TED Talk: Who are you, really? The puzzle of personality

What makes you, you? Psychologists like to talk about our traits, or defined characteristics that make us who we are. But Brian Little is more interested in moments when we transcend those traits — sometimes because our culture demands it of us, and sometimes because we demand it of ourselves. Join Little as he dissects the surprising differences between introverts and extroverts and explains why your personality may be more malleable than you think.

The Big Five personality test is well regarded in psychology compared to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Little spends quite a bit of time on the trait present in both: Extraversion and Introversion.

My favorite quote: “Introverts prefer contextually complex, contingent, weasel-word sentences. More or less. As it were. Not to put too fine a point on it… like that.”

If the above does not work, then try Who are you, really? The puzzle of personality

Android personality 

I will try not to spoil Westworld but no guarantees.

So the premise of the show and movies is there is a park with androids who become dangerous. Part of the fun is determining whether this is because of an accident, systemic problems, or sabotage. Essentially this is the kind of story that motivated Isaac Asimov to create his Three Laws of Robotics.

Still, everywhere I run across androids in science-fiction there is a nagging feeling that I am actually one. I understand these machine characters better than the human ones. I better empathize with their plight of the machines. Their problems ARE my problems.

I spend far too much time thinking about how real people behave in order to better pretend that I am also one. My question about my humanity: Why would anyone who is human have to pretend to be one?

Thankfully my college education in philosophy and psychology comes to my rescue in these moments of doubt.

  1. “Normal” is an abstract concept. No one is truly normal.
  2. Confirmation bias pollute these moments.
  3. Availability bias also warps my impression.

Of course, the other problem is I tend to play my fake android and fake autism off each other. “You are not an android, you are just autistic.” vs “You are not autistic, you are just an android.”

PeopleMap Name Badges

In discussion with coworkers, the idea came up of putting the PeopleMap type on one’s name badge. My contribution was to make it color coded:

  • Red for Leader because people associate red with the Power Tie.
  • Blue for Task because people associate that color with cool, collected, logical.
  • Green for People because (RGB and green is not yet used).
  • Gold star for Free Spirit because, gosh darn it, they are “special.”

Integrate PeopleMap With Office

I work to integrate systems. So, when I learn about things, I guess my mind drifts into how would we use it. And then into how would tie together this with other things we have to make them better.

Used with permission from atmasphere

Last week news dropped about Microsoft (MSFT) buying LinkedIn (LNKD). The big deal people seem to be making of it is the Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) potential for Microsoft. Imagine in Outlook having a guide about whomever you are emailing. LinkedIn potentially could supply the data.

So Friday I also took a PeopleMap System communication training. (Leader-Task) The idea is that people have innate preferences for how they process information. Understanding their preferences and tailoring your communication to key off them will make one more effective working with them.

I guess the MSFT-LNKD deal was still on my brain because it seemed like what we really needed was a PeopleMap plug-in to Outlook which would remind us the type of the individuals we are emailing. My vision was since everyone was providing management with our types, that information would be populated into the directory service. Then a plug-in would use the email address of the recipient(s) to display that person’s type and perhaps advice on how to communicate with that type. No more wracking one’s brain for what is their type and how to deal with them.

Of course, I used Google to look to see if this already existed. It pointed me to PeopleMaps which is a service for exploring one’s social network to find connections to sales targets and get an introduction and avoid cold calls. Microsoft’s Social Connector would pull photos from Facebook for contacts.

IBM Watson Personality Insights

Back in 2010, I did a post on I Write Like which reported the author most similar to a writing sample. I gave it several samples for which it gave me several different authors. The trend I noticed was the topic of the sample seemed to predict the result.

IBM Watson Personality Insights :

uses linguistic analytics to extract a spectrum of cognitive and social characteristics from the text data that a person generates through blogs, tweets, forum posts, and more.

It matches keywords in the writing to the Big 5 personality test and gives a summary based on it. So, it should be easy to skew too. I was able to find pieces of text from my blog that skewed the scores for all five measures. So, just like the other one, which samples I give it determines my “personality.” Something like FiveLabs’ Facebook Analyzer where it is looking at all or at least a huge sample of my writing probably would work better.

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Black Box Magic

black boxes ttv

With a black box system a person working with it sees what goes in and what comes out. The machine’s decision making process is obfuscated. Theories are made based on incomplete evidence on the behavior. More data points on more situations confirming the behavior is my way of being more comfortable the theory is correct. Sometimes we lack the time or conscientiousness or even access to ensure the theory is correct. This leads to magical thinking like labeling the software in human-like terms, especially insane or stupid or seeking revenge.

With a white box system, a person working with it can see the machine’s logic used to make decisions. Theories can be made based on more complete evidence due to investigating the code to see what it is intended to do. The evidence is far more direct than testing more.

Systems today are so complex they tend to have many parts interacting with each other. Some will be of each type.

Then there are Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) which expose vendor supported methods to interact with a black box by disclosing how they works.

Proprietary systems tend towards a black box model from the perspective of clients. This black box philosophy depends on the experts, employees of the company, design the system so it works well and resolve the issues with it. So there is no need for clients to know what it is doing. Where the idea breaks down is clients who run the systems need to understand how it works to solve problems themselves. Sure the company helps. However, the client will want to achieve expertise to manage minor and moderate issues as much as possible. They want to involve the vendor as little as reasonably possible. Communities arise because peers have solved the client issues and getting an answer out of the vendor is either formulaic, inaccurate company line, or suspect. Peers become the best way to get answers.

Open source systems tend toward a white box model from the perspective of clients. This white box philosophy depends on clients to take initiative figuring out issues and solutions to resolve them. Clients become the experts who design the system so it works well. Where the idea breaks down is some clients just want something that works and not to have to solve the problems themselves. Sure the open source community helps. Companies have arisen to take the role of the vendor for proprietary systems to give CIOs “someone to yell at about the product”. Someone else is better to blame than myself.

Cases of both the black and the white box will be present in either model. That is actually okay. Anyone can manage both. Really it is about personal preference.

I prefer open source. But that is only because I love to research how things work, engage experts, and the feel of dopamine when I get close to solving an issue. My personality is geared towards it. My career is based around running web services in higher education. Running something is going to be my preference. (Bosses should take note that when I say not to run something, this means it is so bad I would risk being obsolete than run it.)

This post came about by discussing how to help our analysts better understand how to work with our systems. It is hard to figure out how to fix something when you cannot look at the problem, the data about the problem, or do anything to fix it. So a thought was to give our analysts more access to test systems so they get these experiences solving problems.

Photo credit: black boxes ttv from Adam Graham at Flickr.

Self-Reporting

When I read something like this, I start to question the validity of the method.

Psychologist Sam Gosling analyzed the Facebook profiles of 236 college-aged people, who were also asked to fill out personality questionnaires… surveys that were designed to assess not only how study participants viewed themselves in reality, but also what their personalities would be like if they had all of their ideal traits.
The Psychology of Facebook Profiles | TIME

The better experiment here is to have half the participants maintain a normal Facebook profile. The other half would create a profile demonstrating their ideal self. Then compare those against the Big Five questionnaire looking at both. The list of personality traits in the article “openness, agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion and neuroticism” gives away the test used despite not explicitly named. Of course, I’m no fan of the Big Five.

Should the results match you can say Facebook reveals whatever the Big Five measures. However, I’d be uncomfortable saying any instrument measuring self-reported information accurately reflected anything about a person’s real personality.

Type A Personality

Earlier it was said I have a Type A Personality. Riiiight.

[T]he Type A personality, also known as the Type A Behavior Pattern, is a set of characteristics that includes being impatient, excessively time-conscious, insecure about one’s status, highly competitive, hostile and aggressive, and incapable of relaxation. [Ref: Wikipedia]

I will concede I am very time-conscious and somewhat of a workaholic. However, the rest sounds the complete opposite of my personality. Most consider me too laid back and needing more ambition. I’m sure if I had a wife and/or children, then I’d appear much less of a workaholic. All that seems unlikely for other reasons.
🙂

Melungeon

Mom dropped me a note last night. She ran across the word melungeon while doing some genealogy research. It describes someone who is of European, African, and Native American descent. It was popular in the Appalachian Mountains and similar in use to Mulatto in being a negative term.

I haven’t talked about this much on this blog, apparently. Just the one post mentioning I am a product of miscegenation. I was searching for other posts and ran across this draft from 2005 which I did not publish here:

Apparently I make people think of miscegenation. In a way that describes my social status: Other. See, my father is among the darkest African Americans one will see. He works in construction so he has tanned quite a bit. My mother is among the lightest European Americans one will see (former platinum blonde; it changed to brown when my brother was born).I represent what many purists among either White or Black cultures fear the most…. a dilution of the purity of the race. Over the years I have come to realize that as such a tiny (but growing group), mixed race children represent something new and thus are in the spotlight.

I am not a golf fan, but I like that Tiger Woods has excellent personality qualities which made him the top prize in Chapelle’s Racial Draft sketch.
🙂

My looks are different enough people do ask. Usually, its a contrived transition, but I am not offended. My favorite conversation went like this:

Laurie: Ezra, where are you from?
Ezra: Right here, born and raised.
Laurie: Oh… Where are your parents from?
Ezra: Dad is from here. Mom was a military brat, so she’s not really from anywhere.
Laurie (Getting visibly confused… Long pause.): Okay, I’ll just say it. Why do you look like that?
Ezra: Oh, okay! I understand now. My father is black. My mother is white.

Truth is there is also some Native American genetics working in my father’s genes. The story is one of my great-great-grandmothers was full Creek. Its so far back that I have my doubts about its influence.

However, apparently, if the features to identify are known, then it can be seen? For instance, back at Valdosta State, I went over to an office to convince a guy to let my office put together their web site. I had not had any luck over email or phone, so I was going to use the face-to-face time to make it happen. Just as I was about to leave, he asked, “What tribe?” That threw me. He explained he saw the influence of Native Americans in my features and was curious which tribe was involved.

Then there is the Nike Air Native N7. It sounds like the perfect shoe for me.

Years ago, when I was young, my aunt was trying to get me interested African American culture. Years later we finally agreed that I am indeed Multiracial which isn’t necessarily the same as just African American. Instead, its my responsibility to pick and choose what works for me.