- This article is about the Myers-Briggs personality type. For the Socionics INFp, see Intuitive Ethical Introvert.
INFP (introversion, intuition, feeling, perception) is an abbreviation used in the publications of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to refer to one of sixteen personality types. The MBTI was developed from the work of prominent psychiatrist Carl G. Jung in his book Psychological Types. Jung proposed a psychological typology based on the theories of cognitive functions that he developed through his clinical observations. From Jung's work, others developed psychological typologies. Jungian personality assessments include the MBTI assessment, developed by Isabel Briggs Myers and Katharine Cook Briggs, and the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, developed by David Keirsey.
INFPs are driven by a strong sense of right and wrong and a desire to exercise their creativity, even if only behind the scenes. Their weaknesses may include sensitivity to criticism, poor organization, and low assertiveness. Keirsey referred to the INFPs as Healers, one of the four types belonging to the temperament he called the Idealists. INFPs are somewhat rare, accounting for about 4% of the population.
- 1 MBTI instrument
- 2 Characteristics of INFPs
- 3 Cognitive functions
- 4 References
- 5 External links
- How they focus their attention or get their energy (extraversion or introversion)
- How they perceive or take in information (sensing or intuition)
- How they prefer to make decisions (thinking or feeling)
- How they orient themselves to the external world (judgement or perception)
By using their preference in each of these areas, people develop what Jung and Myers called psychological type. This underlying personality pattern results from the dynamic interaction of their four preferences, in conjunction with environmental influences and their own individual tendencies. People are likely to develop behaviors, skills, and attitudes based on their particular type. Each personality type has its own potential strengths as well as areas that offer opportunities for growth.
The MBTI tool consists of multiple choice questions that sort respondents on the basis of the four "dichotomies" (pairs of psychological opposites). Sixteen different outcomes are possible, each identified by its own four-letter code, referred to by initial letters. (N is used for iNtuition, since I is used for Introversion). The MBTI is approximately 75% accurate according to its own manual.
- I – Introversion preferred to extraversion: INFPs tend to be quiet and reserved. They generally prefer interacting with a few close friends rather than a wide circle of acquaintances, and they expend energy in social situations (whereas extraverts gain energy).
- N – Intuition preferred to sensing: INFPs tend to be more abstract than concrete. They focus their attention on the big picture rather than the details, and on future possibilities rather than immediate realities.
- F – Feeling preferred to thinking: INFPs tend to value personal considerations above objective criteria. When making decisions, they often give more weight to social implications than to logic.
- P – Perception preferred to judgment: INFPs tend to withhold judgment and delay important decisions, preferring to "keep their options open" should circumstances change.
Characteristics of INFPs
According to Myers-Briggs, INFPs focus much of their energy on an inner world dominated by intense feeling and deeply held ethics. They seek an external life that is in keeping with these values. Loyal to the people and causes important to them, INFPs can quickly spot opportunities to implement their ideals. They are curious to understand those around them, and so are accepting and flexible unless their values are threatened.
According to Keirsey, based on observations of behavior, notable INFPs may include Princess Diana, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Audrey Hepburn, Richard Gere, William Shakespeare, Albert Schweitzer and Isabel Briggs Myers (self-reported to the test she invented with her mother, Katharine Cook Briggs).
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For illustrative purposes, Keirsey and his son, David M. Keirsey, have identified well-known individuals whose behavior is consistent with a specific type. Unless otherwise noted, the categorization of the individuals below, whether living or dead, as INFPs is a matter of expert opinion rather than the result of the named individual taking a personality type inventory.
- Isabel Myers
- Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- Albert Camus
- Frank Lloyd Wright
- Søren Kierkegaard
- Edgar Allan Poe
- Kurt Cobain
- Jim Morrison
- William Blake
- John Lennon
- Virginia Woolf
- Fiona Apple
- Chan Marshall
- Vincent Van Gogh
- Franz Kafka
- William Shakespeare
- Ian Curtis
- Tim Burton
- Johnny Depp
- David Lynch
- Lisa Kudrow
- Jim Henson
Correlation with Enneatype
In his 1990 Ph.D dissertation, C. F. Gibbons of the University of Arkansas found that the INFP type was the most common among musicians. A 1973 study of university students in the United States found that the INFP type was the most common type among students studying the fine arts and art education subjects, with 30% of fine arts students and 26% of art education students being INFPs. A 1973 study of the personality types of teachers in the United States found that Intuitive-Perceptive types (ENFP, INFP, ENTP, INTP) were over-represented in teachers of subjects such as English, social studies and art, as opposed to science and mathematics, which featured more Sensing (S) and Judging (J) types. A questionnaire of 27,787 high school students found that INFP students among them showed a significant preference for art, English and music subjects.
Drawing upon Jungian theory, Isabel Myers proposed that for each personality type, the cognitive functions (sensing, intuition, thinking, and feeling) form a hierarchy. This hierarchy represents the person's default pattern of behavior.
The Dominant function is the personality type's preferred role, the one they feel most comfortable with. The secondary Auxiliary function serves to support and expand on the Dominant function. If the Dominant is an information gathering function (sensing or intuition), the Auxiliary is a decision making function (thinking or feeling), and vice versa. The Tertiary function is less developed than the Dominant and Auxiliary, but it matures over time, rounding out the person's abilities. The Inferior function is the personality type's Achilles's heel. This is the function they are least comfortable with. Like the Tertiary, the Inferior function strengthens with maturity.
Jung and Myers considered the attitude of the Auxiliary, Tertiary, and Inferior functions to be the opposite of the Dominant. In this interpretation, if the Dominant function is extraverted, then the other three are introverted, and vice versa. However, many modern practitioners hold that the attitude of the Tertiary function is the same as the Dominant. Using the more modern interpretation, the cognitive functions of the INFP are as follows:
Dominant: Introverted feeling (Fi)
Fi filters information based on interpretations of worth, forming judgments according to criteria that are often intangible. Fi constantly balances an internal set of values such as harmony and authenticity. Attuned to subtle distinctions, Fi innately senses what is true and what is false in a situation. With Fi as their dominant function, INFPs live primarily in a rich inner world of emotion.
Auxiliary: Extraverted intuition (Ne)
Ne finds and interprets hidden meanings, using “what if” questions to explore alternatives, allowing multiple possibilities to coexist. This imaginative play weaves together insights and experiences from various sources to form a new whole, which can then become a catalyst to action. INFPs engage the outside world primarily with intuition. They are adept at seeing the big picture, sensing patterns and the flow of existence from the past toward the future.
Tertiary: Introverted sensing (Si)
Si collects data in the present moment and compares it with past experiences, a process that sometimes evokes the feelings associated with memory, as if the subject were reliving it. Seeking to protect what is familiar, Si draws upon history to form goals and expectations about what will happen in the future. This function gives INFPs a natural inclination toward "other-worldliness" and makes them more easily distracted.
Inferior: Extraverted thinking (Te)
Te organizes and schedules ideas and the environment to ensure the efficient, productive pursuit of objectives. Te seeks logical explanations for actions, events, and conclusions, looking for faulty reasoning and lapses in sequence. This function helps INFPs focus on external details, but being the inferior function, requires the expenditure of greater energy and is not as reliable.
Later personality researchers (notably Linda V. Berens) added four additional functions to the descending hierarchy, the so-called "shadow" functions to which the individual is not naturally inclined but which can emerge when the person is under stress. The shadow processes "operate more on the boundaries of our awareness…We usually experience these processes in a negative way, yet when we are open to them, they can be quite positive." For INFP, these shadow functions are (in order):
- Extraverted feeling (Fe): Fe seeks social connections and creates harmonious interactions through polite, considerate, and appropriate behavior. Fe responds to the explicit (and implicit) wants of others, and may even create an internal conflict between the subject’s own needs and the desire to meet the needs of others.
- Introverted intuition (Ni): Attracted to symbolic actions or devices, Ni synthesizes seeming paradoxes to create the previously unimagined. These realizations come with a certainty that demands action to fulfill a new vision of the future, solutions that may include complex systems or universal truths.
- Extraverted sensing (Se): Extraverted sensing focuses on the experiences and sensations of the immediate, physical world. With an acute awareness of the present surroundings, it brings relevant facts and details to the forefront and may lead to spontaneous action.
- Introverted thinking (Ti): Ti seeks precision, such as the exact word to express an idea. It notices the minute distinctions that define the essence of things, then analyzes and classifies them. Ti examines all sides of an issue, looking to solve problems while minimizing effort and risk. It uses models to root out logical inconsistency.
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