Continuing our series on personality tests this post focuses on one of the most popular of them all, the Myers-Briggs Indicator or MBTI
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
Are you an ENTP or INTJ or ESFJ? Now, before you think we at Brainpundits have lost our, well, brains, these are some of personality type tests that MBTI has to offer. MBTI or Myers-Briggs Indicator is one of the most popular personality type tests out there. Around 2 million people around the world take it annually. It is estimated that around 89 of the Fortune 100 uses this test to hire and manage employees.
It has also inspired various quizzes online based on characters from popular culture like Game of Thrones, Harry Potter etc. But despite its massive popularity and usage among the various organization around the world, the overall psychology community do no deem it to be scientific at all.
This article will trace the origins of the test, explain what is it about and also show the controversy behind it.
In order to tell the story of this test, we will need to go back to one of the major figures in the field of psychology, Carl G. Jung. In 1921, Jung published one of his famous books Psychological Types. In this book, Jung tried to give a formulation of personality types based on his observations. He argued there may exist two personality attitudes: Extroversion and Introversion, and four functions or orientation: Thinking, Sensation, Intuition, and Feeling.
In 1923, one of the contributors to test, Katharine Briggs found this book and made it her gospel. Katharine Briggs was a stay at home mom who had studied horticulture. Jung’s book made a remarkable impact on her and she thought of using the ideas from the book and implementing them in day to day life. A couple of decades later, her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers, an aspiring fictional writer, with help from a management consultant Edward N. Hay and her mother debuted the test in 1943.
What is the Test about?
Katharine and Isabel expanded Jung’s original conception into 16 personality types with four binary categories.
Extroversion – Introversion; Intuition – Sensing; Thinking – Feeling; Judging – Perception
The original test had 93 questions, which haven’t changed much in today’s times, and based on the questionnaire, the test groups people into 16 discrete personality types. The details of these types can be seen in the image below.
While it sounds all hunky and dory but when you start scratching the surface cracks start to appear. The problem arises with the test that is there is no scientific validity for the test. A study showed that around 50 percent of the people end up having different results on the test, the second time they take it, that too after just a few weeks later. Other studies have also argued that the test is indeed ineffective in predicting how certain types maybe successful at different jobs.
Interestingly, all the major scientific journals of psychology have no research published based on this test. Whatever few articles that are available on this test are there to point out to the flaws that it has. While on the issue of the Rorschach test, as discussed in a previous article, the scientific community was divided. But on Myers-Briggs Test Indicator, they seem to be united in agreement that this test does not have any scientific validity.
Why is it Popular then?
Then you may wonder if this test is not scientifically valid and the majority of psychologists do not use this, then why is it so popular? The answer lies in a phenomenon called the Forer effect and effective product management by then Edward Hay. After its debut, the test was effectively marketed by Edward Hay, who had connections with General Electric, Bell Telephone and most importantly National Bureau of Statistics. Through his connections, the test got employed in early major corporations. Now, as mentioned earlier, the test is not only employed by various private companies in the world but also various government organizations.
The Forer effect, or the Barnum effect, refers to the psychological phenomenon where individuals are prone to believe that personality depictions apply specifically to them, but in reality, the descriptions are for everyone. A perfect example of this is your daily horoscopes. That is why most descriptions of the personality in Myers-Briggs Test Indicator are positive in their nature. So, one can even say this test – and different inspirations from it – is for entertainment, which is absolutely fine.
The dilemma comes, as Merve Emre argues in her new book argues, that in theory there are clear ethical violations how CAPT and CPP peddle this test without having any scientific basis as reliable; but in practice, many of the companies and organizations that use this test clearly have different definitions of ethics.
So, even though the Myers-Briggs Test Indicator has had a controversial stint with the scientific community. It still enjoys the support of the people at large. And it cannot be denied that this test still remains one of the most popular ones out there.
Continuing our series on personality tests this post focuses on one of the most culturally famous of them all, the Inkblot test or the Rorschach Test
The Rorschach test is one of the most famous and also one of the controversial tests that the field of psychology has produced. Once touted as the X-Ray of the soul, the test is now a part of cultural history as it has become a reference point in various shows and movies. There’s even a comic book character based named Rorschach with an inkblot as a mask. If you haven’t heard of it or know little of, not to worry as through this post I will enlighten you about it.
Hermann Rorschach (1884-1922) was the mind behind the origin of the test. He was a young psychiatrist from Switzerland and was hailed a prodigy. He had worked along with Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung during his early years.
The idea of the test came to him from a children’s board game called Klecksography, a collection of inkblot cards. He published the test in 1921, sadly though Hermann Rorschach died less than a year before he could witness the popularity of his test.
What is the test about?
The test is a strange and a very open-ended test, in which there are 10 cards with strange markings in them. They don’t have any specific pattern to them and there is no expected answer to these inkblot cards. It’s a visual task which aims at self-projection.
Which basically means when you respond to one of these cards you are projecting your unconscious thoughts. It is a form of, what psychologists call, a projective test. By telling what they see in the inkblot, people actually telling about their views, their personality and how they project meaning and perceive reality.
Image Source – Wikipedia
Example of an Inkblot
In the image, you see an example of an inkblot card from the test. Predicted answers to this inkblot range from animal skin or skin rugs. The card signifies, according to psychologists, a threatening figure in order to elicit a sentiment of authority.
There are nine other inkblot cards like these and each is shown in a particular order according to the requirement of the test.
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Supporters of the Test
The test, however, is not without controversy as it has divided the whole community of psychologists. Some support the test as an important asset for a psychiatrist while the critics question its very validity.
The supporters argue that the test gives you a remarkable insight into an individual’s personality and may uncover hidden malice.
For example, on IQ tests or other standardized tests most troubled people can keep it together but studies have shown that the inkblot test reveals a different side to them.
Some psychiatrists have argued that while other tests may fail to reveal much but the Rorschach may be able to raise some red flags. For them, the 10 inkblots are sensitive and accurate tools to map how the mind works. Various researchers have used the Rorschach test to see early onsets of Alzheimer’s, which is a remarkable study.
Critics of the Test
The critics, however, question the very validity of the test. The question of validity rests with the idea what answers are reasonable, and more importantly, who decides what is reasonable. This is at the heart of the arguments against the usage of this test. The critics consider the test pseudoscience which should not be used in any kind of examination.
Other points of criticism are the implicit bias of the testing psychologist who may, unconsciously, project his/her beliefs in the responses. Some have questioned the very nature of the methodology involved measuring the personality. Finally, some have argued that the test not reliable for example, two different testers might end up getting two different personality profiles for the same individual.
Despite various controversies and critics of the test, the Rorschach test is still one of the most popular tests. It is still considered valid in the court of law, various medical insurance companies in the West considers its results valid. The test is also a cultural reference point. For example, Andy Warhol, on the creative geniuses of the 20th century, created a painting based on the test. Other examples include the comic book character from Watchmen, mentioned earlier.
So, suffice it to say the Rorschach test has made a cultural mark on the society and even though it still polarises the psychiatrist community, it is still one of the most influential personality tests out there.
In the next series on Personality tests, I will trace the origins and the story of another popular personality test, the Myers-Briggs Indicator. Till then be cheers and keep exploring yourself at Brainpundits!
In a country like India, seeking a counselor’s help is seen as a stigma. In this article, we try to trace the reasons why and also give tips to help yourself get better.
Just like how DNA makes an individual unique, neurons in our brain generate connections to make our thought process unique. This is called the Human Connectome. Each individual perceives, analyses and solves a given situation differently. Psychology helps us understand this behavior. But what is psychology?
Psychology is a science which helps understand the mental functions of an individual in different situations. However, there are stigmas attached to this term. Many people take this as a negative term. Especially in a country like India, where free advice is easily available so when people pay to get advice it is rejected by society. What people don’t understand is that it is not only ok to go to a counselor or a psychologist but sometimes necessary as well. It helps one understand themselves better. In our country, it is considered a taboo, so no one is ready to talk openly about their feelings and don’t want to take help of others.
This is not our fault we were brought up in this way. India, being a community-driven society, tend to focus on solving issues within the community or the family. So, earlier issues of depression or other psychological issues that used to exist were dealt with, with limited understanding of the problem, within the family or the community. But since the advent of the nuclear family setup, the issues are not being addressed.
Reasons Why People Hesitate to Seek Help
To understand why people don’t seek help, we need to look at the following reasons. The common link between them is our very social life.
- The Paagal hai Statement: Most people believe if anyone is going to a psychiatrist or a counselor, then he/she will be labeled as crazy or mentally unstable. The most common thing that we hear is “paagal hai”.
- Being Too Dependent – In some cases, people will think that you are dependent on others.
- Lacking Confidence – In other cases, some people don’t want to come across as a person who doesn’t live one’s life on one’s terms and needs others to help them.
- Requiring Approval – Sometimes we feel we need the approval of others in our life in making decisions.
- Overthinking – If we share our concern with others then it is believed that we are overthinking about stuff. Ignorance by others and the fear of not being understood or taken seriously forces us to gulp down our feelings and stay quiet.
- Embarrassment – Sometimes people don’t’ go to escape embarrassment. The fear of being judged by other person is also a reason that people don’t share. They are afraid to tell their story of failures.
Consequences Can Be Dire
The generation that suffers the most due to this hesitation, due to stigma set by the society, is the present generation, the millennials. Due to a generation gap, they are not able to talk openly with their parents. Parents try to be supportive but they force their child into a profession in which they are not interested in. Parents are also not at fault completely, many career options which are not conventional are rejected by society. So, at this stage, they should consult a counselor who can help their child in a meaningful way and make them understand their strengths and weaknesses so that they can make a better decision.
Lack of communication among parents and their children can send the child into depression. Depression again is a major problem prevailing in our society. Certain parameters of happiness are predefined. We do what we are told to do, this does not help us find our interests, which in turn makes us frustrated and depressed. But, it is the need of the hour that people understand that depression is not a mental illness it is just a state of mind. Bear in mind that I am not talking about severe clinical depression as it is different from situational depression, which I refer to here. But if not treated at the right time it can lead to a severe problem.
And if untreated minor forms of depression could lead to severe clinical depression. There are some cases; where people were consumed so much by depression, that death was the ultimate release. Chester Bennington, Avicii, Robin Williams are some of the examples. All of them had one thing in common and that was depression.
Need for Change
Recently, the film Dear Zindagi, brilliantly portrayed the complexity of the human brain. It was one of the very few made in India that tackled the issue of psychological disorder. In this movie, the protagonist is suffering through a sad phase in life but through a little help from a therapist, she is able to come to peace and look life in a new light.
Social media has also changed the way today’s generation get their information from. They are becoming more informed about the benefits of seeking psychological help thanks to the growing use of social media.
The concept of counseling is still a strange one to many in India. Many good schools hire counselors so that children can share their doubts and problems with someone because not all problems can be shared with parents. We need someone who is mature enough to guide us well. This concept is gaining popularity in big cities as nowadays many workshops are held in school and colleges to spread awareness.
What You Can Do Yourself
Well if you feel that your family or your community is not getting the level of awareness required for helping your issues, there are certain things that you can do yourself in order to help yourself.
- Being Vocal – It is imperative that you start being more vocal and expressing your ideas freely and taking the stand for what you believe in. More importantly, get people to listen to you.
- Find Like-Minded People – You should try to find people with similar views and try to connect them in order to eradicate negativity and not let others drag you down.
- Supporting Others. This might sound easy but it is the most difficult thing to do as it is a basic instinct to judge others. Hearing the problems of a person is sometimes the only therapy that he needs. In some case, listening and supporting others is therapeutic for yourself.
- Avoid Unnecessary Things: It would also be better if you started ignoring what’s not necessary and doesn’t help you grow as a person. This will increase your productivity and you will get time to do things that actually make you happy.
- Overcoming Failures – It is important to overcome insecurities and understanding that failures are part of life. It is the failure that makes us strong and we are careful in future of not making same the mistakes again.
- No One is Perfect – Understanding the fact that nobody is perfect and has some weakness and imperfection, will help you realize your goals more. So, it is fine if you are not excellent in every field.
- Support from Parents – Last but not least, parents need to support and believe in their child’s decisions. You are the one your child looks up to, so be a good example. Children should be taught the importance of being more expressive about their feelings.
Finding your niche is necessary to give your best in whatever you are doing. Understanding your psychology can be of great help in this aspect. It is not necessary to fit in the molds made up by society if it doesn’t make you happy. Understanding your psychology is not a one-day task. It takes time and can be done by being supportive and getting support. It is difficult to understand and solve the complexities of the human brain, but one can always try. We at Brainpundits are also here to help you as you can explore yourself by taking one of our numerous free tests. So, what are you waiting for? Take care and start exploring yourself!
In our last post, we had discussed what is procrastination? Now that we have a better understanding of the topic we can go ahead an learn on how can we deal with it?
In this post, you will learn all the important and simple ways you could use to beat procrastination.
Tagline: A recent study by researchers at Northwestern University have come up with a scientific understanding of personality types.
Rethinking Personality Types
The history of personality type tests has always had a complex relationship with the overall scientific community. From the infamous Rorschach inkblot test, of which the validity has always been contested to the very famous Myers-Briggs Test, which is used by various corporate organizations to hire future employees, which is also considered unscientific by the majority of the scientific community tells us something about the conflict that personality type tests have had with the scientific community.
Change Has Come
But this all may change as researchers at Northwestern University have just published a paper, using alternative computational methods to analyze data from over a million respondents, arguing that there exist four types of personality based on five-character traits. One of the researchers from the study says with this research personality types place from self-help books can move to scientific journals.
The study finds after analyzing the data that there exist four types of personality. They are Average, Reserved, Role Models, and Self-Centred. These personalities are based on five-character traits, namely: Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness. Just to give you what the researchers mean by these concepts, here, in brief, are their explanations.
It refers to a person’s tendency to feel negative emotions (anger, worry or sadness) as well being sensitive in interpersonal relations
It signifies a person’s tendency to be social, talkative and enjoy the company of others and also have domineering personality.
It refers to a person’s tendency to appreciate and accommodate new ideas, values, arts, feelings and behaviors
It signifies a person’s tendency to easily agree with others rather than assert one’s own decisions and opinions
It refers to a person’s tendency to follow orders, rules and be cautious with most things in their life.
According to this research, Average people are high in Neuroticism and Extraversion but low in openness, which basically means they are more likely to be social, neurotic and their emotions can vary. But on the other hand, they may not be open to new ideas. The study argues that a typical person would fall under this category.
The Reserved personality type people, this research argues, are emotionally stable but not neurotic or even open-minded. They are also not that much social and tend to agree with others. They also tend to follow norms and are cautious when dealing with things.
The third personality type, according to this research, is Role Models. These people not only are emotionally stable but also, they are open to new ideas, are highly social and enjoy the company of others, and also are very hard working. They are generally good leaders and people you can depend upon.
The fourth personality type, this research argues, is Self-Centred. These people are extremely social and also have a very domineering personality. They are not open to new ideas and are less likely to agree with others and follow their own thought process.
What This Means
Well, you may be thinking what this research and its findings mean for the future of personality type tests and its engagement with the scientific community. For starters, the research finally brings personality types into the rubric of scientific research. One of the researchers says that the overall contribution of the research is the methodology part of the paper to the scientific community as it bridges the gap between personality types and ways of measuring them. It also means the personality types may be finally getting their undue recognition among the scientific community and this research could usher in a revolution in personality development research.
In case if you are interested and want to get your nerd on then here’s the link to the research. Till then, cheers and be awesome and keep exploring yourself at Brainpundits!
Memory is an important tool for understanding, reflecting, producing, reprocessing, various tasks most important of which is in one’s studies/ examination.
Sometimes when we go from our room to the kitchen with some intention we forget why we came to the kitchen in the first place. This probably has happened to most of us. Thankfully new research has enabled us to better learn and memorize terms.
Here are 10 hacks to enable you to memorize better:
1. Learning only what is important: our memory works in a way that it rejects some information and absorbs mostly which we produce or process. Hence underlining/highlighting can reduce mental effort to recognize what is important.
2. Spaced repetition: Spaced Repetition is a hack which can be used to acquire a lot of information and keep it retained in your long-term memory bank. How it works is as follows:
· Read a topic once
· Then revise it after 2 hours of learning/reading.
· Then revise it the next day. (24 hours)
· After a week.
· After a month.
3. Memory works best with associations: Memory works best with an association. If you are learning anything to remember to try to associate with whatever you have learned in past. This automatically reduces mental effort to remember something.
4. Auditory and Visual learning: Reading is not the only way one can absorb or remember. One can listen to information and imbibe It, for example in classrooms teachers often use visual aids to help remember. One can see informative videos or listen to information in form of audiobooks. Psychological research has proved that in some individuals the capacity for visual/auditory learning dominates over reading.
5. Take breaks: Research has shown that breaks improve memory formations. However, should be no more then 10 mins at a time. Above that will qualify for procrastination or time wastage. These breaks should be taken in between learning process.
6. Make notes: This is very important and a classic one. We have heard our parents/ teachers saying, ‘read and write’. But none of them ever explained why writing was important. When writing we are reprocessing and reproducing information this strengthens synapses in our brain. Writing something in your own words helps in retaining vital information.
7. Rehearsal: It is one of the best ways to remember something is trying to remember when going for a walk. This works on the principle of recalling where it strengthens our syntactical connections whereby it becomes easy to remember.
8. Understanding: Rote learning is based on repetition without understanding the text/information and is, therefore, an ineffective way to learn. Research has shown that understanding what we learn on a deeper level can reduce our time memorizing something. Hence understanding is key to memorizing.
9. Memory palace: This is one of the most effective techniques and a time-tested one. This technique has been used by competitors in World Memory Championship. In this one places information in his “palace”, this palace can be anything in one’s mind example his house, a place, room or it can be a series of events.
How to use memory palace? For example, if one must learn the names of all the major oceans of the world. One can associate his/her drawing room with the Pacific Ocean, corridor with the Atlantic Ocean, rooms with Antarctic and Arctic ocean. This way when one visits his drawing room which is biggest of all rooms will be the Pacific Ocean, the corridor would constitute figuratively Atlantic Ocean and rooms which both on top and bottom be the Arctic and Antarctic Oceans.
10. Mnemonics: Its always easier to create meaningful acronyms. This improves recollection. This can essentially help to memorize facts and figures (data which is hard to associate).
These hacks can better enable you to work, process – reprocess information and produce information during exam time. They also have less mental strain and will reduce working hours at the same time improving one’s productivity.
As we all know that stress becomes a disease in our daily life. It’s important to recognize the common causes of stress at work so that you can take steps to reduce stress levels where possible. Workplace stress can be caused by a number of factors – from heavy workloads and over-promotion to bullying and blame culture. Stress is harmful to your mental health it can also take a toll on your physical health as well.
People who have been suffering from stress are more prone to heart attacks and other heart-related issues.
Today we have compiled a list of some 13 Common Causes of Stress at Workplace.
Have a look:
13 Common Causes of Stress at Workplace include:
- Excessively high workloads, with unrealistic deadlines making people feel rushed, under pressure and overwhelmed.
- Not able to fully utilize your skills, lack of work.
- A lack of control over work activities.
- A lack of interpersonal support or poor working relationships leading to a sense of isolation.
- Not enough experience for a particular job.
- Difficulty settling into a new promotion. Having a hard time adjusting with new people and not sure if people are listening to you.
- Concerns about job security, lack of career opportunities, or level of pay.
- Bullying or harassment.
- A blame culture within your business where people are afraid to get things wrong or to admit to making mistakes.
- Weak or ineffective management which leaves employees feeling they don’t have a sense of direction. Or over-management, which can leave employees feeling undervalued and affect their self-esteem.
- Multiple reporting lines for employees, with each manager asking for their work to be prioritized.
- failure to keep employees informed about significant changes to the business, causing them uncertainty about their future.
- A poor physical working environment, eg excessive heat, cold or noise, inadequate lighting, uncomfortable seating, malfunctioning equipment, etc.
These were the 13 Common Causes of Stress at Workplace. Do you think we miss something? Let us know it the comment section below.
Psychology is a fascinating subject and the deeper we dive into the amazing it gets. We can evaluate a person’s personality, his action, and many other aspects with the help of it.
And this is because of our mind. We have put together 31 Interesting Psychological Facts about personality which will amaze you. It will also give an insight into how complex is our brain and how fascinating our actions are.
31 Interesting Psychological Facts
When one thinks about personality tests these days, the most talked about is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which is almost a benchmark that most of the corporate world uses to assess future employees. There are also various pop-quizzes available online or on Facebook that seem to tell what colour are you or what celebrity you are. The essence of all these quizzes and tests are something that is innate in humans, which is the curiosity to know about oneself. And this is not a recent phenomenon as in this post I will talk about one of the oldest personality tests that we came up with. It’s called the Temperament test.
What is Temperament?
Before I trace the origins of this test, you must have heard the word Temperament and may even have some vague understanding of it. The loosest meaning one associates it with is with one’s mood. But there’s more to it that meets the eye. Temperament, apart from being our attitude towards life, is an essential part of the overall personality that describes the initial state from which personality develops and links individual differences in overall behaviour. The study of temperament, Rothbart has argued, is old as Hindu Upanishads and as recent as studies on molecular genetics (Rothbart, 2006).
Greek Origins – Temperament Test
The origins of this test lie way back in the Graeco-Roman era. The Greek physician Hippocrates came up with the concept of four temperaments – Sanguine, Phlegmatic, Choleric, and Melancholic (which I will discuss in detail in a bit), which was a part of his overall work on humorism. The theory relies on the balance of our bodily fluids and any dominance of one resulting in the overall health of the person. The four bodily fluids that Hippocrates talked about are – Blood, Phlegm, Yellow Bile, and Black Bile.
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Galen, a physician, further using these bodily humors and named the personality types according to their respective dominance.
- Sanguine – Blood
- Phlegmatic – Phlegm
- Choleric – Yellow Bile
- Melancholic – Black Bile
From this conceptualisation came the oldest personality test, the Four temperaments test. It has had an influence on later formulations of tests like Carl Jung’s inspired MBT. Now, let’s discuss each personality type in detail.
Sanguine – The Adventurer
As the bodily fluid dominant in this type is blood, signifying a desire for adventure, the people belonging to this type are usually adventurous, fun loving and always craving for people’s attention. Sanguine personalities are optimists, buoyant, carefree, and cannot tolerate getting bored. They constantly crave things to do and cannot sit idle.
This attribute means that a person with a sanguine personality can be a great artist. They are also great entertainers as they are the life of a conversation and of the party. The ideal activities for this type of person are travelling, going to social events, and also unplanned plans. They also love working with others so best career for them would be which where close connectivity with people is the norm. More concrete examples of jobs would be marketing, fashion and interior designing, and even sports
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Phlegmatic – The Social Butterfly
People with this temperament type are very social. They are a people person and love maintaining interpersonal harmony with them. They are also loyal and tend to maintain relationships – be it friends or family – for most of their lives.
Phlegmatic people would go to great lengths to avoid getting involved in a conflict. They also like to help other and indulge in charity work. They may usually like doing volunteer work during their free time. Examples of jobs for phlegmatic personalities include nursing, counselling, social work, and teaching.
Choleric – The Aspirant
Choleric people are goal oriented and love being organised. They are extremely pragmatic and straightforward when it comes to real life situations. Due to their high levels of pragmatism, they sometimes are not the best companions.
They love a challenge and are highly disciplined. They are able to think logically and do not let emotions influence their decisions. They love having meaningful conversations with like-minded people. Ideal work environments for them would be engineering, data analyst, programming, and also entrepreneurship.
Melancholic – The Thinker
Lastly, people belonging to the Melancholic personality type are reserved but very knowledgeable. They love working alone as they perform the best when they are by themselves. They are, as the name suggests, very thoughtful and considerate when it comes to problems of the people.
They are also very creative and self-reliant, as they hardly require anybody’s help in their work. The downside that may happen to these attributes is that one can get obsessive over little things which may have a negative influence on others. Ideal jobs for people like these are accounting, research analyst, writer, artist etc.
In Conclusion – Harry Potter and the Four Temperaments
Before I finish off, a quick example from the world of popular culture and how the four temperaments can still be considered relevant when it comes to personality types. In the book, and later in the films, students at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry during initial orientation, as it were, are sorted via a magical hat. The magical hat divides the students into four houses. Each house can be considered the four temperaments here.
The Gryffindor house represents the people who are courageous and ambitious, signifying the Sanguine type. Students who are studious and love details represent the Ravenclaw house. Whereas house Slytherin represents students who are cunning and shrewd can be considered to represent the Choleric personality. And Hufflepuff house represents students who are loyal and trustworthy, which are similar characteristics of the Phlegmatic personality. So, think about it, which wizard house you belong to? The answer may surprise you!
Till then cheers and be awesome!
Rothbart, Mary K., ” Temperament, Development, and Personality“. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2007: Vol. 16, pg. 207
To Lie is to Human: The Science of Lying
Do you remember the first time you told a lie? If I try to remember my first lie, it might have been in my early childhood. I remember lying to my mother that I had gone to study but in reality, I was playing with other kids outside. The odds are, you might have done the same in your childhood but in different circumstances. There’s nothing to be ashamed of or to feel guilty about it as lying is one of the most common attributes we humans have. The history of humankind is full of people who not only lie but use them to fool others and gain an advantage or to get out of a tricky situation. From people like Frank Abagnale (remember the film Catch Me if You Can?) who conned hundreds of people with his lies and charm to politicians like Richard Nixon or even Bill Clinton, who lied under oath! (an impeachable offence under the U.S law).
why do people lie?
Some of the first research to understand the phenomena of lying was done by Bella DePaulo (1996) and her colleagues. They found out from the study that out of all the 147 participants, almost all of them lied on an average two or three times a day. Some of these lies were small lies in order not to hurt someone’s feelings or some of were excuses in order to get out of an errand. But some also admitted to telling some serious lies like hiding an affair. Researchers have argued that the behaviour of lying must have originated shortly after the emergence of language. The realisation of the power to manipulate others without using physical force may have proven be to be one of the causal factors behind lying. Sissela Bok, in her book (1978), has argued that the act of lying is the easiest way of gaining power when compared with other ways. She says “It’s much easier to lie in order to get somebody’s money or wealth than to hit them over the head or rob a bank”.
I go back again to the example of lying in our childhood, when we lie for the first time. Bruno Vershcuere (2011) has argued that lying is an essential part of our developmental process like walking or talking. He argues that children learn to lie between the ages of two to five. Moreover, they lie the most when they are faced with questions of independence. To study the development of lying in children, Kang Lee (2013), along with his colleague in a study found out that lying is part of the overall development process of a child. According to this study the percentage among children for lying increases with age. Among two-year-olds, only 30% are caught lying but as the age increases the numbers also increases as among 3-year olds, the number shoots up to 50% and in the case of eight-year-olds, it is at a staggering 80%!
Researchers have also argued that kids also get better with lying as they age. In the case of the above experiment, two and three-year-olds after some probing told they peeked, albeit not knowing what was their transgression. But eight-year-olds, learned to hide their actions by giving a story or saying the complete opposite with conviction. Researchers have argued that the rise in lying skills depends on the child’s development of the ability to imagine himself/herself in other’s place.
But the question arises that are people, who lie more often, unique or different from those who don’t? Researchers Yaling Yang (2005) and her colleagues undertook just a study to investigate the mapping of the brain among different individuals. In the study, the researchers compared the brain scans of three different groups. One group had 12 people, having a history of repeated lying, the second with 16 people who were deemed to be having an anti-social personality disorder, and the third group with 21 people who were neither. The study found that the people who lied often had a greater connectivity within their brains, signifying that they are likely to come up with better stories, plans etc. Although, this could have also have happened because of years of habitual lying.
In another study, Nobuhito Abe and Joshua Greene (2014) performed scans on their subjects using fMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and found that people who lied and were dishonest showed greater activation in a certain part of the brain which plays a key role in processing the idea of rewards. Green, while explaining the findings, argued that the more excited your reward system gets at the possibility of getting money – even in a perfectly honest context – the more likely you are to cheat or act in a dishonest way. Simply put, greed may lead you to lie!
The Paradox of Being Human
What is puzzling though if, which is being argued by research, the act of lying leads to better connectivity in the brains or it is a sign of early development of children or the thought of lying or being dishonest excites our reward system in our brains, then why don’t we do it more often. This is the same question that Dan Ariely finds interesting as he wants to understand why is it that people don’t lie more. In an experiment conducted on dishonesty, Ariely, in his ‘the dishonesty project’, gave volunteers simple math problems to solve and if they get answers right they would get paid for them. The volunteers were told to shred the sheet after the test and told to report how much they got correct. Most of the volunteers lied when they reported but what Ariely found interesting was that the people didn’t increase their levels of lying, even when the amount of money was increased. People stopped from lying all the way – even though they were given clear opportunities and incentives to do so. Ariely argues that the reason could be that people want to see in themselves as honest beings, which could be because the value that honesty has in the society. So, people might have internalised honesty as an integral value as a human being.
But researchers like Timothy Levine (2010) have argued that overall it is better to be truthful and honest as these two determine the implicit trust that we have in social relationships and public communication. If we lose faith in these then overall faith in the people would be destroyed and people would stop having social relationships. Overall, we get far more benefits from believing and occasional moments of getting fooled by lies or deceptions are just hiccups. Robert Feldman, however, argues that this belief actually helps the liars. He calls it the liar’s advantage. As people usually are not expecting lies as they are not searching for them in every form of conversation and this is often used by the liars.
In Conclusion – Main Reasons for Lying
After going through a brief survey of research, we can identify certain key reasons for lying. The first type of lie is what we call the ‘white lie’. It is the type of lie we say when we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or we want to protect someone from emotional harm. For e.g. if someone in your family has cancer but you don’t tell, say your grandmother to save her from the emotional toll that such a news may take. The second type of lie comes out of fear, i.e. when we are afraid of the consequence of telling a truth. Lying in our childhood to escape from a parent’s beating is easiest example to think about. The third type of lie is linked with greed, as research has shown, that we use lies at times to maximise our profits in our daily lives. Last but not the least, the fourth type of lie is similar to the previous one. It is when we exaggerate about things to a certain extent to the other person to project or inflate an image of a product, so that people end up accepting it without questioning. Salespersons are the prime example people who uses these lies. Similarly, politicians also use these lies in order to project a larger than life image. So, think and ask yourself two questions: How many times you lie in a day? Second, of the four types, which type of lie you use the most. And if you think you don’t like that much, the answer to the above two questions may surprise you. Till then, Happy Lying Everyone!
Abe, N., & Greene, J. (2014). Response to Anticipated Reward in the Nucleus Accumbens Predicts Behaviour in an Independent Test of Honesty. Journal of Neuroscience, Vol. 34(32): 10564-10572.ext
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Lee, K. (2013). Littler LIars: Development of Verbal Deception in Children. Child Development Perspect, Vol. 7: 91-96.
Levine, T. (2010). People Lie for a Reason: Three Experiments Documenting the Principle of Veracity. Communication Reserach Reports, Vol. 27(4): 271-285.
Verschuere, B. (2011). The Ease of Lying. Consciouness and Cognition, Vol. 20(3): 908-911.
Yang, Y. (2005). Prefrontal White Matter in Pathological Liars. British Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 187: 320-325.