Suggested readings, #112

Here it is, a rundown of interesting articles I’ve come across recently, to consider for your weekend readings:

‘Belonging is stronger than facts’: the age of misinformation. Social and psychological forces are combining to make the sharing and believing of misinformation an endemic problem with no easy solution. (New York Times)

Why the Myers-Briggs test is totally meaningless. (Vox)

The identity politics trap. The dangers of exclusion and how to avoid them. Our social identity is important for our sense of self-worth. But the very concept of social identity implies the exclusion of everyone else. In the political realm, that exclusion can quickly turn into oppression, but also resistance and rebellion. (IAI News)

Is it ever right to do the wrong thing? Let’s look at Batman… (Junkee)

How to deconstruct the world. Don’t believe everything you hear, read and watch. To puncture received ideas about culture, start thinking like Jacques Derrida. (Psyche)

Does quantum mechanics favor Buddhist philosophy? No. But Buddhism and quantum mechanics have much to teach each other. (Big Think)

Beyond the Nation-State. Sovereign states have been mythologized as the natural unit of political order. History shows how new they are—and how we can think beyond them. (Boston Review)

How accurate are personality tests? Precious few personality assessments are known to be reliable, and researchers say their use outside academia is debatable. (Scientific American)

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Massimo is the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. He blogs at and He is the author of How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life.

6 thoughts on “Suggested readings, #112”

  1. I think that the NEO-PI test publisher’s publicist must be working overtime these days! As a psychometrician, I would opine that the NEO-PI and other Big Five tests are perhaps a touch better than the MBTI psychometrically, but you would never notice the difference in practice. And while the NEO-PI and other Big Five tests were developed in a more data-driven process, they have a weaker theoretical underpinning (based on the (questionable) lexical hypothesis) compared to the MBTI (based on Jung’s model of personality–although it would be understatement to note that most psychologists are not fans of Jung’s model). To sacrifice theoretical meaning in order to bump your reliability coefficient from .75 to .80 seems a poor trade off. While newer tests do tend to have better psychometric properties, it doesn’t render all older tests obsolete and the MBTI is still much better than other widely used tests such as the MMPI. Even for the Big Five, I prefer Goldberg’s adjective approach–slightly lower psychometric quality, but more meaning.

    Full disclosure; I worked for the editor of the Journal of Psychological Type in grad school. I’m a fan. That probably explains why I’m defending the social sciences today when my usual modus operandi is to attack the hard sciences ;-) I’m also a big fan of Jung.

    The article specifically about the MBTI is full of straw men. Is a 4 type-based personality test fully descriptive of human personality? Shockingly, no. Does the validity demonstrated in correlational studies mean that we can perfectly predict the behavior of every human? Obviously not. But is it totally meaningless? No again.

    Is it a costly approximation to categorize normally distributed personality traits? Surely. Is this a convenient shorthand that is used in all areas of science? Yes. Is it annoying to make your point by posing a stream of rhetorical questions? Undoubtedly. Will I keep doing it? All signs point to yes.

    The author states that he completely changed to the opposite personality type on all four dimensions upon retaking the test; this is possible but would be extremely rare–he must have been quite near the center of the distribution on all four scales…a person without any strong tendencies (or one who responds to every question with the middle response options). I’ve been INTP reliably upon a dozen or so testings in my life, with a few INTJ results thrown in.

    I’d agree that the MBTI is about halfway between astrology and a heart rate monitor (if I remember the author’s analogy). That is a far cry from completely meaningless. By comparison, I’d say that a blood pressure monitor is only about three-quarters of the way from astrology in that analogy (changing significantly as it does from one testing to the next).

    Anyway, buon weekend a tutti!

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  2. I know you state you don’t agree with everything you post links to, but … Derrida? That said, did not know he was actually named Jackie. And, of course, deconstructionism is always subject to someone going “meta” on it.

    Re MBTI and the Jungian background, I cannot recommend enough Noll’s critical bio of Jung, “The Aryan Christ.” And yes, Jung was somewhat seeing himself that way by the late 1930s, and with all that meant in that day and age.

    Like the other piece, that also brings some scrutiny to the Big 5.

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    1. Socratic, well, I found the article on Derrida interesting more for its surprisingly clear explanation of what deconstruction is than for its endorsement of Derrida himself.

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