Sociotropy: The Social Paradoxes Behind Personality Tests

Psychometrica > Articles > Personality > Sociotropy: The Social Paradoxes Behind Personality Tests

 Apply what you learn in this article with our free test on the topic, and see your instant results including a custom analysis.

Personality tests have become increasingly popular in recent years, offering individuals a glimpse into their own unique traits and tendencies. However, beneath the surface of these assessments lie intriguing paradoxes that can shed light on the complexities of human nature. One such paradox is sociotropy, a concept that explores the way in which individuals navigate their social relationships. Sociotropy holds the power to unveil the contradictions we often witness in our own personalities – the simultaneous desire for both close connections and independence, the inclination towards conformity yet craving for individuality. By decoding these social paradoxes, we can gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and the intricate dynamics that shape our interactions with others. In this blog post, we delve into the concept of sociotropy and its implications for personality tests, unraveling the enigma of our social selves and uncovering the hidden facets of our personalities. So, let’s embark on this fascinating journey of self-discovery and explore the complexities that lie within our quest to understand ourselves and our place in the social fabric.

Unraveling the concept of Sociotropy

So what is sociotropy, you might wonder? It originates from the field of psychology, and was first introduced by American psychologist Aaron T. Beck. Sociotropy, to put it simply, is an individual’s tendency or preference for closeness in relationships, dependence on others, and the fear of being alone.

In contrast, there’s another personality trait known as autonomy, which denotes an individual’s desire for independence, self-reliance, and freedom from the control of others.

We all exhibit these traits to varying degrees. Yes, even you, reading this right now. It’s not about being entirely sociotropic or fully autonomous, but rather about the intricate balance between both.

Understanding the Sociotropy-Autonomy Paradox

Here lies the paradox. While we human beings hunger for vibrant social connections and rich emotional engagements, a steadfast quest for individuality and independence also defines us.

The more we engage with our sociotropic side – the more closely we become entwined with others – the stronger our yearning for autonomy gets. It’s a dance of contradictions, and it’s precisely what makes us so fascinatingly complex.

By acknowledging this paradox, we bring light to our hidden contradictions and complexities. And that, my friends, is what self-discovery is all about.

Implications for Personality Tests

Taking into account this sociotropy-autonomy continuum, it appears that typical personality tests may not necessarily paint a complete picture of one’s personality. Let’s explore why.

Most personality tests aim to classify individuals into neatly defined categories based on their dominant traits. You’ve probably heard of labels like extrovert, introvert, or ambivert. But let’s remember that we are not one-dimensional characters. We are fluid and multifaceted beings, continually evolving within the paradoxes of our nature.

By acknowledging one’s sociotropic tendencies alongside the autonomous ones, we can not only gain a more holistic understanding of our personalities but also learn to appreciate the dynamism that underlies human nature.

Unleashing the Power of Sociotropy

So, how can you work this newfound understanding of sociotropy into understanding yourself better?

  1. First, take a personality test with a grain of salt. Remember, these tests merely provide a snapshot of who you are at that particular moment and don’t account for every dimension of your personality.
  2. Second, analyse your relationships. Do you unconsciously gravitate towards closeness, or do you uphold your boundaries fiercely?
  3. Note your reactions in different social situations. Are you comfortable in the crowd, or does your mind yearn for solitude and freedom?

Remember: there is no right or wrong preference. We are but a beautiful blend of our sociotropic and autonomous traits, producing a unique personality cocktail.

The world of self-discovery is vast and intricate. By exploring the idea of sociotropy, we are just scratching the surface, but what an exciting surface it is! Here’s to a journey full of rich insights and riveting revelations!

An Example of Sociotropy: Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation

One example of sociotropy, a concept often assessed in personality tests, can be observed in the actions and decisions made by former US President Abraham Lincoln during his presidency. Lincoln’s pursuit of the emancipation of slaves highlights the paradoxical nature of sociotropy in his personality.


  • Abraham Lincoln served as the 16th President of the United States from 1861 until his assassination in 1865.
  • During his presidency, the United States was deeply divided over the issue of slavery, which plagued the country with significant social, political, and moral dilemmas.

The Emancipation Proclamation:

  • In 1862, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, a historic document that declared freedom for slaves in the Confederate states.
  • While this proclamation did not abolish slavery entirely, it symbolized a major step forward towards the eventual eradication of slavery in the United States.
  • This decision showcased Lincoln’s sociotropy, as he placed the welfare and equality of enslaved individuals above his personal or political concerns.

Sociotropy and Lincoln:

Sociotropy is often associated with individuals who prioritize social harmony, altruism, and the well-being of others over their personal goals or interests. Lincoln embodied this trait through his commitment to ending slavery, even during a time of immense social and political turbulence.

Lincoln’s example demonstrates that sociotropy is not a one-dimensional trait but can coexist with other personality traits. In his case, he combined sociotropy with determination, resilience, and political astuteness to navigate the complexities of the Civil War and ultimately enact significant social change.

See how this fascinating topic applies to your own psychology by taking one of our fun and free tests.

Share with friends