Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Word on Empathy

It’s a misconception that thinking types lack empathy. If you truly lacked empathy, that would be indicative of sociopathy. The suggestion that thinking types lack empathy is a projection of some feeling types, who don’t understand that thinking types believe emotions interfere with the decision-making process. (In much the same way, thinking types sometimes erroneously judge feeling types as being insincere, due to the relative effusiveness that they exhibit.)

The way one MBTI practitioner explained it to me was, “Thinking types sympathize. They just don’t go as deep with it as feeling types do. Feeling types really like to climb down in there with the other person.” In other words, feeling types step into the situation…really step into the situation…and so when they go to make a judgment or decision they can’t not think about how it will affect other people. This also makes them better able to discern what other people value and respond accordingly.

Thinking types, by contrast, may have plenty of emotions but they don’t want to be biased by them. They think a good decision is one in which you step back from the situation and analyze it objectively. This doesn’t mean they don’t sympathize, but this tendency to stand back and make an objective judgment can cause them to be analytical and more concerned with finding a solution than expressing sympathy. (This is especially true of male thinking types.)

Consider the following scenario: you’re a manager at a restaurant. You have a waitress that has been missing a lot of work. She usually has a good excuse, but as the excuses have piled up you’ve become concerned about both her reliability and her honesty. Then, on an unusually busy night, the waitress never shows up for work and never calls. There’s not enough servers working to cover the volume, so customers complain about the slow service and overall, everyone is harried. The next day, she comes into work. When you call her into your office, she starts crying and explains that she’s been really stressed and overwhelmed at school and had to get an important assignment done for class the next day. She swears that she won’t let it happen again. While there’s technically a policy stating to fire her, you know that you could let her off with a warning this time without any negative repercussions to you. What do you do?

If you’re a feeling type, the moment she starts crying and talking about how overwhelmed she is at school, you find yourself sympathizing with her, but more than that, you want to help her and ease her suffering in some way. You very much don’t want to fire her. You may offer to reduce her hours during the busy time of the semester and let her make them up during breaks. You impress upon her that, while you understand her schoolwork comes first, she needs to give you advanced warning so that others don’t suffer.

If you’re a thinking type, you may still feel sympathy for her, but you’ll step back from the situation a bit more. You may recall the other times when she’s called in, and be concerned that if she gets off the hook this time, that it will communicate to her that this behavior is acceptable. Additionally, you’ll consider that if you don’t fire her for this and then other employees pull no-shows, the laws of fairness and consistency will demand that you give them a pass as well. If that happens, it will seriously impact your ability to effectively manage a restaurant. You may legitimately feel bad for her. You may even be as nice as you can while firing her, but if logic dictates that firing is the best course of action, that’s what you’ll do.

You’ll notice that in both cases, the person sympathized with the girl, but in one case, that sympathy was part of the decision-making process and in another it was not. We all have sympathy for others. The question is, when push comes to shove, do you seek to incorporate sympathy into your judgments or to exclude it?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Function Tests: Do Both Attitudes Matter?

Awhile back, I was on a (now-defunct) Jungian message board. They were discussing a phenomenon in which a person with a given dominant function will often find themselves also having good use of the same function in the opposite attitude. This flies in the face of what Jung originally thought, where the most difficult person to get along with was not someone who had a type that was your inferior function, but rather the same function in the opposite attitude. Still, someone that brought it up mentioned that, as an INFP, they had good access to Extraverted Feeling in addition to their dominant Introverted Feeling. A number of dominant Feeling types agreed with this. (There was an INTP on the board, but I can't remember if she weighed in or not.)

If this is the case, then that would add an extra layer of interpretation to function tests. So far there are a few main ways tests are interpreted:

(1)Method of Interpretation: The highest result is your dominant function.

The MMDI and some other function-based tests on the internet tend to operate this way. In this case, you look to the highest score, then match it up with the auxiliary. So, if your highest score is Introverted Intuition, then you go down the list and see that your Extraverted Thinking is higher than your Extraverted Feeling, you're INTJ.

Problem: What if neither auxiliary is all that high? For example, suppose you see a pattern that goes something like this: Ni-Fi-Ti-Ne-Te-Si-Fe-Se. Technically, the Fi is higher than Te. Granted, there are a lot of reasons for this. The N, for example, could color how the Te manifests, since "raw" Te is probably more naturally paired with Introverted Sensing than Introverted Intuition and if the percentages are close, you could just chock it up to the usual problems inherent in self-report questionnaires.

(2)Method of Interpretation: The Overall Pattern Indicates Your Type.

Dario Nardi's test does this. He looks for a pattern in which the dominant and auxiliary are well paired. Meaning, when both the dominant and auxiliary are in higher-ranked choices, then that has the highest probability of being your type. He gets around the problem of incongruous combinations by providing one result that's most probable, two other possible options and then a ranking of probable temperaments. The best-fit type correlates with a person's MBTI results 75-80% of the time and the temperament result matches 95% of the time.

Here's my results on Nardi's test (which I just re-took for the purpose of this post, but it's pretty consistent with previous results):

So, that means my pattern is as follows: Ne-Ni-Fi-Te-Si-Ti-Fe-Se. I have excellent use on Ne, Ni and Fi, limited use of Fe and my Se is, well, non-existent. Based on this, he suggests my most probable type is INFP, followed by ENFP and then INTP. The temperament conflicts with the most probable type, however, since I came out as Theorist. However, my Ti, while admittedly I have a good use of it, still ranks in position #6--below both Fi and Te, making my being an INTP fairly improbable. If contemporary Jungians are correct, INFP is fairly improbable as well, since my Fe is my pathetically low. However, with Ni being only 3 points below Ne, with both Ni and Ne being my highest scores, and with Se ranking, at a whopping 13.1, as unused, bearing in mind the Jungians' suggestion as well as my temperament results, it would then indicate that the most probable type would be INTJ. Because my Fi is so high, I could entertain the idea that my auxiliary is in the same attitude as the dominant. However, with excellent use of Ne and good use of Te, that is unlikely to be the case. If my top four results were all introverted functions, though, I might want to consider such an option.

The problem with function tests, I think, will always be one of there being too many combinations to provide a quick and easy result. I started writing out a possible process through which people could try to interpret results that would incorporate all the various factors, but it was getting a bit complex to put into paragraph form, so I'll try to put together a flow chart and post it later.

I'm going to put up a poll where people can vote on whether they score high on both attitudes of their dominant function. It would be interesting to see if that bears out for a lot of people.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Reasons Why It Might Be Hard to Find Your Type

I wanted to post some reasons why people might find it hard to discover their type. All too often, type professionals and hobbyists try to scapegoat a certain type or preference for this difficulty. ("INFPs have trouble finding their type.") This provides an easy way to deflect tough questions and more quickly identify a type for the person. However, the issue is often more complex than that. Here are some big reasons why a person might find it hard to nail down their type:

(1)An Underdeveloped auxiliary

The most common reason the auxiliary would be underdeveloped is that you're young. Type theory suggests that we develop our auxiliary between the ages of 12 and 20. I personally think it can be as late as 24. That means, at least until high school or (for traditional students) early college, which way you will go is unclear. So, if you have dominant introverted intuition, Extraverted Thinking and Extraverted Feeling will "compete" for the supporting role of auxiliary. As most type descriptions are based on the premise that the dominant and auxiliary will both be fairly well developed, if you're younger, you may not have a well-developed auxiliary yet. This makes it difficult to determine your type.

(2)An overdeveloped auxiliary

As you get older, you may use your auxiliary so much that you confuse it with your dominant function. (You may or may not confuse it with your attitude--Extraversion or Introversion--as well.) Marie-Louise Von Franz describes this phenomenon in Psychotherapy:

I once, for example, knew a woman who was an introverted feeling type; that is, in the past she had been a feeling type, but in the stage at which we met, she had already switched the process to developing intuition and at that stage had as much trouble with her sensation as if she had been a genuine intuitive...for example, she became completely inaccurate about facts and had trouble relating to them, exactly as an intuitive does. She then stated with great emphasis that it had always been an error to call her a feeling type, for she was an intuitive, but she was wrong! (pg 131)

The key here is to search your memory. Diaries may be helpful in this. If that's not an option, and if you have a decent relationship with them, family can provide useful feedback. To find the dominant, you need to look at who you were earlier in life.

(3)A Long Time Wrangling with the Inferior Function

If your inferior function has been bubbling up to the surface, you may become confused between the dominant and inferior. I don't think, for example, that an ISTJ could confuse herself for an ENFP. It's too big of a switch. However, an ISTJ might still be confused between intuition and sensing, or in some cases ITJ versus IFP. There's usually one you handle more masterfully than the other, but if the inferior function is stuck in consciousness for too long, even one's own dominant function becomes a bit compromised.

The inferior is a lot like when you first start to learn a new language. You can say some basic phrases, but you miss a lot of the nuance. You can understand if people go slowly, but get kind of lost when you're with a group of native speakers. A similar thing can happen with the inferior function, except since we're talking about psychological type and not one's first language, there's more confusion that comes into play. You may start to wonder which one is the "real" conscious part of the personality.

(4)You Are A Distorted Type

If the early childhood environment interferes with type development, then you can sometimes break the typical developmental pattern and develop your auxiliary (usually in the same attitude as the dominant) first. In the same book as before, Marie-Louise Von Franz states:

Many can tell their type at once, but others may be very difficult to define. Even the people themselves have trouble in finding out their own type, which is very often due to the fact that they are distorted types. This is not a very frequent occurrence, but it does happen in cases where someone would naturally have become a feeling type or an intuitive, but was forced by the environment to develop another function. Suppose a boy is born as a feeling type in an intellectually ambitious family. His whole surroundings will exert pressure upon him to become an intellectual, and his original possibility as a feeling type will be thwarted or despised. Usually in such a case, he is unable to become a thinking type--that would be a step too far--but he might well develop sensation or intuition, one of his auxiliary functions, so as to be relatively better adapted to his surroundings, for his main function is simply 'out' in the milieu in which he grows up.

I would imagine this is most likely when one's dominant function is atypical to their gender, particularly when the other family members have a dominant or auxiliary function that's opposite the child's dominant function. In a sense, I think a girl could be an INFP in a thinking family and feel misunderstood but not to the point where she develops her N and has trouble recognizing her F. A boy could be born INTP in a household where everyone has dominant or auxiliary Feeling because he's a boy, and well, to some extent, it's expected that he's going to be a thinking type. On the other hand, if the INTP in the feeling household is a girl or the INFP in the thinking household is a boy, something else entirely happens. First, the child seems like an anomaly to the family, because they aren't supposed to act that way. Second, society at large (in this case, school and other kids of their gender) reinforce this message. It's pretty hard to develop your dominant function under those conditions. Maybe if you have at least one family member in the home that supports your preference, you can withstand some of the social pressures but if you don't, unless you're fortunate enough to be born into a family that really knows a lot about type and is committed to supporting your preferences, the chance of a distorted type is a good one. It can make finding one's own type terribly confusing.

I'd add, I think that there's a very real extent to which you may internalize these sanctions against your main function. I often think that a lot of these "I'm an INFJ on an Ni/Ti loop" folks may, in fact, be INTPs that are still unconsciously trying to please their family by identifying with the tendencies they were persistently shamed for lacking as a child. If you think this could be you, I would strongly suggest reflecting on what sort of tendencies as a child were often rejected by your family but also which you found hard to completely repress. If you're independent from your family, then ask your friends, spouse, etc about their thoughts on your type (within reason). You may show more of your dominant function than you think.

5. Your Dominant Function is in the Same Attitude as the Auxiliary

This one I've mentioned before, but it is possible for someone to develop their auxiliary in the same attitude as the dominant. These people are "extreme introverts" or "extreme extraverts." Since the type descriptions assume balance, they likely won't fit. This should be pretty easy to tell when it's the case. If you find yourself saying stuff like "Well, I'm pretty sure my dominant function is Extraverted Intuition but I think my Feeling is Extraverted rather than Introverted" and you have a hard time unwinding and introverting when necessary, then you probably really are an ENFP.

At What Age Do The Functions Develop? My Thoughts.

I was flipping through Haas and Hunziker's Building Blocks of Personality Type today. I've read it once or twice before. One thing that caught my eye was a table suggesting that the dominant function was developed by age 12, the auxiliary by 20, the tertiary by 35 and the inferior by 50. Okay, I suppose in many cases the auxiliary could develop by 20 (I'd extend that to as late as 24, personally) but the tertiary by 35 and the inferior by 50? That seems a bit optimistic.

In general, the more conscious the function, the easier it is to develop and the faster you reach maturity with that function. The dominant function is the most conscious, and therefore development of it can come rather quickly. It's the one we'll probably always remember having and being good at. The auxiliary is partly conscious (or unconscious, depending on what translation you're using--same difference IMO)and, for people who aren't socially well-adjusted, can develop in an imbalanced way, never being fully realized. The remaining two we'll have less finesse, with our use of the fourth function being, as described by Von Franz, primitive. Reaching the fourth function takes work--as in serious, psycho-spiritual work, and most of us just aren't that motivated.

I think the problem stems from some confusion about what is actually involved in mastering a function. The more popular usage of functions being "cognitive" is misleading--it makes it seem like it's something that just sort of happens in the brain, maybe we pick up a book or a nice toy to stimulate that sort of "learning" and we're plowing away through the functions. However, it's really an issue of degree of consciousness, and so each function must be fully brought up into consciousness before the next function can be assimilated. In Psychotherapy, Marie-Louise Von Franz states

The process of assimilating the functions is not in any way easy. To assimilate a function really means to live at least a few years completely with that one function in the foreground before you can claim that you have assimilated it. If you once do a little bit of cooking or sewing, that doesn't mean you have assimilated your sensation function and if you do a little bit of thinking on a Sunday afternoon, that does not mean that you have assimilated your thinking function. People often have great illusions about that. It means that the whole emphasis of life, for awhile, lies on that function.(pgs 132-133, emphasis added.)

With so much involved, it seems a lot to expect that the average person will have developed all four functions by the time you're fifty. I just turned 42 a couple of days ago and I can honestly say that sensing is still pretty far out of reach for me. I can begin to poke at it little bit, like by taking an encaustic painting class. The first time I signed up for the class at my local art center, I heard the teacher's safety warnings, heard her horror stories about people that didn't listen to said warnings and, despite being fascinated by the medium, I just couldn't bring myself to come back. I'm too spacy, I thought, I'm too inattentive to the world around me. I can't do that! I'll scar half my face or lose a finger or something. It nagged at me, though, so a year later, I signed up again. It was a five week class. I missed the first class. Then the second. I forced myself to go for the third class, then made the rest. The work I produced was horrible. I cautiously used the heat gun once. I wouldn't touch the blow torch. I recently signed up for it again. Now, I have my own iron, and I'm determined to master getting the work to the level of smoothness I want, even if I have to re-take the class continuously for the next two years.

Still, that's how the inferior function tends to work. We only begin, very slowly and very cautiously, to address it in mid-life. I'm old enough now to know many people that are well over 50. My 80 year old ENTJ father can engage his introverted feeling perhaps more than he did when I was a kid, but it's far from being mastered, and he still often uses his feeling in a very ENTJ-ish way. I have ENFJ in-laws in their 60s where it isn't entirely clear whether the auxiliary is intuition or sensing, since they exhibit both (and I defer to my husband's childhood memories on this one) but there's little indication that introverted thinking activities carry much interest for them. Incorporating your fourth function in an individuated way, then, seems a lot like coming to terms with your enneagram fixation: it takes a lot of deliberate psycho-spiritual work and if it's too easy to do, then you've probably settled on the wrong type.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Feeling Differences between Introverts and Extraverts

I wanted to take a moment to talk a bit about feeling differences: Introverted Feeling, Extraverted Feeling, as well as Feeling as it differs as the dominant/auxiliary function in Extraverts versus Introverts.

First, regardless of whether the actual function is Introverted or Extraverted, how Feeling manifests itself varies based on the attitude. As a general rule, according to MBTI theory, when someone with a Feeling preference is Extraverted, the need for harmony tends to manifest as an outgoing, sympathetic attitude towards others. Additionally, of all of the attitude/judgment combos, EFs tend to notice the emotion in the environment. The MBTI Manual states "All are sensitive to the nuances of emotion that they pick up from those around them, and they find it hard to function at their best when they are in an environment characterized by frequent conflict and divisiveness." (MBTI Manual, pg 58.) Unlike their Introverted counterparts, however, EF types (that is, ENFJ, ESFJ, ENFP and ESFP) tend to actively try to remove the disharmony. They "try to defuse contentious situations or mediate among people who are at odds with each other." It should be noted that this is not just limited to conflict between themselves and another--any conflict in the environment is a source of stress. EF types have an extremely difficult time being in an environment that is filled with conflict. Note that they're called "The Action-Oriented Cooperators."

IF types (INFP, ISFP, INFJ and ISFJ), by contrast, are called "The Reflective Harmonizers," reflecting their comparatively quiet demeanor. They're concerned with other people's feelings and often are seen as being overly serious and sensitive both to their own feelings and the feelings of others. Unlike EFs, though, they rarely will confront disharmony in the environment: "Unlike the EFs who strive to correct disharmony when they find it, IFs are likely to withdraw from such situations, rather than deal directly with the distressing feelings that exist in the situation." (Pg 58.)

These must always be considered when looking at the functions, because the combination will make some important differences in how the feeling function manifests itself. Here's a quick review of Extraverted and Introverted Feeling for you:

Extraverted Feeling:

-inclusiveness (and exclusion)
-Warmth (and coldness)
-Playing hostess
-Solidarity with group values in a bi-directional sense. Being loyal to group values but also needing the group to have values that reflect your own in order to be a part of it
-Anticipating needs
-Social niceties (and indignation at the lack of it in others)
-placing group harmony over individual needs

Introverted Feeling

-private, subjective values
-orientation towards universal themes
-restrained emotion (PT, 640)
-cool reserve
-selective and subtle sympathy
-mostly non-verbal expression of sympathy
-humble (and perhaps overlooked at times)
-congruence with values
-rare, but intense, asserting of one's values to the outer world
-"Still waters run deep"
-Placing inner harmony over group harmony

In summary:

(1)Extraverts initially try to confront disharmony, Introverts only rarely. Both, however, are extremely uncomfortable in situations where harmony is absent.
(2)Introverted Feeling is oriented towards private values, and may be less adapted to or aware of group values, as well as certain social norms. The extent of this may be tempered by whether it's the dominant or auxiliary function.
(3)Extraverted Feeling is oriented towards social niceties, reciprocity and group values. Again, the extent of this may be tempered by whether it's the dominant or auxiliary function.

Common Misconceptions About MBTI Theory, Jung and Verification of Type

Myth #1: Tests Don't Work

Usually, this is said in one of two contexts:

(1) A person took a free, not scientifically validated test and the type didn't fit.
(2) Somebody wants to challenge someone else's type. The person has reported and confirmed their type with a professional and points this out. Unable to one-up with an actual argument as to why the person is not x type, they claim that test results are inaccurate.

Listen, of course you shouldn't blindly accept test results, but it's not an all-or-none proposition. Be smart about the tests you take. Obviously, if it's Similarminds, it isn't going to mean much. The official MBTI is statistically validated although it does suffer from a compromised test/retest reliability (generally around areas of slight preference). For that reason, there will always be a debriefing with the MBTI, explaining and interpreting the preferences. You then verify your type. In general, 75-80% of the time, people verify on 3 of the 4 preferences. According to MBTI theory, Self-verification trumps reported type, but all this means is that test results have to be interpreted. In general, the greater clarity of preferences, the more confident you can be about their results.

Myth #2: Descriptions are "wrong"

See point #1. It's true, the descriptions represent the most common ways these tendencies manifest, and are based on healthy (if not ideal) type development. Still, rejecting the descriptions wholesale is as bad as expecting one type description to be a perfect fit. If someone is well-reflected in the type description, that means that they exhibit typical ways the preferences manifest. It makes no sense to discount that on the basis that the descriptions are less than perfect. In fact, during the verification process, if your verified and reported types don't match up, your practitioner may have you read both descriptions as a tie-breaker.

Myth #3: If you test as an INTP but are close on T/F, you can't be INTP, because Thinking is INTP's lead function.

This is due to a confusion between preference clarity and function order. Jung posited a hierarchy of functions with the dominant (or lead) function being most developed. However, when you take the MBTI, it measures clarity of preference, not intensity of development. In short, preference clarity determines your confidence in your answers. A slight result on a preference indicates you were more conflicted. However, there are a lot of reasons this can occur. The biggest is environmental pressures to use the opposite preference. For example, an INTP college professor trying to make tenure will need to engage their feeling more: accommodating students to get positive evaluations, participating on committees, showing a commitment to department values, and so forth. She may indeed endorse more thinking than feeling items overall but, recalling her recent behavior, also endorse more feeling items than she might in a more type-congruent work environment, resulting in a "slight" result. Introverted Thinking may be her dominant function, but recent attempts to engage her inferior feeling will influence how she answers.

Myth #4: Jung presented a cognitive system of personality.

Some theorists, popularizing the functions, prefer to make them more accessible by calling them "cognitive" functions. It's true that the MBTI conceptualizes S/N as how we take in information and T/F as how we make judgments, so I can see the natural progression towards describing the functions as "cognitive." However, make no mistake, Jung was presenting a theory of the unconscious: in particular, function order indicated how much conscious access we had to each function, with individual and social problems boiling down to people being too one-sided and only developing the conscious personality. To then call the functions "cognitive" is a lot like calling psychoanalysis CBT.

Myth #5: I don't really have Extraverted Feeling but I have Introverted Intuition and Introverted Thinking so I'm an INFJ on an Ni/Ti loop

Your auxiliary, by virtue of being the auxiliary, is the second most conscious function. If your thinking is more developed than your feeling, you aren't an INFJ, you're an INTJ. Now, early Jungians thought that the auxiliary was in the same attitude as the dominant. Even the MBTI manual allows, in the chapter on counseling, for people to develop an auxiliary that is in the same attitude as the dominant. Note on page 226:"Some Extraverts seem to use their auxiliary function as well as their dominant function in the Extraverted attitude. This makes them appear to others as 'extreme Extraverts.'" and, further down the page, "Some Introverted clients introvert both their dominant and auxiliary functions, making them appear as 'extreme introverts.'" If you're an INFJ but your introversion is extreme, then you may see more Introverted Feeling in your personality. If, however, you see neither Introverted nor Extraverted Feeling in your personality, but you do see Introverted Thinking, then you may want to examine whether INFJ is the best fit for you.

Myth #6: all talk of the four letter types = the "MBTI."

MBTI refers to a test. MBTI theory refers to the theory that has evolved by researchers involved in the test and which has been published by people affiliated with the test. (Researchers, trainers and practitioners.) Keirsey is not the MBTI. Nor is Socionics. Nor is what the 30 year old pizza delivery driver living in his mom's basement posted on a message board. Don't get me wrong: there's a lot about MBTI theory that I like to, and have, critiqued. However, when I do so, I'm positing it as an alternative interpretation of Jung's thought. (And, for the love of God, please don't take it as more than tossing out preliminary ideas for further exploration or discussion, and whatever you do, don't type yourself based on my musings.) In short: call it MBTI theory when you're referring to findings or underlying concepts related to the official inventory. Don't if you aren't. If you want a catch-all, "Jung/MBTI/etc" or "Jung/MBTI related theory" works, too. Also, if you're using the Berens approach that incorporates MBTI with temperament and interaction styles, use "temperament theory" "4 lenses on type" or just "Berens'."

Myth #7: People test as the type they want to be.

So, you're convinced that a certain INFJ is really an ESFP. When they point out how they test as INFJ, you tell them, "yeah, but people often test as how they want to see themselves, not as they are." While it's true that societal pressures can make us feel we "should" be certain types more than others, that level of confusion (outside of, say, taking the test in a professional or clinical setting) would point to a clinical degree of identity uncertainty. Now, what does happen is that when the test is taken for reasons other than personal growth (say, at work) a person will test as how they feel they should be in the eyes of their employer. Also possible is role-influence: an ISFJ engineering major may test as an ISTJ because his role requires using T more often and, remembering those instances, answers that way. Usually, a strong preference isn't indicated, though. Finally, people can (and, I suspect, most often do) mistype from lack of knowledge: type as an F because they think they're "emotional" or as I because they think Es like to party constantly, etc.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Critique of the So-Called Ni/Ti Loop

(About this image)*

So, occasionally I find myself perusing the internet to see what sort of type conversations are happening. Normally, I stick to choice blogs or books, but occasionally, I wander on to message boards or Youtube videos to see what The Kids Today(tm) are saying. In doing so, I've noticed a lot of attention to the idea of a dominant-tertiary "loop" (I believe inspired by and adapted from Lenore Thomson's interesting but highly idiosyncratic book). The idea behind it seems to be that when we have trouble accessing the opposite attitude, we'll tap into our third function, since it's in the same attitude as the dominant. It rests on the rather questionable assumption that our less conscious functions provide better access than a more conscious function in the same attitude. I'll cite the examples I've seen, focusing on INFJ since that seems to be the most frequently referenced loop. (I've read them for other types, though, and think many of the criticisms could be generalized to the loop concept overall.)

I. Meaningless Loops

In the first case, there's a meaningless, but mostly harmless use of the loop concept. In this case, typical behavior that is generally thought of as being negative is attributed to the "loop" but really is describing what the top two functions do. For example, I've seen people attribute to the Ni/Ti loop feelings of social anxiety and insecurity: worrying that the girl you heard making fun of someone was talking about you, worrying about a weird look you got, an "off" attitude, and in general being sensitive to cues of possible rejection.

Now, I don't dispute that INFJs do this. What I deny, though, is that these qualities partially belong to the tertiary Introverted Thinking function. In fact, the tendency to notice little social cues is actually something that accompanies Feeling in general, but Extraverted Feeling especially. It's one reason why ITPs tend to have such trouble socially. They genuinely do not know what these social cues mean, and they tend to frequently miss them altogether. It's true that Introverted Thinking is about "analysis" but it's a completely different kind of analysis: it's impersonal, detached analysis. Introverted Intuition seeks out (among other things)patterns, symbolism and constructs through which they might understand the world, Extraverted Feeling pays careful attention to interpersonal cues (and is often expressive in using them with others), combining to make the INFJ sensitive to nuance. (Introverted Feeling can be equally hypersensitive to cues but is not always as skilled at communicating the appropriate social cues to others.*) There's no actual Introverted Thinking at work here, though. If you talk to an INTP or ISTP about a "cue" they've been giving you, (and this sometimes happens with ENTPs and ESTPs as well, who have auxiliary Introverted Thinking) they'll often not have the foggiest notion of what you're talking about, and may in fact become frustrated that they're being asked to account for something they had no idea that they were doing. They'd much prefer to turn their attention to some sort of logical problem (be it technical, philosophical, scientific or just a puzzle) where they don't have to think about other people's feelings. So, how on Earth could this be an Ni/Ti loop? Furthermore, if such attention were to become debilitating and you sought therapy, the most common method of therapy would be to help you deal with it by generating and testing hypotheses, looking for flawed assumptions, examining evidence in a dispassionate manner--all Thinking characteristics. So, one could argue that the problem isn't that you have by-passed Extraverted Feeling and are falling back on your thinking function, but rather that you're too reliant on your Feeling and need to incorporate Thinking more.

II. By-Passing the Auxiliary

The second use of it that I've observed is to explain away evidence that would call that type into question. So, for someone that really does engage in more detached analysis than social harmonizing, but for whatever reason identifies as INFJ, they can still claim it as their type.

Now, it is entirely possible for extreme introversion to cause one to not develop their auxiliary function in the extraverted attitude (and vice-versa). However, that doesn't mean the person will have a more developed third function than second. That's a lot like missing your flight from Chicago to New York and instead hopping on a plane going from Chicago to Paris, checking into a hotel, doing some touristy stuff, grabbing dinner, and then complaining that you need to figure out a way to get back to New York. Why wouldn't you just find another way to get to New York?

Well, it's the same way with the auxiliary. If you can't find a way to extravert your second function, you're not going to resort to the third, less conscious function, you're just going to use the second function in the preferred attitude. To reiterate what I said here:

Your auxiliary, by virtue of being the auxiliary, is the second most conscious function. If your thinking is more developed than your feeling, you aren't an INFJ, you're an INTJ. Now, early Jungians thought that the auxiliary was in the same attitude as the dominant. Even the MBTI manual allows, in the chapter on counseling, for people to develop an auxiliary that is in the same attitude as the dominant. Note on page 226:"Some Extraverts seem to use their auxiliary function as well as their dominant function in the Extraverted attitude. This makes them appear to others as 'extreme Extraverts.'" and, further down the page, "Some Introverted clients introvert both their dominant and auxiliary functions, making them appear as 'extreme introverts.'" If you're an INFJ but your introversion is extreme, then you may see more Introverted Feeling in your personality. If, however, you see neither Introverted nor Extraverted Feeling in your personality, but you do see Introverted Thinking, then you may want to examine whether INFJ is the best fit for you.

The confusion stems, I think, from how the system is presented. When presented to the general public, normal type development is assumed, since for most people that will be the case. The alternate manifestation is addressed in clinical/counseling settings, though, since there's a much greater likelihood of encountering individuals with atypical type development.

III. A Word on Paranoia

Some of the Ni/Ti loop theories have focused, as I said, on sensitivity to nuance. However, in some cases, it's been interpreted as full-blown paranoia and conspiracy theories. However, when social anxiety becomes paranoia, especially when accompanied with retaliation for perceived slights, you're seeing the manifestation of the inferior function of dominant introverted feeling. In describing the eruption of the inferior function of the Introverted Feeling type, Jung states:

She begins consciously to feel 'what other people think.' Naturally, other people are thinking all sorts of mean things, scheming evil, contriving plots, secret intrigues, etc. In order to forestall them, she herself is obliged to start counter-intrigues, to suspect others and sound them out, and weave counterplots. Beset by rumours, she must make frantic efforts to get her own back and be top dog. Endless clandestine rivalries spring up, and in these embittered struggles, she will shrink from no baseness or meanness and will even prostitute her virtues in order to play the trump card. (PT:644)

This doesn't mean just fleeting insecurities, wondering if someone likes you, or occasionally feeling snubbed by that standoffish waiter (or customer). If, on the other hand, you're so convinced that someone is so against you that you set out to ostracize them, engage in a campaign of misinformation or otherwise undermine them out of the conviction that they are or will do the same to you, then you're seeing an Introverted Feeling type whose Inferior Extraverted Thinking has severely got the better of them. In this case, the fictitious Ni/Ti loop may be doing more harm than good because it's preventing the person from facing their inferior function, since not are they not dealing with the right one, but they've actually convinced themselves that they're relying too much on their thinking function when precisely the opposite is true.

* From Morgan's Tarot deck. The actual meaning of the card is "This card may mean that it is all right to be what you are. Or, the situation is radically different from what it normally is. Or, despite the fact that everything is okay, it doesn't feel that way. Refreshing influences rather than draining influences may dispel your anxiety." I thought it was rather indicative of how INFJs often feel.

**I think this may be what's behind a lot of Introverted Feeling/Extraverted Feeling misunderstandings. With Thinking types, the inattention to those cues make it more obvious what's going on, but with IFPs, a certain sensitivity is demonstrated, but they may "drop the ball" on certain social niceties, which can enflame insecurities.