15th May 2010
Is there a science of personality type?
Between 1980 and 1981 I studied psychology intensively for the Indian civil services examination. I bought a handful of the latest books and browsed through virtually everything on the subject I could find in good libraries in Poona (Pune). Mind you, Poona had some outstanding libraries, including the British Council and Deccan College libraries. I perhaps skimmed through 50 good books on psychology, some in more detail than others. The subject fascinated me but I did form a bit of disdain for it, for it was mostly speculative, with little experimental confirmation of various theories.
As a result of this year of self-taught study of a subject entirely new to me (I had formally trained in pure science and mathematics) I scored enough marks in psychology to get me into the civil services. After that, however, I didn't find time or opportunity to read psychology again. Plus, more importantly, my interest shifted to economics. Popular articles in psychology did continue to provide me with useful information over the years, and I did gather that psychology was improving, particularly abnormal psychology. Many old theories were crumbling and robust foundations being given to others.
Since the mid-1990s, my interest has incrementally and sporadically veered towards psychology again, particularly with Kahneman and Tversky's famous contributions to economics, Steven Pinker's fine book, How the Mind Works that I managed to find and read only recently, and the recent works on neuro-economics. But this stuff is more about how our brain is designed and how we acquire knowledge, i.e. about epistemology, than about differences in personality. On the latter my knowledge has remained outdated (I still retain Wolman's 1979 "Contemporary Theories and Systems in Psychology" in my collection!).
In 2006 I was administered the Myer Briggs personality test (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or MBTI) which came out with the result "INTJ", with "I" being relatively mild, and others dimensions clearer (see here). I didn't bother much with this result, and given my skepticism about psychological theories, didn't read up much about this issue, either.
Just two days ago, though, I've gained some respect for psychological testing! While randomly browsing through a library, I came across the book, Do What You Are by Paul Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger. The title was interesting so I flicked through it.
There I accidentally hit upon the section dealing with the strengths and weaknesses of INTJs, and was gripped at once. I don't recall ever coming across something that represents me so closely. Of course, I can argue about some of the detail, but the broad picture was astonishingly "on the money".
Out of curiosity I checked the internet and found many sites that deal with personality types, including MBTI. The MBTI was designed in 1962, based on Carl Jung's earlier work. I should start reading up on psychology once again, for it does seem to throw useful light on people. Things like MBTI might turn out to be big business in India, as a more robust way to match couples than horoscopes! More importantly, as far as I am concerned, the fact that one can get a list of one's likely strengths and weaknesses is a powerful tool. Armed with this information, one can try to overcome one's weaknesses.
Having said all this, one should remain cautious about all this, and keep an open mind. But worth exploring further.
The remainder of this post of interest only if you are INTJ. This blog is going to act as my storehouse for useful information about INTJs that I come across, things that could help me understand myself better and, where feasible, improve.
Hints for improvement included in the above, plus: here | etc. (to be developed).