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The Functioning of Type
15 February 2010

by I/O

Both Meyers-Briggs and Socionics seem to classify preferences not functions; function should refer to operating processes - movement of data. They poorly allude to root functioning in labelling of preferences as extroverted or introverted, and by identifying a 'lead' preference. However, neither seem to address nor test for fundamental system processes. This article discusses the possible system structure beneath 'Type'.

The brain needs to have input and output capabilities for both our memory and the environment; one has to be able to create, access and refine one's own memory and experience, as well as acquire information from and operate in the external world. Human intelligence comprises a single input/output system; and since there is only one processing unit, the brain, introverted and extroverted input and output must be integrated in some way - operations without coordination would confuse the psyche. Initially, these processes would only have rudimentary functioning, basic data flow that would start to adapt to environmental conditions, and refine themselves gradually through experience; type preferences would eventually solidify - thus, personality develops.

Personality is nothing more than the way in which someone responds to and deals with the world, which stems from the way input and output has been structured and coloured up to that particular point in time. Colour is how I visualize sensing (S), intuitive (N), thinking (T, logical) and feeling (F, ethical) preferences within the input/output system. These preferences refer to the interpretation and treatment of specific types of data in specific ways; their labels can be somewhat misleading, but they do serve to classify some perspectives that drive the development of personality. I view them as providing colour to the brain's root processing (or temperament), which underpins an operating structure that contributes its own characteristics to Type.

Every individual normally utilizes five senses. However, the word 'sensing' in Type descriptions refers to raw (non-interpretive) data from the senses, the history of which resides in memory - S is detail, fact and specificity. 'Intuitive' refers to relational information obtained from the same senses; N comprises the intangible, impressionistic and relativistic. The N focus is the composite picture while for S, it's the details within the picture. N is the impression, the overall and the whole while S is the hard fact, constituent parts and procedures. The division between the two preferences is by definition only because in reality, they are impossible to separate. Both perceptions exist in everyone; however most prefer one colour (type, preference) of perception over another – similar to how one's hands are used.

As well, all individuals rationalize information acquired from the senses. 'Thinking' or 'logical' refers to a preference to use resource-based rationalization to produce output (behaviour and information); T rationalizes in absolute, 'black-and-white' terms. 'Feeling' or 'ethical' refers to a preference to use relative or value-based rationalization; F is attributed to intangible, impressionistic or relativistic output derived from the same input sources as T. Again, this is a theoretical division for classification purposes. The focus of F is how people and or things relate, or one's impression whereas with T, it's the characteristics, activities and employment of people (self included) and things. If T is black-and-white, then F should be viewed as shades-of-grey. Similar to the division between S and N, a certain colour of rationalization would eventually pervade behaviour.

There are only two ways in which input and output processes can operate in a stable structure. The first is a closed-loop method where either input or output leads the loop process forcing the other to lag in its operation. A closed loop is employed when data already in memory is used as the basis for comparison; it is essentially a reference driven configuration. The only other possible configuration is having input and output running independently (open loop) but this set-up has to be stabilized through a 'daisy-chain' or interrupt method, where each process takes turns operating but one has to be the master having higher priority. An open loop has to be employed when there is no reference or comparison base, such as with external data. However, these two processes are both necessary and share operation by employing an interrupt methodology where either open- or closed-loop is higher priority or the preferred process.

Closed-loop operation is much different than open-loop, so the preference to use one over the other must develop at a very early age, thus, facilitating further development. Becoming input or output dominant (p or j) may occur later but it still has to happen in early years. However, colourisation is a developmental process that can take more than twenty years to be fully realized, and to a certain degree, may be an ongoing refinement of Type throughout life.

In conclusion, there are two input/output configurations. Preferences could be viewed as colourisations of the processes in each configuration; they are not functions onto themselves. All output configurations have shades of both F and T, one overshadowing the other to varying degrees - the same holds true for input's S and N. Hence, there are characteristics of Type that can be associated with preferences but there are many that should be associated with system function, process and structure. One needs to take a systems approach to Type determination, which may eliminate the need to define various subclasses, hidden agendas, etc. in order to explain behaviour.
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