“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”
– Marie Curie, an INTP
INTPs have been some of the greatest innovators and thought-leaders of all time. You’ll see the works of INTPs in science textbooks and philosophical masterpieces. They’ve changed the world as we know it and helped us to understand our origins and our universe in a deeper and more intricate way. What makes the INTP thinking process so unique? What separates their logic-process from that of the other 15 personality types? That’s what I’m going to show you in this post.
INTPs are masters of understanding conceptual issues through deep insight, patient curiosity, and logic. They question pre-conceived rules and try to understand complex issues from new angles. Because INTPs are willing to question traditional rules and theories, they have been able to uncover truths that many other types would have considered “crazy”. Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity was received with skepticism by the scientists of his day. Sergey Brin, the founder of Google, was unable to sell his search engine idea to Altavista, Yahoo! & Excite. If you look at the life of nearly any INTP you’ll see that their paths to success were marked with rejection and dismissals. Thankfully, their insights and determination eventually led to many of the great discoveries we take for granted today.
“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”
– Albert Einstein
If you know an INTP, what you’ll see is their auxiliary function, Extraverted Intuition (Ne). This function gives them their imaginative ideas, their eye for possibilities, and their ability to see potential in numerous theories and concepts. INTPs are intensely intellectual and use their ingenuity to formulate principles, create theories, and excel in the fields of science, mathematics, and/or philosophy.
Because INTPs are introverts, their dominant function, Introverted Thinking (Ti) is hidden from plain view. It is constantly working in the background and is more accessible to them when they can be alone to focus fully on its use.
Understanding Introverted Thinking
Introverted Thinking (Ti) is focused on intensely expanding one’s own knowledge of a subject and finding how it is related to other subjects. Introverted thinkers are analytical and internally organized in their thoughts. One could imagine their minds as having little doors, each leading to specific libraries, each holding a multitude of books on a particular subject. Where Extraverted Thinking (Te) is largely focused on gathering enough information to make an effective choice, or organize and direct in the outer world, Introverted Thinking (Ti) analyzes and organizes knowledge internally. Introverted thinkers have very little interest in directing other people and have more interest in organizing and expanding their own knowledge base. This gives them a “live and let live” demeanor and they rarely try to force their views on others.
Introverted Thinking is almost never-ending in its scope. Ti-users like to expand and mold their thought process constantly. They are always making room for new information and regularly consider multiple angles. As a result, INTPs can instantly detect logical shortcomings in any line of reasoning. They are quick to discern what doesn’t make sense or isn’t true – but have less confidence explaining what “is” true. This is because they don’t like to make up their minds on something until they’ve explored every possible perspective and ensured that everything checks out. They hold themselves to incredibly high standards about what they believe in, accept, study, and promote.
Introverted thinkers are very independent in the way they gather information. Typologist A.J. Drenth says in his book My True Type: Clarifying Your Personality Type, Preferences & Functions that Ti-users “despise working in a cookie-cutter, step-by-step fashion. Eschewing instruction manuals and “how-to” guides whenever possible, they prefer to use their own methods and powers of reasoning to figure things out.” A good way to understand this is to imagine an ISTJ and an INTP fixing a washing machine. The ISTJ uses Extraverted Thinking (Te), and would probably look at the manual before getting started on the project and follow the outlined guide. The INTP who uses Introverted Thinking (Ti) would probably cast aside the manual and get right to work trying to figure out the whole entire machine in their own way and independently finding a unique solution. Now obviously there are variations to this, but it’s one way of understanding the difference between Te and Ti.
Characteristics of INTPs:
– They are imaginative and conceptual.
– They are analytical and impersonal.
– They are driven to understand underlying principles.
– They are skeptical and questioning.
– They are internally organized about ideas and concepts.
– They dislike organizing people or external situations.
– They are perceptive and aware of possibilities and potential.
– They are private and reserved.
– They love to research and find solutions but are less interested in carrying them out.
– They are intellectual and independent.
– They are excellent problem-solvers
The Neuroscience of INTP Thinking:
According to Dario Nardi, the author of Neuroscience of Personality: Brain Savvy Insights for All Types of People, INTPs “show high use of four brain regions that afford complex logical reasoning….Ti types dedicate themselves to using brain resources that other people tend to neglect.” These four regions are in charge of many different tasks: linearly deriving solutions, categorizing and defining concepts, integrating visual-kinesthetic data, and holistically weighing numerous pros and cons of many factors or options. Nardi suggests that Ti-users can think even when there are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic distractions. As a result, Ti-users can detach themselves from the current moment to think through a problem clearly.
Ti users are also intensely stimulated mentally by debate and argument. According to Nardi, during an argument or debate about religion, politics, or philosophy they engage six separate brain regions that indicate “maximal attention to examining a topic from multiple angles – each angle from a different brain region – while integrating the angles into a coherent way as a part of an explanation or decision.”
The INTPs Inner Control and Outer Adaptability
One of the biggest struggles for the INTP is to find a balance between their inner sense of control and their desire for autonomy. Because INTPs have a dominant internalized judging function (Ti), they hold themselves to very high internal standards. They must understand their beliefs, their ideas, their theories in their own way and they will resist any external efforts to control them.
Outwardly INTPs are seen as adaptable and easy-going. People who don’t understand their thought process often consider them “lazy”. INTPs have little interest in ordering the outer world or keeping up with the mundane details of daily life. If they have no current interest in a topic, or their imagination isn’t stimulated in some way, they will be unlikely to give a project their full attention. This is why many young INTPs are especially misunderstood.
In elementary school, where the focus is often on rote memorization or scoring well on a standardized test, the curious, intellectual mind of the INTP is often bored. They don’t care so much about getting the “perfect” grades because their internal sense of logic and success is far more important than anything that the external world, or their teachers, might think.
INTPs desire to maximize their freedom and they are fiercely independent. Any threat to their autonomy is met with intense resistance. Thriving under standardized policies, procedures, and protocols is very difficult for them. For this reason, they may be at odds with bosses or leaders who try to control or micro-manage them. INTPs must have freedom and be allowed to follow their own approach. They are often happier when they can be entrepreneurs or start their own businesses so that they can discard any “irrelevant” rules. They would rather be at risk for financial instability than to rely on bureaucracy or organizational structures that tie them down intellectually.
The INTP may also struggle with a simultaneous desire for autonomy and affirmation. INTPs have inferior Extraverted Feeling (Fe), and as a result, desire to be needed in some way. They may struggle with communicating their needs or desires, but deep down they are often anxious about being forever alone or misunderstood. While they may go for long periods alone with their thoughts, over time their inferior Fe might remind them that they desire the warmth and friendship of others. They may go through bouts of seclusion and then spikes of social interaction followed by another bout of seclusion again. Most INTPs are happiest when they have one or two close friends who understand them, are there for them, and don’t give up on them when they need their time to themselves.
Some Fun Facts About INTPs:
These facts are taken from the MBTI® Manual – Third Edition.
– They are highly represented among college students taking a foreign language.
– They are more likely to persist in engineering school.
– Males among three highest on two of three measures of creativity; females among three highest on one of three measures of creativity.
– They prefer the leisure activities of “Appreciating art”, “Writing”, “Taking classes, going to school,” and “Playing with computers or video games”.
– In a career, INTPs crave creativity, originality, and the opportunity to earn a lot of money.
– They show occupational trends in the fields of science and technology.
All About INTPs
Find out more about your personality type in our eBooks, Discovering You: Unlocking the Power of Personality Type or The INFJ – Understanding the Mystic. You can also connect with me via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!
Want to know more about INTPs? Check out these amazing books!
Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type
MBTI Manual: A Guide to the Development and Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, 3rd Edition
Neuroscience of Personality: Brain Savvy Insights for All Types of People
Creative You: Using Your Personality Type to Thrive
My True Type: Clarifying Your Personality Type, Preferences & Functions