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Psychological types



 

If there were some formula for success, or for predicting the future then evolution could proceed along a single path of development converging to this optimal solution. Since this is not possible, divergent approaches are needed. This requires diversity at all level of structure, between species, between individuals within a species and within an individual. Jung's Psychological Types[25] characterizes some of this diversity both between individuals and within an individual.

Jung saw universal `types' in human personality These types are all present in all of us but there tends to be one predominant type or normal mode of organizing our experience. The types are both complementary and competitive. One can gain insight into oneself and others by understanding the structure that Jung described but one must not interpret it too narrowly or literally. The reality that underlies this simple intellectual model is far more complex and problematic than any description of it can suggest. I urge you to read Jung, but I will give a brief summary to provide context for my remarks.

Jung begins his description by noting two approaches to evolutionary success. One can have many offspring with few defenses and a short life or one can, at the expense of lower fertility, invest more in the individual equipping each with more defenses and a longer life. This fundamental tradeoff can appear in many forms. Some individuals limit their activities and carry them on intensively. They are inner directed or introvert  s. Others are extensive in their activities and of necessity less intense. They are extravert  s. We live in a strongly extraverted culture and thus introversion tends to be viewed in inferior terms and seen almost as a defect. Jung, who considered himself an introvert, did not see it that way. Introversion and extraversion are attitude-types  .

The attitude-types ... are distinguished by their attitude to the object. The introvert's attitude is an abstracting one; at bottom, he is always intent on withdrawing libido from the object, as though he had to prevent the object from gaining power over him. The extravert, on the contrary, has a positive relation to the object. He affirms its importance to such an extent that his subjective attitude is constantly related to and oriented by the object(557)[25].

In contrast to the attitude-types Jung defined the function-types  . These refer to the predominant mode of processing information and the orientation of that mode. The rational type  s process information somewhat like a von Neumann computer  . They organize experience in a framework of cause and effect. The irrational types  process information somewhat like a neural net. They organize experience in a framework of patterns with more complex and higher dimensional structure than the linear processing of a von Neumann computer.

Thinking  uses rational processes, and its own laws or models, to bring elements of both internal and external experience into conceptual connection with one another. Feeling  uses rational processes to recognize the value of an experience or situation. Thinking relates experience to a conceptual framework. Feeling relates experience to a framework of what is valuable or important. The two functions may be in accord. For example, if there is a physical threat. Understanding how to avoid this is what is important. In dealing with other people these are often in conflict. The truth often huts and what one thinks the truth is hurts even more often, Everyone's conceptual framework, in so far as they have one, is different. Statements that will enhance the feeling situation are often not in accord with ones own conceptual framework and vice versa. Saying what you believe to be objectively correct can get you in a lot of trouble or alienate people you care about.

At a superficial level thinking and feeling types can be mutually attractive and compatible. The feeling type reacts to enhance the feeling situation and thus it seems to the thinking type that they have compatible conceptual frameworks. The feeling type is able to move the situation to what is of value because the thinking type is largely unaware of how these movements are being controlled by the feeling type. This superficial attraction and compatibility can lead to a fundamental impasse if too deep a relationship is attempted. The superficial compatibility comes from the inherent differences that gives each their own sphere of influence. If either tries to move out of their sphere the fundamental difference becomes apparent.

The sensation type  s are oriented by the patterns they recognize in internal or external experience. The intuitive type  s are oriented by patterns that indicate where a situation came from or where it is leading to. ``In intuition a content presents itself whole and complete, without our being able to explain or discover how this content came into existence(770)[25].'' The same is true of sensation. When we recognize our friend's face we cannot say what steps we went through to do this. Intuition  and sensation 

are pattern recognition processes  . The difference is that sensation focuses on the content of an internal or external experience. Intuition focuses on the precursors of an experience or where an experience might lead. We cannot explain pattern recognition the way we can explain a rational process. That does not mean it is beyond rational or causal explanation as Jung seemed to think. We can describe how a neural net comes to recognize a pattern. We can break this up into causal steps although these are nothing like the causal steps in a rational deduction and do not explain the process the way the steps in a rational process explain the conclusion.

The rational and irrational types of Jung bear a stinking resemblance to the comparatively recent left brain  and right brain  discoveries in biology. The parent  , adult  and child  of Eric Berne[5] are a another greatly simplified way of organizing the same material as it applies to the extravert. Adult corresponds to thinking, parent to feeling and child to intuition and sensation.

We all have all of these capabilities. We have different strengths and weaknesses. We develop and differentiate them to different degrees. We orient ourselves and our experience in different ways.

To the degree that we one sidedly develop one of these attitudes and functions in our consciousness there will be a compensating effect from our unconscious. The function types form pairs of opposites. Thinking is opposed to feeling and sensation is opposed to intuition. Of course we can think about both the value of an action and its objective meaning. However feeling is not thinking about value. Feeling is organizing experience from the standpoint of feeling. A Star Trek  episode illustrates this in a way that puts a very negative light on it as one would expect in a thinking dominated culture. Captain Picard 

is being tortured by an alien that wants to break him. He is shown five lights but told that there are only four and asked how many lights he sees. Each time he answers five he experiences intense pain. He never gives in but when he discusses the incident later he confesses that at the end he saw only four lights.

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