQ (i.e., traditional methods of testing intelligence), and so that probably explains much of the reason for scientists and journalists identifying as liberals.  As a personality trait, liberalism signifies openness towards new experiences and curiosity towards new information.  Higher education is largely defined by new experiences and new information.

Nonetheless, plenty of people with more conservative personalities go to college as most of the population is fairly conservative personality wise (or rather according to MBTI statistics the conservative SJ temperament represents the largest portion of the population; the question then is how well does the SJ temperament represent the normal definition of political conservatism).  These college educated conservative types tend to be drawn to careers in law, politics, and business.  Most interestingly is the fact that policymakers tend to identify as conservative.  But, even in liberal fields, the top administrators in hierarchical organizations (which includes every major private and public organization) will be more conservative than what is the norm even for the general population.  Scientists may be liberal, but the administration of scientific labs and the corporate funding for science likely is controlled by conservatives.  Journalists may be liberal, but the editors, owners and CEOs of media companies are generally more conservative. 

(The so-called liberal media bias is false.  It may have once been true when newsrooms were independent and reporters were more free to do their own thing.  But in recent decades (because of pressures to increase profits) reporters have been increasingly told what to do by upper management (this is based on a lot of research I’ve done and isn’t an just an ideological claim).  However, this isn’t to say that media is precisely conservative biased in any simple sense.  Let us just say there is conflict of biases where the conservative bias at the moment has gained the upperhand.)

Social liberals are going to be more interested in intellectual inquiry and social conservatives will be more interested in ideological norms.  Because of this, most social scientists and those interested in social science will be moral liberals (research supports this conclusion).  As for moral conservatives, they’re either less interested in or else actively mistrust social science research and theory.  For example, the evidence that certain psychological traits and types (personality, moral inclinations, political ideology, behavior, etc.) are largely inheritable undermines the idea that everyone is completely responsible for themselves as individuals (which is a major aspect of moral conservatism).  The tendency to see human nature as complex is more attractive to the social liberal, and so the liberal attitude is more open to the possibility of nature being equal to or greater than nurture (which could explain why they have a more open view of family values).  The reason why evolution vs creationism seems so central to the culture wars may be because it reflects on the large-scale the same issues of nature vs nurture (I’m a bit unclear on this point).

I’ve come across the theory that conservatives tend to look at media and art in terms of how it serves or undermines their ideology (i.e., the perceived ‘norm’).  This would be supported by the Christian cultural critic who I heard speak a few years ago.  She discussed the need of morally conservative Christians to use film and pop culture to promote their views.  Immediately after this talk, I went over and looked at a William Blake exhibit which presented his vision of the relationship between religion and art.  

There couldn’t have been a better contrast between the conservative and liberal views.  Blake’s art was inspiring because it didn’t represent ideology in any simple way (i.e., no overt political messages, no promotion of group norms).  Instead, Blake’s art pointed towards truths that transcended mere politics.  I sensed that Blake wasn’t limiting himself to his own preferred bias.  

Is the conservative view of art as ideology comparable to the conservative view of news as ideology?  I’ve noticed that many conservatives don’t see a difference of the bias of Fox News from the bias in more liberal news, but to many liberals this is an insult.  I’ve noticed that quite a few liberals seem to idealize intellectual objectivity as a moral value, and they’re not content with the cynical view of extreme conservatives.  The social conservative tends to see humanity as fallen and traditionally this fallen nature included the failure of human reason.  Social conservatives are more mistrusting of reason which explains why they mistrust science (be it Darwinian evolution or climate change).

By the way, this also relates to the tendency of most comedians to be liberal.  Humor is very much related to curiosity and openness to experience.

Anyways, it’s all very interesting.  Journalists, Scientists, and comedians all are dominated by self-identified liberals and Democrats.  I remember offhand that only 6% of scientists (including in the hard sciences) identify as Republican.  That does seem to be saying either something about human nature (psychology, genetics, etc) or something about modern culture… or, as I suspect, a bit of both.

 - – –

I’m, of course, speaking of liberal and conservative in their most extreme manifestations (i.e., exaggerated stereotypes).  It’s important to keep in mind that as personality traits the population distribution is found mostly in the middle rather than on the polar opposite ends.

Also, liberal and conservative don’t always equate with Democrat and Republican.  For example, earlier last century Republicans were the liberal party especially in the South.  So, when I speak of liberal I’m talking about an attitude based on personality traits and not party affiliations which represent shifting labels of shifting demographics.  I was looking at data from the Pew Research Center.  Their definition of liberal corresponds with Democrat only slightly more than it corresponds with independent.  I’m willing to bet, though, that if Democrats dominated for a couple of decades the number of liberals identifying with independent would increase just as how recently many have left the Republican party.

As for psychological attitudes, I do wonder if the way society is structured is causing these genetic traits to become increasingly magnified.  I was thinking that this possibility could be a contributing factor to the present intense political conflict.

Here is a theory I’ve been thinking about the last couple of years.

I’ve looked at mappings of demographic data.  Liberals are concentrated in urban areas in and around cities.  Conservatives are spread out in rural areas.  However, a confounding factor is that ever since the Industrial Age began people have been slowly migrating to cities.  This is how liberals became concentrated in cities in the first place, but the population in general has now become concentrated in cities.  For this reason, cities are more ideologically diverse and so liberals have been forced to adapt to diversity which happens to be one of their talents anyhow. 

The other result is that rural areas have become less diverse and more extremely conservative.  This makes me wonder if conservative politics has become more radicalized partly because of this concentration.  Even the moderate conservatives would tend to move to the cities leaving behind the most extreme conservatives (those who are so resistant to change that they’d rather remain even in poverty-stricken areas).

Ignoring the possible genetic component, our political system by itself would magnify the concentration of extreme conservatives in the rural areas.  American democracy is representative.  In an attempt at fairness, sparsely populated rural areas get more representation per capita.  What this means is that extreme conservatives get more representation per capita.  The result of this is that public debate gets pushed to the right.

This is important as sometimes presidents get elected even though the majority of the population voted against them.  How does a president lead a country when he doesn’t represent a majority of the population?

Also, the media focuses on the extremes.  The rural areas represent the far right-wing.  The Republican politicians tend to be moderate conservatives, but the more radical conservatives of rural areas hold great sway.

 – – –

I don’t know what to make of this, but it’s very interesting.  It seems our entire political system is rather messed up.  I’m hoping by placing US politics in a larger context that I’ll be able to see beyond the polarizing tendency of public debate as it gets shown in the media.

Anyways, it goes without saying that all of this is largely speculation and hence tentative.  I am basing my speculations on actual data, but it is very complex.  Trying to disentangle the threads is difficult if not impossible.  The challenge of making sense of it is only slighly lessened by the fact that some great minds before me have written some insightful books.

MBTI: Functions vs Traits, Criticism & Correlation

I have an interest in psychology in general, but anyone who reads my blog knows that I have particular love for all things Jung (specifically Jungian typology as it was more fully developed with Myers-Briggs).  I came to MBTI through my studies of Jung and esoterica.  I was studying Tarot and noticed some correlations people had made between the card suits and Jungian functions.

However, like Jung, my interest in the esoteric is rooted in my desire for truth and so I’m not content to look at pretty diagrams of possible correlations.  So, I’ve studied the theoretical and scientific side of it well enough that I have a broad grasp of all the details and different viewpoints.

Anyone who has been on a type forum or checked out the variety of info available on the web quickly will realize that there is much debate and disagreement.

There is Myers-Briggs versus Kiersey, and then there are Berens’ Interaction Styles that attempt to bridge the two (also, Berens based her model on that of DISC which is something entirely else).  There is Beebe’s function roles which puts the functions in one order versus Thomson who puts them in another order.  Then there is the Russian field of Socionics which (mixing in some other theories) interprets Jung entirely different than Myers-Briggs (and some of the Socionics supporters claim that Kiersey fits their model the best).

The real interesting debate, though, is those who claim that the MBTI isn’t scientific and that Trait Theory (the favorite Trait Theory being FFM, aka the “Big Five”).  It’s this last area of disagreement that I was just now considering in some recent web-searches, but it’s something I’ve considered off and on these last couple of years.  I would gladly give up MBTI if it proved entirely or mostly false an unuseful, and so it’s an important to determine what is presently known.

There are several criticisms often stated:

  • Limited peer review research
  • Bimodal theory is disproven by trait research
  • Unreliability because of low incidence of test result repeatability
  • Neuroticism is excluded

Well, I don’t plan on answering all of those criticisms.  I’m not an expert and so my opinion isn’t all that important, but I am a very curios cat.  I will say that I doubt at present any absolute conclusions can be made.  These are worthy criticisms to consider, but further research is required.  Also, even if the MBTI is imperfect and requires improvement, that isn’t a reason to scrap it.  Research improves theories and so thinking of MBTI as a static belief system is far from helpful.  Furthermore, Jungian typology goes beyond just the MBTI (in more than a half century, numerous theories and tests have been created, and some of these are based on different premises such as not forcing bimodal results).

Here are some things that I found interesting which support various aspects of the MBTI:

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (Wikipedia)

What Did Isabel Do? Insights into the MBTI

A “Big Five” Scoring System for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

Hierarchical Confirmatory Factor Analysis of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Score Reliability Across Studies

Reliability of the MBTI® Form Q Assessment

Myers-Briggs and Four-Type Structure

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: Mapping to Circumplex and Five-Factor Models

MBTI is NOT a pseudoscience. Check your facts, nay-sayers!

MBTI: INFPs & INTPs, Global Chatter & Theory

I was talking to someone online about INFPs and INTPs.  It reminded me of my days at infp.globalchatter.com which is a now defunct forum.  :(  *sigh*

It was nice to summarize my experience and understanding.  So, I thought I’d share my thoughts here with some links to cached pages from the INFP forum.

 – – –

FIRST RESPONSE:

Hello.

Your query amuses me. I understand. Life is more confusing than the strict personality types can portray. It took me a long time to make sense of it all.

I guess theoretically I could be a Thinking person. It doesn’t really matter to me how I’m labelled by others, but I’ll give you the reasons I identify with INFP.

I took many online tests and I always tested as INFP. I joined an INFP forum and it was utterly amazing how similar I was to many people there. I did meet some other INFPs who were more of an intellectual bent (afterall, INFPs have Ne just as much as INTPs). I finally took the official test (including the Step II) and I tested as INFP.

I’ve had to study theory to a great extent to understand my sense of being an INFP (by the way, many INFPs love theory especially as it relates to psychology as the MBTI was developed by an INFP; I had my best discussions on an INFP forum with a mix of INFPs and INFJs).

There are two ways of understanding an extremely intellectual INFP.

First, there is Beebe’s function roles. The auxiliary for INFPs is Ne which when strongly developed can lead to an intellectual bent. INFPs use Ne to deal with the world and so intellectuality is one way INFPs learn to adapt (and to protect their Fi). This especially makes sense when you consider that the INFP’s inferior (Te) is also (according to Beebe) their aspirational. INFPs, as long as they don’t become psychologically stunted, will always feel lacking in the Te department and will be drawn towards this ability (either in developing it or attacking it).

Apparently, I inherited my grandmother’s INFP-like genetics; but, as I was raised by two Te parents (one being a dominant Te intellectual), I had Te modelled for me. I aspire to prove myself to my dad through intellectuality, but in INFP fashion I see intellectuality as an ideal of truth (i.e., authenticity; there is no greater ideal for an INFP).

Secondly, there is MBTI Step II. I’d recommend you check out this test and maybe take it as it gives a much more nuanced view of type. Each function is broken down into 5 factors. Very few people fit perfectly into a specific type, but on any given factor it isn’t unusual to be strong. A factor that goes against the overall function description is called out-of-preference (OOPs).

There were only 2 OOPs in my test. I was strongly Questioning rather than Accomodating (which the latter is a factor of Feeling). And I was strongly Methodical rather than Emergent (which the latter is a factor of Perceiving). So, to be precise, I’m a Questioning, Methodical INFP: who is precise, challenging and wants discussion; and who is more intellectually organized.

However, there is one further aspect to consider. In the MBTI Step II results, it is also shown how your results compare to others who test as the same type. It’s perfectly normal for an INFP to test as strong in Questioning and Methodical. Interesting!

Furthermore, from a traits viewpoint, type theory doesn’t make any sense at all. Most people test in the middle rather than strongly to either side. Barcode (barcode9588) points this out in her later videos and as INTP she is drawn to the scientific precision of the traits model. However, as an INFP, I think the Jungian model captures a more subtly nuanced understanding that science as yet doesn’t know how to test for.

I hope that is helpful. If you want to study it more for yourself, I can give you some website and book recommendations.

I’d be curious to know what type you’ve tested as. Are you wondering about Thinking and Feeling in your own experience?

Nice to meet you,
Ben

 
 – – –
  
SECOND RESPONSE:
 
Hello
 
Do you ever visit online typology forums? I learned the most about typology in discussions with people of the same or similar type as it helped me to understand why differences exist. Maybe it’s an INFP thing, but I appreciated seeing how people wrote about their experience as it related to type descriptions and theory.
 
That relates to your first question. For an INFP, subjectivity and objectivity aren’t as easily separated… and it seems somehow different than it is for most INTPs.  But, in general, my observations are that a less mature INFP will have less sense of objectivity and a less mature INTP will have less sense of subjectivity. 
 
The difference is that both an INFP’s auxiliary Ne and their aspirational Te can attract them to objectivity (logic, rationality, etc.), but an INTP also has auxiliary Ne and so is more rooted in the abstract.  The INFP’s Fi balances the abstract Ne whereas the INTP’s Ti magnifies the abstract Ne.  Or that is how it seemed to me when dealing with INTPs on various forums including INTP Central.
 
It’s hard to describe the difference and I don’t know if you understand what I’m trying to communicate.  There are different aspects to this.
 
First, INFPs’ greater potential for mixing subjectivity and objectivity allows for them to be (when mature and confident in themselves) more aware on multiple levels. What I mean is that INFPs can divide or spread their focus on what to an INTP may seem like unrelated areas. 
 
A group of INFPs discussing a topic will be just as wide-ranging as a group of INTPs in terms of ideas.  But the INFP group won’t focus as exclusively on just the ideas.  INFPs love ideas and love abstract theory.  It’s just INFPs also love relationships, emotions, and subjective values; and INFPs are equally trusting of rational thought and non-rational hunches. On top of that, INFPs (along with INTPs) love imagination and considering possibilities, and so they’ll go where ever their curiosity leads them.
 
For INFPs, they simultaneously think and feel out a set of ideas and the people discussing those ideas. INFPs are very aware of the subjective and inter-subjective.  They can learn to be very good at reading people, and so they look at what is assumed/implied and not just what is overtly stated.  INFPs can be downright paranoid about the unstated. They want to know a person’s motivation… the person’s true, authentic self even. A discussion is not only an opportunity to learn new information or a new perspective but also an opportunity to observe human nature in action.
 
This is why INFPs love MBTI. It allows them to simultaneously explore the subjective and objective.  INTPs, on the other hand, love MBTI maybe just as much but they focus on theory and data to the extent that (especially in a debate) they can almost forget that psychology is about real people (i.e., non-abstract entities; although well-developed INTPs can be extremely perceptive of others; as it’s their aspirational, INTPs potentially could develop Fe more than INFPs).
 
Furthermore, there is also an element in how ideas are seen to be connected and how they’re communicated.
 
Thinking causes INTPs to be more competitive and it can give an aggressive (or even snarky) edge to their Ne (this is more how an INFP perceives it and not how another INTP might perceive it). Feeling causes INFPs to be more collaborative and it can give a more child-like imagination/playfulness to their Ne (also, it causes the INFP to become more emotionally invested in or even identified with the ideas/views being discussed or rather what is perceived as being behind those ideas/views). Of course, the situation can be entirely different when other function roles are in play such as being in the grip of the inferior (when INFPs can become very intellectually combative and dismissive; I recently wrote a blog post about Beebe supposedly considering INFPs to be the most judgmental type – http://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2009/12/11/infp-most-judgmental-type/).
 
Also, INTPs can at times be extremely nitpicky. If an INTP isn’t relaxed, it’s hard to know what they actually think because when INTPs feel uptight or on the defensive they can become overly analytical and confrontationally contrarian.  Even when relaxed, INTPs often act less immediately friendly (i.e., easygoing, inviting, emotionally open; especially a group of INTPs where they can sometimes require a hazing period for new members).  INFPs, however, want to be included and want others to feel included (i.e., touchy-feely; on an INFP forum, smiley faces and *hugs* are very common and new members are made to feel welcome). They would rather laugh with you than at you. 
 
INFPs are less concerned about analytical details or even the exact logic (although they can learn to highly appreciate those things if it becomes central to their value system).  INFPs have a slightly more holistic way of thinking than even INTPs because for an INFP thinking includes the subjective.  Ideas are about abstract and objective thought, but ideas are grounded in human experience and profound feelings/values which aren’t always so easily communicated.  If the INFP never fully develops their intellect and never learns to integrate their Fi and Ne, then they might feel very divided and pulled in too many directions.  Some INFPs avoid this fate by simply not developing their intellects and dismissing objective thought by idealizing something else (love, peace, God, universal health care, etc.).
 
Of course, both types are similar in that they use Ne to perceive connections and patterns, to create models that express their internal understanding.  The main difference to understand is between Thinking and Feeling.
 
INTPs will appear more formalized in their thinking (more analytically careful, more logical, more concerned about precise definitions).  As such, INTPs focus on distinctions (which applies equally to people as to ideas… meaning that many INTPs probably feel more autonomous or even isolated than INFPs).  INTPs have more clear sense of what is intellectually correct or false, and so temd to be very intellectually opinionated.  I think this can lead to a hierarchical way of thinking we’re ideas are ranked according to their superiority (this may be even more true for NTJ types). 
 
INFPs, on the other hand, are more accepting of different ideas as simply being different intellectual perspectives.  They’re less attached to intellect in general (but specific intellectual ideas or theories may become entangled with their deeply held values) and so are more open to trying to understand another’s perspective (as long as the other is willing to do the same).  INFPs have a clear sense of right/wrong, but it just plays out differently on the intellectual level.  Instead of focusing on distinctions, INFPs want to know how ideas (like people) relate (because ideas also are experienced subjectively… not just thought but felt and contemplated upon, and must be translated into their personal Fi understanding).  As a model of thinking, relationship leads to a more lateral (rather than hierarchical) way of determining truth.  INFPs are emotionally snesitive and so they don’t enjoy heated debate as much as INTPs.  INFPs, instead, seek out agreement and common ground.  A correct idea is only as meaningful as it’s connection to authentic understanding (which includes the authentic truth of what it means to be human).

 
Did I end up answering your questions?  Much has been written on these topics in books, websites and forums… certainly, my view is just one of many.  I’m not sure if I’m in a position to conclusively answer your second question about the possiblity and commonality of rational/logical INFPs.  I have met many intellectual INFPs, but extremely intellectual INFPs do seem relatively uncommon as compared to INTPs.  According to theory, no INFP is primarily intellectual in the sense of the NT pairing.  A more practical possibility to consider, using trait theory, is whether there are people who not only are in the middle of Thinking and Feeling but who are born with or learn early on a proficiency in using both.  To tell you the truth, I haven’t looked extensively into trait theory and so I don’t know what researchers have concluded.
 
Anyways, all that I’ve written is based on my studies of the typology theories of others, but it also includes much of my own theorizing based on my own observations.  I can’t claim I’m absolutely correct in my conjectures.  It’s just what has made sense to me up to this point. 
 
If you’re interested in seeing the origins of my personal theorizing, I did manage to dredge up a few cached pages from a now defunct forum (infp.globalchatter.com).
 
INFP subypes?
Page 2 (not found in Google cache)
 
Thinking Styles and You: Part II
 
Levels/Layers of Individuality
 
As I remember it, I started the “INFP subtypes?” discussion thread before I had heard of the MBTI Step II.  So, my theorizing in that thread probably can for the most part be explained by Step II’s more detailed factor analysis, but it was fun to look back at my developing thoughts on the matter.  I mentioned in that thread Dario Nardi’s subtypes as presented in his book Character and Personality Type.  Nardi claims he based his subtypes partly on his own observation of working with clients combined with some theoretical knowledge such as life themes, but I’ve never come to a conclusion about whether Nardi’s subtypes make sense to me (I will say I like the series of books that were made by Dario Nardi and Linda V. Berens which are some of the best introductions to type theory, and I’m very intrigued by Berens’ Interaction Styles).  I generally prefer to think in terms of Beebe’s role functions (see these articles: Evolving the eight-function model; and Type and Archetype – Part One and Part Two). 
 
There are a lot of other good resources out there: Personality Type by Lenore Thomson and The Lenore Thomson Exegesis Wiki, Compass of the Soul by John L. Giannini, Facets of Type and Functions of Type by Gary Hartzler and Margaret Hartzler, Building Blocks of Personality Type by Leona Haas Integrity in Depth by John Beebe, and Pathways to Integrity by Blake Burleson.  If you prefer learning by discussing with others, then I’d recommend the forum Typology Central which has a good mix of different types and is a very active community.  If you want an even more detailed understanding about personality, I’d research other models such as Trait Theory (Big Five, for example, has been correlated with MBTI) and Ernest Hartmann’s Boundary Types (there are some books and research papers on the topic, but here is a short introductory article, How “Thin” Are Your Boundaries?; also these types have also been correlated with MBTI and are similar with many other psychological categorizations).  The closest to an overview on my thoughts on personality types can be found in my post Psychology and Parapsychology, Politics and Place.

Personality Theory and Research (videos)

I was just watching Youtube videos about MBTI and other personality systems.  I started watching videos of INFPs as I test as an INFP, but I won’t post any of those videos.  I just wanted to collect some of the interesting videos that weren’t about specific people talking about a specific type.

The person going by the username barcode9588 has a Youtube channel (In the Middle of Nowhere) filled with many videos about the theory of MBTI.  She says she is an INTP and I’m glad some INTP felt motivated enough to create these nice explanatory videos.

Vicky Jo also has a Youtube channel (Type Insights) also with a number of videos about MBTI.

The rest of the videos are a mix (including some more odd and humorous videos).

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