A thought came to me the other day about the questions we ask. I know that we all ask all kinds of questions all the time–or, at least, I do because I’m such an inquisitive bastard and/or I’m really part of the Borg and am doing my best to figure out the best way to hurry the assimilation of all of you fuckers–RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!–but I wondered about which questions really seemed to drive each of us…. and whether there were differences between individuals.
For example, as the overly rational automaton that I am–sometimes called an INTJ–the first question that almost always comes to mind when I observe something, hear something, am involved in a situation, etc… is “Does that Make sense?”
This question occurs long before I ask “Is that moral/right?” or, “Is that proper?”
Thus, perhaps the central guiding question of my life is “does that make sense?” and when I was younger–I often assumed that this was the same way that everyone approached life.
Experience, however, has shown me that this is very far from the case. People are diverse critters. They approach stuff differently and assuming that everyone will think the same way is how we often get ourselves into trouble. This is one of the general insights of the MBTI system that I’ve spilled a lot of electronic ink over at this blog, and as flawed/limited as that system can be–the emphasis that it places on the diversity of approaches that humans take to understanding the world around them does seem like a very solid insight.
So my real question then became–is there a matching up of personality types–or perhaps more importantly the different “functions” that myers-briggs talks about–with the kinds of questions that drive people?
On the one hand–the answer to this question is an obvious yes as when you look at the differences in approaches between NT/NF types–you see the “Does this make sense?” vs. “Do I think this is Right (acc. to my values!)? fairly clearly in their immediate reactions…
What I was more after here–was going beyond these somewhat elaborate questions to think back to the more essential root question words–like those above… namely Who, What, Where, When, Why, Which, and How… (with perhaps others thrown in… )
Looking at these words, it struck me that the question of “Does this make sense?” was often a kind of “combined-question” that strongly relied upon elements of “how” and “why”… in the sense that if you want to question whether something “makes sense,” you are really asking if the situation at hand conforms to a previously understood and consistent system –which means you have to know HOW the thing works. Also important in this question is an implicit “Why are they doing this?” On the one hand, if it does “make sense”–there is still the question of which motivations the person has for doing it. On the other hand, if it doesn’t make sense–you then ask the subsequent question of “WHY are they doing it then?”
Now–this doesn’t mean that those who fall under the NT combination only care about HOW and WHY questions–asking who, where, when, which.. etc.. those are also useful tools in terms of gathering data–but what I would argue for–at least tentatively–is that the How and Why questions tend to be more central to the approach to the world that NT types take…
In any case–I then wondered how far one could push this thought? Would other functions correspond to other questions? At first glance, it did seem to me that Sensing function–in particular with Si–often seemed to correspond with the question of WHICH in a number of ways, especially in the sense that Si is all about sorting/ordering and often implies a kind of hierarchical recognition and assignment of status levels…
On the other hand–I’m not sure that this actually works for Se that well.. but that might be because Se seems–at least to me–to be an almost pre-cognitive/pre-rational function that reacts/acts without any conscious thought. Therefore–trying to assign it a particular “question”==verbal designation of a particular kind of mental inquiry–might be trying to make reality fit the system, rather than the other way around…
Anyway.. a rough tentative ordering on my part might be as follows…
T–Mostly HOW–with perhaps a bit of Why. Te is generally about analysis and differentiation–whereas Ti is about synthesis and integration–both of these seem like a HOW kind of thing–with a bit of WHY needed to understand the process..
F–A lot of Who–along with a good chunk of Why. Fe is tied with negotiating and altering the social cues and relationships that people engage in–while Fi is very much about connecting to others based on a shared set of internalized social values. Together–these are concerned about people and their motivations
N–A lot of Why along with a strong streak or component of WHERE. Ne–which seems to be about pattern-matching/extrapolation and projections–and Ni–which is more about interpretation, representation, and reflection–both require understanding the motivation of actors within a process or network–as well as a recognition of this network/framework–which entails a kind of spatial sense or structuring(WHERE.)
S–Perhaps this is more of the catch all for the remaining question words–namely WHAT, WHEN, WHICH, and WHERE. These are the kind of question words that are most often answerable by reference to the direct human senses. This could then apply to the most active and immediate function–Se–but also to the more internal function–Si–which is less about reacting at once to direct sensory input than in sorting and sequencing one’s internal reactions to this input.
In any case–I’m very open to thoughts/critiques about this idea. I’m not actually that persuaded by it’s explanatory power or the depth of its reality. Any thoughts about it by those familiar with Myers-Briggs would be most appreciated.