Jan 22, 2010

Reflections on Complementary Functions

I'm posting here my response to the following question:

I don't know if you're still into socionics, but I have actually become better in applying it, and I think it's pretty accurate. The problem is explaining the theory to other people. Socionics seems like more of a system that is based on observation than anything else. (For example, I can't see any reason why Ti types would necessarily seek out Fe types - you could come up with a reason, but it doesn't necessarily prove it, unfortunately.) That's why I'm wondering about its history, because it will make it easier for me to explain to people why it might work. So, here's the question: do you know how Ausra Augusta and her associates developed the system? Was it based on observing a handful of people she knew, or were, for example, hundreds of people talked to in order to develop Model A? (Or something else?) I don't really want to burden you with finding an answer, but you seem like one of the few people in the English speaking world who might know.

I still think of socionics regularly when meeting people and reflecting on their personalities. The subject, I think, will continue to interest me forever. I think the complementarity of functions that you mention is a great mystery that remains to be uncovered by science. Simply by giving the mystery a name (i.e. Ti and Fe), socionics does a lot towards finding an answer, but "Ti and Fe" itself is not the answer.

The answer is doubtless to be found in neurophysiology. Something about the neurophysiological activity known as "Ti" leads to neurochemical exhaustion if not supplemented by "Fe."

More broadly, any specific type or closely related types of mental activity will lead to exhaustion if engaged in long enough or with enough intensity (mirroring the effects of physical activity). As a result, one feels drained, irritable, or devoid of will.

"Ti" and "Fe" may be seen simply as convenient, though imperfect, ways of categorizing mental activity.

Since the source of "Ti" and "Fe" -- evolution -- acts via our physical survival and successful physical transfer of genes and is only interested in our mental activity inasmuch as it produces external results, the mental activity represented by "Ti" or "Fe" must also represent broad types of approaches towards dealing with one's external environment.

A "Ti person" tends to tackle problems and opportunities in his environment in a certain way that differentiates him from most others. This typically leads to success in some areas and deficiencies in others. Yet, because we are not bees or ants, the differentiation cannot be absolute. A "Ti person" who performs more types of tasks adequately probably stands a higher chance of reproducing than one who cannot.

The "purpose" of this differentiation appears to be to make social cooperation desirable and inevitable. It is distinct from sexual drives which make reproduction desirable or from survival drives which make animals territorial and prone to aggression.

The fact that what we call Ti and Fe tend to attract one another is a conclusion born of observation more than logical deduction. Augusta recognized that such patterns existed, but she had no name or framework for them until she came across Jung's Typology, which she adapted to fit her needs more closely. Model A was developed as a result of studying Jung, observing her acquaintances in everyday life, and discussing her ideas with a group of like-minded friends who took interest in the topic. They would field ideas among each other and see how well they played out among each other and in their personal experience, much like any informal but stable group of friends. In this way they were able to develop the overlapping experience that is so critical to socionics (as well as being its Achilles' heel). Without it, socionics discussions tend to be difficult and relatively unproductive.


Expat said...

I think a way of explaining the Ti-Fe attraction and complementarity is this: a static Ti framework/worldview includes (among many other things) a precise way as to how people interact with each other - positively or negatively. So, a given behavioral trait or act will fit the Ti framework in a precise way: for instance, showing your tongue - an act of rudeness, so if the person shows you their tongue, then "of course" it's meant as rudeness (or at best as a joke etc). But others may fit that gesture in another Ti framework of opposite meaning (for instance, Tibetans see that gesture as a form of greeting). Ti analyzes a given action or behavior according to how it fits its own framework. Fe complements it by adapting to Ti - as Fe needs Ti to "find a framework". Most simplistically, the Fe Tibetan who greets a Western Ti by showing his tongue will change his behavior until the reaction from Western Ti is positive. Ti is attracted by Fe because it accepts the Ti framework; Fe is attracted by Ti because it provides Fe with the framework.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe you have answered the question of why Ti needs or reacts positively to Fe, but you've talked about how Ti would react to Fe cognitively. For example how I went to the shop would look at what I decided to wear and the directions I took to get to the shop. The question of why could be anything to "needed the air", "wanted some oranges", "my wife was bothering me so I decided to go for a drive".They question of why is probably unanswerable in the case of Ti/Fe.


Expat said...

In my view, Ti reacts favorably to Fe in the sense that the only alternative to Fe is Te. Ti wants to do its own analyzing of information and filter it, and "organize" it, according its own framework. So Ti prefers to receive what one could call ill-defined, raw information, even "noise", or between-the-lines information, and do its own selection of what is correct and what is rubbish. Fe allows Ti to do that. From this point of view, Te is already organized or selected information - but not necessarily according to how a one person's Ti would selext it. So, from the point of view of Ti, Fe contains a mix of truth and untruth, which Ti doing the separation. Te will either be true according to Ti (and so redundant, even boring) or false - and so a lie. So a Ti person looks at Fe information thrown at him and decides, "good, I will analyze that and reach my conclusions of what it means". The reaction to Te is, "don't impose your own analyzes on me" or "don't tell me the obvious". An example of this is in the (possibly apocryphal) story of the Arab leader ordering the destruction of all books in the library of Alexandria: either they said the same as the Koran - so they were redundant - or they did not, and in this case they were lies. That is a simplified example of Ti reacting to Te.

aestrivex said...

this is not a new issue, but i think that your reliance on the idea that something even vaguely resembling socionics element preferences has some unambiguous functional neural correlates to be searched for is on and beyond speculatively naive.

one aspect of this issue is that you seem to be of the mindset that socionics should be "discarded" altogether in favor of empirical evidence about the neuroscience of personality and individual differences. this, simply put, is utter nonsense and informs a lack of awareness as to the way functional neuroscience works. socionics is a model -- for our purposes in examining neurological evidence, a bad model; one difficult to verify in concrete ways, and one for which people will generally disagree with the behavioral outputs. however, it is by examining the relationship between neurological processes and behavior that we can derive any insight about how the brain works. simply put, if not for the very imperfect models that exist like socionics, neurological evidence might be vaguely able to approach questions of personality in a operationally measurable trait-based way (as does most of contemporary personality psychology), but without the insight of models and predictions to test, would never come close to "empirically" providing anything remotely as integrative as the concepts comprising socionics.

what i do think you might be able to do is look for functional relationships in cognitive relationships. i hypothesize, for instance, that most people who are generally agreed upon as Ni types would be fairly good at tasks requiring inhibitory control, and Se types would be fairy good at tasks requiring extensive goal representation. these however, are very integrative processes aready, and the implications of other cognitive abilities that these processes predict is not fully known.

however, the general point is that these imperfect correlates, if they exist at all, are much messier than you tend to represent in posts like this, with the suggestion that there is some neurological "process" called Ti that requires some other "process" called Fe to work properly and becomes chemically imbalanced otherwise -- basically, posts that just make me think that you really have very little knowledge of how neural processes really work.

Ричард said...


Undoubtedly your criticism is justified. However, socionics itself is the product of naivete. As any personality psychologist knows, it was naive to suppose that the complexity of human characters could be described by just 16 types, or that interaction could be summarized in just 16 patterns.

Likewise, it may be naive of me to expect that there is some single underlying neurophysiological process or characteristic that determines each socionic function. But it is impossible for me to think of a single socionic category as being defined by a set of unrelated characteristics or processes. If these seemingly unrelated traits always appear together, then they must in turn be determined by a single underlying cause.

If it were somehow established that this is not the case, then my conclusion would be that the socionics model is not worthy of further investigation and elaboration. If in the end there is no "essence of Ti," "essence of sensing," "essence of duality," etc., then I say we have been led down a scientific wild goose chase and the socionic model is to be regarded as incorrect. After all, there is an "essence of gender," and reseachers are discovering an "essence of extraversion," "essence of aggressivity," etc.

I personally think that all people of a single socionic type have one or more things in common (and many more things not in common or partly in common), and that whatever they have in common can be described in terms of neurobiology.

If this is not the case, then I don't see how socionics has any potential for development beyond its current state.

Ричард said...

(This reminds me of the Einstein - Bohr debate. Ultimately, to satisfy everyone socionics must provide both descriptions and predictive capabilities as well as explanations of underlying causes.)

tinytinylittlewords said...

As such as I disagree with aestrivex, I agree with the notion that there is naivete here in terms of seeking material "essences" of mechanisms that are outside of pure materiality. In the modest neurological reading I've done, it's clear that there must be a complex interweaving of neurological processes to produce socionic output. I would also not bother doubting this is possible, however, as the applicability of socionics is undeniably fantastic (save for the hierarchy-like model of relationship which seem way too reductionist IMO and better presented as a set of likely pros/cons opposed to something so problematically deterministic)

The front half of the right hemisphere of the brain specializes in converting sensory experience into a concrete form by identifying unknowns and knowns. Information that is known is then relegated to the left hemisphere's serial processing and organized within models, maps, sets and patterns.
The right hemisphere has a mapping of the body as a whole and its states, while the left hemisphere only controls the right half of the body. The right works with wholes, the implicit, metaphor, relations, subjects, while the left works with parts, abstracts, algorithms, syntax, objects and semiotics. No socionic trait is hemisphere-dependent. For example, Intuition is left-brain-like in its use of models of internal states but right-brain-like with Ni generating a holistic perception of networked relations. Se is left-brain-like when it focuses on the explicit material reality in front of it and focuses on its preservation, while its right-brain-like when it focuses on the internality of a space and its . To be fair though the book I am basing this on (Master and His Emissary) is not written with the most precise language, but I just came up with this as a possible abstract for how the two halves come together, (L) being Left hemisphere, (R) being Right.

Fixed (L) Model (L) of Objects (L) as Equal (R) - Ne essense
Fluid (R) Network (R) of Subjects (R) as Equal (R) - Ni holism
Fixed (L) Model (L) of Objects (L) as Subordinate (L) - Se self-preservation
Fluid (R) Network (R) of Subjects (R) as Subordinate (L) - Si comfort

I highly recommend the book as a source of information that can spark a greater understandings of the mind. I am confused why more correlations haven't been found between typology and the mind than just introversion/extroversion, because I look into these things quite superficially and seem to make a lot more connections than others do. Then again I am not so afraid of error as a non-professional and goal-oriented person. I trust my strong Ni will see me through.