I started my journey to explore the correlations between body language many years ago. The journey started with Physiognomy, the project now known as Cognitive Type. I later studied the cult-like group known as Pod’lair. For the last years, I worked on developing independent methods through Neojungian Academy.
Step one: Physiognomy
In Physiognomy, we broke down footage into animated gifs to explore different tendencies in the body language. Physiognomy had one key advantage. It did an ample job of typing people based on their subtype. It correctly identified that I had a tendency towards acting as an ESFJ on camera, but couldn’t tell the difference between a persons development and their flow type.
The typing of me was based on how frequently I moved my upper body and my eyes, as well as head nods, shakes, and other easy to nail down facial expressions and gestures. Physiognomy was more simple than Pod’lair, but their methods were also too general and simplistic. Often, Physiognomy’s cues could be found in any person, at any given moment. This really made it hard to measure which expressions were the most prevalent, since every video gave different patterns.
The methods were only somewhat consistent however, and most of the time, there was little agreement on the type on how best to type a person. At many times, it felt like what we were doing was just blind guesswork, I really couldn’t tell for sure either way, what type a person was. As this was step one, my ambition was mostly research and observation.
Pod’lair was a cult-like group that did aggressive typing videos of people in the MBTI community, telling people what type they were, and smacking anyone who questioned them. They are associated with a lot of ethically questionable actions. They made plenty of dismantling videos, for example one dismantling the Physiognomy project. Pod’lair appears to have calmed down plenty over the years. They have now typed over 32,000 celebrity figures, making them the most massive, comprehensive list identifying the personality type of popular media figures. Pod’lair has avoided to use traditional MBTI terms to describe types, separating themselves from the MBTI.
The biggest issue with Pod’lair was that it was often very difficult for people to recognize themselves in the types assigned by Pod’lair. While their methods were highly consistent, their visual signals were hard to spot, unless you had trained in the method for years. I was personally never able to master any of the cues they identified, and not for lack of effort. I simply never knew what they talked about – with all their weird spiritual jargon. Their lack of clear personality psychology theory and their vague way of using terms often made other people disagree with Pod’lair, citing it as pseudoscience.
Pod’lairs personality theories were in part based on the works of Brain Types, developed by Jonathan Niednagel, a person who’s MBTI-related theories were also classed as pseudoscience. In Niednagels and Pod’lairs works, people were described based on if they used the left, right, front, or back parts of their brain. Besides that, Pod’lair relied heavily on eastern theories on Yin and Yang, masculine and feminine, to describe people’s personality types, and shrugged off most of the MBTI theories. Frankly, the biggest issue is not whether Pod’lairs methods are correct or not, because, as a blogger eloquently put it, the jargon makes it impossible to tell what anything means. When studying step two, I really wanted to find something to nail down, and I wanted to begun trying to learn visual typing for real. But that ultimately failed. What I took with me however, was that it wasn’t enough to simply do blind research. I also needed to have a system to understand my observations. Neojungian Typology was that system.
Neojungian Visual Typing
The Neojungian attempt was to explore scientific connections to personality psychology. Me and Christian managed to develop a consistent way of typing people based on neuroscience related to personality psychology. This helped give a consistent system to type people. Using that system, I could finally organise my observations, and make sense of what I had been seeing all along.
Me and Christian discussed and came up with multiple requirements for how to type people. What I stuck with was five core demands for how visual typing should be done, besides the ethical concerns, which I will discuss in future posts.
- The visual typing body language should be easy to spot, both by the person doing the typing, and the person being typed. If they can’t be taught and applied by other people, the method is not objective.
- The visual typing system needs to be consistent – and other people need to be able to use the methods too, to form support by other people in the system. There needs to be a system with evidence of each persons type, a library to present your results for anyone to study.
- The visual typing system needs to avoid expressions that are too stereotypical (if everyone can display the cue, then the cue can’t be type specific) – the type specific body language need to exist in multiple footage of said person, no matter the time or place.
- There needs to be a high confidence in the read, i.e, the person doing the visual typing must feel confident in their own read, not like they are just guessing.
- There needs to be a read not just of a persons body language but also their subtype and development. We need to know not just what type a person is but also how they have developed, or we risk being too vague or broad in our read, or worse, pigeonholing another person.
With Neojungian visual typing, I ended up realising I needed to find my own way, because no other project seemed to offer any viable alternatives. At least, no alternatives that worked for me. So I began combining both the analysis I got from Physiognomy and the systematic principles I picked up while in Pod’lair – organizing people into groups or patterns of body language. Then I studied each pattern independently to get something real. It has taken many years to perfect, but now I believe I have something to test.
I want your help testing and confirming this theory. I don’t think it is enough that I think that I can do it, I need your help to make sure that this system is objective or not. So let’s see what we can do.
On Tuesday at 7 pm, I will do a live visual typing event in the link above where I discuss the methods I have come up with and the early library of celebrity personalities I have begun to develop. There you can discuss with me different celebrities and popular figures, and how you can type a person based on their body language, and distinguish based on their development and persona on stage. There we can together discuss the topic and the accuracy of visual typing. Is there some merit to it, or is it just bullshit? I don’t personally find the thought of body language being correlated to personality that farfetched. But at the very least, right now, there are few accurate systems discussing the topic.