Socionics: Are Human Relations Predictable?
© Dmitri Lytov, text, translation from Russian,
Socionics and Problems of Pedagogy.
Socionics is a psychological theory that spread over the territory of the former Soviet Union during the last 20 years, and now is gaining popularity in other countries as well. Its adherents accept as a matter of fact that relationships between people and their inborn talents do correlate, and forecasting one’s interactions with others is possible on the basis of learning his capabilities.
Back in 1920 Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung  developed a theory of personality types based on the presumption that some inborn traits cannot be simultaneously strong: the limited psychic energy has to be divided between the functions, and nature predetermines which function must receive more and which less, so that from birth one function is more developed than the other. Later on the basis of his theory several popular tests have been developed Eysenck Temperament Test, MBTI —Myers & Briggs Type Indicator, Keirsey Temperament Sorter etc. [3, 6-8, 12]. Unfortunately these authors did not give much focus to the problem of intertype relationships. Moreover, in the circles of MBTI adherents there is still no unanimity: e.g. Keirsey postulates that the more partners are unlike each other, the better , while Tieger and Barron-Tieger are sure of just the opposite .
Strange as it may seem in psychology personality types and interpersonal relations are usually considered as independent, mutually irrelevant phenomena. Moreover, Soviet psychology often ignored the very fact of the existence of personality inborn traits: according to Marxist-Leninist approach, “man is a product of society”.
In 1980s a Lithuanian sociologist Aushra Augustinavichiute wrote a series of works where she tried to prove that personality types first described by Jung serve as a clue to relations between people. Her theory was called socionics: socio- (i.e. relevant to society) + -onics like in bionics (a science on biological modeling) – a theory of modeling social relationships and behavior based on the knowledge of personality types.
It is not mere coincidence that socionics started to flourish in the Soviet Union. For years the Soviet Power considered individual human beings as something inferior to the state (and in 1930-1950 psychology itself was prohibited). In reaction to former suppression of these problems they have attracted enormous interest with the changing of times, especially during the years of perestroika.
Many socionists specialize in children and school psychology, occupational, family and business consulting [3, 9, 10]. In this article I will try to describe how socionics is relevant to solving problems in education and nurture, as well as interpersonal relations.
Types and Teaching.
Since 1991 Yekaterina Filatova, a socionist (i.e. a psychologist specialized in socionics) from Russia, has been collecting picture portraits of those whose personality types she has tested. Her collection currently includes over 1500 photographs . In doing this she has made an interesting observation – many representatives of the same type have a lot in common in appearance, as if they were twins, being in fact not even relatives – almost a sure testimony in favor of genetic origin of personality types.
This important fact means that possibilities of “restructuring personality” are limited. Unfortunately, very often a problem arises at school or at home (and in business as well!) of ignoring one’s personality, of trying to “reeducate” people, make of them something different than they are. “I know you can understand, you just don’t want to!” a pupil will often hear from his instructor or a kid from his father. But doesn’t he really want to?
To explain the reasons of non-understanding, let me tell a little about personality types used in socionics. There are 16 types – the same number as in MBTI, but criteria are somewhat different, much closer to original Jung’s ideas. For this reason there is no strict correlation between MBTI and socionic types, only “more or less probable” similarity. In fact, socionists distinguish up to 64 subtypes.
Table 1 represents type formulas and pictures of the most characteristic representatives of each type.
Modern medical researches have shown that personality type criteria (discovered by Jung and called intuition, sensation, thinking, feeling etc.) do correlate with the brain structure (one more testimony in favor of genetic nature of personality type). However, when communicating with somebody, we cannot dissect his skull to find out his type. But we can make certain conclusions about one’s personality type based on external factors, which constitute personality. Victor Gulenko, a psychologist from Kiev (Ukraine) has split personality into two components [2, 3].
The first component is called occupational mindset and is comparable to career interest groups in MBTI . The occupational mindset is based on the dominance of either:
—logic (the one who judges people and events objectively, yes-or-no, as though being a non-involved observer, in MBTI called thinking) or ethic (the one who judges people and events from the standpoint of personal qualities of the participants, as though being directly involved and interested, in MBTI called feeling),
—intuition (with predominant abstract thinking and imagination, which often makes one inattentive, distracted) or sensation (with permanently stressed attention, strong feelings, concrete thinking). NB: since common sense often associates intuition with thinking, and sensation is confused with feeling, (in Russian language the difference is extremely obscure), the thinking/feeling dimension introduced by Jung was renamed in socionics into logic/ethic.
The second component was called temperament (not the same as Keirsey temperament!) and is comparable to groups of reaction to changes in MBTI . According to the temperament, one can be either:
—extraverted (keywords: expansion, extension, “Didn’t I forget to do anything?”) or introverted (keywords: stabilization, harmonization, “Isn’t this initiative redundant? Can’t it harm existing relations, hierarchy etc.?”),
—rational (with predominant ‘judging’ parts of the brain) or irrational (with predominant ‘perceptional’ parts of the brain). NB: Jung called irrational types also perceiving, rational – judging . However, MBTI fills the J/P dimension with totally different meaning , which leads to confusion.
Temperament is a very fine and flexible part of the psyche; it would be difficult to give an adequate description of temperament in this brief article. By contrast, occupational mindsets are very easy to detect in communication. Very often misunderstanding between a teacher and a pupil, parents and children may be traced back to the difference in occupational mindsets. They are four (see Table 1).
Researchers. They own a well-developed analytical and inventive thinking, vivid imagination. Their interests are various; often they even have knowledge that seems redundant to others, for the reason that it may be useful one day. They think a lot and often offer unusual, non-standard solutions. The Achilles’ heel of Researches (exactly what they must sacrifice for their perfect mental skills) is that they are often tactless in relations with people. They can find brilliant solutions, but get stuck at their implementation, because of awkwardness in handling the human factor, as well as of forgetting “those boring details”.
Humanitarians. These are people whose imagination is directed towards the human world and human relations. The developed skill that they would usually possess is their ability to make one enthusiastic or calm him down, to find a key to one’s soul and talents. Their common problem is rooted in their emotions and passions, which do not allow them to live quietly. Even the smallest problems (especially material ones) may trigger frequent mood swings, and make them feel depressed.
Socialites. Human needs, life and the material world are things that interest them. Their realism and the negotiating skills often make them successful in life and attract representatives of the opposite sex. Their usual problem is subjectivism, lack of sober skepticism. They often overestimate their skill to make unofficial arrangements, influence people, instead of evaluating objective factors, independent of people and their relations. For example, if a teacher awards a bad mark to a pupil-social, a usual reaction of the latter wouldn’t be “I did not prepare myself for the lesson”, but rather “the teacher is prejudiced towards me”.
Pragmatics. This sort of people evaluate things from the standpoint of practical result, they dislike “visionaries” and “hollow conversations”. Their manner of communication at close distances is, as a rule, rather harsh (“I am a frank person!”), plain – unless the partner gains respect for himself. Their typical problem is the obscure understanding of their own feelings, which is especially unpleasant for women of these types. Being often unable of expressing their feelings adequately, they tend to be abrupt and suspicious for no reason. Their second problem is a habit to use “well-proved ways”, and they do not like to use new, unusual approaches. The third problem is caused by their strive for concrete values – for this reason they strive for being “authoritative”, and often interpret advice from others (even constructive) as an infringement on their authority.
From these short descriptions one can see that personality type does determine one’s capabilities of performing certain activities. Unfortunately people do not choose their occupation with their inborn skills in mind. Sometimes parents desire a prestigious occupation for their child. Other times it may happen that the demand for one’s inborn capabilities is too low, so that he must pick a different road. However, life changes, and one day an opportunity may present itself to correct one’s unlucky choice.
In addition, the difference in occupational mindsets often result in misunderstandings. Such cases are well known at school. Let us consider an example when a teacher belongs to a pragmatic type while most pupils are researchers. Most likely, pupils will appreciate his exactness, succinct manner of speech, combined with a meticulous approach; however, later they may get irritated by his triteness, monotony, too standard thinking. His lessons may seem to them too limited, short-sighted. Moreover, if pupils try to argue with him, he may see this as an infringement on discipline or his own authority and so fall into crudeness. What can one do then? Experienced pedagogues, even having no knowledge of personality types, take into account interpersonal difference in their work; however, the inexperienced ones may be tempted to mold pupils into “different persons”, or even to punish them for “an improper manner of thinking”, for not wishing to understand their best strives, not valuing their efforts. This is a dead-end street.
Actually there are many problems in the world of pedagogy that can be solved with the aid of Socionics [3, 7, 8]. The scientific and technical progress generates more and more information, as a result of which a pupil upon graduation from a school has insufficient knowledge to enter a university or a college. Will extending school programs by 2-3 more years be a good solution? Common sense tells us that since progress will not stop, school programs will need more and more extension… Human life is also extended with medical progress, but not so quickly. However, a different approach is possible, which is being successfully applied in Japan – from the early childhood kids “get sorted” by their capabilities, in order to get specialized (occupational) education—the earlier, the better, instead of having their brains stuffed with a lot of useless information relevant to things they will never be able to apply. Just through this approach Japan has made its “economic leap forward”, while Russia and the US still are states with a significant external debt. If a country wants to provide its citizens with lasting prosperity, it cannot take lightly the problems of education.
Interpersonal relations are also a very important problem. It is well known that many families break up due to “incompatibility of personalities”, which may badly influence children and cause them needless suffering. Socionists actively study such problems and research ways of solving them. This is why Socionics has a great future (and, as it was mentioned before, a very active present).
Internationalization of Socionics.
Before the 90-s of the past century Socionics was known only inside the former USSR. Moreover, several years ago a twin of socionics appeared in Germany – a theory bearing the same name, but having nothing in common (see e.g. www.sozionik.de). However, over the past 10 years the “genuine” Socionics began to spread over many countries of the world. There are reasons for this. First, several socionists emigrated from the former USSR. Second, socionics began to attract attention of foreign psychologists, first of all representatives of similar theories. Since socionics has a lot in common e.g. with MBTI, it will be reasonable not to focus on the differences between them (there are much more significant differences with the Enneagram, which MBTI adherents often combine with their own approach), but to develop positive experience exchange.
Literature (in parentheses – language and year of publication):