Thursday, October 1, 2015

4.48. Insufferable Sanctimonious Fanatical Jerk

A player works through the gypsy's questions,
Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar

Thou Hast Lost an Eighth!

There were at least a dozen pages, all laid out in a multiple-choice style quiz. The last page of questions revealed the total count: 70.

Damn. That must be some quiz.

I paid no attention to the person discussing corporate policies, continuing to examine the quiz and its related paperwork. The back sheet listed a set of titles.

"The Architect"

"The Mediator"

"The Entertainer"

I counted sixteen titles in all. Continuing to ignore the presentation unfolding before the audience, I began penciling in answers.

The questions were bizarre. Answering them without context was difficult. They seemed to drift back and forth from acutely personal, to wildly broad and ambiguous. Unsurprisingly, I found myself seeking to fill in context with what I knew best.

"Common sense is: A) rarely questionable, or B) frequently questionable?

Depends on which of my guild members you're talking about.

"Are you more interested in: A) what is actual, or B) what is possible?"

Well, if it’s bench-filler night, we’re not going to be pushing heroics, are we?

"Writers should: A) 'say what they mean, and mean what they say', or B) express things more by use of analogy."

Parents scold young children for misdeeds, free from the confines of logical self-awareness that the children, by their very youth and innocence, lack the necessary perspective into the very issues on which they're being reprimanded! I penciled in my answer and moved on.

"Is it worse to be A) unjust, or B) merciless?"

Damn. This is some quiz.

I agonized over each answer. Years earlier, similar questions were asked of me. The difference was, back then, they were presented in all the glory of 4-color CGA.

"During a pitched battle, thou dost see a fellow desert his post, endangering many. As he flees, he is set upon by several enemies. Dost thou A) justly let him fight alone; or B) risk sacrificing thine own life to aid him?"

Let him fight alone! He got his own damn self into that mess! What a coward!

"Thee and thy friends have been routed and ordered to retreat. In defiance of thy orders, dost thou A) stop in compassion to aid a wounded companion; or B) sacrifice thyself to slow the pursuing enemy, so others can escape?"

Man, this is tough...I guess I would stop and help the wounded guy.

"After 20 years thou hast found the slayer of thy best friends. The villain proves to be a man who provides the sole support for a young girl. Dost thou A) spare him in compassion for the girl; or B) slay him in the name of justice?"

...uh, I don't...know. I mean...both of these things needs to happen.

...I don't know.

Why were the gypsy's questions so difficult to answer? And why did I care so much about getting the right answer?

A fifteen year old, growing up in a small town in British Columbia, Canada, had few opportunities to fight in actual holy wars. There were no clash of iron sword, no lords nor fiefdoms, and certainly, no reason to make judgement calls about who lives or who dies.

The only way I could answer Lord British's carefully crafted questions was by translating them into real life situations. In doing so, I became aware of a troubling reality: not all scenarios have a positive outcome. The gypsy in Ultima IV was my very own Kobayashi Maru.

Sometimes, you have no choice but to decide on what sucks the least. But you have to decide.

You have to.

...I...guess I spare the guy.

"Thy path is clear!"
The 16 personality types in the MBTI
(Source: 16 personalities.com)

What'd You Call Me?

I glared at my results in denial.

"ISFJ: The Defender"

Come again?

"The Defender is filled with a deep-seated need to serve others; they 'need to be needed'."

Is this some kind of joke? How do you pull servant out of 'programmer'?

"ISFJs are perfectionists and often under-appreciated. Their reliability is unquestionable, and because of this, they are often taken advantage of. The fruits of their labor are frequently enjoyed by other personality types less inclined to harbor feelings of guilt around getting others to do the real work."

Oh. A programmer that builds software for billion dollar companies. I guess that would be the way.

"ISFJs are notoriously bad at delegating…"

Well, if you want something done right…

"...but rarely seek acknowledgement, as they have a deep-seated belief that it is somehow wrong to want to be rewarded for demonstrating effort."

...or maybe it's because pride isn't a virtue? That walking around, pounding your chest like you're some kind of bad-ass only makes you look foolish and embarrassing and…

...and why I am sitting here, trying to come with excuses why this isn't me?

The more I fought with the analysis, the more it made sense.

"ISFJs are methodical and accurate, and have a good memory, particularly as they relate to situations involving people."

So, it would be pretty easy for me to, say, recall the events of eight years of guild leadership?

"They are pleasant and loyal as a member of a team, but are prone to feeling stressed and overwhelmed in roles in leadership."

So it would seem.

"The loyalties they form are personal rather than institutional."

...which makes it difficult to kick people out of a guild without feeling guilty. Or giving people more chances than they deserve.

"ISFJs provide emotional and practical support to what few people they consider their close friends, and the longer the relationship, the more an ISFJ values it."

...which might explain the constant need to dwell on relationships now ended.

"ISFJs aren't terribly good at managing or discussing distress…"

Go fuck yourself.

"...which manifests as unexplained moodiness to those not acquainted with the ISFJ. It is important to remember, when dealing with an ISFJ, that hidden under apparent 'bursts of outrage' is a personality type destined to think of others before themselves, and is very likely bearing the burden of an issue, so that you do not have to."

I sat back in my chair and stared off into the abyss of the auditorium's extremities, oblivious to the shouting costumed musketeers around me, their plastic toy sabres dancing in the air.

---

To be honest, I expected the geeks populating my guild to be dismissive of a personality test. They'd want to see the numbers, the proof, the analytical data backing up the "assessment". It wouldn't have surprised me to see them theorycraft every vague rationale to the point of elimination. That was, after all, the type of culture I was trying to foster in DoD.

If you don't understand something, don't guess. Do the research.

To be certain I'd get involvement, I promised a little forum Karma to sweeten the deal. They dove right in, awaiting their evaluation (shared in confidence upon completion). I encouraged them to discuss their findings in the forum; many chose to do so. And over the course of the next several weeks, the thread grew hot with activity.

The data continued to pour in. Word trickled down from the heavy forum users to those who preferred the isolation of the game, and with it, came more piqued interest. By the time the quiz's fifteen minutes of fame were up, I had enough entries to field two full 25-man raid teams...and still have several on the bench. And the data itself was rich with trivia:
  • The most common personality in my guild: ESTJ (The Executive, 15.4%), the fifth most common personality type out in the wild.
  • Conversely, the rarest type in real life, INFJ (The Advocate) made up 6.1% of the guild. In fact, 6.1% of the guild (4 players) was split among four types:
  1. INFJ (The Advocate)
  2. INFP (The Mediator)
  3. ENFP (The Campaigner)
  4. ENFJ (The Protagonist)
  • Rarer still, within DoD (and conversely, more prevalent in real life) were ESFP (The Entertainer) and ENTP (The Debater), both at 4.5%
  • The four most common types in DoD were paired mirrors of each other:
  1. ISTJ (The Logistician) and ESTJ (The Executive)
  2. INTJ (The Architect) and ENTJ (The Commander)
  • ISTJ (The Logistician) made up the brunt of DoD’s leadership.
  • ISFP (The Adventurer), ESTP (The Entrepreneur), ISTP (The Virtuoso) and INTP (The Logician) all shared the exclusive 1.5% slice with me -- DoD had only one of each.
That last nugget was of particular interest. Of the sixty-six guildies having completed the quiz, only five entries represented their type in isolation. Yes, I was the only ISFJ in the group, but I wondered how many more were out there. How many just didn't get around to taking the test? And why?

Perhaps they knew the truth -- the truth I wouldn't find out until months passed.

The Myers Briggs was a complete and total sham.

The most accurate horoscope reading for 2015 available

A Constant Four-Point-Two

People much smarter than I figured out long ago that the validity of the MBTI as a means of gauging personality is...problematic, at best. A critical examination begins with its creators, Katharine Briggs, and her daughter, Isabel Myers.

Katharine and Isabel were social scientists much in the way that Brian Fellow, Tracy Morgan's SNL character, was an accredited zoologist that held an advanced degree in environmental studies. That is to say, they were not. The very test taken by hundreds of thousands of people across the globe was created not by the scientific rigor of the academic community, but by "enthusiastic young individuals with a love of sociology."

I adore enthusiasm. It's what got me interested in programming and learning about the mechanics of people management. But I am not an expert, and I'd want to be sure my readers knew that when examining my writing. Unfortunately, when considering the MBTI, the industry behaves in exactly the opposite manner, often citing the many studies that back the MBTI as a means to prove its academic rigor. But those "studies" are not as academic as one might expect.

At least half of all published material on the MBTI comes from the Center for the Application of Psychological Type which, coincidentally, also provides training for the MBTI. And training does not come cheaply. The advocacy and sales of the MBTI clock in at nearly $20 million annually. A core contingent that both totes a test's scientific accuracy while simultaneously benefiting from its lucrative profits shrouds the MBTI with an ethically gray cloud that grows uncomfortably dark with each new glance.

Perhaps the most telling piece of evidence to the MBTI's inefficacy came in 1948, just five years after the test was first published. A psychologist named Bertram Forer devised a personality test of his own, one that harbored a secret. The first set of students he administered it to were amazed at its ability to accurately identify each of their own traits and behavior. As part of the experiment, Forer asked them to rate that accuracy on a scale of 1-5. The average rating came back consistently at 4.2. That's when Forer revealed the secret...

...the evaluations were pulled at random from the local newspaper's astrology column.

Forer's experiment has been repeated hundreds of times since he "amazed" his initial subjects. The results are nearly always 4.2.

This was the Forer Effect in action: the tendency for us to accept generalized descriptions that could apply to a wide slice of the population, merely because we wish them to be true. To many, who we are and why we behave the way we do is a conundrum that troubles us, it is a puzzle we must solve.

We hear what we want to hear, agree with what looks like it is falling into place, unaware that confirmation bias is a Texas sharpshooter, drawing targets around the bullet holes so that we can agree, nay, insist that the test has hit its mark. It's enough to keep the Horoscope publishing industry alive and well, long after science has proven that (as the meme goes) the alignment of the stars and planets will not affect us in any way shape or form.

I heard what I wanted to hear. Perhaps not at first...but as I read through it, contemplating how much I agonized over those questions...they had to be right. It had to be right.

Maybe part of it was right?

Maybe just a bit of it was?

Or maybe it was just right in the sense that it was right for everybody...and nobody.

---

Questions remained.

Are there other, more accurate personality tests out there? Ones that have real scientific proof in identifying a person's type? Perhaps. The Big Five may be one such test, featuring traits that are easily both positive (agreeableness) and negative (neuroticism), which may help to keep the Forer Effect at bay during test administration. As the story goes, "more data is needed."

Why a company would ask its employees to take the test? For the exact same reason I wanted DoD to take it: I thought it would give me that insight, show me those patterns, help me connect the dots, so that I could understand my people better. Help me find the leaders and the followers. Just as I wanted to understand myself better, even after my gut instinct ate at me with the very first glance. This isn't you.

There are no shortcuts to understanding people, no slots you can easily place them in. But when companies grow large, they don't want to hear "no easy solutions". They want you to get it done. They want the "people" part of people management a little more efficient, a little more streamlined...

...a little more automated.

Any org (guild or company) that cares about its people should invest in tools with care, rather than grab at whatever is most "brilliantly marketed". The Myers Briggs test is popular and successful because of wishful thinking...and little else. But neither popularity nor success are a measure of accuracy, which is the one thing the MBTI needs, but lacks. Anyone who states otherwise hasn't done the research, and is merely guessing.

9 comments:

andomar said...

I've done the Belkin test, which is similar to the MBTI test you describe. It explains how people can come into conflict while both pursuing reasonable goals. Very valuable information-- it showed me that conflict in a group is natural and not a bad thing.

I don't think scientists are able to reproduce groups that work together in a specific way. And reproduction is a condition for the label "scientific". Many questions cannot be answered by science, nor can science talk about them in a sensible way.

Anonymous said...

The MBTI certainly is not a detailed assessment of an individual's personality, even on a given day. But we do use it at my company, mainly to make managers and team leaders aware of the different ways individuals learn, process information, and become productive and motivated. And discussing the test is often a good team-building exercise, regardless of the test's accuracy.

It is a useful tool if used with an eye towards its limitations. Just because something is not perfect does not mean we should discard it out of hand.

INTP here. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Having done a lot of research on the MBTI over the years, I found it very fun to have this moment in your blog series.

The gift that MBTI brings is that, if used properly, it can illuminate how people who are different than us think. And to realize that those differences don't necessarily make our viewpoint wrong, but neither do they make it right.

Yes, these things may not be scientifically accurate in the sense that we know two hydrogen atoms bonded to an oxygen makes water... but that doesn't mean it isn't pointing to something that is truly there.

Personality systems all try to do their best to pin the slippery fish of human psyche and personality down into a quantifiable category so that it can be studied up close. They are not perfect but they can come fairly close. We are not butterflies in viewboxes.

The irony here that I see is that everything about your rejection and reasoning behind it... fits the system you are rejecting. ;)

If you ever did want to learn more about this stuff, then I would highly suggest delving into the Cognitive Function theories instead. I found that more illuminating in dealing with other people than just straight up paragraphs.

Really been enjoying your blog for a long time. Keep up the great work!

~INFP here so the love and desire for research on useless things is mighty like the wind.

Anonymous said...

I remember taking this test in college (INTP). I was amazed at how accurately it described me. At home on break, I had my mom and sister take the test. If I remember correctly you are scored on each axis(?) with something like a point scale of say -10 to 10. On my test i was always a high number, say 7,8,-6 etc... but my mom and sister were at 1,0,-2,1 etc... When they read their results they shrugged their shoulders and said "not so much". So I've always felt that for certain personality types it's an effective test, but for folks who are more, shall we say, balanced? It's not particularly useful.

Aedilhild said...

it can illuminate how people who are different than us think

Exactly — that's the value of any temperament theory, as the root of most interpersonal conflict is misunderstanding or even denying another his own instinct, perception and cognition even when he's wrong.

Jung/Myers-Briggs helps, to a point. I find it breaks down with the neat, symmetrical archetypes — sending people down rabbit holes of conjecture or self-doubt based on tribalism.

With regard to leading a guild, silently typing members has allowed me to better gauge what they want out of playing. Community for some, progression for others, belong for still more.

Shawn Holmes said...

Further (warning: *very* long) reading, if you're interested -- great expose on the mother and daughter that created it. http://digg.com/2015/myers-briggs-secret-history

Shawn Holmes said...

There appears to be a massive influx of Myers Briggs shenanigans now. Here's another that just popped up: http://boingboing.net/2015/10/12/the-myers-briggs-personality-t.html

Raymond Tse said...

Ho there,

I stumbled across your blog from Kotaku UK across the pond here and I've been fervently reading your articles since. It's been a fascinating insight into the inner workings of a large guild and your blog was one of the reasons why I've gotten back into WoW for the Legion expansion. Blizzard have really outdone themselves this time, it's definitely the most fun I've ever had leveling up!

I don't take much stock from personality quizzes, we as humans are far too complex to boil down to just 4 letters, though for what it's worth I'm also one of those elusive ISFJs!

Max0r847 said...

Yet another example of corporate stupidity: the attempt to quantify and categorize their members' psyches and use this as a management or hiring tool. In my opinion, it's yet another way people who make their living wasting time and resources over-complicating these two aspects of running a company, bedazzle and confuse everyone else so that they can continue plying their trade.

And of course everyone buys into it because by design the test strokes your ego and makes you feel understood and recognized. But actually, the only thing being recognized is generic components of most human psyches.

Companies are on a never ending quest to extract every last penny of profit out of their operations, regardless of the long term ramifications (especially psychological/cultural ramifications), continually chasing the dragon for a holy grail that will allow them to standardize a procedure so that never again will any genuine human communication or interaction have to occur, but instead, they can mechanize every last bit of their "human resource pool." I tend to think that there are two forces pushing this: consultants/executives specifically hired to try to find better solutions for these issues, basically justifying their own paychecks with these asinine efforts, and sinister think-tanks looking for ways to shape the larger body of humanity for their own dark purposes.

It's like a new religion, but really it's just a new manifestation of the oldest racket in the book: controlling people and putting them in their place.