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The Psychology Behind Writing: Tap into Your Natural Personality to Assist Your Academic Writing Process (Part 3)

Hello fellow TAA members, thank you for reading this third post of “The Psychology Behind Writing.” With monthly offerings, we’ll get into some of the psychological processes that support our academic writing as well as the ones that derail our writing. And, we will definitely explore strategies for amplifying the positive and mitigating the negative. Read the first post and second post in this series.

Analytical Writers vs. Personal Writers

As many of you might know, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is structured with 4 personality scales, each with two “opposite” preferences that rest on a continuum of intensity for that personality scale. The key to remember here is that we all have all 8 preferences available to us (4 scales x 2 preferences), but we tend to have a natural preference for inhabiting one side over the other. One side tends to come more instinctively, we don’t have to think about it as hard, we can be on auto-pilot, we are more practiced with it, and we probably don’t have much anxiety around using it.

For example, it’s very similar to the ways our left and right hand function. For the majority of us, we naturally prefer one hand over the other and we have much more practice using our dominant hand. However, that doesn’t mean we do not use our non-dominant hand to complete tasks or to help our dominant hand complete tasks. We just prefer one over the other and can make do with our non-dominant hand if our dominant hand is not available.

Keep this example in mind as we engage with the third of the 4 personality scales.

MBTI Personality Scale 3: Thinking and Feeling

The third personality scale is Thinking and Feeling which focuses on the ways one uses information to come to a conclusion or make a decision. Folks who prefer Thinking focus more on sequential logic and organization, preferring objective analysis that can be used impersonally and to enforce criteria. Folks who prefer Feeling center subjective value-based and humane data, considering circumstances and utilizing compassion.

When it comes to writing, folks who prefer thinking tend to be more analytic in their writing whereas folks who prefer feeling tend to be more personal:

Questions to Ask Yourself

  1. If left to your own devices, which is your preferred approach to writing? Not how you have been trained or molded into as a writer, but your natural approach? If you find that you are 50/50, for the purposes of this exercise, chose one to be 51% and the other will be 49%.
  2. Does your discipline tend to value analytic writing including critical analysis and attention to criteria for a competent product or personal writing including personal anecdotes and attention to overall flow and tone?
  3. Do the answers to questions 1 and 2 match up? If yes, there is alignment in your natural approach to writing and the expectations and conventions allowed for in your discipline. Yes!

If the answers do not align, a writing challenge may be present, and not to worry.

Writing Challenge Tip

If you have autonomy to choose, choose methodologies and topics that leverage your natural approach.

For example, I’m a psychologist and APA is a field that values realistic and analytical writers (ST). I happen to naturally be an imaginative and personal (NF) writer. I can certainly write the way APA values and I could do it well, and it would be like using my non-dominant hand to write…it would be much slower, against the grain, awkward, much more concentration would be needed and a lot more frustration would be involved. So, for my book, I decided to leverage my natural writing personality and chose a methodology that allowed me to 1) attend to interesting complexities that emerged by connecting them to concepts and implications (imaginative writing), by 2) focusing on personal viewpoints and human examples (personal writing).  Case Study became my methodology of choice!

Next Month’s Topic: Tap into Your Natural Personality to Assist Your Academic Writing Process – Decisive Writers vs. Inclusive Writers

Reference: MBTI Tasks of a College Student. Center for the Application of Psychological Type. Gainesville, FL.

Michelle Rivera-Clonch, PhD. is a scholar-practitioner psychologist who also co-founded Writing in Depth: An Academic Writing Retreat at Hope Springs Institute in 2011. In June 2023, she presented at the TAA Virtual Conference and subsequently was invited to contribute to the Association’s blog; to which she excitedly agreed. Her book A Depth Psychological Study of the Peace Symbol: Jung, Politics and Culture was published this summer by Routledge.

Read the first post in this series, The Psychology Behind Writing: Tap into Your Natural Personality to Assist Your Academic Writing Process, and second post, The Psychology Behind Writing: Tap into Your Natural Personality to Assist Your Academic Writing Process.