Patterns of thought and behavior

I have an on-again, off-again love affair with personality tests and personality types a la Myers-Briggs, Socionics, etc. As dichotomies can be used to define reality (light / dark, true / false, hot / cold) it makes sense to me that certain human qualities can be defined and described as existing along a continuum of possible outcomes. It also makes sense that while every human being is unique and individual, out of 6 billion individuals certain patterns of behavior are likely to emerge.

On a scale where astrology is zero and a DNA test is 100 in terms of usefulness in understanding reality, I would put personality studies at 15-20. As a field of study, it is not scientific at all, but the “soft sciences” (economics, psychology, sociology, etc.) have a difficult time proving anything as they are, ultimately, the study of patterns and behavior. More synthetic in outlook rather than analytic. Yet, we still find the “soft sciences” helpful.

The study of personality types is an extension of Psychology. In differs in that it tries to present personality as a continuum of specific attributes: introversion / extraversion, rationality / emotionality, etc. that can be evaluated and understood in a framework of possible types. The study of personality types has the potential to illuminate many areas of human interest including: market behavior, criminality, public health, addiction, and education. This is what is most compelling…the ability to understand why people behave the way they do and how to know who is likely to think in a certain way.

The biological sciences have been approaching social problems from the opposite direction through neurochemical explanations for human behavior. However, this approach is limited and leads to a chemically deterministic view of human psychology, one that is promoted by the medical sciences. The problem with the analytic approach of medicine is that it is satisfied primarily with results (and commercializing results) rather than understanding. So for a problem like Depression (which has now been defined as a chemical imbalance by the medical establishment), a treatment that reduces symptoms associated with Depression is regarded as successful despite the fact that the neurochemical role in human psychology is not well understood. So, it is unsurprising that unintended consequences have emerged, like suicidal ideation in teens who took anti-depressants or suicidal ideation in patients prescribed Chantix for smoking cessation, for example.

Suffice it to say that we have spent more time trying to understand the physical and neurochemical structure of the brain (the assembly / machine code) than we have the higher level processes, which could benefit from greater attention by researchers and theoreticians.

If you would like to find out your “type” you can use the following short personality test. I would be curious to know what you come out as.


  1. Chris, I took the quiz. I am pleased with the outcome of the test, however I am not sure just what it all means. Perhaps you can enlighten me.
    I am named by the quiz as, ENFP. The percentages are as follows…..


  2. Hey Hollis,

    That’s pretty cool. I used to test that way when I was younger. Here’s a type description you might find helpful: