The Instigator
BradK
Pro (for)
Tied
0 Points
The Contender
ForSerious
Con (against)
Tied
0 Points

MBTI Is Pseudoscience

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/1/2014 Category: Science
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,321 times Debate No: 58385
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (15)
Votes (1)

 

BradK

Pro

Astrology or horoscopes are pseudoscience because they don't provide valid explanations and are easily debunkable. My claim is that Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is better classified under pseudoscience as well, rather than actual science.

---

MBTI 101:There are 4 cognitive functions and 2 temperaments:


COGNITIVE FUNCTIONS:

- Thinking (T) (judging)
- Feeling (F)(judging)
- Sensing (S) (perceiving)
- Intuition (N)(perceiving)


TEMPERAMENTS:

- Extraverted (E)
- Introverted (I)


INFORMATION FLOW DIRECTION

- Judging (J)
- Perceiving (P)

Each function can have either temperament. So you can have introverted sensing, extraverted feeling, etc.; a total of 8 possibilitiies.MBTI Theory says that there are 16 possible combinations of cognitive function stacks, each stack consisting of the 4 functions listed in descending magnitude of preference, each in one of the 2 temperaments. If a perceiving function is dominant, the other perceiving function is inferior and of opposite temperament. As well, if a judging function is dominant, then the other judging function is inferior and of opposite temperament. The auxilliary function is of opposite temperament of the dominant function. If the dominant function was a percieving function, the auxilliary is a judging function. If the dominant function was a judging function, the auxilliary funcition is a perceiving function. Like the relationship between the dominant and inferior function, the auxilliary and tertiary functions are of opposite temperament but similar information flow direction.Thinking is working with cold hard logic, Feeling is working based on harmony and acceptance. Sensing is perceiving information based on sensory data, Intuition is perceiving based on patterns independent of the sensory data.---And I'm arguing that this is pseudoscience, or the same kind of stuff as astrology. It's a bit better than astrology or horoscopes, because it's based on observational inference, but it does not have the rigor or repeatability needed for science. It is also easy to change explanations for why people behave in certain ways: For example

Allan, is an ENTJ

OBSERVATION: he a very goal-oriented person.
EXPLANATION: He is very goal oriented because his dominant function, Te, is the desire to build and complete plans and to see them either work and if they don't they should be revised and implemented with priority.

OBSERVATION: Allan has been lazy this past week and has not been completing goals.
EXPLANATION: Allan is not completing tasks because his inferior function is repressing his dominant function and he has resorted to merely collecting facts instead of utilizing them.
ALTERNATE-EXPLANATION: Allan is not been able to acheive his goals because he has not tapped into his Te-Ni loop, and is not gathering enough information to help him acheive his goals.

---

So it's easy to come up with alternate explanations for when the first explanation fails, a telltale sign of pseudoscience.---Just for fun, I am an INTP. If you want to tell your MBTI Type if you know it, then you can, but you don't have to.

If you think that MBTI isn't pseudoscience, I invite you to debate me.
ForSerious

Con

I found several characteristics of a pseudoscience: “nothing concrete is ever learned”, “the original idea is never abandoned”, and “results cannot be reproduced” [1]. These are the three characteristics I will use to show that MBTI is not a pseudoscience.

I. “nothing concrete is ever learned”
MBTI is a favorite of high school college counselors and college career counselors. A personality type provides an understanding of your skills and a list of recommended careers.

II. “the original idea is never abandoned”
PRO's complaints of 'alternative explanations' is exactly why MBTI is a science. Science recognizes the need for complex systems when categorizing. Pseudoscience would claim one way fits all.

III. “results cannot be reproduced”
“On retest, people come out with three to four type preferences the same 75% to 90% of the time” and the type that changed was typically on the brink the first time around [2]. This shows that results can be reproduced, making MBTI a science.

As you can see, MBTI is clearly not a pseudoscience.

1. http://www.quackwatch.com...
2. http://www.myersbriggs.org...
Debate Round No. 1
BradK

Pro

I'm not sure that you pinned down the idea of what pseudoscience is. Borrowing from Wikipedia, a definition I like is:

A belief, claim, or practice, that presents itself as science but lacks supporting data and can't be reliably tested.

A purposefully terrible claim for example, would be "the earth spins as long as there are asteroids in space". We obviously can't remove all the asteroids from space and see if the earth will stop spinning. We can't stop the earth to prove that it can cease to rotate despite all the asteroids in space. And we can't even detect all the asteroids in space to know if they are in fact present or not. Asteroids and earth's rotation seem to be independent according to one's common sense, but there's no way to test for a dependence so it's a pseudoscientific claim.

---

You say that MBTI personality type provides an understanding of your skills and a list of recommended careers, and that this is an example of a concrete claim. An example of a skill would be interpersonal communication. I can just make up reasons off the top of my head why that could be so. Maybe people with strong Fe have good interpersonal communication. Maybe it's people who have one of the EXXX types. Maybe the rationals, the XNTX's, are good at interpersonal communication because they try to find purpose and pragmatism in having meetings and conversations. That's wishy-washy rather than concrete. WHY is it that certain types have certain skills?

Also here's a list of careers suitable to my type, an INTP:

Scientists
Photographers
Strategic Planners
Mathematicians
University Professor
Computer Programmer
Technical Writer
Engineer
Lawyer
Judge
Forensic Research
Forestry and Park Ranger

If this is a scientifically arrived at list, then can you explain why any of them are suitable for an INTP? Or do the same thing with any career list corresponding to any other type?

---

The reason that alternate explanations tend to be common in pseudoscientific claims, is that there's generally a weak connection between the cause and effect in the pseudoscientific claim. Take the example of "the seasons happen because the goddess of summer goes away during the winter months, causing the land to cool down, and she returns in the summer bringing the heat back with her". Then of course someone notes that "When the northern hemisphere has winter, the southern hemisphere has summer and vice versa". So then the claim can be changed to "well obviously the goddess of summer leaves the northern hemisphere in December and goes to the southern hemisphere, and returns back to the northern hemisphere in June." The point is that when the claim fails to explain a natural phenomenon, it's just haphazardly modified as necessary. There's no rigour. The same sort of thing happened with my example of Allen the ENTJ up above, I don't think you really dealt with that.

---

The results of MBTI tests are better than chance, but that's not enough to classify it as a full fledged science. I'll just use myself as an example. I know my type is INTP. In fact if I test as anything else that means the test is wrong. The reason I know my type is because it's just the one I identify with the most. No one is really sure what CAUSES a person to fit the description of one of the sixteen types. People just tend to identify with them. People tend to identify with various religions too, but there's nothing scientific about one guy being Christian or another guy being Muslim or another guy being atheist. That's just the view that they tend to identify themselves with. A scientific claim would be that their brains all send electrical pulses, or some other fact like that, you get what I'm saying. There's really no scientific basis as to why one person is a particular MBTI type, and another person is a different MBTI type. And it's hard to measure it, the only way we have to measure it with is by self-report. Which isn't a scientific way of arriving at conclusions because the person could answer however they wanted to.

---
---

So besides the question above, here's a list of questions I have for you:

(2) What is the mechanism or biological reason why certain people are certain types?

(3) Is there any better way to test for MBTI type rather than just questionnaires? How do you quantify things like "prefer to be alone rather than in a group" - do you expect people to measure the hours that they are alone/in a group?

(4) Is the preference stack always the same or does it vary depending on situation? For example, does an INTP always prefer to use Ti over Ne, Ne over Si, and Si over Fe? Or are there certain situations where an INTP might prefer to use Fe over Ti? Is the INTP still an INTP if they are at any given moment (if it is possible) preferring a stack such as Fe > Ne > Si > Ti?

(5) Could there possibly be any more cognitive functions other than T, S, F and N? Are you sure that they are the only 4?
ForSerious

Con

ForSerious forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2
BradK

Pro

BradK forfeited this round.
ForSerious

Con

PRO would like us to switch to a simplistic definition he found on wikipedia. There is no point in this other than to disrupt the organization of my argument. PRO's definition is not significantly deviate from the characteristics I provided and even drops points.

First I will defend my points.

I. “nothing concrete is ever learned”

PRO complains that the list of recommended careers is “wishy washy” and not concrete. The career list is based on skills and environments particular personality types are suited to. It makes sense that multiple personality types might favor a certain environment. After all, not everyone in a certain workplace is exactly the same. The fact that MBTI offers a concrete list, means that it is not pseudoscience.

II. “the original idea is never abandoned”
PRO believes the alternative explanations are “haphazardly modified” to fit the person. There is a predetermined and limited number of alternative explanations. This is not haphazard. This is calculated. In fact, having these alternatives is what assures us that MBTI doesn't claim absolute correctness as a Pseudoscience would.

III. “results cannot be reproduced”

PRO does not reject that MBTI results are reliable (can be reproduced). Instead PRO claims that self-report through surveys in unscientific. Professionally produced and tested surveys are scientific. I understand many 'joke' personality surveys might make you think surveys are just toys. However, the MBTI survey was carefully crafted and has proven itself reliable (see evidence in my previous speech). Unless you are willing to debunk the whole of psychology and various other social sciences, I suggest you accept surveys as a scientific form of inquiry.

Now I move on to answering PRO's questions.

PRO asks what the cause (mechanism/biological reason) is for having a certain personality type.

It is often said personality comes from nature and nurture. However, this hardly seems relevant. This classification system does not seek to explain nor factor in origin of personality.

PRO asks if there is a better way than surveys to determine personality type.

The creator of MBTI tested her theories through observation. While observation could be used as a more objective test, this would be difficult to implement. Again, this concern is not relevant to whether or not MBTI is a pseudoscience.

PRO asks if, for example, thinking always trumps feeling in a particular individual. It just so happens that these characteristics aren't absolutes. As can be seen in my third argument, individuals often fall on a range between the two extremes. This concern points to the adaptability of MBTI, which is one of the characteristics that shows it is not a pseudoscience.

PRO asks if more that four cognitive functions should be included. Do you have a specific one in mind. The simplicity of 16 possible results is an asset of this system. Even if a classification system is not all-inclusive, this does not make it pseudoscience. Even PRO's wikipedia definition says nothing about accounting for all possibilities and variances.

It seems to me PRO's questions are either irrelevant or search for ways to improve the MBTI. PRO has not offered significant argumentation that MBTI is a pseudoscience, merely that in could be improved.


As you can see, MBTI is clearly not a pseudoscience.

Debate Round No. 3
BradK

Pro

BradK forfeited this round.
ForSerious

Con

BradK was kind enough to forfeit after I forfeited, so I will return the favor and not take advantage.
I just wanted to add thanks for a respectful and though out debate.
Good luck :)
Debate Round No. 4
15 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by BradK 2 years ago
BradK
I'd like to just respond to this in the comments though, because this really did seem to be a tall claim:

"Unless you are willing to debunk the whole of psychology and various other social sciences, I suggest you accept surveys as a scientific form of inquiry."

Are surveys and questionnaires the only source of experimental data in psychology? I most certainly do not think so. Human reaction time, EEG, sensory threshold experiments, brain scans, puzzles, i think you can probably think of about twenty if you sat down and listed out all the types of data you could take in a psychological experiment. It's more than safe to say that psychology isn't debunked if questionnaires are proved to be a bit faulty.
Posted by BradK 2 years ago
BradK
sorry it's been too hot where I am and it's hard to get anything done, and I've had school work to worry about
Posted by BradK 2 years ago
BradK
I did yes there have been so many times that I've had an opponent forfeit on me so I was waiting until you posted a round so I wasn't simply debating to myself.
Posted by ForSerious 2 years ago
ForSerious
Did you forfeit on purpose?
Posted by BradK 2 years ago
BradK
please do not miss this round
Posted by BradK 2 years ago
BradK
I'd honestly rather that we didn't lose a round, you can post round 2 in the comments if you post it early enough for me to respond.
Posted by ForSerious 2 years ago
ForSerious
Ah! So sorry. I slipped up and missed the deadline.
At least I still have rounds 3 and 4 :)
Posted by InvictusManeo 2 years ago
InvictusManeo
MBTI is more pseudo-science, but Jungian typology and the cognitive functions were never intended to be scientific in the first place, so your argument is kind of moot. Jung observed that there were 16 different 'natures' in people and explained these through a mixture of psychological theories and philosophical gleanings. He was for all intents and purposes a Daoist.

If you have a problem with MBTI prescribing behavioral patterns for people due to their four letter type, then you have a problem with Myers and Briggs and the purposes of their tests, not the functions themselves.

It's also worth noting that Jungian cognitive functions are in no way, shape or form equal to astrology, which assigns characteristics to people based on nothing more than a date in the calender and planetary alignments. You cannot conflate the two.

For an INTP, you seem pretty Te focused, though, which is interesting. ;) Though I am not intending to participate in this debate I am curious as to why you place such an importance on something being scientifically/empirically valid.
Posted by BradK 2 years ago
BradK
@RainbowDash52 i should have been more specific, but a lot of the type descriptions feature broad attributes like "goal oriented" or "adaptable" or "hard working". I'm not really aware of that many attributes s of the types that are unique to only one type.
Posted by whiteflame 2 years ago
whiteflame
"Pseudoscience is a claim, belief or practice which is presented as scientific, but does not adhere to a valid scientific method, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, cannot be reliably tested, or otherwise lacks scientific status."
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by bladerunner060 2 years ago
bladerunner060
BradKForSeriousTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro had the BoP here to prove that MBTI was pseudoscience. I think that he raised enough questions that Con should have shown how it was NOT--but Con made some unsupported assertions regarding how "Carefuly" it was constructed...I don't think that was an adequate response to the issue Pro raised. I'm just not confident that the issues as raised by Pro necessarily fulfill his BoP. So I'm casting a nulled vote. As always, happy to clarify this RFD.