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The Nine Ways: On the Enneagram (theparisreview.org)
34 points by drdee 8 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 44 comments

I'm not sure how much stock to put in personality analysis in general, but of the ones I've tinkered with, the Enneagram has been the most helpful.

You may like it or whatever, but don't think this is in any way objective, a trait which it has in common with practically all personality psychology.

The Big Five and HEXACO models have proven pretty statistically reliable. But yeah, most any predecessors to those were complete ass pulls, often by people not really versed in the field (like Myers and Briggs).

> were complete ass pulls

Boy is that a dismissive overstatement. Briggs began thinking about personality in 1917, intentionally read biographies to get more data on personalty, and incorporated Jung's ideas in 1923 when his book was published, albeit with her own interpretation. Meyers did an apprenticeship with a test developer to learn how to make tests. So both Meyers and Briggs were, in fact, reasonably well versed in the field. They did not even make the test until 1944, after they'd been thinking about these ideas for over 20 years. Note that the Big 5 was not developed until the 1980s, almost half a century after they developed their theory. Ass-pulling this is not.

Wikipedia hates on the MBTI, but the actual test that you have to pay for is hardly "Barnum effect, flattery, and confirmation bias": you have 50 or so questions that you have to choose between two options of what you do. Now, you do have to answer what you actually would do rather than what you think is best or what you should do or what you should do culturally, so there is some confounding effects there.


More recently I’ve been considering neuro-divergence in the context of these personality types. Specially ADHD and Autism. ADHD by example has a whole system effect for someone, with resultant strengths and challenges very much informing part someone’s personality.

Folks with Autism often have traits of being: direct, seek deep details, are able to stick with a few topics to deep excellence, can sometimes struggle reading people’s emotions.

And yes while generalisations, I wonder on how different neurodivergence’s may be hiding in plain sight within some of these personality systems.

I’ve def seen jokes online that notice that certain MBTI profiles are commonly gateway diagnosis for say ADHD/Autism.

Interested in others thoughts and takes on this.

What does "statistically reliable" mean in context of a multiple choice test of preferences and predispositions?

Replicable, in this context.

It means you can ask people on a questionnaire "are you open to new experiences" and then later offer them a new experience and get some papers off this incredibly shocking finding.

Someday psychology might be a science but it isn't now; it just rejected its alchemical mystics like it saw the cool sciences doing, but without any paradigm to follow them.

Fallacy. Just because your preferred belief framework has no supporting evidence or research doesn’t mean an actual science that you don’t like isn’t actual science. In other words, you can create your own alternative facts but they still aren’t facts.

I am not sure what "preferred belief framework" you are projecting onto me, but you may be interested to note that I mentioned no such thing.

The findings of psychology tend to be unreplicable just-so stories, like all the findings so popular in pop-psychology books that failed to replicate in the 2010s, or journal-filling tautologies, like "Big 5" papers showing introversion correlates with introversion or what have you.

Alchemy reformed into chemistry. You can make real sciences out of mysticism. Psychology is not a real science reformed out of mysticism, it's just academic bureaucracy set up like the ones associated with real sciences, producing useless papers.

Please don't enact your personal psychodrama on random people on the Internet, or at least don't do it to me.

> Please don't enact your personal psychodrama on random people on the Internet

I wouldn't dream of competing with you.

You'll be shocked when you realise that neuroimaging is entirely based on the results of cognitive measurements. i.e.: correlations between whats in the image and the kinds of tests you're traducing.

Statistically reliable, in what sense? That they frequently produce the same outcome on repeated application of the test? That's not a surprise. As a wise man said: the gold standard for repeatable outcome is astrology.

Suppose I make a test and ask questions like "Do you like coffee?" and "Is your favorite color blue?". That would get a very high test-retest reliability. If I then score e.g. +coffee -blue as "intelligent", does that really mean people who like coffee but prefer orange are intelligent?

> Statistically reliable, in what sense?

Let's just say that if astrology was reliable, people would follow their horoscopes.

Astrology has a great test-retest reliability. Every time someone tests your sign, the same answer comes out. That's what it means. Same for personality inventories: people's replies don't vary much over time. As astrology shows, that doesn't mean you can draw conclusions.

But star sign doesn't really correlate with personality traits. People with similar horoscopes can have vastly different personalities. People with similar Big 5 scores have similar personalities.

Myers Briggs has a significant overlap with the Big 5. They’re mostly the same if you think about it from a Venn Diagram perspective

They're somewhat correlated, but not as well as you'd like:


> But yeah, most any predecessors to those were complete ass pulls, often by people not really versed in the field (like Myers and Briggs).

Which is quite a shame because the underlying groundwork of Jung is quite interesting.

Not all things fall under the purview of science, and not all things should. Whether someone makes claims of this being empirical is, for me and other pragmatists, aside the point: if it serves to help you understand yourself, or gives you some advantage in navigating interpersonal dynamics with others, it is valid. The proof is in the pudding. Nobody would question a literal pudding's empirical validity. They care only whether the recipe works.

Things like MBTI and enneagram and such are frameworks to talk about cognitive functions and all that. Holding them to the same standards as physics is a bit silly.

They don't talk about cognitive functions. Those would be things like vision and memory. And I'm not holding them to the same standards, but that doesn't mean that any old balony is fine. People attach a certain value to psychological tests, and they should realize that the whole thing is rather arbitrary.

You're right that they don't talk about cognitive functions. That's only when looking at these personality traits as a categorization of the outputs, which would feel like arbitrary curve fitting.

To be more nuanced, the underlying basis for MBTI on cognitive functions is about describing the input processing of various personality types, which isn't obvious (and completely obfuscated) if one is reading descriptions on a site like 16personalities.com.

It's a subtle but nuanced difference, but provides an avenue for therapists to understand how inputs in a client's life may affect them and their responses to situations. This is a more valid dive into the input-processing aspects of MBTI: https://www.typeinmind.com/type-theory

If you read the type descriptions on the typeinmind.com website, you'll see that the approach is very different. It may seem arbitrary and foo foo, but I'd challenge you to look deeper before completely writing it off as bologna.

Regardless of how people feel about any of the personality frameworks and how well they describe human behavior, reasoning and makeup of the person -- it can be proven to be highly valuable in a day and age where people make judgements or seek to categorize and group people gauging how well they get along with those people. I am generally not a fan of labels, but, especially in our technology based field, as an INTP, I know to see other INTPs who process the world similarly to how I do. That's been difficult to calculate how useful that is to me and others. This also comes up in dating sometimes -- if you can discern that someone is a compatible type, it can be helpful.

The same poo-pooing comes up of Astrology. Now, I'm not one to go around saying that I'm a Rainbow Farting Horse Rising -- I only go as far as 'Aquarius', 'Scorpio', etc. But in that realm, there's a fantastic book called Sextrology that can give insights on partner compatibility in the bedroom and related realms. The authors, much like Meyers Briggs have interacted with an untold amount of couples. Unfortunately book has no 'edition' moniker, just a 'revised' notation so it's hard to tell how many times it's published, but it is a fascinating and great reference to get a quick read on someone and what their needs and desires may be. I've utilized it with several partners with positive and solid results.

If you're skeptical or unsure of any of these frameworks, I recommend giving them a more serious visit or consideration. Especially with something like MBTI, reading books of the time that are hidden classics that people aren't aware of (e.g. "Please Understand Me I and II") are very illuminating despite people's disdain for the MBTI as it currently sits.

> If you're skeptical or unsure of any of these frameworks

I am not unsure. I'm quite certain it's all complete and utter garbage protected with circular ex post facto justifications (and I'm surprised the author of the post is an assistant professor in a University).

100% this. It only takes a few minutes of googling to see that this is religious mysticism wrapped up in modern parlance and feed to the soulless corporate elite. I give it as much weight as astrology or divining rods.

My workplace recently went through the integrative9 courses and on their OWN website they claim that it's origins are steeped in mystery and accent mystical practices.


Reasonable people find value in it. You might be missing out by shutting yourself off from it!

"Reasonable"? The idea was popularized by Gurdjieff, G. I. who was a mystic teacher. There is nothing reasonable about it. not a single wiff of actual truth, just rebranded new age woo for corporate elite. I may sound harsh but from what I've found in my own personal research it is much of a religion as scientology and as much science as astrology.


Assistant Professors are untenured but on tenure track (in the US). It’s better than adjunct, but many are called and few are chosen.

I'm surprised to see such woo in a top comment on hacker news. The accuracy or theoretical underpinning of these 'frameworks' aren't contentious, they're non existent.

There are solidly researched and evidenced personality theories developed and validated through quantitative research in academic psychology. These include the 'Big Five' trait approaches like MMPI and social learning theory.

Astrology, Myers–Briggs and other forms of pseudo-psychological theories are not theoretically grounded and do not show experimental validation. Myers–Briggs wasn't created by psychologists or sociologists and in fact wasn't based on any theoretical framework at all. Its a scientism based approach routed in a reading of Jungian theory. It has no predictive utility for human behaviour.

You're welcome to 'believe' anything you like of course. But it's a category error to put such theories into the same epistemic category as psychological theories. They're precisely equivalent to any other projective theory - from kabala to tarot the i ching. If cold reading yourself or others provides you with meaning - great. But these ideas should absolutely never be used in hiring or any other official capacity. They don't have a foothold in objective reality.

IIRC, there was some analysis done a while back that demonstrated that MBTI categories were strongly correlated to particular combinations of Big Five traits. If that is true, then MBTI piggybacks on whatever scientific validity has been established w/r/t Big Five.

It should also be pointed out that heuristics developed from ground-level experience can still be useful regardless of whether they are anchored in any formal theoretical framework. Most of us navigate the world most of the time by applying informal knowledge, intuition and insights obtained from local experience -- empiricism at the micro level -- rather than making inferences on the basis of theoretical frameworks. Formal models can certainly help us refine our knowledge and correct errors, but are not in themselves necessary to construct a sufficiently workable understanding of reality.

Then you should rely on your intuition directly instead of distrorting it through pseudoscience such as MBTI

> The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a pseudoscientific self-report questionnaire that claims to indicate differing "psychological types" (often commonly called "personality types").


Where did pseudoscience come into the conversation? Depending on your approach, MBTI is either a reasonable heuristic for concepts that have been validated scientifically (i.e. correlation to Big Five), or is not attempting to be a scientific model at all.

I believe I-E is pretty strongly correlated, the rest not so much. And there is nothing like Neuroticism in MBTI.

16Personalities, a Myers Briggs website, includes neuroticism on their test. They refer to it as Turbulence and Assertiveness, as in high neuroticism and low neuroticism.

You, like most people, are unfamiliar with the metaphysical underpinnings and historical origins of astrology, so you have no real place to stand on the question of the validity of its claims. The only way you could is if you were intimately familiar with the topic.

Anyway, even if you take the metaphysical claims out of the equation entirely, as Carl Jung did, you can still derive great value from a system of thought-organization like Astrology. In Carl Jung's work he found that regardless of the claims about causation and personality, the symbological mappings of the zodiac represents something close to a map of cardinal archetypes, or you might think of them as psycho-social behavior blueprints that are intrinsic due to our evolutionary history and ALSO, as a secondary layer, culturally conditioned.

Point being... taking the stance you take, of accepting things only if they can be empirically proven, would prevent a person like you from ever gaining that insight / wisdom.

Your strength of intelligence is the greatest barrier to the growth of your wisdom.

This is simply a variation of the no true Scotsman argument. In other words a classic fallacy. For someone to dispute the claims of <THEORY> they must be intimately familiar with <THEORY>. Were they familiar with it they would obviously not discount it. If they discount it, they must not be familiar with it.

As previously stated - you can believe anything you like, and it may even be useful to do so. For example there's solid research that religious belief has positive health outcomes. However that has no impact on the truth value of any religious or other metaphysical belief.

Again, theress a strong academic quantitate (and parallel quantitative) tradition of cross cultural psychology. Tacking such questions from a more rigorous point of view - including comparison of epistemic and ontological traditions. I'd recommend Mac McLaughin's text 'Culture and Health' as a good starting point.


100% this.

See also Dr Ben Hardy's "Personality Isn't Permanent".

The absence of scientific proof is not a scientific proof of a negative result.

> They don't have a foothold in objective reality.

Even when some scientists have made a claim about objective reality, we have to remember that they make their claims in the face of social pressures. It's only after enough scientists seem to believe a fact that parts of the general population starts to accept it as "science." And if even science boils down to "many people are saying it," we probably shouldn't make any bold claims about "objective reality" with condescension and closed minds.

For anyone who wants to do a deep dive look into the life and works of George Gurdjieff and Oscar Ichazo. The Enneagram did not originate from the scientific method. It is a rebranded meld of eastern mysticism, new age woo, and Greek philosophy sold to the corporate elite as a tool to brand and control their employees. It's as much a religion as is Scientology.

Just take a look at one of the testing centers and the history they themselves list. https://www.integrative9.com/enneagram/history/

It's weird to me that Gurdjieff is never mentioned when people talk about enneagram. I guess the personality stuff is inspired by Gurdjieff but deviates from it. But I would bet a lot of HN readers would dig Gurdjieff. If you're into absurdist new age stuff, it's a precursor to things like Discordianism, but def with more woo.

Meetings with Remarkable Men is a great book, though I doubt much of it is true it paints a really colorful picture of the time period.

In Search of the Miraculous is also a great book, but I think the author was jaded and a bit cynical about Gurdjieff so should also be taken with a grain of salt.

Just talking about the types:

I found them more helpful than the Big Five. But there is definitively missing "Type 0: Ape: I follow".

And I do not think that a person fits just one type. They are more, like the Big Five, traits with a spectrum.

Meyers Briggs is for people who don't believe in astrology, Enneagram is for people who don't believe in Meyers Briggs.

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