Apr 19, 2013

Interesting Video about Jungian Types and Math Learning

A link to this TEDx presentation was recently posted by Jonathan in the comments of my "Fooled by Socionics" post.


My critique of this video will be similar to what I've been saying about typology for a long time.

It's really interesting to hear about individual differences that affect learning, and I will be excited to hear more about this. On the surface it would seem that the research conducted supports Jungian typology. Students are divided into types, and far-reaching differences in learning processes are discovered.

What this proves is that whatever algorithm was used to divide the students into groups (types) was to some degree predictive of their behavior when learning math. What is not clear is:

  • The relationship between the algorithm used and the theory of Jungian typology. In other words, what assumptions were made in producing the algorithm that do not necessarily directly derive from the theory?

    What I'm hinting at here is that the researchers' explanations of types may differ from those of other Jungian typologists, because the theory is basically unquantifiable. Different researchers might therefore end up with different divisions of schoolchildren with higher or lower predictive value.

  • Is the algorithm used by the researchers actually the best possible one for the purposes of this study? In other words, is there another way of dividing up the children that would be even more predictive of their behavior when learning math?

Occasionally socionists in Ukraine and Russia produce similar kinds of studies which are often tantalizing, but always inconclusive. For typologists in general, the focus is to generate empirical support for the theory rather than the best possible predictive outcome. I don't have much respect for this approach anymore. Maybe it's okay for the early investigation stage of new hypotheses, but it's not okay for a mature theory.

What I mean is that if we have a method "A" that we suppose influences outcome "B," then what typologists always do is — "let's apply our A and see what B we get." They never focus on maximizing the outcome! That would be — "let's see what A will maximize B."

This is probably the single most important idea to take away from my recent posts about why I have left socionics behind. This is what science is all about, and typologists — some bluntly, others more subtly — resist it for whatever reason (laziness and boredom, overconfidence, lack of acceptance of such research among their reference group, lack of research funds, etc.).

Going back to the TEDx video, let's imagine the research was not to "see what this way of applying Jungian Typology can predict" but to "see what method we can find for grouping children into learning groups with the greatest predictive power."

They could even start off using their existing typological method just to get things going. Then, they would look at how these children responded to different math learning methods and environments. Then they would consider whether they might move some children from one group to another based on their observed behavior, or whether there were large enough differences within a single group to justify dividing it further. Then they would try to formulate the key characteristics separating one group from another. They would have to decide whether these characteristics were more discrete or continuous and at what threshold level a person might be switched from one group to another. Finally, they would work on developing the most effective method for dividing children into these learning groups.

At some point, they would have to deal with the problem of the 99 percentile and 1 percentile math students who learn so much faster or slower than the other people with their supposed learning style that it is simply impractical to leave them in the same group.

The method produced might be a 5-minute test instead of a hours-long talking session on the differences between types. Or it might be a brain scan or physiological test done while performing different tasks. Maybe the behavior of interest is so complex that, for now, the only way to confidently identify it is in the classroom, over a longer time span. This might even lead researchers to say — "let's just use our talking session on Jungian types plus the following additional tweaks."

At any rate, the method would be optimized for enhancing math learning and would not necessarily predict any of the other things that Jungian typology is supposed to predict. But it would be rock-solid and other researchers could take it and build upon it.


Jane Kise said...

Thanks, Rick--Insightful comments. The actual purpose of the study was simply seeing if the differences defined by Jungian type can be seen in how students tackle the same tasks. We didn't do a formal study of whether changing techniques to match styles would improve learning--anecdotally, grouping them only for interventions gave teachers more flexibility to meet their needs and students stayed engaged for incredibly long periods of time.

There's a circle of type users worldwide who have worked hard to discover how and when type concepts help. We all need ALL styles to be successful students. There are things we need to memorize or that work best when done in certain ways (Introversion and Sensing.) Science labs and other significant learning activities require hands-on learning (Extraversion and Sensing). At other times, we need to work by ourselves in a more open way, reading and writing and thinking beyond rote processes (Introversion and Intuition). And finally we all need practice at high-level, collaborative tasks that are the seeds for the incredible collaboration efforts evident in most recent Nobel prizes (Extraversion and Intuition).

So we all need to learn in all styles; teaching children only in their own styles would be crippling. At the same time, when they "get" their own style, they can ask for strategies to stretch instead of feeling stupid when faced with out-of-style tasks. And teachers have a frame for changing up what is offered in their classrooms.

You might check Dario Nardi's presentation at Google, which is on youtube, for more on the neuroscience findings of his studies as evidence that Jung's theories bear out in reality.

Anonymous said...

Rick, I think you raise important points about doing good research. This particular video seems more about exploring the idea of how using different teaching styles based on types may improve learning outcomes. Even though it wasn't presented as being a formal study, I found it a very intriguing and worthwhile presentation.

Your first point basically questions construct validity...e.g., does the classroom experiment necessarily measure some abstract notion of what Jungian type is. However, that may not matter as much as it may seem. Suppose they found a way of quantifying types in a reproducible manner, but it differs from someone else's interpretation of Jung. Only if this exercise were used to support the other person's theory would that be a problem. The part about brain scans was particularly intriguing to me, as this creates a potentially more objective form of measurement (for research purposes at least). If one were to find that students learn better when the classroom approach is matched to their brain scan pattern in a certain way, that's a really important result. Only if one then makes statements to lend support to unrelated interpretations of Jung does the potential variation in interpretations become a problem.

As for maximizing the outcome, what you're suggesting (doing exploratory research to find factors that influence optimal learning styles for individuals without any preconception of what those factors might be) would be very valuable, and I'd suspect that some researchers have taken that approach (and in fact, there's a lot of research on learning styles, most of it not coming from Jungian typologists). However, hypothesis-testing (starting with a given hypothesis and just testing it) is also a perfect valid approach and actually one of the pillars of scientific research when done properly. The real difficulty with these kinds of studies isn't that they're testing a pre-existing hypothesis, but that they're often prone to researcher bias. If the teacher/researcher knows the theory and the types of the students, that researcher may subconsciously influence the results in a way that merely confirms the theory. To do this scientifically, what's needed is a double-blind research design. For example, students could be assigned randomly to different kinds of teaching activities, and their brains could be scanned during that time. Neither the students nor anyone interacting with them during the teaching activities would know about typology or the brain scan results. (To make the results practical, other observers could then look at videos of the students to try to determine type using some defined steps in order to measure how well people could match the brain scan results without requiring brain-scanning equipment.)

But I think it's maybe a little harsh to suggest that reporting on these small-scale experiments, despite their potential flaws, is due to some kind of laziness. The reality is that when you have consultants, teachers, etc., doing their practical work with groups, sometimes they really do come up with intriguing results, and they want to let others know about them. Only when they've done such things is it likely that they'll get the kind of interest, support, and research funds to actually be able to do larger-scale, more formal studies. It must be discouraging that the move to better research designs and sample sizes is so rare in these kinds of experiments, generally. But given some encouraging preliminary results, let's hope that they get there. :)

Rick said...

Jane, thanks for your comments. I'm downloading the Google presentation video.

Jonathan, I think you're right that my criticism may be unduly harsh. I do get impatient with typology-related research. Hopefully Jungian typology will do better than Socionics has in incorporating/adapting to brain science research. There is certainly much better access to research facilities in the U.S. than in the CIS countries.

aestrivex said...

Dario Nardi's science is bad.

Please see http://socionics.ws/wiki/index.php?title=User:Aestrivex/essays/dario_nardi



The upshot is that there is no neuroscience at all in this talk, or in Nardi's talk.

j0hnc00 said...

Sorry Rick, but it seems like in typology you were looking for deterministic details (Sensing) to go with the logical premises that were created and that proved futile. Deterministic thinking is what drove physics before quantum mechanics upset people with the suggestion that we can never be completely certain about the world. Typology has the same crutch which is why at best it can be called a soft-science.

You have Aristocratic logic, that requires concrete evaluations (logic) to go with concrete details (Sensing). That is just a futile perspective with regards to all typologies in general.

You learnt it the hard way after years in denial about the exact utility of Socionics. Your NF side, or more specifically your ethics side, had unrealistic expectations about inter-type relations since you expected relations to feel a certain way and that gradually took the shine out of Socionics for you. Personally I see such idealism as being one of the main crutches behind most Socionics interpretations. As you now know too many variables determine likeability, so the deterministic claims laid out by most socionists are fallible in reality.

Yet regardless the underlining patterns of inter-type relations remains present, but its just not useful to determine the exact expectations,or quality of relations between people; The only explicit useful thing about them is realising that others think ''differently'' with regards to raw information processing. (This value of Socionics significantly is below the expectations you had for it, no wonder why you have such bitterness; however its still good, Enneagram in addition to socionics helps to understand the differences between people even more )

BTW ''I have a conflictor I actually get along with and rather like and respect''. Also I'm finding that its not that uncommon for conflictors to marry and be in happy relationships; Respect and total acceptance of the other person is a common attribute I discovered, and also learning to accept and understand the peculiarities of the person's thinking (Dualization on both parts).

Rick said...

j0hnc00, there are a lot of useful things about socionics, but they are things you pick up very early on: that people think very differently, that relationships develop in widely different ways and are [mostly] beyond conscious control, as well as a kind of system for describing these differences, flawed as it may be.

Beyond these initlal observations, socionics' utility decreases rapidly.

Terms like "NF," "Aristocrat," or "Conflictor" don't mean anything to me anymore. If there's no conflict, then what's the point of thinking of someone as one's conflictor?

I personally prefer a "me-centric" approach since it's more useful and takes up less brain space: "I like this person because of X and Y, I enjoy doing A and B with them, we can be useful to each other in ways C and D, and I feel Z towards them."