Sunday, June 8, 2014

Vizsla Flashback - Are There Only 16 Of Us Now?

Internet fashionability is a funny thing.  (And on a related note, I'll happily take my turn at being fashionable now, thanks)

One of the things currently floating around in the aether, mass replicating itself is a series of variations on the Myers-Briggs Test results.*

*Which is a pretty strange thing to be meme-ing when you think about it.

And so not only are there people out there casually mentioning that they're INFP or BNSF or whatever, there is also a 'thing' wherein people map those Myers-Briggs Types onto the cast of popular TV shows/animals/etc.

In a sense it's really just the next progression from Survey Monkey and 'Which Character from Gilligan's Island are you?' quizzes*

*Lovie Howell, since you asked

But perhaps I should take this from the beginning.

The Myers-Briggs test (for those who have not had the pleasure) is a system for sorting general personality characteristics based on 4 opposition pairs.

1st - Are you (I)ntroverted or (E)xtroverted (this is pretty self-explanitory and I think most people have a pretty good sense of where they sit on this scale.)

2nd - Are you (S)ensing or i(N)tuitive - Because only 2 questions in and they've already run out of new letters to use, which seems like a lack of forward planning to me.  Oversimplifying, this basically means - do you look strictly at the details or do you interpret things.

3rd - Are you (T)hinking or (F)eeling - which to oversimplify even more horribly means - do you make decisions with your brain or your heart

4th - Are you more prone to (J)udging or (P)erceiving.  Or to continue oversimplifying - how 'down' are you with things being left open ended or unresolved.

Now that I've given aneurysms to anyone with any actual psychological training, 
I'll get to my point.

If you accept that everyone falls broadly into one of the two categories in each question, then you can set up a Gregor Mendel* style 4x4 grid and plot out all the various combinations (there are 16 possible variations)

*Google him.  You know you want to.  One hint - 'Peas'

This is all well and good and has given countless HR departments endless joy running folk through the testing procedure.  You get your results on a scale, so it isn't just a question of 'am I a T or an F, but exactly where on the continuum between the two you fall.  Which allowed me to spend several days after taking the test to comment on the extent of my P-ness.  Never.  Stopped.  Being.  Funny.

However, lately I've noticed this 4x4 grid showing up mapped onto all sorts of whoo-ha.  Which Downton Abbey character is your Myers-Briggs type, Which Animal is your Myers-Briggs type.   Which commemorative wang of the founding fathers is your Myers-Briggs type, etc. etc.

The net result of this is that we've kind of forgotten about the whole sliding scale nature of the thing (and the implicit P-ness therein) and we seem to have decreed that everyone in the world is exactly one of these 16 personalities - no exceptions, no variations.  You're either Maggie Smith or a meerkat, end of story.

And that, as I've mentioned before, is why I'm not a huge fan of memes in general.  They seem like they allow you to be creative, but they always end up being limiting.

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