Professor Bob Boozer Cancels Psychoprofile Study of Horowitz’ 101

This rather inane statement, see bottom, was received by e-mail from the Stetson University business-school professor indicating his intent to withdraw his research proposal. The project was to profile psychologically the professors mentioned in David Horowitz’s, The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America. As one of those named as “dangerous,” I suppose I will have to defer a free psychological analysis of my mental fitness for questioning the virtues of the American Empire and its deleterious impact on international peace and security.

 E-mail received on May 10, 2006 C.E. 3:04 P.M.


The prevailing sentiment of the group suggests now is not the appropriate time to conduct a study such as this one. Thus, I have formally ended collecting data by changing the password information for the on-line website. 

I clearly understand now the intensity with which some on the list feel they are the target of right-wing political harassment.  And, I can understand that when an unknown business professor (from a private, traditionally-Southern-Baptist-affiliated school in a state where Jeb Bush is Governor) shows up–with a psychological test, no less–the situation must have seemed positively Kafkaesque to some.

In addition to mentioning that I had attended a Horowitz presentation, maybe I should have mentioned my reasons for attending and my reactions. My primary reason for attending was to hear him talk about the A/SBOR because I am interested in classroom politics and particularly how to go about creating a “democratic” classroom.  My students and I always negotiate our existence together.  Anyway, what I experienced at Mr. Horowitz’s presentation was surreal. The bodyguards standing to either side of the stage simply entranced me.  But, the 45 minute soliloquy delivered by Mr. Horowitz about how the left-liberal-democratic-Marxist-socialist-communist element in the US was responsible for everything from Stalin’s mass murders to the failure to achieve victory in Vietnam was simply…surreal. The polemical lumping together of such a variety political dynamics was…”Manichaean”? And, of course, the academic incarnation of the Horowitzian Other was the 101 professors. 

Well, I wanted to know who you are.

I didn’t mention this context previously because I felt to do so would imply an unacceptable bias on my part that would overly politicize any results obtained.  Although I am aware of the discursively situated nature of “science,” I felt the best way proceed at this point in terms of researching the topic was to attempt a “more objective” inquiry by using the MBTI.

My sincerely apologies to any of you whom I may have offended.

Now, for those who might be interested, here is a more specific presentation of the research hypotheses, possible results, and implications.

First (again), Why the MBTI?

There are a number of reasons. 

  • It is the most widely used personality instrument in the world-for normal populations. And, research into politics and personality generally has not focused on normal personality. 
  • It has been used for more than 30+ years and has a research history of 50+ years.
  • It provides information about normal personality preferences. It does not measure pathology, IQ, skills, or personal development.
  • It appears to be related to political dynamics in some research.

What does the MBTI Indicate?

The MBTI provides information about four sets of preferences: Extraversion and Introversion, Sensing and Intuition, Thinking and Feeling, and Judging and Perceiving.  You can find a good discussion of these preferences here:

I’m going to focus only on one set of preferences: Sensing and Intuition.

What are Sensing and Intuition?

Sensing and Intuition are mental functions of perception and indicate how people prefer to experience life.  People who prefer sensing perceive via the senses and thus tend to experience the literal, here-and-now aspect of life. What is perceived is that which can be touched, tasted, seen, etc. On the other hand, people who prefer intuition tend to perceive the metaphorical nature and possibilities of life.  Perception tends toward the symbolic, theoretical, and imaginative dimensions. 

Try the following activity in class sometime (you don’t even have to administer the MBTI). Place an object somewhere in view of your students. For example, place your coffee cup on a desk.  Ask your students to “write something about this.”  Give them about a minute or two. Then have the students read to the class what they wrote.  Sensing students will “describe” the object: color, dimensions, practical use, weight, any design features, etc.  Some intuitive students might start out describing the object, but most intuitive students will “change” the object in some way such as by anthropomorphizing the object (“Oh, it is alone!”). Literal vs. metaphorical.

Now, what does all this have to do with the research study?

What were the Specific Research Hypotheses?

I had intended to compare responses from the 101 group with two other samples. The first sample was a sample of college professors (n > 2000) taken from materials supplied by the Center for the Application of Psychological Type in Gainesville, FL. The second sample was a sample collected in 1998 by the publishers of the MBTI that is used as a sample of national norms.

My first hypothesis was that the 101 group would not be significantly different from the other sample of college and university professors.  My second hypothesis was that the 101 group would be significantly different from the general population—in a manner similar to other professors at large, research institutions.

Estimates of the general population (U.S.) consistently suggest that about 70% of the population prefers sensing and 30% prefers intuition.  In contrast, studies of college and university professors suggest an inversion of the pattern of preferences with professors being predominantly intuitive.

Think about the nature of the endeavors of the 101 sample where issues of human potential and possibilities are involved, where interpretive and critical methodologies are used, where social justice and social change are of great interest.  Which psychological type is more likely to engage such endeavors?  My (educated) guess: intuitives.

Research on the psychological type of teachers (from kindergarten “up” through the university level) shows that the proportion of teachers who prefer intuition increases as one goes “up” the ladder of educational abstraction.  Moreover, the nature of the subject matter may have some influence. For example, those who are more interested in teaching basic business courses (e.g., basic accounting) may tend to be prefer sensing whereas  those who prefer to teach liberal arts courses (e.g., comparative literature) are likely to prefer intuition.

What might have been the Implications of this Study?

Should the data have supported my hypotheses, the primary implication of the study would have been the conclusion that the “personality” distribution for the 101 group is normative for college professors, particularly in the liberal arts.  Years of study with the MBTI in the realm of education and occupational choice would predict as much. Please note, again, the results only would have suggested that your psychological types are normative for your occupational choice.

Although these results might seem mundane, I think they take on somewhat more significance when we consider that the sensing and intuition preferences are the only Jungian preferences that consistently correlate with liberal-conservative political self evaluations.  In general, the few studies that I’ve been able to find tend to show that people who prefer sensing tend to rate themselves as conservative whereas those people who prefer intuition tend to rate themselves as more liberal politically.

Had the data supported the hypotheses, another implication would involve the claim that liberal education lacks intellectual diversity.  To the extent that the MBTI is a measure of cognitive style and thus intellectual orientation, then one might argue that intellectual diversity indeed is lacking in the 101 sample.  But, then again, this is something normative from an occupational choice perspective. And, thus, maybe Horowitz’s polemics could be moved to a more “rational” discussion of how one’s personality influences occupational choices and interests.  How “dangerous” are predictable personality differences that tend to be normative for liberal arts faculty given that the work in the liberal arts inherently attracts people with an orientation to theory, change, autonomy, creativity, imagination, and so on?

I have seen these very dynamics play out within my own School of Business where the more “conservative” disciplines (e.g., accounting) at one time had a more sensing orientation whereas the more “liberal” disciplines (e.g., management) had a more intuitive orientation. 

It is my hunch that psychological type differences might help explain the differing political orientations found in surveys of professors. The more traditional and conservative psychological types are attracted to the more conservative professional schools whereas the more liberal psychological types are attracted to the…well…liberal arts! (BTW, does anyone know of any studies of academic political orientations other than those conducted by conservative research groups? I’d appreciate sources.)

Comments and Responses

  1. Comment: “…there is something distasteful about being singled out as a ‘group’ to become the object of psychic assessment, which implies, at least the potential, for psychic reconstruction, or even psychic engineering.”

Response:  As I mentioned above, I am sensitive to the Kafkaesque feel that some might have felt.  Hopefully my comments about the MBTI, the hypotheses, and potential implications will have mitigated somewhat this impression.  Anyway, current research suggests one’s psychological type largely is engineered by genetics (as is political orientation!).

  1. Comment: “I also have serious objections to your use of Jungian categories in the conduct of your study. Jung was arguably the most militant advocate of the irrationality which pervaded German philosophy and psychology during the late Weimar period and beyond.”

Response:  I agree Jung indeed was an advocate of “irrationality” but the characterization of this advocacy as militant seems to bring in thru the back door the never ending argument of the extent to which Jung was a supporter of National Socialism and anti-Semitism.  I defer to Richard Noll on these issues and his presentations in his books The Jung Cult and The Aryan Christ. Even someone as critical of Jung as Noll does not appear to suggest a “militant” Nazi Jung. Moreover, Noll generally seems accepting of Jung’s work on psychological types. (Anyway, what are we to do with the demiurge of knowledge that inspires the analytics of finitude?)

Final Comments

If you did complete the on-line version of the MBTI and would like to know your results, please e-mail me.  We can then arrange an “interpretation” session over the phone (which is required by my association’s statement of professional ethics).  If you have completed the instrument on another occasion and are familiar with the MBTI, then we shouldn’t have to talk long. If this is your first time completing the indicator, then I will have a short assignment for you before we talk.

I had not intended to use any of our e-mails for publication. However, some of them already have been posted to a blog. Therefore, I would appreciate permission to use the e-mails from you should I decide to write about this experience.  I do not want to use any names.  If any one person does not want me to use any of the e-mails, please let me know.

I also want to comment briefly on the fact that I am a business professor.  For what it is worth, there are quite a few people in business schools around the country that share interests with the liberal arts and more than a few of my professional associations have interest groups on everything from critical studies to organizational spirituality.  I know. It probably seems weird.  I offer the following (1993) as merely suggestive:

There are so many questions I have for the group:

  • Are we still postmodern, yet?
  • How can history be patriarchal if it has periods? {Professor Kirstein comment: This is an egregiously sexist comment and one that I believe discredits the sender of this e-mail. What was he thinking? Dr Boozer are you sure you understood the prejudicial, absurd and misogynist nature of this comment? Yet if you are reading this former St Xavier University president, we don’t suspend professors who write controversial e-mail. We criticise and condemn but not silence. This is America not post-Weimar Germany.}
  • How did Freud actually know a cigar was sometimes just a cigar?
  • Won’t you participate with me in the deconstruction of my own linguistic consciousness which for too long has been in the service of the patriarchal ego’s narcissistic quest for immortality which we all know is manifest in that death-denying language game called _________________?

But, enough for now.



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