Common biases in socionics

One of the challenges in creating objective statements about Socionics is that the very nature of the field invites the potential for bias. For a simple demonstration, consider someone trying to ascertain another persons strong IM elements by asking “What do you think you can do better than everybody else?” The question itself reflects a competitive nature, which may not be equally shared by all people. Furthermore, it is likely that some types would phrase this question differently from others; and similarly, some socionic types would have an easier time responding to the question when phrased that way.

Categories of potential causes for systemic biases in socionics include those shown in the table of contents below.

Type, quadra, or dichotomy-centric biases

Work by socionics theorists of a particular type or quadra may be subject to point-of-view biases inherent to their own type or quadra. For example, because Augusta and other prominent Socionists are from the Alpha quadra, their work has sometimes been suspected of reflecting an Alpha bias. Likewise, Vera Stratievskaya’s type descriptions are in turn sometimes suspected of reflecting a Gamma bias since her own type is ESI.


An example of possible Alpha bias is that descriptions of symbol_l.gif and symbol_i.gif are often described in what seem to some people to be broader, more encompassing terms than the IM elements of Gamma, being the opposing quadra. For example symbol_l.gif is sometimes described as related to the use of logic and understanding, as well as organization, whereas symbol_p.gif is often described enigmatically as related to “business logic” or random, disconnected facts.

symbol_i.gif bias

Similarly, symbol_i.gif is often described as relating to ideas, insight, and intellectual interest in general, whereas symbol_t.gif is often described more enigmatically as related to “time.” It is very likely Augusta increased the territory of symbol_i.gif in comparison to other IM elements to reflect the most outstanding qualities of herself and other ILEs around her. For example, here are a few lines about leading symbol_i.gif from her work The Socion, or Socionics Basics:

“When this element is in the leading position, the individual has pronounced cognitive interests. He is constantly studying underlying phenomena, which he is able to communicate to others quite successfully by making complicated things simple. Likes to explain to others his understanding of things. In favorable conditions becomes a scientist or writer” 1 <>

The rest of the description is probably objective, but this section above would apply to many people of other types with pronounced intellectual interests. Over time this bias seems to have weakened in Russian socionics, and statements such as Augusta’s are now rare among publishing socionists. However, in forums and informal discussions they are sometimes brought up by amateurs who have picked up the bias from socionics literature.

ILE bias

The ILE bias comes from Augusta herself and is closely related to the one above. According to Augusta’s original conception of type roles, ILEs were seen as being a type that sees the hidden roots of phenomena (supposedly symbol_i.gif) and arranges them into a system or theory (symbol_l.gif). For many years Augusta and her associates assumed that scientists and thinkers who generated new theories were ILEs (people like Einstein, Bohr, Newton, and Darwin). Later, she and others seemed to recognize this mistake, but the ILE bias has still not been completely undone. Just as “health” does not equate exactly to symbol_s.gif, “theory” does not equate exactly to symbol_l.gif, and people of different types may tend to generate theories of a slightly different nature.

Intuitive bias

In popular socionics, intellectual inquisitiveness and a focus on “the big picture” is often associated with intuition, while sensing is associated with a “focus on details” or a preoccupation with “the here and now.” While such a division may appear to be true for many or most people, intellectual sensers may not identify with the image presented by some descriptions of sensing. Such popular descriptions add attributes shared by most or all highly intelligent people to the “intuitive” category, leading to possible systematic typing errors.

Misinterpreting the behavior of other types

This category is similar to type- or quadra-related bias. However, here, the issue is that in describing a given type, one may notice behaviors that appear foreign. Hence, one’s description of a given type may reflect how odd or mysterious that type seems to oneself.

Examples One possible example is the common assertion that ILIs are predisposed against new ideas because of their being new. A number of factors may create this impression from the perspective of other types, such as that ILIs may:

  • View criticism as being an important form of contribution, which may have the effect of making it seem that they don’t like the idea they’re criticizing

  • Tend not to display enthusiasm to the degree of other types (because of subdued Fe)

  • Not want their primary role to be in the area of practical implementation, including implementation of other people’s ideas

  • Take too little initiative in promoting their own ideas

  • Be perfectionistic about their own ideas and therefore resentful when people with less honed ideas get more attention for them

A combination of these factors may cause ILIs to seem predisposed against new ideas when that may not necessarily be the case.

National and cultural biases

Cultural differences in overall demeanor, norms, and the ways people express themselves may influence type descriptions.

Russian vs. Western views
Competing typologies, such as the MBTI theory, which developed in the U.S. are sometimes described by Russian Socionists as too optimistic, showing too little of the dark side of the various types. In contrast, people from the West may be surprised by the degree to which Socionics types are described as melancholic. This difference may reflect differences in the degree to which people in different cultures tend to express melancholy, morose, pensive characteristics in public–or, on the contrary, the degree to which they are conditioned by their culture to express bright, optimistic qualities. In addition, socionics types’s “weaknesses” as perceived by other types, usually reflecting the super-ego functions, are a central part of the socionics conception of types, while MBTI descriptions tend to focus only on each type’s “strengths”, an approach that Russian socionists tend to see as too “politically correct” and avoiding of a frank discussion of the types.

Passing on descriptive elements without fully knowing their source

Many type descriptions contain similar phrases about very specific behaviors that have no connection to the position of functions in Model A. A famous example is a phrase from Weisband’s early descriptions that LIEs are “inclined towards alpinism.” If these don’t reference specific studies supporting them, then it becomes very difficult to ascertain the validity of such statements. Potentially, an observation made on a small number of people may get copied from description to description and hence become “standard” in type descriptions (or descriptions of other groupings), hence perpetuating a somewhat biased understanding. Collective discussion and criticism lessens the frequency of these “random” tidbits.

Associating specific interests and topic areas with types

A kind of bias related to the other categories comes from describing types, quadras, and IM elements in terms of specific interests and topic areas. For example, a person might associate interest in the arts with being an ethical type, interest in pure sciences with being an Alpha NT, and interest in applied sciences with being a Gamma NT. While some people regard these socionic “stereotypes” as completely valid, others point out that they’re also inaccurate for a number of people.

One problem with this kind of type-interest linkage is that it fails to take into account the roles other IM elements may play within in a particular interest. For example, it is commonly suggested that an interest in health is related to symbol_s.gif. However, when one thinks of the breadth of activities that may be related to health, it becomes apparent that many different functions might be involved:

  • Gathering and analyzing the latest research on nutrition

  • Predicting global trends related to world health

  • Coming up with innovative solutions to health problems

  • Developing formulas for maintaining good health

  • Fostering relationships for good psychological health

  • Using spiritual or emotional means to influence physiological health

By considering the breadth of what’s involved in “health,” it becomes clear that more IM elements than symbol_s.gif may be involved.

Describing socionic categories using language that is foreign to that category

The authors of The Semantics of the Information Aspects found that many existing descriptions of information aspects used language that did not resonate with the aspects themselves. For example, many descriptions of symbol_t.gif contain the word “mysticism,” which did not resonate with individuals with symbol_t.gif as a strong function. “Mysticism” was an external interpretation of the interests and behaviors of types with strong symbol_t.gif, but was not how these types themselves perceived things.

Other examples may be when sensers are described as being “focused only on the here and now,” or intuiters as being “impractical.” The first sounds like something an intuitive type would say about sensers, while the second sounds like what a sensing type might think about many intuiters.

It could be argued that describing Socionics categories from the perspective of how those of an opposing category may describe them is legitimate, valuable information. The bias comes if this isn’t done evenly for every category (i.e., if some categories are described from an internal viewpoint, and others from a more external viewpoint). Research on how people of different categories describe themselves and are described by people of other categories, and clearly annotated information based on such research, may help in overcoming such bias.

Over-emphasis on duality and intra-quadra relationships

Because Socionics was developed largely to understand behavior in long-term personal relationships, the benefits of certain relationships in other settings may be overlooked. For example, the impression is created that relations between opposing quadras are adversarial; however, in many settings these relations may be more agreeable than predicted (especially Contrary and Super-Ego relations). In an atmosphere that emphasizes purely intellectual discussion and doesn’t require emotional or practical support, Alpha and Gamma NT types may find a certain complementarity.

Duality is emphasized in Socionics because it involves complementarity at all levels. However, other relationships have their own merits.