INTJ vs INTP: A Guide
Last Updated: 11/1/2009
on the surface
INTPs and INTJs often share common characteristics in type descriptions: an interest in systematic thinking, forward-thinking, social awkwardness, physical clumsiness etc. This often makes it hard to really tell the difference between the two types, and can be especially confusing for newcomers to the MBTI system. Therefore I've decided to write this little guide to see if I could help people make their minds up about which type they really are (as well as convince myself that yes, I know what I'm talking about). Piss and moan below if I'm wrong.
in a nutshell
"I think, therefore I am."
-- Rene Decartes
INTPs are thinkers, first and foremost. They impersonally analyse their current situation instinctually, able to dissect what they perceive into its separate variables. This knack for impersonal analysis makes them natural learners and these types often pursue esoteric interests purely for the sake of discovery. INTPs often find themselves joining social groups (online or not) that are geared towards these individual pursuits, where ideas can be freely bounced around in a group discussion in order to attain a greater, mutual understanding. For the INTP, mutual and individual understanding of How Everything Works is an end unto itself.
“I reject your reality and substitute it for my own.”
-- Adam Savage
INTJs are decisive, creative planners who love to turn bizarre ideas into plans of action. These are the left-brain thinkers who might find the directionless, armchair discussions of an INTP almost insufferable. INTJs have a much more pragmatic view of the world, one that is driven by their internal intuition. Where an INTP's ideas might come from what reality presents them moment-to-moment, an INTJs intuition is more mysterious and out of their control. This leads some practitioners to playfully stereotype INTJs as having bizaare psychic or premonitionary powers, of which they have no control of and have no recourse but to act as vessels thereof. It was likely an INTJ who first conceived of things like the wheel, or the internal combustion engine. For the INTJ, reality is dictated by premonition.
dominant function: Ni vs Ti
the dominant function is a type's reason for being, the perspective through which we see the world. We tend to assume that others share this perspective with us, and so might not even be aware of its influence.
Introverted Intuition (Ni) compels a person to see things in a different light; to deconstruct and then rearrange reality as it presents itself, in order to change its meaning. In the dominant position this creates a dreamlike detachment, as if reality doesn't even enter into a person's conscious state. These types have a disconcerting ability to shift their perspective on things in order to fix problems. To the Introverted Intuitive, reality is only an assumption, one that is used to serve a specific purpose. It does not reflect what can be, and is not an accurate signpost for navigation or inspiration.
Introverted Thinking (Ti) compels a person to truly understand a situation in terms of its individual variables, and their inter-operating behaviour. The Introverted Thinker wishes to understand how things work, but not in an objective or empirical sense; it is more accurate to describe this process as instinctual rather than systematic. There is an underlying unity to all things; everything is subject to the same causal order as everything else. It was likely an Introverted Thinker that first conceived of Chaos Theory, which describes a universe that is holistically and causally ordered, despite its seemingly random nature.
auxiliary function: Te vs Ne
the auxiliary function gives expression and direction to the dominant function. For introverts it gives them a way of interacting with the world. We tend to be more aware of this function than the dominant since it reqiures a conscious effort to use; we might even identify with it more than our dominant function, since it feels fulfilling and gives us a way of dealing with things we're not naturally attuned to.
Extraverted Thinking (Te) is the act of planning and creating models of action, in order to achieve specific and measureable goals. Extraverted Thinkers see the world in terms of measurements, ones that are there to be exploited for objective achievement. Te demands that things are done in a linear sequence of steps, and that procedure must be identified and followed as noted. As a result INTJs love to take action, but only in a systematic fashion; they find the scatterbrained approach of an INTP as untrustworthy or doomed to failure, and probably find it hard to operate in a playful or aimless fashion. INTJs need direction, they need a stated, objective goal that everyone can agree on, before even beginning to move forward (which is often provided by their dominant function Ni).
Extraverted Intuition (Ne) is a right-brained, perceiving function that operates seemingly without direction. It is reactive and participative as opposed to controlling, and thus happily accepts reality as it presents itself. Ne prompts the user to be aware of behavioural options, to seek out new opportunities through contextual awareness. Combined with Introverted Thinking, this prompts INTPs to see new opportunities toward exploiting a system's variables; not to achieve a stated goal, but simply for the fun of exploring and discovering. INTPs also have a natural love for weird or unusual outward behaviour, and can often surprise unsuspecting acquaintances when they decide to shift gears from detached analysis to unpredictable action.
tertiary function: Fi vs Si
the tertiary function provides relief and an option separate from the auxiliary function. In healthy types it is regarded as ego-centric, but fun in small doses. Unhealthy types might rely too much on this function, instead of finding fulfilment in their auxiliary function. Introverts use their tertiary function as a way to rationalise not having to take an extraverted approach in life.
Introverted Feeling (Fi) prompts us to consider inner, emotional values that defy social expectations. In healthy INTJs it gives them an ethical ruleset with which to conduct themselves, to help steer the impersonal behaviours of Extraverted Thinking without abandoning a rational outlook. In unhealthy INTJs it may be relied upon too much, and suddenly INTJs are no longer willing to commit to the standards of the wider system. They feel compelled to go their own way above all else, and will use Extraverted Thinking as a way of justifying this and keeping others at bay. This can result in antisocial behaviour, but of the calculated rather than unpredictable kind. Super villains in Superhero or James Bond films are often unhealthy INTJs; stoic, quiet characters who pursue their own selfish agendas above all else.
Introverted Sensing (Si) prompts us to consider what we've experienced or already know as a way of navigating through the world. it stands in opposition to Ne, which promotes an unpredictable and forward-thinking approach to life. Healthy INTPs use Si to inform Ne of what has already been experienced, so that they know what works or doesn't work or to better help them find avenues that have been previously unexplored. Unhealthy INTPs will rely too much on this behaviour, and refuse to do anything that steps outside of what they've already experienced. They might obsess over past mistakes, especially social ones, and feel unequipped to deal with the unknown. They might snipe at small, insignificant details to convince themselves and others that something is worth dismissing. It is this sort of A Priori reasoning that can keep an INTP from truly participating in life.
inferior function: Se vs Fe
the inferior function acts as a perspective opposite to our dominant function; unless we are willing to accept its effect on our decisions and personality, we tend to project the negative aspects of this function onto other people. We tend to become extremely aware of its effect on us by mid-life, if we haven't already.
Extraverted Sensation (Se) prompts us to see things as they really are in the moment, devoid of interpretation. It is similar to Ne in that it creates a reactionary and participative view on life, allowing us to react to things as they happen and to be happy not to be in control of things. INTJs tend to see the worse aspects of this function, to view people who act with needless hedonism or brutal confrontation with contempt without recognising their own need to participate in the moment. Without the guidance of Te, unhealthy INTJs might find themselves needing to prove how physically dominant they are, and could participate in the very acts of desperate, brutal hedonism that they so despise. Healthy INTJs are able to overcome these limitations by using Extraverted Thinking as a way of dealing with the outer world; creating models and plans of action allow them to participate and create a marked, positive effect on the world.
Extraverted Feeling (Fe) prompts us to consider the feelings of other people in the community, and the shared vocabulary we use to express those feelings. It is similar to Te in that it creates an objective, controlling outlook on life. But instead of dealing with impersonal measurement, it deals with matters of emotional value and concerns itself with social roles and taboos. In the inferior position, INTPs might find it hard to truly connect with people emotionally, and often prefer the company of people who share the same impersonal interests that they do. They might find it hard to trust their emotional side, and might find it easier to treat other people with the same impersonal analysis as everything else. They might dismiss social behaviour as mindless group-think or sheep-like, thus preventing themselves from participation. Without the guidance of Extraverted Intuition, INTPs might become desperate in their need for social acceptance and may stoop to doing anything just to fit in, or may come across as creepy and unlikeable. Healthy INTPs are able to overcome these limitations with the irrational, perceiving and creative behaviour of Ne, which helps them to open up and find new ways to express themselves emotionally.