personality

Povertocracy: How Helpers Sustain the Poverty Industry

This is a guest post by L. P., whose psychological insights are a welcome addition to this blog.

As this is my first post, I’ll preface this discussion by describing how I came to recognize the dark side of helping behavior. Being the bookish person that I am, I didn’t think to look up and take notice of the ideological difference between me and the majority of my peers during the course of study. Upon graduating with an advanced degree it was, at that point, too late for me to go back and choose another field in which I would not be a “black sheep.”

Looking back, I realize that the ideological difference, and the different societal roles that we envisioned for ourselves, arose from our different motives for choosing to study psychology, and from our temperaments as they relate to motives. The left-leaning psychologists I’ve come to know chose psychology because they wanted to help individuals or improve humanity as a whole. I chose psychology because I only wanted to understand people but didn’t have the foggiest idea what I wanted to ultimately do this knowledge, if anything at all.

Temperament was likely at the root of why my peers regard helping behavior with starry-eyed Pollyanna simplicity as well. In contrast, I’d envision how good can come out of doing nothing and how negative consequences result from intervention, thus justifying my unwillingness to get off my duff to lend a hand. Who would’ve thought that laziness can open up your mind in ways do-goodery does not?

I can’t quantify the negative impact that institutionalized assistance has had on people it purports to help. But the prevailing focus on the positive effects of do-goodery ensures that its negative effects are overlooked.

Before addressing the psychological process through which inappropriate help disempowers people, let’s consider what Graham Hancock says about the negative impact of government-sponsored interna­tional development aid as well as the immunity from criticism that helping behavior enjoys:

It would seem, then, that official development assistance is neither necessa­ry nor suffi­cient for ‘development’: the poor thrive without it in some coun­tries; in others, where it is plentifully available, they suffer the most abject mise­ries. Such suffering, furthermore, as I have argued throughout this book, often occurs not in spite of aid but because of it. To continue with the charade seems to me to be absurd. Garnered and justi­fied in the name of the destitute and the vulnerable, aid’s main function in the past half century has been to create and then entrench a powerful new class of rich and privileged people. In that notorious club of parasites and hangers-on made up of the United Nations, the World Bank and the bilateral agencies, it is aid – and nothing else – that has provided hundreds of thou­sands of ‘jobs for the boys’ and that has permitted record-breaking standards to be set in self-serving behaviour, arrogance, paternalism, moral cowardice and mendacity. [Lords of Poverty: The Freewheeling Lifestyles, Power, Pres­ti­ge and Corruption of the Multibillion Dollar Aid Business (Lon­don: Mandarin, 1991), pp. 192-193]

The “official aid industry” is realized outside the control of the taxpayer. External control, but internal control as well, is virtually non-existent, according to Hancock, because it is concerned with disaster relief, food relief, medical help, in short: with helping. It is not appropriate in the presence of all that misery to question or criticize the helpers who, in professional and paid positions, go to foreign countries in order to assuage the needs of others. The chari­table impulse at the root of much aid-giving is at its most potent during disasters and emergencies. It is, however, a dou­ble-edged sword. On the one hand it raises lots of money. On the other it stifles questi­ons about the uses to which this mo­ney is put – and makes those who ask such questions look rather chur­lish. Critici­zing humanita­rianism and generosity is like criticizing the institution of mother­hood; it is just not ‘the done thing.’” [Ibid., p. 5]

Further, Godfried Engbersen observes that

poverty generates work, not only for researchers, but also for the professionals participating in those poverty-programs. In the Netherlands, we see a significant growth in the number of employment and education projects, but the effects of this new poverty industry in improving the lot of welfare recipients and long-term unemployed are this far very limited. [“Moderne armoede: feit en fictie,” So­ci­ologi­sche Gids 38:1 (1991), pp. 7-23]

To understand how help can perpetuate conditions it purports to alleviate, the question, “Why do individuals, groups or organizations apply themselves to helping other people, groups or countries?” must be considered in greater depth. Theo N.M. Schuyt mentions a few darker motives: helpers’ own fear and helplessness (e.g, fear of those they are helping), self-interest, and the need for social control. Schuyt discusses these motives at length in “The Magnetism of Power in Helping Relationships. Professional Attitude and Asymmetry,” Social Work and Society International Online Journal Vol. 2, No. 1 (2004).

To fully appreciate how help can hinder people, we must examine the subtle but influential negative assumptions that underlie the act of helping others and the messages received by those who are helped. Research articles by Francesca D’Errico, Giovanna Leone, and Isabella Poggi about teachers who overhelp their students  are informative in this regard. Although they must be purchased to view in their entirety, the previews support my view as to how helping reinforces negative self-evaluations of those in need; go here and  here (click “Look Inside”).

Whether one is giving or receiving help, a judgment about what one party has and the other lacks (e.g., resources, ability, etc.) precedes the interaction. Once this judgment is accepted, both parties’ understanding of the power asymmetry in the helping relationship is established:

We do not only evaluate others, but also ourselves, thus making up our self-image, a set of evaluative (and non-evaluative) beliefs about ourselves… But from self image the degree of autonomy of a person depends: if one has a positive evaluation of his own capacities and efficacy, he will pursue his goals in an autonomous and self-confident way. At school, for example, negative evaluations may have a serious impact on a pupil’s self-image, sense of efficacy, and learning: they tend to dis-able him, to make him less active, and possibly induce him to refrain from action. [Isabella Poggi and Francesca D’Errico, “Social Signals and the action – cognition loop. The case of over-help and evaluation,” Proceedings of IEEE International Conference on Affective Computing and Intelligent Interaction (New York: IEEE, 2009)]

One must wonder how dysfunctional motives, such as the ones listed above, warp helpers’ perception of themselves and the intended recipients of their help. Within the microcosm of the classroom, it is clear that negative self-evaluations on the part of students result when the teacher overhelps. According to Poggi and D’Errico,

Overhelping teachers induce more negative evaluations, more often concerning general capacities, and frequently expressed indirectly. This seems to show that the overhelp offered blocks a child’s striving for autonomy since it generates a negative evaluation, in particular the belief of an inability of the receiver. [Ibid.]

In conclusion, the manner in which overhelp negatively impacts social relationships and cognition has long been regarded as the reason why the poor stay poor. (See Schuyt, op. cit.)  In the effort to convince everyday do-gooders who support this type of aid because of their own dysfunctional emotional states, however, it will be necessary to frame the information in a more palatable way. In this regard, D’Errico et al. offer a few key questions and guidelines for distinguishing between help that promotes empowerment and autonomy from help that encourages dependency.

1. Is the problem to be solved possible manageable by the helped one?
2. May a humiliating intention (vs. a caring one) be inferred from the helping behavior?
3. Do the consequences of the helping behavior increase (vs. decrease) the power asymmetry needed for the help to occur?

Over-help occurs when the answer to at least one of these questions is positive. If answer to n.2 is negative, then over-help is in good face[sic], and we may speak of benevolent over-help; if positive, we may label it as malevolent over-help. [Francesca D’Errico, Giovanna Leone, and Isabella Poggi, “Types of Help in the Teacher’s Multimodal Behavior,” Human Behavior Understanding, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Volume 6219 (2010), pp 125-139]

I see this as a starting point. What else can we do to dismantle the status of altruism and helping behavior as sacred cows? How else can we reframe the discussion in such a way that would encourage others to regard these issues with more objectivity? Any thoughts?

Related reading: Leone, G.. eds. (2009) Le ambivalenze dell’aiuto. Teorie e pratiche del dare e del ricevere. Unicopli, Milano

Empathy Is Overrated

Simon Baron-Cohen writes:

Empathy is like a universal solvent. Any problem immersed in empathy becomes soluble. It is effective as a way of anticipating and resolving interpersonal problems, whether this is a marital conflict, an international conflict, a problem at work, difficulties in a friendship, political deadlocks, a family dispute, or a problem with the neighbour. Unlike the arms industry that costs trillions of dollars to maintain, or the prison service and legal system that cost millions of dollars to keep oiled, empathy is free. And, unlike religion, empathy cannot, by definition, oppress anyone. (From “The science of empathy,” which was at guardian.co.uk, and is now available here.)

The unfortunate implication to be drawn from the quoted passage — by undiscerning readers — is that empathy is a substitute for defense, prisons, the legal system, and religion (“oppressive,” of course). What twaddle!

Perhaps my reaction is predictable, given my unempathic nature. I scored 12 (out of 80) on a quiz that accompanies the article. My score, according to the key at the bottom, places me below persons with Asperger’s or low-functioning autism, who score about 20. My result is not a fluke; it is consistent with my MBTI type: Introverted-iNtuitive-Thinking-Judging (INTJ), and with my scores on the Big-five personality traits:

Extraversion — 4th percentile for males over the age of 21/11th percentile for males above the age of 60

Agreeableness — 4th percentile/4th percentile

Conscientiousness – 99th percentile/94th percentile

Emotional stability — 12th percentile/14th percentile

Openness — 93rd percentile/66th percentile

What do the scores mean? In general, it seems that males become slightly more introverted as they age; that is, my level of extraversion relative to males over the age of 21 is not quite as low relative to that of males over the age of 60. Similarly, older males are somewhat more conscientious than younger ones  The most marked difference has to do with openness (to experience), where I move from very high to almost average. I suspect that the age-related difference have to do with the effects of aging and the tendency of exhibitionistic-less-conscientious-uninquisitive persons to extinguish themselves earlier than their opposites, out of recklessness and ignorance.

At any rate, here are some excerpts of the official report:

Introverts … tend to be quiet, low-key, deliberate, and disengaged from the social world. Their lack of social involvement should not be interpreted as shyness or depression; the introvert simply needs less stimulation than an extravert and prefers to be alone. The independence and reserve of the introvert is sometimes mistaken as unfriendliness or arrogance.

Disagreeable individuals … are generally unconcerned with others’ well-being, and therefore are unlikely to extend themselves for other people. Sometimes their skepticism about others’ motives causes them to be suspicious, unfriendly, and uncooperative…. [A]greeableness is not useful in situations that require tough or absolute objective decisions. Disagreeable people can make excellent scientists, critics, or soldiers.

Conscientious individuals avoid trouble and achieve high levels of success through purposeful planning and persistence. They are also positively regarded by others as intelligent and reliable. On the negative side, they can be compulsive perfectionists and workaholics.

People low in emotional stability are emotionally reactive. They respond emotionally to events that would not affect most people, and their reactions tend to be more intense and consuming than normal. Low scorers are generally more sensitive, emotional and prone to feelings that are upsetting, such as anxiety or guilt. [“Emotional stability” is also called “neuroticism,” “a tendency to experience unpleasant emotions easily, such as anger, anxiety, depression, or vulnerability.” My “neuroticism” does not involve anxiety, except to the extent that I am super-conscientious and, therefore, bothered by unfinished business. Nor does it involve depression or vulnerability. But I am easily angered by incompetence, stupidity, and carelessness.]

Openness to Experience describes a dimension of cognitive style that distinguishes imaginative, creative people from down-to-earth, conventional people. Open people are intellectually curious, appreciative of art, and sensitive to beauty. They tend to be, compared to closed people, more aware of their feelings. They tend to think and act in individualistic and nonconforming ways. Intellectuals typically score high on Openness to Experience; consequently, this factor has also been called Culture or Intellect.

I offer these insights to my own personality for the sake of candor, and to make a point about empathy: It is not a substitute for things such as defense, prisons, the legal system, and religion. It would be a substitute only if everyone were so empathic that there were no aggression and no need for religion, which remains the leading institutional source of moral teachings.

But given that people are much more varied and complex than is suggested by Baron-Cohen’s simplistic prescription for a better world, there is a crying need for unsociable introverts, who tend (more than other types) to be thinkers, strivers, organizers, defenders, and justice-dispensers. If we did not exist, the world would be full of ill-fed, ill-housed, untutored savages. I suspect that their vaunted empathy would not survive the stress of existence and coexistence.

Intelligence, Personality, Politics, and Happiness

REVISED 07/08/11

This post is a collection and refinement of related posts at my old blog, Liberty Corner. Each section of this post carries the same title as the original post at Liberty Corner.  “IQ and Personality” is and has been, by far, the most popular of my Liberty Corner posts, so I give the eponymous section the place of honor in this post.

Web pages that link to this post usually consist of a discussion thread whose participants’ views of the post vary from “I told you so” to “that doesn’t square with me/my experience” or “MBTI is all wet because…”.  Those who take the former position tend to be persons of above-average intelligence whose MBTI types correlate well with high intelligence. Those who take the latter two positions tend to be persons who are defensive about their personality types, which do not correlate well with high intelligence. Such persons should take a deep breath and remember that high intelligence (of the abstract-reasoning-book-learning kind measured by IQ tests) is widely distributed throughout the population. As I say below, ” I am not claiming that a small subset of MBTI types accounts for all high-IQ persons, nor am I claiming that a small subset of MBTI types is populated entirely by high-IQ persons.” All I am saying is that the bits of evidence which I have compiled suggest that high intelligence is more likely — but far from exclusively — to be found among persons with certain MBTI types.

The correlations between intelligence, political leanings, and happiness are admittedly more tenuous. But they are plausible.

Leftists who proclaim themselves to be more intelligent than persons of the right do so, in my observation, as a way of reassuring themselves of the superiority of their views. They have no legitimate basis for claiming that the ranks of highly intelligent persons are dominated by the left. Leftist “intellectuals” in academia, journalism, the “arts,” and other traditional haunts of leftism are prominent because they are vocal. But they comprise a small minority of the population and should not be mistaken for typical leftists, who seem mainly to populate the ranks of the civil service, labor unions, the teaching “profession,” and the unemployed. (It is worth noting that public-school teachers, on the whole, are notoriously dumber than most other college graduates.)

Again, I am talking about general relationships, to which there are many exceptions. If you happen to be an exception, don’t take this post personally. You’re probably an exceptional person.

IQ AND PERSONALITY

A few years ago I came across some statistics about the personality traits of high-IQ persons (those who are in the top 2 percent of the population).* The statistics pertain to a widely used personality test called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which I have taken twice. In the MBTI there are four pairs of complementary personality traits, called preferences: Extraverted/Introverted, Sensing/iNtuitive, Thinking/Feeling, and Judging/Perceiving. Thus, there are 16 possible personality types in the MBTI: ESTJ, ENTJ, ESFJ, ESFP, and so on. (For an introduction to MBTI, summaries of types, criticisms of MBTI, and links to other sources, see this article at Wikipedia. A straightforward description of the theory of MBTI and the personality traits can be found here. Detailed descriptions of the 16 types are given here.)

In summary, here is what the statistics indicate about the correlation between personality traits and IQ:

  • Other personality traits being the same, an iNtuitive person (one who grasps patterns and seeks possibilities) is 25 times more likely to have a high IQ than a Sensing person (one who focuses on sensory details and the here-and-now).
  • Again, other traits being the same, an Introverted person is 2.6 times more likely to have a high IQ than one who is Extraverted; a Thinking (logic-oriented) person is 4.5 times more likely to have a high IQ than a Feeling (people-oriented) person; and a Judging person (one who seeks closure) is 1.6 times as likely to have a high IQ than a Perceiving person (one who likes to keep his options open).
  • Moreover, if you encounter an INTJ, there is a 22% probability that his IQ places him in the top 2 percent of the population. (Disclosure: I am an INTJ.) Next are INTP, at 14%; ENTJ, 8%; ENTP, 5%; and INFJ, 5%. (The next highest type is the INFP at 3%.) The  five types (INTJ, INTP, ENTJ, ENTP, and INFJ) account for 78% of the high-IQ population but only 15% of the total population.**
  • Four of the five most-intelligent types are NTs, as one would expect, given the probabilities cited above. Those same probabilities lead to the dominance of INTJs and INTPs, which account for 49% of the Mensa membership but only 5% of the general population.**
  • Persons with the S preference bring up the rear, when it comes to taking IQ tests.**

A person who encountered this post when it was at Liberty Corner claims that “one would expect to see the whole spectrum of intelligences within each personality type.” Well, one does see just that, but high intelligence is skewed toward the five types listed above. I am not claiming that a small subset of MBTI types accounts for all high-IQ persons, nor am I claiming that a small subset of MBTI types is populated entirely by high-IQ persons.

I acknowledge reservations about MBTI, such as those discussed in the Wikipedia article. An inherent shortcoming of psychological tests (as opposed to intelligence tests) is that they rely on subjective responses (e.g., my favorite color might be black today and blue tomorrow). But I do not accept this criticism:

[S]ome researchers expected that scores would show a bimodal distribution with peaks near the ends of the scales, but found that scores on the individual subscales were actually distributed in a centrally peaked manner similar to a normal distribution. A cut-off exists at the center of the subscale such that a score on one side is classified as one type, and a score on the other side as the opposite type. This fails to support the concept of type: the norm is for people to lie near the middle of the subscale.[6][7][8][33][42]

Why was “it was expected” that scores on a subscale (E/I, S/N, T/F, J/P) would show a bimodal distribution? How often does one encounter a person who is at the extreme end of any subscale? Not often, I wager, except in places where such extremes are likely to be clustered (e.g., Extraverts in acting classes, Introverts in monasteries). The cut-off at the center of each subscale is arbitrary; it simply affords a shorthand characterization of a person’s dominant traits. But anyone who takes an MBTI (or equivalent instrument) is given his scores on each of the subscales, so that he knows the strength (or weakness) of his tendencies.

Regarding other points of criticism: It is possible, of course, that a person who is familiar with MBTI tends to see in others the characteristics of their known MBTI types (i.e., confirmation bias). But has that tendency been confirmed by rigorous testing? Such testing would examine the contrary case, that is, the ability of a person to predict the type of a person whom he knows well (e.g., a co-worker or relative). The supposed vagueness of the descriptions of the 16 types arises from the complexity of human personality; but there are differences among the descriptions, just as there are differences among individuals. If only half of the persons who take the MBTI are able to guess their types before taking it, does that invalidate MBTI or does it point to a more likely phenomenon, namely, that introspection is a personality-related trait, one that is more common among Introverts than Extraverts. A good MBTI instrument cuts through self-deception and self-flattery by asking the same set of questions in many different ways, and in ways that do not make any particular answer seem like the “right” one.

My considerable exposure to high-IQ scientists in 30 years of working with them is suggestive. Most of them seemed to exhibit the traits of INTJs and INTPs. And those who took an MBTI test were found to be INTJs and INTPs.

IQ AND POLITICS

It is hard to find clear, concise analyses of the relationship between IQ and political leanings. I offer the following in evidence that very high-IQ individuals lean strongly toward libertarian positions.

The Triple Nine Society (TNS) limits its membership to persons with IQs in the top 0.1% of the population. In an undated survey (probably conducted in 2000, given the questions about the perceived intelligence of certain presidential candidates), members of TNS gave their views on several topics (in addition to speculating about the candidates’ intelligence): subsidies, taxation, civil regulation, business regulation, health care, regulation of genetic engineering, data privacy, death penalty, and use of military force.

The results speak for themselves. Those members of TNS who took the survey clearly have strong (if not unanimous) libertarian leanings.

THE RIGHT IS SMARTER THAN THE LEFT

I count libertarians as part of the right because libertarians’ anti-statist views are aligned with the views of the traditional (small-government) conservatives who are usually Republicans. Having said that, the results reported in “IQ and Politics” lead me to suspect that the right is smarter than the left, left-wing propaganda to the contrary notwithstanding. There is additional evidence for my view.

A site called Personality Page offers some data about personality type and political affiliation. The sample is not representative of the population as a whole; the average age of respondents is 25, and introverted personalities are overrepresented (as you might expect for a test that is apparently self-administered through a web site). On the other hand, the results are probably unbiased with respect to intelligence because the data about personality type were not collected as part of a study that attempts to relate political views and intelligence, and there is nothing on the site to indicate a left-wing bias. (Psychologists, who tend toward leftism, have a knack for making conservatives look bad, as discussed here, here, and here. If there is a strong association between political views and intelligence, it is found among so-called intellectuals, where the herd mentality reigns supreme.)

The data provided by Personality Page are based on the responses of 1,222 individuals who took a 60-question personality test that determined their MBTI types (see “IQ and Personality”). The test takers were asked to state their political preferences, given these choices: Democrat, Republican, middle of the road, liberal, conservative, libertarian, not political, and other. Political self-labelling is an exercise in subjectivity. Nevertheless, individuals who call themselves Democrats or liberals (the left) are almost certainly distinct, politically, from individuals who call themselves Republicans, conservatives, or libertarians (the right).

Now, to the money question: Given the distribution of personality types on the left and right, which distribution is more likely to produce members of Mensa? The answer: Those who self-identify as persons of the right are 15% more likely to qualify for membership in Mensa than those who self-identify as persons of the left. This result is plausible because it is consistent with the pronounced anti-government tendencies of the very-high-IQ members of the Triple Nine Society (see “IQ and Politics”).

REPUBLICANS (AND LIBERTARIANS) ARE HAPPIER THAN DEMOCRATS

That statement follows from research by the Pew Research Center (“Are We Happy Yet?” February 13, 2006) and Gallup (“Republicans Report Much Better Health Than Others,” November 30, 2007).

Pew reports:

Some 45% of all Republicans report being very happy, compared with just 30% of Democrats and 29% of independents. This finding has also been around a long time; Republicans have been happier than Democrats every year since the General Social Survey began taking its measurements in 1972….

Of course, there’s a more obvious explanation for the Republicans’ happiness edge. Republicans tend to have more money than Democrats, and — as we’ve already discovered — people who have more money tend to be happier.

But even this explanation only goes so far. If one controls for household income, Republicans still hold a significant edge: that is, poor Republicans are happier than poor Democrats; middle-income Republicans are happier than middle-income Democrats, and rich Republicans are happier than rich Democrats.

Gallup adds this:

Republicans are significantly more likely to report excellent mental health than are independents or Democrats among those making less than $50,000 a year, and among those making at least $50,000 a year. Republicans are also more likely than independents and Democrats to report excellent mental health within all four categories of educational attainment.

There is a lot more in both sources. Read them for yourself.

Why would Republicans be happier than Democrats? Here’s my thought, Republicans tend to be conservative or libertarian (at least with respect to minimizing government’s role in economic affairs). I refer you to a post in which I discussed Thomas Sowell’s A Conflict of Visions:

He posits two opposing visions: the unconstrained vision (I would call it the idealistic vision) and the constrained vision (which I would call the realistic vision). As Sowell explains, at the end of chapter 2:

The dichotomy between constrained and unconstrained visions is based on whether or not inherent limitations of man are among the key elements included in each vision…. These different ways of conceiving man and the world lead not merely to different conclusions but to sharply divergent, often diametrically opposed, conclusions on issues ranging from justice to war.

Idealists (“liberals”) are bound to be less happy than realists (conservatives and libertarians) because idealists’ expectations about human accomplishments (aided by government) are higher than those of realists, and so idealists are doomed to disappointment.

All of this is consistent with findings reported by law professor James Lindgren:

[C]ompared to anti-redistributionists, strong redistributionists have about two to three times higher odds of reporting that in the prior seven days they were angry, mad at someone, outraged, sad, lonely, and had trouble shaking the blues. Similarly, anti-redistributionists had about two to four times higher odds of reporting being happy or at ease. Not only do redistributionists report more anger, but they report that their anger lasts longer. When asked about the last time they were angry, strong redistributionists were more than twice as likely as strong opponents of leveling to admit that they responded to their anger by plotting revenge. Last, both redistributionists and anti-capitalists expressed lower overall happiness, less happy marriages, and lower satisfaction with their financial situations and with their jobs or housework. (From the abstract of Northwestern Law and Economics Research Paper 06-29, “What Drives Views on Government Redistribution and Anti-Capitalism: Envy or a Desire for Social Dominance?,” March 15, 2011.)

THE BOTTOM LINE

If you are very intelligent — with an IQ that puts you in the top 2% of the population — you are most likely to be an INTJ, INTP, ENTJ, ENTP, or INFJ, in that order. Your politics will lean heavily toward libertarianism or small-government conservatism. You probably vote Republican most of the time because, even if you are not a card-carrying Republican, you are a staunch anti-Democrat. And you are a happy person because your expectations are not constantly defeated by reality.

*     *     *

Footnotes:

* I apologize for not having documented the source of the statistics that I cite here. I dimly recall finding them on or via the website of American Mensa, but I am not certain of that. And I can no longer find the source by searching the web. I did transcribe the statistics to a spreadsheet, which I still have. So, the numbers are real, even if their source is now lost to me.

** Estimates of the distribution of  MBTI types  in the U.S. population are given in two tables on page 4 of “Estimated Frequencies of the Types in the United States Population,” published by the Center for Applications of Psychological Type. One table gives estimates of the distribution of the population by preference (E, I, N, S, etc.). The other table give estimates of the distribution of the population among all 16 MBTI types. The statistics for members of Mensa were broken down by preferences, not by types; therefore I had to use the values for preferences to estimate the frequencies of the 16 types among members of Mensa. For consistency, I used the distribution of the preferences among the U.S. population to estimate the frequencies of the 16 types among the population, rather than use the frequencies provided for each type. For example, the fraction of the population that is INTJ comes to 0.029 (2.9%) when the values for I (0.507), N (0.267), T (0.402), and J (0.541) are multiplied. But the detailed table has INTJs as 2.1% of the population. In sum, there are discrepancies between the computed and given values of the 16 types in the population. The most striking discrepancy is for the INFJ type. When estimated from the frequencies of the four preferences, INFJs are 4.4% of the population; the table of values for all 16 types gives the percentage of INFJs as 1.5%.

Using the distribution given for the 16 types leads to somewhat different results:

  • There is a 31% probability that an INTJ’s his IQ places him in the top 2 percent of the population. Next are INFJ, at 14%; ENTJ, 13%; and INTP, 10%. (The next highest type is the ENTP at 4%.) The  four types (INTJ, INFJ, ENTJ, AND INTP) account for 72% of the high-IQ population but only 9% of the total population. The top five types (including ENTPs) account for 78% of the high-IQ population but only 12% of the total population.
  • Four of the five most-intelligent types are NTs, as one would expect, given the probabilities cited earlier. But, in terms of the likelihood of having an IQ, this method moves INFJs into second place, a percentage point ahead of ENTJs.
  • In any event, the same five types dominate, and all five types have a preference for iNtuitive thinking.
  • As before, persons with the S preference generally lag their peers when it comes to IQ tests.

*   *   *

Related posts:
Intelligence as a Dirty Word
Intelligence and Intuition

Signature

Monday Musings

Seven years ago yesterday I became a resident of Austin, Texas. To put it differently, yesterday was the seventh anniversary of my residency in Texas. Note well that I say “seventh anniversary,” not “seven-year anniversary,” in the usage of the day.  Why? The word “anniversary” means “the annually recurring date of a past event.” To write or say “x-year anniversary” is redundant as well as graceless. To write or say “x-month anniversary” is nonsensical; what is meant is that such-and-such happened “x” months ago.

A long life is a good thing if it is lived well and in good health. Among my male ancestors, I have a paternal great, great, great, great (g-g-g-g) grandfather who lived to the age of 92. Perhaps he owed his longevity to a vigorous life; he emigrated from Dusseldorf to the colony of Pennsylvania, and fought on the wrong side in the Revolutionary War, for which he was rewarded with a tract of land in Canada. One of his grandsons (my paternal g-g-grandfather) lived to the age of 80. On my mother’s side, I can claim a g-grandfather who made it to 84 and a g-g-grandfather who lived to the age of 87. I do not know how well these ancestors lived, or the state of their health as old men, but they have (in some measure) bequeathed to me a good chance for a long life. Living well and to doing what I can to stay healthy are my responsibilities.

Speaking of genealogy, if you want to trace your “roots” without spending a lot of money, buy a software package (like Legacy Family Tree), consult your relatives and whatever materials they may have compiled, and hit the internet, where there is a wealth of free information. It takes a lot of searching and cross-checking to make connections and fill gaps, and what you find may not be well documented, but in the end you will have a much richer picture of your origins. I have traced 16 generations of my family, from Orne, France, in the 1500s to Virginia, U.S.A., in the 2000s.

All of this revelatory rambling reminds me of Facebook. I acquired a Facebook account so that I can follow the remarks of my daughter-in-law, who posts (usually) funny notes about events in the life her and my son’s household. Unfortunately, I have acquired a few other Facebook “friends” whose musings are of no interest to me. I have solved that problem by (a) hiding them on my home page and (b) going directly to my daughter-in-law’s Facebook “wall.”

Facebook “friends,” in most cases, are like work “friends.” It is possible to have a real, long-standing friendship with a work “friend,” but (in my experience) almost all work “friendships” end when “friends” no longer share an employer. Moreover, the older one gets, the less interested one is in acquiring friends (work-related or otherwise). I have two long-standing friendships; both started at work, but a long time ago (40 and 38 years, respectively), and neither is a close or deep one. I made my last work “friend” (and last friend of any kind) about 25 years ago, and that “friendship” dissolved about 15 years ago, even while both of us were still working at the same place. Other friendships — with neighbors, school-mates, and fellow collegians — have long since died of geographic, economic, and intellectual distance. I  have a small circle of acquaintances in Austin; they are good for a laugh over dinner and drinks, but I have no wish to become close to any of them (nor would I, even if they weren’t lefties, which is about all you can find in Austin). Given what I have just said, it is possible that I owe my dearth of friendships to my aloof personality (see this, this, and this). Friendships are said to contribute to good health and longevity, to which I say “bah, humbug!”

Which brings me to families. Tolstoy opens Anna Karenina with this famous sentence: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” I believe that happy families are as rare as close, long-standing friendships. I have a rough model of family relationships and the degree of lovingness and mutual regard that is to be found in them. From closeness to distance, it goes like this:

Spouse-children-grandchildren (all about the same)

Grandparents

Parents

Nieces and nephews

Cousins

Siblings

There are, of course, exceptions for those members of a family who are especially sunny, gloomy, nice, nasty, hard-working, indolent, temperate, drunken, etc. But my money is on a model in which sibling relationships are the most fraught of any.

You may have noticed the absence of in-laws from my model. I am loath to generalize about them. In my own case, I have a highly esteemed daughter-in-law. But it is easy to imagine cases in which many of one’s in-laws are at or near the bottom of the list.

Happy Monday.