Saturday, 10 September 2016

I vs S

One of my favorite random tidbits of information on the internet is how your preference for analysis or algebra (assuming you have one) may predict how you eat your corn. Algebraists tend to follow the patterns inherent in mathematical structures and - so goes the theory - also tend to follow the structure of the corn while eating, which means that they eat in neat, typewriter-style rows. Analysts don't care turn the corn while eating, which is arguably more efficient.

Being the pattern-obsessed, algebra-loving, typewriter-style corn eater that I am, I think this observation can be explained in terms of the perception axis of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator:  Intuition vs Sensing,  which reflects your preference patterns vs ground-level data. The MBTI is a typology based on Jungian psychology. It's not as reputable as the Big Five and seems to be more popular in self-help and business circles rather than academic ones, but at least intuitively (hah!) I feel that it captures an important distinction between how people think and what they pay attention to.

Only about 30% of the population are I types. I don't know if IQ has any bearing on the distribution, but I would guess that the percentage of smart I people is also at around a third. I think because of this imbalance, quite a lot of S folks can get away with not taking I-style cognition seriously. In system-builder style professions, I think that Is who can keep their propensity for generalization in check have an edge, unless the time horizon for measuring success is short.

As I gain more professional experience, I find that my I-type skills turn out to be my most valuable strengths, primarily because there is a real need for them in my field and they are relatively scarce. It can be tricky though to find a work environment where such skills are both needed and appreciated.