Saturday, May 10, 2008

Just Four Kinds Of People

Tim Ross, guesting at The American Scene, writes about David Keirsey's system of personality classification:

Keirsey paid close attention to how people spoke. He asked them about their thought processes. He noticed that people’s communication patterns always reflected the way they perceived the world around them. People who thought about Concrete things, like tools, tasks, logistics, and schedules, talked in a Concrete way. Similarly, people who preferred to think about systems, concepts, theories, and principles tended to speak in a recognizably Abstract manner. Keirsey also carefully watched people at work. Did they tend to build relationships while engaged in a task, or just focus on the job? He dubbed those that had a natural sense for establishing norms and relationships Cooperative types, and those that preferred to just get-‘er-done he called Utilitarians.

Keirsey combined these two polarities, Concrete vs. Abstract and Cooperative vs. Utilitarian, into a two-dimensional matrix of four quadrants. Keirsey identified these as the four basic Temperaments: concrete, co-operative Guardians, concrete, utilitarian Artisans, abstract, cooperative Idealists, and abstract, utilitarian Rationalists.
Ross also adds a nice note of skepticism/pragmatism facing these ideal types:
And let’s not forget that categories and classifications don’t have to be universally accepted as “real” to be meaningful. And fuzzy boundaries are often better than no boundaries at all. Is there a clear-cut distinction between young Bobos and older Grups? Do Soccer Moms have a verifiable ontological reality? And just what is a neocon, these days, anyways?

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