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:
After other forum members also asked for additional information, the poster replied:
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.
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 Socionics.com?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 Socionics.com 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.
Socionics and Visual Identification of Types
My Typing Process (of Famous People)