Nov 10, 2007

The "Problem" of Expert Use of Weak Functions

Many newcomers to socionics and "type watching" tend to underestimate the complexity of personality and socionics' ability to handle that complexity. Many assumptions are made, such as:

  • a type is "supposed" to do and say everything using its strong (esp. Ego block) functions
  • types are "sensitive" about their weak functions and avoid their use or need assistance with them
  • types are incompetent in the use of their weaker functions and competent in the use of their strong functions

Each of these statements is partially true, but they break down in numerous situations. It is not rare to see people who appear to have achieved great mastery of their weak functions, or display sloppiness in the use of their strong functions. These cases make some people question the validity of socionics in the first place or suggest that the person cannot be of their stated type. With a little bit of effort and understanding, however, these seeming contradictions can be reconciled.

When people display expert use of weak functions (3, 4, 5, 6), there is almost always a very good reason for it. Most often, it is related to their professional field or to a long-standing hobby of theirs. For example, mastering socionics entails understanding and being able to apply a large number of categories (introverted logic information). Within a socionics context, it may seem that someone with an excellent command of socionics is "proficient in introverted logic" in general. However, that same person may display all the signs of subdued introverted logic outside of the context of abstract discussions of socionics (yes, I'm speaking about myself).

Likewise, it might seem that LIE boxers (such as the Klitschko brothers, according to many socionists, me included) are "too proficient" in extraverted sensing to be LIEs. Shouldn't LIEs be too hesitant and unsure of themselves physically to be good boxers? Again, the answer can be found by looking at these boxers' life and behavior outside of the context of boxing. Strong (especially leading) functions, in contrast, leave a heavy mark on all areas of a person's life.

Jane Fonda (who I have typed as EIE) is well-known for her popularization of aerobics as a sort of fitness guru. Wouldn't that imply strong introverted sensing or extraverted sensing? Once again, by broadening the context beyond her fitness activities, we can see that sensing is not the focus of Jane Fonda's life. She does not apply sensing to nearly every situation like sensing types do.

Countless other examples can be found. Whenever someone masters anything, they master all aspects of it at a high level. Mastery is driven by the leading function's deep personal interest, but other functions follow along as well. Mastery of aspects that are secondary to a person and require use of weak functions often comes through lengthy, repeated exposure without focusing on that aspect directly. For instance, grammar of a foreign language can be mastered by studying it heavily from the outset, by skimming over numerous grammar books and exposing oneself to grammar rules without really focusing mental energy on them, or simply by correctly repeating phrases that natives say and not even thinking about grammar.

When someone becomes a master at something, there is always some innate talent or physical basis for the mastery. For instance, the Klitschko brothers were born with large, athletic bodies and excellent coordination. Jane Fonda was born with a flexible, well-built body that allowed her to excel in fitness. Sergey Korolyov (powerhouse behind the early Soviet space program) -- a SLE on the Russian benchmark list -- was born with a piercing and inquisitive intellect.


J Riddy said...

I like that you draw a distinction here between type and traits. Much of the Socionics world seems hell bent on finding a rather deterministic view of type theory, largely because they view IM as a comprehensive model of personality. Socionics will doubtlessly remain a niche science until more of its proponents accept that are other factors at play.

Perhaps we also define the manifestation of IM elements too narrowly. A weak sensing element should not be taken as a lack of interest in physicality, but rather as a more abstract approach to it; e.g., the LIE's likely focus on mechanics (making for a very effective boxer), and the EIE's likely focus on flow (making for a very graceful dancer).

There's actually an American researcher who has worked to identify the relationship between motor skills and personality. Though I believe he is hindered by his reliance on the weak theoretical underpinnings of MBTI, his research sheds light on these connections that many psychologists ignore. His name is Dr. John Niednagel, and his site is at

Maybe next you can go over why some logical types (in my experience, mostly ILE and LIE) seem to demonstrate a much higher level of emotional expressiveness than would be expected.

Keep up the exciting work!

Rick said...

>> A weak sensing element should not be taken as a lack of interest in physicality, but rather as a more abstract approach to it

Well said. Thanks for the link. I've heard of braintypes before, but hadn't really looked into it.