Armchair Psychology

I retook a web version of the Jung personality test today, and was rather stunned by the following question:

17) I tend to pay more attention to my thoughts than my feelings.

Perhaps I’m just in some strange mood, but I don’t get the distinction. I don’t think I categorize mental states of mine into thoughts and feelings. I take it that both are supposed to be occurent mental states, roughly dateable events in an individual’s conscious experience, and I’m not sure I find two such things “when I introspect.”

That isn’t to say I don’t use feeling as either a verb or a noun, it just seems that the usages to which I put it don’t correspond to what the test-takers have in mind. First, I often refer to sensations as feelings: “I feel hot.” Second, I use feelings to refer to moods: “I feel elated” or “I feel down.” But, as Ryle did a good job of showing, moods are more or less patterns of dispositions to think certain thoughts and feel certain ways. Third, if I have a strong opinion which I cannot find good reasons for, yet which I can’t give up, I might say “well, I don’t know why, but I just feel like he’s bad news.” This seems like it’s the closest to what the test-makers had in mind, but I’m still not getting it. After all, it doesn’t seem like anyone could pay more attention to their feelings than they pay attention to their thoughts, if this is what a feeling is. This thing is just a thought “he’s bad news” that you’ve discovered that you don’t have a reason for. But you had to go through a logical process of reasoning, checking over the various possible rationales you might have to discover that you don’t have a good one. So it seems like this isn’t precisely an occurent mental state either.

I’m an extremely analytical and logical person, but I certainly haven’t gone through a process of reasoning for most of the things that I think. Most of my beliefs go unexamined until something comes up to call them into question, and most of my thoughts occur to me and I move on without ever thinking of a reason for them. In that, I’m in the same boat as everyone who has ever lived. What distinguishes the analytically minded person is her dogged persuit of a sound rationale for the thought once it has been called into question.

Most people don’t react this way when they take the Jung personality test (or its cousin the myers-briggs). They find that sort of question easy to answer. So, tell me what the utterly obvious thing I’m missing is. Really, I mean it. I demand that you comment and explain what a feeling is.

Also, in case you didn’t catch it:

INTP – “Architect”. Greatest precision in thought and language. Can readily discern contradictions and inconsistencies. The world exists primarily to be understood. 3.3% of total population.

Free Jung Personality Test (similar to Myers-Briggs/MBTI)


3 responses to “Armchair Psychology

  1. I mean when I have to answer questions like that I always take thoughts to be things I know externally to be true (can validate logically) but don’t correlate to or spring from opinion/emotion. If that makes any sense. But then, isn’t the point that peronality tests are sort of random anyway?

  2. Yes, they obviously are random, so it wouldn’t be a shock to find that the terms they use correspond to no real distinctions. It’s also clear enough that most people who take the test don’t respond to the question by saying “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” So I was curious to see if anyone can enlighten me.

  3. How lesbian am I? How gangly?