Nov 10, 2008

The Reinin Dichotomies are Dead

This is a continuation of an earlier post where I discussed the problems with using the Reinin Dichotomies in socionics. Here I am announcing that -- for me at least -- the Reinin Dichotomies are dead. I cannot imagine myself ever applying them in any way either practically or theoretically. I probably won't even mention them in the book I am slowly writing on socionics. I have long been dubious of the Reinin Dichotomies, and now my personal research interests have drawn me in completely other directions which have far more explanatory and descriptive potential. As a student of individual differences and human relationships, I can think of dozens of more productive things to study than the Reinin Dichotomies.

The problem with the Reinin Dichotomies is that anything of substance they have to say can already be explained without them through an understanding of Model A, the socionic functions, and information aspects. What other descriptions the dichotomies provide are so vague and unsubstantiated as to be useless.

Paradoxically, it is the vagueness of the Reinin Dichotomies that has ensured their longevity, much like the ambiguity of Nostradamus' prophecies of the future. If Nostradamus had written more specifically ("In 1734 an evil dictator will rise to power in Naples and brutally crush all peasant revolts"), his name would be unknown today. Likewise, if the Reinin Dichotomies had specific content intelligible to a majority of intellectually minded readers, as well as a satisfactory substantiation of the existence of the traits (a "mathematical" substantiation sounds oh-so convincing, but the existence of personality traits cannot be proven mathematically), they would have long ago been either "canonized" or dismissed. But because they are so vague, they cannot be disproven, and "believers" can easily inject their own interpretations into the dichotomies. This is the simple formula to which all mumbo-jumbo owes its existence.

Superficially, the Reinin Dichotomies seem to fit into the overall theoretical framework of socionics. They show that the basic four Jungian dichotomies are just a subset of 15 hypothetical dichotomies that divide the 16 types into orthogonal halves. An attempt was made to provide tentative descriptions of the other 11 dichotomies. It seems so logical... and yet available descriptions are inadequate, if not simply incorrect, when applied to real people. The vagueness of the descriptions makes it very hard to dismiss them as inaccurate, especially as we are used to fuzzy definitions in socionics. People study the Reinin Dichotomies and, not completely "getting it," decide they simply have more learning to do. Maybe it's Reinin who has more learning to do...?


This raises an important issue: how can one distinguish between mumbo-jumbo and things that are simply hard to understand? My answer is to look at the creator and/or chief proponents of the ideas and see whether they are able to apply them confidently and consistently, and whether they have been able to convey their ideas to other people who can also apply them confidently in a way that is consistent with how the creator applied them. If the new ideas have successfully been turned into a language of discourse among a group of peers (i.e. people who are not obliged by a teacher-pupil relationship to mimic their teacher), then the ideas have substance. I don't believe the Reinin Dichotomies pass this test.

Postscript (added March 2010)

Augusta presented Reinin's Dichotomies as a hypothesis and stated that they needed further investigation. In contrast with her descriptions of the Jungian Dichomoties and the socionic functions, her descriptions of the Reinin Dichotomies are vague and generally muddled. Most Russian / Ukrainian socionists say that her descriptions weren't very good.

So, was Augusta (well, Reinin actually) "right?" Yes, in the sense that these dichotomies indeed exist mathematically. Whether they exist as actual physical phenomena is another issue. I personally have been unable to see how any of the proposed descriptions I've read can relate to reality. The second problem is that I cannot see how the descriptions follow logically from the socionic model. The third problem is that I do not know of socionists who seem able to consistently apply Reinin Dichotomies in typing and successfully convey their understanding to other people.

All this suggests that trying to make the Reinin Dichotomies work might not be worth many people's time. My perspective is that there is far more to be gained from, say, understanding gender differences than trying to master Reinin Dichotomies. Gender differences have a large body of empirical research, are readily observable, and are far-reaching in their effects. In contrast, the Reinin Dichotomies have a small body of contradictory, non-empirical research, are difficult to observe, and are limited in their explanatory power.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

i think i agree with what you are saying here. for me, there are only two exceptions:

static-dynamic
merry-serious

are these two explained by other areas of socionics?

further, what areas are you finding to be more interesting than the reinin dichotomies to explore and write about?

Rick said...

Yes. Static-dynamic are characteristics of information aspects. Merry-serious simply refers to whether feelings are expressed in a give quadra through extraverted or introverted ethics.

For instance, functional interaction, important non-socionic factors that influence personality and interaction, and physiology.

Stuart Mobley said...

Hey Rick,

I'm not sure about the credibility of the Reinin Dichotomies either, but one of them has me worried. I read an article on wikisocion about the "process/result" dichotomy and it says that process types care more about the publics opinion than do result types and result types are more accommodating towards those that are closer towards them. Me being an "ISTj" in socionics, am worried about the effects of this on my relationships if it is true. The link for the page is: http://www.wikisocion.org/en/index.php?title=Process_and_result .

If you can provide any insight into this it would be greatly appreciated by me because it has me greatly worried about its effects on my personal life.

Stuart Mobley

Rick said...

Honestly, Stuart, I never understood it myself. I would just disregard it.