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Fight the Power? Distrust of Authority Figures by Personality Type

2 years ago 17 comments

Most people would say that authority, in some capacity, is necessary – but authority can be problematic. Conflict with authority figures is sometimes unavoidable: as children, we may balk at cleaning our room when our parents tell us to, and as adults, we may question a request made by our boss at work or challenge the integrity of our elected officials. The way we feel about authority, and the way in which we respond to such conflicts, is ultimately a matter of trust.

We asked our readers whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “You distrust authority figures.” On average, half of our readers agreed, but the results revealed wide disparities among personality types.

Agreement with “You distrust authority figures.”

The most striking difference was in the Energy aspect, with Intuitive types being 20% more likely than Observant types to say that they do not trust authority figures (58% versus 38% agreeing, respectively). But there was a statistically significant gap between every personality trait pairing, with the Introverted, Thinking, Prospecting, and Turbulent traits also leaning toward greater distrust of authority.

Which personality types have the most trouble trusting authority figures? Let’s find out.

Roles

Agreement with “You distrust authority figures.”

Analysts (69% agreeing)

The Thinking trait was the number-one predictor of agreement in this study, with 61% of Thinking personality types saying that they distrust authority. Since all Analysts share the Thinking trait, they topped the Roles.

Independent and strong-willed, Analyst personality types are more likely to be convinced by sound, logical arguments than by a prestigious title and generally have no qualms about questioning existing systems. On top of that, their Intuitive trait makes them aware of the fact that one can never truly predict how people will use their power, and prone to imagining suspicious scenarios. They’ll likely view those who use emotional appeals to cement their authority as especially untrustworthy. While Analysts’ resistance to authority can be useful in fighting abuses of authority, it can also get these personalities in trouble in cases where it’s not really warranted, especially in the workplace or at school.

Logicians (INTP) agreed more than any other personality type that they have a hard time trusting authority figures (76%). Because they are so deeply focused on innovation and creativity, Logicians question everything, and they tend to be averse to any sort of rule or authority figure that could hold them back. They have a reputation for emotional insensitivity that, combined with their desire for autonomy, can sometimes cause these personalities to misunderstand authority figures who could actually help, rather than hinder, them.

Diplomats (52%)

Next, we have Diplomat personality types, who were more divided in their response than Analysts, with whom they share the Intuitive trait. Diplomats are idealists moved by injustice and abuses of authority. Each time they hear about someone using their authority for personal gain or to harm others, it may damage their trust in authority figures as a whole.

Even so, their Feeling personality trait often helps them overcome distrust or resentment. Because they’re able to approach others with empathy, they’re more willing to give authority figures the benefit of the doubt, in the interest of working toward cooperation and harmony, which can’t be achieved without some degree of trust.

Explorers (46%)

Explorers were also quite divided, with a slight bias toward trusting authority figures. As Observant personality types, Explorers are generally more down-to-earth and practical than both Analysts and Diplomats, and they may trust authority figures as a matter of expedience. But Explorers’ nonconformist, Prospecting side can make this trust shaky. Some Explorer personalities may also have found themselves on the wrong side of authority figures from time to time – thanks to their propensity for risk-taking – and these experiences might make them slightly less likely to trust authority figures in general.

Sentinels (34%)

Unsurprisingly, Sentinels were the least likely of all the Roles to distrust authority figures. In fact, a sizable majority (66%) of Sentinel personality types do trust authority figures.

As Observant, Judging types, Sentinels feel most comfortable in situations with defined hierarchies and enforced rules, and trusting authority is part and parcel of this philosophy. The fact that many Sentinel personalities are likely to be authority figures is also worth consideration. Trusting in themselves and in like-minded colleagues or leaders, it stands to reason, in a Sentinel’s mind, that the vast majority of authority figures are trustworthy.

Consuls (ESFJ) were the least likely personality type to distrust authority figures, with only 24% agreeing. Consuls believe in the necessity of social order and respect the authority figures who make it work. Even if they feel skeptical about a particular superior or leader, they’re usually not ones to rock the boat with disobedience or protests, since they’re so conflict-averse.

Strategies

Agreement with “You distrust authority figures.”

Constant Improvement and Confident Individualism (57% and 53% agreeing)

A slight majority of both Constant Improvers and Confident Individualists said that they do not trust authority figures. Why? Well, both Strategies are Introverted, which could imply that their greater amount of distrust stems from their self-reliant tendencies. The two Strategies differ in one aspect, though, and that’s their Identity.

Constant Improvers are Turbulent personality types who often respond to conflict with stress and emotion, two things that can fuel even greater feelings of distrust rather than help resolve them. They may also be less likely to trust authority figures because of how intensely aware they are that nobody’s perfect, including our most powerful leaders.

Assertive Confident Individualists – who strongly prefer to make their own way in life – may simply resent the unwanted intrusion authority figures represent, as well as their power to dictate how certain things must be done. But as Assertive personality types, they’re more confident than Constant Improvers that things will work out, especially because they know they can depend on themselves.

Social Engagement (48%)

Social Engagers were not far behind in their responses, but they represent a shift to minority agreement. As Extraverts, Social Engagers are more comfortable interacting with people and working within societal structures, which include authority figures. On the other hand, as Turbulent personality types, Social Engagers tend to be less self-assured, which may result in suspicion of others, and particularly the motivations of those in power.

People Mastery (40%)

Of all the Strategies, People Masters were the least likely to distrust authority figures. Since they’re natural leaders, many People Masters may themselves hold positions of authority, making them more likely to trust and respect authority figures in general. Their Assertive personality trait gives them inherent confidence – both in expressing their own opinions and in distancing themselves from the opinions of others. When they find themselves in conflict with authority figures, People Masters are capable of building stronger relationships and improving trust over time.

Conclusions

Our study revealed that personality types who devote time and energy to exploring creative ideas, finding logical solutions, and seeking better opportunities – notably Intuitive, Thinking, and Prospecting types – tend to be more distrustful of authority. In a way, this is natural, since these activities generally start with questioning existing systems and require a willingness to challenge authority when necessary.

On the other hand, personality types who prefer to stay grounded in reality and tradition and who are more open to building relationships with people, like Observant, Feeling, and Extraverted types, are more likely to trust authority figures.

How we handle distrust of authority is key. While some degree of skepticism and activism is a good thing, deep distrust that evolves into constant defiance, paranoia, or isolation can be unhealthy and unproductive.

What about you? Do you trust authority figures? Let’s talk about it in the comments section!

You can see the full set of data, including correlation coefficients, in the Academy. If you have a minute to help us with our research, check out our Member Surveys.

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