This is a continuation of my effort to critically examine the foundations of socionics, which I began in January.
Information aspects (note: NOT "elements of information metabolism," i.e. "mental functions") are a not-terribly-productive construct introduced by Augusta as she developed her unique perspective on Jung's Typology. Instead of being merely "modes of processing information" as in Jung's Typology, the psychic functions became instruments for "perceiving, processing, and conveying" information. Augusta saw the functions as responding to different streams of information coming in from the outside world. A stream of information could then be labeled by the corresponding Jungian function that processed it. The -function processes -information, and so forth. One person's responds to -information and conveys -information to the outside world, and another person's picks up that -information and responds to it in a way defined by the position of in his socionic type. The response might tend to be confident and authoritative, it might be curious and accepting, helpless, narrow-minded and categorical, etc. depending on the person's type.
I say that information aspects have not been very productive as a construct because there is really not much to be said about them other than "-information is what the -function perceives and produces," etc. They can't be defined in isolation from psychic functions; something is only "information" if it is a message that is potentially perceivable by a human observer. Augusta gave the information aspects more abstract definitions (see here, for instance), almost suggesting she first divided up reality and types of information, then found that her division matched Jung's functions. I'm certain it was actually the other way around.
Augusta's descriptions have been revised and concreticized by subsequent authors to more closely match how people of different types perceive the world in practice. And, to be honest, nothing much has been said or done about information aspects (also called "information elements") since Augusta wrote about them. Usually, they are simply confused with IM elements (elements of information metabolism), which are another name for the Jungian functions. In fact, most professional socionists even confuse them (another symptom perhaps?).
So, is there any use in dividing up information into different types? I think yes, if the division is arrived at empirically — rather than off the top of one's head — and improves understanding of the real world. In the case of socionics it appears that neither is true. The kind of division Augusta suggested is far from obvious. If one were to attempt to categorize information coming from a general science perspective, one would probably take a different approach:
- By sensing organ/receptor: light and visual information, sounds, scents, tastes, tactile information, various bodily sensations, emotions and moods, etc.
- By relevance to the perceiver: important/unimportant/potentially important, pleasant/unpleasant/neutral, etc.
If you had to divide up information, how would you go about it?