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ISTP (Introversion, Sensing, Thinking, Perception) is an abbreviation used in the publications of the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to refer to one of sixteen personality types.[1] 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, developed by David Keirsey. Keirsey referred to ISTPs as Crafters, one of the four types belonging to the temperament he called the Artisan. According to the Center for Applications of Psychological Type, 4–6% of the United States population are ISTP.[2]

The MBTI instrument[edit]

The MBTI preferences indicate the differences in people based on the following:[3]

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.[4]

  • I – Introversion preferred to extraversion: ISTPs 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 extroverts gain energy).[5]
  • S – Sensing preferred to intuition: ISTPs tend to be more concrete than abstract. They focus their attention on the details rather than the big picture, and on immediate realities rather than future possibilities.[6]
  • T – Thinking preferred to feeling: ISTPs tend to rely on objective criteria rather than personal values. When making decisions, they generally give more weight to logic than to social considerations.[7]
  • P – Perception preferred to judgment: ISTPs tend to withhold judgment and delay important decisions, preferring to "keep their options open" should circumstances change.[8]


Some practitioners have speculated that Clint Eastwood is an ISTP[9]

Myers-Briggs description[edit]

According to Myers-Briggs, ISTPs excel at analyzing situations to reach the heart of a problem so that they can swiftly implement a functional repair, making them ideally suited to the field of engineering. Naturally quiet people, they are interested in understanding how systems operate, focusing on efficient operation and structure. But contrary to their seemingly detached nature, ISTPs are often capable of humorously insightful observations about the world around them, and will display a seemingly uncharacteristic enthusiasm for things of great interest to them. ISTPs abhor waste (be it in time, effort, and/or resources) but are highly adaptable, making them receptive to new information and approaches. They enjoy exploring new things, and can become bored with repetitiveness and routine. They can also be closet daredevils who gravitate toward fast-moving or risky hobbies (such as bungee jumping, hang gliding, racing, motorcycling, and skydiving), recreational sports (such as downhill skiing, paintball, ice hockey, and scuba diving), and careers (such as aviation, EMT, and firefighting).

ISTPs may sometimes seem to act without regard for procedures, directions, protocol, or even their own safety. But while their approach may seem haphazard, it is in fact based on a broad store of knowledge collected over time through quiet action and keen observation. The upside of this characteristic is that ISTPs often excel in high-pressure and/or emergency situations, where their knowledge and experience can be immediately brought to bear — usually with the ISTP's characteristic unflappability. When others are just beginning to grasp the details of the situation, ISTPs are often (and sometimes from the perspective of those familiar with the ISTP, unexpectedly) resolving it. In personal matters, ISTPs enjoy self-sufficiency and take pride in developing their own solutions to problems.

ISTPs can often be an enigma to their friends or partners due to a combination of mixed social signals and a propensity to ignore everyone while deeply absorbed in a favored task. While ISTPs will readily participate in group activities that hold an immediate interest for them — and can be a great source of entertainment for all who participate — they will often eschew (either partially or entirely) the routine social interactions surrounding those group activities. Without intending any insult, the ISTP often concludes that such interactions — those that others might view as cordial or even expected — are redundant and superfluous; for the ISTP, the social event ended when the activity of interest concluded, and ISTPs are often uninterested in engaging in group-related small-talk. Should a topic of interest come up, the ISTP may suddenly re-engage the social group, only to disengage almost as abruptly when the topic passes. Sometimes in social gatherings and due to their innate desire to take in information on their surroundings at all times, the simple act of people-watching becomes sufficiently entertaining for the ISTP to, themselves, feel fully engaged by the social group; unfortunately, the often detached way in which the ISTP performs these observations can often be misinterpreted by others as an actively antisocial attitude.

Such social characteristics often have the unintended consequence of making interpersonal relationships more challenging for ISTPs than other types. While friendships (which are typically based on a mutual interest in some concrete subject or activity) come much more easily for the ISTP since the relationship is straight-forward and can be clearly understood by the ISTP, intimate relationships are often far more difficult for the ISTP to form and maintain due to their inability to "wrap their minds around" an interpersonal dynamic based on subjective criteria that can vary from day-to-day or situation-to-situation. For the ISTP, actions speak much louder than words; so ISTPs tend to approach all of their relationships, including intimate ones, at face value — with the expectation that the other party is doing the same in return. For example, ISTPs reason that flirty behavior is to be taken as an outright expression of interest; indifference is to be taken as an outright expression of disinterest. So either case can rapidly become a source of confusion and frustration for the ISTP when those of another type casually engage in flirtatious behavior — or worse yet, hard-to-get behavior in an attempt to cultivate romantic interest through intrigue. And alternating between these opposing social behaviors — regardless of the true intent — would only serve to exacerbate an otherwise unclear situation for the ISTP. Ultimately, all of these social behaviors will often have an effect opposite to that intended, since the ISTP will interpret casual flirtation as interest when none actually existed; and indifference as disinterest rather than intrigue; and fluctuating expressions of interest as, at best, indecisiveness. Then, when the ISTP acts accordingly, they are met with either awkward confusion when their advances are unexpectedly and summarily declined; or veiled disappointment because they failed to persist; or frustration when the ISTP abruptly moves on because they conclude that any further effort in the face of such radically conflicting signals is a waste of their time. So while it is important for the ISTP to be mindful that their tendency toward aloofness (be it real or perceived) could have a negative impact on forming otherwise great relationships, other types should bear in mind that it is best to be as straight-forward as possible in their relationships with ISTPs. In the end, meeting each other "half way" will cause far fewer misunderstandings.

Once a relationship is formed, however, ISTPs are content to let others live according to their own rules and preferences — as long as the favor is reciprocated. It has been observed that a slogan that best describes this ISTP attitude is "Don't Tread On Me." ISTPs will endure reasonable impositions without complaint; but if their "territory" is encroached upon, eroded, or violated, their quiet, easy-going nature is quickly abandoned in favor of stubborn, staunch, and uncharacteristically vocal defense of what they view as rightfully theirs — and those around the once laissez faire ISTP suddenly find themselves off-guard and unexpectedly "walking on eggshells." Unfortunately for others, often only the ISTP knows at which point this line will be crossed — providing yet another potential source of mixed signals with which ISTPs inadvertently surprise those around them.

Keirsey description[edit]

According to Keirsey, Crafter Artisans are masters at using tools of every type—artistic, technological, martial. Although they are introverts, they are authoritarian in their interactions with others and can be forceful at influencing people. They focus on accomplishing tasks efficiently and skillfully.

To master the tool of their interest, ISTPs require a certain degree of seclusion in which to practice. The result is often a virtuosity that other types find difficult to match.[10]

Cognitive functions[edit]

A diagram of the cognitive functions of each type. A type's background color represents its Dominant function, and its text color represents its Auxiliary function.

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.[11][page needed]

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.[12] Using the more modern interpretation, the cognitive functions of the ISTP are as follows:[11]

Dominant: Introverted thinking (Ti)[edit]

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.[13] ISTPs live in a world of logic, on which they base their decisions. They process information from their auxiliary function to create strategies for action at a moment's notice. They love to examine complicated systems.

Auxiliary: Extraverted sensing (Se)[edit]

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.[14] This function drives ISTPs to embrace opportunities to plunge headfirst into experiences. It also gives them a keen insight into situations similar to that of the ISTJ. Their curiosity for the world around them gives them a "leap before you look" tendency. They are notorious for taking apart a device to see how it works before considering whether they can put it back together.

Tertiary: Introverted intuition (Ni)[edit]

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.[15] Never as open in their theorizing as INTPs, ISTPs prefer to keep themselves grounded in the physical situation, using Ni to visualize components and concepts that they cannot see and touch firsthand, such as the wiring in a circuit board.

Inferior: Extraverted feeling (Fe)[edit]

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.[16] A weak point of ISTPs, Fe may lead them to interpret criticisms of their ideas as criticisms of their competence. ISTPs strive to follow the edicts of logic, but when they are under stress, their inferior function can lead them to illogically and stubbornly cling to their own ideas—sometimes to their own detriment, or even when proven wrong.[11]

Shadow functions[edit]

Later personality researchers (notably Linda V. Berens)[17] 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 ISTP, 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.[18]
  • 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.[19]
  • 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.[20]
  • 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.[21]


  1. ^ "Myers-Briggs Foundation: The 16 MBTI Types". Retrieved 2009-05-07.
  2. ^ "CAPT". Retrieved 2011-03-18.
  3. ^ Myers, Isabel Briggs (1998). Introduction to Type: A Guide to Understanding your Results on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Mountain View, CA: CPP, Inc.
  4. ^ Myers, Isabel Briggs; Mary H. McCaulley (1985). Manual: A Guide to the Development and Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (2nd ed.). Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologist Press. p. 52. ISBN 0-89106-027-8.
  5. ^ "Changing Minds: Extraversion vs. Introversion". Retrieved 2009-01-10.
  6. ^ "Changing Minds: Sensing vs. Intuiting". Retrieved 2009-01-10.
  7. ^ "Changing Minds: Thinking vs. Feeling". Retrieved 2009-01-10.
  8. ^ "Changing Minds: Judging vs. Perceiving". Retrieved 2009-01-10.
  9. ^ "Eastwood, an ISTP". Retrieved 2009-06-01.
  10. ^ "Artisian Portrait of the Crafter (ISTP)". Retrieved 2010-09-16.
  11. ^ a b c Barron-Tieger, Barbara; Tieger, Paul D. (1995). Do what you are: discover the perfect career for you through the secrets of personality type. Boston: Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-84522-1.
  12. ^ Myers, Isabel Briggs; Mary H. McCaulley (1985). Manual: A Guide to the Development and Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (2nd ed.). Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press. ISBN 0-89106-027-8.
  13. ^ "Cognitive Processes: Introverted thinking". Retrieved 2009-05-12.
  14. ^ "Cognitive Processes: Extraverted Sensing". Retrieved 2009-05-12.
  15. ^ "Cognitive Processes: Introverted intuition". Retrieved 2009-05-12.
  16. ^ "Cognitive Processes: Extraverted Feeling". Retrieved 2009-05-12.
  17. ^ "". Retrieved 2008-05-21.
  18. ^ "Cognitive Processes: Extraverted thinking". Retrieved 2009-05-12.
  19. ^ "Cognitive Processes: Introverted sensing". Retrieved 2009-05-12.
  20. ^ "Cognitive Processes: Extraverted intuition". Retrieved 2009-05-12.
  21. ^ "Cognitive Processes: Introverted feeling". Retrieved 2009-05-12.

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