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A review of correlations between big five personality types and life outcomes (dynomight.net)
311 points by dynm on May 9, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 249 comments

I think a lot of this analysis is tautological -- meaning that when you boil it down, you're just saying that things are as you have defined them to be.

For instance, take a Big Five trait such as agreeableness. How do we know that a person is agreeable? Because we define agreeableness in a certain way and then measure the degree to which someone conforms to the definition. If that measurement includes questions such as, "Do others find you easy to get along with?" then of course there's going to be a negative correlation with loneliness, because you've essentially defined it that way.

I am the author of Correlated.org, which commits many different types of statistical errors for humor's sake, so this leaps out at me. By the way, for a surprisingly vast number of things, agreeableness is quite predictive. Food preferences, public policy positions, and even willingness to answer poll questions :)

Articles like this answer the question, "what if 1920s eugenicists got hold of 1980s magazine relationship tests?"

The scary thing is a lot of commercial "people analytics" systems marketed to HR departments, lenders, and government agencies are little more than dressed up relationship tests from 1980s magazines.


Or Myers–Briggs, which is a lot older.

The main useful thing about this sort of thing, including the more modern Tilt 365 for example, is that it can be a useful exercise in helping people understand that the way they think about and approach the world differs from how others do.

Years ago, I remember a book (Tog on Interface) that had a chapter which discussed how Apple engineers tested on MBTI versus the general population. He went to discuss implications for how it was easier for engineers to have mental models for how systems operated than users. Was this a correct explanation based on MBTI? Who knows. But it was a useful reminder in this case that your users may not be like you.

I def found myres Briggs to be helpful, for your exact reasons. I know it gets a lot of hate here in HN, but as someone who was introduced to it in my first job right out of school, It made me more self aware of how I naturally process information and get energized, and how that can differ from others, and that bit of knowledge has absolutely helped me at times in my career. To me it was never sold as a “this is the only mold you fit in and it will define your role”, it was more to understand ways one might naturally process information, vs. ways one might need to actively work to process information differently.

Myers Briggs is astrology for people that scoff at astrology

I will code switch between star signs and personality acronyms to get in your pants and assign zero weight to either

"I will lie to manipulate you into fucking me, and also I think I'm smarter than everyone".

You charmer, you.

You decided to read that

I dont lie about my astrology signs or myer briggs result

I judge which one will likely help create an intimate consensual scenario and judge when to avoid criticizing either school of thought as disagreement is usually counterproductive to a consensual reproductive scenario

Pick your battles wisely

Out of even more adaptive curiosity, how do you read that as lying?

I dunno. “I didn’t say the things I thought you wouldn’t like so that we could have sex” somehow strikes me as disingenuous. Even though that’s just being considerate by a different name.

I guess it comes from the goal you are trying to achieve.

I don't share all values with people I have as companions and dont screen for that either, its an adaptation to never bring it up as well

But I’ll probably be knowledgeable about the value system

We’re on to love languages now too right

I think it just means you are an Agreeable person and GP is more Conscientious ;)

Becoming more so agreeable, I wish people wouldnt rally behind reductive character philosophies like Myers Briggs or sun signs

are you ENTP?

I get the exact same response when I try to debunk horoscopes to someone who believes that’s just classic Virgo behaviour haha.

Controversial, but also true, is that I get the same response trying to debunk diversity hiring etc. because I happen to be a white, straight male. I am also practically blind in one eye and grew up poor, but I refuse to play the victimhood game or even agree to that frame to win an argument. Also I don’t want to get into the pros and cons of that topic in this thread as that’ll inevitably be a train wreck as always, but I just want to point out how frustrating it is to “lose” an argument because of who you are, not what you actually say. Also, for the diversity people, it’s super insulting to essentially suggest “you’re only disagreeing to protect your own race”. I honestly think the appropriate response is to tell them to fuck off after they bring up your race, gender, sexuality, etc. in an argument.

On the flip side of that, I typically don't add a disclaimer about my heritage or political leaning before going into similar discussions, and it is hilarious that people assume I am a cisgender white male in order to invalidate anything I say. I also find it completely appalling how the "allies" act like female, trans and people of color have no ability to think for themselves or have different goals and opinions. To me, this is just as hurtful if not more than the "silent" and overtly racist people. Of course, now just add "allies" to the people that will argue about their worldview being altered. In person, people look at me like I have grown two heads when I suggest a minority might have listened to divisive comments from the former head of state. As if that is the biggest absurdity. People don't even want answers.

You clearly only think that way because of your internalised oppression /s


:) unfalsifiable to breakdown a belief system as only some relatable combination within that system would behave this way right

Technical analysis of securities is for people who scoff at both. I've often referred to it as "numerology for smart people."

As someone who implemented over 70 different indicators and close to 20 tools for drawing Gann fans, Fibonacci retracements and so on, I've heard a similar thing about technical analysis and astrology and very much concur :)

ooooh, them's fighting words!

I agree though and simply say its not my trading strategy.

Yeah, I half expected a couple downvotes on that one, lol. :P

But, seriously, IMO, to the extent that technical analysis "works," it's probably just exploiting short term momentum. Momentum strategies have been shown to generate alpha. Other than that, you'd probably be just as well off reading tea leaves and goat entrails to guide your trading strategy.

Unless a HR department is doing something wrong, the test results aren’t the point of the tests. It’s the conversation following, where possible employees are confronted with their answers and results that’s the point.

It’s just easier to get there when you use a disguised relationship tests from 1980ies magazines. Not only does it touch on relevant areas, most people that you’d use the HR resources on secretly love taking those things and then talking about themselves.

As with most things, it can obviously go wrong or get used in the wrong situations. HR is a department that’s there to help managers, but they really shouldn’t waste their resources testing people for a position as a software developer. If your company is doing that, something went wrong. Maybe HR found a way to keep themselves busy, or you’re not bolstering a management culture or people who can make hiring related decisions without consulting HR.

Why wouldn't HR be testing software engineering candidates?

Because you don’t really need the full personality profile show when you are interviewing people who aren’t going to be managers.

It’s not an insignificant amount of resources you put into the process. Not only do you take up HR resources, the team that is helping you recruit is also going to need to spend time going over the results with HR and the candidate.

In my optics that is an unnecessary waste of resources. Not only doesn’t the process really show you anything team-related, you should frankly be capable of judging people from the conversations you have with them just as well.

The in-depth personality stuff only gets relevant when the people you hire have to manage other people.

It depends on what you mean by a "full personality profile". I think a skillfully chosen selection of tests, which may sometimes include personality tests, can aid in the selection of the proper candidate.

I agree that the battery of tests used should not be the same in every case. It should be tailored to the situation and to the position you are hiring for.

> Not only do you take up HR resources, the team that is helping you recruit is also going to need to spend time going over the results with HR and the candidate.

I have second-hand experience that this can be made very streamlined and does not take much time at all. Especially when you have a large number of prospective candidates and will not be able to see them all in person, a pre-filtering done by a skilled HR person is better than a random draw.

Well because it's hard for them to come up with question and judge responses.

But I guess this means HR shouldnt skill-test anyone. We d all agree they shouldn't test a racecar driver, a CEO, a mathematician.

But the guy saying that probably doesnt work: HR never test anyone. They handle the process. He may be confusing it with wrong job posting that people attribute to HR (like N years xp in N-5 years old tech) which are usually the product of idiotic managers, not HR who doesnt give a fig what your team needs as long as you express it to them.

> HR never test anyone. They handle the proces.

Maybe we have different ways of defining things, or maybe my English isn’t good enough to convey the meaning.

But isn’t HR handling the process of personality testing, HR testing people? When we utilise personality testing, a HR consultant actually tests the candidates. It’s their test, they spend millions developing it and you have to be certified to perform it.

Yes, that's what I observe in my locale as well. HR people are usually trained psychologists. Administering and interpreting psychological tests properly is one of the major topics of the profession.

If you know the tests are snake oil, is it ethical to give the "right" answers to get a job?

Yes, of course it is. Working out how to work with people is the core competency of most jobs. In this case, if you've worked out how to give the 'correct' answers on such a test, then you've got a good start on knowing how to navigate the corporate machine - and get your real job done despite corporate garbage (which in my opinion is what makes it ethically ok).

Related to this, often I see a survey question along the lines of say, "which cup do you think would hold more water" with one that looks like it'd hold a lot more than the other. I'm never sure whether to answer with the meta-analysis of the fact that it's a survey question included in my answer.

That is, if I saw the two cups in my example naturally I'd say the obvious one holds more water, but often there'd be no point in putting it as a survey question if the obvious answer was the case. Therefore I'm almost sure the correct answer is the seemingly wrong one.

So I put that as the answer and get it right. But for whoever's running the survey, I'm probably messing up their results by meta-analysing the questions.

I don't know if this question is an example, but people intentionally include "obvious" questions in surveys to check whether people are actually paying attention to the survey. There's a name for these, I just don't recall it at the moment—which shows you I don't have any survey-design experience myself :).

According to a Google search, "Attention check questions" sounds like the right term

Also known as lie scales and have been around since at least the 50's. (Eysenck was first, I believe).

I think it’s perfectly ethical to game the tests, but it can be hard to tell what’s actually being tested.

One or ours was deliberately set up so that prospect hires applying for a leadership position would end up with very, very, little in their empathy score if they chose answers that sound like the “right” ones for a leadership position. It was done to catch people off guard in their next interview, and see how they handled getting shown a result they’d very likely not agree with.

HR departments know these things are bullshit. They know people game the systems, exactly like people practice for the coding interview. The test and the results are often extremely irrelevant to anyone getting hired, it’s how people handle their results that’s important.

Or, perhaps even more cynically, the HR people are just making up Important Tests to look like they’re doing something important, because they too just want to feed the corporate machine enough so they can feed their families.

If you wan my personal opinion I think HR exists solely to come up with reasons for HR to exist. Well minus the administrative part of handling employees payments (including stuff like maternity/sick leave) and the lawyers. But both of those functions could be branched into economy and general legal.

The entire branch of team-building/personality matching/management consulting/management training/management network facilitating is a fat unnecessary cow that enterprise organisations will never get rid of because they are very good at being “people skills” and positioning themselves with top management.

After a year of lockdowns, where they’ve been completely unable to execute their regular function, their absence have left no mark on our organisation though.

I would say yes, but do you want the job at the place that is giving you snake oil?

I want a job at a place where I can noodle around with <my hipster technology of choice> all day, but I'll settle for one that asks me to actually ship stuff, and pays the bills.

Whether or not their HR department is ran by a licensed phrenologist is a distant second concern.

maybe there's a Maslow's hierarchy of hiring needs to be defined somewhere, so after money, benefits comes work/life balance and then at the top of the pyramid comes working on things I like, and finally respecting the company I work for?

Maybe they pay really well

Or they control entire sectors of the economy.


Usually there's some correlation here

Is it ethical to give the "right" answer to a regular interview question? An interview might be a stressful situation for some people, who often suffer from a bias of downgrading themselves compared to others. So a calibrated interpretation of the questions may be necessary to provide a faithful result in the first place.

While this is true for a lot of common psychological constructs, the Big Five were not defined according to agreement or consensus. The definitions were driven by the lexical hypothesis whereby the wide variety of personality descriptive adjectives in human language were factor analyzed and found to cluster into 5 distinct factors.

So this isn't tautological in the way that you've described, though it is certainly related to the way human beings describe each other and the way that instantiates in human language.

Source 1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lexical_hypothesis

Source 2: I'm a psychologist and did research in this area

Humorism was a field of academic study for two millennia before germ theory demonstrated how laughable the entire field was. It’s always important to remember that doing research in a field doesn’t necessarily mean that the field itself is on a solid foundation that maps to reality. Psychology and psychiatry really do struggle to demonstrate statistically meaningful results behind most therapies (CBT is perhaps a notable exception, although even there results can be mixed). Analyses like the big 5 are squarely in the “let me read your tea leaves” camp of “science” IMO. They basically play a trick of “sure, the other personality theories were bogus but this time we did stumble upon a good way of characterizing it” while taking at face value that the entire endeavor as valid. Neuroscience has a bit more behind it because it’s actually rooted in quantifiable measurements somewhat and even there it’s difficult. It’s like trying to reverse-engineer a modern CPU from X-ray lithography. If you know the theory underpinning everything, you can start to make educated guesses. Without that you’re not going to get anywhere close to what’s going on let alone root cause if something is broken.

A major problem with humorism was that it did not have any empirical evidence to support it.

Modern personality theory DOES. Personality theory uses a variety of techniques to show that a construct is internally consistent and related to real-world indicators. If independent people can view a video or a person and they reliably rate that entity similarly (inter-rater reliability), we can say with some certainty that there is something there. Relating a construct like this to a variety of real-world outcomes allows us to ascertain its relationship to the world. This evidence is messy and not nearly as solid as what's found in the harder sciences, but your dismissal of the modern statistics of questionnaire-based measurement does a very well-researched field of inquiry a huge disservice.

My analogy to humorism was not to imply that there’s no empirical evidence at all here. Just that the field of psychology has continually struggled to actually develop testable hypotheses that lead to scientific theories.

There’s a giant chasm between “I have a signal” and “here’s what that signal means”. You can’t start out with a data set, pick out some signals and then say what they mean. That’s scientific theory 101. You build a hypothetical model and then design experiments to test those theories. It’s not me doing the field a disservice. The practitioners have consistently and repeatedly done bad science and statistics. I’ll be more supportive once the field actually starts producing falsifiable theories that are supported by evidence and the practitioners are better at calling out their peers.

You seem to be conflating psychology the science vs psychotherapy the practice. The latter approximates engineering and producing real life results takes precedence over proving things from first principles. Just like with medicine, you don't categorically reject medications even though it can't always explain the mechanisms of action fully (yet). Big tech doesn't hold off on making billion dollar business decisions based on the same techniques either. Science has its place but it is not always above real life pragmatism.

It’s remarkable how similar this is to the argument that an acupuncturist will make is. The modern pharmaceutical industry in many instances has the same issues by the way. Lots of drugs that have questionable efficacy at best.

Yes, my dad, a pharmacist, told me a drug just have to be a little bit more efficient than a placebo to pass certification, and he sells homeopathy all day as well (while calling it a scam), because it does relieve people of their pain...

Acupuncture, which is having someone dancing around you while touching you, is like everything: find something cheaper and more efficient to solve the same problems and we wont see it anymore.

> Big tech doesn't hold off on making billion dollar business decisions based on the same techniques either.

I've seen how large companies make ≈$X0 million decisions and probably $X00 million decisions and I suspect $ billion decisions aren't treated fundamentally differently. I wouldn't use that as evidence for how to make decisions well.

My current theory is that companies are successful not because they consistently make specific tactical or even strategic decisions well but because (through design or evolution) they are resilient systems that can weather surprisingly poor decision making at all levels.

Turns out that the big 5 have predictive power. Hard to call it "tea leaves" if it has broad correlates with human behavior that are replicable across cultures and predict forward-looking behavior.

That's the argument usually presented for intelligence testing.


My goodness, is intelligence testing now so taboo that this constitutes an argument?

Nope, just pointing out the commonality.

> Neuroscience has a bit more behind it because it’s actually rooted in quantifiable measurements somewhat and even there it’s difficult.

The problem still remains of how the physical measurements (even assuming we could measure them perfectly, which we definitely can't) relate to the internal experience.

Any real theory of psychology/neuroscience needs to be able to explain that, and currently I'm not aware of any that do.

> Psychology and psychiatry really do struggle to demonstrate statistically meaningful results behind most therapies (CBT is perhaps a notable exception, although even there results can be mixed)

So it's incredibly difficult to do good studies of therapy, because there is no simple placebo. All of the research I've seen suggests that there's huge amount of provider-level variance, which swamps the theoretically meaningful defences. I would suggest that this is because we don't really have a good understanding of how to interrogate our own (or others) psyches, which is definitely not something that neuroscience will help with (given the current state of the field, at least).

Sounds like we're in agreement. What I hear you saying is that the current situation is likely worse than my pessimistic take on it, right? :).

My only disagreement with you was that neuroscience will solve the problem, which it almost certainly won't, at least in my lifetime (hopefully I'm wrong though).

To be fair, Costa and McCrae did a lot of great work on the Big 5, but they really didn't like it when SEM/CFA didn't really support their theory.

In fact, they liked it so little that they invented Procrustean rotation so that they could make the factors come out the "correct" way.

Once I discovered that, I paid a lot less attention to the Big 5.

Also, I haven't checked the source papers, but that all blue stuff could come from a general tendency to agree with the questions/put a positive spin on that. I do know that not all personality measures are balanced on positive vs negative questions, to remove this bias (life satisfaction methods are almost certainly not balanced in this way).

But isn't that just tautology with an intermediate step?

You might have Personality Descriptive Adjective X that is found to cluster into what we call a Big Five trait.

But Adjective X has its own definition, and it's likely that the tautology (at least insofar as these life satisfaction correlations are concerned) happens at that level.

Tautology implies that the definition we give is redundant, but none of these things were defined in this way. This is because none of the research relies on this kind of dictionary definition.

Instead, they literally ask people hundreds of questions of the type:

"To what extent would you consider yourself to be [adjective]?" (0 - 'not at all' to 5 - 'complete')

Then they factor analyze the results to see which adjectives tend to be highly related to each other. Factor analysis builds on correlation to find shared variation among large groups of indicator variables.

So it is related to how people think of the adjectives and what they mean, but it is not the case that we are just lumping definitions together or "saying the same thing in different words" in the way of a tautology. Instead, what we're saying is that "Most of these personality adjectives mostly mean the same thing. Here's the thing they all mostly mean. If humans in all languages have tons of words that mostly mean this common thing, maybe this common thing is significant and worthy of study."

Regarding life satisfaction, the sense that one finds their life satisfactory and "would change nothing" (one of the items in the Satisfaction with Life Scale that was most likely used to measure it) doesn't show up in those other traits in any major way. In fact, to the extent that a description of the self is related to a world-view, belief or other external factor, it will never be a tautology, because a self-view and other-view or world-view will never share a common definition or tautology by virtue of the self-other distinction.

> Then they factor analyze the results to see which adjectives tend to be highly related to each other. Factor analysis builds on correlation to find shared variation among large groups of indicator variables.

The big problem with these results (and god knows I've analysed enough of them) is that the extent that they map to other characteristics measured without surveys is pretty much unknown.

If you want to create a new measure of extraversion, then you use the older methods (i.e. other surveys), and this only really tells you that the new measure correlates with the old.

I vaguely recall Eysenck doing physiological tests for extraversion/introversion which would avoid this problem, but I'm not aware of any more recent research in this area (mind you, I've been out of the field for a decade now).

I suppose they asked 1000s of different questions, each representing a different personality characteristic. After factor analysis, some arbitrary number of factors were found to account for most of the variance. Why did they settle for 5 vs 8 vs 12?

There are a number of metrics that are commonly used to settle on a number of factors to extract. There's some judgment in it to be sure, but you are looking at data-driven phenomena as well like percentage of variance explained, a precipitous drop in new added value, and etc.

Essentially you come to a point where extracting another value isn't explaining much more variance or producing a factor that's meaningful (e.g., two items of conscientiousness with negative wording are the entire new "factor" and only take variance explained from 80% to 82%).


Like pretty much every unsupervised learning problem, there is no data which can tell you what N should be. If there was, you could trivially use that measure to convert it to a supervised learning problem.

More generally, all of those metrics are pretty fluffy (the scree plot is probably the best, as it doesn't give you a p-value).

In order to actually do this right, you need multiple studies and CFA, but the standard in the field is to refit your exploratory model as a CFA on the original dataset, which is almost certainly causing overfitting in most cases.

Other models actually did settle for higher numbers of factors, but higher numbers were usually found to have categories that could be reasonably collapsed into one of the Big 5.

Fwiw, my understanding is that most psychologists believe that with further study, these categories will map to actual functioning of the brain and nerve systems. For example, "Neuroticism" will somehow map to the excitability of certain nerve systems and "Agreeableness" will somehow map to functioning of our mirror and mentalizing systems. "Conscientiousness" will map to inhibiting functions, "Openness" will map to approach/flee type emotional functions, and "Extraversion" will map to systems like dopamine release on securing rewards for behavior.

That's a belief that's a long way from being testable though.

So how do we objectively measure all 5 dimensions? I.e. would I roughly assess myself similar to how others (on average) would assess me?

There is a bunch of item pools that has been developed for this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Five_personality_traits#Me...

Given that the definitions of words and phrases are possibly subjective, I've often wondered if the personality test largely measures how people interpret the questions.

My understanding is that the point of the Big Five model is that the design was the other way around—we started by looking at how answers to personality-related questions naturally clustered, then we gave names to those clusters. We define "agreeableness" because a particular set of answers/preferences/etc were correlated and could be interpreted as "agreeableness".

Of course, there are limitations to this kind of approach and there's been a lot of research and refining done on top of this—not being an expert, I'm not familiar with it—but the core of the Big Five model is observational, not tautological.

My (lay) understanding is that personality data tend to be clustered such that it's best explained by five factors, with the names of the factors (Openness, Conscientiousness, etc.) having been added later.

Wikipedia states it pretty well, "When factor analysis (a statistical technique) is applied to personality survey data, it reveals semantic associations: some words used to describe aspects of personality are often applied to the same person." [1]

The Big Five are a statistically-derived groupings of phrases that are reasonably stable when measured from different angles. I think it would be fair to call it a "modest initial result" if compared to the physical sciences, or "wildly successful" if compared to basically anything prior that came out of the social sciences. There are some quite reasonable critiques listed on the wikipedia page, such as a lack of modeling theory, or only accounting for a portion of personality differences, or arguments for a slightly different number of factors, etc. That said, it seems to be one of the first actually solid findings that ever came out of the social sciences. It's like the whole field has been flailing around, swept down a river in the dark, and for the first time we found a stone that has a bit of purchase, even if it's covered with moss and slippery.


Wildly successful is a term that would be better applied to item response theory models, the Big 5 (and personality psychology more generally) are at the leeches stage compared to them.

That being said, it's much much harder to develop measures when you rely on other measures of the same type to validate them, which is where personality testing is right now.

By response theory do you mean behavior research by Skinner, Panksepp, etc? Yes, basically everything in personality psychology barely even registers compared to that, I agree that my comparison was too broad. A more reasonable statement might have been that Big 5 is wildly successful compared to other personality models.

Thank you for the correction.

Nope, I meant item response theory: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Item_response_theory

It's a much, much better method for designing and analysing questionnaires, and it is the foundation for all standardised testing (SAT, MCAT etc).

Sure, there are some that seem roughly tautological (like "Popularity" and "Extraversion") but who cares – there's a bunch here that's interesting.

For example, that conscientiousness (aka diligence/organization) correlates more positively than extraversion with Job Income but less positively with Life Satisfaction and negatively with Popularity.

Agreeableness having a light negative correlation with Income and Intelligence is also thought-provoking and not at all tautological.

Hum i did not know that word but i have thought allot about that.

Especially in relation to “neurological disorders” like ADHD. Where some people blame their ADHD for their behavior. Or basically anything that has to do with personality. It is clearly as you say tautological. You have a certain personality because you behave in a certain way, you don’t behave in a certain way cause you have a certain personality.

But then you have the fact that earlier personality can be used to predict future personality and future behavior. It is not causal but it is predictive.

Some people call that causal people in social science. I think that is twisting the definition of “causal”.


Or free will, if you believe or don’t believe in free will is a tautological consequence of how you define the self.

Some people define the self in such a way that free will can’t exist and others define the self in a way so that free will must exist ie. It could not possibly not exist.

> If that measurement includes questions such as, "Do others find you easy to get along with?" then of course there's going to be a negative correlation with loneliness, because you've essentially defined it that way.

Lack of agreeableness may drive others away, but if disageeable people also want less socialization, they might not be more lonely than agreeable people.

I personal think I'm pretty agreeable, but it would take a lot for me to feel lonely, so even if I were very disagreeable, I imagine I'd still have enough people around to suit me.

Quite a leap from ”I’m agreeable but prefers to be alone” to ”disagreeable people prefers to be more alone than agreeable people”.

I'm often skeptical about those things, because they try to measure, but those measure are based on a definition of vocabulary, which is difficult to define.

Personality is vague. It's pretty common knowledge that the brain is a complex machine and it's quite difficult to distillate some sort of evaluation, metric or measure for something that obviously has a million or billions ways to be measured.

It's already hard or difficult to treat psychiatric illness, so evaluating personality seems like an odd quest.

>For instance, take a Big Five trait such as agreeableness. How do we know that a person is agreeable? Because we define agreeableness in a certain way and then measure the degree to which someone conforms to the definition.

I'm not sure what's the point of this observation.

This is the case with every term.

How do we know someone is a murderer, a cry-baby, a thief, a chef, or any trait X?

Because "we define X in a certain way and then measure the degree to which someone conforms to the definition"

The links at the bottom of Correlated.org , "How Correlated generates its stats" and "A response to Correlated's critics", appear to be broken. Clicking either of them leads to pages that display "Page not found".

The author is making a subtle mistake; evolution doesn't mean like-parent-like-child.

Evolution is likely selecting for, eg, people who have children at a certain ratio of introverted-extroverted.

Introverted, disagreeable, high-contentious types make, for example, great scientists. A population (call it A) that produces a reasonable number of such people is at a huge advantage compared to the alternative that only produces extroverted agreeable types (call them B).

Population B will be more competitive at breeding, but population A will win any conflict with B because they'll have a bunch of weirdos in the back room producing a lot of high quality science (a classic stereotype with some foundation in truth).

Note that men are much more likely (something like 4x) to be "completely homosexual" compared to women [0]. I'm betting this is because having a few men who opt out of the race to pass on their genes and focus on other stuff is a massive advantage to the society that hosts them. Look how much of a force gay men have been in culture for example.

Locally catastrophic for breeding, globally optimal for society. The equilibrium isn't for all offspring to maximise their chance of breeding. The optimum is for the community to thrive.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_sexual_orienta...

Also, why would evolution select for an equilibrium? With so many parameters I would expect oscillation.

I came here to say essentially this. But what is the name of this process where groups of people select for variety instead of optimal individuals?

It's a type of natural selection called "group selection", and it's taboo, because it's very tempting to invoke it to explain away all sort of apparent paradoxes - but it requires very tricky circumstances to work at all, if it even can, and it's rare for the explain-away-ers to bother to show why it works in their particular instance.


I'm confident that it is evolution. People don't evolve, populations evolve.

You're confident, but evolutionary biologists largely don't agree with you. I strongly recommend you glance over some of the reasons why at the Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Group_selection

In a nutshell - "The problem with group selection is that for a whole group to get a single trait, it must spread through the whole group first by regular evolution... a group where altruism was universal would indeed outcompete a group where every creature acted in its own interest, so group selection might seem feasible; but a mixed group of altruists and non-altruists would be vulnerable to cheating by non-altruists within the group, so group selection would collapse."

Of all of the personality traits I have attempted to change over the years, my introversion has remained the most stubborn. It's a shame, too. I can briefly emulate extraversion, at an enormous cost of mental energy and feel like a dog walking on its hind legs. Nor do I seem to be able to extract the purported benefits of it. And the list of approaches I have exhausted is, in retrospect, more than a little shocking. It's the one area where "fake it until you make it" seems to have failed me utterly.

What does it mean to you to be extroverted or what kind of benefits do you want to achieve by emulating this trait(s)?

Personally, I really don't like this differentiation between introverts and extroverts because I don't see where I fit in on this scale. Reducing so many hard to define traits like empathy, compassion, charisma, social competence, emotional intelligence, etc. and all kind of personal experiences and habits to a single binary label doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

Are you an introvert if you don't like to be around most people in your current environment but can't stop talking for hours when you're around people that you actually like?

Do you become introvert after an unfortunate series of events, which create serious trust issues and result in you staying at home more often instead of constantly going out like in the past?

Are you an extrovert when you can't be alone because then you will experiences constant FOMO, can't stop yourself from ruminating or need constant approvement from others and socializing whenever you can is your only coping mechanism.

Are you a real extrovert if you get along really good with a lot of strangers on a daily basis as part of your job but prefer to spend most of your free time alone reading, painting etc.?

Sometimes it looks almost like a self-fullfilling-prophecy when someone labels themself this way.

What methods have you tried to emulate extraversion? A friend of mine used improv and acting to help them "act" more extroverted, YMMV. Me, I'm still emulating too.

First, just going out and doing things, namely concerts. Hundreds upon hundreds of concerts. I'm very good at going to concerts (obtaining tickets, optimal parking, getting everything ready) but I still do not enjoy myself.

Various combinations of medications, prescribed and self-selected, have failed. It wasn't exhaustive exactly but I would say that it was a good survey of the field.

Memorizing quite a lot of detail about people helps in making you seem engaged, but there's a fine line (past a certain point, if you confess to remembering whatever counts as "too much," it becomes "creepy"), and it still hasn't affected the base.

Self-talk, acting, improv -- it increases the fidelity of the emulation but it's still emulation.

At the end of the day, other people say "hello" and I have failed the initiative check, and am pondering what exactly do I say back to them, and they've already gone by.

A remarkably stable trait for me.

Adderall and/or alcohol seem to work well for me. But those aren't exactly costless either..

Those are definitely in the list of things I have tried. I had high hopes for a stimulant of some kind.

Regarding concerts, do you enjoy music?

I'm an extrovert, I enjoy music, I don't really enjoy concerts.

Yes, quite a bit.

Are these personality types really scientifically grounded?

I once was sort of compelled to take a Myers-Briggs test and I found it utterly flawed. So much of one’s personality depends on the contact and environment, yet Myers-Briggs wants to force you into one type.

Making things way too simple. But maybe simple is what was sought here rather than really resolving personality.

That's a good question, and your reaction to the Myers-Briggs is justified! It is not evidence-based and is roundly rejected by modern personality psychology. The work the author of this piece was describing on the other-hand is one of the most well-researched phenomena in the history of psychology.

It is based on a massive amount of research looking at clusters of personality adjectives found in dozens of languages that tend to cluster along five dimensions. And the same five clusters are found in virtually all languages (sometimes to include a 6th cluster often called "honesty/humility").

And to your point about types, this system doesn't assign types to people, but instead places them on a continuous dimension that is considered to be much more useful.

And to your point about complexity, the 5 dimensions are higher level structures. Within each dimension is a branching tree of complexity that is where the current work lies.

Further reading: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lexical_hypothesis https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Five_personality_traits

The author of the featured article has also written a defense of the Myers-Briggs system that argues against several of your points: https://dynomight.net/in-defense-of-myers-briggs.html

(I'm not particularly invested in either model, but it is somewhat cute that the author of both pieces is the same.)

His article defends a modified myers-briggs that is much closer to the big 5. Myers-briggs with personality traits on a distribution is extremely similar to big 5 minus neuroticism.

Thank you for this deep answer, and for confirming my impression of Myers-Briggs!

I can see how a continuous scale can already fix a few issues. However, isn’t it still too simplistic to say “personality feature X correlates with real-life success measure Y?”

Take for example “Openness”. It’s not hard to imagine how the very same person can be very open with one group of people, but act totally differently in another group.

Is Openness then really a feature of personality? Or maybe rather a description of the social behaviour of one person in a specific context?

>Is Openness then really a feature of personality? Or maybe rather a description of the social behaviour of one person in a specific context?

This is a great question! And it touches on what's call the "person-situation" debate, first popularized by Walter Michel[1]. Essentially there was a major debate about whether traits were a thing or we should just be focused on context-specific behavior. Mischel believed that traits weren't useful, and situations ruled.

In many ways this debate has been resolved by the "person as a density distribution" [2]. People do vary a lot within, and that variation is vitally important. However, their average or "set point" upon which they vary is also important and predictive.

When we talk about the correlation between a trait and some external marker, we are only looking at correlations with averages or set-points, which as you mention is only a limited picture of that person, but it is still useful and valuable to look at. For example, I'm a fairly open person. This means that on average I'm more open in more situations. And this is predictive. It's also important to note that this only loosely predicts what I'll do in any particular situation or at any particular timepoint.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Person%E2%80%93situation_debat...

[2] https://personality-project.org/revelle/syllabi/classreading...

Excellent—that sounds almost like a Bayesian approach, where personality corresponds to the prior, the context in which the person behaves is the likelihood, and the posterior is a distribution of behaviours.

I guess a personal goal should then be to seek the context in which one’s strengths match best the demands.

I would suggest an MCMC approach but I guess the evaluation of individual outcomes is too costly to make this practical ;)

I think it's more “a personality is a function over the continuous domain of situations”.

Not a contradiction! Bayesian inference is fully compatible with this definition.

I don't see how you could get a prior over this without some really dubious assumptions. Plus, it's not what GGP described.

The prior is given by the score on the big five?

And do you combine that with something like an Occam's Razor formalism?

> Take for example “Openness”. It’s not hard to imagine how the very same person can be very open with one group of people

Lest this be misunderstood, note that "Openness" in this context is not about being honest. It is short for "Openness to Experience". Roughly, it's about creativity and curiosity.


Good point. Still, a person that radiates creativity and curiosity in an environment that they find inspiring could be the exact opposite in another environment that they find less suitable. Hence my point that this personality trait stuff is at least as much dependent on context as on personal traits.

That's widely accepted as part of personality theory. The idea is that you have some "base setting," not that you will literally try anything (or refuse to try anything). It should also be noted that personality is one aspect of your psychology. It doesn't absolutely determine how you will behave under a given set of circumstances. Example: you might be very open to experience, but as a child you were bit by a dog. Next time you see a dog, your experience-based fear could easily overwhelm your natural curiosity.

Definitely! I only didn't respond the rest of your comment because anbende did so better than I could.

When I first learned about Myers-Briggs, about 15 years ago, I took the test and I got I wanna say INTJ. About a week later, I took it again and got INTF. A week after that, I took it again and got ENTP. That's when I stopped trusting it, and I can't take it seriously whenever anybody brings it up. Let alone the fact that it was designed by two housewives in the 1910s, based on books by Carl Jung he disavowed himself.

As I've grown older, I've developed a theory about why people like the zodiac sign, Myers-Briggs, blood type personalities and all that other crap: * Sense of belonging - wanting to belong to an in-group * Understanding oneself - these categorizations let you explain your personality really quickly, if not really in depth * Avoiding responsibility for themselves - instead of recognizing your flaws, it's easier to say "well I'm a Libra, what did you expect?"

I can understand the need for the first two, but that last point always makes me angry.

That is a problem of interpretation by amateurs more than a problem with the test itself. Myers-Briggs gives you PERCENTAGES of every trait, then it uses 4 letter labels to make things simpler for people, but you are supposed to understand that a person that scored 49% introvert in the introvert-extrovert spectrum is going to be far similar to a person that scored extrovert with 51% than to a person that scored introvert 10% because its a spectrum not an absolute value.

That is the reason that modern tests like Big Five did away with the labels, because people were incapable to reason beyond them and kept making dumb assumptions like "He scored introvert so he must hate parties or I scored introvert the first time but extrovert the second (a potential 1% difference between the labels without the percentages associated to them) so the test is crap".

> you are supposed to understand that a person that scored 49% introvert in the introvert-extrovert spectrum is going to be far similar to a person that scored extrovert with 51% than to a person that scored introvert 10% because its a spectrum not an absolute value.

This doesn't fit well with my mental model of how Myers Briggs works (regardless of the veracity of Myers Briggs).

As I understand it: Myers Briggs maps to the Jungian cognitive functions[0] and the side that you fall on the J/P dichotomy will invert these.

An INTJ would be: Introverted Intuition, Extraverted Thinking, Introverted Feeling, Extraverted Sensing

An INTP would be: Introverted Thinking, Extraverted Intuition, Introverted Sensing, Extraverted Feeling

Getting near the 50% mark on the J/P aspect appears to show low confidence in any part of the model

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jungian_cognitive_functions

Myers and Briggs were inspired by Jung. And some enthusiasts insist on interpreting it how you do. But basically every test treats the axes as continuous.

The Big 5 Personality Inventory is pretty much the gold standard in the field of psychology. The traits it measures are reasonably (though not completely) stable over a person's lifetime, have decent predictive power, and have been tested and studied rigorously for decades now. They have nearly nothing in common with Meyers-Briggs.

In particular, each of the traits is measured on a separate spectrum—none of them are treated as binary the way M-B does, and they don't seek to pigeonhole you based on your levels of the different traits into some oversimplified bucket.

See [1]. It's a lot, I don't fully understand it myself. I find it convincing enough to say it's scientifically grounded, in the linguistic sense at least. I wouldn't say this research is grounded in the biological sense (not the five factor model anyway, perhaps the concept of "personality" is though).

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Five_personality_traits#Hi...

Thanks for the link. So if I read this correctly, these personality traits refer to how one is perceived by others. OK, I guess that makes sense.

But it would be total nonsense to conclude about personality traits from a self-taken test.

Myers-Briggs is pseudoscientific bs. The only reason it’s so famous is that it’s an easy snake oil to peddle by consultants.

It was literally concocted by two persons without scientific method or context. It’s fiction. Some fiction mirrors life quite well, but that does not turn it into a scientific tool.

The only time Myers-Briggs has some utility is as a facilitation tool when a consultant needs to convince a roomfull of people that diverse teams are good, and that cognitive diversity is an asset and what it might look like. I.e. it’s a usefull proxy for a scientific measure when we’ve been brainwashed to trust only high-modernist fantasies and have no space for actual humanist rumination.

lol this was precisely the context in which I was exposed to this test :D

it's claimed that myers-briggs is reliably repeatable, but my personal experience contradicts this, with a flip-flopping of 3 of the 4 attributes over time. it doesn't seem too reliable to me.

Yes, my experience exactly. I could imagine myself in different situations suiting different answers, and therefore having different personalities.

That might even make sense but then it’s not a description of personality, but of context-dependent behaviour. Only useful within a defined context.

Myers-Briggs is astrology for office workers. You can read anything into it, helpful or unhelpful.

I can't read a text based on the Big Five seriously. My personality changed in many ways over the years. It's kinda like your political position changes over the years.

Someone fresh from college might be introverted and on the left political spectrum because he has no money, but to be successful he might get extroverted and when he has much money, he might get more on the right political spectrum.

How can something which basically assumes that people don't change get so popular?! People change all the time, personality changes all the time.

Hi there, psychologist here who has done research in personality including looking at the Big Five. It's not my personal favorite set of constructs, but I have great respect for the body of work supporting it.

Modern personality theory in no way assumes that personality doesn't change over time. It finds instead that personality tends to be "somewhat stable over time" which means that personality doesn't vary massively from week to week or month to month but can definitely shift across the lifespan. In fact, here's a large study looking at exactly that (though cross-sectional which means that many effects could be a function of age cohorts rather than actual change).


Regarding your hypothetical introverted recent college grad, these kinds of shifts can and do happen, but massive shifts in personality appear to be quite rare. What's more, modern work in the area has found that "within-person" variability is much greater than "between-persons" variability meaning that as individuals we express a wide range of behaviors. For example, I might be more extraverted at work and more introverted among friends or vice versa, showing internal variation. That said, we can talk about a person's average level of a trait like extraversion and that average is meaningful and predictive.

As to your point, both kinds of change can and do happen, but changing our behavioral approach to life tends to be gradual and slow for most people.

I enjoyed reading your responses in this thread very much!

Do you have a “favorite set of constructs”?

Thank you. My more recent work has focused more on mental health constructs used to track clinical progress over time. The parts I like the most are more concerned with the activation of emotion systems than behavioral tendencies or personality.

I really like the Jaak Panksepp's affective neuroscience view of emotion systems and Paul Gilbert's work on social safeness as an often overlooked emotion system.

Interestingly, emotions can be measured and viewed very similarly to personality traits (really the propensity to experience a particular emotion) and in fact positive emotionality forms a subcomponent (sometimes called an 'aspect') of extroversion and negative emotionality more or less IS neuroticism.

What do you think about psilocybin's effect on openness? Are there other studies that produce such marked changes in personality?

That's a very interesting question, but unfortunately it's not really my area.

If you'll permit me to speculate a bit:

I do clinical work as well, and I'd say that therapy produces some personality change if done long enough, but it's not a massive shift in most cases, though even small changes can make a big difference over time.

Unfortunately, trauma and hardship can also have a big impact on people's personality and average behavior. Going to war or prison or suffering great loss can have a big impact.

Not as much the case as you might think and the Big Five model is largely reliable.

Different traits can change over time, some are easier to change than others, they are also skewed if the individual suffers from acute mental health issues such as depression.

Concienciousness is the easiest to change, via intervention, but takes a very long period of time. We tend to naturally become more conciencious as we get older.

Openess is the hardest to change I believe, it's also a predictor of creativity and IQ, IQ being impossible to improve currently.

The teenage/developmental opinion swings are a result of life experience and information gathered about surroundings rather than personality. Personality is mostly established by age 6. Lou

Conscientiousness is by far the least popular but has the highest income. That is not at all surprising. Objectivity, right and wrong as reflected by a balance of measures, is a rare and unpopular innate personality trait that allows for making micro-decisions many people might find abhorrent, more typically based upon evidence.

I would say that's almost more disagreeable than conscientious.

Conscientious can almost be better described as 'consistent', 'doing what you say you're gong to do', 'being responsible'.

I think you might be hinting at the right thing ...

.. but 'weighing evidence in a very highly deliberative, judicial fashion' - might not be the best example of that.

Extolling the Judgment, might even land on the disagreeable side. For example, the Judge who finds a supposed murderer 'not guilty' even with the mobs of people chanting 'guilty' outside the courthouse.

I don't think 'disagreeableness' is necessarily even the right word, it's more like 'will have their own opinion even if it makes them unpopular'.

I almost think that those Big 5 could be reoriented in a way that divides people as those inclined towards populist outcomes vs. those inclined towards judicial, principled, truthful ones.

Conscientiousness isn't a measure of objectivity, it's a measure of reliability, the capacity to work diligently and adhere to rules. It correlates with income well because we're living in a very institutionalized society that rewards people who adhere to rules and follow expectations.

In the US it's basically what upper middle-class WASP culture is and it sustains a large share of income because it's very good at reproducing itself and managing organisations, it's all the lawyers, and bureaucrats, politicians and administrators and so on, it's all the people who're really good at making schedules.

According to the same chart, conscientious people also seem to perform significantly better in college than everyone else. In the modern world, better GPAs are usually correlated with higher income.

Interestingly, those people don't seem to do particularly well in the SAT. Perhaps their abilities are "unlocked" to the fullest only after they get into college and get a chance to make independent decisions.

> Interestingly, those people don't seem to do particularly well in the SAT. Perhaps their abilities are "unlocked" to the fullest only after they get into college and get a chance to make independent decisions.

Or maybe the SAT is just a shitty test.

For whom?

The real problem is that not all valuable paths can come to the same bottleneck.

Med student? Well, the SAT might be a good indicator of how successful you'll be at completing a medical program in the US. Same thing for law.

Are you the creative type? Then the SAT probably won't be as indicative of your future success.

I have around a 148 IQ but scored only 1060 on the SAT. Clearly those two measures are not linked. This has not prevented me from earning a 4 year degree or becoming a software developer. I find writing software to be easy while many of my peers seem to struggle. In reflection personality and practice are all that have mattered. IQ isn’t a significant consideration of comfort/confidence in writing software, a skill.

they are positively correlated. your outlier does not invalidate the relation between the variables.

Indeed. SAT is basically "how good are you at cramming a bunch of relatively arbitrary information into your brain and regurgitating it in a high pressure, timed scenario". That is a kind of intelligence, but there are very few occupations where that kind of intelligence is useful. Lawyers and doctors.

Both the "intensely study something rather uninteresting" and "perform under high stress and time demand" are specific kinds of intelligence, and I happen to know many intelligent folks who are expressly bad at it. They don't "test well". Anecdotally, diligent study and fast-testing are anti-correlated in many of these smart folks.

> cramming a bunch of relatively arbitrary information into your brain

What? Most of the SAT is evaluating high school-level math, writing, and reading skills. It's not like they're asking you to memorize historical dates or names or poems or formulas. Maybe the relatively narrow part of the test on vocabulary falls into this category, but even those words are almost entirely things you'll just pick up if you like reading books. And, now that I'm looking into it, only 10 out of 52 questions in the reading section are even about vocabulary [1]. You can skip 9 of them and still get a 700 on reading/writing [2]. Assuming you get an 800 on math, that's a 98th percentile total score and a 90th percentile on reading/writing alone [3], with almost no vocabulary prep.

I agree about the high pressure aspect, there doesn't seem to be a good way around that.

[1] https://www.kaptest.com/study/sat/whats-tested-on-the-sat-vo...

[2] https://blog.prepscholar.com/how-many-questions-can-you-skip...

[3] https://blog.prepscholar.com/sat-percentiles-and-score-ranki...

But they are linked. Studies have shown a very high correlation. One outlier doesn't change the high correlation.

If those studies don’t separate preparation from raw performance they only suggest a self-reinforcing bias different from capability. Any correlation then is purely anecdotal.

The high correlation suggests that both preparation/study and raw intelligence are important in getting a high SAT score. If you sacrifice one of those two things, you'll get a low SAT score. If you have both, you'll get a high score.

> If you sacrifice one of those two things, you'll get a low SAT score. If you have both, you'll get a high score.

Even this is saying too much. I know someone who literally did two or three practice tests and got just shy of a 2400 (he got every q right and lost ten pts for his essay). There's nothing on the SAT that's difficult enough to need prep for a high school junior, with the possible exception of the permutation/combination qs.

Though note that this leaves a massive hole for those who are doing math at middle-school levels, which is true of a shocking fraction of the student population.

Which of those is more important and by how much though? If both are important factors it would necessary to determine that weighted measure before falsely drawing a correlation that is incomplete or biased.

SAT is more "how good AND MOTIVATED are you at cramming a bunch of relatively arbitrary information into your brain"

SAT and IQ are strongly correlated, you are an outlier.

IQ strongly correlates with SAT score, IIRC. If you have a 148 IQ, I bet a capable tutor could train you to score a good deal higher than 1060.

A good tutor and sufficient preparation time should be enough to transform anybody into an SAT expert. If that is the case and this indicates a person with low IQ can score high on the test then potentially everybody is potentially an outlier, which then isn’t an outlier at all.

> I have around a 148

That's rather impressive, but I would double-check those numbers.

For example, which IQ test? Was it recently updated? IQ tests are adjusted by as many as 10 points every 10 years [1]. Have you double verified with another test? How did you prepare for each?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flynn_effect

I think a good IQ test would be finding isomorphic graphs. A typical question would be: here's a graph with 7 nodes, tell which of the 4 graphs below it matches.

Lol i just learned about these today

I am not that concerned. The number is as important to me as my exceedingly unimpressive SAT score.

well then it shouldn't be used as main point of your argument

I think you are confusing a relevant but worthless data point for something of value. I guess there are people that attach emotional significance to such things, but it’s just some number that made a valid argument.

If I don’t care and it’s my number why do you or anybody else care? Why should I not use this number to make a valid argument?

Getting good grades is a grind.

Being 'sufficiently smart' - plus - being organized, diligent, applying yourself consistently, will probably get you better grades than being a disorganized genius.

If everyone had the same IQ, then University grades would be actually a really, really good measure of raw conscientiousness.

but some courses are easier than others though

> Perhaps their abilities are "unlocked" to the fullest

My impression is conscientious people work within the system and don't toe the line.

edit: disclosure, I am highly unconscientious, didn't finish uni etc.

“Toe the line” is pretty much a synonym to work within the system.

Ah, right! Not a native speaker, got that wrong-way-round and double-up.


No problem. I am a native speaker and it seems a weird expression to me as well (so much that I had to look it up to be sure). I’d expect it to mean what your original usage was.

Don’t get me started on “flammable vs inflammable” vs “accurate vs inaccurate” ;)

Just for the record : I would put my toe over the line. A bit.

My understanding of the phrase "toe the line" was to express that someone is technically within limits but is intentionally testing the boundaries of their limits, but apparently this is not accurate. TIL.

Perhaps the SAT is more like an IQ test (where a "quick wit" is advantageous), and college grades are based more on sustained performance, planning, meeting deadlines etc. These are very different things.

Grades are shockingly dependent on completing busywork on time, so I am not at all surprised that conscientiousness beats intelligence there.

"Broadly speaking, they are more happy, successful, intelligent, creative, and popular."

This reads like an extrovert's life wish list - particularly "popular," but even "happy" and "creative." I disagree that someone who exhibits these characteristics is somehow "better" or is living a better life.

Completely agree here. As an introvert, wouldn't one be happier being around _less_ people? More so, I'd beg to argue creativity isn't a uniformly measured trait. An introvert expressing their creativity (i.e. through a personal project for their own satisfaction) is way different than an extroverted person running a business to express their creativity.

not personality trait obviously, but in terms of success IQ probably matters more than big 5. I think personality can be improved or changed though effort but intelligence cannot. Someone who is introverted can make an effort to be extroverted in situations where it matters.

I’m just amazed that we’re still happy to condense one of the most complex phenomena, if not *the* most complex phenomenon that we were aware of into a single scalar performance value.

It seems a convenient shorthand. Intelligence is surely a multi-dimensional vector, but it’s convenient in a lot of circumstances to talk about its magnitude.

“All models are wrong; some models are useful.”

> Intelligence is surely a multi-dimensional vector

There's a single component responsible for almost half of the difference: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/G_factor_(psychometrics)

This is just another layer of aggregation, emphasis mine:

>It is a variable that summarizes positive correlations among different cognitive tasks, reflecting the fact that an individual's performance on one type of cognitive task tends to be comparable to that person's performance on other kinds of cognitive tasks.

Money is another scalar value which matters a lot.

It is valid to make this judgement about IQ itself as in the test itself. However, I think that when most people refer to IQ, they just mean the general notion of intelligence.

IQ tests don't do that. They give you different scores for verbal etc.

It's useful to put it into one dimension though because all those different scores are quite correlated. A well functioning brain is usually generally just good at many different things.

Many recent studies related to "grit", determination, practice and effort vs "talent" seem to refute this entirely.

They could just be out to sell books though, too; I don't have a strong opinion either way.

No, concienciousness is more indicative than IQ, then the rest of the factors follow IQ. Openness is highly correlated with IQ as well.

Is there data on that?

Perceptions of intelligence are variable to practice and preparation if the measure is nonrandomized convergent standardized tests, which is not IQ but is the more accepted assessment of intelligence. IQ only seems to matter up to 135 after which other factors become more dominant in determining success.

Here's a thought. When you reach IQ 135 you start becoming "io-bound". But this is a function of the complexity of our society. As our society and technology gets more complicated the "skillcap" will shift upwards, and a higher IQ will be needed for full performance.

Check out SMPY - here's an image of their results showing that academic output, patents, tenure, income continues to increase well beyond IQ 135. Details in the later links.




The obvious question is, if IQ (or whatever SAT is measuring) is irrelevant, why is it so predictive of lifetime academic output?

Also, people try to attack the SAT as nothing more than test prep - but I don't think that argument works well because it supposes you can produce kids who score 700 on the math SAT before age 13; such a training program has never been observed.

Some amount of test prep is surely helpful in terms of understanding the test format and strategies, but it does seem (almost?) obvious that the SAT is actually measuring something other than test prep.

NB: SMPY qualifications for at least the early cohorts of the study are “before 13” (so, 12 or younger).

More IQ is better at all levels. There’s no evidence of a threshold effect.

> Can You Ever Be Too Smart for Your Own Good? Comparing Linear and Nonlinear Effects of Cognitive Ability on Life Outcomes

> Despite a long-standing expert consensus about the importance of cognitive ability for life outcomes, contrary views continue to proliferate in scholarly and popular literature. This divergence of beliefs presents an obstacle for evidence- based policymaking and decision-making in a variety of settings. One commonly held idea is that greater cognitive ability does not matter or is actually harmful beyond a certain point (sometimes stated as > 100 or 120 IQ points). We empirically tested these notions using data from four longitudinal, representative cohort studies comprising 48,558 participants in the United States and United Kingdom from 1957 to the present. We found that ability measured in youth has a positive association with most occupational, educational, health, and social outcomes later in life. Most effects were characterized by a moderate to strong linear trend or a practically null effect (mean R2 range = .002–.256). Nearly all nonlinear effects were practically insignificant in magnitude (mean incremental R2 = .001) or were not replicated across cohorts or survey waves. We found no support for any downside to higher ability and no evidence for a threshold beyond which greater scores cease to be beneficial. Thus, greater cognitive ability is generally advantageous—and virtually never detrimental.



I look at it like this, for creative, intellectually demanding work IQ is a necessary but perhaps insufficient condition. You need to be smart to achieve success cause you are competing with other people, so smarter people will have an edge. Google is not hiring people with 90-110 iqs. So having a high IQ is needed to at least be sufficiently proficient in coding, to be considered for a good paying job, but not guarantee you will be hired, but being smart sure helps.

> high IQ is needed to at least be sufficiently proficient in coding,

Should I even bother on what's the source of this claim?

Google hires no one within 1SD of the Avg IQ? This I find hard to believe.

for technical postitions, i am sure IQs cluser around 125-140

I find it interesting that people are willing to invent data on the spot to qualify a bias.

Or they could know something about the intelligence literature. There are very few people in professional careers, lawyers, doctors, engineers etc. with measured IQ below 115. It’s close to impossible. The demands are just too high.

I doubt it, less than 115 is 85% of people. Aside from the low end IQ really isn't that predictive.

81%. Yes, a large majority of people are incapable of becoming lawyers, doctors or engineers. IQ is predictive at the low, middle and high end. There is no evidence of a threshold at which more ceases to be better. Emphasis below not in originalz

> Can You Ever Be Too Smart for Your Own Good? Comparing Linear and Nonlinear Effects of Cognitive Ability on Life Outcomes > Despite a long-standing expert consensus about the importance of cognitive ability for life outcomes, contrary views continue to proliferate in scholarly and popular literature. This divergence of beliefs presents an obstacle for evidence- based policymaking and decision-making in a variety of settings. One commonly held idea is that greater cognitive ability does not matter or is actually harmful beyond a certain point (sometimes stated as > 100 or 120 IQ points). We empirically tested these notions using data from four longitudinal, representative cohort studies comprising 48,558 participants in the United States and United Kingdom from 1957 to the present. We found that ability measured in youth has a positive association with most occupational, educational, health, and social outcomes later in life. Most effects were characterized by a moderate to strong linear trend or a practically null effect (mean R2 range = .002–.256). Nearly all nonlinear effects were practically insignificant in magnitude (mean incremental R2 = .001) or were not replicated across cohorts or survey waves. We found no support for any downside to higher ability and no evidence for a threshold beyond which greater scores cease to be beneficial. Thus, greater cognitive ability is generally advantageous—and virtually never detrimental. https://www.gwern.net/docs/iq/2021-brown.pdf

Pr(X ≤ μ + 1σ) is closer to 84% but sure I was rounding up...

It is most explanatory at the low end; Cognitively Challenged. Elsewhere it has a correlation it is just not as significant, which is not in conflict with your link.

If you tested all the Children in the US you aren't going to be able to accurately rule out 84% of them from professional careers by IQ.

Top 2-3% of IQ seems very high... Remember everyone with IQ above 100 is above average and like you said in your other post, it is for the most part a threshold/satisfying criteria.

I would say it's the opposite – intellect can be trained by practice and hard work, tough it's unlikely that you'll become a genius. But changing your personal temperament looks impossible to me. It's like changing software vs hardware, the latter is obviously harder.

Sure, a smart introvert can learn how to act like an extrovert. But this will never be natural to him and will cause an additional cognitive load.

The question behind all of these theories of personality is "Does the measured quantity have any underlying form?" That is, are you measuring something "real" or just coming up with arbitrary classifications.

"How you answer this survey correlates this well to outcomes" is perhaps useful, but binning answers into personality types with common names is questionable.

It all seems to be a little bit too far down the road of searching for things to name and classify.

To the extent that PCA of survey results exhibit dimensionality, that is real. The underlying basis might be modes of social dynamics or clusters in genetics or language. It would be surprising to find that totally unconstrained random processes generated patterns like this.

The author is over simplifying evolution. A trait maybe passed on to children even though the parent isn't displaying it.

The easiest example of this across many species is homosexuality. As it seems obvious that it would reduce an individuals chances of having offspring. https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn13674-evolution-myths...

There is the added complexity that some positive traits are tied to negative traits. Meaning if the gene stops getting selected the positive trait goes away with the negative one.

And then there is culture. It is clear humans have become the dominant species of our planet (at least for now) and it is our culture and the technology it supports that enable this.

Big Five is an atheoretic construct, derived through factor analysis. Given names after the fact. Similar to IQ in that way - the difference being is that IQ ended with a single factor rather than 5.

Attacking the big five would be a fruitless endeavor, the tests have obvious substance and are reducible to 5 factors, can't do anything about that.

It's impossible to take this seriously when it's using profiles of random famous people as if that means anything. If that wasn't done by actually interviewing them, then however it was done, the methodology diverges and is already invalid but even worse, it was just third-person subjective nonsense.

Edit: Why would Reimersholme's comment be buried? Neuroticism is what it's usually called in Big Five. [1][2]

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroticism

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Five_personality_traits

They probably inverted the neuroticism scale in order to make it consistent with the other four traits, most of which have positive connotations unlike neuroticism. One might argue about the labels, but there's nothing wrong with inverting a scale for convenience of presentation.

The personality traits of famous historical people are well established and widely available online. I have no idea how accurate they are, but they do fulfill their role as easily recognizable stereotypes. In any case the author probably used a publicly available dataset and didn't just make it up.

I stopped reading when the mentioned Meyers Briggs over and over again. Might as well throw in horoscopes and skull measurements.

I agree.

What's worse is how the article tries to look at financial success, happiness, popularity, reproductive success, etc. Those things are rather subjective, and depends on philosophy and politics.

It only looks at shades of good or bad. There is no nuance. Comparing people and putting them in categories is pointless.

Side note, maybe as technology removes barriers to access to resources that used to be gated by social graces, extroversion and agreeableness are changing in importance. In other words, in a world where machines outcompete humans, what used to be successful traits among humans aren't going to be always the fittest in the new environment.

The book "Personality" by Nettle gives the best layman's summary of the Big 5 model I've found. What I particularly like about it, beyond the summary of each aspect, is the way he frames it in terms of evolution and why being on one end of the scale for a trait is not "better." Agreeableness is probably the easiest one to understand from an evolutionary perspective. If you worry a lot about other people's needs, you're more likely to make them happy and reap the benefits of reciprocity, but you're also less likely to directly pursue your own needs. So it goes with the other traits too: being on different parts of the spectrum come with advantages and disadvantages from a reproductive standpoint. Conscientiousness and Neuroticism are the two traits most correlated with financial success in the modern world, but they had downsides in an ancestral environment and even in our modern world can have negative effects e.g. on personal happiness and wellbeing.

Anyone done a correlation analysis of Big-5 traits and favourite programming languages?

Or Emacs and Vim users....

we can infer that we’re at an equilibrium point with no real advantage either way

We can do no such damn thing! This analysis completely conflates natural selection and sexual selection, and ignores the role of genetic drift.

What may be more interesting are the correlations between personality types and occupations. For example, teachers tend to have a high level of empathy. That seems like it could be more interesting and rewarding to investigate. Similarly, pilots, cops, and soldiers all tend to have high levels of aggression. Arguably most interesting is the beer industry where brewers tend to be extremely open to a fault while distributors tend not to have much openness and score high on other factors.

Taken together this tends to indicate that the overall life outcome correlations are as usual as likely to mislead as inform. What makes more sense is to see how individuals match with roles and tasks and how diverse individuals can cooperate to make the most of each of their best talents.

I need more emotional stability (inverse of neuroticism) and less conscientiousness.

Fine-tune your agreeableness to suit income or popularity, as needed.

I wonder what a rich, intelligent artist's traits look like. :)

>I wonder what a rich, intelligent artist's traits look like. :)

Unfortunately, that's a "chose 2" situation. :)

Pretty much any sort of artist that has to consistently produce long term could fit this. Examples that come to mind are the writer for Garfield comics, the South Park guys, etc.

Concienciousness and Openness(creativity) can co exist, but they conflict with each other. Two classic historical examples are Picasso and I believe, Hitler.

Author claims ENFJ is opposite of ISTP in MB. I thought it was the groupings (first two, second two, and/or/? combination) that formed opposites, not the individual letters.

Taking the individual letters' opposite is pretty common. The interpretation of the resulting opposite differs somewhat by system. (This is getting into what's known as four-letter Jungian type, not specifically MBTI)

There are also temperament groups, which are NF, SP, NT (HackerNews' audience...), and SJ. Generally you don't want streams to cross here with the type of information people of each temperament want to consume and the time perspective they prefer (past, present, future), though there is some overlap.

Some would say it's a good idea to get at type opposites by mirroring the functions, e.g. ENFJ (FeNiSeTi-FiNeSiTe) would be functionally opposite to ESTJ (TeSiNeFi-TiSeNiFe). So these two type groups would tend to want to repress' the other's perceptive and decision-making functionality. The same would not necessarily be as true, or true in the same way, with e.g. ISTP and ENFJ, which some would consider a potentially lovely pairing due to shared function-valuing, meaning that these two opposites will naturally develop toward the other over time, from a developmental perspective.

I think Isabel Briggs-Meyers had her own view of the first four functions' order, which you can read in her book "Gifts Differing". This would also yield a different type of opposite.

Just did the test for kicks. Looks like I'm "all red". Oh well.

I’d lay the blame on the increasingly narrow and industrialized education system.

Is there a way to ‘train’ for emotional stability?

Its very difficult to do, but possible. Requires outside help and a lot of dedication.

Factors that can help on a daily basis actually include routine sleep and diet as well. No carbohydrates in the morning, only fats and proteins.

Yes, you can go to a professional mental health therapist and receive CBT

Granted this isn't a peer reviewed paper, but still, a blog that gives personality scores for historical people like presidents can't be based on data.

If IQ is important, maybe it's just that intelligent people know how to take personality tests.

IQ is good if it doesn't exceed other people's by more than about 2 std devs, then people resent you.

(IQ is a fuzzy, poorly-measured "quality" that doesn't have a whole lot of meaning other than some interpretation of taking a particular test.)

> If IQ is important, maybe it's just that intelligent people know how to take personality tests.

What even is intelligence?

I know that IQ is what IQ tests measure, but what is intelligence?

People say my dog is intelligent, but only in response to her displays of obedience to my commands, I've noticed. I silently translate their comment about intelligence to mean "your dog is obedient."

Does an IQ test measure what makes good employees?

Does an IQ test measure what makes good employers?

Does an IQ test measure what makes good entertainers?

Does an IQ test measure what makes good leaders?

Does an IQ test measure what makes good entrepreneurs?

Does an IQ test measure what makes good spouses?

Does an IQ test measure what makes good neighbours?

Does an IQ test measure what makes good friends?

If an IQ test could measure some factor that leads to happiness, I might consider that factor to be "intelligence". But the things that make people happy vary on an individual basis, as well as over time and circumstances, so how could that be encapsulated in one static test for everybody?

> "What even is intelligence?"

to me, intelligence is simply the ability to discern (useful) connections between phenomena, basically being able to accurately inter-/extra-polate from observation through time and space, or alternatively, the ability to predict the future (for relatively finite values of future). it's kinda like the derivative of knowledge, and wit is the derivative of intelligence.

an IQ test measures a very narrow slice of that. it doesn't encompass humor, art, or sports/dance (dynamic/kinetic ability) for instance.

with dogs (or other pets), the intelligent part is their ability to parse your alien communications into desired responses, similar to learning a foreign language without an instructor, an interpreter, or a reference available.

I am sure someone with an IQ of 130 probably has better luck understanding coding than someone with an IQ of 100. To say that IQ is ill-defined and of no predictive power, is wrong.

That's just it, does IQ denote ability to rationally think? Can you be highly irrational and also have a high IQ, because if so then I'd argue that the 130 IQ person would struggle more than the 100 IQ person if the latter were better able to think rationally.

We might assume that IQ translates directly to ability to reason through a problem, but that may not be the case. An 8 lane highway is useless if you're riding a skateboard.

> "What even is intelligence?"

I've found the following a fairly good definition:

Efficient cross-domain optimization

In less coded language: the ability to gain more benefit across many areas of value from the same or fewer resources.

> the ability to gain more benefit across many areas of value from the same or fewer resources.

Your use of the term "more benefit" is clever because it avoids definition, and cannot be disproven.

If you'd said "more money" or "more power" or "more calories" or "more resources" the notion of benefit could be directly assessed, although different people would assess each proposition differently, some positively, and others negatively, because the value of "more" of anything is circumstantial and a matter of taste.

Sometimes less is more.

Indeed, sometimes less is more. More benefit stands in for the more technical term "utilitons" or units of value or utility. Less is more is adding description to what contingently has a higher expected or observed utiliton value. Between explaining all that or using "more benefit", I opted for less ;D

I think general intelligence is about your ability to absorb and synthesize information.

Higher intelligence = fast learner + better at joining seemingly unrelated dots.

Im curious if people can augment such abilities outside of their mind. Systems like Zettalkesten's and "smart note-taking" claim such notions you draw upon here.

I have yet to find any IQ test with any value whatsoever. Maybe the one I had in school, and the one on the web are bogus, but if it's not the case, finding small patterns and recognizing space transformed shapes are really the ground level of thinking. No multilinear or non linear relationship, no fractal / self similarity. That's not even HS abstraction levels.. I really don't get it.

> maybe it's just that intelligent people know how to take personality tests

Also why ADHD meds, prescribed legally, are rampant on college campuses.

While it seems that we're not in a position to discuss this issue, I am extremely interested (and worried) about the rise of prescription stimulants specifically as it relates to meritocracy and credentialing.

Valid point but I heard if you don't actually have ADHD, then the meds won't work as intended

I guess “emotional stability” is an inverted rebranding of neuroticism as it’s usually known?

Psychologist here. Yes, that is correct. Without the inversion, it is sometimes also referred to as "emotionality" or even "negative emotionality". "Neuroticism" sounds pejorative to many.

i suspect this is horseshit off the top of this guy's head.

I have a really hard time taking this kind of "analysis" seriously.

It does not seems rigorous or scientific at all, and I don't understand how it can be visible here on HN, to be honest...

If you’re going to post a comment of skepticism, please try to support your argument with actual criticism. Currently, all I have is your opinion on the article, which is in contrast to the # of people who upvoted the post.

I can easily say that I DO think the article is rigorous and scientific but then we’d disagree without any insight into what we disagree on.

In my view, an article that makes claims in the natural sciences published on “some person’s blog” is not really worth considering as a scientific work.

I did that on purpose, simply to voice my opinion.

Let's say I vote to see less article like this one on HN.

This is merely annoying, not enough to warrant a full debunk.

The premise of this article is ridiculous. Your personality doesn’t cause you to be autistic. The personality traits are almost certainly caused by the “outcomes” the author is assessing, or both are caused by some other hidden variables. Personality tests are just reading the tea leaves of self-reported questionnaires.

I thought the article was quite clear it was about correllations, not causation.

I thought this too but on looking again the author never mentions "outcomes", that's just the title on hn

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