Which ‘per­son­al­ity type’ de­scribes you?

The Borneo Post - Nature and health - - Front Page -

MOD­ERN psy­chol­ogy largely re­jects the no­tion that peo­ple can be pi­geon­holed into per­son­al­ity types. But that as­sump­tion is be­ing chal­lenged by a ma­jor new study, which dis­cov­ered at least four dis­tinct per­son­al­ity types into which peo­ple tend to clus­ter. Re­searchers dis­cov­ered these clus­ters by run­ning the re­sults of 1.5 mil­lion per­son­al­ity in­ven­tory ques­tion­naires through a com­puter, said lead re­searcher Martin Ger­lach. He is a doc­toral stu­dent at North­west­ern Univer­sity, in Evanston, Illi­nois.

The ques­tion­naires as­sessed each per­son on five wellestab­lished per­son­al­ity traits: neu­roti­cism, ex­traver­sion, open­ness, agree­able­ness and con­sci­en­tious­ness. Ger­lach and his team fed these into the com­puter to see if peo­ple would tend to clus­ter around sim­i­lar lev­els of shared per­son­al­ity traits. The in­ves­ti­ga­tors found at least four clus­ters, which they com­pared to “lumps in the bat­ter,” Ger­lach said. The first is the “Av­er­age” per­son­al­ity type, which is char­ac­terised by av­er­age scores in all traits, the re­searchers said.

The other three clus­ters are roughly or­gan­ised along the traits of neu­roti­cism (level of emo­tional sta­bil­ity) and ex­traver­sion (the qual­ity of be­ing out­go­ing): - “Re­served” per­son­al­i­ties are emo­tion­ally sta­ble but not par­tic­u­larly ex­traverted. They also are some­what agree­able and con­sci­en­tious. - “Self-Cen­tred” per­son­al­i­ties score high in ex­traver­sion and be­low av­er­age in open­ness, agree­able­ness and con­sci­en­tious­ness. “It’s not very nice to in­ter­act with these kinds of peo­ple,” Ger­lach said.

- “Role Mod­els” are low in neu­roti­cism and high in all the other traits. They are agree­able, thought­ful and well-or­gan­ised.

Not ev­ery­one will fall into one of these per­son­al­ity types, he added, and some peo­ple may even fall some­where in the mid­dle be­tween two of them. Your spe­cific per­son­al­ity type is not set in stone, either, he ex­plained. For ex­am­ple, re­searchers spec­u­late that the younger you are, the more likely you will be to fall within the Self-Cen­tred cat­e­gory, par­tic­u­larly if you’re a teenage boy, Ger­lach said. The dis­cov­ery of these clus­ters runs counter to much of cur­rent psy­cho­log­i­cal the­ory, which has con­cluded that per­son­al­ity cat­e­gories don’t ex­ist, the study au­thors said. Se­nior re­searcher Luis Nunes Amaral is a pro­fes­sor of chem­i­cal and bi­o­log­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing at North­west­ern En­gi­neer­ing.

“Per­son­al­ity types only ex­isted in self-help lit­er­a­ture, and did not have a place in sci­en­tific jour­nals. Now, we think this will change be­cause of this study,” he said in a univer­sity news re­lease. These clus­ters could help peo­ple pre­dict how well you’ll suc­ceed in a given job, or your vul­ner­a­bil­ity to cer­tain men­tal or emo­tional disor- ders, Ger­lach said. James Mad­dux, a pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of psy­chol­ogy with Ge­orge Ma­son Univer­sity, said, “I have no qualms about the method­ol­ogy and statistics, but I have se­ri­ous doubts about the clin­i­cal util­ity of yet an­other in­stru­ment that cat­e­gorises peo­ple into types.” Mad­dux was not in­volved with the study.

“For 40 years or more, clin­i­cal psy­chol­ogy has been mov­ing away from us­ing the as­sess­ment of per­son­al­ity traits and types to in­form treat­ment and in­creas­ingly to­ward us­ing as­sess­ments of peo­ple’s prob­lem­atic thoughts, feel­ings and be­hav­iours as they oc­cur in spe­cific prob­lem­atic sit­u­a­tions, which is the essence of cog­ni­tive-be­havioural ther­apy,” Mad­dux said. But New York City psy­chi­a­trist Dr. Ti­mothy Sullivan said, “Given the num­bers of sub­jects they as­sessed, it sug­gests we need take this se­ri­ously. There is some­thing mean­ing­ful here.”

How­ever, it’s not clear how use­ful these cat­e­gories will be in deal­ing with peo­ple’s men­tal health is­sues, said Sullivan, chair of psy­chi­a­try and be­havioural sciences at Staten Is­land Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal. “I think the ques­tion for us in psy­chi­a­try is, is it mean­ing­ful to us clin­i­cally?” Sullivan said. “Does it help us to think about how we might help peo­ple who have prob­lems cop­ing in life?” The study was pub­lished in the jour­nal Na­ture Hu­man Be­hav­iour.

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