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Common Misperceptions of Socionics

Recently there has been some discussion (follow this link) about the current Wikipedia article on socionics. This criticism comes from reading some of the other popular sites on socionics in English (not this one, which is still fairly "hidden"), which create some false impressions about the field. Since these objections to socionics seem to come up again and again, let's look at them:

1. Socionics claims to be the "The New Psychology."
This is indeed a silly claim to make, wherever it came from. Psychology is a massive field encompassing "the study of the human mind, brain, and behavior" (Wikipedia). Socionics studies a subset of psychological phenomena and thus can be considered a theory within psychology.

2. Socionics claims that you can tell how a person thinks by the way they look.
This is another misrepresentation of the field due to occasional socionists placing excess emphasis and faith on visual typing practices. However, this statement is actually not as bad as the person writing it thinks. For example, imagine that you are an experienced psychologist who has counseled hundreds of individuals. Would you not eventually get to the point where you would have a good feel for new clients' troubles just by seeing them briefly for the first time? Your built-up experience and reactions to hundreds of clients would form a sort of intuitive sense of what people are going to say and how they will act. There is nothing "pseudo-scientific" about this skill. However, this skill cannot be easily conveyed to another psychologist; each must build up his own volume of experience, perhaps with occasional hints from a more experienced psychologist. The idea that one socionist can convey his typing "art" to another by giving the person a mere system of algorithms is an illusion. But this does not mean that the art cannot exist in the first place. However, this "art" is not really a part of socionics, since it cannot be formulated exactly, and each socionist has his own method and vision.

3. Socionics reduces complex personal relationships to simple mathematic equations.
"Simple mathematic equations" is an exaggeration, but yes, this is the main goal of socionics — to reveal hidden structure and repeating patterns in interpersonal relationships. This is a completely valid and worthy scientific goal. The fact that different relationships have significantly different characteristics is self-evident. If some of these characteristics can be generalized and classified, then a "reduced" understanding will result. This is the natural result of all scienceto provide a generalized description of observable phenomena based on a theory of the hidden mechanisms that cause them. If socionics is to be criticized, it should be for the lack of good fundamental research on the nature of human interaction, an issue that I discuss here.

4. Socionics has practically no evidence supporting its claims that I can find. Where is the proof?
This is and probably will remain the main criticism of socionics. When people introduce new categories, others want to understand why they are necessary. People prefer new categories to be self-evident so that they can see them, too. Socionics' categories — such as logic/ethics, intuition/sensing, etc. — are far from self-evident and are debated among socionists themselves. Non-self-evident categories are perfectly O.K. for scientific theories, which postulate the existence of hidden mechanisms to explain phenomena. However, the need for postulating their existence must be demonstrated through studies or experiments which clearly show that something "inexplicable" is going on behind the scenes. This is where socionics is lacking. You could argue — as I do above — that relationship differences are sufficiently self-evident to warrant a theory explaining their hidden structure. However, socionics has not sufficiently demonstrated that its categories specifically are the ones that needed to be introduced to explain this structure. All we know is that Aushra Augusta chose Jung's typology to work with and made some minor changes and clarifications to it to explain the relationship patterns she was studying.

Why do these misunderstandings arise?

In my opinion, such misunderstandings are normal for new fields of study that have not yet become "canonized" academic disciplines with their own academic hierarchy and recognized textbooks. Take, for example, the field of memetics — a logically flawless "view" or "approach" to the study of cultural phenomena and information transfer in society. Memetics has developed based exclusively on the combined efforts of a group of sharp enthusiasts. Until such fields become academic disciplines (if ever), anyone can write anything they want about it and claim to speak for the field as a whole. This is the condition socionics is in. Many of the people who write about socionics are not academically inclined and make intellectual errors or are overly enthusiastic about socionics' potential. They are not conscientious enough in describing the serious issues in the field; hence the criticism discussed above.

In my opinion, if the intellectual potential brought to bear in socionics or any other new field is sufficient, the field can be turned into a science or morphed into a respectable academic discipline if there is a viable subject of study. I am convinced that socionics has a viable subject matter — that of psychic mechanisms influencing interpersonal relationship patterns. However, if the masses find socionics so fascinating that they insist on bastardizing it to the level of horoscopes, then socionics will fail to become a science, and the scientifically inclined will defect to other fields, while the remaining "leaders" will simply try to turn it into a profitable business endeavor, which seems to have happened with many "exciting ideas" that never made it into the fold of empirical science. As for socionics, I would like to see it develop into a viable field of science.

08/02/2006 Rich
Many of the common misperceptions of socionics as a science are mainly from the marketing practices of other sites, in an attempt to popularise socionics and their own theories.

The result of this includes sites presenting the least amount of the original theory which conflicts with their own ideas on the subject. Also (in the case of British sites and[!]) simple New Labouresque sound bites attempting to make socionics look like everything we've ever wanted in life but could never have.

Leaving the english speaking internet community totally mislead, confused and suspicious of new sites. Trying to fill in the enormous gaps of knowledge and understanding in the science by coming up with their own theories (see cross-typing) by incorporating already know ideas and theories (MBTI and Jung) with socionics.