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Monday, 29 August 2016

Alan Alda (IEE): Personality Type Analysis

Alan Alda is an American actor, screenwriter, director and science communicator, probably most famous for his role as Captain "Hawkeye" Pierce in the TV series M*A*S*H  (henceforth referred to as MASH).

What first tipped me off on Alda's type was precisely his impact on MASH. At first just one of many actors in the original cast, with several characters supposed to have more or less equal focus, gradually Alda's character Hawkeye moved to become the clear main focus of the show. At the same time, Alda himself evolved from just an actor hired to play a role to the person chiefly responsible for the the show's creative direction, by writing and directing increasingly more episodes and using his star power to steer the show in the direction he preferred. The impact of Alda's priorities is very obvious when comparing the show's seasons 1-3 to seasons 9-11, that is, from the period when his creative influence was small or negligible to the period when it was strongest (the "middle"seasons showing that trend more gradually). The first three seasons have a clear Alpha character (reflecting that of the motion picture on which the series was based), while the last three have an obvious Delta character. The Alpha period was marked by zany humour, as an anarchic comedy played clearly for laughs, where I would argue that the Beta characters and  institutions (the army itself and professional career military officers) were portrayed as ridiculous or downright insane (Col. Flagg), while the Gamma characters (Frank Burns and Margaret Houlihan, caricatures of a LIE-ESI couple) were portrayed as humourless, selfish, stand-offish, overly ambitious careerists and unconcerned with anyone else. As Alda's influence made the Delta perspective wax, the show became a more "mature" one that focused on less obviously comedic characters (such as Klinger in his original conception) and situations; dealing more seriously with the war's impact on the psychology of the characters; looking far more sympathetically at the sole remaining Gamma character (Margaret Houlihan, an obvious ESI) and even introducing a sympathetic career army man as commanding officer  (Col. Potter), while retaining its skepticism (or lack of understanding) for the more obviously Beta traits of the army and characters. The character Hawkeye Pierce himself, I would argue, likewise shifted from being closest to an ILE to becoming more like an IEE. As this shift away from an Alpha perspective and towards a Delta one can be attributed almost entirely to the influence of Alda himself, that is already a good indicator of his quadra as Delta.

Looking more closely at Alan Alda as a person. MASH was set in the Korean War, but it was conceived, and initially aired, in the final years of the Vietnam War. It was often widely assumed at the time that despite  the Korean War setting, the series was actually meant as a thinly-veiled comment on the Vietnam War - which was indeed intended by the series's creators. Remarkably, Alan Alda has consistently claimed to have never been even aware of that interpretation, nor did he ever see the series as being "about" the Vietnam War in its goals. As far as he was concerned, the whole point was to make the audience empathize with the characters in that  difficult situation, imagining themselves there, rather than having any broader message, least of all one aimed at the political situation of the time, however subliminally. In fact, Alan Alda has stated in interviews that he deeply dislikes movies or TV shows that try to convey to the audience any kind of political message through the medium of entertainment or through a story. His preference is for productions that focus on the characters themselves and allow  the audience to experience other aspects of the human condition through those characters.

I would argue that the above points more clearly to Alan Alda having the Beta elements of E+T as well  as L  in subdued positions, while having the Delta elements of I + R in a stronger, even ego position. This is reinforced by Alda's press conference during the shooting of the very last MASH episode, where he talked easily of the complexity of his own mixed feelings about the end of the series, while saying that the most important thing for him had been the opportunity to explore his creativity in the context of personal relationships (I +R again) while retaining a matter-of-fact, rather unemotional manner throughout (consistent with P6). The same subjects and traits can be observed in Alda's other interviews done much more recently.

Finally, Alan Alda has become very interested in acting in a completely different area from his original one, as a science communicator, going into subjects with which he was totally unfamiliar for most of his life, like quantum mechanics. He has said that what motivated him, at first, was that he felt bad about himself whenever he noticed that he was making use of technology, even at a very simple level, yet had no idea of how any of that worked; claiming that he felt that he should know a bit about how things work. I see that as strongly pointing to mobilizing P, especially blocked with S (i.e. not so much broader knowledge but specifically about "small-scale", practical knowledge).

Although the above in itself would not rule out EII as Alda's type, his apparent functional ordering seems to fit the IEE's more; he has more of the restless energy when talking. more typical of energizers, and finally, during the whole 11 seasons of MASH, he commuted (i.e. flew) every week from his New Jersey home to Los Angeles. This seems to me to point away from the S6 of EIIs.

I think that the overall Delta perspective on other quadras and approach to storytelling, plus I+R in ego, subdued T+E, and P6 all fit Alan Alda very well, so his type is likely IEE.

Sources: besides the overall information on his life and my own observation of MASH's development, I have looked mainly at this interview and this one, and some others.

To learn more about IEE, click here.

If you are confused by our use of Socionics shorthand, click here.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Antoninus Pius (SLI): Personality Type Analysis

Titus Fulvus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius, best known more simply as Antoninus Pius, was the 15th Roman Emperor. Despite the fairly unusual length of his reign - almost 23 years, from 138 to 161 - the direct documentation on the period is very limited. Still, I argue that there is enough evidence, based on what documentation is available, and the overall events of Antoninus's reign and what we know of his policies, to allow for an estimate of  his type, at least from a broad-brush perspective.

Antoninus was born in a wealthy senatorial (i.e. aristocratic landowning) family in 86, during the politically tense years of the authoritarian Emperor Domitian, but he reached adulthood in the more politically relaxed years of the Emperor Trajan. He climbed apparently effortlessly the traditional steps of a Roman public career, that is quaestor, praetor and then consul, during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian, who obviously showed Antoninus considerable favor: Antoninus was appointed to very prestigious posts, especially proconsul (i.e. governor) of the province of Asia (the western part of the Turkish peninsula), pretty much the most socially prestigious post for a man of his class. Even so, it was probably a surprise to everyone. including him, when the dying Hadrian suddenly adopted the then 51-year-old Antoninus as his son (and therefore successor), on condition that Antoninus in turn adopt as son his wife's nephew, the future Emperor Marcus Aurelius (EII), then 17. Today most historians tend to think that Hadrian saw the young Marcus as his ultimate successor from the start and Antoninus was chosen as a reliable place-holder for him. Antoninus became emperor upon Hadrian's death, just 4 months after his adoption.

Given the wide freedom to choose and implement policy, enjoyed by an emperor with such a long reign, especially in that period, we can already spot some hints to his Socionics type by looking at the overall features of his reign. Most emperors had chosen to spend considerable parts of their reigns away from Rome or even Italy, either in command of armies in periods of war (like Trajan), or in inspection of the provinces and frontiers while doing some "PR work" (like Hadrian). Antoninus, very unusually, spent the 23 years of his reign in Italy and most of that in Rome itself. Also unlike his immediate predecessors, Antoninus spent essentially no money on high-profile architectural projects in Rome, spending however considerable sums on infrastructure in the provinces, such as aqueducts and roads. Unlike most of his predecessors and successors, Antoninus preferred to avoid foreign wars; the military activities of his reign were fairly low-profile "tidying up" operations, the most visible one being the move of the northern frontier in Britain from Hadrian's Wall to the Antonine Wall (which extended roughly from Glasgow to Edinburgh).

Antoninus clearly saw himself more as a 'manager' than as a 'builder' or 'conqueror' or, like Hadrian, a promoter of the idea of empire in the provinces. Antoninus's consistent style of governing, over 23 years, consisted of staying in Rome, governing through subordinates and correspondence, avoiding spending money on war or high-profile building projects, while spending on more low-profile but useful works, while carefully building up a financial surplus. Also, as a "HR manager", Antoninus preferred to keep the same men as provincial governors over many years, rather than rotate them more often as had been a more common practice. Most unusual of all, Antoninus kept the same man in the very sensitive position of Praetorian Prefect (i.e. the commander of the only armed forces in Italy) for a record of 20 years, which was extremely unusual.

The available descriptions of Antoninus, including by his adopted son Marcus Aurelius, portray a man of extreme serenity, immune or indifferent to flattery, of a kindly disposition, who felt a duty to manage the empire carefully, introverted in the social sense, and who had the reputation of a bureaucratic, micro-managing, penny-pinching administrator (even Marcus Aurelius, who worshipped Antoninus, felt the need to defend him on that point in his writings). Marcus Aurelius also wrote that Antoninus lived an extremely temperate life in terms of eating, drinking, and sleeping, knowing perfectly how to take care of his health. So, a stay-at-home, low-profile, careful, penny-pinching "ruler of the known world" who as administrator doesn't care about grandiose public works but does care about aqueducts and roads, as well as saving money;  who prefers to avoid war and who, once knowing he can trust a man to do a job well, prefers to keep him on that job "forever", and who lives a temperate, spartan life - all of that already points, I would argue, to subdued or weak F and E, valued but probably weak R, lower I than S,  and valued P.

Taken as a whole, Antoninus's reign of 23 years can be called uneventful, some might unkindly say "boring", as very little happened and neither did Antoninus take any action to introduce wide-ranging change, as many of his predecessors had done. Antoninus did introduce a series of piecemeal, gradual legislation, all in the direction of what we could call greater humanity and benevolence: he essentially invented the principle of "presumed innocent" in Roman law; made the enfranchisement of slaves easier; introduced the principle of removing slaves from the property of masters who consistently treated them badly; and forbade the "outsourcing" of female slaves as prostitutes, etc. Antoninus was no "revolutionary" who intended to challenge the institution of slavery, but rather someone who thought that slaves should be treated with a minimum of humanity. This, I would argue, points to P over L as quadra value, in the sense that it was done piecemeal, ad hoc, rather than in a more structured, 'paradigm-shifting' way.

The major historical criticism of Antoninus Pius, as a ruler, was that his essential inactivity in foreign policy, over a period of 23 years, diminished the respect, even fear, that Rome's enemies across the Danube and in Parthia (Persia) had felt regarding the Empire since being crushed by Trajan's aggressive wars three generations before; Antoninus seemed oblivious to this danger, or actively decided to ignore it, with the result that immediately after his death in 161 at 74, both the Parthian Empire and Danubian tribes, sensing weakness, launched major military attacks against the empire, forcing Marcus Aurelius to spend most of his reign at war. I would argue that that hints again to subdued F as well as T in Antoninus - I would assume he did not intend to hand a 'ticking bomb' to Marcus Aurelius.

Finally, in an even more broad-brush analysis of Antoninus's reign, there is how he wanted the Roman Empire to be perceived. We have the Greek orator Aelius Aristides's "Roman Oration", delivered to Antoninus Pius himself, in which Aristides describes a peaceful Roman Empire ruled as if it was one single city, and now "the entire civilized world lays down the weapons that were its ancient burden and has turned to adornment and all glad thoughts, with the power to realize them - - You, better than anyone else, have proved the truth of the proverb: The earth is everyone's mother and our common fatherland". Etc etc. Assuming, reasonably, that Aristides knew what Antoninus wanted to hear, he painted his rule, a bit naively, as the realization of a Delta ideal.

Overall Delta values, with no visible focus on E. valued R but not obviously strong; devalued or even ignored F and T; apparent high focus on S and P, little visible I, and an overall impression of a cautious. serene, even passive man. I think the available information, however limited, overall suggests most consistently that Antoninus Pius was a SLI.

Sources: besides Wikipedia, which has a good summary of the overall evidence, the primary documentation is the Historia Augusta's "Life of Antoninus Pius". Marcus Aurelius's description of his adoptive father are in books 1 and 6 of his Meditations. All are available online. Aelius Aristides's Roman Oration is available in its entirety here .

To learn more about SLI click here.

If you are confused by our use of Socionics shorthand, click here.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Donald J. Trump (SLE): Personality Type Analysis

Donald John Trump is an American businessman, real estate developer, book author, television show host and 45th President of the United States. He is the son of the late real-estate developer Fred Trump. Trump has a Bachelor's degree in Economics from the prestigious Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, but even before graduating he was already working in his father's company.

Trump oversaw several high-profile real estate and building developments in New York City in the 1970s and 1980s, during a time when the city's economic future was dubious and investing there was far from being obviously wise. Trump's projects were often controversial, leading him to become increasingly a public figure, culminating with his construction of Trump Tower in 1983. That was controversial due to its (alleged) questionable taste; the - at the time - dubious business case for such a project in still-then depressed Manhattan; to the demolition of the Art Deco Bonwit Teller building that had previously stood there; and to Trump's increased use of his own name and brand to associate his projects with himself.

At the time Trump was in his thirties, and for an analysis of his type it is useful to take a look at how he came across in interviews of the time. Rather than the later, better known version, who is more inclined to rely on bombast, bragging, self-promotion and extravagant, controversial or even perhaps shocking remarks, the Donald Trump of the early 1980s appeared as a calm, rational, even modest man who showed little emotion or passion as he described in technical detail the reasoning behind his building projects and defended them against criticism, relying on factual, technical arguments (or seemingly so). At the time, Trump started to become identified with NYC's returning optimism since he (by luck or smarts) managed to invest there precisely at the right moment. His public image became that of not only a canny investor but also of a man who "believed in New York", and he explored that image in a virtuous (or vicious) circle whereby his business ventures became indelibly associated with his personality and vice-versa.

In 1987 Donald Trump published his first (and still most famous) book, The Art of the Deal. Actually penned by journalist Tony Schwartz, the book nevertheless is written in Trump's first-person voice and it seems clear that it reflects his own thoughts, words, and views (or at least the views the wanted the public to associate with him). In that book, Trump is still largely his 1980s persona: it is mostly his autobiography (focusing much more on his business ventures than his private life) along with his thoughts, and advice, on how to succeed in real-estate development. That book still reflected what seems to be his obviously deep understanding of that kind of business, as he describes in detail how he came to his decisions, but also with some more general principles: the notions that business deals are about knowing and using one's leverage (F); that intelligence and technical knowledge, or other talents, are less important than one's instinct about their own leverage, strengths, and weaknesses, and a belief that either a person has such instincts, or not (points to F as more valued than P). Further, at the time he was already professing his belief (that later became much more obvious) than even bad publicity is better than no publicity; that making extravagant claims about his objectives and goals, far more than he knows to be feasible, is very useful in building up his image (E blocked with T). He also wrote that another key to success was to always have several alternatives and fall-back positions when trying to strike a business deal, so as never to really lose (points to I). Finally, it is interesting that he seems skeptical of expert technical knowledge when making his big decisions; he prefers, as he says, to ask as many people what they think about a location (especially cab drivers), gradually forming an image of the situation in his mind until he's certain of what the best way forward is (this indicates L as more valued than P in my view).

I argue that the above is perfectly consistent with the core of the present-day Donald Trump, and already reflects some clear Socionics information. His early public persona clearly showed a man at ease with factual impersonal information when defending his business decisions, which was at first obviously a more comfortable "zone" than the appeal to his image. That strongly suggests that his P is in a stronger position than his E. Yet, his increased shift to focusing on E in public, as he got older, more famous and more successful, strongly suggests that E is a quadra value rather than P, which was already clear in The Art of the Deal: P is easy but taken for granted, while E is something he prefers to build up, aim at, and explore. His often-repeated belief that the single most important quality for business deals is to know one's (and others') "leverage", and that is further built up by one's "credibility" which is a consequence of success and the image of being successful, clearly points to F as quadra value and as a zone of great confidence. The above already points to Beta as Trump's quadra - having E and F as quadra values. His strong P points to a logical Beta type, while his focus on keeping several possibilities afloat at once, as well as his confidence in risk-taking and spotting real-estate potential before others shows a reasonable confidence in I. Finally, that Trump states all of that as self-evident truths points to L. All of that already points to SLE as Trump's type, a logical Beta with decent I focus.

"Present-day" Trump presents further evidence. He got into increasingly diverse business ventures that had sometimes little to do with his core business expertise, and were based exclusively on his image, starting with casinos, then into things like Trump Steaks, Trump the Game, finally culminating on the TV shows The Apprentice, Celebrity Apprentice and spin-offs thereof, as well as Miss Universe competitions and the like. I think it's fair to say that by the time of those TV shows he was spending at least as much time (if not far more) in this kind of image-and-celebrity business venture rather than on his originally core real-estate businesses. That again shows the shift from P+F (accumulating wealth through more "concrete" business ventures) to E+F (focusing on his image as a source of power and wealth, as well as probably an end in itself).

Finally, on Trump's most recent "incarnation" i.e. as presidential candidate. His tactics in the Republican primary debates consisted essentially of destroying his rivals through ridicule, by attaching to their images traits (real or not, that's irrelevant) based on perceived weaknesses and pounding on them relentlessly until they "stuck" (i.e. low-energy Jeb Bush (LIE), little Marco, lying Ted, etc). Winning a competition by ruthlessly destroying an adversary, even using what some might call 'low-belt' tactics. shows a focus and skill on F (especially as he himself seemed impervious to such attacks); and the focus on rivals' images - rather than their substance or record - shows again the focus on E, E+T in particular i.e. a broader, longer-term perception of an image, rather than more short-term emotional atmosphere.

Also interestingly, Trump's most notorious political promises are F focused: building a huge wall on the Mexican border (that is the materialization of F), being tough on external commercial rivals, foreign and internal enemies, etc. Whether he actually plans on doing any of that if elected president is less relevant than that he thinks that those promises are effective and plausible and will help him. In addition, the 'present' Donald Trump's focus on E as a political tool has been effective with many people, but they are also seen as over-the-top, or even repugnant, by as many more. This is consistent with E being in a valued function but not really strong (such as lead or creative).

Donald Trump is clearly a SLE and I think it's even difficult to plausibly argue for another Socionics type.

Sources: information on the present Donald Trump is almost infinite; his earlier incarnation can be found in older video interviews and in his first book "The Art of the Deal".

To learn more about SLE, click here.

If you are confused by our use of Socionics shorthand, click here.