Recently I was a guinea pig in an opportunity for Olga Tangemann to demonstrate her diagnostics method to the World Socionics Society. Years ago Olga types me as LSE based on her methodology. My self-typing is SLI.
I was very sceptical at the outset, being of the opinion that things like art and music preferences are largely accidents of exposure, and finding it difficult to take her previous typing seriously. But I’m willing to be proven wrong so here we are. Olga was very pleasant to interact with and for the most part I enjoyed the novelty of such a different method, regardless of my scepticism.
The diagnostics process was quite long and involved; Olga is very thorough. Then she previously typed me as LSE it was based on nonverbal preferences alone, but this time she took me through the full process which included taking online tests and a video questionnaire. You can see my submissions and Olga’s analysis here.
I was asked to provide examples of my art and music preferences, examples of art and music that I disliked, photos of the art on my walls at home, photos of art I had created, and also photos of my outfits. This was quite fun and I have to admit to being charmed by diagnostic methods that are interested in my aesthetic sensibilities. This may just be my favourite test.
It was difficult to provide few enough examples of my favourite music; even after paring it down I still had too many. Olga very kindly did not complain. My taste is both very eclectic and dominated by metal; my understanding of her method led me to predict that she’d call half of it Ego music and the rest something incoherent. Her analysis ended up more nuanced than that (though not nearly as detailed as would satisfy my interest in the subject) and not incoherent, so I was pleasantly surprised.
It’s a shame that paintings specifically are necessary for the art component. I don’t have especially strong aesthetic responses to paintings compared to other visual arts and I was a little bit disappointed that I wasn’t able to share images that I really liked. You can see the results of this in that I chose paintings that largely looked like each other because I really don’t care much about paintings and I struggled to find enough of them for the exercise. I would be inclined to consider this a weakness in the test but Olga was actually able to get information from it that was similar to the information she got from the music so perhaps my relatively weak response actually didn’t matter that much.
The analysis of my photos was a bit questionable; I don’t know how much confidence you should really assume from mostly staged selfies. It was also a bit unfair; my friends and family have been pestering me to wear colour for most of my life and I only started adding bright colours, very slowly and with much prodding, about 4 years ago. So how much my current outfit formulas really have to say about my personality, I’m not sure, but without being familiar with the context it would probably not be appropriate to assume too much. This was really a missed opportunity to ask further probing questions to learn more about my personality. I think my wardrobe does have a lot to say on the matter though, and is probably as worthwhile to look at as any other nonverbal preference.
The analysis of 5 of the categories I was asked for (not including the disliked art/music) contradicted each other to some extent but there was also a clear theme of Logical, Sensing, and Dynamic. This sounds similar enough to my own self-typing and I now have a clearer idea of why Olga believed I was LSE, enough to make me less dismissive about the process even though the type is very clearly wrong. One of Olga’s colleagues chimed in as well with very different results. This is an issue in Socionics anyway and only one other contribution is hardly enough to form an opinion but nonetheless it calls into question whether analysing nonverbal preferences is a real “method” or just something that Olga personally has a talent for.
Nonverbal & Subtype tests: They involved selecting multiple choice options between images/colours/patterns. It was interesting to see a personality test where I couldn’t predict the outcome, but I’m not convinced anything useful came of them. I don’t believe Olga used them when eventually making her diagnosis.
Associative test: This was a more straightforward Socionics test with forced choice between different dichotomies etc. You’re also asked to choose between colours and such, but with the overlapping nonverbal questions but very different results between this test and the Nonverbal test, I have to question how much weight they actually have in the test’s algorithm. If you’re sufficiently savvy you may still be able to get whatever results you like.
Type-Subtype Analyser: It was never very clear as to how to correctly use this tool or what to expect from it. I think ranking IMEs in this way is just a bad idea and the qualitative features of functions are considerably more useful than any exercise like this. It produced somewhat confusing results and I can’t take it very seriously. I don’t believe it was weighted very highly in the end.
I am really not a fan of the questionnaire. As a client I felt like I was being made to do all of the work, like I was basically spoon feeding her my IMEs. I’m sure Olga’s interpretation of the answers must be more sophisticated than that. It was actually a bit tedious. Interviews like Jack’s with more “innocuous” questions and organic follow-up/clarifying questions are generally more pleasant to participate in and easier to take seriously at the end of it.
As a socionist, I think asking another experienced socionist directly about their IMEs is probably going to result in getting a predetermined outcome, particularly because unless you’re Socionics-naive these questions are extremely transparent. There is a temptation to answer in such a way that addresses the questions you know she’s really asking. I tried to avoid “helping” too much so it would be a truer demonstration, trying to answer based only on the words that she gave me. You can gauge my success for yourself.
With both those roles in mind I was also very aware of moments which could have done with some rescuing by the extra questioning you’d get from an interview format, but again I was trying not to “help” too much.
As of this writing she hasn’t yet released her analysis of the video so I can’t make any comment on that.
After all the nonverbal preferences and test results had been submitted, Olga believed I was LSE, like the last time she analysed them. The consistency is promising, even if the type was wrong. it may well be that, due to superior aesthetic sensibilities, Olga is able to glean meaningful information about peoples’ personalities from their nonverbal preferences… but not necessarily information that has a straightforward relationship with Socionics and quite possibly not replicable by others. Judging by her literature and participation in Socionics forums she seems to use Socionics terminology in somewhat idiosyncratic ways so it may well be that “dynamic music” and related concepts in the Associative School may or may not have a strong relationships with traits of the same name in mainstream Socionics.
After watching the video questionnaire, she changed her mind and agreed with my self-typing of SLI. Indeed I think it would be hard for anyone to maintain the opinion that I was an Energiser based on those videos; you can see my demeanour for yourself. It’s not clear how much weight Olga gives the questionnaire and nonverbal preferences relative to each other.
One of the problems raised before I was invited to take part in this process was Olga’s reliance on Visual Identification (VI) in type. I have already made some comments about the limitations of this in the still photos she analysed, but she didn’t seem to weight them very highly in the end. It’s hard to know what role VI played in her analysis of the videos until she releases it. Watch this space for amendments when she does get around to it.
After the final diagnosis, I was asked to choose a sub-type. Her sub-type system is quite interesting. I chose the Dynamic sub-type very easily, which would make me LSE sub-type. I think that’s a nonsensical and misleading way of expressing it but it was easy enough to relate to the sub-type description itself.
I suspect the sub-types do represent stable traits found in people but I don’t think characterising them as sub-types does credit to either them or Socionics. At present I consider them to possibly represent factors that may influence one’s personality without having much to do with information metabolism.
This exercise hasn’t really reduced my scepticism. Though I’m not intrigued by it as a stand-alone system that may or may not have some kind of relationship with Socionics, I did learn something about myself regarding my relationships with art and music and I thought that was valuable. If you care about art and you’re able to look past the Socionics-like terminology you may wish to seek Olga’s insight yourself.
The relationship that nonverbal preferences may have with Socionics is something interesting and I don’t think Olga’s insights are valueless. However, I think it would be best to investigate Olga’s theories on their own merits before seriously considering them in terms of Socionics. I also suspect that if they’re valuable for Socionics it’s going to be in limited contexts. For example it may be that she has more success applying her method for clients she can interact with personally than for typing public figures (she doesn’t seem to do so well at that by our standards at the World Socionics Society).
There’s also a major problem in how much the diagnostics process relies on self-report and it likely has all of the attendant problems. I think it probably successfully thwarts the kind of people who can get anything they like on a test in all but the Associative test, Type-Subtype Analyser and the video questionnaire, but all other problems still remain and I think things like art and music preferences are very likely going to attract answers based on what people think it would be socially desirable to admit to.
I would recommend against going through this process if you’re new to Socionics or don’t have a good grasp on the theory. Whatever interest or potential there may be in this method, the process is actually quite opaque and won’t aid in your understanding of Socionics theory in general, and the idiosyncratic terminology will likely prove confusing.