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The Limitation of MBTI and Socionics
19 September 2010

by I/O

Both Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and Socionics fail to recognize that cognitive processing must operate within the confines of a control system that exhibits its own behavioural characteristics. The purpose of this article is to point out how this limits analysis stemming from both classification structures.

MBTI assumes that an extroverted function must dominate a particular type, perhaps because interface with the external world is considered fundamental; it is also likely more observable. Socionics doesn't make this error. However, both systems erroneously refer to sensing (S), intuition (N), thinking (T) and feeling (F) as functions when in reality, they're preferences employed by an input/output control system. They further indicate that functions are either extroverted (E) or introverted (I) when in fact these terms refer to perspective rather than to function; a function should refer to the interaction of elements.

Type must be built upon a closed or open-loop control system, the behaviour of which comprises a temperament. Closed-loop compares data with that already in memory and interactively modifies memory in small increments on a comparative basis whereas open-loop overwrites memory on an interrupt basis, unconditionally replacing old information with new. Open-loop considers real world data as more relevant than that which resides in memory whereas closed-loop assumes the opposite; and temperament can be either an input or output-driven process.

The following table contains the priorities for input and output-driven processes within two control system configurations, and common traits of these configurations. The Socionics columns contain only priorities that affect its j and p-type profiles, while the MBTI rows contain priorities and common traits that affect its J and P-type profiles.

(Output driven)
(Input driven)
Common Traits

- control
- know
- verify
- engagement

- security/health
- experience
- examine
- alertness
- react to stimuli
- lock onto
- centric
- interactive
- focus on
- adjust memory
- work from the familiar
- comparative
- plan
- understand
- analyze
- objectivity
- exploration
- environment
- acquire
- awareness
- has a direction
- maintains distance
- peripheral
- independent
- expand outward
- overwrite memory
- adopt the new
- associative

Note that the priorities and traits listed in the table are not related to E, I, S, N, F or T. Thus, Socionics will not be able distinguish vertically among the priorities while MBTI has the same problem horizontally. Unlike Socionics, MBTI should be able to properly allocate common traits to type; however, the assumption that 'extroverted leads' would erroneously imply that input-driven types operate only in open-loop and output-driven types in closed-loop. MBTI structure does, however, lean toward the fact that input and output are inextricably linked (paired) and Socionics correctly implies that S, N, T and F are independent of temperament.

Input and output processes operate with preferences somewhere between absolute (S and T) and relative (N and F) extremes - there are no precise terms for these preferences so many notations would be valid; however, the concept of introversion and extroversion should be replaced by control-system concepts and notation. For example, INTj could be described as logical with intuitive input and open-loop temperament (LIO), or as an open-loop temperament dominated by rationalization in absolute terms and fed by relative input (ORAIR). Note that the J/j and P/p designations add no information to type; they may even confuse so are better omitted as in the original Socionics notation.

In conclusion, both MBTI and Socionics have diverse classification structures due to an incomplete picture of how temperament must operate, so the analysis stemming from them cannot easily be cross-compared. MBTI may better discern common processing traits while Socionics may better discern independent preferences, and whether input or output leads processing. However, neither system has properly defined data-flow, process or function. Hence, their analysis of type have aspects that can be somewhat inexplicable without augmentations or exceptions to their respective theories, which constitutes a patch-work approach. In order to properly assess type, one needs to first analyze the control system and then add in the affects of preferences and perspectives.
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