Dec 17, 2006

Do Socionists Diagnose Type Using Photos Alone?

Recently a newcomer to socionics posted at the16types forum asking for "VI help" (i.e. visual identification):

Hi, I'm new here. Can you guys help me identify the type of my classmates at my university? Because if she is what I think she is, then it's very good for both of us. Her picture is my avatar.
The avatar was small, black and white, and had a nondescript picture of a girl smiling playfully. Forum members quickly responded by saying that it didn't provide enough information:

It really is not easy to know or even have a good guess at a person's type without actually meeting them in person. You should actually know or have a better [idea] than we could about her type.

V.I. is helpful, but that alone is not enough. Maybe if you give us a little bit of information about her choice of words, physical gestures, or other habits.

After other forum members also asked for additional information, the poster replied:
Please excuse my ignorance, but why must you need more information? Shouldn't the photograph alone be sufficient? After all, isn't VI "the fastest and most reliable method of Type identification of today"? What about the "brick in the sack" analogy on
I'm not writing this to make fun of the poster's ignorance, but rather to address the common misconceptions about socionics typing that come from and a number of other sources on the Internet. At these sites you get the impression that facial features are decisive factors in identifying socionic type, and that a few photos are enough to accurately diagnose type. Naturally, many readers scoff at the idea and write elsewhere that socionics is "crackpot typology," "a bunch of baloney," "phrenology resurrected," etc.

The sites speak authoritatively, as if they are speaking for the entire field of socionics. In fact, they are on the periphery of socionics and have little interaction with the world of mainstream socionics (follow link to understand what I mean by this term). Mainstream socionists reject exclusively appearance-based approaches to typing, and, while many if not most do look for physical and external clues, this is only part of their typing process. Let me provide a few anecdotes.

1. When I attended Viktor Gulenko's socionics classes in 2001/02, sometimes class members would bring pictures of friends and family members and showed them to Gulenko to get his opinion. He would look at them rather superficially and say "maybe," "could be," or "probably not" when they asked if the person might be a certain type. Photo typing was clearly not his specialty, and while Gulenko clearly had a mental data base of different types, he did not make photo typing a priority. During his course he never spoke on the subject explicitly, but talked extensively about determining type through his interviewing method or through other indirect means (e.g. how different types respond to different tasks).

2. Aleksandr Bukalov and his wife Olga Karpenko, who head the International Institute of Socionics, show more interest in photos than Gulenko. I have seen them privately make guesses about people's types based on a photo alone. However, in their professional activities they use an interview and observation method and do not rely on photographs.

3. A friend of mine in Kiev once approached a number of well-known socionists by e-mail asking them to type him based on photos. These socionists included Ekaterina Filatova, whose popular books on socionics have included numerous portraits of people of each type that she had met personally in her teaching career and elsewhere. All these socionists declined to type my friend based on photos alone, explaining that this method could not produce authoritative results.

4. All the people I am aware of who claim to be able to type accurately using photos alone are marginal socionists. None of these (that I am aware of, at least) have published articles in recognized socionics publications or spoken at socionics conferences in Kiev, Moscow, or elsewhere.

Further resources:
Socionics and Visual Identification of Types
My Typing Process (of Famous People)


pdamoc said...

How about video? A video of... let's say the "target" interacting with someone together with close-ups.

Rick said...

Sure. Videos convey a ton more information about a person than photos do, and most of the information comes from their behavior (interaction style, range of expressions, characteristic sentiments and attitudes, etc.) -- not their appearance or static facial features. It is not uncommon to get a very different impression from a person's video interviews than from their photos (examples: Quentin Tarantino, Stephen Covey). Then you look back at the pictures and wonder, "how come I didn't see that in their pictures?"

Anonymous said...

Rick, you are spending too much time on that god forsaken forum of yours populated by attention seeking, backstabbing whores who don't really give a shit about socionics but use it as an excuse to put their ego under a spot light. I has got to a point that by reading the kind of bullshit you can find on that forum, it actually does more bad than good to anyone who wants to learn something about socionics.

Rick said...

>> Rick, you are spending too much time on that god forsaken forum of yours

It's not my forum! :)

I think that if you spend all day on the forum reading everything, of course, it will do you more bad than good. I only go to get ideas to bounce off of and know what to write about.

If I myself were learning about socionics, I wouldn't go to any forums, you can be sure. I would study it independently and strike up correspondences with people who might be able to answer my questions. Or I would go to Kiev to study it in person, which is basically what I did.

Many forums (mainly the "addictive" ones) are more about relationships than about the subject matter. But how you perceive the forum depends on how deep you got in yourself and what needs of yours are being satisfied.

In my case, I need to have a connection with my audience to write. It was my initial acquaintance with the16types a year and a half ago that pushed me to begin writing about socionics for a western audience. Now that I have a blog and a regular audience, the forum is not as necessary, but I get a lot of ideas from trying to answer posts there.

Anonymous said...

Oh, sorry, my mistake. I thought that by advertising that forum in your articles, you're trying to encourage people to go there ;(

Anonymous said...

I think that you missunderstood the sentence you quoted from . Ganin never relies on one picture to decide anything. Even after having given him something like ten photos he still wasn't sure of all the letters of my type. I wrote a bit less than 300 posts on his forum before I could here that:"I am positive that you are some XSTp type".

Rick said...

>> Ganin never relies on one picture to decide anything.

Yes, you are right. I did not realize this until recently, and I wrote about this controversy at Wikisocion:

Anonymous said...

(I am the same person as above). I see that Ganin is hugely missunderstood. The reason is that he doesn't clarify his statements a lot which are very frequently misleading. I needed a lot of time to see how deep is he in his reflection and how responsible does he behave as a socionist.

Rick said...

I agree. He seems to enjoy being enigmatic and frequently misunderstood, and he is probably more careful in his personal socionics work than what comes across in his articles.