Mutations in socionic typology
December 11, 2006
One of the difficulties of socionics is that one keeps encountering different "strains" of the typology. In the Russian speaking socionics world, one can get the impression that there is no consensus on how to define the types, and that everyone types as he or she pleases. This was my impression as well until I came across the celebrity benchmark project that convinced me of the existence of a socionics "mainstream," as well as the fact that I was securely in that mainstream myself, since I found I could agree with the vast majority of the types in the celebrity benchmark list. Until this moment I was not completely sure of my belonging to the "mainstream," since I had personally experienced a number of more peripheral groups and tried in vain to correct their mistakes, and had had less direct contact with mainstream socionists.
Mainstream socionics stems from the works of Aushra Augusta and from the more popular and widely used socionics materials available on the Internet. Many or most of the widely recognized, publishing socionists belong to the mainstream and have similar ideas about what constitutes socionic type. They can provide argumentation regarding someone's type that will make sense to other members of the mainstream based on a more or less common understanding of functions, information elements, the socionic model, and anecdotal type traits that "everybody knows."
The typings of mainstream socionists have the greatest chance of providing a satisfying, accurate view of intertype relations, since the concepts used were developed with this end in mind. There is an understanding that typings that imply intertype relations that do not accurately reflect actual interpersonal dynamics must be questioned.
Socionic splinter groups
Adherents of socionic splinter groups usually do not recognize themselves as such, but think they are studying "standard" socionics. However, due to the fact that they see types differently than other groups, they tend to have more problems finding a common language with other socionics fans than those who have studied mainstream socionics. As a result, they tend to have serious socionics discussions only with people from their "splinter group."
These splinter groups usually focus on some specific layer of the personality or on some innovation implemented by the group founder (e.g. a specific visual identification method, a specific temperament system that relates types to different temparaments, etc.) to the detriment of the whole, resulting in a typology that is less able to accurately predict intertype interaction. When this is the case, the leader consistently gives less attention to relationships, and followers tend to see intertype relations as "flexible" or even irrelevant to the typology, or significantly revise their descriptions of the relations to better fit their typings.
Where splinter groups come from
Perhaps the most common source of splinter groups are charismatic individuals who have identified their own type incorrectly. In order to support their own self-concept — an integral part of which is their own incorrectly identified socionic type — they distort socionic concepts in numerous subtle ways. Almost invariably, in their instruction and formulations they no longer emphasize functions and information elements — the building blocks of socionics — but instead talk about general personality traits, creating a typological system based on type descriptions and type anecdotes specific to their school.
The other common source of splinter groups are charismatic socionists who create new theoretical constructions based not on people and interaction, but on the theoretical possibilities of the socionic model or their own hobby topics that they somehow manage to relate to socionics. In these cases, the socionists become convinced of the "truth" of their new theoretical innovation and bend reality to make it fit their ideas. This can involve anything from insisting on the equivalence of socionic and astrological typologies to adding subtype divisions or other complications to the original theory and giving them more emphasis than the type itself.
There are many people with strange ideas about socionics, but splinter groups only form where there is a charismatic leader who is able to make others accept his views on a large scale.
The state of socionics in the West
It is too early to speak of socionic splinter groups in the West. Some of the early sources of information in English actually reflected peripheral approaches or the personal inventions of their authors and have caused much confusion — until it eventually became clear that these writings were not reflective of "mainstream" socionics. I see my own role in helping to establish a viable, mainstream socionics community that understands and applies fundamental socionic concepts, generates typings that "work" (i.e. provide accurate, useful descriptions of interaction), and speaks the same theoretical language as the mainstream Russian-speaking socionics community.
I am consistently surprised to find people who have never spoken to socionists in real life, yet seem to have a completely accurate understanding of types and the central socionic theory. Somehow they managed to pick up on to the main ideas of socionics and successfully relate the information they found on the web to their real-life experience. The relationships they observe around them correlate well to the intertype relations of socionics. Whether they realize it or not, these people are part of the socionics mainstream and will have the fewest problems talking about socionics to people from across the globe whom they've never met before.