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PersonalityDon and Katie Fortune

An Analysis of Motivational Gifts

Lorin Friesen, November 2012

The theory of mental symmetry is based upon a system of cognitive styles which was first analyzed by Don Pickerell in about 1974. Don got the idea from a seminar speaker known as Bill Gothard[1], who apparently got his idea from some theological book written around 1900 (I just found out about this earlier connection from Katie Fortune). Of course, the original list of seven ‘charismata’ comes from the writings of the apostle Paul, however it appears that the writer from 1900 was the first to relate the list given by Paul to personality types.

Don and Katie Fortune have been giving seminars about this system of cognitive styles, which they call motivational insights, since the mid 1970s, and over the years, they have conducted thousands of seminars in 37 different countries. They began teaching shortly before my brother Lane Friesen first encountered cognitive styles and they published their first book Discover Your God-Given Gifts in 1987, one year after Lane Friesen printed his first set ofbooks. Their book has sold 300,000 copies and Katie Fortune tells me that it has been a consistent best seller since it was first published, suggesting that it describes character traits which really exist. My brother initially learned about cognitive styles from a seminar given by others, before I started helping him. However, he gathered his data from an analysis of 200 historical biographies (as well as giving seminars of his own), and most of the traits were worked out as he and I discussed and analyzed the data which he had gathered. While I knew back in the 1980s that Don and Katie Fortune were teaching on motivational gifts, I have not read their books until now. This means that both of us came up with our list of traits independently. Thus, the work of Don and Katie Fortune provides independent corroboration for the system of cognitive styles that is used by mental symmetry.

I recently visited the Fortunes for the first time and had a fascinating time discussing our common research. In brief, it appears that there is about a 90% overlap between the personality traits which they’ve discovered and the ones which we have uncovered, strongly suggesting that we’re both attempting to describe something which actually exists. While the Fortunes have limited their teaching largely to a description of the seven cognitive styles, they have gained a comprehensive understanding of these seven personality types through thousands of seminars and returned questionnaires. Some of the labels which the Fortunes use are slightly different, but that is merely a matter of translation. The Facilitator is called the administrator, the Mercy is the compassion, and the Contributor is the giver. I also notice that the Fortunes use lower case for the labels while I capitalize the terms. Finally, I remember Lane mentioning that when he began his research, he wasn’t sure whether to use the term Perceiver or prophecy, and he chose to use Perceiver because it sounded less religious. Katie Fortune tells me that they came up with the term Perceiver.

A Christian Focus

As one can tell from the title of the Fortunes’ first book, they approach cognitive styles from a Christian perspective, and their book contains extensive Christian references and Biblical quotes. The Western tendency is for secular thought to ignore books which have a Christian focus. However, I suggest that it is possible to analyze research which is done in a Christian setting by making a distinction between Christian culture, Christian doctrine, and Christian fundamentalism.

Christian culture is the collection of Mercy mental networks that have become associated with the Christianity, such as church services, church buildings, and church events. For instance, my background is Mennonite. This describes both a culture and a set of religious beliefs. Similarly, Judaism is also a combination of culture and belief. When dealing with culture, I suggest that the key to rational thought is a willingness to interact with individuals from outside of one’s culture. Notice that this cultural principle operates both ways. It is easy for secular thought to accuse religious books of being culturally bound, because secular thought defines the current dominant Western mindset. But, if a secular mindset rejects a book about cognitive styles because this book approaches the topic within a Christian culture, then secular thought is also guilty of being culturally bound—especially if we are dealing with a book which has sold 300,000 copies.

Applying this principle to Discover Your God-Given Gifts, I notice that even though the Fortunes have given seminars mainly to church audiences, they emphasize that everyone has a motivational gift regardless of their culture or religion, and they also put out secular versions of their personality tests. Interestingly, they have discovered that identical twins always have the same motivational gift, strongly implying that motivational gift describes something that transcends Christian culture. If one looks beyond the Christian cultural references contained within their books, one realizes that the Fortunes have done significant empirical research substantiating the system of cognitive styles that is used by mental symmetry, by collecting data from thousands of individuals using standardized personality tests.

That brings us to the second matter of Christian doctrine. In God, Theology & Cognitive Modules, I present the case that the theory of mental symmetry is consistent with Christian doctrine, and this book also uses the theory of mental symmetry to analyze scientific thought, technical thought, and the educational process. More recently, I've used the same theory to tie together various elements of the TESOL field, including linguistics and culture. This suggests that there is no inherent conflict between scientific thought and Christian doctrine, if one approaches the topic the viewpoint of mental programming. However, this consistency is only apparent if one has a way of translating between Christian terminology and what is happening within the mind.

For instance, mental symmetry suggests that a concept of God emerges when a sufficiently general Teacher theory applies to personal identity in Mercy thought. Because Teacher thought works with words, a person can interact with his mental concept of God by using words, which in religious terms is referred to as ‘praying to God’. By looking at what happens mentally when a person interacts with his mental concept of God, I suggest that it is possible to defer the question of whether God actually exists or not. Suppose first that God exists. Because it is not possible for a finite being to see an invisible infinite being, a human must use his mind to construct the concept of an infinite being, just as the blind men in the parable of the elephant had to combine their encounters in order to come up with an accurate concept of an elephant. Thus, even if a person is praying to a God who exists, he is actually talking to a being whose character and form is being determined by his mental concept of God. Now suppose that God does not exist. Because any sufficiently general theory which applies to personal identity will form an image of God, and because a mental concept of God has strong emotional power, a person will still find himself interacting verbally with a mental concept of God which has the emotional power to direct the course of his personal life. Thus, whether God exists or not, the mental concept of God is of fundamental importance, and it is important to analyze people’s descriptions of how they interact with God.

Finally, there is the method of Christian fundamentalism, which places blind faith in the words of the Christian Bible. I suggest that the method of blind faith will have a major impact upon how the mind functions. Thus, when motivational gifts are taught within a Christian context, then I suggest that both personality traits and the value which one places upon various personality traits will be modified by the mindset of fundamentalism. However, if one understands the mental effect of fundamentalism, then one can analyze this effect, which we will be doing in this essay.

Teacher Thought

As I have mentioned, about 90% of the traits described in Discover Your God-Given Gifts line up with the traits that we have discovered. Most of the other traits also end up being consistent if one looks beyond the described trait to the underlying mental mechanism. However, I suggest that the Fortunes’ understanding of the Teacher person is flawed. This should not be seen as a condemnation of their work, because Teacher thought is quite unusual and I do not know of any personality scheme which accurately describes Teacher thought. The only reason that I know about Teacher thought is because my brother is a Teacher person and I worked together with him for a number of years.

When Lane was studying biographies back in the 1980s, he noticed that the Contributor person tends to fall into one of two major categories: There is the practical Contributor who uses concrete thought to pursue Mercy goals, and there is the intellectual Contributor who uses abstract thought to work with Teacher theories. I refer to these two as Cp and Ci. The Fortunes’ description of the Contributor person (the giver) describes only Cp and not Ci. Their description of the Teacher person corresponds to Ci, and the actual Teacher person, who is quite rare, is lumped together with Ci. This is a very easy mistake to make, because both the intellectual Contributor and the Teacher person work with general theories. However, Ci uses technical thought to perform rigorous thinking within a Teacher theory, whereas the Teacher person is attracted to the emotions that are produced by a general understanding. Because of this discrepancy, I will use the Fortunes’ term giver when referring to the their description of the practical Contributor person.

In order to distinguish between Ci and Teacher thought, one has to know about Teacher emotion. My study of neurology led me to discover the emotional nature of Teacher thought—again back in the 1980s. The brain contains two emotional processors, known as amygdalae, one within the right temporal lobe which deals with Mercy experiences and the other buried beneath the verbal left temporal lobe. I noticed that an emotional processor was located within a verbal brain region and came to the conclusion that Teacher thought, the mental strategy deals with words, must function emotionally. When we looked at Teacher thought, we discovered that it actually does function emotionally. Teacher thought feels good when many items fit together, and feels bad when there is an exception to the general rule. I describe this emotion as order-within-complexity, and one could compare it to the ‘light bulb that lights up on top of one’s head’ when one understands.

The Fortunes describe the Teacher person as lacking in emotion. I suggest that this description applies to Ci and not to the true Teacher person. The intellectual Contributor is driven by logic and he can convey the impression that he is devoid of emotion. However, I also suggest that it is not possible for a human being to exist totally without emotions. Thus, both Ci and the true Teacher person appear to be non-emotional because they are being driven by a different form of emotion—the emotion that comes from understanding.

In Ci, this Teacher emotion provides the goal for logical thinking; the intellectual Contributor feels good when he can use logic to come up with a simple, general explanation. However, the true Teacher person uses a form of thinking which is quite different. True Teacher thought works with generality. It will take insignificant concepts and temporarily treat them as significant. This is like taking a man off the street and making him president for a day. If the man succeeds in bringing order to the country, then he will be accepted as a valid president. Teacher thought evaluates the effectiveness of a mental ‘president’ by using Teacher emotion. A ‘president’ which successfully brings order to mental complexity will feel good, whereas a ‘president’ which leads to mental chaos will feel bad and Teacher thought will feel emotionally driven to look for a better leadership candidate.

For instance, the concept of mental networks (which we will not be discussing in this essay) has existed within the theory of mental symmetry for many years. Until recently, I regarded mental networks as a secondary concept. This attitude changed when I examined the field of the cognitive science of religion, because it bases its analysis of religion upon the concept of the Agency Detector, which can be explained using the concept of mental networks. When I elevated mental networks to the level of a major concept, I discovered that it was possible to explain a number of additional traits.

The Diagram of Mental Symmetry

Moving on, once one discovers the relationship between cognitive styles and brain regions, it then becomes possible to use basic neurology to organize the seven cognitive styles into a functional diagram, which I call the diagram of mental symmetry. One of the main features of this diagram is that it suggests that the Exhorter combines Teacher thought and Mercy thought, and that the Contributor combines Perceiver thought and Server thought. This does not mean that the Exhorter and Contributor are mixtures. Instead, observation suggests that the Exhorter combines Mercy experiences with Teacher theories using a mental strategy which is different than either Teacher thought or Mercy thought. Similarly, the Contributor combines Perceiver facts with Server sequences using a mental strategy which is different than either Perceiver thought or Server thought. In other words, these two combination styles use the same information but approach this information in a different way, an assertion that can be backed up by neurology.

It is interesting to note that one can find these connections implied within Discover Your God-Given Gifts. On page 143, it states that “the giver shares several traits of the server”, and adds on page 149, “here’s another characteristic that the giver has in common with the server.” Thus, the Fortunes have noticed from examining personality that there is an overlap between Contributor thought and Server thought. Because the Fortunes’ description of the giver describes only the practical Contributor who focuses upon using Server actions, it makes sense that a connection between the Contributor person and the Server person would be noted.

One also notices a connection between Teacher theory and Mercy identity in their description of the Exhorter person. On page 124, it says, “the teacher aims for your head; the exhorter aims for your heart. It is not so much the content that the exhorter wants to impart as how that content can be made effective in peoples’ lives.” Here we see Teacher theory leading to Mercy experience (we’re looking here at the teacher in general terms and glossing over the difference between the true Teacher person and the intellectual Contributor person). Looking at the other direction from experience to theory, page 128 adds, “life is so full of lessons and insights to Exhorters. That’s where they primarily learn.” Reading through Discover Your Spouse’s Gifts, it is even clearer from the description that the Exhorter is a combination of Teacher and Mercy. Comparing the diagram of mental symmetry with the diagram used by the Fortunes, both place the Contributor at the center of the diagram, indicating the complicated nature of Contributor thought, and both place the Exhorter between the Teacher and the Mercy.

Mental symmetry suggests that the Teacher and Perceiver persons use abstract thought, while the Mercy and Server persons use concrete thought. The Fortunes divide the seven cognitive styles into the ‘speaking gifts’ of Teacher, Perceiver, Exhorter, and Facilitator, and the ‘serving gifts’ of Mercy, giver, and Server. If one recognizes that the giver describes the practical Contributor, then one sees that the ‘serving gifts’ correspond to concrete thought, because concrete thought expresses itself through Server actions. Abstract thought, in contrast, expresses itself through Teacher words. The Perceiver and Teacher persons use words because they work with abstract thought, while the typical Exhorter and Facilitator persons use words to influence and organize other people. Thus, if one focuses upon the use of words, then it makes sense to regard the Teacher, Perceiver, Exhorter, and Facilitator as ‘speaking gifts’.

If each cognitive style corresponds to the processing of a certain part of the brain, as mental symmetry suggests, then one is faced with a dilemma. On the one hand, people have different cognitive styles, while on the other hand, everyone has a complete brain. Mental symmetry solves this problem by suggesting that each cognitive style is conscious in a certain part of the brain while the other six cognitive modules function subconsciously. In other words, every person has the same house, but each cognitive style lives in a different room of this house. Therefore, the goal for each person is to get all seven modules to function, while a person will be most effective and feel most self-actualized—to borrow a term from Maslow—when he uses conscious thought.

The Fortunes deal with this problem by suggesting that a person has a primary, a secondary, and a tertiary motivational gift. In my opinion, this solution lacks elegance and it blurs the concept of cognitive styles. However, if one looks at the three examples of primary and secondary motivational gifts which are given on page 216, one notices a pattern. The first example of a composite gift is a Teacher and an Exhorter, the second is a giver and a Perceiver, and the third is a Server and a giver. Thus, all three examples are consistent with the concept that Exhorter combines Teacher and Mercy, and Contributor combines Perceiver and Server.

The Attitude of Fundamentalism

I mentioned earlier that the mindset of Christian fundamentalism will end up altering the personality traits that one observes. Let us turn now to this topic. I should emphasize that I am not referring here to the content of Christianity but rather the mindset of fundamentalism. Mental symmetry suggests that Perceiver facts can be acquired in one of two ways: Perceiver thought can look for connections which are repeated, or Mercy emotions can be used to mesmerize Perceiver thought into ‘knowing’ what is true. The method of fundamentalism uses the second alternative, because the emotional status given to a holy book is being used to convince Perceiver thought that this book contains absolute ‘truth’. Mental symmetry suggests that all education, religious or secular, begins with blind faith in the words of some revered expert. However, mental symmetry also suggests that blind faith should eventually be replaced by critical thinking.

Mercy thought places an emotional label upon experiences; an experience may be labeled as good or bad. When strong Mercy emotions are used to mesmerize Perceiver thought, then Perceiver thinking will be white and black, because facts which have their source in good Mercy experts will be regarded as ‘true’, while facts which have their source in bad Mercy experts will be regarded as ‘false’. The Perceiver person who practices blind faith will tend to be judgmental and critical, and the Fortunes describe the Perceiver person as a black-and-white thinker who tends to be judgmental. Mental symmetry suggests that the Perceiver person can escape this mindset by using Perceiver facts to build Teacher understanding. This makes it possible to replace the Mercy emotions associated with the experts with the Teacher emotion that is produced by a general theory. The Fortunes say something similar, but put it in religious terms: The Perceiver person is supposed to replace a judgmental attitude toward others with intercession to God. If a concept of God is based in a general Teacher theory, then ‘interceding with God’ is mentally equivalent to using Perceiver thought to build Teacher understanding.

Moving on, mental symmetry suggests that fundamentalism leads naturally to an attitude of religious self-denial. That is because Perceiver thought will only remain in its mesmerized state if the emotional status assigned to the source of truth is much greater than the emotional status associated with personal identity. In simple terms, the fundamentalist will believe that any focus upon self will be regarded by God as the sin of pride. [2] I suggest that an attitude of fundamentalism will cause the giver to act in a schizophrenic manner. On the one hand, practical Contributor thought (which corresponds to the giver as described by the Fortunes) naturally tries to improve personal identity. Thus, the giver is naturally talented at making money and improving his personal situation. But, on the other hand, an attitude of fundamentalism promotes self-denial. Thus, the giver is emotionally driven by his concept of God to give his wealth to others. However, even when the giver is denying himself by giving to others one still sees Contributor thought functioning, because the giver tries to ensure that his giving is efficient and cost-effective, and he has a tendency to try to remain in control of what he gives to others. [3]

In contrast to the Perceiver person, the traits of the intellectual Contributor (which corresponds to the teacher as described by the Fortunes) do not appear to be affected by the presence of revealed truth. That is because Perceiver thought comes up with facts, whereas Contributor thought uses these facts. Contributor thought can function as long as Perceiver facts are sufficiently solid. It does not seem to matter whether this Perceiver stability is the result of careful investigation or blind faith. Saying this another way, one can use rigorous logic either with a set of revealed truths or with a collection of facts gained through careful investigation.

The administrator which the Fortunes describe is somewhat different than the Facilitator person which we have observed. I suggest that this is because the Facilitator person who believes in revealed truth behaves quite differently than the Facilitator person who doubts truth. Facilitator thought blends and averages, guided by Perceiver facts and Server sequences. When Perceiver thought within the mind of the Facilitator person is uncertain, then the Facilitator person will feel muddled and he will lack energy. In contrast, the Facilitator person who believes strongly in revealed truth will be full of energy and will often find himself involved in many committees and projects. As long as the Facilitator person has freedom to facilitate within these structures, he is content. The Fortunes’ description of the administrator corresponds to the Facilitator person who has solid mental content—in this case acquired through blind faith in a holy book. However, there is also the Facilitator scientist who acquires his Perceiver truth through empirical research, the Facilitator bureaucrat who acquires Perceiver stability through the structure of an organization, and the Facilitator philosopher who attempts to use self-analysis to come up with Perceiver stability, which the Fortunes do not appear to describe.

Discover Your Spouse’s Gifts

The previous section was written after reading Discover Your God-Given Gift. This next section is a response to the book Discover Your Spouse’s Gifts, published by Don and Katie Fortune in 1996, and the quotes in this section are all taken from this book.

The theory of mental symmetry obviously has Christian roots, for the simple reason that the original list comes from the writings of St. Paul. And, it is equally obvious that the Fortunes’ books are addressed to a Christian audience. I suggest that one of the most important topics, if not the key topic, for Christianity is the topic of personal transformation. What is personal transformation and who needs it the most?

Let us begin with the second question. According to the Fortunes, “Perceivers themselves are the most challenging children to rear, requiring more stringent discipline” (p. 87). “Of all the seven gifts, Perceivers are the most often misunderstood. Their strong beliefs and opinions, their uncompromising stance and their intensity of feelings make for uniqueness of character. Anyone married to a Perceiver needs to work understanding this gift” (p. 74). “While everyone is subject to some degree to pride, Perceivers are by far the most vulnerable” (p.60). “Perceivers tend more than any of the gifts to be loners” (p.90). “Of all the gifts, Perceivers need most to know about the seven motivational gifts and about the validity of each perspective” (p. 60).

As a Perceiver person, I find it fascinating to look at a description of the Perceiver person written by an Exhorter person and a Facilitator person. The Fortunes are right. I do have strong opinions and beliefs, intense feelings, and uncompromising stances. I am a loner, I do find myself misunderstood, and I’ve spent years attempting to comprehend the perspectives of other cognitive styles. But, this struggle for understanding has led me to the conclusion that the problem does not lies solely with the Perceiver person, but also with an adequate concept of Christianity.

Interestingly, my greatest struggle over the years has been with the cognitive style which the Fortunes regard as the least problematic: “We believe that the giver, of all the gifts, has the most well-rounded personality” (p.205). This struggle has been over the definition of value. As the Fortunes note, the giver (the Contributor who emphasizes his practical side, or Cp) has a natural talent at making money and being a successful businessman. Thus, the giver is unsurpassed at achieving financial value and increasing the value of a business. As a Perceiver person who looks for lasting truth, I have come to the conclusion that the typical giver has an inadequate concept of value; he is pursuing the temporary wealth of possessions rather than the lasting wealth of personal character, and he is acquiring the symbols of wealth rather than the true wealth of a transformed mind. This distinction is often illustrated by the individual who wins a lottery ticket. He has acquired money, but he does not know how to handle this money, and so he often squanders his wealth and returns to his previous condition of poverty.

The Bible is quite clear about the folly of pursuing material wealth: “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness” (1 Tim. 6:9-11). In the words of Jesus, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16: 26).

Thus, I have attempted over the years to pursue the true wealth of a transformed mind. Obviously, when people’s minds are transformed, then one of the by-products will be an increase in material wealth and physical prosperity, but the Bible makes it clear that material wealth should never be the primary I are bottom line. In response, I have found my way continually being frustrated by the giver. First, when the typical Contributor person encounters someone who questions his set of values in order to pursue a different set of values, then the Contributor person will generally respond by conveying the impression that this individual is worthless and is wasting his life. Thus, the person who is pursuing true wealth will find himself emotionally battling the aura of ‘successful’ Contributor persons. Second, because the Contributor person is naturally talented at making money, he will fund those who share his set of values while withholding money from those who pursue a different set of values.

The Fortunes recognize that the giver should not focus upon making money: “God gives givers an interest in and focus on money. He gives them wonderful business ability so they can earn money well and have plenty to give to others as He directs. A non-Christian giver, or Christian giver who does not stay in contact with the Lord, can so focus on making money that his or her priorities get out of whack” (p. 195). Thus, the Contributor is being told that he needs to balance making money with giving money. In more general terms, the Contributor is told to replace selfishness with self-denial: “Givers especially love to travel. We believe it is because God calls people most often from this gifting to be evangelists and missionaries...Even if givers are not called to the mission field, they often take interesting and support those who are” (p.216).

This prescription, I suggest, illustrates one major inadequacy of a Christian message which is based in the words of a holy book. We have seen that belief in a holy book is accompanied by an attitude of religious self-denial. But, self-denial is only a partial solution because it suppresses childish identity without transforming it. Therefore, the underlying problem remains unaddressed, which is that the average Contributor person has an inadequate concept of value. The Biblical passages which we have quoted are not consistent with the Fortune’s suggestion that ‘God gives givers an interest in and focus on money’. Rather, I suggest that the Contributor person has an inborn ability to pursue value, which the untransformed Contributor person then twists into the pursuit of money. Balancing making money with giving money does not solve the underlying problem. Rather, the Contributor person needs to change his definition of value so that he pursues lasting wealth and stops belittling those who do.

Again, I suggest that the Fortunes recognize this principle and attempt to address it by telling the Contributor person to seek the lasting wealth of ‘winnings souls for God’. However, when the Christian message is based in the words of a holy book, then I suggest that there will be an incomplete comprehension of the message of personal salvation. Instead of viewing salvation as ‘becoming transformed by the renewing of the mind’, the emphasis will be upon reciting the ‘prayer of salvation’ as a type of magic formula. In God, Theology & Cognitive Modules, I analyze the prayer of salvation, and show how saying these words with an attitude of belief will lead to the mental feeling that ‘my sins have been forgiven by God’. In other words, this prayer works. But, the primary goal is not to say the prayer of salvation but rather to pursue the personal honesty which the prayer of salvation makes possible.

In my experience, the typical practical Contributor person tends to apply universal principles as magic formulas. The Fortunes give an example of this: “Givers make decisions based on principles, especially Biblical ones. ‘The Bible teaches us to honor those in authority’, Rod told us. ‘So when I am led to do a crusade in a town the first thing I do is go see the mayor.’” (p.209) Notice the focus upon applying a specific Biblical passage, rather than upon embodying a comprehensive understanding. Notice also the focus upon evangelism—getting people to say the Christian prayer of salvation. The underlying problem, I suggest, is that Contributor thought by its very nature focuses upon specific principles rather than universal change and universal understanding. Perceiver thought can expand specific principles by looking for connections between one context and another. But, if Perceiver thought is being mesmerized by the words of a specific book, then the message of this book will remain limited. Similarly, Server thought can expand specific instructions by looking for similar ways of functioning. But, if Server thought is limited to doing the physical actions of religious self-denial, then this will also lead to a limited concept of Christian salvation. Thus, the typical giver ‘man of faith’ who is following specific principles and preaching magic formulas of salvation will see little value in developing or pursuing a more complete path of personal salvation. And, because he is a ‘successful evangelist’, his definition of personal salvation will be accepted by others as valid. This does not mean that what the giver ‘man of faith’ is doing or what the ‘successful evangelist’ is preaching is wrong. Rather, I suggest that it is incomplete. It can start a person on the path to personal salvation, but it cannot lead him all of the way.

As I mentioned earlier, one can escape blind faith in a holy book by replacing the emotional Mercy status given to the book with the Teacher emotions of a general understanding. When this happens, then the content of the book is no longer believed because it comes from the ultimate source, but rather because it describes universal truth and reflects the character of a universal being. If one examines the Fortunes’ books from this perspective, then one concludes that there is an inherent contradiction between the explicit message and the implicit message. Let us look first at the explicit message. Before I begin, though, I should point out that the Fortunes accurately state that “the ability of Perceivers to see easily what is wrong (or what appears to be wrong) often causes them to be quick to criticize” (p. 61). I am aware of this tendency and am doing my best to avoid walking the path of criticism.

First, there is the matter of Teacher emotion. As I pointed out earlier, the Fortunes’ description of the Teacher person corresponds to what we call the intellectual Contributor person. They state that “Teachers are the least emotional of the gifts, but that does not mean that they are without feelings. They just keep them well under control and often find it difficult to express them” (p.142). This accurately describes the intellectual Contributor, especially if one equates emotion with Mercy emotion. However, our research strongly suggests that understanding a theory leads to an emotion which is different than Mercy emotion. This concept is essential for escaping fundamentalism, because the mind requires emotions. Thus, the only way to go beyond the Mercy emotions of blind faith is by replacing them with the Teacher emotions of a general understanding.

However, even though the concept of Teacher emotion is not explicitly mentioned, the Fortunes are implicitly constructing Teacher emotion by presenting a general system of motivational gifts, and this system will have the natural result of causing Christian believers to view their faith from a more rational perspective.

The second concept is that of dying to self. This concept plays a fundamental role in Christian doctrine, but I do not find it explicitly mentioned anywhere in the Fortunes’ books. Instead, what one finds is self-denial, which I suggest is not the same thing. Self-denial suppresses childish identity while leaving it intact under the surface. Dying to self, in contrast, takes childish identity apart and puts it back together in adult form, a gut-wrenching process which can only be done with the emotional support of a general Teacher theory.

And yet, even though self-denial is being explicitly described and not dying to self, when a person recognizes that he has a specific motivational gift, then this will lead to some extent to a dying to self. Rational understanding emerges when Perceiver thought looks for similarities and differences between Mercy experiences. When an individual recognizes that he is an Exhorter person, for instance, then he will start to use subconscious Perceiver thought to look for similarities between him and other Exhorter persons, and he will start to recognize that there are inherent differences between the Exhorter person and other motivational gifts.

In religious terms, I suggest that we are dealing with new wine and old wineskins. The old wineskin is the mindset of fundamentalism. The new wineskin is an attitude of critical thinking, in which Perceiver thought looks for connections and Teacher thought builds general understanding. The concept of motivational gifts is a new wine. It is inconsistent with the old wineskin of fundamentalism. However, if one uses the concept of motivational gifts as a starting point, then it is possible to redefine the content of Christianity as a universal, rational theory, which describes the path which I have followed. The end result appears to be a coherent, universal, Christian philosophy which can include scientific thought as well as so-called secular existence.

The Mercy Person

The personal cost of having an inadequate concept of salvation can be seen in the Fortunes’ description of the Mercy person, which they called the compassion gift. This is not a pleasant description to read: “Compassion people, of all the gifts are the most easily wounded. They tend to be strongly subjective, taking things personally and often fearing to do something wrong or disappoint their mates. They cry easily, sometimes not even knowing why” (p.258). “A husband can give his compassion wife a dozen reasons why she should break off an unhealthy friendship, but she will give a dozen reasons why she needs to continue to reach out to her dysfunctional friend” (p.259). “They are also the most prone to escape life’s hard realities through the avenues of drugs or alcohol” (p.259). “Their extremely sensitive natures make them the most vulnerable to hurt. More than 60% of the people come to us for counseling are compassion people” (p.267). “For compassion wives, three-fourths of them experience some personality conflicts with their spouses” (p.270). “In general, compassion people are in worse shape physically than the other gifts” (p.277). “The females with the compassion gifting become victims of abuse more easily and are less likely to report it” (p.291). “Compassion people...are the most likely to become victims of abuse and to tolerate it longer than they should” (p.291). My observations of the Mercy person has convinced me what the Fortunes are saying is accurate. But, I’m equally convinced that it does not have to be this way.

The Fortunes emphasize the first step out of this emotional quagmire, which is an attitude of forgiveness. They also mention a number of other significant principles of character growth. However, I suggest that one can only go so far when Christianity is defined as blind faith in a holy book.

If one realizes that each cognitive style is conscious in a different part of the mind, then it is fairly easy to conclude that the Mercy person is conscious in the part of the mind that deals with personal identity. As a previous quote states: “Compassion people...tend to be strongly subjective, taking things personally” (p.258). This connection with personal identity is backed up by an example in their book: “Often the compassion spouse takes things the wrong way. Brenda admits she is prone to read negative overtones into her husband’s remarks. ‘When he says, “We’re out of milk,”’ she explains, ‘I hear, “You’ve let us run out of milk again.” I tend to take everything personally. I’m trying to overcome this but it’s difficult’” (p.259).

The attitude of fundamentalism believes that truth is based in people with emotional status. When this is the case, then accepting truth means submitting to a person who has emotional status. If this attitude determines how God reveals absolute truth, then this attitude of personal submission will extend to other relationships as well: “Some endure abuse without complaint, often blaming themselves for not being better partners. A harmonious relationship takes precedence over everything. I have counseled many compassion wives were surprised to learn that God does not expect them to put up with ongoing abuse” (p.258). Obviously, if absolute truth is imposed upon people by using emotional pressure, then it makes sense that the Perceiver person, who deals with truth, will attempt to impose truth upon his Mercy spouse: “It is especially difficult for compassion person to be married to a perceiver gift, unless the perceiver is mature and gentle. We have counseled many couples with this combination and found the stress on the compassion partner so overwhelming that he or she may want to escape the relationship” (p.261).

I have suggested that fundamentalism leads naturally to an attitude of personal self-denial. This explains why “Compassion spouses tend to believe that even feeling anger (and other negative emotions is bad)... They tend to deny or stuff it, so anger can build inside like a pressure cooker” (p.267). “If put down by their mates, they may grow angry but they seldom express the anger out properly. They are stuffers of negative feelings and must learn to express those feelings appropriately” (p.258).

Finally, if truth has its source in people with emotional status, then this means that truth is actually dependent upon feelings. The result is that the Mercy person becomes ruled by emotions. The Fortunes tell us that “Compassion people are more dependent than all of the gifts on their feelings and emotions. God has made them this way and they need to be accepted for the loving, caring people they are. But they tend at times to be illogical...Compassion wives especially can be emotional and illogical” (p.259). I suggest a slightly different interpretation. The compassion individual naturally lives in personal feelings and emotions, and other motivational gifts need to accept the validity of personal feelings and emotions. However, fundamentalism and not God has made the Mercy person dependent upon their feelings and emotions. And, if one places blind faith in a holy book, then one will believe that God has made the Mercy person dependent upon irrational personal emotions.

So, if truth is not revealed by people with emotional status, then what is the basis for truth? In simple terms, truth is discovered when Perceiver thought notices that there are consistent and repeatable connections between Mercy experiences. For instance, if one sees a flat surface sitting on four legs, then one knows that this is a table, because this combination of flat surface and four legs occurs together consistently and repeatably. Similarly, if one experience leads consistently and repeatably to another experience, then this can be described as a truth of cause-and-effect. Going further, when rules of cause-and-effect have personal consequences, then one has discovered moral truth: If I do ‘A’, then I will experience consequence ‘B’.

When truth is ultimately discovered rather than imposed, then Perceiver thought becomes the friend of Mercy thought and not the oppressor. For instance, if a child touches a hot stove, then he will be burned. That truth is not imposed but rather discovered because it describes an inescapable connection of personal cause-and-effect. The loving parent may use emotional pressure to reveal this truth to his child, because he does not want his child to experience the pain of discovering this rule, but ultimately this rule has nothing to do with the emotional status of either the parent or the child. It just is. Similarly, I make the thesis in God, Theology & Cognitive Modules that Christian theology describes the process of reaching mental wholeness. This process may have been revealed by God, but it is not imposed by God. Rather, it is based in inescapable principles of personal cause-and-effect that are the result of the structure of the mind. The Fortunes mention this concept: “To have a successful marriage we must put God’s laws and principles in action. They work whether or not we are aware of them. When we violate one we put another in motion—the principle of sowing and reaping” (p.327).

It is difficult to use Perceiver thought in the middle of emotional pressure. Therefore, Western society makes a split between objective and subjective: If Perceiver thought is being used to discover truth, then personal emotions will be ignored or suppressed. In contrast, when personal emotions are being acknowledged, then facts will be ignored and Perceiver thought will not be used. When the Mercy person lives in this type of environment, then he will personally express this split between head and heart. On the one hand, “Unique among the seven gifts and being so motivated by emotions, they have difficulties relating to spouses motivated by intellect, and even more to spouses (such as perceivers) motivated by the will” (p.269). On the other hand, “Compassion people often do something because it feels good or right, not necessarily because it is. Their methods may seem illogical, especially to mates who score low in compassion” (p. 269).

If Mercy thought is the only source of emotions, then the Mercy person is condemned to being a prisoner of his current feelings. “One candid compassion husband says, ‘I tend to fly by the seat of my pants. My perceiver wife hates that. I wish I could be more responsible’” (p.266). But, if a general theory also leads to an emotion, then the Mercy person can use Teacher emotion to find stability while remaining emotional. Remember that a concept of God emerges when a Teacher theory applies to personal identity. Therefore, the Mercy person will view Teacher theory in the personal terms of a relationship with God. Restating our suggestion in religious terms, the Mercy person can find emotional and personal stability by loving a universal God whose character is unchangeable. However, this emotional stability can only be achieved if Christian doctrine is packaged within the framework of a general Teacher understanding, which means going beyond the attitude of fundamentalism.

When a person acquires the ability to use Perceiver thought in the middle of Mercy emotions, then Perceiver facts become independent of Mercy emotions. For instance, a chocolate bar may taste good and fat may feel bad but these Mercy feelings have nothing to do with the Perceiver connection that exists between eating too much and getting fat. In other words, facts and feelings interact, but one is independent of the other. When a person realizes this, then he can be rational and emotional at the same time, because his emotions are traveling along connections that were determined through rational thought.

For instance, the Fortunes note as we have that “compassion people are interested in the arts and are often musically or artistically inclined” (p.282). When a person starts playing a musical instrument, he has feelings but lacks skill. Listening to the beginner play is not pleasant. Similarly, experiencing raw Mercy thought can be embarrassing: “Henry, a classic compassion gift, has found his teacher wife puzzling...‘I whisper sweet nothings in her ear and she says I’m embarrassing her. I just don’t get it!’” (p.269) I suggest that the cure for embarrassing Mercy emotions is to add skill, knowledge, and understanding to these emotions. The beginning musician does this by practicing. The goal of practicing is not to remove the emotions from music but rather to give a person the ability to express his emotions more effectively. A skilled musician who emotes is enjoyable and uplifting. Similarly, the Mercy person who gains skill and knowledge and who expresses this skill and knowledge emotionally and spontaneously is very attractive. And, when such a Mercy person has Teacher understanding, then his spontaneity acquires elegance, grace, simplicity, and timelessness. Instead of being the underdog that is abused by others, this type of Mercy person becomes the example that everyone looks up to. That is what a Mercy person can become when Christianity is presented as a rational theory rather than as blind faith in a holy book.

This is what the Mercy person often aspires to, but does not know how to achieve: “Compassion people are idealists rather than realists, sometimes to the extreme. They would like a perfect world in which everyone knows everyone else—a world without war, hatred, sin, even death” (p.261).

Discover Your Children’s Gifts

This final section was written after reading the Fortunes’ third book, entitled Discover Your Children's Gifts. As before, I will be quoting from the book being reviewed.

When two pictures are almost the same, then one can see the differences between the two by placing one picture on top of the other and holding them both up to the light. My main focus over the years has been to use a knowledge of cognitive styles to work out how the mind can be developed. Discover Your Children’s Gifts is the only other book I know of which does something similar. Thus, reading through this book felt like comparing two similar pictures, and the differences between these two ‘big pictures’ were immediately apparent. I must confess that these differences triggered some emotional hot buttons in my mind, which we will be discussing in a few paragraphs. However, we will begin by looking at the area of overlap.

In general terms, it is obvious that the Fortunes are describing cognitive styles based upon years of careful observation. Interestingly, even though they are not aware of the diagram of mental symmetry, the vast majority of the traits which they mention fit very well into the cognitive model which we have developed (if one interprets their teacher as the intellectual Contributor). Finally, it is also clear that their advice describes most of the initial stages of mental development. Having said this, let us look at the details.

We will start by looking at the Exhorter person. The Fortunes tell us that the most irritating characteristic of the Exhorter child is his overtalkativeness. They also mention that the Exhorter person has a tendency to exaggerate. Our research has come to similar conclusions, but we have also tried to work out the underlying mechanism behind this behavior: Exhorter thought uses importance, excitement, novelty, and emotion to work out the initial stages of a plan. Normally, these Exhorter ideas lead to Contributor plans which are followed by Facilitator adjustment. This path from Exhorter through Contributor to Facilitator is a three stage circuit which runs the mind. I suggest that talking will short-circuit this loop, because the easiest way to express an idea is through words. Thus, the talkative Exhorter person gets caught in a positive feedback loop: He talks because he feels that something is important, and the fact that he is talking about something makes it important. If the Exhorter person is permitted to continue talking, then subconscious Contributor thought and Facilitator thought will not develop in his mind and he will remain a talking mouth who focuses upon the emotional essence while remaining mentally, physically, and verbally clumsy. The Fortunes say that “we believe God has endowed exhorters with fluid facility in speech because words can encourage” (p. 115). In contrast, I suggest that the Exhorter, like every other individual, has a complete mind. If he limits his activity to the realm of words, then he will reach only a fraction of his potential; he will counsel others around him to reach maturity while remaining immature himself.

Moving on to the Server person, the Fortunes emphasize that the Server person focuses upon physical action and we agree. As the Fortunes have observed, The Server person has a left hemisphere based self-image that is rooted in actions and skills: “The server identifies strongly with what he does to help, and cannot easily separate what he does from who he is” (p.92). As one can see from the diagram of mental symmetry, Server thought receives input from Teacher thought, and words form the basic building block for Teacher thought. As a result, the Server person has a strong need for verbal approval: “Give your server the positive reinforcement and approval he desperately needs. He needs to be appreciated for who he is and for what he does to help you. When he makes his bed and hangs up his clothes without being asked to do so, praise him” (p.92). The Fortunes also recognize that the Server person needs to add Teacher understanding to his Server action: “Their mechanical and technical abilities, coupled with exceptional manual dexterity and close attention to detail, will make them productive adults. But servers must also learn basic academic skills” (p.92). And, they recognize that approval from God is more important than approval from man: “Talk regularly to your child about how the Lord appreciates his hopefulness. Direct his focus to pleasing God, not people” (p.228).

This is all good advice, but I suggest that it needs an understanding of the underlying cognitive mechanisms. True Teacher thought uses words to build a general theory. When this general theory applies to personal identity then this causes an image of God to form within the mind. Thus, in order to ‘please God rather than man’ one must first construct a mental concept of God, which is done by gaining a general understanding and applying it to personal identity, and then one ‘pleases God’ by acting in a way that is consistent with this general Teacher understanding, which causes a person to become righteous.

The Fortunes warn that it is tempting to treat the Server person as a robot: “Be sure to give your child the opportunity to practice and learn homemaking, building, and fixing skills in your home. But don’t overdo it” (p.100). However, the Server person has a complete mind and would like to become more than just a robot: “We were surprised at the first two choices [adventure and mystery] since servers are usually not adventuresome. Then we realized these books provide them with vicarious enjoyment” (p.97). In our experience, the person who takes the most advantage of the Server robot is the Exhorter mouth with his ‘words of encouragement’. Talk is cheap, and the Server person often finds himself attracted by the excitement generated by the Exhorter person, but ends up doing boring work which is then ‘rewarded’ by vague platitudes of appreciation. What is missing from both is righteousness: The Exhorter mouth has not added actions to his words, while the Server robot has no understanding to guide his actions.

Turning to the Teacher person, remember that the Fortunes’ description of the Teacher person corresponds to the intellectual Contributor person (Ci) and not to the true Teacher person. However, it is easy to confuse these two, the true Teacher person appears to be quite rare, and the Fortunes’ description is a fairly accurate portrayal of Ci.

I have learned from personal experience that the intellectual Contributor has a natural ability to use logic and technical thought, and that he has a strong tendency to use his intellectual ability as a way of ‘proving’ his superiority and to belittle anything and anyone who does not accept his understanding or use his way of thinking. It is clear that the Fortunes have encountered something similar: “Humility in the midst of tremendous mental capability is a goal for which the teacher should strive. He knows he’s smart in comparison to his peers, but don’t let it go to his head... The teacher’s know-it-all attitude can make him unteachable at home and school and unpopular with his peers” (p.229).

The intellectual Contributor is better than anyone else at playing the intellectual game: “They often have the highest IQs, are eager and fast learners, and fit well into our competitive academic system. They learn aggressively, often more than they are asked to, turning in six-page reports where only four pages are required. They love to take advantage of extra credit opportunities and are unhappy with less than straight-A report cards” (p.108). This intellectual acumen gives other people the impression that the intellectual Contributor is the best at abstract thought. However, I have come to the conclusion that the rigorous logic that is used by the intellectual Contributor may be superb for exploring and developing concepts, but it is crippled at coming up with genuinely new ideas. Thomas Kuhn describes this distinction in his book on paradigms shifts: “The scientific enterprise as a whole does from time to time prove useful, open up new territory, display order, and test long-accepted belief. Nevertheless, the individual engaged on a normal research problem is almost never doing any one of these things. Once engaged, his motivation is of a rather different sort. What then challenges him is the conviction that, if only he is skilful enough, he will succeed in solving the puzzle that no one before has solved or solved so well” (p. 38).

The Fortunes mention that the Teacher person “is often intolerant of differing viewpoints. Remind him that there are two sides to every issue, and help him recognize the possible validity of others’ opinions” (p.229). This is good advice, but it is missing a theoretical and a theological foundation. On the theoretical side, the method of thought which is used by the intellectual Contributor is very good at improving existing theories, but it is rotten at comparing or evaluating theories. As Kuhn emphasizes, it is not possible to use the rules of one theory to evaluate another theory. Thus, when the typical intellectual Contributor encounters a differing viewpoint, his natural tendency is to use his intellectual abilities to belittle his opponent and accuse him of unclear thinking. Part of the reason for this arrogant response is intellectual pride. But, the intellectual Contributor really is mentally limited. When he hears a different point of view, it is like trying to speak French to someone who assumes that everyone should speak proper English. It literally does not make sense to him.

This is where Perceiver thought is required. Perceiver thought works with facts, and can build connections of meaning between one system of thought and another through the use of similarities, analogies, parallels, and symmetries. The Perceiver person is most talented at using this form of semi-rigorous thought which is required to bridge various viewpoints and integrate specialized theories. The Perceiver person who functions at this level is no longer the caricature of a person which the Fortunes describe. He stops being a black-and-white thinker, and learns how to work with uncertain information. He is no longer judgmental, but instead he builds bridges of understanding. And, he goes beyond finding flaws to building connections.

The thinking of the intellectual Contributor person leads to specializations that are analyzed in increasingly technical terms. In contrast, this higher level of Perceiver thought leads to general Teacher understanding which builds bridges between specialization. In Kuhn’s words, this type of interdisciplinary thinking will “open up new territory, display order, and test long-accepted belief”. But, as Kuhn points out, academia usually pays only lip service to the search for Perceiver facts and Teacher theories. It claims to be gathering facts to build understanding, while it actually spends most of its time solving technical puzzles.

Similarly, I suggest that the biggest flaw in the Fortune’s book is an inadequate understanding of Teacher thought and Perceiver thought. As long the rigorous thinking of the intellectual Contributor is regarded as the highest form of thought, and as long as the typical intellectual Contributor can fool others into believing that he is searching for truth and building understanding while he is in fact solving intellectual puzzles and belittling other viewpoints, the intellectual Contributor has no theoretical reason to descend from his pedestal of intellectual superiority. I just presented a paper at the Canadian national TESOL conference which included an analysis of this principle.

This principle can also be stated in theological language. God is by definition a universal being. Because the technical thinking of the intellectual Contributor works within existing paradigms rather than constructing general theories, it is not capable of forming an adequate concept of God. Instead, it can only explore aspects of God’s character or creation, just as each blind man in the parable could only comprehend a portion of the elephant. Thus, if the intellectual Contributor truly wants to know and serve God—if the blind men want to determine the true nature of the elephant, then he must look to others to expand his narrowmindedness. And, because the Perceiver person who develops his mind is capable of building bridges between viewpoints, it does make sense to tell the Perceiver person to replace his judgmentalism with prayer to God. But, Perceiver prayer to God means more than just saying words in a closet. Instead, it means learning different disciplines and then using conscious thought to build connections between these various viewpoints, and that is hard work.

In other words, the Perceiver person must go to all of the blind men, learn to understand each blind man’s narrow-minded technical description of the elephant, and then use semi-rigorous thought which the blind men regard as inadequate to do interdisciplinary thinking which each of the blind men in his own way will belittle as worthless. If the Perceiver person survives this process without becoming bitter, cynical, or angry, then he will learn the true nature of the elephant.

Having said this, let us turn to the giver, which corresponds to the practical Contributor or Cp. As the Fortunes acknowledge, this is a complicated mode of thought which is difficult to decipher: “In some ways the gift of giving has been elusive, the most mysterious of all the seven gifts to identify. Givers are well-rounded people with some similarities to servers and exhorters” (p.126). Mental symmetry suggests that this is an accurate appraisal. As the arrows and lines on the diagram of the symmetry indicate, I suggest that the practical Contributor could be compared to the rider on a horse. The ‘horse’ of subconscious Exhorter thought provides the mind of the Contributor person with energy, ideas, and motivation, which he then channels by using Server actions.

As was already pointed out, the giver has a natural talent at making money, and the Fortunes address this weakness: “If your giver begins to place too much importance on money, talk with him about his feelings of trust for the Lord, and His provision for our needs. Use Scripture to show him the fleeting nature of monetary satisfaction” (p.232). This is good advice, but it can be made more powerful by understanding the nature of Contributor thought. We have just seen that the intellectual Contributor is unexcelled at solving problems within existing theories, but that he masks his weakness at comparing and evaluating theories by belittling what he cannot evaluate. This same combination is present in the practical Contributor in concrete form. The practical Contributor is unexcelled at getting ahead personally within existing systems of value, but he masks his weakness at working out systems of value by belittling anything and anyone who is not ‘a winner’ according to his current system of value. For instance, if the son of a giver is not successful in business, then the giver father is prone to regard his son and everything he does as worthless. However, it is common for the giver person to spend his productive years climbing the ladder of success and then having a midlife crisis when he realizes that he has climbed the wrong ladder. In the words of Jesus which we already quoted, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and yet loses his own soul?”

Before we continue, notice the fundamental similarity between the practical Contributor and the intellectual Contributor. In both cases, there is a natural ability to be a winner within the limited world of some ‘game’, combined with a weakness at going beyond this ‘game’ mentality, together with a tendency to belittle those who suggest that life is more than being a winner in the game which the Contributor person is currently playing. That is why I suggest that these two are actually different manifestations of the same cognitive style. They both possess the same fundamental traits, but one expresses them in concrete form while the other exhibits them in abstract form.

Because practical Contributor thought thinks in terms of a bottom line and a balance sheet, he is naturally driven to balance the selfishness of making money with the selflessness of giving money away. The Fortunes recognize this apparent contradiction: “Givers’ thriftiness may seem contradictory to their generosity. Not so. Givers are frugal in their personal spending so that they will have more money to give to others!” (p.134). However, as was pointed out before, this does not address the underlying problem, which is that the practical Contributor tends to value money. It is good to “applaud his efforts to put the Lord first in his life, and handle money with the correct spiritual perspective” (p.233). But, the practical Contributor who does so is still thinking in terms of money rather than value. And, even economists admit that value involves personal emotions while money is only an external symbol of value. But, because emotion cannot be measured by technical thought while money can, the typical economist then spends the rest of his book talking about money rather than value, illustrating again the futility of attempting to use technical thought to quantify human existence.

The Fortunes also mention that the practical Contributor balances his search for money with the desire to ‘tell others about Jesus’: “those who are Christians as children reported as their greatest interest witnessing to others about their faith in Jesus” (p.135). This is commendable, but what does it mean to have ‘faith in Jesus’? As was mentioned before, the practical Contributor tends to regard this as a magic formula, telling us that he is still confined within the mental straitjacket of practical Contributor thought, with its technical if-then thinking: “If someone says the prayer of salvation, then he will go to heaven.”

I have mentioned that the Contributor person tends to be either intellectual or practical. If one looks at the mental mechanisms that are involved in the process of Christian salvation, one concludes that what the Bible describes as the incarnation of Jesus corresponds to a process that happens within the mind when intellectual Contributor thought combines with practical Contributor. On the one hand, intellectual Contributor thought works with general theories; on the other hand, practical Contributor thought bring salvation to specific people. The Fortunes suggest that Jesus had all seven motivational gifts, an interpretation which is consistent with the attitude of fundamentalism that regards Jesus as The Ultimate Person. In contrast, I suggest that the portrayal of Jesus which one finds in the Gospels describes a Contributor person, consistent with the concept of Jesus fulfilling the function of acting as an incarnation which bridges universal God with finite human. Bridging these two sides to Contributor thought is a difficult process which involves submitting to truth, becoming righteous, and then dying to self. This is described in much greater detail in God, Theology & Cognitive Modules .

As I’ve already mentioned, there is substantial agreement between the traits which we have discovered and those described by the Fortunes. However, the administrator person which the Fortunes describe is somewhat different than the Facilitator person which we have discovered, and the description of the administrator person seems almost too good to be true. For instance, “Administrators take balanced approaches to life. Many survey respondents listed several or all of the suggested approaches: practical, realistic, idealistic, creative, and systematic. They seem to feel they could espouse them all. They’re probably right. Administrators face life squarely, realistically. Able to handle one day at a time, their long-range perspective enables them to plan for the future. Their actions always have practical applications. And while they’re idealistic about how things should be, they’re able to adapt less-than-perfect circumstances to existing situations” (p.139). It’s not that the traits of the administrator person are inaccurate. Rather, they seem to be presented in a way that emphasizes their favorable aspects while downplaying the negative sides. And that, I suggest, is a basic trait of the Facilitator person which I do not find mentioned in the Fortunes’ book: They have a strong tendency to portray situations in a way that makes them look good and others look bad. The facts themselves are not changed, but the emphasis given to the various facts is adjusted so that the Facilitator person ends up smelling like a rose, while others end up resembling the thorns.

With this in mind, let us take the Facilitator traits which the Fortunes describe and place them within a more general context: “Taking the long-range view, and seeing the overall picture, both of which are necessary in long-range planning, are natural for administrators. They can hear a variety of viewpoints on the matter and see each one’s value in relationship to the whole” (p.139). This is an accurate statement, which reflects a strength of the Facilitator person. However, the Facilitator person is conscious in a part of the mind which observes the rest of thought from a distance and which mixes and balances between various aspects of thought: “Administrators seem to stand on an invisible platform, constantly surveying everything around them, drinking it all in and reluctant to leave out anything” (p.149). As a result, the Facilitator person is aware of everything, but only within the current context: “In high school I used a daily planner, and continue to live by one to this day. I don’t know what I’d do without it. My mother used to ask why I couldn’t remember what to do. I had no answer. I just knew if I didn’t make the list I forget to do something and feel bad about it” (p.141).

This context is provided by the rest of the Facilitator person’s mind. If his subconscious mind lacks solid content, then he will become a creature of his environment: “Many survey respondents listed several or all of the suggested approaches: practical, realistic, idealistic, creative, and systematic. They seemed to feel they could espouse them all” (p.139). And, he will have to use external structure to substitute for his lack of internal structure: “Administrators are fascinated with graphs, charts, and diagrams as means of communicating concepts and ideas” (p.139). When he does try to build internal structure, it will take him longer than it does other cognitive styles, and he may have to resort to using external structure as an aid: “Sometimes you may think your administrator is taking too long to look into all the options and figure out how to proceed...If he does struggle too long with the decision have him write down and/or diagram the possibilities. His sharp visual perception will readily see the best answer” (p.139).

The Facilitator person who lacks mental structure will attempt to impose structure upon his environment and will insist that those around him fit into this structure: “One family reported their frustration with an administrator daughter who, from the age of ten, tried to dominate the planning of their annual vacation. ‘She’d get out maps of surrounding states,’ her mother said, ‘and look up places of interest. Then she’d plan an agenda designed to include as many as possible in our allotted vacation time. Bringing us the schedule, and maps with routes neatly marked in red felt pen, she’d say “This is what we ought to do next summer”’” (p.140). When the Facilitator person uses his external environment to bring structure to his mind, then each Facilitator person must have his own portion of the external environment to control: “They’re not good at co-leadership, unless areas of responsibility are clearly defined. Disliking vagueness, they’d rather be in the more distinct position of either leader or follower” (p.144).

In general terms, I suggest that when the subconscious mind of the Facilitator person has structure and content, then he will become the multitalented person that the Fortunes appear to be portraying. But, when he lacks mental stability, then he will feel mentally driven to turn his environment into a prison of bureaucracy and political correctness and he will try to get the authorities to force everyone to live within this prison.

Facilitator thought also acts as the input filter for the mind, suppressing content which lies outside of the current context. One result is that the Facilitator person hates to have information ‘stuffed down his throat’, because this bypasses his role as the input filter for the mind. This makes it difficult for the Facilitator person who lacks mental content to acquire mental content, because he will naturally filter out the very input that he needs to acquire mental stability. Thus, it is hard for the Facilitator person to find mental stability in today’s world of moral relativity, especially when dealing with emotional issues.

Let us turn now to the Mercy person. The Fortunes tell us that 60% of the people they counsel are Mercy persons. In fact, they suggest that “All compassion children are wounded to some degree. Even when raised in the most loving Christian homes, they sometimes feel wounded even when they’re not, and their beliefs are as real to them as actual hurt” (p.200). This is probably an accurate statement, and the Fortunes provide excellent advice regarding forgiveness and inner healing. As they point out, physical and sexual child abuse is far too common, and the mental result for the Mercy person is devastating.

As the Fortunes state, the Mercy person will only learn to accept facts if he feels that facts are the friends of feelings. Therefore, it is important for the Mercy person to realize that a factual knowledge of cause-and-effect makes it possible for him to avoid pain and find longer lasting happiness: “Give them decision-making guidelines and discuss alternatives and their consequences...Sometimes just knowing the alternatives and their consequences will build his confidence. If he errors, go over the procedure again” (p.235).

The Mercy person wants to live in an atmosphere of love, but when he is immature then his personal emotions define what is meant by love: “Compassion children usually approach life idealistically, but instead of wanting it line up with God’s laws and standards as perceivers do, they want everything to line up with their wishes” (p.154). As a result, the Mercy person can become an emotional dictator who uses ‘love’ to manipulate others: “Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated by your compassion child’s emotionalism” (p.235).

This is good advice, but I suggest that one can go further. As I mentioned before, an image of God emerges when a general Teacher theory applies to personal identity. The Mercy person will be much more willing to submit to God’s laws if he views God as a person with feelings. However, when knowledge about God is based in Mercy feelings of reference for a holy book, then God will become associated with Mercy feelings and not Teacher feelings. Instead of viewing God as a universal being who expresses himself through universal laws, the Mercy person—and others—will view God as a buddy who is approached through mystical worship. Researchers in the field of the cognitive science of religion have studied this contrast between theology and folk religion, and have noted that the typical religious believer may give theologically correct answers about God when given time to reflect, but will treat God as a humanlike person when responding on the spur of the moment.

The Fortunes observe that “Compassion people are the least prone to enjoy academics. They are less gifted intellectually than are children with some other gifts, but their sensitivity and capacity to love are tremendous... We think compassion children’s focus on feelings and relationships eclipses their ability to perform well in school” (p.159). This is an accurate statement, but I suggest that the fault lies as much with our educational environment as it does with the Mercy person. The Mercy person finds education emotionally repelling because education tries to avoid dealing with Mercy feelings. Modern science is objective; it searches for Teacher understanding while ignoring the Mercy emotions of the researcher. But, the Mercy person lives in these Mercy emotions. I suggest that one major historical reason why education is objective is because Facilitator persons in leadership have felt muddled by strong feelings, they have tried to achieve mental clarity by creating an educational environment that avoids emotional confusion, and they have used government to impose this educational environment upon everyone else.

Unfortunately, when universal understanding is related to personal identity in emotional manner, then the temptation is to jam these two together and to state in Buddhist fashion that ‘I am God’. This type of mystical religion has now infiltrated the Christian church in the form of the emergent church, causing people to doubt the content of Christianity. The only solution that I know of is to present the content of Christianity as a universal theory, which describes the approach which I have taken.

The Perceiver Person

That brings us finally to the Perceiver person. I mentioned earlier on that reading through Discover Your Children’s Gifts triggered some emotional hot buttons in my mind. That is because the Fortune’s description of the Perceiver person verbalizes a societal attitude which I have experienced for most of my adult life. The Fortunes are not responsible for creating this attitude. But, they have described this attitude accurately enough both to trigger emotional hot buttons, and to make it possible to clearly identify the problem.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I suggest that the underlying problem is the attitude of fundamentalism. Remember that fundamentalism uses Mercy emotions to overwhelm Perceiver thought into ‘knowing’ what is true. Religious fundamentalism uses this mental mechanism to assert that universal truth and knowledge about God are acquired by using Mercy emotions to overwhelm Perceiver thought into ‘knowing’ what is true. For the Perceiver person, this is experienced as a personal attack, because he is living in an environment in which authority figures are using their emotional status to shut him down, and these authority figures are claiming to speak for God.

The Fortunes put it this way: “First, teach your perceiver to respect authority and obey spontaneously. Otherwise he will become increasingly rebellious and difficult to handle... Establish your authority, and joint authority if you are married. Set and enforce rules and restrictions. Your perceiver needs boundaries; without them he’ll never learn to respect authority” (p.226). “Praise your perceiver whenever he obeys you. Express your pride when he drops everything to come when you call. Commend him when he does what you ask without arguing” (p.227). This type of advice tells us explicitly that Mercy status is being used to overwhelm conscious thought within the Perceiver person.

One notices a similar attitude toward the Perceiver person elsewhere in the Fortune’s book. For instance, on page 257, negative traits of each cognitive style are listed. Six of the lists are 1 1/2 to 2 lines long. In contrast, 2 1/2 lines are devoted to outlining the shortcomings of the Perceiver person.

I mentioned earlier that the Fortunes estimate that 30% of people are Mercy persons and that 60% of the people that they counsel are Mercy persons. For the Perceiver person, the figures that they give are 12% and 25%. Thus, 85% of their counseling is being done with only two cognitive styles. Putting this another way, the Perceiver and Mercy persons are 10 times as likely to be counseled as the other cognitive styles. This means one of two things: Either these two cognitive styles are mentally inferior, or else society is damaging these two forms of thought. I suggest that the second option is the case. More specifically, I suggest that the attitude of fundamentalism is abusing the relationship between Mercy thought and Perceiver thought and Mercy people and Perceiver people are paying the price in psychological damage.

Looking at the bias induced by fundamentalism in more detail, the section entitled How to Minister to Your Child presents advice to each cognitive style. The teacher (Ci) is told, “Humility in the midst of tremendous mental capabilities is the goal for which the teacher should to recognize his intelligence as a gift from God” (p.229). The Server is told, “I know you love me, Lord; you made me who I am. Help me to reach out to others, especially ones who are shy like I am” (p.228). The Exhorter is told, “Lord, you know I love to help people by giving advice, no matter what their problem...Help me to see when my advice is wanted and when it isn’t” (p.231). The giver (Cp) is told, “Lord, help me to give without any strings attached... Help me to know you appreciate my me to see how I can give of my time, energy, and help, as well as money” (p.233). And, the administrator is instructed, “Your administrator loves to lead and to tell others what to do. But unless he’s been asked to take charge, he’s out of order. Teach him how to use his gift without getting bossy” (p.233). In each of these cases the core attributes of a person’s motivational gift are being affirmed and the person is being warned not to use his gifts in an inappropriate manner.

The advice given to the Mercy person feels different: “Lord, please help me to gain control over these strong emotions you have given me. Sometimes it’s hard for me to think instead of feel. Help me to understand my feelings, and to react appropriately. Assist me in looking at and accepting my negative emotions, rather than suppressing them” (p.235). Here, the core behavior of functioning emotionally is not being affirmed. Instead, the impression is being conveyed that being an emotional person is inferior and that one must learn to live with emotional pain. In contrast, I suggest that it is possible to avoid emotional pain by using facts and logic to transform Mercy feelings so that they are consistent with rational thought. We see here an inherent weakness of fundamentalism, because instead of transforming personal identity, it tends to suppress it.

The advice given to the Perceiver person also feels different. He is told that “He will never be the most popular child on the block, but he can improve his interpersonal relations”, telling us that there is something inherent in his nature which other people find distasteful. He is advised, “Lord, I realize you’ve given me a gift for perceiving what others are doing wrong”, implying that his gift has no positive benefits. He is warned, “Lord, sometimes my gift gets in my way,” suggesting that he is fundamentally flawed. And, he is told, “Help me not to criticize or judge them, but to pray for them, instead”, implying that he should not use his gift with other people but rather practice his thinking in private where he will not bother anyone else.

Given this sort of advice, one can see why “Perceivers often believe their parents don’t understand them. This, coupled with their lack of self-understanding, creates inner turmoil” (p.73). So, how does Perceiver thought function? The following quote gives us a clue: “As a child I had a strong sense of fairness and demanded justice (as I saw it) and those around me—not just for myself but for everyone. When justice did not prevail I got angry, which often lead to depression” (p.75). In other words, what matters to the Perceiver person is truth and justice; he wants the same rules be applied everywhere. Going further, the Perceiver person makes a distinction between Perceiver facts and Mercy emotions: “Perceivers are able to face and deal with blind spots, both their own and others’, too. Many of us are unable to separate the sin and the sinner...perceivers can love the person and yet hate and deal with the sin” (p.75).

These quotes point us in the right direction, but there still is the underlying assumption that Perceiver thought deals primarily with bad Mercy experiences. As a Perceiver person, I have literally spent decades attempting to determine how Perceiver thought functions and how it can function. The motivation for this research has been personal survival, because everywhere I go, I have received the implicit impression that my form of thought is neither desired nor appreciated. Like the typical Perceiver person, my instinctual reaction has been to respond to perceived injustice with anger and judgmentalism. However, my struggle to move beyond this inadequate response has led me to the conclusion that Perceiver anger and judgmentalism are only symptoms of the real problem. The real problem is that Perceiver thought is not being allowed to function, and the Perceiver person will only become free of anger and judgmentalism to the extent that he understands how Perceiver thought functions and learns how to use Perceiver thought.

In simple terms, Perceiver thought builds connections. As I’ve mentioned earlier, a fact is a set of connections that occur repeatedly. If a set of connections occur everywhere, repeatedly, then this fact is an aspect of universal truth. Because truth describes connections which occur repeatedly, true truth is discovered and not imposed. It may be possible for some dictator to temporarily force everyone to act or believe in a certain manner, but this only masks universal truth, it does not create it. True truth has nothing to do with people, their opinions, or their pronouncements. It simply is. For instance, no one imposes the law of gravity. It simply is, and it applies equally to everyone and everything. Learning about motivational gifts makes it possible for Perceiver thought to begin functioning in areas of Mercy status where Mercy emotions normally rule, because personality traits describe universal principles which apply to everyone, regardless of their emotional status.

The Fortunes recognize that the Perceiver person struggles with a poor self-image: “Only about 20% of the perceivers we surveyed said they had good self-image is during childhood. Eighty percent make comments like: ‘I thought I was a terrible person’; ‘I hated myself’...” (p.74). In response, the Fortunes advise that “He must be trained in positive ways of thinking about himself. The preschool perceiver needs repeated affirmations of his intrinsic value and your unconditional love for him. Give him lots of hugs. The perceiver often must be convinced that verbal affirmation is true” (p.74). While the sentiments are noble, I suggest that this advice indicates a lack of understanding of how Perceiver thought functions. Hugs, verbal affirmation, and positive thinking are only Band-Aid solutions. They may make the Perceiver child feel better for a while but they do not solve the underlying problem.

What the Perceiver person really wants is facts that don’t depend upon people and their words. He begins life with conscious thought mesmerized by the Mercy status of authority figures, and somehow he must manage to learn how to think for himself: “In the early school years he may be awed by his teachers’ authority. In his teen years he begins to realize teachers are not infallible, and may feel free to confront them on specific issues he feels are not quite right” (p.81). I distinctly remember going through this mental transition myself. In contrast, when counselors “Tell parents of perceivers that their spirited, strong-willed children are like wild horses needing to be ‘tamed’ and ‘trained’” (p.88), then I suggest that the parents will discover that “The perceiver child is, perhaps, the most challenging child to raise” (p.72).

In simple terms, I suggest that forcing the Perceiver child to ‘submit to authority’ is mentally destructive because it uses emotional pressure to shut down conscious thought. The Perceiver child does not need to submit to authority. Instead, he—and those around him—need to recognize and acknowledge truth. The Perceiver person who knows what is true will automatically submit to it: “One of the perceiver’s positive traits is dependability. He will nearly always do what he says he will do. And unless he’s terribly polluted he will always tell the truth, even if it is self-incriminating” (p.78). Stating this more strongly, “Remember, the perceiver thinks he’s always right. And when he is not right, he will continue to feel he is until someone can convince him otherwise” (p.81). Yes, it is true that the Perceiver person must learn to be gracious and sensitive, and he must also learn—at a deep level—that he does not have a personal monopoly on truth. But, I suggest that the fundamental problem is not the Perceiver person’s insistence upon searching for truth, but rather society’s insistence upon imposing, avoiding, or violating truth, which the Bible refers to as being born in sin.

The Perceiver person is also born in sin, and his personal behavior will often fall short of his standards of truth: “As a child I was always looking inward and checking things out. I wanted to see how my attitudes and feelings related to what I knew of God’s word. If they seem to be in harmony I felt good about myself. Whenever they were contrary I felt bad—actually mad at myself” (p.74). As a result, the immature Perceiver person will try to submit to truth and then fall into self-condemnation when he inevitably fails: “when the perceiver realizes he’s done wrong, or not lived up to his own standards, he feels angry at himself. He’s his own worst enemy. Depression often follows” (p.73).

Going further, when a Perceiver person lives in an attitude of fundamentalism, then he will use conscious Perceiver thought to overgeneralize truth which was imposed upon Perceiver thought through emotional pressure. For instance, suppose that the father of a Perceiver person says that ‘drinking alcohol is bad’. The father may occasionally violate his rule, but the Perceiver son will take this statement that was made by an authority figure and turn it into an absolute rule: “Thou shalt not drink”. But truth only applies everywhere if it applies everywhere. If one takes a principle which some finite person says is universal and then acts as if it is universally true, then one is simply setting oneself up for failure. And, if the Perceiver person is convinced that this dictated truth—which he has universalized—comes from God, then he will end up getting angry at God: “Much of his moodiness stems from unresolved hidden anger. Teach him to identify the anger, talk about it, and then forgive. He may be mad at God—for doing, or not doing something” (p.72). The solution, I suggest, is not to “assure him God is control: He knows what he’s doing”(p.72). Rather, I suggest that the underlying problem needs to be addressed, which is basing a concept of God in statements that are made by people with emotional status. God is a universal being who expresses himself through universal truth; in order to comprehend the nature of God, one must search for universal truth. And universal truth, by definition, can be discovered everywhere, because it is universal. It is not contained merely within a holy book such as the Bible. As the Fortunes mention, the fundamentalist Perceiver can fall into the trap of saying, “I only read the Bible; I never waste my time on books written by Christians” (p.86). However, if universal truth can only be found in a single book, then, by definition, it is not universal truth.

But what if the Bible actually is the Word of God that accurately describes universal truth? In God, Theology & Cognitive Modules, I present the hypothesis that this is the case. However, I suggest that the attitude of fundamentalism will still end up warping truth and people’s concepts of God, causing people in general, and Perceiver persons in particular, to view truth in black-and-white terms, adopt an attitude of judgmentalism, and attempt to use Mercy status to overwhelm Perceiver thought. In addition, the content will be twisted to fit the attitude of fundamentalism, regardless of what the content actually says. And the end result will still be the consequences that we have just described. Thus, even if the Holy Bible contains the very utterances of the Eternal God, one will still have to abandon the attitude of fundamentalism by placing this content within the package of a general understanding.

The Fortunes advise that the Perceiver person is “sometimes too hard on himself, and needs to relax his rigid self-expectations” (p.226). This diagnosis is accurate, but I suggest that the suggested solution is counterproductive. The Perceiver person is being rigid because he is functioning under the mistaken conception that truth is based in people. He observes that other people do not submit to truth as he (usually) does, and so he feels that he needs to defend truth. However, defending truth is a contradiction in terms; truth is true regardless of whether it is defended or not. This realization will set the Perceiver person free; he does not have to defend truth, he simply needs to point it out when people stumble across it, and because true truth is universal, others will continually stumble across this truth. It is this realization of the nature of truth that makes it possible for the Perceiver person to let go and relax.

Where can one find facts that don’t depend upon people? One source is nature and natural law, and the Perceiver person does well in factual fields such as Engineering. As a child, I found a source of solid facts in the encyclopedia, and I enjoyed manipulating and creating objects with my building set. Learning about cognitive styles was a major revelation for me, because it brought solid facts to the realm of people. This does not mean that one stops learning facts from people. Because we are all finite individuals with limited knowledge, we will always have to accept people as the sources of most of our truth. However, it is essential to evaluate the truth that comes from a person not by the emotional status of that person but rather by the reliability and the expertise of the individual.

I suggest that the Bible is also a source of truth, but it is very important for the Perceiver person to understand the relationship between truth and revelation: A fact is not true because it is contained within the Bible. Rather, the Bible is true because it describes what is true. Truth is, and evidence suggests that the Bible lines up with this truth. Similarly, one should not view God’s law as absolute because it comes from the mouth of God. Rather, I suggest that one should regard God’s law as absolute because it reflects the inherent character of God. Islam teaches a doctrine of abrogation, in which God can change his mind at will. That, I suggest, describes a God of fundamentalism, in which God uses his ultimate emotional status to impose truth upon finite beings. Such a concept of God will suppress Perceiver thought, and it will lead to personal, moral, and societal bondage. However, I have come to the conclusion that the content of Christianity will encourage the development of Perceiver thought, and will lead to personal, moral, and societal freedom—if this content is not held back by the attitude of religious fundamentalism.

In summary

In summary, I am grateful to the Fortunes for having introduced so many people to the concept of motivational gifts. One can tell that their descriptions of the seven cognitive styles are based in years of careful observation, and they present many important principles that must be followed to reach mental wholeness. However, I suggest that they have gone as far as is possible while remaining within the mindset of fundamentalism. In order to go further, one must let go of the attitude of fundamentalism, and I suggest that an understanding of cognitive styles makes it possible to do this while holding onto Christian doctrine and Christian morality. However, I have discovered that if one does attempt to take motivational gifts beyond fundamentalism, then one will not sell 300,000 books. Instead, one will be rejected by most Christians for being too secular and rejected by most of objective science for being too religious. But both fundamentalism and objective science are currently struggling for their very existence under the onslaught of postmodern deconstructionism. Therefore, it is imperative to find a basis for personal existence that includes the content taught by both fundamentalism and objective science while going beyond their limitations.

[1] People tend to react strongly to the teachings of Bill Gothard. These strong emotions make it difficult to approach his material with an attitude of critical thinking. I suggest that he has some good ideas, but his thinking lacks intellectual rigor, and he promotes an attitude of blind obedience to authority.

[2] Childish identity does need to be transformed, because it is a bundle of contradictory, irrational, self-destructive impulses. However, religious self-denial only suppresses childish identity and it remains intact under the surface. Modern science suffers from a similar law because it ignores childish identity by attempting to remain objective.

[3] This does not mean that philanthropy is bad. However, as the Fortunes point out, giving should not be used as a way to compensate for personal shortcomings. When personal identity is transformed, then the Contributor person will give in order to improve his surroundings, and not just to balance his inherent selfishness through acts of financial self-denial.

[1] People tend to react strongly to the teachings of Bill Gothard. These strong emotions make it difficult to approach his material with an attitude of critical thinking. I suggest that he has some good ideas, but his thinking lacks intellectual rigor, and he promotes an attitude of blind obedience to authority.

[2] Childish identity does need to be transformed, because it is a bundle of contradictory, irrational, self-destructive impulses. However, religious self-denial only suppresses childish identity and it remains intact under the surface. Modern science suffers from a similar flaw because it ignores childish identity by attempting to remain objective.

[3] This does not mean that philanthropy is bad. However, as the Fortunes point out, giving should not be used as a way to compensate for personal shortcomings. When personal identity is transformed, then the Contributor person will give in order to improve his surroundings, and not just to balance his inherent selfishness through acts of financial self-denial.