Photo of the day

Lots of great images from 1968 in this Atlantic photo gallery.

Helicopters fly low during Operation Pegasus in Vietnam on April 5, 1968. They were taking part in the operation to relieve the Khe Sanh marine base, which had been under siege for the previous three months. 

Dang Van Phuoc / AP
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The best 2016 election map

Love this from XKCD.  Vox has a whole article explaining why it so awesome, but I think you can immediately appreciate why:

Here’s the maps I usually use for my classes.  Still going to use this one (states proportional in size to electoral college votes), but add in the new one.

Just how open to experience am I anyway?

So, 538 did a nice piece pointing out that most on-line personality tests are complete bunk.  And, yes, the beloved Myers-Briggs (I’m an ESTJ) has basically failed as meaningful social science (Malcolm Gladwell, in fact, did a takedown a long time ago).   Anyway, as 538 points out, when it comes to personality assessment these days, it’s all about “The Big Five.”

The most popular — used by the vast majority of scientists who study personality — is called the Big Five, a system that organizes personality around five broad clusters of traits: extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness to experience.

You aren’t asked about hypothetical situations. You aren’t asked about which words you like best. You aren’t given five images of different sunsets and asked to pick which one best reveals your inner soul.

Those clusters were not randomly chosen. Instead, the categories stem from research that began in the 1920s and ‘30s, when researchers first theorized that you might be able to figure out the anatomy of a personality by studying the words we used to describe what people are like. But it wasn’t until the 1970s and ‘80s that scientists finally had enough computing power to test their hunches. Researchers took thousands of surveys about the words people used to describe themselves and others, applied factor analysis, and came up with five big themes the traits clustered around, according to Christopher Soto, a psychology professor at Colby College. (Some researchers use a similarly derived model that adds a sixth trait: honesty-humility.)…

That result is a bit different from the results you get with most online personality tests, which tend to group people by type — you’re a Hufflepuff, or a Charlotte, or an ISFJ. This is one of the big problems with pop culture ideas of personality, from a scientific standpoint. They try to fit us all into a set of immutable types. “That’s why we don’t like Myers-Briggs,” Vazire said. “We shouldn’t be talking about types of people.” That’s because, like most things with humans, personality traits fall on a bell curve and most of us will be near the middle of that distribution. When you try to categorize people by type, you end up with a lot of people who are placed in boxes that seem far apart, but whose distribution of personality is actually pretty close to each other. “Types create more artificial boundaries, where most people are really close to the boundary line,” Vazire said. “That’s the nature of human difference.” [emphasis mine]

Anyway, I’ve taken a number of on-line versions of the test.  I can say with high confidence that I am extremely low in neuroticism (of course, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you knew that already).  My scores range from 1st-3rd percentile in that.  I’m also consistently over 90th percentile in extraversion.  Here’s my scores from one test:

And, no matter how you slice it, I’m agreeable, though the nature of how much tends to vary.  Like a good liberal, I’m on the lower side in conscientiousness, but I get a fair amount of variation on this one.  Liberals also tend to score higher on “openness to experience” and I usually do, but I find this aspect of the theory literally confounding as it seems to smush together quite different personality dimensions where I am high on some and low on the others.  Thus, it depends on which dimensions the particular test most draws from.  Here’s the one-sentence summary from wikipedia:

Openness involves six facets, or dimensions, including active imagination (fantasy), aesthetic sensitivity, attentiveness to inner feelings, preference for variety, and intellectual curiosity

So, here’s the thing.  I don’t consider myself creative or having much of an imagination.  As anybody who knows me can tell you, I am super-low in preference for variety (yes, I often have pizza for lunch every week day).  I’d say I appreciate art more than average (aesthetic sensitivity) and I’m pretty good with attentiveness to my inner feelings.  Most notably, I’m off the chart in intellectual curiosity.  If the test focuses on that, I am Mr Openness to Experience.  In contrast, if there are more questions on preference for variety and imagination, not so much.  So, although this test, unlike most other personality tests, has been well-validated, I’m not so sold on this openness dimension.

While I’m at it, I also tend to get way more variation in conscientiousness, on which I’m not entirely sold either.  “A tendency to be organized and dependable, show self-discipline, act dutifully, aim for achievement, and prefer planned rather than spontaneous behavior.”  Again, I like to think I am fairly self-disciplined and not particularly spontaneous and very much dependable.  But I sure as hell am not organized.

Anyway, it is pretty interesting stuff.  And I do think I can be confident in my very low neuroticism and high extroversion.  Please take a test or two and share your thoughts.

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