“All the interests of my reason, speculative as well as practical, combine in the three following questions: 1. What can I know? 2. What ought I to do? 3. What may I hope?”
– Immanuel Kant, a rumored INTP
INTPs are known for their ingenuity, independence, and intellectual nature. A rare breed, INTPs make up a mere 3.3% of the U.S. population. They are often given names likes “the absent-minded professor” or “the wizard”, but these stereotypes aren’t always fitting, or if they are, they fail to explain many characteristics of this type.
So what makes the INTP tick?
How do they absorb information from the world around them?
What do they want in relationships?
What are their strengths and weaknesses?
That’s what we’ll look at in this in-depth profile! We’ll start by going through their cognitive function stack.
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Above all, INTPs are interested in grasping theories and underlying principles. They want to take apart the world around them and understand how it works from the ground up. The more challenging the problem, the more they are invigorated by it. Their aim is precision and accuracy, and they don’t mind taking their time to analyze an idea or rule to see it from the most objective angle. What mental process creates this hunger for truth in the INTP? Introverted Thinking, or Ti for short.
For the Introverted Thinker, internal order is paramount. If you’ve seen articles condemning INTPs as “lazy” or “disorganized” it’s only because observers are only focusing on the outside. Extraverted Thinking, the function employed by TJ types, is focused on organizing the outer world, while Introverted Thinking is focused primarily on organizing the internal world. As a result, INTPs are always trying to find the most precise, organized categories to order and arrange all the information they collect in their minds. While on the outside things may seem haphazard at times, inside they strive for extreme organization and efficiency.
The INTP is an internal architect that is constantly building a framework with which to hold their ideas, theories, and truths. They invest a lot of time and energy into making decisions and making sure they’re using the most truthful data they can find. They don’t accept rules or facts based on tradition or social norms; instead, they constantly sift through data to see what is usable, accurate, and logical. Sometimes the conclusions they reach during this process are unpopular because pure truth doesn’t always subscribe to what’s socially “acceptable” or common. Especially as children, INTPs often feel that they are rebuked for debating or questioning traditions and rules, when in fact they are not very combative people by nature. INTPs don’t want to push their agenda on others or force others into their way of thinking; they are independent and believe in “living and letting live”. But they’re also unwilling to compromise just to reach a consensus with others – if it doesn’t make sense to them, they can’t go along with it.
Above all, INTPs seek fairness and truth in their decisions. When faced with a decision they may seem cold and calculating from the outside, but are they really? “What’s the truth?”, “What’s logical?”, “What aligns with my principles?”, “Do I have any biases?”. These are the kinds of questions INTPs ask when they try to solve a problem or make a decision. The more unbiased and logical they can be, the more they don’t have to worry about being unfair or being impacted by personal feelings that may be inaccurate or untrustworthy.
When presented with an idea, INTPs first look for any logical inconsistencies or errors that might be present. After they’ve eliminated what’s not true, then they look for what IS true. The problem here is that many people get fed up or offended when they’re in the critiquing phase. They may feel that INTPs are overly critical or tactless, but this is simply because they don’t understand their method. INTPs are just as harsh with their own ideas as they are with others, but they can’t begin to appreciate an idea until they’ve first sifted through the information to cast aside any bad data. Once the bad data is discarded they can work with the good data and see where it fits into the grand scheme of things.
When INTPs perceive the world around them and absorb information, they use a mental process called Extraverted Intuition, or Ne for short. Ne allows them to see a plethora of possibilities, relationships, connections, and outcomes. It gives the INTP an eye for the future, the potential, and “the big picture”. When faced with a problem, INTPs are flooded with ideas and possibilities that they sort out using introverted thinking. They look for patterns and processes that are hidden from plain view, and they try to find imaginative angles and connections that other people have missed. Ne gives the INTP an optimism for the future, an ability to see what may happen or what could be, how things can transform and evolve.
Extraverted Intuition allows the INTP to “connect the dots” and see how one thing is related to another. Like a spider’s web, they see everything as interconnected. It’s as if they’re standing on a precipice overlooking the universe, viewing all the links and bonds between one thing and another. Their ideas and insights might seem random to an onlooker, but to the INTP everything is linked, nothing stands alone. They may jump from one thing to another in conversation, moving from A to Z to F to D. This can be very frustrating to sensing types who prefer a linear conversation, but to the INTP, these jumps are necessary to show the connections between their ideas.
Because of their intuition, INTPs are always trying to innovate and find new approaches or concepts to explore. They dislike doing things repeatedly in the same fashion over and over again. They can handle change better than many types, seeing the change as an opportunity for new ideas and as a way to innovate and solve new, complex problems. They enjoy brainstorming and they may see possibilities in so many things that they have a hard time letting go of items or half-finished projects. Their rooms might be full of salvaged artifacts and notes or they may compulsively collect tools, computer parts, or random objects that they see some potential use for.
Because INTPs see so many possibilities and angles, and because they like to take in so much information before deciding, they can seem like procrastinators to many types. They can especially frustrate EJ types, who like things decided quickly. All the same, it’s vital not to rush them unless it’s absolutely necessary. INTPs hate to be hurried along in their process; what might seem like a simple “black and white” problem to one type is really a thousand shades of gray to an INTP.
The development of Introverted Sensing comes as kind of a surprise to those who know INTPs well. This function is nearly the opposite of Extraverted Intuition, the function we just discussed. While Ne is all about seeing new possibilities and abstract connections, Introverted Sensing (or “Si” for short) is all about using your personal experience and deriving practical, concrete applications from that. INTPs usually develop Si in their 20’s or 30’s, and then it becomes a process they really enjoy using creatively or as a way to relax and find relief. You might find that INTPs enjoy revisiting their favorite places, watching their favorite movies, or listening to songs they enjoyed as a child or teen. They might suddenly develop a passion for a certain type of memorabilia or they may become more fond of repeating certain processes that they’ve learned instead of always having to try something new and different. The young INTP is more likely to bypass Si and instead focus on intuition and trying new things, new concepts, new ways of doing everything. As the INTP develops Si they become more balanced. They still experiment with new methods, but they’ve also discovered which tried-and-true processes are worth repeating and when it’s practical to use a proven method versus experimenting.
Extraverted Feeling, or “Fe” for short, is the inferior function of the INTP. This tends to be an area where INTPs struggle and trip up in day-to-day life. They often feel uncomfortable using this function or stressed if they have to rely on it a great deal.
But what is Extraverted Feeling?
Fe is all about connecting with the emotions and moods of other people and maintaining morale. It’s about sensing the “emotional atmosphere” of the people around you; the social cues, customs, expectations, needs, and wants of others. People who prefer Fe (EFJs, for example) tend to be very warm, accommodating, tactful individuals. INTPs, who have inferior Fe, can struggle with knowing and understanding the emotions of other people or the needs that they are dealing with. They tend to feel uncomfortable in social gatherings where reliance on small talk or social pleasantries is expected. When they are in emotionally charged environments, even if those emotions are good, they might feel uneasy and unsure of how to respond to people.
How the Inferior Function Affects the INTP During Stress
If an INTP is experiencing extreme or chronic stress, they might fall “into the grip” of Extraverted Feeling. When this happens, they start to behave unlike their normal selves; more edgy, more emotional, more expressive, more concerned with what other people think. They might have unusual emotional outbursts and lose their normal objective, logical frame of mind. This is usually a very disconcerting time for the INTP. They can feel lost, confused, and irritated at themselves because they know they are not operating in their element. You can find out more about this here.
The Healthy Development of Extraverted Feeling:
INTPs gradually develop and mature in their use of Fe as they get older, especially as they reach their 50’s and 60’s. When this happens, they become much more in tune with the needs and desires of others, and they become much more concerned with making decisions that are not only logical, but address the needs of the group. They become more tactful and more capable of giving praise and warmth. The development of Fe brings relief to the INTP who is often socially misunderstood – it gives them the chance to still be themselves, but to know how to present their ideas in a way that appeals to more people.
INTPs in Relationships
INTPs are very imaginative and hopeful when entering a new relationship, and they thoroughly enjoy the warmth and companionship of dating and marriage. They tend to attract potential partners using their extraverted functions; intuition and feeling. They will often appear open-minded, creative, warm, and sincere. All this said, INTPs can be wary of committing to relationships and tend to take their time before making long-term decisions. They are very independent and value their autonomy such a great deal that the prospect of being tied to someone who might stifle their independence can be scary. They might find relationships needlessly complicated, and they may also feel ill-equipped to handle the varying emotions that come with relationships. INTPs like a lot of alone time, a lot of time to explore their own interests, theories, and activities, and many partners are unable to be content in a relationship where their partner is so happily contained in their own world. The INTP might inadvertently hurt their partner’s feelings with their naturally independent, detached nature and their way of critiquing before praising.
INTPs seek partners who are creative, intellectual, warm, and interested in personal growth. If their partner is independent that is a major plus! Many times INTPs find themselves drawn to individuals who have characteristics they lack. For example, as an MBTI® practitioner I see dozens of INTP/EFJ relationships. EFJs have dominant Extraverted Feeling (Fe), whereas INTPs have inferior Fe. In contrast, INTPs have dominant Introverted Thinking (Ti), whereas EFJs have inferior Ti. I’ve often wondered why I see so many of these pairings, and I think it must be a case of “opposites attracting” and each type appreciating the strengths of their partner in an area where they naturally have lower strength.
INTPs tend to be playful and creative in relationships. They want to be appreciated for their intellectual nature and their keen problem-solving skills. They want their partners to respect their independence and originality and not push them into a major commitment before they are ready. According to Just Your Type: Creating the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted Using the Secrets of Personality Type, INTPs value mutual commitment, fidelity, being listened to, humor, and intellectual stimulation very highly in relationships. Aspects that are less important include financial security, spiritual connection, security, and similar parenting styles.
Problem-Solvers – INTPs are good at seeing flaws in ideas and plans and seeing logical solutions to complex dilemmas. They are innovative and willing to think outside the box to find answers. They are energized by creative problem-solving and can be an excellent help when someone feels stumped by a mind-bending problem.
Creative – INTPs are naturally imaginative and innovative. They like to do things in new, unexplored ways and are drawn to novel ideas and experiments. They apply their creativity in many different ways; there have been groundbreaking INTP artists like J.M.W. Turner, INTP physicists like Albert Einstein, and even INTP philosophers like John Locke.
Independent – INTPs are very autonomous, intellectually independent individuals. They don’t feel the need to lean on society and are often determined to prove their competence and self-sufficiency.
Honest – INTPs pride themselves on stating the truth and using accuracy in their assessments. They don’t like to sugarcoat things or tell white lies. They believe if they respect someone that person deserves to know the truth.
Analytical – INTPs love to take problems apart and analyze them from the ground up. They are skilled at seeing abstract relationships, complicated connections, and how seemingly unrelated details tie together and can create problems or solutions. They are deep thinkers who don’t mind taking their time to get to the core of a problem.
Open-Minded – INTPs believe in “living and letting live”. They don’t like to impose rules and structures on other people and are open to new ideas, possibilities, and logical approaches. They try to keep an open mind for innovative thoughts and ideas and are usually willing to change perspectives if they are proven wrong about something.
Withdrawn and Private – This isn’t always a bad thing. Being private can be good sometimes. But some INTPs repress their extraverted functions to such a strong degree that they consider all people an intrusion. They may become unhealthily reclusive or detached from their loved ones.
Overly-Critical – Because INTPs so quickly spot flaws in plans, ideas, or logical arguments they can seem overly-critical or tactless to other people. They may shoot down ideas or arguments before giving the person speaking a chance to finish their sentence or before hearing them out properly.
Procrastination – INTPs tend to second-guess themselves a lot and they can have difficulty settling on a decision or making commitments. They may put off decisions for too long and regret it later, or they may shy away from commitments that would be beneficial to them and others.
Rejection of Social Rules – Some social rules may be unimportant at times, but some INTPs, particularly in their younger years, will reject social customs and social niceties with such vigor that they leave the wrong impression with others or struggle in relationships and friendships. In other ways, the INTP’s willingness to set their own social rules can give them an unconventional charm that others are drawn to.
Insensitive – INTPs may get so absorbed in analysis and critique that they accidentally steamroll over the feelings and emotions of the people involved. They might be condescending towards people who are struggling emotionally or using subjective values rather than logical thought to make decisions. They might unwittingly offend people they truly care about in the process.
INTP Fun Facts:
All facts taken from the MBTI® Manual – Third Edition
– INTPs prefer the academic subjects of art and science.
– In a national sample, INTPs were overrepresented in preferring the leisure activities “appreciating art”, “writing”, “taking classes”, “going to school”, and “playing with computers or video games”.
– The most important job features to INTPs include creativity and originality and earning a lot of money.
– INTPs rank highest in valuing “autonomy, freedom, independence” and lowest in valuing “religion and spirituality”.
– INTPs are highly represented among college students taking foreign languages.
– INTPs are known for being candid, shrewd, complicated, and rebellious.
All About INTPs
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