14 January 2013

INTP Aquarius Seeks Skeptic and Cynic with whom to Mock Pseudosciences

Which one indicates a low tolerance for bullshit?
Last week I logged some overtime (!!), which is almost exclusively a good thing because we're so broke we're broken. The reason I worked overtime was due to a required meeting/Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator session. (Frankly, I think they should offer supplemental insurance at my place of work strictly for eye-strain from rolling one's eyes in an epic fashion.)

I realize that some people lurve the MBTI and think it explains their every motivation, just like some people are adherents to astrology, or numerology, or theosophy, or Dionne fucking Warwick's Psychic Friends Network, or organized religion. And I know that the MBTI is based upon Carl Jung's work, but Carl Jung liked to operate from anecdotes and rather despised hard data, and sure, when you operate in the amalgam of nonsense that is the human psyche, that's probably acceptable. Except when it isn't, which would be when you try to shoehorn me into a fucking box. (Don't get me wrong, a brilliant and exceptional friend of mine is currently getting her PhD in psychoanalysis - which is more Freud than Jung at any rate - and it is fucking AWESOME, but this rant is in relation to wasting my damn time at work with a test originally designed to sort enlisted personnel in the US Armed Forces into appropriate skill sets.)

The thing is - and here are is an anecdote for you - I've taken this test, or variations thereof, several times throughout my life. Several times because I spend A LOT of time dicking around on the Internet, that's why. Every time I've taken this test, or it's knockoffs, I've elicited a different result. Hm. Curious.

MBTI Certified Instructors (or Administrators? Directors? Henchmen? Pooh-Bahs?) will tell you that you can move among these indicators throughout your lifetime, but also that usually, types are fairly fixed. They will also tell you that the free tests for it online are not the same as the real tests, but I suspect that's because they paid for a certification course and are not pleased with the likelihood that a computer algorithm can do what they think they do faster and for free. Curiouser.

So I went to this required session, which wasn't exactly an administered MBTI so much as an informative session about the basic MBTI dichotomies and we all loosely made half-informed assumptions about on which side of each dichotomy we landed. Knowing this session was coming, I took an online MBTI assessment that morning and ended up as an INTP - Introvert, iNtuitive, Thinking, Perceiving. Really, that part doesn't matter. Go forth and investigate my personality, oh intrepid Internet skulkers! Or don't, because it's poppycock.

I call it poppycock because when you read each personality type, you can easily squeeze your own perception of yourself into many, if not all, of the possible types. Curiouser and curiouser.

It's like reading up on your astrological signs. Yes, I do fit the "typical" description of an aquarius, but I could just as easily be associated with any of the other sun signs. Astrologers will account for this through the implementation of ascendent signs, and moon influences, and planetary alignments. I account for this through a willingness on the behalf of both the astrologers (or test administrators) and their clients (or subjects) to find correlation to their experiences within whatever explanation is offered. Because life is easier when we can create simplistic and reductive explanations for complex things. This is a known phenomenon, it's why stereotypes exist - for better or worse - and why people choose to often base opinions on the paths of least resistance and minimized cognitive dissonance. So, many embrace their MBTI results, or their star signs, or e-meter Scientology readings, because they tell them what they ultimately want to hear.

After all, my INTP personality type du jour says immensely flattering things. I'm "The Thinker." Creative! Intelligent! Objectively critical! Also, they say shit like this:
They're very tolerant and flexible in most situations, unless one of their firmly held beliefs has been violated or challenged, in which case they may take a very rigid stance. The INTP is likely to be very shy when it comes to meeting new people. On the other hand, the INTP is very self-confident and gregarious around people they know well, or when discussing theories which they fully understand.
HA! Who doesn't that apply to? Rush Limbaugh, maybe, who takes nonsensical stances just to be consistently in the top running for The World's Biggest Schmuck. The other MBTI types also say flattering things. Generalized things. Obtuse and intentionally obfuscating and sometimes contradictory things.

And, as Adam pointed out, these sorts of assessments offer too many people a fucking cop-out for their incompetence or blatantly idiotic behavior. You know, the "well, I never learned to spell anything or learned to user a semicolon because I've got a math/science brain" people. No, you never learned to because you didn't feel it was important or you were lazy. It's why I don't give two shits about calculus. I don't claim I never tried because I've got a "humanities oriented" mind, I never tried because it was hard work and I'm lazy, but can recognize that I could still benefit from knowing it.

There are so many variations on this theme, such as last Christmas (2011) when an extremely well-meaning, but entirely misguided extended family member gave me this book that was designed to set me on the right career path. I do love her, she is kind and generous and very, very intelligent and sometimes, I swear she lives in a universe that I am yet to explore. Just to paint a picture, a very successful something-or-other for a company that makes advanced weapons systems for the U.S. government, she once offered to get me a job at her company when I returned home from grad school with an MA in human rights. Clearly, her heart was in the right place, but there was a serious ideological disconnect there. Anyway, at Christmas dinner last year, she explained that she gave this to all her subordinate employees and it fucking blew. their. minds. (My words, just to be clear. I don't think she has ever dropped the f-bomb. Ever. Maybe once, in like 1973, but it was probably the wine and the heady intellectual atmosphere at Princeton.)

When she brought it to Christmas dinner, she proffered my unexpected gift along with the general caveat, "I brought one for Courtney, but, I do have some extra copies for those who want them." FORM AN ORDERLY FUCKING QUEUE, YOU HEATHENS.

Apparently, interning for free at a goat farm was bound to lead me to financial ruin, a new strain of swine flu, or possibly a persistent aroma of spoiled milk and hay. But everyone still liked the fresh chèvre gratis, I might point out.

For me to start this great oracle of professional personality, I had to create an online account, answer god-awful, ridiculous, leading, and NOT AT ALL consistently or logically dichotomous questions for an hour and a half. I could only take the test ONCE, so I had to make.it.count.you.lazy.bastard. After 90 god-forsaken minutes of these absurd questions, wherein I vacillated among offense, anger, and hysteria, I received a *bleep*boop*blop* from the website and was given five - count 'em - FIVE defining strengths. I think had to write them in indelible ink on my precious book, and then use said book to look up these characteristics and discover who I really am. I think around reading about Strength Three I discovered I was the type or person most prone to using this book as a coaster at best, and more likely as something with which to sop up especially bilious cat vomit. I mean, really, look at that book cover. Those words aren't even the same parts of speech! GAH. Also, the pocket-sized book costs like $30, so I just might be the type of person to figure out how to create bullshit metrics with which to hose large corporations, managerial staff, and well-meaning matriarchs. Think about it.

At work, we were told that we had to participate in this session so as to better interact with our fellow employees. The most comical part of that, aside from the inaccuracies and inherent individual bias that the MBTI elicits, is that my job really doesn't require any interaction with my coworkers. Cooperation isn't really a part of the work. That's not to say I'm uncooperative, it's to say that, for fuck's sake, data input doesn't require collaboration! But businesses love their metrics and matrices. And they relish their ability to place people in ticky tacky boxes so we don't question what the fuck they're up to or why the hell we keep working for them. Though, you know, that sentiment could be my INTP "problem with self-aggrandizement and social rebellion..." and possibility that "[I]f the INTP is not able to find a place for themself which supports the use of their strongest abilities, they may become generally negative and cynical."

Curious, indeed. 


  1. you're focusing on some bogus general info from tests. what mbti is really about, though, is the specific cognitive functions that are supposed to determine your social skills (i/e), the way you gather information (n/s), and the decision-making factors you take into account (t/f). p/j is an additional function, and it's more difficult to describe. anyway, tests won't usually provide you with good, in-depth descriptions of those, instead they'll give you very general descriptions of how people of a certain type tend to behave, like the stuff you mentioned. but do a little research, get the gist of the whole concept, and you can figure out which type fits you best just by looking at the function abbreviations. idk, you've written this post almost a year ago, and i'm here completely by accident at the moment, but i figured i have nothing to lose, i might as well give you some info on this. i'm an intp too, by the way.

    1. Is it also characteristic of INTPs to lack self-aware senses of humor and reading comprehension?

  2. Hard data on how the mind really actually kinda works didn't actually exist until around 2005. If you know better, stuff your gaping bleeding hole of an ego with a proverbial tampon and get to it rather than complaining like a...well, you can imagine

  3. Hard data on how the mind really actually kinda works didn't actually exist until around 2005. If you know better, stuff your gaping bleeding hole of an ego with a proverbial tampon and get to it rather than complaining like a...well, you can imagine

  4. Hard data on how the mind really actually kinda works didn't actually exist until around 2005. If you know better, stuff your gaping bleeding hole of an ego with a proverbial tampon and get to it rather than complaining like a...well, you can imagine. And Jesus, man up and don't be a cynical...you can imagine. Are you going to scan all web pages for spelling and grammatical errors now? Good luck with that and with yourself.