IM Element Agendas

The information elements or elements of information metabolism ("IM elements") are eight psychological faculties which are responsible for processing "information aspects" or categories of information, similar to the physical senses of sight, touch, hearing etc.

Like the physical senses, each IM element does not accept input uncritically — they also make judgments. That is, just as we dislike and seek to avoid negative physical sensations like pain or abrasive sounds, yet we seek out and enjoy pleasant sensations (good music, tasty food, etc.), each IM element has its own (psychological) definition of what is good and bad information.

These definitions can be described as psychological motivations, needs, goals, or agendas. Everyone seeks to achieve all eight of these agendas to some extent, but with different priorities, which are defined by one's socionic type.

Roughly speaking, the extroverted elements seek to expand or intensify whatever is in their domain (and thus may be described as activities), while the introverted elements seek to differentiate or filter things in their domain according to conditions. Extroverted elements are responsible for seeking out new "stuff", while introverted ones are responsible for processing and selecting what is already known or present. This is the basic reason for all socionic decision-making conflicts: the extroverted element's expansion puts pressure on the corresponding introverted element's filtering, and the introverted element's filtering stifles the extroverted element's expansion. The extroverted element may want to add something that the introverted element rejects according to its conditions.

Each agenda can be summarized in a few words as below. They should be read as "I want to achieve ______." This is to emphasize that each IM element is in fact trying to achieve a singular agenda in its information domain. However, each of these short phrases requires further explanation.

Fe: self-expression, communication

Fe's goal is to outwardly express or manifest transient internal states or conditions. This is similar to Augusta's description: "conversion of potential energy to kinetic energy." This manifestation can occur through speech, facial expressions, actions, life choices, etc. It is the communication of an internal state, feeling, or thought to the ambient environment or to others. These states can be communicated by actually making someone else to feel as you do. Fe also concerns the hidden or subtle aspects of the communication process itself: connotation, tone, non-verbal communication, and what kind of effect the communication will have on others.

This is by contrast with Te which concerns information of an apparent nature, or information about the objective world (facts) which can be communicated through plain language. Fe often does not view expression in terms of communicating from entity A to entity B: it's more like broadcasting into (or conversely, tuning into) an ambient vibe or atmosphere (extroversion). The open flow of internal energies through this ambient space is what Fe is trying to achieve. Like a TV broadcast, these internal energies are constantly changing. What is bad, according to Fe, is when an activity does not accord with one's inner state, or when one's self-expression is obstructed.

Fi: faithfulness to personal feelings

Fi is information about likes and dislikes, emotional attraction and repulsion -- any kind of normative feeling which is directed at constant qualities of a particular object -- which in the case of a person means their character or personality traits. The condition Fi seeks is to maintain the appropriate distance with these objects; i.e. proximity to those which one feels an affinity with and distance from those which one feels an aversion to. The object of the feeling is most typically a person but may also be a group, a behavior, a place, or anything which inspires an emotional reaction (unlike Si, which considers only the visceral, immediate, surface reaction to conditions). When applied in the domain of human behavior, Fi is responsible for a sense of morality: i.e., evaluating actions according to deep sentimental feelings of appropriate behavior, often manifested as taking offense.

From this we can see how Fi and Fe can conflict: Fe unifies (by its communication of internal states), while Fi differentiates. In the same way that Ti limits concrete behavior by evaluating it according to rules, Fi limits emotional interactions by how they make you feel, and behaviors according to a moral sense. This results in conflict with Fe, when one has to choose between communicating a state and suppressing it.

Like any element, Fi can be viewed in one of two fundamentally different ways. One is by what it accepts (or likes) and the other is by what it rejects (or dislikes). Depending on the type, or person, there will be more emphasis on one or the other. So, Fi's limiting can be seen in a positive way: by seeking closeness with loved ones, for example. By contrast, Fe basically puts all people on the same level, which can manifest as being less unifying than Fi when Fi desires a closer relationship. The difference is that Fi bases its judgments on recognition of an innate affinity between the parties, rather than dynamic achievement of similarity by Fe communication and influence of emotional states.

Te: optimization, effectiveness

Te's goal is to make the best use of resources and to make processes work better or more effectively, and to empirically evaluate the accuracy of information by comparison with observable facts. It evaluates things according to what is measurable and concrete. This can be described as effectiveness, efficiency, productiveness, optimization, etc. Whenever there is a concrete or measurable result to be achieved, Te is how one evaluates a process or activity according to how well it accomplishes that result. But Te views processes somewhat holistically: it is a constant, continuous process of optimization and adaptation, which takes into account any kind of observable data such as use of resources like time, space, and money. This is similar to how Fe is continuously adapting to our constantly changing internal state. Te's negative condition is inaccuracy, uselessness, or ineffectiveness.

A conflict in perception arises between Fe and Te when the internal evaluation of an activity disagrees with the external one.

Ti: structure, order

While Te is responsible for gathering data, Ti seeks to structure data. For example, we could observe that chickens have two legs, turkeys have two legs, hummingbirds have two legs, etc., either by directly witnessing or by reading or hearing about the information from an outside source, thus using Te.

However, the human mind has only so much capacity to remember facts; Ti is what reduces the mental load by joining facts together into a framework or into a reduced set of facts. In the above case, Ti might form the conclusion "Birds have two legs." The actual truth value of this statement would then be evaluated or checked by Te: Ti is an introverted element and thus refers to the data themselves and their consistency relations rather than the outside world they represent. If, however, Ti created a rule like "Birds have two legs" and Te found a bird that had five legs, this would activate Ti to reconsider its beliefs. If Te gathers data which Ti has evaluated as inconsistent with known facts and rules, then this results in conflict between Te and Ti. (This conflict is sometimes referred to as cognitive dissonance.)

Another example of reducing data: say I have a cell phone. I always put the cell phone in my left pocket. That way, I don't need to remember what pocket it's in. Thus, logical data can represent either descriptive laws or prescriptive laws. In the first case, Ti's laws can be falsified by Te's gathering of facts, and in the second case Ti's laws or organization systems can be broken by Te's gathering of utility. It's like finding a twenty-dollar bill on the ground. Te may say, the best thing to do is to keep it, because it's useful. (Notice how this makes no reference to the subject; money is useful for everyone.) However, Ti may say that you should report lost money. So, Ti limits behavior by subjecting it to rules and boundaries, Te seeks to act, for lack of a better word, opportunistically, i.e. using whatever means are available to pursue concrete goals.

Ti is responsible for both apprehending and creating structure, but creating structure in the external world (particularly spatial structures) may involve application of Se as well. This sense of order also concerns logical relationships which can manifest as natural or man-made laws, definitions, and classifications. For example, the question of whether a platypus is a mammal or a bird would be resolved using Ti (application of concrete definitions and criteria).

Ne: discovery

Intuitive information can broadly be described as possibilities or potential. Whenever we come upon some new information, we have some sense of whether it is normal or likely or possible. For example, if you saw a bird with five legs, that would be very strange (this is one way Ti and Ne can work together). But if you saw a bird with two legs, that would be basically uninteresting and not add anything to your concept of the world. Ne's agenda is to expand this concept of the world by exploring all that is unknown. It's responsible for seeking out information about current events, what other people are up to, etc. — as long as the motivation is purely based on how interesting or novel the information is. Seeking information that is useful for a particular purpose (say, looking up how to bake a cake for an upcoming birthday party) would be Te instead. Ne also is responsible for recognizing possibilities in a particular circumstance; this includes making suggestions, trying new things, gaining potential and skills, etc. Unlike Te it does not evaluate the potential it acquires with respect to any external, objective purpose; for example, one might get really good at table tennis without having any chance of making it a professional activity. Like Se, Ne's gathering and expansion is fundamentally based on impulse.

Ne's exploration of hidden space is similar to Se's interaction with the immediate, apparent realm. However, while one's immediate surroundings can be touched and impacted directly, the hidden realm is accessible only to the mind and its knowledge.

Ne is static and extroverted because the act of discovery is basically a one-time thing: once the information is discovered, it is automatically not new anymore, and something else must be discovered. It can be the discovery of a new thing or a new perspective on a familiar thing. Ne creates the inclination towards academic learning, but also more mundane types of knowledge such as familiarity with a city or country.

The negative condition for Ne is a sense of boredom or stagnation.

Ni: purpose, meaning

The agenda of Ni is to narrow one's focus on intuitive information (possibilities or concepts); it directs one's affairs toward a singular purpose. This is necessarily something which is abstract or unmanifest. It can direct present activities towards a vision for the future, but also towards continuing of a tradition from the past. The negative side is a feeling of aimlessness and lack of purpose.

This limiting directly opposes Ne's impulsive exploration. In managing one's time, for example, there is always the choice to focus on many different things (or start new things) or to further develop a few things (or whatever one has already started).

Ni is dynamic, so it is less about reaching the destination than being on a path towards the destination.

The flip side of Ni is the avoiding of negative outcomes. This usually manifests as a sense of caution or guarding against danger. Ne, on the other hand, is prone to jump on new prospects even if they aren't proven yet.

Se: impact, influence

Se's agenda is to have an impact or influence on what is immediately perceivable. This impact can be on oneself or the external world. It can be sensorial, like wearing a striking piece of clothing (which creates an impact on the senses), or it can be more abstract, like exercising political power. But the way we achieve an impact necessarily starts with ourselves: either movements of the physical body or speech, which creates an impact on the mental level. Thus, Se is linked to vigorousness and physical energy. One kind of influence that Se seeks is that of disciplining the self to achieve whatever outcome one wants to achieve. Similar to Ne, making an impact is an active process which stops as soon as you stop doing something. Se sometimes also necessitates conflict and aggression when opposition is encountered when trying to achieve a particular impact.

While Ne tries to gain understanding and knowledge about things, Se tries to gain power and influence over things. In practice these two agendas can conflict with one another, because making an impact means seeing what something is as undesirable, whereas seeking to understand something means that you are implicitly accepting that thing as is.

Si: balance, harmony

Si evaluates conditions according to an immediate sense of comfort, pleasantness, equilibrium, lack of conflict, rest, or balance, either with one's environment and within oneself. Usually this involves physical sensations, but not necessarily. For example, Si leading types also seek comfort and avoid conflict in their interpersonal relations (that is, pleasant emotions).1 Si inherently limits and distinguishes one's immediate experience according to how pleasant or unpleasant it is. And it is passive because, once a condition of equilibrium is achieved, it requires no further action.

While Se seeks to change (sometimes forcefully) entities or conditions, Si seeks homeostasis (i.e. stability or dynamic equilibrium) or the maintaining of what currently exists. Si's approach to conflict is to instead change the relationship between the entities so as to create a mutually agreeable situation. For example, if I'm president and my country and your country have conflicting political agendas I can either 1) adapt my agenda by making concessions until there is no longer any conflict between the two (Si), or 2) resort to armed conflict until one of our countries subdues the other one and imposes its own agenda (Se).

So Ne and Ni also play into this: Ni views the goal (abstract, not yet realized condition) as immutable while Ne views it as changeable. These two views are fundamentally incompatible. They then naturally lead to the dual approaches of Se and Si, which either do what it takes, no matter how uncomfortable or disruptive (Se) to achieve the fixed unrealized condition (Ni), or adapt to create a balance in the real world (Si) by capitalizing on available possibilities (Ne). Si and Ni select conditions by evaluating whether they achieve equilibrium or purpose, respectively. And Ne and Se accumulate: either through the acquiring of influence and range of physical mobility, or the expanding of potential. These are the "resources" that Si and Ni draw on to limit their conditions as desired. Without the limiting of Si and Ni, the accumulation of Ne and Se can seem hollow or self-indulgent, and without the resources of Ne and Se, the limiting of Si and Ni can be lackadaisical or listless.

Another example of the Ne/Si interaction: if you get sick, you can use knowledge of medicine to consider possible treatments to cure yourself. But then, once a treatment has been selected, you enter the domain of Ni and Se: now you have to stick to the regimen, however difficult it may be, to achieve your unrealized goal (to get better). So you could say that these elements complement each other within the mind as well as between different people.

(There is an element of logic (Te➡Ti) in this process as well. Ne only considers the possibility and general potential of a treatment; Te actually evaluates its effectiveness according to available data. And while Ti is responsible for adhering to the structure of treatment, Se is responsible for the self-discipline and overcoming any physical hardships or laziness that might occur.)


  1. This is different from Fi because it is based on the moment-to-moment condition of the interaction. (For example, you may experience arguments and conflicts with someone you otherwise love and value as a companion.) 

Last updated May 12, 2019