Friday, November 30, 2012
The Myers-Briggs Type Inventory is obsolete. It was derived from one person's theory, not data. It had some use in the past, and it for a long time it was the best thing we had, but we have better methods of measuring personality now. Using this system today is like using a Model T car or an Apple II computer.
The proper way to measure personality is to use the Big Five personality traits of Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (OCEAN). These traits were found by analyzing lots of data with advanced statistical techniques. They are reliable, robust, and valid, and have been shown to correspond with a wide variety of important life outcomes. All social scientists who do real work with human personality traits have known this for over a decade.
There is not much else to say about that, but this is a good opportunity to point out a potential problem with how people think about personalities. The human mind instinctively wants to put things in groups or categories. This is a relic of our paleolithic past where it was very important for a brain to instantly and accurately put something in the category of 'snake' or 'vine'.
But the categorization instinct often leads to mistakes in the modern world, and it definitely leads to mistakes when applied to personality traits. All personality traits that can be measured fall on a continuous scale, and most of them have the 'bell curve' pattern where most people are in the middle of the scale and it is rare for people to be extreme.
This means that it is a mistake to try to classify everyone as an introvert or extrovert in the same way that it is a mistake to classify everyone as smart or dumb. Most people have an average level of intelligence and extraversion and other traits. Differences between people are differences of degree, not kind.
If you must impose categories, then you should not use the two categories of intovert and extrovert. You should use the three categories of introvert, normal, and extrovert, where people only get classified as introvert and extrovert if they are far enough from the average.
Thursday, November 15, 2012
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Monday, November 12, 2012
1) Knowledge means falsifiability. The purpose of scientific knowledge is to make testable predictions about observable phenomena. Any belief that does not do this is not scientific and has no place in a fact based discussion.
For example, the belief that Buddhism is the most beautiful religion is in exactly the same category as the belief that Sean Connery is the best James Bond.
2) Humans are fundamentally flawed. Not only are we evil, we are also stupid. The human brain is subject to a wide variety of cognitive flaws. Because of this, almost all of the output the human brain produces has no value in determining the truth about reality. The scientific method is the only known, reliable way of finding knowledge.
3) Because of human flaws, life in a state of nature is nasty, brutish, and short. Even if we lived in a paradise and all of the natural problems of disease and parasites and predators and malnutrition were somehow waved away, we would turn it into Hell by inflicting violence on each other. Observe the historical behavior of all human beings before civilization.
4) The reason we do not currently live in a state of nature is our institutions: rule of law, individual freedom, democracy, the scientific method, private property, free markets. It is theoretically possible that better institutions exist, but we have never observed any desirable and well functioning society that lacks these institutions.
Note: When I use words like better and worse, good and bad, or make any other normative statements, I am referring to the revealed preferences of large numbers of human beings. A better society is one that people choose to move to.
5) Good institutions do not occur easily. They were developed by trial and error over millenia. Revolutionary change has the potential to threaten these institutions. Theories and philosophies have been shown to be incredibly bad at designing institutions. However, some of our most important institutions were developed as a result of revolutionary experimentation. We can and should improve our institutions with gradual change and local experimentation.
6) Instinctive human morality is a set of behavior patterns that evolved to coordinate the activities of tribes of foragers in a Paleolithic environment. It is not sufficient to create institutions that function well in a modern world, and in some cases it works against good institutions. For example, the inherent repugnance toward dissecting human bodies caused medical progress to be slower and resulted in millions of lives being lost and a great deal of unnecessary suffering.
7) Social facts, and especially economic facts, are rarely the result of human intention or desire. They are the result of complicated impersonal forces that are best understood through rigorous study and the scientific method. Attempting to alter social or economic conditions without the knowledge that came through such careful study is likely to be counterproductive and possibly disastrous.