Sunday, December 13, 2020

Typing Video: Laura #2

Laura works in a caregiving role. She enjoys helping people in a hands-on way, including her own child, disabled children, the elderly, and the mentally ill. She wanted to do nursing for this reason but didn't find it to be hands-on enough. This clearly speaks to strong and likely valued Si, as does her interest in beautifying her environment, making it look "homely", and her own appearance ("girly girl", "quirky prints").

She says she just wanted to help people and fell into her current job - she didn't and does not have any grand life plan. "I just do things as they come along, don't have any concrete plans, just want to be happy." She basically just wants to finish her degree and get a higher paying job - most of her goals are prefixed with "maybe". All this confirms that the strong and valued Si is paired with weak and subdued Ni as Model A predicts.

Laura is a very positive person. She expresses the generic value that you should be nice to people, and "be a friendly face". You don't have to do "really grand, fancy heroic acts to change the world, it's these little things like just being nice to somebody and restoring their faith that people out there are nice... and the world is good in a lot of ways." So a recurring theme here is her way of lifting people's emotional states to a more positive one through mundane acts such as being nice or helping them with their immediate needs. In other words, she is all about Fe+Si, as opposed to Te+Si which is more concerned with impersonally managing everyday activities to make them run better. One may also contrast it with Fe+Ni which can in fact be concerned with "grand" acts that inspire people and energize their emotional state by showing them a greater purpose. (And Te+Ni is of course the complete opposite, as described in her attitude towards the business question: "would be a shit businesswoman".)

Laura's positivity is clear throughout the video: she is not unable to express dissatisfaction but she tends to sugarcoat the truth and focus on the silver lining. She cannot think of anything negative to say about her friends, for example, and of her family says only "we don't have a lot in common." She describes herself as friendly and cheerful, a people person.

She has a lenient attitude with people, has no strict criteria for friends other than "extreme stuff" like racism. She gets annoyed with overly direct people who "say it how it is". This is another manifestation of Si values, and rejection of the intensity of Se. The lack of judgment may suggest low priority on Fi and/or Ti.

Laura does show bouts of anger or harshness, such as with her criticism of her sister's partner when he wasn't helping her sister when she got hurt. While she did bluntly tell him "what's what", again it stems from her motivation to help and protect people. Despite this she seems to feel guilty for getting angry and limits her expression to avoid jeopardizing her relationship with her sister.

It's also notable that Laura wants to be the helper and not the one helped, in fact she has difficulty asking for help.

So far it is absolutely clear that Laura is an Alpha SF - but what about ESE or SEI? Let's look for some clues.

Being an emotional person, Laura sometimes becomes overwhelmed with her emotions: getting stressed, gets things out of perspective easily. This seems somewhat more typical of ESEs, who are generally more in emotional flux than SEIs, and therefore benefit more from the level-headed nature of Ti leading types. But it's still not a strong indicator.

A few other observations:

  • puts herself down, low self-esteem - this is more likely to be expressed by SEIs who have low Ne and therefore are less able to recognize their own potential or positive things the future might hold.
  • difficulty wording things - this would be weak Ti, so more likely of ESEs who have cautious Ti than SEIs with bold mobilizing Ti.
  • cares too much what people think - Fe, so slightly more likely for ESE.
  • dislikes boring, mundane stuff - not an unusual sentiment, though probably many people would consider the things she does as being rather mundane (such as childcare). She probably means boring in the sense of not providing emotional stimulation.
  • has been told that she talks too much, "calm down" - sounds more ESE.
  • cries when she is attacked or put in a conflict situation - lower Se so more SEI
  • doesn't normally get stuck in a rut - likely higher Ne and Se, so more ESE.
  • quite shy as a child, frightened all the time - more SEI.

So there are points here that could go either way.

But perhaps most importantly, Laura describes herself as busy and hardworking: she is a mother, she has a day job, goes to school, and writes on the side. She used to go out with her child every day (!) doing a variety of fun activities. She says that if she doesn't have things to do then she feels restless or bored. She dislikes waiting. Moreover she's determined, bossy with the house, and was frustrated and impatient with illness - "just have to sit on my ass and wait for it to be over." If she won the lottery, she would probably still work - she couldn't just do nothing.

These observations, drawn from various points in the video, portray a very energetic, busy person who doesn't like to just chill and do nothing. That is what leads me to prefer ESE, which has bold Se-8, to SEI which has cautious and not very prominent Se-7, and therefore greater contentment with inaction (rest).

Maybe the most problematic points here are her attitude towards conflict and how she describes herself as a child. An ESE being frightened all the time? Maybe not so likely. She says that she cries when put in a conflict situation, yet she also gave a very specific example where she confronted someone directly and forcefully, apparently without any hesitation (at least in the moment). People can also display contradictory behavior as children so I am not so concerned with that. (Elvis was also described as shy and introverted as a child, but he is universally agreed to be SEE.)

A final point about anxiety. Laura describes herself as anxious and worrisome. Part of this seems type-related and part not. Women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorders. I've seen this in a variety of types - for example LSI women tend to be far more neurotic than LSI men, who are more likely to come across as "stony" or stable people. On the type front, one might link anxiety to Ni, since it stems from awareness of the possibility of something going wrong. Ni valuing introverts do tend to be more anxious in general. But, worrying is not uncommon in ESEs either (again, more typically in ESE females), so maybe it's also about simple emotional excitability, or the blocking Fe+Ni together.

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Saturday, August 22, 2020

Typing Video: Jen


Jen has been in the community a long time, and I typed her many years ago. My conclusion remains the same. But this video presents a self-contained and somewhat clearer view of her type than previous ones.

Jen talks a lot about her professional life and how she feels about different aspects of it. She expresses some regret at not having gone after her career ambitions. Her interests are not pragmatic by default, but she seems to have adapted to her new role well.

Jen is a sensitive person who easily takes things personally, and speaks very frankly about her feelings and her relationships. She talks at length about her family members and how they are. She also talks at length about what things she likes. All this suggests higher Fi, and along with the issues and neuroses she faces in her professional life, likely 4D Fi with 1D Te.

Her attitude towards conflict and general soft attitude suggests weaker Se, and that she almost certainly isn't an Se triad type. She is non-judgmental way, and "open-minded to a fault" - preferring to internalize conflict and blame herself rather than others. IEI could maybe superficially work with how she seems to live in her imagination much of the time, but other evidence points quite strongly to Ne values, such as enjoying finding innovative new ways to do her job and being (maybe excessively) open to new information. She is also highly avoidant of conflict and wishes people would be more understanding.

Overall her soft, open-minded nature suggests an Si valuing introvert, which along with the high Fi means either EII or SEI. These are in fact the two main types that have been contested for Jen in the past. How can we decide between them?

One can interpret Jen's career woes as a lack of ambition with respect to future prospects (suggesting lower Ne / higher Si), however this does not seem right given how she explains it. Rather it seems that she had high ambitions, yet lacked confidence in making them real, or taking the right practical steps involved. There are maybe other points that suggest SEI, like putting others' needs above her own, and her interest in drama and singing.

But EII seems to fit the best for several reasons. Jen has lacked confidence to an almost pathological degree — though she does notice this and has been working on it — suggesting Se-4 more than Se-7, as do her lack of discipline in writing and "wishy-washiness". Practical career development is a sometimes painful, yet rewarding area for her, in a way that makes perfect sense for suggestive Te paired with Si. She enjoys getting better at her role and learning whatever is required, despite it not being her dream job. SEIs, with suggestive Ne, are not really proactive when it comes to learning new skills and branching out, and arguably would get bored by the purely practical things she is learning. She also says it's enough to "do your best" at work ("putting in elbow work"), and it doesn't have to be perfect as long as you have good intentions. This is in contrast to the perfectionistic attitude sometimes linked to Ti.

Jen has an active imagination and enjoys fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, but also reading nonfictional guides about her interests - folklore, history, animals. There is Ni in how she immerses herself in fictional worlds, yet it is tempered by learning factoids about the real world (more Ne). Her "sympathy for the devil" attitude is a canonical expression of NeFi — to paraphrase her words: "someone may do something horrible but you have to see them as a human and think of what's led them to be this way, and feel sorry for them". She tries to always "do the right thing", a common-sense approach to morality; she does not elaborate any abstract principles whether in relation to politics, religion, or personal values.

While Jen can be silly and joke around with family members, this seems limited to people she already knows well, and is not at all unusual for ignoring Fe (paired with Ne-2 which is attuned to creative generation of possibilities (creative in the sense of novelty, not the creative function)).

Her boss says that she is innovative and not fazed by changes, though Jen herself questions whether this is true. Her Ne is maybe more subdued than normal for the creative function, but in certain cases the creative function can be difficult to see or even be perceived as a weakness by the person himself. 

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Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Presence Cube

Recently I discovered a new model that is more meaningful than previous models we've discussed.

Any cube model requires three basic traits. The classical Model A cube uses mental/vital, valued/subdued, and evaluatory/situational. The issue is, other than valued/subdued, these dichotomies are not visible in practice. The other variations on the cube all depend on unobservable dichotomies like this.

The most visible traits ⁠in Model A are strength, values, and boldness ⁠— the presence traits. If we use the presence traits as the basis we get the presence cube:

The presence cube for IEI (image credit: Andrew Joynton)

It turns out that this cube gives some very interesting results. We can directly see dimensionality as a projection of the cube onto a certain axis. And there is a directly complementary projection which I call Priority, which defines the most preferred functions in practice: functions 1 and 6, then 2 and 5, then 3 and 8, then 4 and 7. The leading and mobilizing function (the 4P functions) tend to be very visible in someone's preferences, while the suggestive function and creative function are less visible as values due to being cautious (somewhat related to triads). The demonstrative function and role function are similarly used somewhat more due to being bold, although maybe not clearly less than the suggestive function. The 4P and 1P ends do seem to be clear in practice though, much like 4D and 1D functions — so we can think of them as trichotomies, with two extremes and one ambiguous middle region. The middle functions can in fact be lined up by rotating the cube appropriately. So we have two trichotomies and three dichotomies.

The presence cube viewed according to the Priority trichotomy for "Strategic Democrat" types: LIIs and SEIs prioritize Si and Ti and LIEs and SEEs prioritize Se and Te.

The trichotomy for values is linked to the inert/contact (aka stubborn/flexible) dichotomy: the functions at the extremes are stubborn, as their priority does not change easily, and the functions in the middle are flexible: if you rotate the cube slightly the 2nd and 5th functions may fall below the 8th and 3rd ones in priority. Likewise for the evaluatory/situational dichotomy which has the most extreme strengths and weaknesses (4D + 1D functions) on one end, and the medium ones on the other.

The vertical axis in the diagram is sort of a combination of dimensionality and priority, the sum of all three traits which we may call Level of presence, so we get 1L, 2L, 3L, 4L, with the leading function being at the top as the sole 4L function. This roughly describes how much each function is present in someone's cognition and behavior. The 3L functions are the producing functions which are all directly connected with the leading function in some way. The connection the 1st function has with the 4th function is "severed" or veiled.

The LII cube, labeled

The main issue with the presence model is that there is a separate cube for Democrats and Aristocrats (in the Reinin dichotomy sense):

You can reflect the cube in any way to get all the other types with the same Democracy/Aristocracy trait, i.e. either the same quadra or opposite quadra. Rotations are actually unnecessary here; we have 2x2x2 = 8 transformations coming from each reflection / inversion of a trait.

If you project directly onto one of the faces, then you pair elements either as the standard blockings for the given quadras (ignoring boldness), or with one of their "skew blockings" along the benefit ring, ignoring either strength or value. These represent the most common element pairs that we see in practice, since typically rational elements work with irrational ones and vice versa.

The presence cube ties together some fundamental observations from socionics practice and is another significant step towards a meaningful, mathematical model of socionics.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Typing Video: Vision

Today we are typing "Vision". This is obviously a pseudonym, and one which already tells you something about him. A recurring theme is his vision for the future, which he has thought about in quite a lot of detail (I followed up with him to make sure of this). This suggests an Ni triad type, seeing as his long-term plans are a conscious part of what is important to him (rather than an unconscious part as the suggestive function often is).

But what is his vision? The main part of it concerns him and his family, rather than realizing some larger vision for society. This would suggest Gamma rather than Beta. Vision places a lot of importance on relationships: someone who is there to "have your back" in facing the world and going through rough times (so, more SeFi than NeFi). He is willing to cut people off when called for, a typical Gamma (FiSe) sentiment. He isn't against being friends with people who have different beliefs as long as they support him and his goals — a pragmatic approach that suggests lower priority Ti and maybe higher Ne as well. He occasionally uses harsh language at other points to describe people who have done him some kind of wrong. "Get over it buttercup" — Gammas are quick to emphasize personal responsibility when things go wrong.

Vision has difficulty thinking of weaknesses and things he needs help with. This is very unusual and suggests maybe higher Ne and possibly Te. The one that he does mention is a lack of trusting others — again a typical Gamma trait (Ni + Fi), though not a weakness in the Model A sense. His strengths include farsightedness and tenacity: never giving up, eventually succeeding even if he fails multiple times. This suggests some access to both Se and Ni, so likely not Ni leading.

Beyond the responses to the questions, it's worth noting that Vision proceeds quickly, even impatiently, through the questionnaire, often giving brief answers when he feels like it. Most people choose to use the full time allotted, whether because they want to get their money's worth or because they enjoy talking about themselves. His affect is bright and positive, suggesting higher Fe. He describes being "needlessly enthusiastic" and social around strangers which suggests bold and possibly weak Fe. All in all it's very difficult to see Vision as an introvert and especially an introverted Gamma.

What he dislikes in people is essentially the opposite of his own long-term thinking, which he describes as hedonism. He doesn't care for simply "enjoying" himself mostly, he would rather "use [his] youth effectively]" and "get power at the right time". While hedonism can be related to either Se or Si, in this case it is clearly about Si (+ Fe), in opposition to Se and Ni.

If it wasn't clear yet, the most obvious typing for Vision is LIE — the only type with bold and valued Se, valued Fi, and strong Ni. TeNi is further supported by his enthusiastic response to the "starting a business" question. And not only does he seem to have thought about starting a business before, for the lottery question he offers a breakdown with specific numbers (!). For the business he would do the "elbow grease" at first but eventually transfer the day-to-day management to someone else, and possibly sell it, suggesting a disinterest in Si. It's also notable how he doesn't have a strong preference about what type of business to start, focusing instead on capitalizing on whatever economic opportunity exists, e.g. selling hand sanitizer for the COVID pandemic. (Financial) autonomy comes up here, a common Gamma theme. He describes jumping into the stock market as a significant step in his life, where he took a risk despite the naysayers.

Even though Vision mostly seems to be a clear LIE, it's worth considering possible alternatives. The main ones that come to mind are EIE and SEE. He is unusually frank on the topic of relationships, suggesting maybe higher Fi. But SEE doesn't really work for multiple reasons: his focus on the future, just walking around and thinking while on vacation, being seen as a cool-headed person, etc.

As for EIE: He has no shortage of large-scale judgments about society or "this culture", and does wax romantic sometimes — even the name "Vision" is arguably a bit dramatized. But it's hard to see an EIE emphasizing personal loyalty and character judgment to such a degree, not to mention the economic focus. He also does criticize people for being overly autonomous, for not caring about others — despite his own emphasis on autonomy. But I'm prone to viewing this kind of social responsibility as simply a more mature, self-reflective Gamma outlook. And he doesn't care about, or even like, getting attention either.

Vision's attitude towards conflict is maybe unusually restrained for an LIE — he says he generally walks away from it, and doesn't get angry much in general. (But he contradicts this somewhat by saying that he would have gotten in a lot of trouble at high school.) It doesn't contradict the overall picture of Se valuing extrovert, but it's probably more likely for an Fi valuer, and someone with greater Ni. So it would suggest EIE and SEE even less so.

Vision, more than most people, fits the classical idea of the LIE's "unbridled optimism". He has no shortage of Ne: the purpose of life is "to make something better". But other LIEs are much more negative and skeptical, which is why I find the classical descriptions misleading. Nonetheless most would likely agree with his principle: "I live my life so I don't regret things.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Typing Video: Micah

In this video Micah takes an unusual approach to the questionnaire. Many people have asked me whether they could write out notes beforehand. I prefer that they don't because this affects the spontaneity of the answers. It's my fault for not adding this to the instructions earlier, but the point is that Micah wrote some notes because he felt that his self-presentation would not be what he would like it to be if he were to just answer off the cuff. This suggests attention to Fe and in particular Fe with Ni. It is framed as a question about accuracy but the psychological motivation seems to be about what is expressed externally.

In fact Micah has an extremely consistent emphasis on Fe and Ni throughout the video. His main professional interest is in storytelling, a common NiFe theme. He is attracted to stories, literature, everything mythical and symbolic. He focuses on writing now but also liked the "energy" of the theater. Stories for him are a way to travel through a world that you have not directly experienced, a kind of escapism. This is a common theme with Ni ego types, including Gamma NTs, who are often found creating or consuming speculative fiction.

He enjoys the emotional aspect of stories; it's important for him to impact someone emotionally with his writing and he is attracted to stories that have an emotional impact on him. This impact can be negative but is usually positive. (more Fe with Ni)

Even more striking is Micah's statement that art is not "completed" until someone experiences it and emotionally reacts to it. This is an attitude that not many people would find relatable, let alone express it themselves - unless they had high Fe. Along similar lines: "art is a social concept", the audience "gives their energy" (8:57). If art stands still, or has no audience, then it's not alive. All Fe with Ni. Micah notes that this doesn't mean he just writes what people want to hear, but the idea of someone getting excited about it drives him to create.

Micah occasionally uses lofty, dramatic language - people are "concepts", the most "worthy" things to study in the creation - as opposed to God, the creator. Every great writer is a "philosopher" - that is, they give some kind of deep commentary on the nature of life. He naturally views things in terms of the large-scale of society - the idea of authenticity being "very cliche in today's age", "just the culture we live in". It's very common for Beta NFs to want to make some social commentary with their art.

Occasionally some Se comes forward too: putting on a happy face at work is a "battle thing", "tactics" - "won't be at a disadvantage", "can influence them".

Ti values can be seen in the emphasis on fairness, treating everybody equally, and the analysis of belief systems like religion. Micah sees it as "lazy, cowardly" to not broaden your understanding by thinking about your religion. He values "intellectual bravery" in considering different perspectives (Ne), but although he is good at doing it, he would prefer to "clear out the nonsense", going back to valued Ni.

Micah views his relationships in terms of external emotional cues (Fe), and needs to have shared interests to talk about, things he is passionate about (also Fe). He would need them to give positive reactions, or the "right" reactions to his writing, especially in the context of a romantic relationship.

Respect is important to Micah. In context it seems like this is coming from Se: "I want this respect". He finds it disrespectful to be dismissive or interrupted, which can make him angry and lash out. However he sometimes does not express the anger outwardly and may just leave.

Micah describes having difficulty finishing things, likely due to lower Se, which is involved with willpower and self-discipline. However he also becomes hyperfocused about certain things - "have tons of energy but I don't use it productively". This may suggest somewhat higher Se (with low Te), such as Se mobilizing.

Weak Ti is also apparent in his difficulty structuring times, such as a plan for the day.

The disinterest/annoyance with dealing with mundane things such as replacing shoes is an example of subdued and weak SiTe.

Now, all of this makes Beta NF likely, but when it comes to EIE vs. IEI the evidence is less clear. Micah seems more like a classic introvert: he keeps to himself, doesn't display a lot of emotion externally, and most of his interests involve him being by himself, taking in information.

But looking at things functionally, we see something else:

For Te: Micah doesn't seem totally averse to evaluating his career path in terms of usefulness. He would be interested in starting a business, and considers whether it would be financially successful (maybe due to some awareness of typology here).

For Fe: He describes himself as an attention seeker and is very sensitive to how he's perceived. He views relationships purely in terms of the external cues, and is unsure of how they are "under the surface", suggesting ignoring Fi rather than demonstrative Fi. It's also a bit odd for an IEI to be so extremely focused on the reaction to their work - normally I'd expect them to describe at least some internal motivation for it. (Not that Micah doesn't have one, but it's not described in any detail.) He also describes difficulty in structuring his time, needing external help with it.

For Se: Maybe the most striking piece of evidence for EIE is when Micah says that he has "tons of energy". IEI is a type with low Se and are more likely to feel a deficit of energy if anything. (There may be exceptions to this such as Alexander Grothendieck, who was sort of a workaholic, but they seem rare.) He also describes demanding respect in his interactions as noted.

For Ne: Here his discussion of examining one's views comes to mind, as well as his interests in crime, typology, and tying things back to his interests in creative ways.

Overall this video suggests EIE, with bold extroverted elements, but IEI is not out of the question. Micah eschews physical appearance, which may suggest lower Se (maybe less so in men), and despite having lots of energy he has issues with willpower and self-discipline. He says comfort is his "drug" but it's hard to see whether this is more about his self-perception or whether it actually stands out as a quality in his life. His attitude towards conflict is also maybe more subdued than normal for an EIE - more "freeze" than "fight".

I also followed up with Micah after watching the video, but I find the evidence presented here is more clear. Micah is active in the typology community so hopefully his type will become clearer over time.

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Saturday, February 29, 2020

Symmetry Breaking

It's common knowledge that Socionics is a "Ti system." That is to say, Model A and the socion itself are very beautiful, symmetric systems that are, apparently, all-encompassing. This is all well and good, but the theory is also severely imbalanced in this way. It needs to be Te too, not just Ti.

What is a symmetry? It's some kind of change or process that leaves a system looking the same as when you started. Essentially, it's "a change that's not a change". If that sounds like a paradox, it's because it is.

The classic example of symmetry is rotations of a shape: if you rotate a square by 90° it will look the same as when you started — as long as the different parts of the square have no other distinguishing features (such as the numbers in the picture below). It won't be deformed or broken, and will occupy the exact same location in space.

image from

But the right side of the square cannot literally be the exact same as the left side, otherwise it wouldn't have four sides, it would have at most three. If the parts of the square weren't separate and distinct we couldn't even recognize a process as different from doing nothing — except maybe by looking at intermediate states of the rotation, to see that yes, the square is moving from one place to another. In other words, the parts have distinct identities. But in reality identities are only distinguished by observable properties — by Leibniz's identity of indiscernibles, two different things must differ on some property.

The same is true of Model A: EIIs and SLEs are "the same" by virtue of being socionic types, which have strengths, weaknesses, values, etc. described in terms of the same functions and IM elements, but they clearly don't have the same thinking and behavior. If all the types were the same then socionics wouldn't be very interesting. In fact they wouldn't even be types, as everyone would be the same.

Of course socionics acknowledges these differences already — in type descriptions the differences are described, albeit often not very well, or using overly-specific examples drawn from the author's own limited and potentially flawed observations of the type. The real issue is that the differences are not explicit in the theory. There is a mathematical structure describing precisely how the relationships and functions fit together, but there is no mathematical description of, e.g. what makes Te different from Ti. This means that anyone and everyone can come up with their own definitions and say that they're right. Certain ones may fit together better and describe reality better, but good luck trying to convince anyone else to change their minds. So we have a community which is becoming ever-more fractured in its theoretical foundations, with any number of baseless hypotheses being accepted as fact, and passed off as legitimate theory to unwitting beginners.

But in fact there are beginnings of such a mathematical description, partially described right here on this blog. The elements are described by explicit geometric properties like extension (extroversion) and limitation (introversion). A distinct hierarchy emerges: the irrational elements are more fundamental and "wider" ontologically than the rational elements. Irrationality deals with direct apprehension, both physical (the senses) and mental (the imagination and memory). In other words irrationality is prelinguistic while rationality is linguistic. But rationality can be seen as the culmination of the system (and the intellect it describes), and perhaps gives it a greater degree of closure. All of the IM elements are good without a doubt in their own way, but they do play different roles and some are preferred over others in particular contexts.

As mentioned in another article, the contrary elements (Ne and Ni, Se and Si, etc.) are in fact the same information but opposite "vectors" or preferences within it. The dual elements are different, seemingly alien perspectives on the same reality, and our duals open us up to this perspective. The superego elements are arguably the "most opposite" from a higher perspective, but they share certain deceptive similarities and are "far apart" enough that contrary elements will conflict more readily. Conflicting elements can be reconciled in the long-term view but they certainly conflict in the here-and-now, as opposite states or choices (which produce said states).

That's roughly how it goes for IM elements. What about types? One benefit of 16-function models is that they identify types with IM elements, and therefore also functions with relationships. "Introverted socionics" further identifies types with relationships. Taken together, they will theoretically unite the basic elements of socionics into one fundamental reality, which manifests itself in different forms. It just so happens that IM elements are at the forefront of what we can describe in detail, because they are what we actually observe (i.e., information). So if you want to understand socionics, understand the IM elements.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Types are not boxes!

People sometimes object to socionics or typology in general, thinking that having a type limits you to being in a particular "box". First of all, typology is not prescriptive: it only claims to describe differences that are already there. Assuming that you're typed correctly, it's just a new kind of knowledge about yourself, not a new law that you have to follow. Surely if you had, say, a disease or a special talent you would want to know about it, right? Then you could seek out a cure for the disease, or actualize the talent and use it for good. Going to the doctor doesn't make you sick, it just tells you if/how you are sick — or in the words of Tupac, "I didn't create thug life, I diagnosed it."

But socionics does one better: Model A essentially says that we have all of the types within us, all of their basic functions and skills (as the eight IM elements) — only differing levels of access to them, with some being easier to use and others harder or more difficult to keep up. The leading function is "you", but it's merely the baseline state — you can "fake" being another type for a limited period of time, and in a sense we do this all the time when we use our other functions.
(from Wikimedia)

It's like the idea of a harmonic oscillator from physics. One example of a harmonic oscillator is a mass at the end of a spring: it has a normal state where it extends out a certain distance X. You can stretch it to extend beyond X, but if you let go it will contract, oscillating until it gets back to the equilibrium point X. Similarly you can compress it to a smaller distance than X, but it takes work. So the leading function is like the distance X, with other functions being closer or further from that equilibrium (and particularly the bold functions will be closer to it).

The functional, fractal (self-similar) nature of Model A — touched on but not elaborated by Jung — is so popular that other typologies are now adopting it: Beebe's 8-function model for MBTI, and tritype for Enneagram where people speak of "my 9 [fix]" as if it were an aspect of their personality, like the Model A functions.

Comparison Typing

Socionics has only 16 types, but clearly there are more than 16 kinds of people. Each sociotype therefore has to contain a wide variety of people, so as to cover approximately 6% of the world's population.

Socionics enthusiasts sometimes use "comparison typing", i.e. typing others based on comparison with other, already-typed examples. So if your brother is IEE you might determine whether others are IEE based on whether they are similar to him, whether they have a similar energy level, interests, level of skepticism, etc.

To some extent this is unavoidable and actually beneficial: comparing with known examples is a quick and easy way to type. BUT, it should only be used positively: if someone is similar to a known example then they are likely to be the same type. But if they are dissimilar then they may simply be a variant of the type that you haven't seen yet. If you are relatively inexperienced in socionics then the probability of this is higher — but no socionist can assume that they've seen all variants of the types.

Secondly, even when you do comparison-type, you should always attempt to describe clearly what similarities you're seeing, and how they're related to socionics. Not all similarities are related to socionics, and in fact, energy level and interests vary widely within types. If you don't give a theoretical explanation then you're essentially building your own idiosyncratic typology, which is probably going to be less coherent than Model A, not to mention impossible to discuss with other socionists.

Negative Typing

A more subtle issue is when there is not an explicit comparison, but when someone types based on what is absent from a person rather than what is present. This is again negative typing, and generally speaking not the right way to type. It can trip up beginners even when they have a solid understanding of the theory.

For example, "mobilizing Se wants to look fierce, [but he doesn't]". This is based on a specific attribute that the typer associates with mobilizing Se.

This is an argument based on what is not there, not on what is there. It's essentially appealing to comparison with known examples. You may not know any mobilizing-Se types who don't want to look fierce, but that doesn't mean that they don't exist.

If you use a general trait that really does get close to the essence of mobilizing Se (such as restlessness or desire for impact), then it would be valid to use negatively. But this example seems too specific for that. It would be better to look at what is present, and see what that says about the subject's relation to Se, where it would best fit in their Model A.


People often complain about "stereotypes". But stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason — they just shouldn't be used negatively, to exclude people from a type. For example, if someone greatly enjoys participating in the performing arts then it's evidence towards being EIE, or some type with high Fe. But clearly the majority of EIEs are not performing artists, and no one in their right mind would say "he's not an actor, so he's not EIE". And if you dig deeper, of course you might find the performer is not really motivated by the emotional interaction he's having on the audience, but something else. Maybe he got into the field by accident (like Harrison Ford). But this is less likely, because performance is closely tied with Fe.

Appendix: Converse Error and Bayesian Reasoning

Now, a bit of math!

Converse error is a logical fallacy: if A implies B, it doesn't necessarily mean that B implies A. This is essentially why negative typing doesn't work. But socionics is empirical (although not quantitative), so rarely do we have strict implications going from observation to type. As mentioned above, just as not every EIE is a performer, not every performer is EIE even though it's more likely for them to be EIE than SLI.

Technically the right framework to use is Bayesian inference, which tells us how to update probabilities using observation. We start by assuming a roughly equal probability for any typing to be correct. If the person to be typed is in a community that skews a certain way type-wise, then you might not assign equal probabilities. Or if you believe that the type distribution is heavily skewed (which I don't).

Anyways, the formula goes like this:

Here P(X) means the probability of X, H means the hypothesis (the typing in question, e.g. EIE), and E is the evidence (the subject in question being a performer).

Let's rewrite the formula using the example:

Now suppose

Then we get

In other words: if 2% of the general population are performers, and 4% of EIEs are performers, then we'll double our probability of the subject being EIE, to being 1/8 = 12.5%. And if three times as many EIEs are performers as everyone else, then we'll triple it, to get 18.75%. So the small percentage 4% becomes significant when considered relative to the other types. 12.5% is still somewhat low, but if we have many pieces of evidence like this we can form a good case.

Of course, it's typically very hard to assign exact probabilities to a claim — in life in general, much less in the notoriously ambiguous field of socionics diagnostics, where you may not even be sure what you think. Nevertheless, the general principle still applies.

So, no more criticizing stereotypes! Negative arguments and comparison typing are the real issue.