“I respect you as a person too much to respect your ridiculous beliefs.”
We all know that person. The one who likes to question that belief we hold near and dear and seems to do so chiefly for the fun of it. Or, maybe you are that person.
In his quote above, Hari suggests that challenging beliefs is an act of respect designed to straighten out the principles of the misguided. However, what we are addressing here is not so serious or benevolent. It’s about people challenging beliefs for entertainment – for fun.
A belief is an ingrained idea. Depending on the idea, it can be a little careless to think it is something to treat like a frivolous toy – that it’s something with which to play. However, some view the world as a giant chessboard with all the pieces, positions, and strategies in play. Among them, it might seem natural to contest others’ beliefs just for exercise and amusement.
These differing attitudes were highlighted in one of our polls. We asked our 16Personalities community to agree or disagree with the statement: “You often challenge other people’s beliefs just for fun.” Here’s what they said.
Analysts (76% agreeing)
It would surprise few that a type called the “Debater” (ENTP) would be among the individuals who most often said they got their jollies from challenging the views of others. A strong 83% of them agreed with the statement – the highest rate of any personality type. Debaters love to get the upper hand in a discussion. They are the poster children for the Analyst Role, which as a group agreed with our statement the most.
The most obvious factor involved here is the Thinking trait. Personality types with the Thinking trait (including all Analysts and some Explorers and Sentinels) agreed with the statement at a rate that was 31 percentage points higher than those with the Feeling trait. Defending rationality takes higher priority for Analysts than caring who gets hurt or becomes angry. Because of this trait difference, Analysts are an impressive 31 percentage points more likely than the next highest group to say they challenge beliefs for fun.
Individuals with the imaginative Intuitive personality trait ask, “What if?” When this trait is paired with the Thinking trait, like with Analysts, a challenge to a belief is about making sure that the rational pieces are all in place. “But what if the logic added up this way instead of that way?” Nothing less than the purest logical argument is likely to survive their scrutiny. At least 75% find it entertaining to dissect a belief that doesn’t meet their standards.
Diplomats were the second highest group to agree with the statement (and almost tied with Explorers). While Diplomats share the Intuitive trait with Analysts, their Feeling trait moderates their proclivity for arguing for fun. “Fun challenging” is much more of an Analyst sport. Diplomat personality types tend to be slower and less likely than Analysts to challenge others due to their need to maintain an agreeable environment.
Most Diplomats would be a good measure removed from thinking of such a challenge as “fun.” However, they may challenge others if they feel such an argument leads to the greater good. They can be dogmatic, but that’s something different. That’s usually something serious. Less than half of them would take on someone else’s beliefs for mere amusement.
Interestingly, there was no statistically significant difference between Diplomats’ and Explorers’ positive responses to the statement. But there is typically a difference in their motivation. Explorer personalities don’t mind shaking things up. They have a nonconformist streak, and almost half of them who defy others’ beliefs probably do so just to keep things interesting.
Having said this, Explorer personality types with the Thinking trait agreed at higher rates. Entrepreneurs (ESTP) (69%) had an even higher percentage of agreement than Architects (INTJ) (66%), and Virtuosos (ISTP) (63%) weren’t far behind. This speaks to the degree that the Thinking trait influences recreational argumentativeness.
From another angle, the Observant/Feeling combination resulted in the lowest percentages of respondents agreeing. Among Explorers, Entertainers (ESFP) agreed at 37% and Adventurers (ISFP) at 29%. This pairs the practicality of the Observant trait with the people-orientation of the Feeling trait. These personality types likely see little reason to risk offending people by messing with their beliefs. This balances out the Explorers as a group.
The other Observant Role, the Sentinels, were the group least likely to agree with our statement. They display the same practicality as Explorers.
But, unlike with Explorers, that practicality is supported by their Judging tactic. Sentinel personalities are more likely to hold things in place rather than disrupt the status quo – especially if the disruption is “just for fun.” They are more likely to support a long- or tightly-held belief rather than challenge it. This makes challenging others for kicks less likely.
But this is about tendencies. Sentinel Thinking types – Executives (ESTJ), with 56% agreeing, and Logisticians (ISTJ), 46% – were a lot closer to the average than Feeling types – Consuls (ESFJ), 23%, and Defenders (ISFJ), 19%. So, even in Sentinels’ desire not to rock the boat, the Thinking trait exerts a lot of influence. Caring, protective Defenders, who are the opposite of Debaters in every trait, agreed the least of all the personality types.
There’s a very small (but significant) difference between the responses of Introverts and Extraverts and even less between Assertive and Turbulent personality types. Members of the Social Engagement Strategy agreed with our statement at a rate of 51%, People Mastery at 50%, Confident Individualism at 46%, and Constant Improvement at 43%.
None of these qualities tell us much about how someone might respond to this statement. Extraversion correlated with slightly higher agreement, probably because people with this trait are more willing to jump into the fray. But the difference is not so great as to say that Introversion has some kind of stifling effect on the impulse to argue for fun.
Carl Jung warned that we should avoid turning personality typology into a parlor game. And we generally agree with that sentiment when using these powerful tools.
But when hanging out with others, if you notice someone who seems to delight in questioning every idea that comes from another, you can probably guess some of their personality traits. If they aren’t Analysts, then there is a good chance they more often express the Thinking rather than Feeling trait regardless of their type.
In these contentious times, do you enjoy challenging other people’s beliefs? Or do you avoid doing so? Why? And how does it fit with your personality type? Let us know. We’d love your perspective.