Dec 17, 2006

Type Identification in Socionics

In socionics, results of written tests are not considered an authoritative assessment of type. In fact, since the field is decentralized and do-it-yourself, there is no single recognized instrument for determining socionic type. In contrast, in Myers-Briggs typology the MBTI test enjoys a relative monopoly and thus has, at least, the "feeling" of authority.

By turning the typing process into a dichotomy-based written test, test authors have eliminated subjective factors. However, at the same time, test accuracy is based on the assumption that test-takers 1) understand what exactly is meant by each question, and 2) have accurate self-knowledge. If this is not the case, there is no one around to help address the situation.

The problem of self-knowledge

The question of accurate self-knowledge is a complex one that involves philosophy, linguistics, and physiology. The words and formulates we use only contain shreds of the truth and are always subject to incorrect interpretation. What do we mean when we say, for example, "I am an outgoing person"? At best this is a generalization based on a comparison to a specific set of people in specific situations that the listener has no knowledge of. In saying "I am an outgoing person," the person may actually mean something slightly different:

  • I am a sufficiently outgoing person
  • I am proud of being more outgoing than I used to be
  • I am more outgoing than most of my friends
  • Many people in different situations have told me I was outgoing
  • I am always so obviously outgoing that there is no question of my outgoingness

The same problems exist for nearly every other question.

Self-typing and professional typing assistance

In socionics, self-identification is the responsibility of each individual. Since socionics assumes the existence of functions of the psyche, and these functions have not been proven scientifically to be a physical reality, there is always a bit of uncertainty regarding type diagnostics. There is always the chance of misinterpretation. This is the case for other branches of Jungian typology as well - not just socionics.

Socionics' advantage is that it postulates the existence of stable interaction patterns between types that potentially serve as tests of accurate type diagnosis. However, this requires some knowledge about the person's interaction with others, as well as the probable types of these people.

There are quite a few socionists (mainly in the Russian-speaking world) who can offer qualified typing services and substantiate their conclusions. In addition, some "hobbyists" are sufficiently experienced to offer real help. I would suggest a couple criteria for deciding to listen to someone's type diagnosis or turn to a professional's services:

  • the person is able to make accurate observations about you as a person without using socionics terminology
  • the person can substantiate their opinion using an understanding of the socionic functions, aspects, and model that seems to be consistent with classic socionic theory

The only potential disadvantage in relying on professional socionists is that some people begin to accept their chosen socionist's typings without personal mental effort and questioning. This spoils both the socionist as well as his followers; if he is not careful, the socionist begins to believe in his own infallibility since those around him accept his typings unequivocally. To avoid these sect-like phenomena, do your own thinking and try to learn from experienced socionists rather than to simply align your own thinking with theirs.

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