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RS78 - Intelligence and Personality Testing

Release date: January 13, 2013

What's your IQ? Are you an ENTJ, or maybe an ISFP? What's your Openness score, your Conscientiousness score, your Neuroticism score? And just how seriously should you take all those test scores, anyway? In this episode of Rationally Speaking, Massimo and Julia discuss the science -- and lack thereof -- of intelligence and personality testing.

Julia's pick: "Effective Altruism"

Massimo's pick: "How To Talk About Books You Haven’t Read"

Reader Comments (7)

I bet most of the listeners to this are NT's. See what I did there? The value of personality tests is in how well they correlate with behaviors and outcomes. Doesn't matter if the test is how you sign your name or how you eat an Oreo cookie, as long as it predicts something of interest.

January 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMax

As a psychologist I started listening to this and was immediately impressed by your bias. Although you initially focused on the Myers-Briggs you seem to be focusing on the "test" vs. the constructs. The Big 5 you mentioned includes the construct of "introversion-extraversion" and there are some scientific hypotheses of why people may differ on these constructs (cortical arousal, autonomic nervous system arousal). The British Psychologist Eysenck who was a behaviorist identified the Introversion - extraversion as well as neurotic-stable nervous system types. This was in the 1950-60's. Although you mentioned adults only, but temperaments (nervous system reactivity) can be differentiated quite reliably in infants. So I wished you would consult with those who have more expertise in the field you will be criticizing. For a nice summary you can read Hollandsworth chapters in The Physiology of Psychological Disorders. You use too many straw man arguments. As an example in defining behaviorist believe in "blank slate". Most behaviorists, like me, no longer (or in my case ever) believe in the blank slate model of human development. And your approach to the MMPI was not historically accurate and your frame regarding the initial sample was loading the debate. Many scientific discoveries start with an N of 1 and replication (as you should know) is key. It has been used and cross validated in numerous other ways. For example the MMPI used the items on the test then had people who were blind to the person's score to Q sort descriptions of the person and these are the "personality" descriptions for that "type". Psychological testing measure "constructs" (ideas or behavioral sampling) that cannot be measured directly. The same has been done with the Big 5 tests. There are errors in all measures and if you are criticizing how the "tests" are used please keep that focus. I appreciated your statistical knowledge and understanding and agree with the limits of statistics such as factor analysis and multidimensional scaling.

January 16, 2013 | Unregistered Commentergoldcoin62

"Jung was very much into extraterrestrial visitation, he wrote a book about UFOs, he was also into astrology..." says Massimo.

This statement is technically correct in large part due to the vagueness of the word "into," but the fact is that Jung did not believe that unidentified things seen in the skies were evidence of extraterrestrial visitation nor was he "into" that topic for the reasons believers in ET carrying flying saucers tend to be into it. Nor did he believe in astrology. Let me explain...

Google jung flying saucers and the first thing that comes up (at least right now) is a link to Amazon's page for Jung's 1959 book, Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies. But one does not even have to click on the link to read that, "Jung's primary concern in Flying Saucers is not with the reality or unreality of UFOs but with their psychic aspect." IOW, the only aspect of flying saucers and extraterrestrial visitation Jung gave a hoot about was the fact that many people, around the time he wrote the book in question, were fascinated, some to the point of obsession, with the phenomenon of unidentified things seen in the skies, and Jung wanted to understand this psychologically. He related this psychological phenomenon to anxiety about the Bomb and so on.

As for astrology, Jung once wrote a letter to a colleague in Great Britain (this is referenced in a biography of Jung the title and author of which escape me) that although he sometimes advised patients to delve into astrology (this was in Switzerland in the early half of the 20th century), he did not personally believe in it and only advised some patients to get into it when he felt that their doing so would help open up them up psychologically and put them in better relationship to their imaginative faculties. One can question and criticize that kind of psycho-therapeutic method but my point here is not to defend Jung, only to make clear how he was and was not into extraterrestrial visitation and astrology.

Robert Jay Lifton, renowned American psychiatrist, author and Holocaust scholar, has noted that Jung believed that belief in life after death could be "psychically hygienic" for many if not most people (Jung may have only had Westerners in mind, however). This is not evidence that Jung believed in life after death, just as his being into flying saucers and astrology is not evidence that he believed in those things.

Richard Dawkins, in The God Delusion, characterizes Jung as a "Strong theist," the strongest possible kind of theist on Dawkins' list of different levels of belief in God. The strong theist, says Dawkins, has "100% belief in the probability of God." And Dawkins quotes Jung saying (to a BBC radio interviewer), "I do not believe, I know!"

Jung did say that and Jung was often deliberately vague and ambiguous but he made it crystal clear - 100% clear - in his writings that he believed that the question of whether or not God (the monotheistic Judeo-Christian God) existed was unknowable (which makes him agnostic), and that what he meant when he said things to the effect that he "knew" that God existed was that he knew that God existed as a psychological reality - IOW a mind-dependent rather than a mind-independent reality - within the human psyche (and here he specifically meant the Western psyche, as he believed that the psyches of different peoples evolved and developed in different ways, which is one reason he warned Westerners not to dabble to the point of getting lost in Eastern spirituality).

January 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEurydice

Women seem to have inferior "mechanical reasoning" and this may explain why they don't go into STEM fields at the same rate as men.

January 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJames

One of the Sahabah keeping fast after fast as he could not get anything to eat Hadrat Tabit (R.) Cannot know of this. He told his wife." I shall bring a guest tonight when we sit at the meal put out the lamp pretending to set the right and I and you are not eat anything until the guest has taken his meal."
The scheme worked out as in the last story. The husband and wife sit with the guest and the simple soul never suspected in the least neither of them had par-ken at all of the food. though theirs hands in jaws seems to be moving all right. When hadrat Tabit (R.) Repaired to the Prophet (SM.) Presence next morning He was pleased with this sacrificing news.

February 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterArafat Rahman
It sounds quite interesting. You have not mentioned much about how can one check intelligence and personality; I'm very much interested to make this test of mine. Well, intelligence can be guessed but how can the personalities be measured? Having a good personality is not that easy. Some have it as inborn quality and some don't but it can be developed well by taking some sorts of coaching or training programs. I would like to know more about the test, it would be great if you'll share more on it. Thank you.
August 25, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNick Hunter
Seems like personality and intelligence tests need a lot of work.
January 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJameson

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