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Human Types : Secret of the Personality Game Is to Know Thyself

March 06, 1985

The scene is a family argument. The actors are high school students. The costumes are colored T-shirts.

Father (in brown): I'm not letting him go to those parties where everyone's drinking.

Sister (in green): Kids don't drink more than adults do .

Father: Adults have reason to drink.

Son (in orange): So do kids. What about all the competition to make it on the team? What about girls?

Sister: Not to mention the breakup of the family. Or the bomb.

Father: You call those reasons? Answer me this: Do you have a job? Do you have to make house payments? Do you have teen-age children? No? Then you have no excuses for drinking.

Mother (in blue): An excuse is still an excuse whether it's made by an adult or a child.

The repartee was part of a recent show at Ocean View High School in Huntington Beach. It was staged and co-written by students to make a serious point about alcohol. But their vehicle was "The Game of Games," a humorous production about personality types.

Created by Newport Beach entrepreneur Don Lowry as a lesson in communications, the show has been performed at least 100 versions over the past five years for corporations, professional organizations and, most recently, schools.

Lowry's basic script can be adapted to convey any organization's message. But the underlying point is the same: People are fundamentally different, and they can resolve many personal problems by accepting and appreciating those differences.

"This information is so useful, people ought to know it," said Lowry, explaining his zeal in promoting the show. "Everyone can be more successful and have more harmonious relationships by using whatever motivates them."

In the show, actors portrays four personalities, which are identified by the color of their T-shirts. They reveal their values and idiosyncrasies through their reactions to familiar situations: falling in love, riding in a car pool, arguing over a toothpaste cap or responding to a friend's offer of drugs or alcohol.

A former teacher and business executive, Lowry based "The Game of Games" on "Please Understand Me," a book on personality types by David Keirsey, a clinical psychologist and former Cal State Fullerton professor. Opposing the Freudian idea that all people are driven by similar motives, theories of personality type assume that people are born with different drives. The Myers-Briggs Type indicator--a personality test that revived older temperament Carl Jung to Hippocrates--has been used in standard practice since the 1950s. Keirsey helped popularize the Jung-Myers concepts by creating a simpler test and elaborating on the results.

Before the show, viewers may participate by taking a short personality test that asks 17 questions, such as: "Are you more impressed by: a) principles or b) emotions?" Or, "Are you more frequently: a) an imaginative sort of person or b) a down-to-earth sort of person?" The totaled responses identify the participant as belonging to one of four personality types: intuitive feeling (NF or blue); sensing perception (SP or orange) and sensing judgment (SJ or brown).

Best of Conceptualizing According to Keirsey's theory, NTs, such as the sister in the Ocean View show, are best at conceptualizing. They tend to be perfectionists, viewing life as something to be understood and explained and having a low tolerance for illogical or emotional thinking.

NFs, such as the mother, are communicators, highly idealistic seekers of the meaning of life. They are romantic, creative and people-oriented.

SPs, such as the son, thrive on fun, spontaneity and risk-taking. Witty and charming, they are bored with routine and structure.

SJs, such as the father, are responsible, practical and conservative. They believe in work before play and are often the backbone of any organization.

One in three respondents will mistype themselves due to lack of self-awareness, cautioned Keirsey.

Academic psychologists have shown little interest in personality types, said Keirsey, now retired and living in Del Mar. But 2,000 psychologists, educators and organizational experts belong to the Assn. of Psychological Type, a 7-year-old national organization. And there is a growing worldwide interest among management and marketing consultants, sales personnel and lawyers, he said. The Japanese particularly have been testing and placing corporate employees on a large scale since 1962, he said. Using personality type questionnaires, Lowry said, he also once helped select "blue" or intuitive feeling jury members for a lawyer defending a "blue" client.

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