Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Reinin Dichotomies

What are the Reinin dichotomies?

The types were initially described using four independent dichotomies0 : extraversion/introversion, rational/irrational, intuitive/sensing, and logical/ethical. Jung mentioned the first two directly; the latter two come from the fact that socionics adds a secondary function to Jung's types, and they specify which of two domains is present in the first two functions (or strengths as a whole). These four Jungian dichotomies (also known as the "Jungian basis") were heavily emphasized in the early stages of socionics, and their popularity continues, particularly in the East, despite the fact that they now coexist with a more "functional" approach based on Model A.

But Augusta introduced another dichotomy of IM elements called "static/dynamic", which also extends to the types. Elements (and types) are called static if they are 1) rational and introverted or 2) irrational and extraverted. Otherwise they are dynamic. We can visualize this by forming a grid with the two dichotomies:

The static/dynamic dichotomy comes from taking the two diagonal slices.

What Reinin realized is that you can play this game with any pair of dichotomies — and then you can do it again with the new dichotomies you get! All in all you get 2⁴ - 1 = 15 dichotomies from the original four, and we call the dichotomies you get "Reinin dichotomies".1 They (and in particular the "Questioner/Declarer" dichotomy) are alluded to in a brief statement in Augusta's seminal work "The Dual Nature of Man". She refers to them as "other, less obvious opposite qualities" but does not elaborate further.

Where's the beef?

Ok, so we have all these dichotomies, but what do they mean? This operation doesn't obviously produce meaningful categories, any more than the set of men who like ice cream and women who don't like ice cream has anything meaningful in common.

Augusta tried very hard to answer this question. She gave the dichotomies names and descriptions, and others like Gulenko also researched them later on. It seems Gulenko's names are the ones that largely stuck, and have influenced how the dichotomies tend to be interpreted now. The latest descriptions come from a 2003 study by Mironov, but they largely preserve the earlier interpretations.

Despite all these efforts, they did not succeed in producing a viable theory. Augusta emphasized that they were a work in progress2 and Reinin has also said to not take them seriously3.

They remain controversial in the Eastern community: Dmitri Lytov did a survey and asked socionists to rate different concepts in socionics based on reliability, with 5 being the highest and 1 being the lowest. While IM elements, Model A, and quadra values all scored over 4, Reinin dichotomies scored a shabby average of 2.87, with the most common response being 2.

The issues with the descriptions have been addressed to some extent by existing articles. There are three major issues:

1. Lack of clarity

In large part, the descriptions are "not even wrong", in that they can't even be made sense of or clearly applied in practice to say whether they are more right than they are wrong — instead they're some kind of mush. Take the questioner/declarer dichotomy. Do ILEs ask more questions than LIEs? Could be. But do ILEs ask more questions than IEEs? Hard to say. Do ESIs ask more questions than IEEs?? That seems just wrong.

If the description only fits 50% of the time, it may as well just be wrong. If you try to use not-even-wrong mush instead of (or along with) solid theory, you end up with a poor understanding of socionics.

2. No theoretical basis

The descriptions (as opposed to the mathematical structure) are not derived from or linked to any more reliable part of the theory, such as the strength and value function dichotomies. Caveat: when I speak about the Reinin dichotomies being unreliable, I mean the ones other than the quadra, strength, and introversion/extraversion dichotomies, since these can all be clearly explained in terms of Model A.4 Theoretically one could define other ones in terms of function dichotomies like contact/inert and evaluatory/situational, but those dichotomies seem slippery in their own right.

One of the great virtues of socionic theory is how its parts all fit together to make a coherent whole, whose different parts can be used to check each other. Most attempts to add (semantically) independent extra parts to this whole (subtypes, Reinin dichotomies, Enneagram) end up doing more harm than good.

3. Actual contradictions with the base theory

The example of "questioning/declaring" above illustrates how the Reinin dichotomies can overlap with, and therefore end up contradicting, pre-existing categories in Model A. In the end there is only a limited space of observations you can make about a person's behavior, and it's highly unlikely that you could make a coherent system of 15 dichotomies that are all equally apparent.

There are other contradictions. Lytov gives a long list in his article, but for the sake of example let's take Mironov's description of Carefree types:

“You cannot prepare for everything.”

This doesn't make any sense for LSIs, who have Ni mobilizing and therefore highly prioritize preparing for potential negative outcomes. If it's between that and “It is best to prepare in advance.” (for Farsighted types) then LSIs are definitely the latter.

Another is Aristocracy/Democracy. Supposedly Beta and Delta are the Aristocrats. Why would Deltas, types with subdued Se and Ti, be likely to see people in terms of external group membership? Per Mironov: "Hierarchy and status are frequently described as inherent to structural logic (Ti). According to our observations this is entirely false." I would say more Se than Ti, but this illustrates how the confusion of Reinin dichotomies ends up replacing the clarity of Model A, which allows identifying specific sources of behavior in the IM elements.

Another is Tactics, which is somehow supposed to describe Ni leading types (and Ni mobilizing types):
  • "they are not inclined to constantly compare their current actions with the desired end state ("goal"). The emerging goals are evaluated in accordance to how well they fit their current route (how well the goal coincides with the direction they are adhering to)."
  • "They consciously do not set goals or do it very rarely (when pressured by the circumstances). They avoid setting distant (very long-term or global) goals: "Why plan—you still need to live to that moment"."
By contrast Strategists are described as follows:
  • "Strategists, as a rule, do not fix their direction i.e. concrete actions the sequence of which leads to the goal. Thus, their "trajectory" by which they move towards fulfilling their goals can change.
  • "They assess their actions and choices from the point of view of how closer they bring them to their desired objectives (goals). Being put before a choice, they reject those options that do not bring them closer."
  • "Without having a conscious goal, Strategists feel as if something is missing and their life is incomplete. They experience discomfort and feel disoriented."
The latter makes way more sense for Ni leading types, who are more likely to commit to a single vision of the future and focus deeply on it, rather than "living in the moment" or changing their desired state frequently. They are of course "strategists" in the everyday sense of the term.

The list goes on.

The Way Forward

For all the reasons above, there is no way to justify using the Reinin dichotomies practically at this time. They aren't useful (and are in fact harmful) for typing people, and mostly not even useful for explaining behavior after the fact. Could they be useful theoretically, in the future? Could they be given definitions that make sense, even if they aren't particularly visible in practice? I think so. I myself have attempted to come up with better definitions, and there are clues which indicate that they hold an important place in the structure of socionics. But the jury is still out on what they mean.

So, while thinking about Reinin dichotomies may be a fun exercise, I also don't consider it a productive research direction. Maybe thinking about the "other" IM element and function dichotomies would be a nearer goal. In any case, the greatest success will be found in refining and deepening the existing content of the theory, rather than trying to come up with something from scratch. If you put a building on a shaky foundation, it will surely fall down.

[0] A set of traits or dichotomies is said to be independent if any combination is possible; that is, for each dichotomy we can choose either pole, or the trait being true or false.

[1] Sometimes only the derived dichotomies are called Reinin dichotomies; they are the main topic of this article.

[2] "This first hasty edition of “Theory of the Reinin Signs” is not intended for a wide circle of readers, but only for a narrow circle of socionics for the further development of theories, corrections, amendments, and improvement of terminology. It is possible that, for example, some properties of the personality type, which I attributed to any one attribute of Reinin, after verification will have to be attributed to another." (source)

[3] Mentioned at a relatively recent meeting with some Western socionists.

[4] Even the descriptions given for the two quadra value dichotomies (Merry/Serious and Reasonable/Resolute) in the Reinin studies are questionable, as they don't seem to rely on any conventional understanding of valued functions. Mironov says that according to Objectivists (i.e. Te valuers) "there exist rules and guidelines that are "true in general" and "always correct"." This is the exact opposite of what an understanding of Model A gives: Te valuers have subdued Ti and thus tend to be skeptical of universal rules.

Although rationality and static/dynamic (as well as their correlates accepting/producing and mental/vital) are considered important in the classical theory, I find them (maybe) applicable in a post hoc way at best; i.e., I don't use them for typing people.