Sunday, July 31, 2011

Myers Briggs & Religion

Being "rational" is not considered a desirable trait by some people.  I know!  How could they think that way?  Or um... feel that way?

Different people are different, according to the Myers-Briggs typology.  I am an INTP or sometimes INTJ.    So are the majority of internet atheists, (2nd poll here, 3rd poll here)

The brief description of INTP seems like the total recipe for an atheistic skeptical online blogger:

Seek to develop logical explanations for everything that interests them. Theoretical and abstract, interested more in ideas than in social interaction. Quiet, contained, flexible, and adaptable. Have unusual ability to focus in depth to solve problems in their area of interest. Skeptical, sometimes critical, always analytical.

INTJ, the larger half of the INT- atheist world also has a skeptical mindset:

Have original minds and great drive for implementing their ideas and achieving their goals. Quickly see patterns in external events and develop long-range explanatory perspectives. When committed, organize a job and carry it through. Skeptical and independent, have high standards of competence and performance – for themselves and others.

My polar opposite, ESFJ, sounds like someone who would enjoy belonging to a church:

Warmhearted, conscientious, and cooperative. Want harmony in their environment, work with determination to establish it. Like to work with others to complete tasks accurately and on time. Loyal, follow through even in small matters. Notice what others need in their day-by-day lives and try to provide it. Want to be appreciated for who they are and for what they contribute.

According to the way I was trained in Myers-Briggs at work, people can learn to develop the opposite qualities in themselves.  I have scored almost 50-50 on all but "N" at various times since I first took the test ten years ago.  During one training session my coworkers were shocked that I came up as an "I" because I'm sociable, and I was a manager in a people-oriented job.  I learned to act "E" when I had to.

So... can Christians & other "irrational" believers learn to be more rational?   Would they want to?  Should we try to be more like them, or at least give some thought to how they think? ... oops, feel?

The Kiersey site describes the rational group (NT) as being a minority:  "Rationals are very scarce, comprising as little as 5 to 10 percent of the population. But because of their drive to unlock the secrets of nature, and to develop new technologies, they have done much to shape our world."  This low percentage is similar to the low percentage of non-believers in the world.  Perhaps this is why atheists are a minority: because other people have a totally different approach to life.  We need to take this into account when communicating with them.
Just look at how "irrational" they are.  They "have a personal relationship with God."  They know that God is real because they feel something and they value their feelings more than their thoughts.  They like belonging to a "faith community."  (Just calling it a "church" isn't good enough anymore)  The crazy extraverts will even go to megachurches to get all feely.  They think that "trust" and "faith" are values that should be placed about reason and reality.
Take a look at our opposites, the SF's :
SFs tend to approach life and work in a warm people-oriented manner, liking to focus on realities and hands-on careers. They are often found in human services and in careers that require a sympathetic approach to people. They tend to be less interested in careers that require an analytical and impersonal approach to information and ideas. SFs are often found in the clergy, teaching, health care, child care, sales and office work, and personal services.

Clergy!  Not a coincidence, I'm sure! 
Maybe we need to track down some ESFP or ESFJ atheists and make them our spokespeople, instead of people like Richard Dawkins or other scientists expressing the atheist viewpoint.  You don't have to rely on a rational approach to become an atheist.  Or maybe rational NTs need to express why rationalism is more realistic in more touchy-feeling terms.  Even if you think Myers-Briggs is bullshit, there's something to the dichotomy between rationalism and whatever isn't rationalism (if you call it "irrational" they'll be irrationally upset and post nasty rants to the comments here!  Remember, they don't think).


Avicenna said...

Do people really fit under the broad spectrum of such a test?

I find the drive to quantify human behaviour detrimental. You cannot predict how people will behave. Atheists are wild and varied.

I have showcased a crazy atheist before (Camille Marino - animal liberation activist who threatened to biology and medical students in Florida with car bombings). Crazy has no boundaries, there are even crazy atheists.

Plenty of us believe in pseudoscience, energy, souls, natural medicine, magic but not in a god. Skepticism to a magic Jesus/Allah/Vishnu may not make you immune from being skeptical about your horoscope.

LadyAtheist said...

Well, it isn't 100% who are NT's, more like 60% so clearly it's possible to be an atheist and still believe in silliness. But considering the small percentage of people who come out as NTs on these tests vs the large number of atheists who self-identify as NT types, there's something going on.

Having been through this kind of thing as an HR training tool, I do think they have value for understanding yourself and others a bit better. Understanding other people is a key skill for a supervisor and it did help me to understand my people better. I had one supervisee who would act all eager about an interesting project then never really get going on it. I was so frustrated with her. It turned out when she nodded her head like she understood what I was saying she really did understand but she couldn't make use of it. I had to explain things to her in a way that she could use.

So... yeah it's kind of like Astrology, except that they do actually study how the results of these tests relate to the career interests of the people who take them.

I haven't seen any write-up of religious beliefs outside of a couple of forums where it was discussed.

Anything on the internet ought to skew toward I's because E's don't sit at home pounding away on their computers unless it's to announce to their facebook friends which party they went to.

If I find any scholarly study of this issue I'll post it.

krissthesexyatheist said...

I've never tried the test. Is there a category for awesome atheist blogger, or as I like to say...Team Baddass (that includes you buddy.). Awesomeness.


LadyAtheist said...

Thanks buddy! It's probably INTP!

Try this one.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I've taken the MB test several times over the years. I was an ENFJ for decades, and then suddenly I became an INFP. But I have *always* been an atheist, since I was a small child. That said, I read my horoscope every day. People are weird. Period.

Anonymous said...

Myers-Briggs is pseudo-scientific bullshit. It's based on Jungs 'theories' of psychology and has not evidential backing.

Jason Nicholson said...

I am an ENFJ and in the past ENTJ. I am not an atheist. I am a Christian. Sorry, your reasoning does not work in this case.

Roxanne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roxanne said...

Please post this more clear version instead of my last comment:

I'm an INTP Christian, and I've known several others. I can totally understand how many INTx types don't feel attracted to the average American Christian or mass Christian gathering just because of personality. Imagine with me, personality types as spectators at a ballgame--if there's an INTx at the game, I would say he is less likely to be screaming and throwing popcorn on his part than by most of the crowd. If an INTx never knew baseball existed as an interesting human pasttime, or if the INTx knew about it but didn't care for sports--then I bet it would often be tougher to get him into the stadium or into the subject of baseball. He just wouldn't be as interested in it, unless you engaged him at a level that might be more interesting to him than merely expecting him to go have fun or feel the emotions the crowd was feeling. If he just wasn't into all the excitement of the sport, the INTx might start condemning baseball and related fan behaviors indicating a skeptical, "I don't buy into all of that!"