Saturday, November 12, 2005

Concrete Minds

I like the Meyers/Briggs personality inventory. I have a degree in Experimental Psychology and, frankly, was never impressed with the psychological and personality tests I was trained in. What does a 140 IQ mean? Does it mean the same thing if you can't remember to look both ways when you cross the street or can't communicate well enough to keep a relationship going?

Meyers Briggs (MB) winds up with 16 general personality types. It seems that the rarer types are the most impressed with the test- I don't think like most people so tests designed for most people never helped explained very much. The MB in a few paragraphs described how I think, that the method of thinking was rare (it had never occured to me that there was ANY criteria beyond practicality- I thought the whole world thought the way I did but sucked at it) and explained every major issue I'd ever had with people, jobs or the world in a way that I could use.

There are four dimensions in the test. They have clumsy names that don't necessarily mean what they do in every other context. The first dimension is Extroversion/Introversion. Not what it sounds like, exactly. The simple question is "When you need to recharge your batteries, do you seek out company or solitude?" The second is Intuition/Sensing. I don't know how they chose those words. Intuition means that you trust your own judgment over the judgment of another. Everyone says they do, but few people are very resistant to peer pressure and most will follow the advice of someone who they believe to be an expert even if it contradicts their own experience. The third is Thinking/Feeling- are you more comfortable with a decision that you can logically explain or one that feels right? The last is Judging/Perception- do you like finishing things or the process of doing?

I told you the names were stupid.

I want to nominate a fifth dimension. Something that addresses the fact that some people are comfortable with rules and clear-cut distinctions and some function happily and well in chaos. Maybe the R/C dimension, Rules/Chaos.

We did ConSim yesterday. The students come into class, are armored up and given a bunch of toys- real guns that fire paint pellets, foam batons, pepperspray without the pepper part, tasers without the batteries. Then they walk into a scenario with hardly any information- anything from a lost child to being ambushed at a mini mart to a fender-bender with angry citizens or a hostage situation happening right in front of them. They'll deal with role players acting as criminals, former criminals, citizens, lawyers and reporters.

The entire purpose of the class is to get the adrenaline pumping and have them make a decision in a fraction of a second on partial information... just like real life. Then they have to explain the decision to the instructors and other students, just like we were a jury.

Like any other agency, ours is a bureaucracy and runs on paper and rules. Bureaucracies need to have clarity and definite 'right' and 'wrong' solutions to specific and definite problems and they breed and nurture people who feel the same way.

However, we are a Law Enforcement Agency, and that means that we deal with criminals and we deal with violence. There is very little on this world that is more chaotic or less cut-and-dried than violence.

One student in particular worried me. In each scenario, he wanted THE right answer. As much as we would explain that what the students had done was A good answer or A poor one, he wasn't satisfied. He was clearly horrified that two different people could be in the same situation and because they perceived it differently they would handle it differently and BOTH could be right... or wrong. All math problems have one right answer. There is one most efficient way to split wood. A bridge made in a certain way of certain materials can handle a specific weight. There is a right tool to pound a nail. An act is against the law or it is not...maybe? Do you believe that? An act is right or wrong...maybe? Depending?

The class pushed him , I hope, to realize that we are paid and paid well to go into chaos, make it as right as we can as quick as we can with minimum collateral damage. We make decisions in an eye blink with only what we know in the instant. Those decisions may affect the lives of many people, some to death. It is the essence of the job. We do this specifically and stand up to inquests and grand juries and civil suits and Internal Affairs investigations specifically so that other people don't have to and have the luxury to believe that there is a right answer to all questions.

He was a concrete mind looking at a fluid world. Honestly, it repelled him and it repelled him even more that some functioned well and thrived there.


Mac said...

I keep sticking my nose into your blog - my way of exercising my ego - to think I'm adding/correcting/improving/editing - bringing order to chaos, when all I'm really doing is creating more chaos. Maybe total chaos is actually very orderly - it has it's own rules that it follows which allow people who not only intuitively understand the rules, but feel good when handling applying them - creating a different type of 'socially acceptable' or 'personally acceptable' chaos. What is more chaotic - a new Lexus SUV or an indistinguishible pile of 1000 year old left-along Lexus SUV?

Rory said...

The thing, Mac is that there is great power and more control in letting go than in holding tight. The control and the orderliness is the illusion. The universe doesn't mind being a mess- it is human monkeys who need a pattern and they will create one.

You are always welcome here, my friend, to teach and correct and improve and edit to your hearts content.

Kai Jones said...

Yeah, the names are stupid. But reading your questions I understood it for the first time. Then I searched for what my type means and had the same shock you did: that's me, all right.