Myers Briggs Personality Type and Political Affiliation
We’ve all come across people who just seem incapable of modifying their perspective based on new data being presented. Most of us still mouth the words that additional education (or indoctrination/propaganda as is often the case) is what is needed since surely this person will turn around if his/her consciousness is sufficiently expanded with additional data backing your perspective. However, all too often deep inside we know that some people are “hopeless”. This conclusion concerning failure of propaganda is reached from all over the political, cultural, and religious spectrum at one point or another. It thus becomes fashionable to outright dismiss “inconvertible” individuals and opposing zealots (on political and religious fringes of any given population) as nuts and crazies.
Personality theory in psychology allows us to better categorize individuals in society without resorting to name calling. Myers-Briggs typology in particular offers a better construct (compared to useless terms like conservative and liberal for example) to predict how an individual will act politically and socially. Myers-Briggs research combined with biology and brain scan techniques also offers us hints at understanding the underlining anatomical basis that predisposes a person to be either a disagreeable radical or a gentle follower.
There’s been little relative popular attempts to scientifically explain why the bulk of the population is always a warzone between the extreme fringes. It’s just assumed that it will always be this way just like there will always be criminals and extremely altruistic self-sacrificing givers. This assumption seems reasonable and obvious but gives rise to two other creeping and unsettling assumptions:
1) The human population is relatively fixed along a bell curve type continuum. Perhaps this is better visually represented by a sphere with a number of spikes extending from it. The moderate population is the bulk of the sphere and the zealous “radical” factions (whose opinions differ dramatically from the statistical average) are the spikes extending from the sphere’s surface (as well as into the interior to some degree which would represent silent sympathizers). It is irrelevant to label the spikes as extreme left, right, etc. All that is important is that a relatively fixed minority of the population (lets say 10-20% range) will be:
a) prone to modes of thought that are tangibly different from majority’s
b) prone to action and lifestyle based on these thoughts
Authors like Friedrich Hayek for instance, observed that in 1920s Germany roughly a million workers swung their support between communists and Nazis based on who was winning. It was noted that the two seemingly opposing ideological parties clashed with one another the most because they were very often competing for recruits in the same psychological pool of young people. Considering how many overexcited Americans called both Bush and Obama the new “Hitler” in recent years, we can easily imagine how an aggressive drooling at the mouth anti-war protestor from a big city could have been an equally excitable protester at a teabag rally if only he was born in a small town and into a different culture.
2) Since the ratio of intensely active people (prone to being perceived by population at large as “wingnuts”or criminals or radicals or genuinely informed and committed activists, etc) to more relaxed apathetic majority seems to be roughly fixed across all societies and globally as a whole, the explanatory basis for such a dynamic can only be biological. Just like there exist (and can further be bred) aggressive dogs and peaceful friendly dogs, there exist aggressive people, natural Buddhist-esque peaceful people, etc. A person who is an aggressive pit bull equivalent (and who wants to impose his views of the world onto others the most) would differ in his relatively extreme ideology depending on what part of the world he was socialized in. Psychiatry has shown us that people are born with different ratios of neurotransmitter production and quantitative as well as qualitative differences in the types of chemicals that affect their mood and cognition. We now understand that people differ a lot more in terms of brain architecture than they differ in terms of things like body type, skin color, fast twitch/slow twitch muscle ratio, etc.
The reason why these assumptions are unsettling is not because there is a degree of fatalism involved (“he will be a radical of one stripe or another no matter what” or “he will be socially lazy, shallow, apathetic, and uninvolved no matter what). Obviously with modern socialization methods and pharmaceutical modification (with psychological genetic and cybernetic modification to follow in near future), an individual can be shaped more than ever before by society and by himself. The assumptions are unsettling because if the broad direction of our views, opinions, and political/cultural/religious affiliations are largely physiologically determined at birth, then societal progress becomes enormously more difficult. Societal progress can be defined here as one zealot faction (that is seen by majority as the most “correct” in its socioeconomic policy perspectives and formulations of what humans should do next) dragging everybody else along behind it as has always occurred throughout history.
Obviously people will disagree on what constitutes progress (some actually thought arrival of Reagan was progress) but if majority of people are physiologically predisposed towards the status quo, progress of any sort becomes a lot harder in a democratic society. In the past, one intense dedicated fringe of the aristocratic elites dragged the other nobility along behind it (since majority of nobility would also have a soft apathetic bulk) and thus dragged the rest of the population behind it as well. We also had scenarios of power vacuum developing and one intense fringe political faction overpowering the others (as in the case of Bolshevik and French revolutions) and filling the leadership position to then drag the rest of the serfs behind it.
In today’s democratic structure however, protection of the status quo is a lot more preserved since the moderate bulk of the population has a political voice and thus a way to provide the ruling elites with legitimacy. The moderate bulk of the elites now also has ever more sophisticated consent and perception manufacturing methods to influence the newfound voice of the majority. For a small number of dedicated activists, pushing society along towards desired version of progress against the forces of social inertia is now harder than ever. The powerful activists now need to sway both the fellow elites and the people simultaneously.
Let’s finally get to the Myers-Briggs part of the article to see what we are now dealing with.
The most widely used way to get a glimpse of people’s underlining neural physiology has been the Myers-Briggs psychological questionnaire (one of the better versions found online for free can be found here). Over the past few decades, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator has been utilized to collect enormous amounts of statistical data on personality types found within the human population. The statistical type breakdown (I am using a combination of 3 different sources on the %. Don’t mind the catchy positive nicknames each type and group cluster has been given. What matters here is the number within a population.) so far has been as follows,
ESTJ – Overseer, supervisor = 11.8%
ESFJ – Supporter, provider = 11.7%
ISTJ – Examiner, inspector = 9.8%
ISFJ – Defender, protector = 9.9%
All SJs = 43.2%
ESTP – Persuader, promoter = 8.4%
ESFP – Entertainer, performer = 10.3%
ISTP – Craftsman, mechanic = 6.4%
ISFP – Artist, composer = 7.9%
All SPs = 33%
ENTJ – Chief, fieldmarshal = 3.2%
ENTP – Originator, inventor = 3.7%
INTJ – Strategist, mastermind = 1.5%
INTP – Engineer, architect = 2.2%
All NTs = 10.6%
ENFJ – Mentor, teacher = 3.4%
ENFP – Advocate, idealist = 4.2%
INFJ – Confidant, empath = 1.2%
INFP – Dreamer, healer = 2.4%
All NFs = 11.2%
Each of the personality types (the well defined strong ones at least who haven’t self reported to be a mutt of 2 or more different personalities) can be seen as a specific brain type. As mentioned above, the physiological neural difference between 2 people of vastly dissimilar brain types is a lot more significant than how a person looks on the outside. That is because the brain type determines a mental and emotional predisposition of a person for the rest of his life. People classified as “bipolar” or “anti-social/sociopathic” for instance, have neural structures that will make them lean towards some things more than others during their entire lives.
We can see from the statistical breakdown that SJ (left-brained people with parietal lobe strength) predominate in the overall population. The second biggest group are the SP (right-brained with parietal lobe strength). Together they are almost 80% of the population. The SJs tend to be conservative, authoritarian in outlook, conventional, focused on concrete “what is”, and protective of the general society. They don’t rock the boat too much and defer to tradition. The SPs tend to be fun loving, crafty, entertaining, and have uncanny ability to focus on “what is” (with their parietal lobe) in order to fix and modify it.
If you look at the cute nicknames given to different brain types, you can see that the human herd pretty much needs all of them if it is to evolve and survive. Some types are needed more than others in the great scheme of things. The SJ and SP groups for example are conveniently numerous. SJ population provides a great amount of soldiers, policemen, social workers, self sacrificing charity givers, accountants, and status quo protectors. In other words they keep the herd safe even if it means stagnating the herd through using their positions in the executive to slow down rapid change. SP group provides us with artisans who improve quality of life for the herd through provision of entertainers, artists, dancers, singers, and resourceful improvising mechanics. SPs can be said to exist to entertain SJs and keep them on their toes by having more fun than them.
It’s easy to see how SJs lean republican and SPs lean democrat overall. The jokes that democrats have better sex lives than republicans begin to acquire an element of truth (considering the different approach left and right sides of the brain take in deciding on how to deal with the here and now). However, the two large groups are united by their concern with all things as they are in the now. That makes the two groups friendly and status quo leaning by default. An ESTJ born in Brooklyn may identify as a traditionalist democrat whereas an ESTJ born in West Virginia may identify as a traditionalist republican, but both are more likely to seek similar professions and get along if they hang out together. Brain type identification provides a lot more material to predict a person’s behavior and views on the world than simple political identification.
The overall theme emerges that people with neural computers that predispose them to either protect the status quo or be apathetic about it (since they are busy pursuing hedonistic adventures) are the supermajority that are not as interested in “what can be” (as the less numerous NP and NJ groups tend to be). A point must be made here that not one group is more important than another and that even their numerical breakdowns seem amazingly appropriate. It would be turbulent for the herd to have for example, more ENTJs/INTJs than ISTJs/ESTJs since the problem with authority that NJs have (due to their desire to be the authority themselves) would create unsustainable infighting and not allow enough people who follow orders. Each brain type has a very key social niche and function and over thousands of years there evolved an intricate genetic balance and ratio. There are of course also multitudes of physiological “mutts” who are a hybrid of all and can’t be “pigeonholed” (the most common complaint brought against psychological typology in general).
Interestingly enough, the Hindus have spent thousands of years evolving classification of human beings into 4 broad psychological varnas or classes. Each was considered as important as the other (all parts of the same body) with their own particular temperaments and duties.
Some brain types are literally made to create new theoretical constructs on how society should be organized and which steps it should take next (INTPs, ENTPs,). When balanced by the emotional consideration and input of INFPs and ENFPs (since strong T theorists are prone to being too rigidly rational and thus not take into consideration the emotional impact of their constructs) new paths for society can be developed that would be acceptable to SJs and SPs combined. However, as explained above, these people will always be outvoted and marginalized by politicians who mobilize the other more numerous groups. “Think of the children!” is a call to arms for ESFJs and ISFJs for instance whereas being tough on crime, national strength, and defeating foreign enemies is the bread and butter of ESTJs and ISTJs.
This dynamic reinforces the need for proportional representation in our system of governance. Proportional representation is practiced in most European Union countries to great effect. This way each brain type cluster can get a political party of their own. The marginalized 20% of the population can get representation and even serve as coalition kingmakers. New voices can be heard in the discourse. Today the 20% of population has to either join the big parties they don’t like and “radicalize” them (seen by the tail wagging the dog phenomenon of militants dominating today’s Republican party and driving moderates out of it) or abstain from the process thus depriving society of valuable input. In proportional representation, each batch of brain types seen as “radicals” can find a party to call home and really support. They would also have more political representation to vent out their frustration and to institutionalize their presence and views. Citizens can then pick and choose which vision of progress to support and which to leave behind.