MindSonar is Not a Personality Test

A colleague from the UK mailed me saying: “I suppose what I have difficulty with is … if according to the NLP model ‘personality’ is situational, in other words we are ‘at cause’ and can choose to be whoever we wish to be depending upon our outcome and upon our context, then how could we ever measure that? Personality from this perspective is not a stable trait which can predict certain behaviours and language in certain contexts, it is simply what someone chooses to do or not do. Congratulations on getting Mind Sonar to where it is.  A great effort and good news for those who wish to see standards raised in NLP.”

Let me respond to what seems to be a misunderstanding here (I am not referring to the compliment of course). MindSonar does not measure personality. MindSonar measures how someone thinks in a given context. MindSonar is the first contextual measurement of thought processes. MindSonar presupposes that people have different meta profiles in different situations. And in fact, you can verify this for yourself quite easily . One of the assignments in the MindSonar certification training is to make a profile for two different situations: one in which you were ‘in flow’ and everything was going just fine, you were ‘at your best’. And another profile for a situation where you were unhappy with how you responded. People usually show strikingly different profiles for these two situations. If you want to experience first hand how your thinking style changes with the situation, do this exercise: profile yourself for two completely different contexts.

Everything changes by context
We have incorporated this exercise in our Certification Training to demonstrate to MindSonar Professionals right from the start, that they have different meta programs active in different situations. The same principle was expressed by Rodger Bailey in his adagium: “Everything changes by context”.

That having been said, we also noticed that people differ in the extent to which they differ. Everybody’s thinking style changes by context, but some people’s more than other’s. In other words: people do differ in how much their thinking changes by context. Theoretically, we neither subscribe to the position that there is a fixed personality that people will always show everywhere. But neither do we believe that personality is entirely a matter of choice, that ‘we can choose to be whoever we wish to be’.

Some people change more than others when the context changes
As usual, and maybe this is typically Dutch, we believe the truth is somewhere in the middle. Everything changes by context, and some people change more than others when the context changes. Some people change less when the context changes. Some people – although this seems to be relatively rare – will have the same profiles, no matter what happens. And others may have certain clusters (meta program combinations) that remain the same in different contexts. These stable elements might be considered personality traits for these specific people. Personality is defined as: ‘The combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual’s distinctive character’.

Multiple personality
Although it is not being said literally in this definition, it seems to be presupposed that these characteristics are stable over situations and time. Otherwise we would have to wonder: ‘Which personality will he be in today?’ That sounds strange, doesn’t it? How could you observe their ‘distinctive character’  if it changes all the time? There is even a psychiatric condition that is characterized by shifts in personality: ‘Dissociative identity disorder’ (previously known as multiple personality). The fact that this is thought to be caused by severe childhood trauma, shows us how unusual, psychopathological even, personalty changes are considered to be. So we may safely assume that personality characteristics are stable over time and place. And since MindSonar measures thinking style elements that change with the context, it follows that MindSonar does not measure personality. As we said, someone’s meta programs may in some cases be exceptionally stable, but MindSonar presupposes and generally shows – the opposite.

 

 

About the Author

Jaap Hollander

Jaap Hollander

Psychologist, living in the Netherlands. Founded MindSonar in 1995. Working as a trainer, coach and therapist as well as being director of the IEP, the Institute for Eclectic Psychology. Has written 10 books on NLP and Provocative Coaching. Most recent book: "Provocative Coaching" (English), fall 2012 (Crown House) available from Amazon.

12 Comments

  1. I used to think that the way I reacted to different situations or contexts was unusual. I even thought that I have a split personality – something like a multiple persona. Now, it is clear to me that the way I reacted was still a part of my personality. It’s just that my state of thinking would normally change according to the situation that I am in. This MindSonar Test is really interesting.

  2. Hi again, Officialkent! Well that’s nice to realize, isn’t it, that you can have a different thinking style in different situations. Everything changes by context! Well, maybe not everything, but certainly a lot….

  3. (Following up on what your colleague from the UK said) … Since “everything changes by context” and there are infinite number of situational contexts, it would seem the best way to try and predict behavior would be to develop multiple most-likely scenarios of any given situation and then apply Mindsonar analysis to each one. Ranking the likelihood of each scenario actually occurring would also be useful.

    • Great idea, theoretically, but not really feasible in practice, I’m afraid. If I came up with 10 scenario’s I would have to do 10 MindSonar tests. In a research context this might be feasible. But I would have trouble convincing people in the field to fill out 10 or even 5 MindSonar profiles. Or am I misunderstanding something about your post?

  4. Sorry about that … it seems I didn’t fully understand that each scenario would require a entirely new MindSonar test. Is any of the insight gleened from a single MindSonar profile applicable across different contexts? Perhaps some forms of thinking are more “stable” or “static” (for lack of better terms) than others?

    • We assume that all metaprograms can vary when the context varies. You have probably noticed seem examples of this yourself, in your own life. You think differently in different situations. To which extent people’s profiles change over contexts, we don’t know… I think that varies also.

  5. That is a new way to think about one’s personality. I never considered that it could change, although when you think about it , of course it can change. I’m glad you clarified that MindSonar specifically measures factors outside of personality, and I was a little confused on how it plotted the data.

  6. I’ve read a lot about how context effects personality, and I’ll admit it’s been a little hard for me to swallow! I know I’m biased, but I really always felt deeply committed to my integrity and a unified sense of self… viewing my personality as purely contextual kind of blows that out of the water. It’s definitely taking a lot of rethinking on my part.

  7. The comments under this one are almost more interesting than the article itself! In response to Jenna, you’ve probably noticed the contextual personality in everyday life…aren’t you different at work (more professional perhaps) than at home with your kids or out with friends? Having your personality change depending on context doesn’t take away from your integrity and unified self, because even within these different contextual settings, you are still very much YOU – which is what MindSonar is about…understanding the “you” in all these different situations helps understand the unified “you”. And you don’t lose your sense of integrity in these situations, but perhaps just process it differently.

  8. From my limited experience with metaprogrammes, I have found it amazing how people react to understand their contexts and how they think.

    I have worked with stories to try to understand the metaprogrammes of those involved in them. It has been a very important experience in my learning process.

    I think Mindsonar is like a book of instructions for assembling an electronic device, once assembled we can listen to different music, rhythms, sounds, emotions and experiences!

    Perhaps the personality is what everyone “is” and is very difficult to measure, however identify our different ways of thinking in different contexts, we can measure

    Thanks Mindsonar!

  9. MP “Reactive” give me some problems, since usually in my Country, the reactive person is not identified with the reflect person and has a negative connotation. So I should in each session when you tap the shift explain the sense in MS to remove that feeling. The MS have helped me and the exercises that Jaime Leal makes us track whatsapp reinforce, observe the MP in how people speak and write it seems to me far but I’m practicing. Very interesting!

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