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My Take on Socionics Preferences
12 March 2012

by I/O

The purpose of this article is to describe my understanding of the concepts behind the terms feeling or ethical (F or E), thinking or logical (T or L), sensing (S), and intuitive (N or I) as employed in type classifications. In Socionics theory, they have different implications than their dictionary meanings indicate. In reality, all personality types think, use logic, have feelings and ethics, sense, and intuit. Note that I will only be referring only to N, S, F and T because the respective alternate terms refer to identical concepts.

Everybody perceives their respective environments, at least to the limits that are placed upon their eyes, noses, ears, taste buds and nerve endings. However, people unconsciously develop preferences that place more importance on certain types of information that their senses detect, and certain types of data processing that governs understanding of this information. All types are biased by these preferences, which affect personality development and behaviour. It is also why multiple descriptions of an accident can be so varied among individuals at the scene or why people under the exact same set of conditions will react so differently.

From the many terms that describe brain functioning, I will only be referring to rationalization, which I consider to be a set of output determination processes. Fundamentally, input to the brain stimulates rationalization that produces output (decisions and or actions). The actual mechanics of brain operation is largely irrelevant to Socionics type - one does not need to understand all the inner workings of a computer in order to figure out how to use a word processor.

All information passing through our senses or taken from our memories, at all levels of granularity or detail, can be segmented into two fundamental components:

1. the absolute (S) that can be quantified in self-contained packets of information, and
2. the relative (N) that places each packet in context, in perhaps a multitude of ways, with every other related packet.

In a sense, input equals S plus N. For example, a hole can be described in a data packet, but understanding changes when it's described in relative terms as part of a larger bundle of information called a belt, which itself can be described in a packet, which in turn can be further described relative to it's being part of an ensemble of clothes, which then can be described in a packet and further described in another context or bundle.

The input processes of a specific Socionics type will develop either a predominately N- or S-perspective or preference. In reality, the two components cannot be separated and information is not complete without both components; however, brain processing is usually presented with information that has either this N- or S-bias, which doesn't exclude the other component. A right-handed person will make considerable use of the left hand (some more than others) and the same holds true for type preferences.

All cognitive output is produced from rationalization processes that also have two components:

1. the absolute (T) that produces quantifiable results from both quantitative (S) and qualitative (N) data, and
2. the relative (F) that produces qualitative results from both S and N input; F operates upon the contexts of and relationships among S and N data, and F and T processes.

Pure T-processes are straightforward, quantifiable and absolute like A plus B equals C, period. They will force limits on input regardless of its original state so that a quantitative result can be produced. Although setting limits will produce a concrete answer, the results will now have a T-bias. Since T processes need to operate on cold hard facts, personalities that predominantly use them will sometimes be viewed as cold and hard.

Pure F-processes operate only on association, and potential or estimated association; results can be largely indeterminate. For example, one places a value on the relationship between C and A, which depends on the various relationships among A, B and C and how the relationships would be affected by a specific decision or action. In this context, decisions also depend on potential results or an estimate of what could possibly happen (real or imagined); however, there is no way of proving the alternative reality so one may be left with a sense (a feeling) that the right or wrong choice was made. The values placed on various relationships will bias the results, which may seem to lack concreteness because many relationships are rather dynamic. Because of the indeterminate nature of the results, many will view the personalities that predominantly use these processes as soft, or warm and fuzzy.

All types rationalize with functioning F- and T-components. Even two plus two equals four will be associated with something, which may be as simple as why do these numbers ultimately need to be summed. At some point T-processing has to enter a F-processing environment, and vice versa. For example, T-processing is likely to be used more in constructing a room in a house while F-processes are likely to be used more in choosing the materials and or layout. The two components can only be separated in theory, not in reality.

In a sense, N-type information has parallels with F-type rationalization and S-type information parallels T-type rationalization. The mixture ratio of the F and T components will colour output as will the mixture ratio of the N and S components of input. Rationalization has no choice but to process that which is input. Therefore, observed behaviour will be influenced by a unique mixture of F, T, S and N preferences. Our perceptions and memories are inextricably coloured by our input/output processing system and the perspectives and preferences that have evolved within that system.

In light of the above, one can extrapolate that pure NF personalities would tend to produce the most relativism or the least amount of concreteness, while ST personalities are likely the ones to deal in absolutes and be the most literal. In the middle, NT personalities tend to make absolute determinations about relative or contextual information while SF personalities are likely to make relative or value determinations about absolute or concrete data. All that said, people are not pure types; if so, they would be considered handicapped - people with only one arm. There are strengths and weaknesses with every combination and mixture ratio but preferences (and handicaps) do not preclude human inventiveness and determination.
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