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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Using personality types in character building

   
Author Topic: Using personality types in character building
Jules
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I've never formally studied psyhcology to any level, which is why I guess I hadn't come across the notion that there is a generally accepted list of 16 personality types. Apparently most people fit neatly into just one of these types, or so the theory goes.

I've been browsing through some descriptions I found of these sixteen types here:

http://209.15.29.56/myersbriggs/personhome.htm

I'm wondering if there's any mileage in thinking about my characters in terms of these types. My primary fear is that they might be too stereotypical, but if psychological theory is that most people fit into one of them am I just being paranoid?


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Christine
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Someone's feeding you a line!

There are more theories on personality than on any other thing in Psychology. Ther eis no answer, right or wrong, and I have studied Psychology to the extent of receiving a Bachelor's degree and studying one year in graduate school.

Anyone who tells you that there is any neat way to categorize people is full of it. Ignore them and write people from your best personal experiences.


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Survivor
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There are dozens of "neat ways to catagorize people" and all of them can be useful to a writer. We've actually had a discussion of the Myers-Briggs method, and I can tell you that it is the only personality test I personally find to be "valid" in terms of providing accurate extrapolations of behavior and attitude based on a limited sample of responses. I actually already brought up the idea of using these as models for fictional characters in Temperments and Characters (actually, a better use might be determining whether a television show will succeed). Of course, the psychology students were quick with their mockery there as well.

P.S. Christine, don't BS with your BS, that isn't the point of this board. State your own opinions and back them with your own reasoning.


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writerPTL
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Well, Survivor, if we can't back up things with our educations, how are we even writing at all? Everyone had to learn how to read and write didn't they?

That's the most ridiculous thing ever. Wouldn't someone who had actually studied psychology know better that people can't be classified with personality types?

[This message has been edited by writerPTL (edited August 10, 2003).]


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pickled shuttlecock
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Oh, but they can be. The problem is that every classification system just naturally works because the logic behind it is inherently circular. That's why there are so many.

Personally, I'd call these, like other ways of classifying individuals, a good starting point. I'd never dream of writing a character that was completely Yellow or INFJ or B Type or whatever - preferring to make them a bit more real - but I might use that kind of thing so I don't have to start from scratch.

Do any of us really start from scratch anyway?


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mags
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I don't know.

I mean, yes, there are lots of ways to categorize people.. and there are definatley people with specific "types" according to the myers-briggs tests which tend to gravitate to specific types of jobs... but that isn't always true. At work as a "team building" exercise, we all had to do the myers-briggs, and it was fun to see who worked well with others and what groups tended to belong to what category... but not everyone fit into where they should have been pigeonholed.

In police work, they do "profiling" feeling that everyone who acts a certain way, does certain things, has distinctive backgrounds which are... well the same for said act. But in reality there are people who don't fit the profiles... which is why we have cold case files.

If you feel yourself getting stuck with a character because and need something to help jumpstart something, then playing with the myers-briggs stuff, or any other personality test is as good a way as figuring out when they might have been born, and giving them a zodiac sign to follow.

However, the writer still needs to write, even when they have given themselves barriers like personality test or zodiac signs - it isn't like there is a magic potion which will suddenly have the character on the page. And sometimes doing a character that way will cause more problems as the writer sits there and feels that their character now needs to fit into this pigeon hole that they placed the character in.


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writerPTL
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I think anything that gets you inspired or unstuck is great, but the second you limit yourself to conform to formulas then you're limiting your story's effect. But I still don't think that people fit into easy categories. They have too many layers for that. And plus, none of those personality things say stuff like "This person is liable to pick their nose. This person always clips her nails over a trash can." etc. etc., the little tics that make people people, and not personality descriptions.
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Christine
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Surivor, I believe you were very rude to me.

Thank you, writerPTL. One thing, though. People can be classified with personality types, sort of. What I was commenting on, and I realize now that I wasn't clear, was that Jules heard that "there is a generally accepted list of 16 personality types" There is no one correct classification system, and even within classification systems there seems to be gray area most of the time.

Did you know there are entire professional journals published just for personality research? Several, I think. It kind of boggled my mind when I first ran accross them.

Anyway, if you want to try to use personality types in your writing, fine. Couldn't hurt really, but know that there are dozens of theories to choose form.

[This message has been edited by Christine (edited August 10, 2003).]


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Christine
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quote:
Oh, but they can be. The problem is that every classification system just naturally works because the logic behind it is inherently circular. That's why there are so many.

Hehe. I like that. I agree.

quote:
I think anything that gets you inspired or unstuck is great, but the second you limit yourself to conform to formulas then you're limiting your story's effect.

Another great quote point. Jules, if those sixteen personality dimensions mean something to you, if you can see a real life person coming out of one or more of them, then that's exactly what you need. Use it, but be careful not to let it limit you in future stories.


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Survivor
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Thank you for the clarification, Christine. I wasn't trying to be rude any more than you were (probably less, but that would be attributing motives where I have no reliable information). I was simply pointing out that using your "credentials" to quash debate on this or any other issue is unacceptable behavior on this forum (at least, it is unacceptable to me). This is something of which you should be aware (I can get very persnickety about it).

I personally agree that the Myers-Briggs cannot tell you how tall or pretty or athletic or nose-picky-toe-clippy (actually, it can suggest which sorts of characters might do absently disgusting things like that) a character is likely to be.

And of course it is circular. All psychology consists of examining behavioral symptoms, attaching a name to a set of behavioral symptoms, then diagnosing people that display those behavioral symptoms as having the set of behavioral symptoms indicated by a particular name. It is an entirely circular discipline. No personality test that isn't circular could possibly be valid.

As I said, I like the Myers-Briggs because it is logical and has a strong correspondence to how humans actually behave. It also has one of the strongest (most robust) experimental validations of any current personality theory (a large number of more recent personality theories in circulation are actually just copies of the core Myers-Briggs classifications).

It also happens to be xor compatible, which means that it includes all possible personality profiles, not just human personalities, which is important to a science fiction writer.


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Christine
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quote:
but that would be attributing motives where I have no reliable information

All right, then quit attributing motives. I was not then, nor have I ever, tried to quash a debate. There was nothing in that response that was not a direct response to what Jules had said.


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Nexus Capacitor
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It doesn't seem that Christine was trying to squash the debate at all. Not that there was a debate yet, as hers was the first reply.

I think she was trying to say that personality-typing can be fun, but is dubious as a science.

I happen to agree and will take the statement further to say that psychology, for the most part, is just witch-doctory psuedoscience. Since I have a degree in a REAL science (Hydrogeology), you can trust my judgement.

Now, if I haven't lost you with my ridiculously obnoxious statement, I think these things ARE fun and could help create characters. A good long look at alignment systems in roleplaying games (like AD&D) could help too. Even though they are probably less valid.

Just my two cents. (No cash value.)


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Survivor
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I need to use more smilies when writing specifically to certain members of this board...at least, if I want them to realize when I'm poking fun (I personally thought the BS/BS line was a dead giveaway, but some people aren't as sharp as I expect them to be--which probably means that I'm not very good at judging people or something).

I think that it is also funny that Christine is telling me to "quit attributing", but Cap's statement was probably funnier (not that it was particularly funny, mind you).

Actually, all psychology and pharmacology could easily be referred to as "witch-doctory psuedoscience" by virtue of the great debt we still owe to those early investigators of the interation between the human mind, body, and environment. But I have to disagree about alignment systems in AD&D. Whether or not they are more or less valid, I find them essentially worthless (i.e. no they cannot help too) as far as developing a real character. I think that the attributes of a role playing character and even the name give you much more potentially useful information to use in developing a literary character.


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Nexus Capacitor
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I suppose I should defend my point on alignment systems. I don’t believe that they will give you an accurate view of someone’s personality. But, with a little creative redefinition of terms, they can help you start thinking about motives people might have.

The Law-Chaos scale works pretty well as is. How willing are you to break rules to meet your goals? How do you react to authority? Do you question your orders or do you trust the people in charge to know what’s best?

The Good-Evil scale is a bit silly, especially for us fiction writers. We like everyone to have motives that make sense. To say, “Paul killed him ‘cause he was evil. That boy was just downright evil. Everyone at Parson’s Creek knew it, but no one wanted to admit it.” isn’t very satisfying. (Although, Steven King may be able to get away with it.)

I think of it more as Compassion-Greed scale. How much are you willing to go out of your way to help someone without payment or reward? What’s more important, what you want or what others want? Are you willing to sacrifice your happiness for someone else’s?

Knowing that someone is Chaotic Good doesn’t mean much, but the exercise of thinking about it could help create realistic motives for your characters. By the same token, knowing that I’m an ENTP doesn’t really tell you much about me. Looking at the descriptions on the Myers-Briggs page (see link above) reminds me of a horoscope. Lots of general things that people like to think about themselves. When you read any of them you start thinking, “Yeah! That sounds like me!”

But, if you start thinking about what motives an ENTP might have, you can ask questions like the alignment ones I asked above. That could lead you toward some good characters. But, so could considering the motives of a Pisces or a Taurus.

The moment you accept that ANYTHING is true about your character, you can start considering why it’s true and how it came about. So why not use even the craziest classification systems? (He’s a Velma with Scrappy-tendencies.) Just take them all with a grain of salt.


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EricJamesStone
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I've always believed there are two types of people:

1. People who believe there are two types of people, and
2. People who don't.

[This message has been edited by EricJamesStone (edited August 14, 2003).]


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Survivor
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How about me...and everyone else?

Okay, I'll grant Nexus for the Law-Chaos scale, except that I would have answered all of his questions as a chaotic individual (and most people that know me would agree) but consider myself simply much higher in my allegiance to Law than anyone else.

I don't consider myself willing to go out of my way to help others, but on the other hand I don't generally consider things "out of my way" to begin with. What I want is more important than what anyone else wants, but one of my essential goals is maximizing the freedom others (and myself) have to achieve desires.

You always have to consider that people see themselves from the inside.


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Kolona
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Interesting viewpoints, Survivor.
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pooka
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What I think is funny about personality typing is how they always try to make it value neutral, by assigning colors or isolated letters. After all, who wants to be a Stalin or a Bartleby. Also, they tend to overlook the importance of Optimism and Pessimism. Religiosity. Sexual preference. Tendency to fragment sentences.

There is another side to it, how people will fit into the available roles in a social milieu. Is the crew of Star Trek engineered to fill a marketable range of personality types, or do they become that? In Dune you have Baron Harkonnen, your "yellow/promoter", Paul is "blue/analyzer", Helen Gaius Mohiam is "red/controller", and Jessica is "white/supporter".

I tend to think marketable sci fi will usually have a hero that is blue/analyzer (and in the latest book I read, "green" type). I'm not sure what this means in the MB sorter. The MB is so complex it borders on chaos. The villian should be a red/controller or a yellow/promoter (another example of a yellow antagonist is Q). That is, if you're not above formula sci fi.


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punahougirl84
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Wow - I think I need to review the MB. I took it way back - it basically indicated that teaching would be an optimal profession for me. I did become a teacher (not because of the MB - it just supported a decision I had made, and maybe my answers reflected that). I wonder if I took it now, if I would have a different personality type. I don't remember exactly what I was...

My real problem with any of these, personally, is that I actually look for recommendations as to what I should do/be. They tell me I can do anything - the results tend to be too broad to be helpful.

I do think it would be fun to try to use them to help develop a character, given that you can choose to stray from it for plot purposes. Or whatever.


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Survivor
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I don't think that Optimism/Pessimism, Religiosity/somethingity or Sexual preferance tend to be very interesting personality factors, because all of them tend to be so socially constructed.

Your general philosophy, specific religion, and sexual orientation are all choices in this society, but they aren't in all societies and haven't been in most societies, and people can and do change all of them as a result of conscious choice and simple act of will in every society where they are options.

As is the tendancy to fragment sentences.

Good science fiction tends to be written by analyzers (NT in the MB), and good fiction generally follows the rule of drawing on the life experience of the writer. SPs and SJs (promoters and controllers) are generally enemies, from childhood on, of NTs, the SPs for their refusal to comply with any dictates of logic except by chance, the SJs for their refusal to adapt to it.

It isn't actually an issue of marketability per se...in fact, since NT's are always a small minority (even among most SF fans). It is about the science in science fiction, most authors of other types will simply not write very good science fiction (partly because NT are far better at science generally, but also because only NTs really care that the science in fiction be real, most other types will write thinly veiled fantasy).

For instance, Ender is an NF, and Bean is an NF thinly disguised as an NT (okay, thickly disguised). But that doesn't ruin it as science fiction, because Card isn't trying to write science fiction (which he freely admits).

Anyway, the Meyers-Briggs personality typing system is specifically designed to look at the different ways people tend to evaluate information and make decisions, not the actual infomation gathering capabilities or particular decisions. Present two different people with exactly the same information and they will make different decisions as often as not, present the same person with two different sets of information and the same thing happens.

Personality isn't a matter of aptitudes, after all.


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Nexus Capacitor
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[QUOTE]Your general philosophy, specific religion, and sexual orientation are all choices in this society, but they aren't in all societies and haven't been in most societies, and people can and do change all of them as a result of conscious choice and simple act of will in every society where they are options.[\QUOTE]

Wow! This is a wildly optimistic view of people in our society. If this is true, I'd like to be the first to congratulate us on our moral superiority.

Unfortunately, I don't think we're there quite yet. I'm not sure if we ever can be. Just because we live in a free society and don't get imprisoned or killed if we express our beliefs, doesn't mean we've grown beyond environmental pressure and genetics.

Most people have a genetic disposition for sexual preference and don't have much choice in the matter. The COULD choose to do an act that goes against that disposition, but the disposition doesn't go away because of the act.

Most people's religion is chosen by their parents (and their parent's parents.) Even if you later reject the religious upbringing (or lack of it,) it's forever a part of you. Your world will always be colored by your experiences.

Most of us find ourselves keeping secrets from family and friends because we fear how we will be judged. If that isn't a part of personality, I don't know what is.


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Kolona
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quote:
Most people have a genetic disposition for sexual preference and don't have much choice in the matter. The COULD choose to do an act that goes against that disposition, but the disposition doesn't go away because of the act.

There's no such demonstrable science. People could choose to do an act that goes against their natural male or female disposition, but it's that disposition that doesn't go away because of the chosen act.

quote:
Most people's religion is chosen by their parents (and their parent's parents.) Even if you later reject the religious upbringing (or lack of it,) it's forever a part of you.

That sounds too similar to an arranged marriage where the children have no say in the matter. It would be more accurate to say that most people choose the religion of their parents by unthinking default. Even if they later reject their religious upbringing (or lack of it) and it is forever part of their past, human beings are volitional and not slaves to their pasts.

quote:
Your world will always be colored by your experiences.

And some of us are carrying burdens we were never meant to carry. All the more reason to have a heart for our fellow human beings and to be prudent in our own lives, to have a cautionary foresight of the consequences of our actions and allowances.

I don't mean that to sound high-falutin'. For instance, depicting a baby's naked behind in the media was once a no-no. Today, in our cosmopolitan sophistication, we laugh at that kind of Puritanism. But maybe the people then understood what we no longer do -- that we sometimes have to protect ourselves from ourselves.

quote:
Most of us find ourselves keeping secrets from family and friends because we fear how we will be judged. If that isn't a part of personality, I don't know what is.

Keeping secrets may be a very human action, but not necessarily part of a personality if you mean some personalities are more prone to secret-keeping. Although not always, and admittedly that's the scary part, sometimes what we anticipate as the reaction of family and friends is not the reality.


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Survivor
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Actually, the current science on genetic predispositions towards sexual preference is nearly ironclad.

Better than 90% of men have a genetic compulsion to sleep with as many women as possible by whatever means necessary, and to aggressively compete with physical displays to deter others. 90% of women have a genetic compulsion to trick one or more men into supporting them while descreetly commiting adultery behind the man's back.

The fact that a significant number of men choose to be monogamous and a significant number of women choose to be faithful doesn't change the fact that most men and women, regardless of the sexual behavior they adopt, have a genetic predisposition to behave in a certain way.

I suppose that it is true that your religious background is always with you...unless you get amnesia. But the same is true of the winters (or summers, or anything else) where you grew up, or the first time you went to an art museum, or the first time you counted to 11. If we make every memory an aspect of personality, then we have no meaningful system, and under the argument Nexus gives there is no reason that memories of a childhood religious observance would be more important than any other memories. And millions of Americans have changed religions during their lifetimes.

Nexus obviously has a bit of a sensitive spot there, so if no one else has anything pertinent to say about sexual orientation or religious affiliation, I vote it out of this topic as having nothing to do with personality, which is the point I was originally making. Your personality type isn't something you choose, nor is it something that you learn from society (whereas religion and sexual orientation always are always either one or the other).


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Nexus Capacitor
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quote:
There's no such demonstrable science.

Okay. You caught me. I don't have any actual proof homosexuality is a result of genetics. However, I believe it is. It seems common sense to me.

Why would anyone choose to form a lasting sexual relationship with a member of the same sex if their bodies were yearning for someone of the opposite sex? Why face the disapproval of every major religion, most of society and their families? Why join an oppressed minority when you actually just want to follow your natural urges?

The obvious answer is you wouldn't. Unless you have a mental illness. And I can't believe all homosexuals are suffering from masochistic dementia.

I have some friends that are gay and I've asked them about their lives and feelings. What they've all told me is that they simply aren't physically attracted to the opposite sex. The internal battles they fought weren't whether or not to be gay. There was no choice, they simply were gay. The tough choice to make was whether or not to tell anyone.

As for the rest of your points, Kolona, I agree. You aren't a slave to your past, but your past is always a part of you. How you deal with the experiences you've had and how you carry those unjust burdens through life help create your personality.

As for the secrets, I'm not saying some are more secret-prone. We all keep secrets. It's the types of secrets and the reasons for them that's interesting. And you're right, the fear of judgement is usually far worse than the actuality.


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pickled shuttlecock
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quote:
I don't have any actual proof homosexuality is a result of genetics. However, I believe it is. It seems common sense to me.

Common sense says that homosexuality is not the sort of genetic trait that is positively selected over time. In terms of reproduction, it hasn't an iota of advantage in a species over heterosexuality. It has plenty of disadvantages: impossibility of reproduction and increased exposure to STDs are probably the main ones.

Now, traits that cause a person to lean that direction may have reason to be positively selected, sure. That may account for genetically-based homosexual leanings.

Simple attraction is actually very, very complex. Chinese men go in a tizzy over naked feet - especially tiny, deformed ones. That idea disgusts me, frankly. There is definitely emotional training involved.

quote:
The obvious answer is you wouldn't. Unless you have a mental illness. And I can't believe all homosexuals are suffering from masochistic dementia.

I chose to be a nerd, with its attendant persecutions. I didn't have to be, but I could never get myself to believe in the social structure that might elevate me to loftier stations. That could have been different, had I decided that being popular was important. Computers and calculus won out, though. Was that masochistic dementia or personal choice?

Survivor:

quote:
...so if no one else has anything pertinent to say about sexual orientation or religious affiliation, I vote it out of this topic as having nothing to do with personality, which is the point I was originally making.

I have something pertinent.

In a recent short story of mine, the main character had to have a religious background. I believe people who were brought up with an idea of absolute rights and wrongs are more prone to feel guilt for things they do wrong, because they are less able to truthfully rationalize their actions to themselves. Their morality can't shift without violating who they are. Guilt was a central theme of the story, and it was the driving force behind the resolution.

In short, religious background -> propensity to feel guilt. I'd say that's a character trait.

Maybe we need to draw a line between personality traits and causes of personality traits? I don't think you can truthfully say that major background details like religion don't influence a person's personality. You can say that the religion itself isn't part of the personality.

Or do you believe that you have a personality you're born with, and nothing can change it?

[This message has been edited by pickled shuttlecock (edited September 11, 2003).]


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Christine
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quote:
Okay. You caught me. I don't have any actual proof homosexuality is a result of genetics. However, I believe it is. It seems common sense to me.

Actually, as I understand it a preponderance of the evidence currently shows that homosexuality is neither genetic, nor is it a choice. In fact, environmental factors occuring during a woman's pregnancy may be the cause of homosexuality. This makes far more sense than either of the two ways mentioned before, because as a genetic trait it would die out and as a choice it seems just silly.

As to irrelevant subjects when it comes to a discussion of personality traits...honestly I'm not sure there's any such thing. This is the type of discussion that evolves into what it will because so much is either caused by or causes personality.


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Nexus Capacitor
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quote:
Nexus obviously has a bit of a sensitive spot there

I'm not sure I follow, Survivor. I just didn't agree with your original statement and I tend to be sarcastic. (Probably environmental, not genetic )

If I've gone off-topic, I apologize. I didn't think a discussion of what causes personality traits would be out of bounds.

quote:
If we make every memory an aspect of personality, then we have no meaningful system, and under the argument Nexus gives there is no reason that memories of a childhood religious observance would be more important than any other memories.

You're assuming that one experience isn't more meaningful than another. I think the different experiences that shape our personalities are important to different degrees. But, that is an individual reaction and not easily quantified.

I think personalities ARE too complicated to quantify in a neat system. And to me, as a writer, that's an exciting concept.


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Survivor
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This nonsense about religious background being some kind of magical...uberflence on character really needs to stop right here.

First off, let's go with Card for a moment and say that everyone has a "religious" background, in the original sense of the word religious. All persons have values that they regard as preeminent over all other considerations, since otherwise we could not be persons under the normal understanding of the word. Our actions, motivated by an attempt to tie our lives to those values, whatever they may be, are "religious" in the sense that they are an expression of the underlying worship of certain objectives.

If you understood that, then you understand.

The tendancy to feel guilt in particular is one that persons raised without a traditionally recognized religion share in full with those that are steeped in religious tradition. Being steeped in a traditional religion simply means that you've been told ahead of the fact that you probably will and should feel guilt over doing something bad, but all humans have the inborn ability to know when their actions cause harm. And it is a human tendancy to feel guilt (as well as to avoid feeling it).

Saying that you need a "religious background" in order to feel guilt is like saying you need medical training in order to feel pain. Serious religious traditions can usually help predict which actions will lead to guilt, and a serious moralist will probably be able to tell a good deal about exactly what they did wrong by examining feelings of guilt, but in neither case does the training cause the guilt.

Feelings of guilt, after all, are one of those things that we share with all social primates (and probably most social mammals). It doesn't come from a "religious upbringing".

Also, we are surrounded by many role models--shifting subjects slightly here--from which to learn our system of core values. Many nominally theologically centered religious traditions are rife with individuals that put their personal prestige, power, and even sexual satisfaction above all other considerations (don't single any one religion out here, there are a lot of others guilty of this). If your Bottavist parents maintained all the outward practices but pursued unbridled conquest in every way not specifically forbidden (and in several ways specifically prohibited, but only when they were unlikely to be caught), then in what way would you have a Bottavist upbringing? Not to put too fine a point on it, but I learned nothing of the practical application of my own religion from my father, and very little from any other humans (still, better than nothing). In a very real sense, I simply was not raised in my religion.

My most meaningful experiences growing up were of rage, pain, injustice, and stupidity...same as for any intelligent and sensitive child

If we are going to persist in discussing homosexuality, I will point out that while it is sterile and unproductive for men to be homosexual, and significantly impairs their reproductive success, the same is simply not true for women. Male homosexuality is almost unknown among the other primates, but female homosexuality is actually fairly common, and a careful analysis shows that, far from impairing fertility, it is actually quite helpful, particularly in the contexts of the typical mammalian mating patterns.

I think that it is all nonsense. Everyone is biologically predisposed to engage in sexual activity that violates the norms of the community. Has anyone considered that the tendancy of males to kill unrelated children of their new mates is a nearly universal behavior in mammal species? Yet we universally condemn this instinctive behavior when we find it in humans...well, there are some societies where this isn't condemned...and we are becoming one of them, so I guess I shouldn't really say universally. The point being that this is a fundamentally sexual behavior, instinctive to humans, which all of us condemn (or so I hope).

In some communities, it was excessive heterosexual attachment that was regarded as suspect. In some communities (mostly--but not all--now extinct) sexual expression of any sort is forbidden. Most communities establish mores forbidding parents to succor their children past a certain age. The list goes on and on.

Belonging to a community that condemns you for at least some of your sexual desires is universal to the experience of all humans raised in a social context. It is like having whether or not the person taking the personality test is taking the personality test as a question. The answer will be yes for every instance where the individual tested is not a pathological liar. And as indicated by the name of the condition, pathological lying is not a personality trait, 'tis a pathology.

The whole point of personality is that it isn't caused by external factors. Personality isn't the whole of character, and shouldn't take that burden. Personality in the limited sense we are discussing here is all about the underlying elements of self (as opposed to "everything else").


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pickled shuttlecock
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quote:
The whole point of personality is that it isn't caused by external factors. Personality isn't the whole of character, and shouldn't take that burden. Personality in the limited sense we are discussing here is all about the underlying elements of self (as opposed to "everything else").

Thanks for finally clearing that up. It took you long enough.


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Christine
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quote:
The whole point of personality is that it isn't caused by external factors. Personality isn't the whole of character, and shouldn't take that burden. Personality in the limited sense we are discussing here is all about the underlying elements of self (as opposed to "everything else").

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like what you are saying is that we are born with a certain self, some core of traits that can define us.

Personality is often defined as being relatively stable and unchanging, but I've never heard it described as *totally* stable. I've also never heard anyone suggest that environmental factors, particularly those occuring in early childhood, do not affect personality.

Some psychologists believe that babies are born with a certain temperment, and this will influence their later personalities, but they have to be formed somewhere and by something.

As to elements of underlying self, some people don't even believe there is one. I disagree, actually, I think there is a self, but I do admit the difficulty, near impossibility, of determining anything about that underlying self. People can't even define what this self is, let alone figure out how to learn about it. Certainly, modern personality inventories don't come close, and I don't believe it is their aim to try. It is their aim to come up with labels for a person, characteristics that will remain somewhat stable over time so we can begin to understand them.


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Nexus Capacitor
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Here's Survivor's definition of "personality"

quote:
The whole point of personality is that it isn't caused by external factors. Personality isn't the whole of character, and shouldn't take that burden. Personality in the limited sense we are discussing here is all about the underlying elements of self (as opposed to "everything else").


Here's how Mirriam-Webster Online defines "personality"

quote:
3 : the complex of characteristics that distinguishes an individual or a nation or group; especially : the totality of an individual's behavioral and emotional characteristics

So, it looks like we're arguing because we've defined our terms differently.

No offense mean't, Survivor, but I'm going with Webster on this one.


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punahougirl84
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Hey Jules, pretty cool to open a can of worms, eh?

I think, when we are building characters, there are certain "types" of personalities in the supremely broad sense - good vs. bad, etc. Who is the hero of the story, how do they act to achieve their goal, and do their actions lead to success or failure? Their character can lead them to do one thing, but circumstances may cause them to do something contrary to character. MB gives you some ideas to flesh out a character - if someone has a tendancy to be "A" then they might also be like "B." I think that could be very useful to a writer who is looking for ideas, but society will forgive you if your ENFJ character is not strict to the stereotype - it would be unlikely that we could fit 5 billion people into 16 categories! MB could be a tool, a starting place, an idea generator from which you can grow a character. Should you use it as gospel? I think the posts are saying NO! Can you use it to help create characters that seem real - have some consistency between characteristics and actions? Something to make them recognizable people to readers? Yes!

Obviously, it is up to us how we create characters, and we can mix and match to our hearts desire - as has been oft quoted, knowing the rules gives you the ability to break them if you are willing to pay a price. If you build a character, setting up reader expectations, then have your character do something totally uncharacteristic (!) or not fulfill expectations, your reader may feel disappointed.

I had great expectations for Stephen R. Donaldson's "White Gold Wielder" - I read the whole 6 books in the series, and ended very mad at him - my expectations were not fulfilled. However, ironically, it may be because Thomas Covenant stayed true to who he was, when I kept expecting him to "figure it out" and change! So you can't win - maybe he was true to his character, and that made ME mad! (Donaldson's duet of "Mirror of Her Dreams" and "A Man Rides Through" set up very similar expectations, but the MC does get it - I thoroughly enjoyed those two books).

A last note - I took the MB about 10 years ago. Since then, I have become a homeowner, finished another college degree, changed jobs from exec admin assistant (did that to pay for college) to teacher, then left that to stay at home with newborn twins, made new friends, had new experiences, read new books, lived through world events... then because of your post, I retook the MB. Guess what? I got the same result that I had 10 years ago. Really makes you think


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pooka
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Sorry I brought up sexual preference. I meant in the "yes or no" sense

The AP English Exam in 1988 was to discuss a work demostrating character change. What's really tragic is my English teacher knew this would be the question, so my view of literature is rather skewed toward character stories (in the M I C E story type milieau). Even more tragic, I didn't read the book he was grooming us to use, "The Sound and the Fury". What makes me even angrier is he told us, going in, that this was a very advanced book and he couldn't really expect us all to be able to read it. Since I was going through rather a lot at that time, I took his license and didn't read it. But my point is, is personality any part of what can be changed in the course of a character centered novel? My personality appears to have changed from an NF to an NT, but I think that may be because I had a mistaken idea of what my personality "should" be as a younger person.

Second, someone mentioned arranged marriages and it reminds me of factors affecting mate selection. Do opposites really attract? I have a theory that anti-Oedipal taboo causes people to be attracted to the opposite of their same-sexed parent. That is, if you are a man you look for someone unlike your mother. If you are a woman you look for someone unlike your father. But if that happens to align with your own personality, you may have difficulty finding a mate. Because opposites attract. Example using U Minn Behavioral Matrix: Father is Controller, daughter is supporter. Not wanting someone like father, she looks for a supporter. But in shopping for supporters she and her potential mates sense the lack of strength that their unions would have, with no one willing to take control. Of if the situation yields a controller trying to find a controller, you are going to have two people struggling for control all the time. Two analyzers will never be able to make a decision. Two promoters will get along fine for about six weeks until they run through the newness of the relationship.


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Christine
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You don't ask simple questions, do you pooka?

I don't believe opposites attract, but I do believe complimentary personalities attract. Let me explain. Moral values have to be equivalent. (Not nit picky things, but basic overarching principles.) Marriages constantly break up because of differing financial principles. On the other hand, an engineer and an artist might compliment each other nicely, each bringing their own special skills into the relationship. Only one person need be very good at budgeting, as long as both are generally in agreement about what is a necessary and what is not a necessary expense. And a thinker and a feeler can certainly do well together.

On the other hand, personality dimension are not black and white. If two people who are both supporters get together, one will be more of a supporter than the other, even if both are more supportive than average in the human race. One will end up, of necessity, taking it upon themselves to control when needed. It could end up being a good relationship.

And people do typically end up marrying someone very similiar to their opposite sexed parent. This can be sad when abused little girls end up getting abusive husbands, but it happens all the time. It doesn't have to be sad, of course.

If you ever find the best answer to relationships you will be very rich.


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pooka
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I've also been reading about a moral character matrix, in which change is certainly hoped for. It is reminiscent of Bean's Think, Choose, Act system. It is studiedly not rule based, and I believe it is the work of A. Lynn Scoresby. At least I didn't sense him presistently referencing someone else.

__________Re: Self__________Re: Others
Reasoning: Autonomy________Empathy

Judgement: Stability _________Conversability

Conduct: Proactive __________Acceptance

The outcome should be that people are able to make the decision that will most help the people affected by it.

In my research I've been reading about the Mountain Meadows Massacre (Sept 11, 1857). Colonel Dame was the head of the militia, but his second in command, Lt. Col. Haight, was his head in the religious organization. Both thought the other would take ultimate responsibility for the outcome. In terms of personality, it seems the Lt. Col. was the more forceful individual. It was a case where obedience may not have resulted in actions of optimal morality.

Basically, the Native Americans (apparently Paiutes) had been engaged as allies in the impending Mormon War. Not distinguishing between troops and civilians, they laid siege to a company of emigrants heading for California. Initially, the local Mormon leadership had been approving of this, but the Paiutes began to experience Vietnam syndrome when they actually lost several men and a chief was wounded.

The Paiutes threatened their government agent, John D. Lee, who was also a Major under Col. Dame, that if he didn't produce a total and effortless defeat of the California immigrants, they would break their alliance with the Mormons. Dame's official orders tell Lee to preserve the alliance at any cost. Lee drew out the emigrants with a truce and about 100 were then killed, excepting 17 or 18 children. Who devised this stratagem, and what role approximately 50 Deseret Militia men played, is a mystery.

But they went to great pains to prevent it from happening to the next three wagon trains. The impact of a war with the Paiutes in the middle of a war with the U.S. might have been drastic. Except that the U.S. Army was effectively stopped by an early winter.

It seems the enmeshment of church and state was also a not altogether good thing.


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Kolona
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quote:
so if no one else has anything pertinent to say about sexual orientation or religious affiliation, I vote it out of this topic as having nothing to do with personality

Interesting. Usually it’s religion and politics that are banned from discussions.

quote:
Why would anyone choose to form a lasting sexual relationship with a member of the same sex if their bodies were yearning for someone of the opposite sex? Why face the disapproval of every major religion, most of society and their families? Why join an oppressed minority when you actually just want to follow your natural urges? The obvious answer is you wouldn't.

Because, as Pickled Shuttlecock said, “Simple attraction is…very complex.” The “obvious answer” is not necessarily so. I just heard Dr. Phil say that the same-sex parent is a person’s most important role model, and psychologists in the field say that for the especially sensitive child -- sensitivity being the factor of personality here -- an absent, abusive, or emotionally distant same-sex parent can have devastating effects. Same-sex attraction is not so much sexual in nature as an emotional attempt to fill the void left by the same-sex parent. I dare say that with the growing number of single parent households, we’re seeing and will continue to see an increase in homosexuality. The old comic book Paradise Island with its Amazons and absence of men may have been a bigger stretch than anyone realized.

Homosexuality is not a great big “I think I’ll be a homosexual” kind of choice. In fact, the word itself is more accurate as an adjective rather than a noun. Although same-sex attraction can be triggered by abuse or rape, particularly if the rape is same-sex rape, often broken home/same-sex parent relationship situations lead people to make myriad small choices that culminate in a lifestyle they would never have chosen had they seen it coming. (Isn’t that often the same road to prostitution?) Of course, just as with anything dealing with people, not everyone experiencing similar backgrounds of predisposing factors will make the choices that lead to same-sex attraction. Again, individual personality, particularly sensitivity, plays a role.

I notice the word “lasting” in Nexus’ quote, but studies repeatedly verify the fleeting nature of homosexual relationships, that even in the lengthier ones – five years being cited as lengthy, as I recall -- promiscuity is the generally accepted practice. I’ll go out on a limb and guess that same-sex attraction doesn’t fulfill the need it masks, consequently the continuous struggle to accomplish that. Also the phrase “natural urges” is questionable, unless it means a natural urge to try to fill the unmet homo-emotional need, which is a person’s basic drive to bond with their same-sex parent.

One thing I’ve learned -- there’s a lot of pain in the homosexual community. So, unless you’re writing a sitcom where sexuality is a whitewashed playground and the participants are gay bon vivants (excuse the pun), Nexus’ question about why anyone would choose to go so against the grain should give pause, comments in the thread, “Marketability of a Homosexual Protagonist in a fantasy novel…” notwithstanding.


[This message has been edited by Kolona (edited September 13, 2003).]


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revmachine21
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I took the MB in college & rated an ENTJ. My E was something like 45 out of 60 (?). Extremely extroverted.

After going through some personal hardships involving other people, I took the test a few years ago again & rated INTJ with a mild introversion. My pysche had fundamentally changed due to the incidents. After reading this, I tested again, my introversion has only slighty increased over time.

The point: Personality is not a fixed thing. Some people ride through life and whatever comes their way, they could take this test again and again with the same result. Others do not.

Wouldn't this post be a lot more interesting for the reader if I explain what had happened to make my personality change?

[This message has been edited by revmachine21 (edited September 13, 2003).]


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Survivor
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I should note here that a personality test can only be useful insofar as it measures personality as I have defined it, rather than how Webster's defines it. We aren't talking about a general concept of personality here, or we weren't (I have no idea what we're talking about now), just as the term is used in the context of "personality testing".

Pooka, I think we all need some definition of the terms in your moral character matrix. Also, perhaps some of the criteria used to determine which a person follows, and maybe what exactly that has to do with the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

And of course, the concept of a moral character matrix brings an interesting element into the personality typing question. Can "goodness" vs. "evilness" be part of a personality test?

For instance, I happen to have a fairly high tolerance for human death and suffering. Is that a personality trait, so that a character who regarded death and suffering as intrinsically wrong simply couldn't be the same personality type as myself? Or going back to our old wellspring of religion and sexuality...would an active homosexual necessarily have a different personality type from a person that considered homosexuality morally untenable? Assuming, for the sake of argument, that we aren't talking about the same person--or perhaps assuming that we are. Do two people with different religious backgrounds necessarily have different personality types? Of course, this is merely showing that at a certain number of factors, we are not talking about a coherent system of types, but a basically unique profile for each and every individual, which is very well and good but it also makes the entire typing exercise pointless.

Can a personality typing system work if it casts some personalities (say, white Baptists) as basically evil and others (lesbian gameshow hostesses) as being fundamentally good? Does such a system necessarily become simply a means of demeaning and marginalizing certain groups, or am I being overly sensitive on that issue?


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Christine
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I'm not entirely certain how this topic moved to a moral discussion either. Religiouis preference and homosexuality will ultimately not change a person's personality later in life; however, when a child is very young and his or her personality is still forming these moral influences can effect their personalities.

I went ahead and dug up one of my old Psychology textbooks for a definition of personality. Meridian Webster's will not encompass the definition as Psychologists are trying to measure it:

quote:
An individual's unique pattern of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that persist over time and across situations.

It goes on to say that this definition comes in two parts, the first indicating that personality is something that makes a person different from everyone else and the second indicating that this change is relatively stable.

Anyway, I don't believe that there are any tests out there that measure personality the way this definition defines it. I don't believe whoever came up with it knew exactly what he was looking for, it's very mystic and one of those things that kind of takes the science away from Psychology.

Current personality inventories do the best they can, and they each have their own reliability and validity. It seems to me that the things they measure are quite changeable across time and certainly across situations. The "Big 5" that is so popular today uses the following five dimension: Openness to experience, Contienscioussness (sp?), Extroversion, Agreeablesness, and Neuroticism.

In my opinion, all of these trait theories (which is what all the ones we have mentioned on this thread are) have a serious flaw. Traits are not necessarily constant.

The whole study of an underlying, unchangable personality seems almost like wishful thinking to me. It seems that ever since we evolved humans have been trying to categorize things ot make life simpler. Also, we hate unpredictability. When someone does something out of the ordinary it franly makes us nervous. I think personality is one of those attempts to try to manufacture consistency in people because we believe their should be some, not because there necessarily is. If there is a self, I think the self changes in subtle ways all throughout the life span. But that's just my own two cents worth.

[This message has been edited by Christine (edited September 14, 2003).]


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Survivor
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The stated goal of some personality tests is predictive. I don't have much confidence in that sort of testing because...frankly, it is subject to abuses.

The MB and consequent tests attempt to be more value neutral, and that means giving up on most of the prediction. What the MB and related offerings concentrate on is validation of the concept that there are real differences in the ways that different people approach situations, and that these differences are personal, that they are part of who a person is.

I approve of their aim, which is to mitigate interpersonal conflict stemming from those differences, but more importantly, I find the model consistent and credible. For some people, the fact that the primary aim of the MB family of personality tests is to validate people with different methods of knowing, deciding, and feeling from themselves is ample incentive to resist the idea that these test can provide any useful information.

It has been my experience that whenever someone resorts to the "people are people" argument, what this means is that I am just being deliberately willful, lazy, stubborn, or evil (or, on occasion, someone other than myself is so labeled). I will usually admit to the evil but most people don't seem ready to understand that from my perspective, they are simply...stupid.

People are different, and more different than can be accounted for merely by experience, genetics, and upbringing. Different enough that even a very simple test can reveal significant underlying divergences in the patterns of thought, feeling, decision, and action.


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