30/04/2012

People Patterns (by Stephen Montgomery)

I don't know anything about Stephen Montgomery, other than the short biography in the back of his book - he was (or is) apparently David Keirsey's son-in-law and also his research assistant and editor. However I can't find any working website with anything about him. He's not even mentioned in Wikipedia.

I have quite a collection of books about personality type, and also on the four related temperaments as defined by David Keirsey and refined by Linda Berens. I hesitated before putting "People Patterns' on my wishlist - some reviewers said it was stereotyped and shallow. However others said it provided a useful introduction to temperament theory, and I thought it sounded interesting, if only to recommend to people wanting a quick overview.

I was given it at Christmas 2007 but did not start reading it until July last year. So it's taken me about nine months to finish this relatively short book. Not that it's hard to read at all - rather the reverse. I was a bit disappointed to find that it was, indeed, an over-simplified book about Keirsey's temperament theory, based, unfortunately, around various film or TV characters, many of whom I had never heard of.  Those I had heard of - such as the characters in the Wizard of Oz - presented a very caricatured and unrealistic approach to the theory.

I suppose, for someone well acquainted with TV shows and movies, it might provide a simple overview of the idea that there are four basic temperaments, each with its own needs, values and worldviews. It surprises me when I find people who don't know this, at least at an intuitive level, but I realise that there are still many people for whom the theories are quite a revelation.

My concern is that this book could all too easily lead to stereotyping and boxing in of these temperaments. Fictional screen characters by nature are almost bound to be two-dimensional with exaggerated traits: they are not real people. It's nowhere near as easy to categorise our friends and family members, let alone ourselves, and there's no real hint in this book that our personalities are not so clear-cut as the examples given.

So, while I always like having more books to add to my personality related shelves, pretty much any of the others - even the shorter ones - have more depth than this. Keirsey's 'Please Understand Me II' is considerably more helpful for an in-depth study of the system, without too much stereotyping, and any of the temperament booklets by Linda Berens provide excellent introductions with clear indications that we all have access to all traits, none of which is 'better' than any other.

Not recommended, unless you're a movie buff who knows nothing at all about temperament theory.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, April 30th 2012

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