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Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Taylor Swift (EII): Personality Type Analysis

Taylor Alison Swift is a female American singer-songwriter, currently 27 years old, who has an estimated net worth of $250 million USD and is considered to be one of the best-selling artists of all time. Swift has produced a total of 5 studio albums since her 2006 debut, when she was 16 years old: Taylor Swift (2006), Fearless (2008), Speak Now (2010), Red (2012), and 1989 (2014). She has garnered both commercial and critical success: as of 2016, she has sold a total of 40 million albums and has received 10 Grammy Awards, 19 American Music Awards, 23 Billboard Music Awards, 11 Country Music Association Awards, 8 Academy of Country Music Awards, 1 Brit Award, and 1 Emmy.

Besides her music, Swift is most famous for her personal life, which often catalyzes her songwriting.  Most of her songs employ diary-like lyrics to explore the bases for her failed relationships with other high-profile celebrities.  Swift’s pattern of celebrity dating followed by deeply confessional songwriting has caused many in the media to speculate that she is a ruthless, publicly capitalist pop star who has beenstrategically employing famous boyfriends to shape her music and public image since it was legal for her to do so.” For her part, Swift denies the cynical motivations and seems to claim, instead, that she cannot do otherwise than try to understand her own personal experiences, even if it is partly to her detriment:

People have essentially gotten to read my diary for the last 10 years. I still write personal songs, and sometimes people like to put a very irritating, negative, spin on that — as if I'm oversharing, as if it's too much information — when this has been the way I've lived my life and run my career the entire time. So I do think it's really important that I continue to give people an insight into what my life is actually like, even though it comes at a higher cost now.”
Whatever one thinks of her motives, it is clear that relationships are a focal point for Swift.  Her songs describe her relationships with ex-boyfriends—Joe Jonas (“Forever & Always”), Taylor Lautner (“Back to December”), John Mayer (“Dear John”, “I Knew You Were Trouble”), Jake Gyllenhaal (IEI) (“We Are Never Getting Back Together”, “All Too Well”), Conor Kennedy (“Begin Again”), and Harry Styles (“Style”,“Out of the Woods”) — as well as her parents (“Best Day”), other celebrities such as Kanye West (“Innocent”) and Katy Perry (“Bad Blood”), the media (“Shake It off”, “Blank Space”), and critics (“Mean”).  She occasionally writes about her observations of other people’s relationships (“Fifteen”, “You Belong with Me”), or speculates on her ideal relationship (“Love Story”) or on unrequited feelings and relationships that never were (“Teardrops on My Guitar”). Swift’s lyrical preoccupation with relationships strongly suggests an R-valuing, i.e. Integrity-Seeking, quadra (e.g. Gamma or Delta) over an E-valuing, i.e. Clarity-Seeking, quadra (e.g. Alpha or Beta). Unlike E-based artists such as David Bowie (EIE), Freddie Mercury (EIE), or Bob Dylan (IEI), there is an absence in Swift’s artistry of any sentiment-based rallying or visionary redirection of the status quo (e.g. Mercury’s “We are the Champions”, “I Want to Break Free,” “Don’t Stop Me Now”, Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind”, “Times They are A-Changing”, and Bowie’s “Heroes”, “Young Americans”). 

Instead, many of Swift’s songs read more like Jane Austen-inspired lessons on what constitutes a good relationship:

"we think that Prince Charming's gonna come along, is gonna have a white cape on, is going to put us on a pedestal. And the bad guy wears black and we always know who that guy is. But what we don't realize is that, in reality, the bad guy is wearing jeans. And he's cute. And he's charming, makes you laugh, and you believe him. You think he's the good guy. Then, you realize he's not" (on “White Horse”)

Or analyses of the personal characteristics of the individuals involved that ultimately led to the relationship’s undoing:

"And he’s long gone when he’s next to me/And I realize the blame is on me." ("I Knew You Were Trouble”)

Already, Swift’s self-generated fixation on defining her life according to relationships suggests an R-ego type over a P-ego type that merely values R.

Moving away from analyzing her artistic expression, Swift’s actions also betray many signs of an R-ego type. Swift is well known for her “girl squad” of celebrities from diverse industries, whose eclectic composition is governed entirely by Swift’s personal relationship with each individual rather than over-arching commonalities amongst the members (as more commonly seen in E-valuers). Her friend Karlie Kloss has described this ability to bridge relationships across individuals as Swift’s hidden talent. Others have her praised her for her generosity and loyalty:

"It’s amazing to have a friend who’s that busy and also so available. Even if she’s in Hong Kong on tour and I’m going through something, if I text her, I get an answer in two seconds. If something good happens to me—say, I get a nomination, or it’s my birthday, or the day before my birthday, or my book comes out—I get a text from Taylor way before I get a text from my mom” (Lena Dunham).

This confidence and aptitude in developing close relationships, as well as a propensity to focus her communication to interpersonal themes—both in song and in person, strongly supports an R-ego type for Swift (e.g. SEE, ESI, IEE or EII).

In considering Swift’s use of R, it is important to note that it is often employed at a detriment to E.  In concerts, Swift has a propensity for making pre-song speeches that are intended to explicate her state of mind or even her “rules for friendship.”  These speeches are often widely panned by the media as awkward or self-absorbed (see The Soup).  To add insult to injury, Swift frequently responds to perceived “character assassination” by further attempting to explain herself.  In general, Swift seems to overshare personal information in an attempt to correct misinterpretations of her character, without consideration for how it will be generally received or whether it is in accordance with the current social climate.  This approach is also evidenced in her song “Blank Space,” which Swift intended to be a satire of the media’s misconceptions of her:

"Some of the things I write about on a song like "Blank Space" are satire. You take your creative license and create things that are larger than life. You can write things like I get drunk on jealousy but you'll come back each time you leave, 'cause darling I'm a nightmare dressed like a daydream. That is not my approach to relationships. But is it cool to write the narrative of a girl who's crazy but seductive but glamorous but nuts but manipulative? That was the character I felt the media had written for me, and for a long time I felt hurt by it. I took it personally. But as time went by, I realized it was kind of hilarious."

Rather than respond to the media by altering her image, Swift either explicates her motives or continues to act according to her own preferences (e.g. Swift looking shocked at wins). Swift’s approach well-characterizes someone whose R, or personal sentiments, causes them to disregard their public image, i.e. E7:


In contrast, R2 types such as IEE or SEE effectively parlay their stronger E8—i.e., their popularity and understanding of other people’s needs— toward relationships that serve their leading functions — i.e., exploring new experiences or expanding their influence, respectively.

Swift’s social inflexibility and static approach is also more consistent with L3 (EII and ESI) than L4 (IEE and SEE).  In an interview with Barbara Walters, Swift stresses the importance of acting in a principled manner:

I did wait until I was 21 to drink. I was so paranoid about getting in trouble or setting the wrong example or sending the wrong message.  I put every one of my actions through a filter before I do them because that's the way my life is. …
…. If I do something reckless or thoughtless or careless, or I treat someone badly, that doesn't just affect me; it affects that person. Then, if that story gets out, or some 10-year-old sees that I did that in a news article… my actions do have ripples …
… It would be really easy to say, 'I'm 21 now, I do what I want. You raise your kids,' but it's not the truth of it. The truth of it is that every singer out there with songs on the radio is raising the next generation, so make your words count." 

ESIs and EIIs, with L3, try to respect social rules, particularly when these rules are perceived to be consequential toward fostering well-being or general good.  In contrast, R2 types, e.g. Britney Spears (SEE), Elizabeth Taylor (SEE), Amy Winehouse (SEE), James Franco (IEE), with L4, can often be inconsistent in their actions and heedless of societal norms. Moreover, Swift seems to lack the impulsiveness or moment-based explorations of a type with T5 (SEE) or T7 (IEE).  Rather, she conveys a level of self-control governed by her contemplation long-term impact, indicating T in a more pronounced position. Consistent with a type that employs L for the sake of R, Swift has stated that she enjoys her designation as a role-model because she considers it a compliment on your character.” This leaves ESI and EII as possible types for Swift. 

Swift’s need to be understood by most people, often at injury to her own goals, suggests EII over the more self-preserving ESI with strong and valued F.  Swift seems unable to create psychological distance to her own benefit.  In feuds with other celebrities such as Kanye West (EIE) or Katy Perry (SEE), Swift describes herself as vulnerable (The support I got from other artists and from the fans, and so many people sticking up for me, that’s what got me to the place where I could accept that apology. And I’m just very thankful that everyone showed me so much love.”) and aversive to conflict (“I'm surprisingly non-confrontational - you would not believe how much I hate conflict. So now I have to avoid her. It's awkward, and I don't like it”).  Rather than approach confrontation head-on, Swift oscillates between victimization and avoidance:

“With the song 'Shake It Off,' I really wanted to kind of take back the narrative, and have more of a sense of humor about people who kind of get under my skin — and not let them get under my skin. There's a song that I wrote a couple years ago called "Mean," where I addressed the same issue but I addressed it very differently. I said, "Why you gotta be so mean?," from kind of a victimized perspective, which is how we all approach bullying or gossip when it happens to us for the first time. But in the last few years I've gotten better at just kind of laughing off things that absolutely have no bearing on my real life.”
Moreover, Swift seems to not even consider the possibility of striking back or standing her ground: in reference to her song “Shake It Off” she stated,
“I've had every part of my life dissected—my choices, my actions, my words, my body, my style, my music. When you live your life under that kind of scrutiny, you can either let it break you, or you can get really good at dodging punches. And when one lands, you know how to deal with it. And I guess the way that I deal with it is to shake it off.” 
Swift’s inability to apply pressure or establish boundaries, even when reasonably needed to avert painful outcomes, effectively rules out the F-ego types of SEE and ESI.  Moreover, it suggests a type with extremely weak F, likely F4.  Taken together with the other type-based observations of Swift, we are left with EII.

Consistent with this typing, Swift conveys a very weak understanding of F in which she seems to liken most attempts at dominance to bullying (a negative manifestation) and fails to consider its intrinsic value (instead attributing insecurity as the only possible motive to its employment):
When I was in middle school, I had this fantasy — and I really thought this was how life worked — that when we were in school, we had to deal with bullying and kids picking on you for no reason, or making you feel like somehow don't deserve what you want, or you're not what you should be. And I thought that when you grow up and you're not in school anymore, when you're out there in the world with adults, that it's not like that anymore, that people don't attack each other for no reason or try to tear each other down. And I realized when I grew up that it's the same. It's the same dynamics, except we're not walking from classroom to classroom. It's just interesting how you have to learn how to deal with this at one point or another in your life because people don't necessarily ever grow out of those impulses to pick on each other. Some of us do; some of us realize that's something you do when you're insecure, you try to lash out at someone else. But a lot of people will always do that to other people.”
In further support of a Delta typing, Swift’s approach toward individuals who have wronged her is frequently generous rather than vindictive. During Swift’s acceptance of an MTV Video Music Awards (2009), Kanye West interjected his opinion that BeyoncĂ© (SEE) should have won the award instead, insulting Swift and effectively prohibiting her from completing her speech. In response, Swift wrote the song “Innocent.” Rather than just forgive West, Swift’s “Innocent” goes so far as to suggest that West is “still an innocent” capable of redemption— i.e., “today is never too late to be brand new; Who you are is not what you did.” In a display of good-will and newfound friendship, six years after West’s interruption and at the same award show, Swift praises West and presents him with his own award:
“'I first met Kanye West six years ago — at this show, actually!' she said, noting that West’s freshman album The College Dropout, was 'the very first album my brother and I bought on iTunes when I was 12 years old…I’ve been a fan of his for as long as I can remember because Kanye defines what it means to be a creative force in music, fashion and, well, life. So, I guess I have to say to all the other winners tonight: I’m really happy for you, and imma let you finish, but Kanye West has had one of the greatest careers of all time.'"
This apparent desire for harmonious relations is consistent with Delta, over Gamma, quadra values for Swift.  Moreover, the basis for Swift’s amicability seem driven by R+I beliefs of an individual’s latent potential for improvement, which she again references (this time explicitly) in her “1989” album foreword:
The debate over whether people can change is an interesting one for me to observe because it seems like all I ever do is change. All I ever do is learn from my mistakes so I don’t make the same ones again. Then I make new ones. I know people can change because it happens to me little by little every day. Every day I wake up as someone slightly new. Isn’t it wild and intriguing and beautiful to think that every day we are new?"
In spite of Swift’s seemingly optimistic belief in human potential, she takes a more fatalistic stance on relationships that is consistent with EII over IEE. In reference to “I Knew You Were Trouble” Swift explains that she often knows when relationships are ill-fated, but chooses to pursue them anyway:
"I had just gone through an experience that made me write this song about like knowing the second you see someone like, 'Oh, this is going to be interesting. It's going to be dangerous, but look at me going in there anyway... I think that for me, it was the first time I ever kind of noticed that in myself, like when you are curious about something you know might be bad for you, but you know that you are going to go for it anyway because if you don't, you'll have greater regrets about not seeing where that would go."
Unlike an IEE, with T7, Swift seems predominantly cognizant of, and confident in predicting, how relationships might end given sparse momentary information. Moreover, rather than relishing moment-by-moment exploration of unknown possibilities, Swift seems motivated to avoid regret for a lost experience that might have had the potential to go somewhere meaningful. This approach well-characterizes that of an I-valuer whose stronger T8 results in a somewhat paradoxical openness to forging new and interesting experiences and a need to reconcile these pursuits with their long-term impact. Swift references this conflict again when discussing a song:

‘Wildest Dreams’ is about a relationship that is just beginning and already foreshadowing the ending of it….. That's actually a really good example of the way I go into relationships now. If I meet someone who I feel I have a connection with, the first thought I have is: ‘When this ends, I hope it ends well. I hope you remember me well.’" 

This forward-looking tendency of Swift is strongly evidenced in her approach to relationships, which have often been characterized as too fast-moving and intense. Swift even says of herself, “I used to think that, you know, you find 'the one'... And it's happily ever after, and it's never a struggle after that.” This idealization of the future is also evident when Swift claims that “the most heart-breaking part of a break-up [is] that moment when you realize that all the dreams you had, all those visions you had of being with this person, all that disappears." Consistent with T-usage for the sake of I, Swift’s music seems to interrogate past relationships for meaning, speculating on reasons for their failure as a way to learn how to choose relationships with greater potential in the future. This approach makes other types, including ESI, unlikely and typifies that of an EII.

I suggest that Taylor Swift is EII. Consistent with this typing, Swift seems to view her music as a means to communicate her relationship understanding to others (“These songs were once about my life. Now they are about yours”).  Moreover, Swift interacts with the world largely via small, well-meaning gestures toward distinct individuals, typical of Delta-quadra types. “Swiftmas” is her yearly holiday giving of gifts to fans whom she researches and hand-selects. These actions have been criticized for the insignificance of their impact— e.g., she once gifted a fan $1989 to help defray her > $35K cost of tuition.  Moreover, though Swift has seemed to act rather consistently and rather without guile (even going so far as to invite 89 fans to her house for a pre-album release), she seems dismayed and perplexed by the media’s interpretation of her actions.  This media misunderstanding, as well as her multitude of failed romantic relationships with celebrities, are likely a consequence of being a Delta-quadra type in a predominantly Beta-environment.  Swift seems to reject a desire to be famous or increase her power for its own sake: she admires other musicians, such as Debbie Harris, because It's not about fame for her, it's about music.  For Swift, music seems to be a vehicle for empathy: “hearing a song by somebody singing about their life, and it resembles yours so much that it makes you feel comforted.”

Taylor Swift displays consistent traits of an EII.  She employs a Delta HumanitarianR1+I2, approach of understanding the world through the lens of her personal relationships. Her I2 belief in human potential seem to be mediated by her T8 quest for an ideal mate over the long-term.   Swift seems to act in a rather principled manner, aware of the need to set a good example (consistent with L3). In spite of this, Swift has problems with how she is interpreted. Her need to accurately represent her own motivations is already an indication of a type with weak and devalued E and contrasts from the more Beta mentality of "any press is good press." These qualities are characteristic of the image-ignoring tendencies of an E7.  Adding to this, her F4 makes her ill supported to handle this backlash.  
To learn more about EII, click here.

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

4 comments:

  1. Really thorough and detailed analysis. I'm impressed.

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    1. Thanks Laura! That means a lot. I'm glad you liked it.

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  2. You certainly have a lot to say about Swift haha, a little overwhelming but very thorough and detailed which is very much appreciated. I was sort of wondering the whole time the difference between the beta values of an IEI and the delta values of an EII. Was looking forward to more of a discussion about it because I'm having a hard time deciding between the two on a very specific and detailed level. Anyway would love to know if you have a comment about this or maybe it's an idea for the next article you write :)

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    1. Thanks for the comment!

      We don't (yet) have an article directly comparing IEI and EII. It's a good idea!

      In the meantime, you might want to look at some of the following links:

      Quadra values:
      http://worldsocionics.blogspot.com/2015/08/a-very-abridged-introduction-to.html

      IEI Profile:
      http://worldsocionics.blogspot.com/2015/05/iei-intuitive-ethical-integrator.html

      EII Profile:
      http://worldsocionics.blogspot.com/2015/05/eii-ethical-intuitive-integrator.html


      Similar to this article on Swift, we have write-ups on other EIIs (and IEIs).
      Reading type analyses on diverse people of a given type, can be very helpful in extrapolating commonalities.

      Here are the EII profiles:
      http://worldsocionics.blogspot.com/search/label/EII

      And the IEI profiles:
      http://worldsocionics.blogspot.com/search/label/IEI

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