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Friday, Mar. 20, 2009 at 9:08 am

Personality Secrets of American Idol’s Judges

By Jeff Sexton
March 20th, 2009

Is American Idol’s newest judge an attempt to cover all 4 temperaments and create the natural dynamic that comes with that?

According to the American Idol Website:

“We had originally intended for American Idol to have four judges,” said executive producer Cecile Frot-Coutaz. “We’ve seen from our international series that having a fourth judge creates a dynamic that benefits both the contestants and the viewers.”

Of course, this just means they wanted 4 judges, and not necessarily that they wanted the judges to line up with the 4 temperaments.  But when you look at the roles and personalities of the judges, the overlay with the temperaments is intriguing.

Simon Cowell is the NT/Competitive/Rational. He’s very much to the point and focused on the bottom line.  Speaking the truth is more important than sparing a contestant’s feelings.  Simon thoroughly embodies the rational/thinking approach to judging vs. Paula’s feeling and empathy-heavy perspective.

Paula is certainly an NF. She’s concerned with the performer’s feelings.  She wants to empathize with their situation.  She wants to be as inclusive as possible, and she sees no reason to put too fine a point on negative feedback.  She often finds Simon to be deliberately cruel.

Randy is high Sensing and more than likely an SP/Spontaneous/Artisan. Randy almost always comments on how the singer actually sounded.  He frequently comments on “pitch problems” or the dynamic range of the song/vocalist.  And he’s also most likely to comment on how the song made him feel, not in a Paula/introspective way, but in a “that was hot” or a “it was just kind of alright for me” way.  This is Spontaneous speak – very in the moment and sensing.

And that leaves one temperament missing.

Enter Kara DiaGuardi.  Now I haven’t watched as much of this season and have seen precious little of Kara, so this is purely speculative and tentative, but here’s what makes me think that Kara’s probably a Methodical:

  • In her video interview on the American Idol website, she consistently emphasized her operational experience within the music industry.  She knows how things get done on a day to day basis. She knows the procedures all the way from conceiving and writing a song, to finding the talent to sing it, to recording it, producing the album, and finally promoting it.  She knows what works.
  • Operations is very much the realm of SJs. They’re the people who get things done and carry out the vast majority of the day-to-day management of the world.  Kiersey refers to them as Guardians, Supervisors, and Administrators.  Kara seems to fit this mold rather well.
  • She is Sensing in some of the ways that Randy is, but far more Thinking/Technical in her comments.  While Randy talks about Pitch problems, Kara can not only speak to the technical aspects of singing but demonstrate them as well.  She’ll also go past “that was hot” type comments, drawing on her recording experience to talk about what would or would not “work.”
  • And for Kara, as for many Methodicals, what works is credibility – did the performers technical virtuosity allow them to properly emote.  Was the performance believable?  Kara is the first judge to criticize a performer for an uncommitted performance.
  • Kara comes off as more definitive and judging than Randy or Paula.  As Rob Salem of the Toronto star put it, she’s “more substantially authoritative than Randy.”  In other words, Kara’s more cut and dry than randy, more factual, more black and white.  And she also comes off as far more level-headed than Paula (though that’s admittedly not that hard to do).  This is what one might expect from a Judging preference (vs. Randy’s Perceiving preference).
  • Finally, Kara sensibilities regarding what’s appropriate seem a bit more defined and fiercely protected than with the other judges.  Methodicals are often Guardians of cultural norms.  Want to see this in action?  Just watch Kara’s reaction in this video.

So there you have it.  Obviously, it’s early in the season and my assertions are purely speculative about Kara, but I’d say it’s no accident that Kara’s stage persona has so far shaped up to fill the missing temperament from the Randy-Paula-Simon trio.

Hat top to Mark Fox for asking me this question and sparking the idea for the article.

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Comments (16)

  1. I love Kara!

  2. [...] Random Feed wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptIs American Idol’s newest judge an attempt to cover all 4 temperaments and create the natural dynamic that comes with that? According to the American Idol Website : “We had originally intended for American Idol to have four judges,” said executive producer Cecile Frot-Coutaz. “We’ve seen from our international series that having a fourth judge creates a dynamic that benefits both the contestants and the viewers.” Of course, this just means they wanted 4 judges, and not necessarily tha [...]

  3. So check it out Jeff, this blog was just kinda OK for me dog, not one of your best, but you made it your own :)

  4. [...] 22, 2009 by Karen So I hadn’t thought about it, but someone has suggested that the addition of Kara to the Idol panel was about ensuring that all four temperaments were covered.  (I didn’t realize that slutty and unhelpful was the missing key to a show that was already [...]

  5. Idols is a Dutch product from John the Mol. Just like Big Brother people talk about it. No matter who wins, its just fun.

  6. And all along I just thought Paula was a drunk and Simon was an a-hole… Dawg, pitch on, just not enough tang in the oj bro.

  7. Jeff, I wonder if that was necessary since the dominant temperament of America is SJ. They’ve actually been the 4th judge all along. Interesting analysis though.

  8. Intriguing thought, Manley,

    The Audience has been the 4th Judge, and there is a enough of an SJ slant to our culture and population to make your generalization plausible. That’s probably why the 3 judges alone has worked so well to date.

    But apart from the stage audience booing Simon, the wider audience simple doesn’t interact with the other judges during the show. I think the producers were looking for a dynamic to evolve between the judges that would have all 4 temperaments represented (and voiced) at the judges table.

    - Jeff

  9. I learned through the Wizard about the 4 Gospels, and the Star Trek characters, but this is brilliant.

  10. [...] How many people craft different blog posts tackling the same subject from different angles and designed to appeal to different Temperaments? [...]

  11. [...] How many people craft different blog posts tackling the same subject from different angles and designed to appeal to different… [...]

  12. How about Ryan Seacrest the host? What can you say about him?

  13. I’m not impressed with the 4th judge idea. 3 was perfect, 4 is too much. And I agree that Seacrest has an impact as well with his own personality.

  14. That’s great.

  15. i love this blog!! so ilike this blog!! thanks you very much!!

  16. That’s great. [Health & Fitness]

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Jeff is a Persuasion Architect, Web copywriter, blogger, and instructor of FutureNow's Persuasive Online Copywriting workshop. Follow Jeff Sexton on twitter

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