- This article is about the Myers-Briggs personality type. For the Socionics INTj (INTP equivalent), see Intuitive Logical Introvert.
INTP (introversion, intuition, thinking, perceiving) is an abbreviation used in the publications of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to refer to one of the MBTI's 16 personality types. The MBTI assessment 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 (KTS), developed by David Keirsey.
INTPs are marked by a quiet, stoic, modest, and aloof exterior that masks strong creativity and enthusiasm for novel possibilities. Their weaknesses include poor organization, insensitivity to social niceties, and a tendency to get lost in abstractions. Keirsey referred to INTPs as Architects, one of the four types belonging to the temperament he called the Rationals. INTPs are relatively rare, accounting for 1–5% of the U.S. population.
- 1 The MBTI instrument
- 2 INTP characteristics
- 3 Cognitive functions
- 4 Type dynamics of the INTP
- 5 References
- 6 External links
The MBTI instrument
- 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: INTPs 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: INTPs 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.
- T – Thinking preferred to feeling: INTPs tend to value objective criteria above personal preference. When making decisions, they generally give more weight to logic than to social considerations.
- P – Perception preferred to judgment: INTPs tend to withhold judgment and delay important decisions, preferring to "keep their options open" should circumstances change.
INTPs are quiet, thoughtful, analytical individuals who tend to spend long periods of time on their own, working through problems and forming solutions. They are curious about systems and how things work. Consequently, they are frequently found in careers such as science, philosophy, law, psychology, and architecture. INTPs tend to be less at ease in social situations or in the "caring professions", although they enjoy the company of those who share their interests. They prize autonomy in themselves and others. They generally balk at attempts by others to convince them to change. They also tend to be impatient with the bureaucracy, rigid hierarchies, and the politics prevalent in many professions. INTPs have little regard for titles and badges, which they often consider to be unnecessary or unjustified. INTPs usually come to distrust authority as hindering the uptake of novel ideas and the search for knowledge. INTPs accept ideas based on merit, rather than tradition or authority. They have little patience for social customs that seem illogical or that obstruct the pursuit of ideas and knowledge. This may place them at odds with people in the SJ (Sensing/Judging) types, since SJs tend to defer to authority, tradition, and what the rest of the group is doing. INTPs prefer to work informally with others as equals.
INTPs organize their understanding of any topic by articulating principles, and they are especially drawn to theoretical constructs. Having articulated these principles for themselves, they can demonstrate remarkable skill in explaining complex ideas to others in very simple terms, especially in writing. On the other hand, their ability to grasp complexity may also lead them to provide overly detailed explanations of simple ideas, and listeners may judge that the INTP makes things more difficult than they need to be. To the INTPs' mind, they are presenting all the relevant information or trying to crystallize the concept as clearly as possible.
Given their independent nature, INTPs may prefer working alone than leading or following in a group. During interactions with others, if INTPs are focused on gathering information, they may seem oblivious, aloof, or even rebellious—when in fact they are concentrating on listening and understanding. However, INTPs' intuition often gives them a quick wit, especially with language. They may defuse tension through comical observations and references. They can be charming, even in their quiet reserve, and are sometimes surprised by the high esteem in which their friends and colleagues hold them.
INTPs are driven to understand a discussion from all relevant angles. Their impatience with seemingly indefensible ideas can make them particularly devastating at debate.
INTPs are often haunted by a fear of failure, causing them to rethink solutions many times and second-guess themselves. In their mind, they may have overlooked a bit of crucial data, and there may very well be another equally plausible solution.
In his 1990 PhD dissertation, C.F. Gibbons of the University of Arkansas found that the INTP type was one of the four most common among musicians, with INFP being the most common. Further divisions were observed when comparing the results of instrumentalists to vocalists. A greater number of choral students were found to exhibit extraversion, contrasting introversion among band and orchestra students.
Statistical correlations with the Enneagram of Personality
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 fatal weakness. 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 INTP are as follows:
Dominant: 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. Ti is calm, articulate, and aware of the forces that bind reality together. As introverted thinkers, INTPs spend the majority of their time and energy ordering the interior, logical world of principles and generalizations in an effort to understand. Someone with Introverted Thinking may take a while to fully understand a concept. This is because they want to know all the components and how everything works together. A Ti user would not be satisfied with someone saying, “this is the gas pedal, you press it to go.” A Ti user would want to know: what happens when you push it, what is the pedal connected to, how does it interact with the engine, etc.
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. Ne gives INTPs a grasp of the patterns of the world around them. They use their intuition to amalgamate empirical data into coherent pictures, from which they can derive universal principles. INTPs frequently puzzle over a problem for hours on end, until the answer suddenly crystallizes in a flash of insight. Extraverted Intuitives also have a very entrepreneurial mindset. Ne users see possibilities of what could be all around them. They have a desire to make things happen and “put a dent in the world.” Extraverted Intuitives can get very excited about these possibilities, making them naturally charismatic. Ne users can be inspiring leaders that are catalysts for change.
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. Si gives INTPs the potential for keen observation. They use this function to gather empirical data, use physical tools, perceive physical relationships, and support their internal logic with a rich sense of space.
Inferior: 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. Fe drives the INTP to desire harmony in community. At their most relaxed, INTPs can be charming and outgoing among friends, or when they have a clearly defined role in the group. When under stress, however, INTPs can feel disconnected from the people around them, unable to use their extraverted Feeling to reach out to others. As their inferior function, Feeling can be a weak point; when threatened they will hide behind a wall of stoic logic. This can lead them to bottle up their emotions to preserve reason and harmony; but a failure to deal with these concealed emotions can lead to inappropriate outbursts.
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. For the INTP these shadow functions are (in order):
- 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.
- 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): Se 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 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.
Type dynamics of the INTP
Type Dynamics refers to the interrelationship among the four cognitive functions in a psychological type. Far from being a simple combination of initials, the full type creates a rich interwoven system of perceiving and judging that explains much of the similarity and difference among the types. Type Dynamics has garnered little to no empirical support to substantiate its viability as a scientific theory. Nonetheless, it currently remains deeply entrenched in the Myers-Briggs community.
As a practical example of Type Dynamics, consider the two types known as the introverted thinkers (ISTP and INTP). They share dominant introverted thinking, which gives them a solid interior grasp of underlying principles. The ISTPs, with their preference for extraverted sensing, love understanding physical, mechanical systems. The INTPs, with their extraverted intuition, love understanding theoretical systems. ISTPs are often quite skilled in using whatever materials are at hand in their building projects, using available tools to their full capabilities to serve their goals, through their extraverted sensing. INTPs, like their Sensing cousins, love using the right tool for the right job, but they also consult their intuition to solve problems. They are particularly comfortable with "virtual" tools, reflecting their love of technology.
With a knack for improvisation, the INTP can cause no end of frustration to ESTJs and ISTJs. These latter types generally cannot make the same intuitive leaps that come naturally to the INTP. On the other hand, ESTJs and ISTJs are quick to note when the INTP must stop in the middle of a project to puzzle over the previously discarded instructions, which the STJs read at the start.
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