Oct 3, 2011

Socionics Inaccuracy in Relationship Compatibility

In my opinion, socionics is inadequate as a predictor of romantic compatibility. It is quite a bit better than chance, which is remarkable in itself. However, it does not live up to the expectations many people acquire when studying the theory.

Here I present two graphs representing (approximately) romantic relationship compatibility distribution among types 1) as suggested by socionics theory, and 2) in practice (in my practice, at least). There are 16 vertical cells in each graph, representing the 16 types.

1. What socionics seems to suggest

What exactly socionics suggests is highly debatable. Some socionists introduce subtypes and use them to further model intertype compatibility. Some socionists talk of the difference between functions and the "specific content of the functions," which depends upon culture and upbringing (a copout explanation, in my view). Some introduce levels of development or intellect which may influence compatibility. Nonetheless, the above picture represents what many or most people seem to think after beginning to study socionics. It often takes many years for the understanding above to gradually morph into something more like the following:

2. What I observe in practice

The height of the colored bars may differ from person to person depending on how far they are from the mean on various physical, intellectual, emotional, and cultural traits. The graph above shows 1 in 40 duals as being "very compatible" and just over half as having some degree of compatibility. For some people even this may be optimistic.

Note that there is no "ideally compatible" category in the second graph. In my opinion ideal compatibility does not exist. It is not built into our biology. Compatibility is a kind of reasonable compromise between two individuals who agree to set aside one set of programs (mate seeking and individualistic behaviors) in favor of another set of programs (relationship building, homesteading, and child rearing behaviors). The socionics model does not reflect this in any way.

Furthermore, romantic compatibility in practice may change during a relationship. The stage of romantic love increases the appearance of compatibility greatly no matter what the intertype relation. As hormone levels gradually return to normal, compatibility may either decrease or increase depending on "underlying" compatibility. Even in a seemingly compatible relationship, there is no guarantee that for one reason or another one or both partners will opt out of the relationship.

There is substantial evidence that humans have a mixture of monogamous and polygamous tendencies and that as a species we are designed with the potential for both life-long monogamous relationships and multiple relationships, whether simultaneous or sequential. The mechanisms whereby people are motivated to switch relationships throw a wrench in the neat system of compatibility suggested by socionics. Again, socionics has nothing to say about these vital biological factors and suggests a simplistic view of compatibility that requires numerous qualifications and provisions.

Next, homo sapiens did not evolve in a nuclear society where people separated into pairs and isolated themselves socially and economically from others. For the most part, homo sapiens lived communally, and intimate romantic relationships were complemented by a complex network of other supporting relationships. In this kind of setting individual compatibility may be less important than in a distinctly nuclear society.

Finally, adult mortality was quite a bit higher than today, and it was quite common for women to die in childbirth. Health, fitness, and ability to provide were probably just as important provisions for choosing a mate as psychological compatibility. After all, what our genes are after is maximum replication. How much this goal favors the evolution of a rigid system of psychological compatibility is an interesting question (I believe I have an article about that at Socionics.us).

It seems to me that the larger and more complex the society, the lower the percentage of romantically compatible mates. As specialization and the web of interpersonal communication increase, people settle into ever more specialized cultural niches. As the complexity of society increases, people with extreme traits have more chances to find each other and produce offspring with even more extreme traits who, in turn, have a harder time finding compatible partners. In a society where one must find a mate within a community of 1000 or so people, out-of-the-norm traits may tend to be quickly brought closer to the mean because of the low probability that you will ever meet someone else with the trait.

If one can realistically choose from only 100 potential mates and knows of no others, one will find a relatively compatible mate among the 100. If there are only 10 mates, one will find the most compatible one of the 10. The smaller the number of people in a certain mileau, the less cultural and psychological diversity there will be.

1 comment:

Vashti Jo said...

Great post. I've had a similar realization myself. Thank you for making it so clear!