Jun 4, 2007

Two Important Steps to Make

There are two steps I have made in my thinking about socionics that I consider particularly productive and highly recommend others follow:

1. Think in terms of functions, not dichotomies

It's initially easier for the mind to divide up people into two halves in four different ways and get 16 resulting types than to think about 8 possible positions of 8 different psychic functions. However, I have found the second approach to ultimately bring much more clarity and functionality.

Each of the four basic dichotomies is very "diluted," since it captures 8 types who express the dichotomy in 4 different ways. For example, among sensers we find those with extraverted sensing as the first function, extraverted sensing as the second function, and introverted sensing as the first or second function. That's four very different manifestations of sensing.

There is much more to be said about types with base introverted sensing than about sensing types in general. If you create adequate dichotomy descriptions and see what they alone can say about any given type, you will get a much fuzzier picture than if you approach the type functionally. A very large part of each type cannot be explained through the four dichotomies.

2. Understand that psychic functions are working mechanisms and not static personality traits

"You can't be an ILI. ILIs don't say that" is something you might occasionally hear among socionists and enthusiasts. There is a very strong tendency to assume that type behavior is more limited than it actually is (this is strictly my opinion). "Such-and-such a type is good at this, such-and-such talks like this," etc. etc. This kind of thinking comes from the unconscious assumption that psychic functions describe unchanging traits rather than being the mental modules I believe they are.

Each of us has all eight modules and uses all of them. This, I believe, should be understood concretely rather than abstractly. When you're interacting with people in a certain situation, you're using one or more of those modules. In different situations you tend to use different modules. In the course of the day you may switch back and forth between many or most of your psychic functions. Within a conversation, you may touch on many different kinds of information and briefly activate the many different kinds of thinking that are accessible to nearly all humans. In most situations, after you are used to people, you can identify which psychic function (or "IM element") they are using and which information aspect they are focused on. The aspects may change minute by minute and second by second. One almost never has a conversation where one presents information only through one's strongest functions, which is what the static view of personality type would suggest.

When people "get into" an information aspect, they adopt the mannerisms of that function. This means that people can pretty much say or do anything given the right circumstances. However, their subjective experience of each of these functional states differs (and their skill and confidence level - which are visible from without), and they will tend to avoid heavy use of certain psychic modules and be eager to use others.

Thinking about things this way helps to preserve a flexible view of human behavior, concreticize socionic knowledge, and understand what is going on at any given moment.


Logos said...

This will be useful to those new to Socionics from Myers-Briggs as well as those who become to rigid as to the behaviors of certain types.

Yi Liu said...

I am either ILI or LIE (and you will see some heavy Le). I feel the same way regarding the post. I wish to discuss socionics from another perspective.

Moreover, I personally don't even truly believe in the classifications -- I feel that the categories is useful only in that they provide a medium through which we can talk about socionics. However, I don't even think that Se, Si, Li, etc... are necessarily special in any particular manner.

I think that model A is much more fundamental to socionics. Let me write down my perception of the functions. My interpretation of function in this post is more specific than that of general socionics. However, for convenience and brevity, I will make this definition restricted to the scope of this post:

Given a specific individual and a piece of information, a function refers to how the individual processes the information in order to produce some kind of internal understanding.

The "how" includes attitudes like "with enthusiasm", "with reluctance" and also levels of competence like "with ease" or "with difficulty". The exact formulation is general and flexible.

For practical reasons, we simply describe 8 types of functions -- as specified in model A. The characteristic of an individual can then be classified based on how different pieces of information preceived from the real world will fall into the 8 functions.

Let me explicitly describe what is meant when a particular type of information is placed into a particular function bucket, for a given individual.

Leading (1): The individual sees the world through this kind information -- this is his or her internal language. Most importantly, most of the goals and values -- the very integrity -- of the individual is expressed in these kinds of information. Let's consider an individual might understand extremely well all the subtleness involved when he experiences different shades of stomachache, or a fuzziness in his arms. He understands all the variations, and feel supremely confident about interpreting this information. Moreover -- he doesn't explicitly 'thinks' about it -- he just knows naturally. In this case, "understanding of stomachache and fuziness in arms" would fall into the leading function.

Creative (2): Unlike the leading function, information falling into the creative category are not native. Nevertheless, the individual has accumulated a large number of heuristics to capture the finesse involved in the subject. Moreover, the individual often finds himself asking questions whose answers are of information of this type. Hence, the individual finds this kind of information useful, and moreover -- he feels very confident about it. For example, some individuals are adept at displaying an outpouring of emotions in order to suit the situation. In addition, the individual feels comfortable about this outward display and leverages it frequently in day to day practices to promote goals dictated by the leading function.

Upto this point, although the language is a little different, this should mostly be familiar ground. However, my language will be quite different in the discussion below. Discussion of functions 7 will be considerably more revealing of what my perspective intends to convey.

Observant (7):
Suppose we are given an individual. This individual's leading function naturally "maps" some external possibility of observations -- denoted as X -- into an internal representation, denoted as X'. Suppose that Y is another type of external observation and that Y is parallel to X in the following way:
1. Y contains roughly equivalent information to X
2. the individual is not able to process Y very efficiently in its raw form.
In this case, information of type Y are considered to be part of the Observant function.
Here is an example:
Consider a list of rules concerning what it takes to do well on an exam. Then, consider a bunch of hypothetical stories about what people do in order to do well on an exam. Even though both pieces of stimulus would contain equivalent information, different people would prefer different approaches. In an extreme case, an individual might consider the "rules" as his natural language, and yet find the stories superficial, cumbersome, and while useful, not quite "to the point". In this example, "explicit rules and objectives" would be part of the person's leading function while "stories of know-how and consequences" would be part of the person's observant function. In fact, even when the person reads information expressed in terms of his observant function, he would internally actively translate it into his native language of the leading function. He would therefore spend more effort, yet get less, as some information might be lost or altered in the translation.

Dual-Seeking (5):
Consider a situation where an individual can make excellent use of a particular piece of information, but for whatever reason has trouble explicitly answering it. For example, consider someone who is painting a philosophical picture to his audience -- it may very well be the case that his desire is equivalent to hold his audience's attention and make an impact. Nevertheless, he might not have the capacity or habit of being able to explicitly understand his own goal in these terms. Moreover, he'd not be able to reach this kind of goal easily, because he does not have even an remote intuitive understanding of the issue. In this case, "how to hold attention and make an impression" would be part of the individual's dual seeking function.

Now, I'd really like some feedback in terms of whether this makes sense so far....

The idea of this different perspective was that in this perspective, we would not be restricted to "extraverted sensing" or "introverted ethics" because the very nature of this framework allows for finer division of information... e.g. having a good understanding of your muscles no longer indicates that you would be good with geometry (so you don't have to take on "introverted sensing" in all its glory)

Rick said...

Wow, very good. Those descriptions seem at least quite close and very insightful.

Yi Liu said...

Whereas the leading function and creative functions are so important, it makes sense to discuss the other functions in context to the leading and creative.

Point of Least Resistance (4):
Consider the Creative function -- recall that the individual relies heavily on these kinds of information to get by in day-to-day life. Now, imagine what would happen if the individual is not able to produce this kind of information himself. The individual would find himself periodically asking himself variants of the same question and yet be unable to find a solution. This is clearly a description of someone under stress. To illustrate, consider an individual who relies heavily on high level, strategic risks. That individual doesn't necessarily consider these strategic goals as his native language, but he finds them very useful in furthering his personal ambitions. One would expect that sometimes he might ask himself, "how can I make the greatest impact on others?" In some sense, this is a strategic question, and socionics language, this reflects an intimate correspondance between extraverted intuition and extraverted sensing. In the example, however, suppose that the individual have yet developed a significant set of heuristics, he'd be perplexed and consciously distressed as a result of his inability to answer this. Here, information relating to "how can I make the the greatest impact on others?" falls into his PoLR.

This brings up another place where my personal perspective attempts to generalize socionics a little bit. Socionics implies that the classifications are fixed. If extraverted sensing is your PoLR, then you will probably never be truly comfortable with it. You will only disguise your inherent incompetence with rules of thumb that beg the question.

However, in the new light, an individual with an active interst in self-improvement can quite conceivably move information-types in his PoLR bucket into his Creative bucket. As such, we also don't have to limit ourselves to the 8 facets of reality as specified in our common language -- we can talk about very specific skills, like say, abilities in making a simple website, or english proficiency, or personal knowledge about your person hues of dizziness, or risk-taking abilities in making investments, or how one can make a grand entrace showing up late for a class, and etc...

While socionics is quite reasonable in drawing connections betwen various skills, like say, simple geometry skills to awareness of your muscles, they only really hold in a macroscopic sense. Yes, I would expect most people who lots of soul-searching to be aware of their time expenditure or perhaps its insignificance. Nevertheless, once you know someone well enough where you actually genuinely care about the person, these kinds of preconceived classifications tend to deviate from your specific subject.

In my perspective, the relationship between a creative function and a PoLR of a given individual is intimate -- they are simply two ends of a spectrum. The spectrum covers across a set of skills and perceptions that the individual consciously calls upon so as to consolidate his leading function's values and integrity. The two directions of the spectrum corresponds to competence and incompetence respectively. What the general socionics theory does, in my perspective, is that it marks a cutoff: "everything past this point is the creative function, and everything before it is the PoLR". While it is easier for communication purposes and for introducing people into socionics, I feel that my generalization as a gradient has merit. The perspective of a gradientrecognizes self-improvement as a gradual and accomplishable process, and I hope that we all agree that this better mirrors reality.

Rick said...

Yi Liu, you should create an account at www.wikisocion.org and stick this text into your user page (just an idea).

Yi Liu said...


The wiki is a great idea :)

Rick said...

Yeah, it is :-)

It's just getting started, and it is going to be a huge and fascinating project.

Anonymous said...

this should be listed under a separate Socionics era of theories.
Perhaps with new model names.
We've had our era of model A (4func) and B (8func), and J [which is one i can't specifically remember for what purpose it was created].
These new theories should be 'cognitive-neurologic' centric models,
and this should be the Spectrum Model...
as presented by yiu liu,..expounded by this individual... just being a summary name for a person who centralized and intuitized the concept of 'gradient dimension'.
But as this is a model, i don't know if a agree, not that i don't agree with you, or with the facts of what u present,..but if it is a model...and if particularily model B where to be objectivized in the same way to explain cognitive neurological thinking mechanisms and aptitudes, then there may be a base disagreement...but that makes things exciting for this field.

Anonymous said...

i thought somebody would have destroyed my comment.. or blatantly just have told me that i am jeolous or something.
but let's face it, there are two spectrums of people who can look at this...
those who just don't care, and don't have the aptitude to reach into those dimensions as Liu expounded,...and then there are those who are insecure...introverts...and more especially amongst the introverts.. those who only have cognitive functions as there primary 2 functions, and who could, and would really like to think that they can reach into it.
and change or whatever...seeing as they are insecure,
when it could be explained as simple behavioural copying or modeling which these personality types are capable of.
strongs for the wiki project!