Tag Archives: Sociology

Discussion #19 – “You’re Not My Type” – the Science and Ethics of Personality Testing

We’re joined this week by musician, writer and director Polash Larsen for a critical look at the world of “personality testing” and in particular the famous Myers-Briggs Type Indicator which categorizes people (“personalities”) as four-letter codes (e.g. ENTP).

If you like Myers-Briggs, I should warn you that we don’t (much). As gentlemen scientists, we’re not fond of any scheme that seeks to linearize a complex, non-linear system – especially when that scheme is then used as a guide for how to treat other people.

Calling someone (or yourself) an ENTP is fine as a game, but claiming it’s somehow scientific is wrong. It’s arbitrary and made up. And then using it to pre-judge people – well, that raises ethical questions.

chimpanzeeENTPs on the prowl

Personality testing and Myers Briggs in particular is very popular in certain circles (e.g. recruiting). The assumption that people have unified “personalities” and that these don’t change over time is common enough to have become a part of our language (she’s not my “type”). There’s something comforting about labelling other people and yourself.

Polash puts forward a plausible hypothesis about this – do we just label ourselves to be who we want to be?

[By the way, the soundtrack for today’s podcast is Paula Abdul’s Opposites Attract. Don’t ask us to explain – just go with us on this one.]

She was our type (in 1989)

Update Monday 2/11: BTW Paula Abdul sends her love! (no, really)

Horoscopes and fortune telling are fun, but we don’t hire and fire based on them (although, see footnote about Raymond Domenach below). By putting people in boxes, we deny them the opportunity (the right!) to surprise us. Labelling people has a painful history – let’s just be careful.

Special note: we should really issue a (mild) bad language warning for this week 🙂

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1Wikipedia entry for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

2Uncovering the Secret History of Myers-Briggs – excellent piece by Merve Emre.

3Stephen Jay Gould gives a wonderful example of reification in a devastating critique of IQ testing and the concept of intelligence in A Mismeasure of Man

4Explaining the term “bogan” to a non-Australian is always difficult. Maybe the best way is to direct the interested reader to Things Bogans Like.

5The French soccer team was chosen using psychology (no Scorpios!) Raymond Domenach Looks to the Stars

6If you want to find out more about moral psychology (and chickens) check out this page.

Discussion #14: Your Brain on Music

This week we talk about music and why we as a species like it so much.
We are joined by the very learned Declan Jones, one of Melbourne’s talented musicians.

Every human society has music. It is a Cultural Universal which features in all cultures and tribes around the world. Music is thought to have been there at the start of human evolution, along with dance and laughter as some of the fundamental building blocks of the human psyche and human language.

Other animals such as birds also sing, for many reasons. But perhaps birds use music as their language, like we talk. And so too humans use music to communicate.

We discuss the book by Dr Daniel J Levitin, ‘This is Your Brain On Music.’

Music is certainly an important part of our lives. It is tied strongly to emotion. Some emotions are very difficult to express effectively with words but much easier to convey with music. Listening to certain songs a change our mood. Musicians express their emotions through music and it resonates with the rest of us. And that resonance stays with us through our lives.

For example, the bands that were there for us during our years of teen angst such as Roxette and Bananarama stay with us, even though the equivalent musicians and bands of today have much less traction with us old timers. But the newer bands obviously mean something to the current generation of angst-ridden teenagers.

roxette in 1980sRoxette, still going strong incidentally.

 

Listen to the pod cast here:

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Links to our own music:
Shourov and Declan are in The Bombay Royale.
Declan currently also appears in The Wikimen and Hoodoo Mayhem.

Discussion #13 – Why do Big Projects Fail?

This week we discuss the topic, ‘Why do big projects fail’. With a slant towards IT projects due to our backgrounds in the field, we discuss and explore some examples of failures to date.

There are different types of project failure, where the project is: complete but costs too much; complete but too late; complete but with low quality; incomplete and doesn’t do what was originally envisaged; combinations of the four; and not done at all – scrapped by the stakeholders with nothing to show for it.

Software and IT projects, more than other types of projects such as construction or manufacturing, often suffer from the last case – scrapped. We discuss agile methodologies and whether they are the solution – or at least whether they reduce the probability of failure.

Sometimes there are too many chiefs and not enough engineers. And even if the business analysts identify the full scope of what needs to be done, sometimes the stakeholders don’t see the same vision or can’t afford the required budget.

As always, Scott Adams has an angle:

Dilbert.com

Listen to the pod cast here:

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1One of Shourov’s rants about Myki can be found at http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2013/11/28/comment-oh-you-forgot-design-user.

2Things that cost Less than Myki (I love this site) https://sites.google.com/site/cheaperthanmyki/

3Why Software Fails – http://spectrum.ieee.org/computing/software/why-software-fails

4http://www.lessons-from-history.com/home/project-failure-case-studies/case-studies-project-failure

5http://calleam.com/WTPF/?tag=examples-of-failed-projects

6http://www.computerworld.com/article/2533563/it-project-management/it-s-biggest-project-failures—-and-what-we-can-learn-from-them.html

7http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_failed_and_overbudget_custom_software_projects

8http://news-beta.slashdot.org/story/13/05/25/139218/worlds-biggest-agile-software-project-close-to-failure