Therapy, Psychometrics, and Eugenics(!)

Individuals and groups need to remain vigilant in finding and naming bad science and bad therapy. Our guide isn’t Foucault, but Aristotle, who saw virtue in the mean behavior. No one wants to live in a world in which there is a deficiency of social control. Bad guys need jails. Drug addicts and the mentally ill need treatment. But neither does anyone desire a world of excessive social control. Yet, to find that mean (and Aristotle recognized this too) is hard work, the product of all our best thought. But it is the only way to the ethical life. John SpurlockTherapy, Psychometrics, and Eugenics(!) (The Blue Monkey Review)

People have developed all kinds of classification schemes (the signs of the zodiac, enneagrams, the four humors, Meyers-Briggs…). I prefer to think of such things as harmless fun, like the “good-netural-evil” and “chaotic-netural-lawful” polarities in Dungeons and Dragons — these rough guideines help gamers role-play in their fantasy campaigns.

I find the Meyers-Briggs types useful in helping me interpret other people’s behavior, and maybe helping me to predict how someone else might respond to me… and even to help me work against my tendencies (for instance, since high school I’ve known that I score in the middle between “introvert” and “extrovert” in the Meyers-Briggs test, but only recently did I realize that I am an extrovert with my family and in the classroom, but an introvert with my professional colleagues. This weekend at the 4C’s was the first time I really felt comfortable going out with groups of people doing things that everyone else seems to do while at academic conferences. I even went bar-hopping for the first time in my life — though it was a spectator sport for me, since I don’t drink. (Incidentally, I’ve observed that bloggers have even more trouble staying on a single subject, the more alcohol they consume.)

Why do we feel the need to classify ourselves and each other? Especially when most of the classificaion systems — like the one based on the four bodily humors — have done far more harm than good. The theory of humors was responsible for the bloodletting and leeching and other “treatments” that claimed plenty of victims throughout history. Illnesses that existed only on paper and in the mind of “doctors” led to sterilization and lobotomy and electric shock therapy.