Oct 12, 2011

How Life Circumstances Influence Perception of Socionics

Now that I've criticized socionics in several blog posts, I will present a new perspective that may begin to reconcile different viewpoints on the accuracy of socionics*.

* When I write "socionics," I am referring to intertype relations — the core and purpose of socionics theory.

How acutely a person experiences socionics depends on their current life circumstances. You may go through phases where socionics seems to hold little sway over you, and phases where socionics seems to imprison you or dictate how you feel and what you are able to accomplish.

Here are the kinds of things that influence your sensitivity to intertype relations:
  • How well-adapted you are in general at this stage in life. How stable your work and close relationships are.
  • How much freedom you have to choose and regulate relationships and activities.
  • Whether you are spending more time one-on-one with people or in groups.
  • How much variety is built into your lifestyle.
The "worst" possible situation is when you are poorly adapted, have few friends, unstable work, are stuck with whoever you live and work with and are unable to maintain personal boundaries and spiritual hygiene, belong to no groups, and live a lifestyle with little variety. In these life circumstances socionic relations are likely to be experienced very acutely, with many or most intertype relations producing distress. The range of acceptably compatible people narrows to a very small group that is able to reach you through your chronic stress and defensive position.

The "best" possible situation is when you are well adapted, have several close friends and confidants, a stable work situation, freedom to choose and adjust your partnerships and activities to suit your tastes, belong to groups where you participate in interesting and enjoyable group interaction, and have variety built into your lifestyle such that you are engaging the mind, body, and emotions in a number of different ways on a regular basis. In these life circumstances socionic relations may seem to hold little sway over you, and virtually everyone seems compatible in some way or another. The range of people you are able to connect with meaningfully expands, and your openness and sense of security makes it easy to brush off slight manifestations of incompatibility that you might otherwise be sensitive to.

But beyond the influence of life circumstances, it seems that some inherent and developed personality traits can make a person more or less susceptible to socionics. For instance, a typical extravert (in the popular sense) may find that while they personally don't sense incompatibility with other people, for some reason others often react negatively to them and say they are "pushy," "overbearing," "too talkative," etc. Typical extraverts may generally feel untouched by socionics, while occasionally experiencing periods of intense loneliness when they feel that everyone dislikes them and they have no true friends (or for other reasons). Typical introverts (in the popular sense) may generally feel highly susceptible to intertype relations and only able to tolerate a narrow range of highly compatible people. Occasionally some of these introverts may experience states where they can open up and briefly abandon their sensitivity.

Furthermore, one can develop attitudes that affect how acutely socionics is felt. I'm not sure "develop" is the right word, because I think even this type of development is largely outside of conscious control. For instance, if one comes to believe things like — 1) one's own perception is innately limited and prone to error, 2) all people contain some amount of wisdom to be learned from, or 3) all people experience the same basic things and can thus be empathized with — then a greater openness can be felt towards other people, softening the effects of socionics. Likewise, beliefs such as — 1) I know the truth, 2) it is my duty to bring the truth to other people, 3) some people are good and others bad, or 4) some people are innately defective — will tend to make one's experience of intertype relationships more acute than otherwise.

Some life circumstances allow a person to escape the "necessity" of duality (or let's just say, "fulfilling intimate relationships"). The formula I have discovered for this is:
  • a vastly simplified lifestyle that allows you to keep your mind uncluttered
  • a high degree of freedom and elective solitude
  • large amounts of group interaction
  • frequent new acquaintances with the option of getting to know people quickly and thoroughly
This is the lifestyle of the wandering philosopher, the spiritual teacher, the long-distance hiker or skilled solo traveler. Those in this position get to experience the best of people (their life experiences, accumulated knowledge, hopes and dreams) while avoiding the worst (finding ways to cooperate in day-to-day living). Living this way, you may develop a kind of "love of mankind"; instead of emotionally latching on to particular individuals you know well, you experience positive feelings for everyone you meet and for the world in general. In this state duality and deep intimacy may lose their importance because you are regularly connecting deeply with many different people. This is the lifestyle of Jesus (assuming the New Testament is accurate), the Dalai Lama, Ghandi, and some long-distance travelers I've met. I think some types are more predisposed to develop this way.

(I encourage readers to think about if there are other types of lifestyles that produce similar effects but work for different kinds of people.)

To summarize, sensitivity to intertype relations as described by socionics is highly influenced by how healthy your life circumstances are at the moment, how sensitive you are physiologically and psychologically, what attitudes you have developed, and whether you are traveling.

Oct 6, 2011

Wikisocion Needs New Home

Once again, Wikisocion needs a new home. We either need 1) a reliable for-pay hoster, 2) hosting on someone's personal server, or 3) hosting on one of the free wiki farms that offers mediawiki support (the software package that Wikisocion uses).

Oct 5, 2011

Critique of MBTI Research Paper on Climate Scientists' Types

I was recently sent a link to a paper titled "Personality type differences between Ph.D. climate researchers and the general public: implications for effective communication".

This is a great example of a pseudoscience trying desperately to make itself socially and academically relevant. Behind all the academic language and references is a trivial observation: climate change researchers are, on average, more intelligent and academically-minded than the general public.

Let us scrap the MBTT for a moment and propose a new typology. In this new system people will record the number of hours a week they spend communicating with scientists and academics either through reading scientific papers and texts, writing such texts themselves, or verbally communicating with scientists.

Next, we divide the results into 16 intervals roughly as follows:

  1. 20-100 hrs
  2. 15-20
  3. 10-15
  4. 5-10
  5. 2-5
  6. 1.5-2
  7. 1.2-1.5
  8. 1.0-1.2
  9. 0.8-1.0
  10. 0.6-0.8
  11. 0.5-0.6
  12. 0.4-0.5
  13. 0.3-0.4
  14. 0.2-0.3
  15. 0.1-0.2
  16. 0-0.1

Now, we identify traits common to people of the same or similar type. It turns out, those who spend a lot of time doing, reading, or talking about science have many traits in common. They think differently than those who spend just a few minutes a week encountering science.

Next, we give climate researchers and the general public a single-question questionnaire and discover — lo and behold! — that their types are quite different from those of the general public. As we think about this discovery, it occurs to us that these two groups might experience difficulty communicating with each other. Given that "climate change messaging" and "failure to communicate the science to the public" are hot topics in the climate change policy community, we now feel we have found the answer to this problem: it's because the types of climate researchers tend to be different from those of the public at large.

Our recommendation at the end of our triumphant research paper is that climate researchers need to study our typology to better understand how they are different from the public. They need to learn how people think who do not spend more than a few minutes a week reading, writing, or talking science.

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.