Definitions

INTP

INTP

This article is about the Myers-Briggs personality type. For the Socionics INTp, see Intuitive Logical Introvert.

INTP (Introversion, iNtuition, Thinking, Perceiving) is an abbreviation used in Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) publications to refer to one of the sixteen personality types. The MBTI assessment was developed from the work of prominent psychiatrist Carl G. Jung in his book Psychological Types, which proposed a psychological typology based on his theories of cognitive functions.

From Jung's work, others developed psychological typologies. Well-known personality tests are the MBTI assessment, developed by Isabel Briggs Myers and Katharine Cook Briggs, and the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, developed by David Keirsey. Keirsey referred to INTPs as Architects, one of the four types belonging to the temperament he called the Rationals.

The MBTI instrument

  • I - Introversion preferred to Extraversion
  • N - iNtuition preferred to Sensing
  • T - Thinking preferred to Feeling
  • P - Perceiving preferred to Judging

The theory of MBTI types is based on the work of Carl Jung. However, it should be noted that Jung's work in this field tends to be rejected in the modern field of cognitive psychology as having no basis in scientific method. Jung theorized that the dominant function acts alone in its preferred world—exterior, for the extraverts, and interior, for the introverts. Since the dominant function "dominates" its preferred world, he thought, the two of the other three functions operate together in the opposite world, with the tertiary attribute acting as liaison. This phenomenon leads to an irony of psychological type: Extraverts have extremely rich interior lives, with two introverted functions operating to balance their dominant function. Introverts, for their part, have rich exterior lives, with two extraverted functions balancing their dominant function. The MBTI Manual summarizes references in Jung's work to the balance in psychological type (p.29):

Indeed, there are several references in Jung's writing to the three remaining functions having an opposite attitudinal character. For example, in writing about introverts with thinking dominant..., Jung commented that the counterbalancing functions (that is, auxiliary and inferior functions) have an extraverted character.

Myers-Briggs characteristics

INTP types are quiet, thoughtful, analytical individuals who don't mind spending long periods of time on their own, working through problems and forming solutions. They are very curious about systems and how things work, and are frequently found in careers such as science, architecture and law. INTPs tend to be less at ease in social situations and the "caring professions," although they enjoy the company of those who share their interests. They also tend to be impatient with the bureaucracy, rigid hierarchies, and politics prevalent in many professions, preferring 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 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 are. This to the INTP, however, is incomprehensible: They are merely presenting all of the information.

INTPs' extraverted intuition often gives them a quick wit, especially with language, and they can defuse the tension in gatherings by 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.

When INTPs feel insulted, however, they may respond with sudden and crushing criticism. After such an incident, INTPs are likely to be as bewildered as the recipient. They have broken the rules of debate and exposed their raw emotions. This to an INTP is the crux of the problem: their emotions are to be dealt with in a logical manner. If improperly handled, they can only harm.

Cognitive functions

Dominant: Introverted Thinking (Ti)

In the INTP, as with all introverts, the Dominant function is introverted. As introverted Thinkers, INTPs spend the majority of their time and energy putting order to the interior, logical world of principles and generalizations in an effort to understand. Introverted Thinking is calm, articulate, and aware of the forces that bind reality together.

Auxiliary: Extraverted iNtuition (Ne)

The Auxiliary function is extraverted iNtuition, which gives INTPs a grasp of the patterns of the world around them. They use their iNtuition to put empirical data together into coherent pictures, from which universal principles may be derived. INTPs frequently puzzle over a problem for hours on end, until the answer suddenly crystallizes in a flash of insight.

Tertiary: Introverted Sensing (Si)

The Tertiary function is introverted Sensing, which gives INTPs potential for keen insight. They use their powerful introspection to form a detailed, organized inner world. Unlike extraverted Sensors, who see the world literally, INTPs experience the external world primarily through the memories and associations it evokes.

Inferior: Extraverted Feeling (Fe)

The Inferior function is extraverted Feeling, which 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. INTPs can be easily hurt emotionally. 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 childish outbursts.

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.

As a practical example, 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 the underlying principles of life. The ISTPs, with their preference of extraverted sensing, love understanding physical, mechanical systems. The INTPs, for their part, love understanding theoretical systems through their extraverted intuition. ISTPs are often very capable 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, at the same time, are often good at using physical tools, but here they also use their intuition to solve problems.

An INTP is not shy about using a tool for something other than its original purpose, or creating a new tool to serve a desired purpose. INTPs cause no end of frustration to ESTJs and ISTJs with this improvisation, as despite their best effort they cannot make the same intuitive leaps which come naturally to the INTP. On the other hand, they are quick to smugly point out when the INTP must stop in the middle of a project to puzzle over the previously discarded instructions, which the -STJ read at the start.

The INTP, however, adapts well to the rules-oriented world of introverted sensing, preferring to experience the world through a cautious and reserved manner, while the ISTP is quite extraverted in their experiences in the world. Nor does either type have patience with the introverted intuitive world of inner vision. They prefer to stick to the straightforward articulation of their principles.

See also

References

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