Monday, July 26, 2010

In Which I am Completely Disagreeable

Being a fan of the fun that ensues from the testing and discovery of one’s psychological preferences  boiled down to four dichotomous traits, I was interested in this article, Our Blog Vocabulary, Our Selves,  in yesterday’s edition of The Boston Globe.  What struck me most was not that we reveal our personalities through our word choices, but that modern psychology has developed a model of human personality reduced to the Big Five personality traits. 

Bloggers who scored high on the trait of “agreeableness” seldom swore and referred often to the notion of community.
I HAD to find out more about this so-called “agreeableness” trait.  (Not being a psychologist, I went to Wikipedia for a quick overview.)
People scoring low on agreeableness place self-interest above getting along with others.
Um. Dur. Then who doesn’t score low?

If you don’t place self-interest first, who will be there to get along with the others?  A bunch of doormats?

Since, in order to exist I must place my self-interest far above any incidental getting along, I am, according to this classification, completely disagreeable. 
A central feature of agreeableness is its positive association with altruism and helping behavior.
Altruism is NOT the same as benevolence or self-interested charity. It is selflessness. I reject altruism in all its forms. 

But wait, it gets better.  It’s not misleading enough to be labeled “disagreeable” because you prioritize your self-interest far above getting along and the interest of others; it seems that if you are low on the “agreeable” scale, you’re likely to be considered Machiavellian.

This personality classificiation system, hidden inside a model within one of the social sciences, is indicative of a much greater problem: the mistaken evaluation of “social harmony” as a value in itself rather than as a by-product of shared values (e.g. civility).


kelleyn said...

I've suspected for years that most psychological analysis puts us in a "damned if you do/damned if you don't" situation. Once you're being evaluated either by a professional or an "armchair" psychologist it's next to impossible to avoid getting stuck with a label. You're either a psychopath or a victim (or both), with the dichotomy being exactly parallel to the moral-practical dichotomy identified and debunked by Rand.

HaynesBE said...

I disagree.

Lynne said...

kelleyn: the popularity of the false predator/victim dichotomy is particularly damaging to understanding the morality of individual rights.

Beth: clearly, then, you are also completely disagreeable. Congratulations.