Saturday, 1 November 2014


Michael Sadgrove Extraverts and Introverts: a plea for understanding

David Keen Vicars - A Great Resource Squandered?

Brother Ivo Defending Lord Hope -different times, different understandings

Kelvin Holdsworth Beware of the Celibate

Giles Fraser The Guardian Superstition can’t be exorcised just by simply turning off the God switch

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 1 November 2014 at 11:00am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion

Michael Sadgrove refers the Myers-Briggs test in his article. The test is considered gospel in some pastoral care circles. One hears folks in church circles saying things like "I'm a 'j' ". One wonders how many folks have been self-stereotyped by this hokey test.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Saturday, 1 November 2014 at 2:36pm GMT

I'd rather be "self-stereotyped" than other-stereotyped ("finds meaning in the 'hokey'").

Posted by: JCF on Sunday, 2 November 2014 at 7:15am GMT

Re JFC, Sure parlor games can be fun; but the problem with self-stereotyping is that it can hinder the maturation of native ability and the acquisition of new skills. A person may come to believe they can't develop in a certain direction because it runs counter to self perception. Myers-Briggs has been used for decades as a requirement for entry into Clinical Pastoral Education. Once in, the training may reinforce Myers-Briggs outcomes i.e. add to the hokum.

Saying " I'm a 'J' ", for example, is much like saying "I'm a Capricorn". The validity of the test is widely contested. Literature abounds on the subject. Snake oil y'all?

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Sunday, 2 November 2014 at 12:59pm GMT

Well Rod, the M-B has been used for a long time. I usually hear that it runs along a spectrum and that you can change over time, as one grows. I guess that if someone was using it as a totally fixed entity, it might be stereotyping and boxing people in, but if it's a snapshot of where one is at a particular time, it sounds useful to me.

I thought the Enneagram was hokum, but I'm starting to have a real appreciation for it. But there aren't just the 9 types. There are a lot of nuances and built into it is growth and disintegration, along with reasonable thoughts on what promotes growth and reasonable red flags for when one might be in trouble.

It may be that either of these are filters that helps one have a look at oneself from various perspectives. It's like saying I'm going to examine this piece of music for it's larger form, now it's harmonies, now it's rhythms, etc. Everyone knows that it's the whole that one hears and none of those things are completely separable, but looking at it from different perspectives yields a lot of useful information.

Anything can be misused. Schenker, anyone?

Posted by: Cynthia on Sunday, 2 November 2014 at 3:01pm GMT

@ Cynthia, I realize the MB has been around a long time, but longevity makes iconoclasm even more fun. We all have things that appeal to one's sense of uniqueness or vanity. ( :

My dear departed granny used to light novena candles to St. Anthony and read people's "fortunes" with a deck of 52. I find it interesting that this test enjoys so much, almost superstitious like, currency in religious circles. Like fortune telling and a personal bond with a saint, it tends to mythologize rather than analyze personality.

Here's a link to a critical and somewhat humorous view of Myers-Briggs. It comes from that high brow journal of erudition, Huffington Post.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Sunday, 2 November 2014 at 5:57pm GMT

The Meyers Briggs is a junk psychological test. It wasn't created through the accepted methods of item selection and norming that lies behind a reputable psychological exam. The gold standard is the MMPI-II but there are others. In the US the administration and interpretation of psychological tests is mostly restricted to doctoral-level clinical psychologists. Because of ethical codes requiring that only well established tests be used by clinical psychologists, you would have a hard time finding a psychologist here who uses the MBTI. There are masters level counselors who use it because the publishers will sell it to almost anyone. Management consultants love it, too, because people easily believe it. But it is a junk test with meaningless results that only seem true because of what is known as the "Foer Effect." (Look it up: it applies to horoscopes, too.) I would hope that churches would stop using it. It is worse than junk. (Full disclosure: I'm licensed as a clinical psychologist in two states in the US.)

Posted by: Dennis on Tuesday, 4 November 2014 at 3:23am GMT

"A person may come to believe they can't develop in a certain direction because it runs counter to self perception."

As Cynthia says, *anything* can be misused. And one could only derive the above ^ if one were misusing MBTI. But please, enlighten us to a pluriform description of personality that's better (serious invitation).

"Saying " I'm a 'J' ", for example, is much like saying "I'm a Capricorn"."

To be perfectly frank, I'm both (though I would NEVER put it that way!). But then again, there's a lot of "both" in Myers-Briggs. It's not direction-limiting fortune-telling, it's a TOOL. Only as helpful as the one using it, w/ *benevolent* intent---which, apparently, you've never experienced, Rod. Feel free to use other tools (and share!), but I'm not warming to your dismissal of my experience of its helpfulness.

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 4 November 2014 at 6:32am GMT

"Well Rod, the M-B has been used for a long time."

So have tarot cards and horoscopes. If anything, they are more effective, as if done face-to-face both are (at root) cold reading.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Tuesday, 4 November 2014 at 10:51am GMT

For those googling Dennis's references, it's the Forer effect, not the Foer effect.

There was a more impressive demonstration done in the 1970s of the same effect, by a French group working on horoscopes. They offered to send people a very detailed horoscope, based on the most precise knowledge of the time and place of their birth, in exchange for people filling in a questionnaire about its accuracy (indeed, their "experience of its helpfulness."). What they actually sent out was the same horoscope to each person, and just for fun, the horoscope was taken from the time and place of birth of one of France's most notorious war criminals.
94% said how satisfied they were with its content.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Tuesday, 4 November 2014 at 12:17pm GMT

@ Dennis "I would hope that churches would stop using it [Meyers-Briggs]". Me too. However this is church land where evidence based decision making is a hard sell. And any kind of inter-disciplinary consultation? Forget about it.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Tuesday, 4 November 2014 at 12:27pm GMT

The MBTI doesn't have many friends here. Once you've used the instrument a few times you can easily learn to bend it wherever you will. That, however, doesn't mean it's not useful. If you're using it for the first time it is enlightening. If you're a pro at manipulating it, it's still useful because you know what you want it to say and what it would say if you'd simply answered according to 'natural' type. As a 'consultant' who has used it in the past I find even if the whole group are 'pros' they still take it and can use it as a basis for discussion even if they manipulated it--it is a useful tool, nothing more, nothing less. On the other hand the people administering the tool can be really dangerous. No one should suggest the MBTI is an answer to anything. It only describes 'tendencies' and, in my opinion, is only good for raising questions.

Posted by: Andrew F. Pierce on Tuesday, 4 November 2014 at 1:44pm GMT

Yes, sorry, I typed my comment on my phone screen and missed my mistake. It is the "Forer" effect and not the "Foer" effect.

Posted by: Dennis on Tuesday, 4 November 2014 at 9:45pm GMT

MBTI should not be used as a tool for manipulation. Used as an 'Indicator' of personality traits, which was its intention, can be very enlightening. My wife found out why I tend to do the washing up right away, while she leaves it until there is a pile!

Seriously; it can alert its advocates to definite behavioral trends. For that reason alone, it can be extremely helpful.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 5 November 2014 at 5:21am GMT

Nothing is true.

Everything is true.

I'm right.

No, you're wrong.

No wonder the Kingdom hangs around, waiting.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Wednesday, 5 November 2014 at 7:53am GMT

Wasn't it Fr Kenneth Leech who called the MBTI 'horoscopes for the middle classes'? Much as I admire Fr Kenneth I have found the MBTI incredibly useful, particularly the Jungian concepts of the shadow and the second half of life. Indeed it presupposes that one will develop one's shadow potential and functions as life goes on. It has proved an invaluable tool for understanding and appreciating different personalities in team settings I have worked in and the application to spirituality - that different personality types will have different needs and should follow different spiritual paths, or try out paths that are anti-type - has also been helpful personally and in guiding others. Yup, I've really bought into it!

Posted by: Christina Beardsley on Wednesday, 5 November 2014 at 1:56pm GMT

I've always found MBTI to be every bit as useful as astrology in understanding people. But then, being both an INTJ and a Leo, I can't help being really skeptical.

"The antiquity and general acceptance of an opinion is not assurance of its truth" (Pierre Bayle, 1647-1706)

Posted by: Steve Lusk on Thursday, 6 November 2014 at 12:55am GMT

Re Mark Brunson, Not sure if I understand your somewhat enigmatic post correctly, but I would argue that sifting opinions ( this is a thread about opinion) together with evidence in support of the same actually advances the "kingdom". The kingdom of God, taken from biblical mythology, is simply a metaphor for community and community making.

Community is built up by a critical reflection on what may be true, edifying, constructive, real and so forth. The MB "test" together with Jungian concepts like those mentioned by Christina Beardsley enjoy a lot of currency in pastoral education and spiritual direction circles. As such it is important to critique them. The validity of the MB test is questioned by professional practitioners. Jungian notions can be seen as a quasi-religious constructs. Taken as whole there is I think a large element of suggestion and placebo effect in the whole Jungian schtick. Thus questions about their usefulness and appropriateness by various theological disciplines is a legitimate area of concern.

Debunking trends, no matter how sincerely believed on a subjective basis, can actually build up community, and make it more authentic and healthy.

Does god speak to us in dreams? Or, are dreams the bi-product and residue of brain activity. Seems to me the answer to that question, just for example, is of some consequence, in terms of what one does upon waking up to face the day. Perhaps one should spend less time preoccupied with one's dreams, and pay more attention to the stunted hopes and dreams of the poor and oppressed?

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Thursday, 6 November 2014 at 1:20am GMT

When overhearing this mentioned at a conference in the early 70's I thought it a new version of the four source theory .....

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Friday, 7 November 2014 at 8:30pm GMT
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