Nov 11, 2008

Interplay between Leading and Suggestive Function in Self-Realizing Individuals

I have written elsewhere that the suggestive function can become a source of compensatory activities to temporarily take the strain off the leading function. The explanation I gave is that the areas of the brain being used for a certain kind of activity associated with the leading function begin to use up their energy resources after a period of time (generally several hours), producing tiredness, apathy, or irritability. I hypothesized that a shift in focus (not just dabbling, but a real, full-fledged shift) to the suggestive function essentially turned off the neurons that had been active and activated those that were least connected to the worn-out neurons. This would create optimal conditions for the brain to recuperate and beef up its reserves in the depleted areas.

Presumably, over time this exercise would enhance the "firepower" of the leading function, much like weight training strengthens the muscles. In addition, it would support the suggestive function and in effect "lubricate" the brain, meaning that the brain would have less difficulty switching from state to state. The practical result of a "well lubricated" brain is less rigidity in behavior. In contrast, persisting in the use of one's leading function beyond the point of usefulness results in exhaustion and a total lack of will. I think the analogy with muscles and basically all physiological systems is apt. A powerful, but not overdone exercise of any system strengthens it; overworking any system, however, produces negative side-effects and illness. So it is with the brain.

What I have found is that self-realizing individuals -- people who have learned to focus the use of their strong functions (especially the leading function) to produce societally useful results -- almost inevitably have habits that engage their suggestive functions and provide much needed rest from their primary activities. Their main focus is so dominant that these compensatory activities are probably born of necessity. Often there is an element of the 6th function involved in the activities as well. Here are some examples:

1. Albert Einstein (ILE): He would go on rambles through the forest on a near-daily basis, as well as sail his small boat on nearby lakes. These activities exposed him to nature, sun, wind, and natural sounds and sensations, and provided relaxing physical movement. They eased his mind and give him time to reflect upon big issues without the intense focus he would display when working on a specific problem.

Einstein's music hobby also seemed to be a compensatory activity related to both introverted sensing and extraverted ethics. He often played violin with other people, giving him the chance to interact with others on an emotional, rather than mental level. He practiced the violin on a near-daily basis to give his mind a rest. The focus of this playing was not to achieve mastery, but to provide a much-needed diversion.

2. Immanuel Kant (LII): Kant was also well-known for taking walks. However, in contrast to Einstein, his walks -- begun at precisely the same time every day -- took him through the town where he lived (present-day Kaliningrad). People would greet him, and he would feel part of the community in which he lived. As an LII, the compensation Kant needed most was to experience interaction with living people and society, and not so much with nature and the physical world.

3. Winston Churchill (SLE): Churchill is well-known for being an avid and talented painter. Painting, like many other activities, can mean different things for different people, and can activate different functions depending on the painting style and approach. For him, painting was a route to tranquility and inner peace -- a state quite the opposite of the hustle and bustle and confrontation of public politics.

4. Jimmy Carter (EII): Carter is well-known for taking part in public service work such as building homes for Habitat for Humanity. As an EII who professionally uses his introverted ethics to maintain relationships with world leaders and encourage them to talk to each other and do nice things, the most effective kind of compensatory activity is doing productive physical work. Note the introverted sensing focus as well, inherent to the idea of building places for people to live.

I'm sure there a host of other examples, and I will add them as I come across them. Four examples isn't exactly a large enough number to build an entire theory. In addition, there is a certain amount of guesswork involved, as we often don't know for sure what the personal meaning of the activities is, however, extrapolation from personal experience and the experience of people you know, as well as anecdotes from the biographies of these people can give clues.

Not just relaxation, but important food for thought

In my experience, using the leading function in a focused and productive way to do something that is meaningful to you produces a satisfying "flow experience." Then, taking a break for an enjoyable suggestive function pastime provides an sense of wholeness. Inevitably, the compensatory activity provides food for thought that then works its way back into your primary work.

We can surmise that Einstein's long walks and sailing gave him opportunities to reflect upon the nature of the physical world and experience unexpected insight as a direct result of observing physical phenomena. Kant's daily walks around town gave him the chance to observe human society and interaction and reflect upon the nature of human society and culture. Churchill's painting provided him with ... something. Carter's physical volunteer work gives him chances to reflect upon the nature of cooperation, altruism, and other ideal values.

Distinguishing between compensatory and primary activities

Primary activities are:
- complex and evolving
- entail leadership, responsibility, and initiative
- require focus and energy
- directly associated with the person's most evident personality traits

Compensatory activities are:
- simple and relatively unchanging
- entail no leadership or responsibility; passive and receptive rather than initiating
- require little focus or energy expenditure
- impossible to guess based on superficial acquaintance with the person

In essence, primary activities are what you do to the world. Compensatory activities involve putting yourself in a situation where something will be done to you. To be a compensatory activity, it must be relaxing and non-achievement-oriented. I believe that as soon as one's achievement motivation is engaged, the leading function gets involved and begins calculating the best way to achieve that goal.

A hypothesis

(unrelated to the main subject of the post)

This suggests an intriguing hypothesis that I've entertained now for some time: the leading function is "located" completely or chiefly in the left hemisphere, and the suggestive function in the right. I would go beyond that to suggest that the mental functions (1 through 4) are all in the left hemisphere, while the vital functions (5-8) are in the right. "Right brain" creativity, then, is about having increased access to the vital functions. To some extent this can be trained. Some degree of right hemisphere work is necessary and healthy, but "highly creative" people who have "unlocked" their right hemisphere tend also to be more emotionally unstable. "Too much brain lubrication," you might say...

The mental functions are verbal, involve more conscious cognition, planning, "scheming," public discourse, etc. The vital functions are largely nonverbal and "learn through doing." Doesn't that sound like left versus right hemisphere?

ADDED 12/16/2008:
I've done some reading on the hemispheres and have realized that I clearly don't know enough about the subject to make such broad statements. Furthermore, the pop-psychology understanding of the brain hemispheres is exaggerated or simply incorrect.

Some real-life examples of compensatory activities

SEI: attending public lectures on scientific topics
SLI: attending foreign language evening classes, "for fun"; attending public lectures by people who've traveled to exotic countries; reading Bertrand Russell (IEE) for fun
ILI: jogging daily
IEI: petty crime and "getting into trouble" (sorry, can't think of a more positive example right now)
IEE: nature walks; backpacking
ILE: attending group picnics and campouts
EII: yardwork and fixing things around the house
LII: attending dinner parties where he is a passive participant and is taken good care of
ESE: reading philosophy for fun

Nov 10, 2008

Partner Selection in Tribal Communities

I would like to continue the theme of my previous post in a more speculative vein.

With the low probabilities of finding an ideal partner I showed in the previous post, one might wonder how people in small tribal communities of approximately 150 people* ever experienced emotional intimacy... And these are the conditions where human psychology evolved in the first place.

First of all, with a shorter life expectancy, we can suppose that not 1 in 4, but 1 in 2 people were of the right age range for an intimate relationship. But wait... due to the large number of children in tribal societies compared to our own, the proportion would actually be about the same as it is today, so we'll leave it at 1 in 4.

Next, because of the small size of communities and the inbreeding that was bound to occur, the IQ range present in any one community was almost certainly such that almost everyone was within "reach" of almost everyone else.

If we stop at this point, we have a chance of 1 in 256 for finding an ideal partner for members of tribal communities. This would mean that about every other person could find a potential ideal partner within his own community; the rest would have to settle for "next best" or look for a partner among neighboring communities. This is still assuming, of course, that every "ideal partner" is also available! We have not yet addressed the issue of eligibility ("marital status").

However, type distribution was almost certainly not uniform in tribal communities, which would have tended to develop a dominant quadra or set of types in order to remain stable. This non-uniformity would tend to be more pronounced in smaller communities. This means that for most people in the community, the chance of finding an ideal partner within the community would be higher, and for a minority the chances would be lower. Such people would be more likely to leave the community to find an ideal match or to remain single, which would perpetuate the quadra or type dominance already in place in the community.

So, what we get is a situation where a majority of people in the tribal community can find an ideal intimate partner within their community of roughly 150 people (whether or not that person is available for a relationship), whereas the rest must look outside their community for a satisfying intimate relationship.

We know that tribal communities were (are) never completely isolated, but had considerable contact with neighboring communities, just like any animal community. This increased the "dating pool," so to speak. However, it is safe to assume that most people's closest relationships were with other people in their own community; otherwise, these communities would have ceased to exist as a distinct entity. Most likely, a large portion (40-80%) of people also chose mates from among their own communities, while the rest "spread their genes."

As shown here, the search for psychological compatibility could have been one of the factors contributing to the interchange of genes between tribe, in addition to already recognized traits such as the "explorer instinct."

This may be even more speculative than the above, but it seems to me that the number of psychological types was limited by the size of human communities. If psychological compatibility is at all an important factor for survival and success, evolution could not have produced a situation where, due to the large number of psychological types (say, 256 instead of 16), only a small minority of people were able to experience it.

The size of communities was, in turn, determined by the economics of food consumption and cooperation. These "economics" determined the degree of psychological differentiation possible within human communities, as well as the minimum average number of compatible partners available to members of human communities. That average number cannot be much below 1 if compatibility matters at all to evolution.

* Note: read this article to learn where the number 150 comes from when estimating typical community size.

What Are the Chances of Finding an Ideal Partner?

In this post I will try to model the chances of finding a psychologically ideal partner.

The difficulty of this exercise is distinguishing between "wants" and "needs" in the realm of psychological compability. Someone, for instance, may "want" a partner that makes a lot of money and has achieved professional success, but in reality they may be just as psychologically content with someone without these qualities. Someone may think they need someone who is an accomplished athlete like they are, only to find, much to their own surprise, that they feel perfectly at home with someone who is distant from the world of sports.

For the sake of this exercise we are going to assume that the purpose of the sought-for relationship is friendly, intimate romantic companionship, not establishing a safe haven for children, etc. Therefore, we will consider only factors that definitely impact the possibility of a psychologically intimate and comfortable relationship between two people.

The first division we will make is for gender. Only 1/2 of people are of the right gender for such a relationship (well, for the vast majority of people).

Next, only 1 in 16 has a psychological type that allows in principle for maximum intimacy. It is my belief and experience that the types are distributed rougly evenly, meaning that no type is more than twice as prevalent as any other (and probably quite a bit less than that).

For people who are not convinced of the importance of socionic intertype relations, but have considerable relationship experience, it shouldn't seem too far from the truth to suggest that, with all the kinds of personalities to be found among people, maybe only about 1/16 of people have the right psychological makeup to make ideal living partners and friends.

Next, a generous 1 in 4 of these people are of an age range that would allow for real intimacy. Social stereotypes of acceptable age differences don't necessarily correlate to what is actually possible. For some people the age range will be wider, and for others narrower.

Now, of these people, we will eliminate half for various psychological, physical, or cultural characteristics that make it impossible to become attracted to or deeply intimate with them. This generous estimate includes things like specific temperamental and physiological characteristics that may have a significant effect on real-life compatibility. Many people think they are far choosier than this, but circumstantial factors and long-term exposure to a person often spark friendship and intimacy where neither person would have expected it.

This leaves us with 1 in 256 people being a potential ideal partner. That may sound like too few, but we are talking about the population at large, not eligible candidates looking for a mate of your gender. 1 in 256 applies if you are looking for a partner by calling random numbers in the phone book. 

If you're in college, that proportion jumps to 1 in 64 because all are in the same age range. That means 1 out of every 32 people of the gender that interests you. That's not too bad. If you're in college taking 6 classes with an average class size of 30 people, that's 3 potential ideal partners among your classmates, not to mention extracurricular activities, "friends of friends," etc., which can increase your selection pool dramatically. There's a lot of room to be picky and look for common interests. Assuming, of course, that one is socially active (or responsive) and actually establishes contact with potential partners in one's selection pool.

But we're not done yet. Another factor that has an indisputable affect on people's ability to connect with others is the difference in IQ between them. I have read estimates of between 15 to 30 IQ points being the point at which communication difficulties arise. I will be a conservative and choose 30 points as being the maximum acceptable IQ difference for a high degree of emotional intimacy and psychological compatibility between people. Because of the bell-shaped distribution of IQ, this means that for most people in most circumstances, the influence of this factor will be negligible. For people at the upper and lower extremes, however, potential IQ differences can become as serious a communication issue as any of the others, even among duals of the right gender and age.

Here we will list the percentage of people who are in the acceptable range for people of a given IQ, and below that the chances of finding an ideal intimate partner among the population at large.

100 (average):
94% of people within range
1 in 272

80 or 120:
73% of people within range
1 in 351

60 or 140:
27% within range
1 in 948

40 or 160:
3% within range
1 in 8,533

20 or 180:
0.09% within range
1 in 284,444

Increasing your chances

Things don't have to be as bad as the probabilities I have listed above suggest.

Going to college increases your chances by 4, since all people are in an acceptable age range. Since you don't pay attention to all the people of the wrong gender, you can multiply your chances by 2. If your IQ is above or below average, you can increase your chances of finding an ideal partner by being a part of communities whose average IQ is as close as possible to your own. For example, if your IQ is 140 and you go to a university where the average is 120, your chances of finding an ideal partner from among your college peers are now the same as someone whose IQ is 120 (or 80) from among the population at large. If your job brings you together with people of your IQ range (and interests), this increases your chances, too.

Connecting with communities of people who share one or more of your interests is important in that it provides a convenient context to establish a connection with people who might be compatible with you. People with unusual interests often have difficulty at ordinary dating sites, where their interests are an oddity rather than the norm.

To summarize, the person in the best position to find an ideal partner is someone who is part of a community or communities of people of the same age range, IQ range, and general interests.

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.