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51 — Learning About Personality

Transcript:

Hi and welcome, or welcome back to the Perio Patient Podcast. This is Episode 51 and I’m Dr. Ben Young, a practicing periodontist in San Antonio, Texas.
Thank you to everyone who has commented and liked this podcast. It’s purpose is both broad and narrow. It’s narrow, in that I want to be able to speak from the aspect of periodontal health, but it’s broad in that I jump from one area to another in order to show that even focused topics like gum health intersect with everything in some way or another.
I remember listening to a radio program many years back that was being hosted by the Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University whose name was Walter E. Williams. He just passed away on December 2 of this year at the age of 84.
He asked a question about how many people does it take to move a banana to my local market place where I can buy it. Then he took an advertising break. I started to think what the answer might be and when he came back on, I was wrong by billions of people. To move a banana grown in another country to my local market place requires the support of everything from national leaders to banks to shipping companies to grocery store people, to people who build stores and roads and computers and the rest. In other words our economy, which includes the periodontal health of people along with all other aspects of their health is the product of the efforts of all generations that precede us and everyone right now.
It is also currently a peaceful process thanks to trade practices in a free economy under agreed laws.
When all of this breaksdown, bananas don’t show up in plentiful supplies at reasonable prices in the grocery stores around the country and other countries exercising free trade.
So my connection with you has to do with my interest in an aspect of dentistry within a broader aspect of medicine and what I think I can share with you in terms of selected topics that might give you ideas
that then might spark your interest in your own health.
Recently, I enrolled myself into a personality course online. I have no financial interest in this if you decide to check it out, so I am simply sharing with you what I happen to be doing in order to grow mentally.
I have this idea that what I think affects my health. Often, I find my thinking to be fear-based and what I have concluded from this observation is that fear is the lack of purposeful thought. It’s sort of like my
brain slips out of gear and starts running in neutral – a lot of noise and no forward momentum.
Another way to look at this is when I start to worry, it results in my thinking going down roads that are usually circular (same result as running in neutral) and most importantly — unhealthy.
So rather than do this, I try to stop and identify what seems to be bugging me and then try to understand first why this might be and second what I might do about it. If I can’t figure it out, then I go and talk to others I like and trust and who like and trust me – this is working on the idea that I cannot change the mess in my own head solely from within the mess in my own head. Which means it is of little help for me to give myself pep-talks or to tell myself to stop thinking something or thinking in a certain way. Instead, I have to find information outside myself to replace the thinking in me that is causing emotional disruption.
I remember hearing somewhere in my distant past that who we are or become is equal to the people we meet and the books we read. A bit oversimplified perhaps, but still useful and I think mostly true.
Which again brings me to what I am up to at the moment taking an online course on the subject of personality.
So far, I have listened to about a thirty minute the introduction to the eight upcoming lectures I will hear at my own pace.
Here are a few of my take-aways so far.
First, most of us are familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator MBTI because it is the most popular personality test in the world. According to a New Yorker article (link in the notes) more than two million
people take it every year. It’s big in industries trying to figure out who to hire who not to hire. Well what I did not know was that it was not scientifically developed. I’ll let you read about it on your own.
I learned this as part of an explanation as to where research in psychology has moved since then – a 1930’s theory. Following the introduction, I took a new personality inventory (paid for as part of the course). This will allow me to listen the upcoming lectures and relate the information to how I personally scored.
What I find most interesting about this particular test is that I can only take it one time in my life. If I were to take it again, my answers would be biased based on knowing about the test and my earlier results. It’s best to take the test, you are told in the instructions, when you are not rushed or hungry or
particularly irritated about things – which I think I was able to achieve.
Something else that might be valuable to some is the fact that you can create a relationship report with someone else. This would be useful, say in pre-marital counseling, for example.
Let me read you the background on how this test was developed.
Over the last fifty years, specialists in the measurement of personality (a field known as psychometrics) have been applying advanced statistical techniques such as factor analysis to study the language people use to understand themselves and each other. According to the “lexical hypothesis” – “lexical” is defined as relating to the words or vocabulary of a language” — the primary guiding idea behind such work – each and every human language contains a relatively complete description of the important similarities and differences between individuals. Language has encapsulated such description because human beings are exceptionally social, and need to understand each other to cooperate effectively and avoid conflict.
Most of the work done to understand personality has been conducted on the adjectives that people use to describe each other (words such as happy, sad, nice, hard-working, and creative). Psychometric specialists have given extensive lists of such adjectives—sometimes as single words, sometimes as
phrases, and sometimes as sentences—to many thousands of people, and used statistical techniques referred to earlier to determine how the words group together. People who are likely to describe themselves as sad, for example, are also more likely to describe themselves as fearful, anxious,
uncertain and volatile, and less likely to describe themselves as cool, collected, calm and stable. The same applies in other domains: people who are nice are compassionate, empathic, caring and soft, while their polar opposites are hard, competitive, blunt and tough. Five such dimensions of variation (the “Big Five”) have been identified, cross-culturally. The two just described correspond to neuroticism and agreeableness, respectively. The three remaining dimensions include extraversion, which is a measure of sociability; conscientiousness, a measure of dutifulness and reliability; and openness to experience, a measure of creativity and interest in ideas. The understandmyself.com process, based on a personality scale known as the Big Five Aspects scale (developed by Dr. Colin DeYoung, Dr. Lena Quilty, and Dr. Jordan B Peterson in Dr. Peterson’s lab) extends the Big Five description, breaking down each of the five traits into two higher-resolution aspects.
So now, without telling you my personal scores, on a scale of 1 to 100.
The first is Agreeableness. Am I more or less agreeable when interacting with others? This is a question of how nice am I? Or the opposite, how stubborn or ornery am I? And there are positive and negative aspects of being closer to one end or the other. If I have high agreeableness it means people will like me and also that I am possibly a pushover when people want me to agree with them about things.
Agreeableness breaks down into two smaller aspects of personality. These are Compassion and Politeness.
The next of the Big Five Aspects of personality as they are called is Conscientiousness: This breaks down to two subtopics of Industriousness and Orderliness.
Number three is Extraversion: This breaks down to Enthusiasm and Assertiveness.
Number four is Neuroticism which breaks down into Withdrawal and Volatility.
Finally, number five is Openness to Experience, which breaks down in to Openness and Intellect.
Obviously, there is a lot to all of this that I yet do not appreciate in any depth, but look forward to learning more as I go through the lectures. If I learn anything I think might be interesting or useful to
share, I certainly will. Also, if you have any questions or comments please leave them. Thanks for listening.
You have been listening to the Perio Patient Podcast, a podcast produced for the entertainment and enlightenment of my own patients and anyone else who cares to listen. Have a great day.