The first thing to note about your J/P preference is that it is not
only about whether the (purported) extraverted function in your top two is a judging function (T or F) or a perceiving function (N or S). As a side note, both I and (as Myers acknowledged) most Jung scholars believe that Jung thought the auxiliary function would have the same attitude
as the dominant function, not the opposite attitude, and you can (in case you're interested) read a little more about that in this PerC post
and the posts it links to. But setting that issue aside and accepting Myers' opposite-attitudes dom/aux model — which certainly dominates MBTI internet forums — Myers also characterized J/P as a separate dimension of personality and, in fact, the chapter in Gifts Differing
on the "Effect of the JP Preference" is the longest of the four chapters devoted to the dichotomies.
As you probably know, the official MBTI — like virtually all dichotomy-based MBTI tests — types you J or P based on certain personality characteristics common to J's and P's, rather than by making any determination about the attitude of one of your functions. And it appears that the MBTI J/P dimension is essentially (albeit with some theoretical variation) tapping into the Big Five Conscientiousness
dimension. Consistent with all that, if I'm trying to figure out whether someone's a J or a P, I focus on the characteristics associated with J's and P's — as well as characteristics associated with combinations like NJ and SJ and TJ — rather than on anybody's cognitive functions model.
And as a final introductory note, before I start running some J/P descriptions by you, let me add that I think youth has at least some tendency to exert what you might call a P-ward tug, and that N's (both NJs and NPs) can have a tendency to feel somewhat rebellious and free-spirited when they compare themselves to the SJs that often make up a substantial percentage of the adults they deal with, depending on their circumstances — e.g., high school teachers and (especially) administrators. The J preference is one that, especially if it's mild, may not really become all that evident until a person is a bit older. A student typically has most or all the structure she needs (and maybe more) imposed on her from outside. After a J's been out of school for a couple years, I suspect it's not uncommon to discover (as I did) that there's more damn J in there than they might have realized. So if a student feels more or less in-the-middle on J/P, that would somewhat incline me to think that they may actually be more or less in-the-middle or they may be a mild J, but it's maybe unlikely that they've got a substantial P preference.
Here's a J/P sorter I came up with a while back. You can see how you respond:
How do you react to the word "spontaneous"?
P: It's got a magical ring to it. Most of my friends would describe me as spontaneous.
J: I'm allergic to spontaneous. Quit trying to distract me.
A J's temperament characteristically leads her to feel that if she just leaves the world to its own devices and lets things "happen," mediocrity is likely to result (if not chaos or something worse). If you want to have a good/meaningful experience, achieve good results, etc., it behooves a person to structure/filter/schedule the world. J's err on the side of taking their responsibilites too seriously, can tend to be worrywarts, are more likely to show up a little early to things than significantly late, and will tend to get out of sorts if their plans get changed at the last minute. Keirsey notes that J's tend to embody a "work ethic" rather than a "play ethic." And J's tend to be strong-willed — domineering if they're extraverts, and stubborn if they're introverts.
A P's temperament will more often lead her to feel (or at least want to feel) that things tend to happen for a reason and have a way of working out for the best. If you plan/filter/structure too much, you're likely to be so caught up in your own net that you'll miss out on a lot of good stuff that you would have experienced if you'd let yourself drift/wander more freely, open to respond, moment by moment, to the unexpected treats that the world will throw your way. P's can err on the side of taking their responsibilities too lightly, are more carefree than worrying, tend to run late, and are good at adapting to (and, in fact, may welcome, not to mention cause) last-minute changes to plans. P's tend to embody a "play ethic" rather than a "work ethic." And P's tend to be less strong-willed (more easygoing and flexible) than J's.
I wouldn't be surprised if internet MBTI sources have led you to believe that Jung didn't describe a separate J/P personality dimension, but that's not entirely correct. Like Myers, Jung associated certain personality characteristics with the judging functions (generally) and the perceiving functions (generally) — but, inconsistent with Myers, Jung mostly associated the J-ish traits with J-doms (rather than with extraverted J-doms and introverted P-doms) and the P-ish traits with P-doms (rather than with extraverted P-doms and introverted J-doms), and Jung called J-doms and P-doms the "rational types" and "irrational types." He said P-doms "find fulfilment in ... the flux of events" and are "attuned to the absolutely contingent," while J-doms seek to "coerce the untidiness and fortuitousness of life into a definite pattern." He says a J-dom tends to view a P-dom as "a hodge-podge of accidentals," while a P-dom "ripostes with an equally contemptuous opinion of his opposite number: he sees him as something only half alive, whose sole aim is to fasten the fetters of reason on everything living and strangle it with judgments."
Here's some of the J/P table that Briggs prepared and Myers included in Gifts Differing
|Live according to plans, standards, and customs not easily or lightly set aside, to which the situation of the moment must, if possible, be made to conform.
||Live according to the situation of the moment and adjust themselves easily to the accidental and the unexpected.
|Make a very definite choice among life's possibilities, but may not appreciate or utilize unplanned, unexpected, and incidental happenings.
||Frequently masterful in their handling of the unplanned, unexpected, and incidental, but may not make an effective choice among life's possibilities.
|Rational, they depend upon reasoned judgments ... to protect them from unnecessary or undesirable experiences.
||Empirical, they depend on their readiness for anything and everything to bring them a constant flow of new experience—much more than they can digest or use.
|Like to have matters settled and decided as promptly as possible, so that they will know what is going to happen and can plan for it and be prepared for it.
||Like to keep decisions open as long as possible before doing anything irrevocable, because they don't know nearly enough about it yet.
|Take real pleasure in getting something finished, out of the way, and off their minds.
||Take great pleasure in starting something new, until the newness wears off.
|Inclined to regard the perceptive types as aimless drifters.
||Inclined to regard the judging types as only half-alive.
|Aim to be right.
||Aim to miss nothing.
|Self-regimented, purposeful, and exacting.
||Flexible, adaptable, and tolerant.
Notwithstanding the fact that Lenore Thomson's MBTI perspective is more functions-centric than dichotomy-centric, she devotes a chapter of Personality Type: An Owner's Manual
to "The Fourth Type Category." She notes that J's "prefer structure; will organize time and efforts to meet goals and deadlines," while P's "resist structure; may not start a project until motivated by the arrival of a deadline." She says J's "are responsible, firm, true to their word, but may be unwilling to change, even when things are going badly," while P's "are curious, adaptable, masters of improvisation, but may not follow through or stick to something very long." She says J's "can be controlling — may take authority instinctively, certain they know what needs to be done," while Ps "can be reckless — may not consider risks or time constraints when drawn to something exciting." And Thomson also discusses "the P/J split in pop culture," citing Felix and Oscar in The Odd Couple
as one example.
As already noted, the Big Five dimension that corresponds to J/P is most often referred to as Conscientiousness
. To quote most of the first paragraph of the Wikipedia article
Conscientiousness is ... one trait of the five-factor model of personality, and is manifested in characteristic behaviors such as being efficient, organized, neat, and systematic. It includes such elements as self-discipline, carefulness, thoroughness, self-organization, deliberation (the tendency to think carefully before acting), and need for achievement. ... Conscientious individuals are generally hard working and reliable. When taken to an extreme, they may also be "workaholics", perfectionists, and compulsive in their behavior. People who are low on conscientiousness are not necessarily lazy or immoral, but they tend to be more laid back, less goal-oriented, and less driven by success.
The "compulsion" element is interesting. Here's a study
that suggests that OCPD (obsessive-compulsive personality disorder) may "represent a maladaptive variant of normal range conscientiousness." (As a side note, in case you're unfamiliar with OCPD
, it is not to be confused with its substantially more "disordered" cousin, OCD.) I'd say my J preference is quite strong and I'll admit that, when I read at least some parts of OCPD descriptions, I think to myself, OK, I am definitely not that
bad, but... I can relate.
I think it may be fair, at least to some extent, to view the conscientiousness
aspect of a J preference as arising from something of a gut-level (temperamental) compulsion
to meet your obligations. It's not that a J doesn't have free will, or that a J never shirks a responsibility, and it's not that a P isn't perfectly capable of living up to their obligations, but it seems to me that at least part of the temperamental component that causes a J preference to correlate with reliability and punctuality and a P preference to correlate with a greater tendency to shirk is that, for a P, whether to conscientiously perform or shirk is more a matter of free intellectual choice, with less of anything like a gut-level tug that would make it what you might call internally uncomfortable
to shirk. Describing J's as people who "wear their responsibilities heavily" and P's as people who "wear their responsibilities lightly" is another way to capture the same difference and, again, it's not so much a matter of ultimate behavioral performance (the world is full of P's who you can pretty much count on to meet their important obligations) as a matter of what's going on at the gut level — although it's hardly surprising that there turn out to be significant correlations, at least if you're talking about people in whom the relevant temperamental tug (or lack thereof) is reasonably pronounced.
And please note: Does this mean that a J enjoys having obligations and responsibilities
? Speaking as a strong J, I'd say, for the most part: hell, no. In fact, and to at least some degree, I think it's fair to say that the fact that my obligations tend to weigh as heavily on me as they do makes me more reluctant — at least in some circumstances — to take them on in the first place (if I can avoid them). More than once, in the course of internet forum discussions, I've seen ENFPs called out for their tendency to run late and heard ENFPs defend themselves on the ground that, yeah, but it's because we want to do too much and have trouble saying no and end up with too many things on our plates. And one of the people I know best in this world is a strong-P ENFP and that fits her to a T. She's not a bad person, and she means well, and she basically wants to fulfill her obligations (although nobody who knew us would have much trouble deciding which of us is better described as dutiful
), but failing
to meet a responsibility — whether it's missing a deadline and getting it done late or ending up having to duck it completely, and especially if she feels like it wasn't really her fault (including because of her own voluntary overfilling of her plate) — really doesn't mortify
her the way it mortifies me (on those spectacularly rare occasions when, for some reason, I fail to perform). Hell, failing to meet an obligation mortifies me even if I have an excuse that any reasonable person would agree wasn't something I could possibly have anticipated and means I shouldn't feel bad. And if I've arguably got too much on my plate, then even though there's still a possibility I'll manage to get it all done, I'm still going to be in an uncomfortable state, while my ENFP friend is much better at saying hey, I'm only human, and I'm going to do my best, and what gets done, gets done. And so... circling back to the start of the paragraph, the result is that, at least to some extent, a conscientious J may, to some degree, be more responsibility-averse than a less-conscientious P. Being a J doesn't mean that you like
to be obligated so much as that, to the extent that you have an obligation, you're likely to experience a strong (as compared to a P) temperamental compulsion to fulfill it.
As a final note on the worrywart side of things, and as another example of multiple temperament dimensions contributing to a personality characteristic, I should point out that how much of a worrier you are is something that being Limbic is likely to contribute to, and that introversion can also contribute to. In case you're interested, here's an OpEd piece by Susan Cain
from the New York Times
that describes an experiment involving impulsive and cautious fish ("rovers" and "sitters") and frames the study in extraversion/introversion terms. Here's a bit of it:
Originally Posted by Susan Cain
Again, I'm inclined to suspect that the J/P dimension and the neuroticism dimension also contribute to the rover/sitter duality — in people, at least — but I'd certainly also say that viewing E/I as a contributing dimension is consistent with most MBTI sources and, in any case, I think it's probably fair to say that the most impulsive, bold, plunge-right-in types are the Calm EPs and the most cautious, look-before-you-leap, think-before-you-speak, worry-prone types are the Limbic IJs (like me).
Somewhat related to the issue of seeking out responsibilities vs. avoiding responsibilities: It's not uncommon to hear INTPs say, in the course of forum INTJ vs. INTP discussions, that INTPs are happy to be slackers who just think about stuff and INTJs are "doers" with a core drive to be racking up actual accomplishments in the outside world. But, although there may be a small kernel of truth to that distinction, I'd say E and S both have substantially more to do with a person desiring actual external-world results than J does. INTJs can be quite content to learn about things, and master skills, that the INTJ isn't likely to be putting to much (if any) real-world use, and I'd point to my longstanding MBTI dweebishness as one anecdotal example. Here are Keirsey & Bates, from Please Understand Me
, talking about all
Originally Posted by Keirsey & Bates
And, again, to the extent that I was inclined to distinguish NTs with an accompanying temperamental drive to put their "repertoire" to actual real-world use from NTs whose temperament is mostly just about building up the repertoire for the sheer love of repertoire, I'd say that's substantially more an ENT/INT distinction than an NTJ/NTP distinction. And as a final note in that regard, and in case you're interested, here's a study
that found that INTJs were more likely to want to retire early than most other types. As compared to the other 14 types, I'd say that both
INTJs and INTPs can fairly be described as people content to spend much of their lives inside their own heads.
Speaking for myself, I'd describe a perfect day as a weekend day where I wake up in the morning with no
responsibilities on my plate. No work, no errands: nothing. Because, frankly, even if there are only a couple tasks on that day's to-do list, and they're going to take not much more than an hour to get done, I'm still likely to experience those as a little cloud hanging over my day until I freaking get them done. Then
I can relax, and enjoy my web-surfing or whatever other stuff I decide to do to a greater degree than I would have if my tasks were still unfinished. (The classic "work first, play later" mentality.)
I think of NJ as the know-it-all
combination. When you're talking about a subject you really think you understand, and you're talking to someone who knows less than you do, would you say you have something of a tendency to want to sound like an "authority" on the subject — and that others might say you sometimes come off as a know-it-all — or would you say you have more of a tendency to express yourself modestly, even when you're talking about something where you really are something of an authority? If it's a vigorous argument that's going on, are you likely to "take yourself too seriously" and get too caught up in having to be right — with the result that you may err on the side of talking as if you're surer of yourself than you really are or overstating what you know (if you think there's no risk you'll be called out) — or are you more likely to take a playful, easygoing attitude toward the debate, and state your position in a more modest or exploratory way (even if you really know what you're talking about)?
Back on the spontaneous/impulsive vs. planful side of J/P, think about being at a store and walking past an unexpected sale item that's something you might buy on occasion but wasn't part of today's plans. My strong-P ENFP friend is a total sucker for those, and likes stores where the merchandise rotates quite a lot and you're likely to find a surprise or two if you're a browsy shopper. But even on a trip to an ordinary grocery store where she's not really in browse mode, if an aisle display grabs her attention — and especially if it's kind of a fun item — she's likely to treat it as if the universe just decreed that the featured item was meant to be on today's menu. Sold! My temperament, on the other hand, resists
that kind of surprise — even if it's something that I'd enjoy and could probably be persuaded to buy if my friend was along and I considered it a bit. My gut has a default negative response to anything not on the agenda, as if the universe is somehow trying to pull a fast one on me and/or distract me from the task at hand.
As an almost-final note, the single most common type-me dilemma at INTJforum is "Am I INTJ or INTP?" and I'm a believer in the possibility of someone being close enough to the middle on J/P that INTx is arguably a better label than either INTJ or INTP would be. And in case forum posters or other sources have led you to think that you couldn't possibly be in the middle on J/P because, ZOMG, moving from J to P (or vice versa
) flips all your functions
, I'd urge you to take a look at this PerC post.
I'm a strong J and I'd say that, at the least, your J (if that's what you are) isn't as strong as mine, and that there's definitely stuff in your self-descriptions that someone could point to if they were trying to make the case that you were a P. One last thing I'd note in favor of J, though, is the fact that you spent a significant amount of time entertaining ISFJ as a possibility. As in virtually every case where you take some kind of MBTI combination and flip all the preferences, SJs and NPs are definitely opposites in some significant respects, and a likely pairing to clash. As one example, SJs are the types that are the most traditional and resistant to change, and NPs are the types most likely to seek change, sometimes just for its own sake (with NJs and SPs more in-between). It's easier to imagine an INFJ feeling like she relates well to substantial portions of a typical ISFJ description than to imagine an INFP doing the same.