Continuing where we left off last time, this useful and thorough description of the Myers Briggs INTP profile comes to us from Paul James. I’ve curated it to highlight the sections that I perceive to be most relevant to my present condition :
Primary Axis: Introverted Thinking (Ti) – Extraverted Intuition (Ne)
The INTP is above all a thinker and his inner (private) world is a place governed by a strong sense of logical structure. Every experience is to be rigorously analysed, the task of the INTP’s mind is to fit each encountered idea or experience into a larger structure defined by logic. For here is the central goal of the INTP: to understand and seek truth. The experience of anything takes a back seat. The INTP is not interested in experiences themselves but is far more fascinated by concepts. The drive to understand things that are not yet understood is a very powerful force in the life of an INTP. Where the Ti preference is strong, this drive can override the experiential element so strongly that the INTP will become quickly bored with anything that he has successfully analysed to the point of understanding it. Once understood, it has nothing left to offer, once the satisfaction which comes with achieving the goal of understanding diminishes. Indeed, most primary interests of an INTP are things which he cannot fully understand, usually because they are highly complex or have some exotic, mystical element that does not yield to analysis. This is the real reason why INTPs are drawn to complexity: anything simple is too quickly understood and cannot hold the fascination for long.i
The Ti-Ne axis leads to a curious overriding desire to observe from a detached position, indicating the preference for intuitive perception with respect to external things. Since accurate analysis needs to avoid becoming hampered with details or being influenced by the actions of others, the INTP invariably seeks to withdraw, at least in spirit, from the situation being considered. This detachment can sometimes be so marked that he will readily see himself as a neutral observer having no personal association with that going on around him (unless forced to become directly involved through an attack on his principles).
Dominant Function: Introverted Thinking (Ti)
Now looking specifically at first the Ti, the principle of detachment even encompasses how an INTP views himself. He may analyse his own thought processes as if his mind and body were separate from his conscious self. In wanting to understand his reactions to things, he may treat himself, even his own thoughts, as subjects for experiment.
Where detachment ceases is when someone makes an illogical statement or violates one of the INTPs principles. At such a point, the INTP feels the instant drive to provide for clarity. This is his Mission; to be the provider of clarity, and is often suspicious that he is the only person capable of this task. Here, the INTP risks being seen as over-critical, aloof and arrogant.
While proficiency may not be a central goal, competence always is. The difference here may be subtle, but it is important. If an INTP decides to learn a skill, then it is very important for him that he reaches a sufficient level so that basic errors can be avoided. Errors made by others are to be expected and can be criticised. But errors made by oneself attack the very root of the person, which is ultimately about rationality, logic and truth. INTPs hate to think of themselves being in any way inadequate, at least in areas that are important to them. So, as soon as he puts himself behind some task, then he must achieve competency.
Related to this is the central aspect of independence. INTP’s put great weight on being individuals and essentially different from other people, who they often view as being too alike and too interdependent. Independence touches on many aspects. One is the competency aspect above. When he is interested in something, then the INTP must be competent in it. But there are many things which don’t interest him, and some of these will be things that others may be very competent in and where it may be assumed that everyone should be competent in them.ii The INTP usually applies the word “irrelevant” to such things: that is his excuse for any lack of competency in any field. And if he originally wished to achieve something, but failed, then it must be because was in fact irrelevant!
The opinions of others are rarely given much weight in themselves. All opinions must get filtered through an analysis procedure to test for viability. No title or claim of being an “expert” carries any weight with an INTP. All people, big or small, are subject to an identical scrutiny. The INTP sees himself as the independent arbiter, whether a fair claim or not. However, when someone has proved his credentials through having sensible opinions, he will be afforded great respect by the INTP. Most respected of all are those who are not only sensible but also innovative. Intelligence is above all highly prized.
A further result of the Ti function is the concept, lived out by many an INTP, that knowledge is everything. They tend to believe that information is the key to life.iii All mistakes can be avoided by having the right information at the right time. This has at least a certain logic about it. Where they differ from other temperaments (especially from SP types) is that a large gap may exist between knowing and doing. To know is everything, to do is a lower order necessity, if it is necessary at all.iv This breeds the potential for lazy aloofness. The INTP is often satisfied simply by knowing that he could do something if he wished. This also leads to the danger of overestimating one’s capabilities and losing a grip on reality. Here is an aspect where INTP and ENTP types differ strongly. The latter, with dominant iNtuition, are much more driven by shaping the world according to their ideas, ie. thinking supports and subordinates doing. For the INTP, doing supports and subordinates thinking.v
Finally, the dominant Ti function means that the INTP takes his interests and beliefs very seriously. Honesty and directness when explaining these interests are usually displayed. INTPs detest facades and particulary dislike people who exhibit them.vi Equally, those kind of people also dislike INTPs and avoid them at all cost, for they know that the INTP will see right through them. The INTP’s serious nature also makes them almost immune to mockery and being made fun of, at least when face to face with their mocker. If someone attempts to make a sarcastic, mocking comment about an interest of an INTP, the latter will defend himself with a pure, almost naive seriousness, explaining his position with a severe exactness, wielding his words like swords. This almost always disarms the mocker who does not expect such a penetrating defence. The INTPs defence usually also contains a subtle but biting attack thrown back in the mocker’s face, chiefly because the INTP cannot entirely hide the fact that he believes his opponent to be stupid.
Secondary Function: Extraverted Intuition (Ne)
Intuition is a mode of perception which focusses on the larger picture, the connections between objects, on the possibilities rather than the facts. When this is extraverted (Ne), the act of intuitive perception grapples with the world itself in order to understand it and its chief goal is to derive meaning. The INTP is sometimes referred to as the architect. The world is an object of study and possibilities for changing and shaping it according to the schemes assessed by the Ti core are derived from intuition. If his introversion is strong, however, then his schemes tend to remain private and speculative: the world remains an intellectual object of study but his architectural plans may not actually be put into practice. The constructor/inventor ENTP, on the other hand, with whom the Ne is dominant, aggressively grapples with and shapes the world, showing little reticence. The INTP is of the same spirit, but his constructive nature is likely to take shape within more private hobbies and less likely to directly involve others.
Where the extraversion of the iNtuition function becomes obvious is during discussions, especially heated ones. In contrast to INTJs, an INTP will often make controversial, speculative points of argument, often annoying the discussion-partner, and make them in such a way as to leave the impression that he is very serious about what he says. In reality, the INTP is not actually even certain himself whether he really stands by what he is saying,vii but his Ne strongly suggests that there must be a core of truth there. The purpose then of his outspoken style of argument is to sharpen his own intuitive understanding by testing the reaction of the listener, and indeed to examine the logic of his own arguments in real time while speaking them out. On occasion, INTPs may seem brash and tactless, but for themselves it is part of their way of getting closer to the truth.
Humour is another aspect which marks out the INTP. He can readily dream up jokes about almost any situation. Taking things out of context is the chief source of humour and many an INTP is a Monty Pythonite.viii The Ne is the engine and source of this joke-generator. Needless to say, the humour of an INTP can be pretty zany and warped and may not be understood easily by others. The problem is that the Ne concepts for jokes are put into a structure only by the Ti. Hence, the humour can become black and tactless, having felt little Feeling input. Funnily enough, INTPs are dreadful tellers of jokes (which seems to be more the domain of those with Se), perhaps because they pay too little attention to detail when speaking spontaneously. If you see someone smirking and laughing at some private thought, without any obvious reason, he’s probably an INTP.ix
INTPs tend to be rather mistrusting of people and are rather sceptical.x However, a lot of their trust is based on what the Ne function tells them about somebody. This can lead to a naivety and sometimes to prejudices based on intuitive perceptions of appearance and style.
People can be a problem for INTPs: on the one hand they are fascinated by some types of people, especially more extraverted individuals, but a fear of irrational behaviour in others usually leads to caution. Friendship with INTPs develops at a pace which depends considerably on the temperament of the other person. INTPs dislike making the first move and tend to mirror the emotional content of the other person. A jolly person will quickly bring the INTP out of his shell, as much as that is possible, while a serious person will find a serious INTP looking back at him. In this sense, INTPs preference for intuitive perception (rather than action) with respect to people results in them resembling a chameleon. The INTP can fit into many different modes of behaviour, even contradictory ones, in order to get into the mindset of the other person. The goal is to gain enough intuitive data to analyse and assess the person. In doing this, the INTP remains somewhat reserved, never wholly identifying himself with his surroundings.
INTPs are fascinated by computer technology as well as the Internet which gives him a voice that he would not otherwise have. Many of the most dedicated Computer Freaks are INTPs. Ultimately, INTPs tend to trust machines more than they trust people and may feel particularly at home in the realm of cybernetics.xi
Generally, INTPs have a very strong requirement to keep their external, social world as simple and as uncluttered as they can so that they can focus as much energy as possible on their internal world of system analysis and theoretizing.
Tertiary Function: Introverted Sensing (Si)
INTPs typically have an acute awareness of the passage of past times. Sequences of past events can assume a remarkable solidity in their thinking, while most INTPs have very good memories.
When an INTP lives alone, his home is usually spartan and utility-oriented. There will be little or no decorative objects, electronic equipment will be in abundance and the importance of any object will depend only on its usefulness. The general style of the home is largely irrelevant. When an object is put aside, not to be returned to for a while, it will lie fully ignored until used again. Objects which lie unmoved for more than about 48 hours usually become invisible to the INTP, until such time as he has a use for them again.xii
When he visits a place, whether new or already known, his Si function gives an overriding concern for the atmosphere or mood of the place.xiii In his subconscious, he connects the present experiences of his surroundings with memories of his past, sometimes deep past. A sense of history, of universality, is almost always invoked. When on holiday, the INTP wants to experience above all the ambience of each location. Specific details in the present are relatively unimportant and will not be well remembered. However, the atmosphere or mood will be remembered long after, as though it were a solid object. Since people encountered on a holiday usually count as details, unless more personal contact develops, the INTP tends to be drawn more to lonely, isolated places where atmosphere is less disturbed.
INTPs are collectors, but they are collecters for whom the objects themselves are only important in so far as they evoke a connection to past events, in so far as they yield a nostalgic mood.xiv
An appreciation of modern classical music, as well as perhaps contemporary jazz, is therefore common with them. Such music types are usually too complex to be understood after a single hearing, which hence provides excellent material for analysis, exciting the INTP no end. Once the basic developmental structure of the music has been assessed, Ne provides the impetus to derive a general meaning of the piece. What does the composer wish to convey, for example? Why was that particular development chosen? Indeed, the Ne is usually hard at work during listening sessions, trying to grasp the meanings behind the often fascinating combinations of sound-world evocations, structural developments and nostalgic impressions.
Inferior Function: Extraverted Feeling (Fe)
For the INTP, emotions are seen as something mysterious and as uncontrollable as they are unalterable. Hence, the root of the fear of emotions is the fear that they cannot be controlled. When witnessing the emotional response of another person, the INTP intensely resists any similar emotion of his own.
The mystery of emotion is also evidence in the INTP’s use of music. He always chooses to listen to music which suits his current emotional state, be it aggression, warmth, excitement, relaxation or whatever. Hence, the emotional state is assumed to be an unchangeable, mysterious property of himself. It is easier to choose appropriate music than to attempt to influence this.xv
Sexuality is another important area which brings out the Fe shadow of the INTP. Sexuality fascinates INTPs in a similar way to music. Both have an emotional core which does not entirely yield to analysis.xvi
The inferior nature of the Fe shadow shows itself, otherwise, in the lack of ability to show active empathy with people undergoing strong emotions. If he wishes to encourage the emotional person, the INTP tends to resort to giving T-based solutions to the problems involved. Often, the INTP does not really know how to empathize and may feel discomfort and helplessness, especially when he understands the rational basis for the emotions. He may become frustrated that the person remains unhappy in spite of hearing his T-based solutions.xvii Much worse is when the emotional person appears to be being irrational. INTPs detest irrational emotion above all things.xviii
The feeling shadow is the fear centre of the INTP. He rarely fears any factual thing in the outside world, at least not things that will be encountered in normal day-to-day living.xix Logic stipulates that external objects or people which threaten can always potentially be dealt with by instigating an active defence strategy.
When an INTP lives with a partner and perhaps has a family, he learns the necessity of focusing on the details of tidiness. This is not usually difficult, since tidying a house is an activity which can be clearly defined and, hence, the INTP can focus on it by treating it as systematic work.xx
So that’s my world.
If you’re looking for a Myers Briggs test for yourself, a friend, a work colleague, or even your bewildering girlfriend who never seems to make sense, I might recommend this one first, then this one, and lastly this one.
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- It’s a testament to Bitcoin’s disruptive power that it’s held my attention for 2.5 years now. How time flies! [↩]
- eg. Knowledge of local sports. [↩]
- So thank goodness I was born in the Information Age! [↩]
- Remembering that to the active goes the agency helps me to overcome my natural inclination to watch from the sidelines. [↩]
- Doing, whether it’s making money or engaging in interpersonal relations, is most definitely the means to the ends that are my cerebral pursuits. This is why I trade and invest, and also why I hang out in channel. These are the best ways I’ve yet discovered to stimulate my mind! [↩]
- It’s this exact same aversion to pumped-up fakeness that makes Taleb hang out with taxi drivers and doormen, eschewing the ranks of the philosphasters and charlatans that he’s imprisoned himself with in fiat finance.
For myself, it’s the transparency of 90% of peoples’ facades that repulses me most about meatspace. That having been said, people without such pretensions are an absolute delight to be around. [↩]
- eg. The recent Italian limb that I stood out on, and fell off of, or even my 2nd and 3rd cracks at that scary thing. Nothing ventured, nothing gained! [↩]
- Myup. See The inalienable rights railroad and Burn the witch ! for a couple of examples that have seeped their way onto the pages of Contravex. [↩]
- All too often, I laugh alone. [↩]
- The solution to my inherent distrust of others, at least for online interactions, is obviously the WoT. [↩]
- I don’t even trust machines that much ! Wow, I must REALLY not trust people. [↩]
- When I lived alone, this was spot-on. A pretty funny observation, actually. I seriously didn’t care to “decorate” or “nest” in my place. So long as the fridge was full, the bed was made, and the computers were plugged in, I was happy as a clam. [↩]
- This is precisely why Manhattan gave me the heebeejeebees last time I was there, in 2012. The place feels as spiritually cold as the Helium-4-cooled protons being fired around the Large Hadron Collider (~1.9K). [↩]
- Thus my penchant for old paper books and an, albeit milder, affinity for older computing hardware. [↩]
- This being said, if I need to go for a workout, an EDM podcast rarely fails to provide the energy!
If I’m having friends over, then, yes, it’s all about the music fitting the mood, not the other way around. [↩]
- Sexy times! [↩]
- “Why won’t you just take my advice and get yourself out of this jam ? Do you like feeling like shit or something ? Oh, that’s right, you do ! Bwahahhaaha. [↩]
- My detestation of emotion readily extends to socialism. They’re one in the same in my book. [↩]
- Dark back alleys don’t scare me in the slightest, so no, I don’t take the “safe way home,” I take whatever the fuck I feel like. [↩]
- House chores are a thing, at least until I have a nanny/cook/cleaner some day, so I just throw in some headphones and an audiobook and I’m ready to rock! [↩]