Reflections on Power and Type
By Roger E. Bissell
Although my current profession is live music performance, I am also working toward a masters
degree in psychology, and I am intensely interested in research on type theory. In both these areas, I have some interesting
experiences and observations to share regarding power and type.
A. The Gatekeeper Syndrome: the Use of Power in Research on Personality Type
The examples I want to focus on in type research are not ones that easily
fit into the framework used by Barr and Barr. The reason is that the relationships involved are not like the one between boss
and employee, or any of the other typical power relationships.
Instead, they are the two most critical relationships a researcher has: his relationships
with “the gatekeepers of research.” (I am indebted to Alice Fairhurst for her suggestion
of the use of this term.)
purpose of research is to discover and communicate new knowledge. And if “knowledge is power,” it is no less true
that control over data and results of research is power, as well.
The gatekeepers of research have that power, and they are capable of using it for good
or for evil—to promote the finding and sharing of new knowledge or to block it—to foster research or to squelch
One of these is the “input
gatekeeper,” i.e., someone from whom a researcher wants to obtain data. The other is the “output gatekeeper:”
someone upon whom a researcher depends for an opportunity to present his conclusions.
During the past six years, I have had numerous encounters with each kind
of gatekeeper. Without naming names, I would like to share with you some of these experiences and the conclusions I draw from
1. The Input Gatekeeper
In doing type research, we researchers gather data
by having a number of people take some form of the MBTI, then they discover patterns in those data
and try to explain the patterns. Often this increases our understanding of one or more of the 16 types, or of type theory
As in other branches of science,
researchers on type are free to share their data with others or not to. There are good reasons for sharing your data. This
is even true in type research, so long as you protect the confidentiality of the people whose MBTI results you are using.
One good reason is for skeptics to be able to fully
examine and question your conclusions. This is part of the process of scientific review that helps to validate correct conclusions
and to weed out errors that the researcher may have made.
Another good reason is to empower other researchers to follow up on and build on your
conclusions, to find new patterns and conclusions that you may have overlooked. This has been the main thrust of my own research.
Both of these reasons for sharing data are vital to
progress in science. Without the free sharing of data (again, with appropriate safeguards to one’s sources), type theory
risks becoming frozen at a certain level. At the very least, progress would be slower than it could be.
On the other hand, there are factors that lead people
who possess the data—the “input gatekeepers”—to not share it with some researchers. What
are these factors? And how do they relate to power or type?
Two input gatekeepers I have dealt with were ENFPs, and they
were really busy, going a hundred directions at once! The same was true of an ENTP input gatekeeper, who also had some personal
medical problems that slowed her down.
Whatever the case, I eventually got the data I wanted from each of them. My overall impression, admittedly
unscientific, is that EPs are somewhat flaky, but basically well-meaning in sharing data.
Four other input gatekeepers provided me the data I wanted almost immediately.
Two were INTPs, one an INFP, and one an ENFJ. In general (again, based
on only four cases), it appears to me that IPs and EJs are both willing
and prompt in sharing data.
with the remaining input gatekeeper of my experience, an INTJ, has been both a mystery and a frustration to me. For over a
month now, I have been trying to get certain data from Consulting Psychologists’ Press, who publish the MBTI.
There is nothing controversial or confidential about
this data. It is merely an updated, expanded form of data published in the appendix of David Saunders’ 1988 manual for
a form of the MBTI called the “Expanded Analysis Report.”
CCP is very protective of the manual, and you cannot even purchase a copy of it, unless
you meet certain qualifications. I did not, so I had a friend photocopy the data from the appendix of his copy and send it
This six-year-old data convinced
me I was on the trail of something big. Some of the results of my analyzing this data are found in other essays posted on
this website: Achilles Tendencies.
In my quest for newer data,
I originally contacted an INTP in Alaska, who was perfectly willing to share this data with me, but he insisted I first get
approval from CCP. I then phoned CCP in Palo Alto, and from the INTJ I spoke with, I have gotten cautious questioning, then
a promise to pass along my request to their “scientist” (whoever that is), but no data.
Perhaps this is just an example of the typical slowness
of bureaucracies or under-staffed small businesses. Maybe the data is “in the mail.” We’ll see.
Another factor may be the fact that I am an amateur.
I have no academic credentials or certification for doing type research. I am an independent maverick, to boot.
Against this, I simply say that if such highly technical
disciplines as mathematics and astronomy benefit and have nothing to fear from talented, intelligent amateurs—and I
humbly submit that I am one—then neither does psychology. I would be surprised if the people at CCP held such an unenlightened
position about amateur researchers.
But perhaps there is another explanation. The data I have been trying to get is an outgrowth of findings
that Isabel Myers first made in the early 1940s. Her findings revealed many more details and nuances of personality than we
are used to seeing in our four-letter MBTI types—and some of those nuances were not very flattering, showing certain
types of people as more likely to be defiant, or inhibited, or distractible, or worried.
Myers, being an INFP, wanted to accentuate the positive. She felt that
focusing on people’s neurotic personality traits would hurt them in some way or other, so she tucked away some of her
most important results for over 40 years!
Recently, there has been a great deal of interest in the Five Factor Model. This is very similar to
the MBTI’s four dimensions, plus an extra scale for Neuroticism. Probably because of this,
Myers’ “lost research” was resurrected and used in making the Expanded Analysis Report (EAR) and the Type
Differentiation Indicator (TDI).
TDI includes a fifth scale, the Comfort scale, which is very much like the Big Five’s scale for neuroticism. So, for
better or worse, with the aid of the EAR and the TDI, the MBTI is now starting to look at human frailties as well as “gifts
differing.” And I believe that this is a good thing.
When we find, for example, that the four SJ types have by far the biggest risk for heart
disease, we can speculate that it may be the SJ preference for introverted sensing that is the problem—and that when
anybody’s introverted sensing malfunctions due to stress, they may be at more risk for heart disease.
I don’t think I’m alone in believing that
type theory will make important contributions to our physical and psychological well-being with the help of this kind of research.
But there are still many who are loyal to Myers’
original vision and feel very nervous about this kind of focus. Some of them are associated with the Consulting Psychologists’
Press, and their reluctance or hesitance at sharing their data may simply reflect a fear that it may be used in a way that
reinforces type bias or even downright bigotry.
For example, it would be one thing if we were to show that most schizophrenics are NFs
and quite another to say that NFs have schizophrenic tendencies. Or to show that most prison inmates
are SPs vs. saying that SPs have criminal tendencies. Or, especially,
to claim that any and all NFs and SPs are suspect—and no one
I realize that this might
sound like paranoid speculation, and I certainly can’t prove it. But if it’s true, I maintain that it amounts
to a misuse of power by the input gatekeepers at CCP.
The fears they reflect are due more to insecurity and a failure to trust the academic
process than to any real harm that could come from allowing liberal access to their data. And that brings me to my second
major type of gatekeeper.
The Output Gatekeeper
In sharing the results of one’s type research
and theorizing with others, there is a limited number of outlets in the type community, and each is guarded by an “output
might have your results published by a type-related publisher, such as the Center for Applications of Psychological Type.
Such publishers have standards for what they will accept.
You might have your results published by a journal, bulletin, or newsletter. Each of
these is guarded by an editor, who is often guided by an editorial policy set in place by APT or one of its local chapters.
You might be able to deliver your findings at a local
meeting or at a regional or international conference. Each of these is guarded by a program director or committee, who directly
approach especially desired speakers and solicit and screen applications from others.
Both the APT Journal and conference program committees also use what is
called “blind review” of papers that are submitted to them. The editors or directors give out copies that have
the author’s name removed, and the reviewers are thus insulated from one of the ways they might be biased for or against
a popular or controversial writer’s work. Nevertheless, final discretion of whether or not to publish usually rests
with the editor or program director, who does know the identity of the author.
My impression of Tom Carskadon (the Journal
of Psychological Type editor) is that he has a very open, helpful way of relating to people who submit their work to
him. He and his reviewers give suggestions to help bring promising material up to the level they would accept for publication.
I have observed a similar attitude of openness in the Bulletin, although I have yet to submit any pieces to either
it or the Journal.
deepest satisfaction is with the way the international conference programs have been run. The window of opportunity to submit
program proposals for APT-XI in Kansas City was extremely narrow (by comparison to APT-X), and I was unable to squeeze through
it. I wonder how many other would-be presenters had this problem.
My problem with APT-X was that at least three of the most interesting, challenging, cutting-edge
proposals I’m aware of were turned down. This wouldn’t bother me so much, if I didn’t also know for a fact
that at least one person on the APT-X program committee (no names!) expressed alarm at all the “controversial”
and “oddball” theoretical papers that were submitted.
Whether or not this referred to the papers I know of, it certainly sounds as though the
committee was dominated by an overly conservative gate-keeping attitude last year (1993). I certainly hope that the APT-XI
program committee has a more progressive and open approach in selecting theory papers.
In contrast, I am very pleased with the way programs are set up in our
own local chapter of APT. Our very own “output gatekeepers,” Carol Grams and Alice Fairhurst
and Becky Bissell, have played an important role in welcoming the presentation of new ideas to our group.
Because of their open-minded, balanced way of program-building,
there has been plenty of room for people like Brian Neal Burg and myself to push the envelope on type theory—and I certainly
hope that trend continues under Monica Schneider and future program directors in our group.
My fervent hope is that we find a better way for provocative, original
ideas to get a hearing on the national level. Unless we can get the output gatekeepers at APT International to loosen up,
however, I am afraid for the future of type theory as a living, growing body of knowledge.
3. 2005 update:
My experiences since writing
this paper have been mixed. I have not received any of the data I requested from CCP; but I did submit a piece which was published
in the Bulletin. It is the essay on this website dealing with type-related stodginess and flakiness.
I submitted two proposals to the APT-XIII conference
committee, and both were accepted and later published in the conference proceedings. They are posted on this website, also.
However, more recently, I submitted a proposal to the APT-XVI committee for a sequel paper on “Achilles Tendencies”
in the SP, SJ, NP, and NJ types, and it was rejected.
I delivered another research-based paper, “Lend Me Your EARs”
to the Southern California chapter, but that group became defunct around 2000, and the L.A. group has scheduled meetings at
a time when I can’t attend, so I have been “out of the loop” for approximately 5 years now. This problem
has been accentuated by the loss of my dear friend and type theory buddy, Bruce Rowland, who passed away in October of 2004,
and by the upheaval in APT with the uncertain status of its journal.
My hope is to eventually finish my Achilles Tendencies manuscript and to offer
it to a publisher, as well as to lecture on applications of the topic. It may become necessary to take on a co-writer who
is better connected within the type community, in order for this material to see the light of day. Other
than on this website, of course.