INTP: The Thinker (Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Perceiving)

An Overview of the INTP Personality Type

INTP (introverted, intuitive, thinking, perceiving) is one of the 16 personality types described by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). People who score as INTP are often described as quiet and analytical. They enjoy spending time alone, thinking about how things work and coming up with solutions to problems. INTPs have a rich inner world and would rather focus their attention on their internal thoughts rather than the external world. They typically do not have a wide social circle, but they do tend to be close to a select group of people. 

INTP personality type
Illustration by JR Bee, Verywell

According to psychologist David Keirsey, creator of the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, approximately 1 to 5 percent of people have an INTP personality type.

Key INTP Characteristics

  • INTPs are quiet, reserved, and thoughtful. As introverts, they prefer to socialize with a small group of close friends with whom they share common interests and connections.
  • They enjoy thinking about theoretical concepts and tend to value intellect over emotion. INTPs are logical and base decisions on objective information rather than subjective feelings.
  • When analyzing data and making decisions, they are highly logical and objective.
  • Tends to be flexible and good at thinking "outside of the box."
  • People with this personality type think about the big picture rather than focusing on every tiny detail.
  • INTPs like to keep their options open and feel limited by structure and planning.

Strengths

  • Logical and objective

  • Abstract thinker

  • Independent

  • Loyal and affectionate with loved ones

Weaknesses

  • Difficult to get to know

  • Can be insensitive

  • Prone to self-doubt

  • Struggles to follow rules

  • Has trouble expressing feelings

Cognitive Functions

The MBTI is based upon psychoanalyst Carl Jung's theory which suggests that personality is made up of different cognitive functions. The hierarchical order of these functions is what establishes personality and behavioral patterns. The dominant function is the one that plays the largest role in personality, although it is also supported by the auxiliary. The tertiary function is less developed, but still exerts some influence and become more pronounced as a person strengthens this area. The inferior function is largely unconscious, but represents an area of weakness.

Dominant: Introverted Thinking

This function focuses on how people take in information about the world. INTPs express this by trying to understand how things work. They often like to break down larger things or ideas in order to look at the individual components in order to see how things fit and function together. INTPs tend to be highly logical and efficient thinkers. They like to have a complete understanding of something before they are willing to share an opinion or take action.

Auxiliary: Extraverted Intuition

INTPs express this cognitive function by exploring what-ifs and possibilities. They utilize insight, imagination, and past experiences to form ideas. They often go over what they know, seeking patterns until they are able to achieve a flash of inspiration or insight into the problem. They tend to spend a great deal of time thinking about the future and imagining all the possibilities.

Tertiary: Introverted Sensing

INTPs tend to be very detail-oriented, carefully categorizing all of the many facts and experiences that they take in. As they collect new information, they compare and contrast it with what they already know in order to make predictions about what they believe will happen next.

Inferior: Extraverted Feeling

INTPs tend to seek harmony in groups. While they are introverted, INTPs can be quite outgoing when they are around people with whom they are familiar and comfortable. In situations where they feel stress, however, INTPs shut down their feelings and struggle to connect with others. Under stress, they tend to rely on logic rather than feelings.

INTPs You Might Know

  • Albert Einstein, scientist
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower, U.S. President
  • Carl Jung, psychoanalyst
  • Tiger Woods, golfer
  • Sheldon Cooper, The Big Bang Theory

Personal Relationships

As introverts, INTPs prefer spending time alone for the most part. Unlike extraverts, who gain energy from interacting with a wide group of people, introverts must expend energy in social situations. After being around a lot of people, INTPs might feel like they need to spend some time alone to recharge and find balance. While they may be shy around people they do not know well, INTPs tend to be warm and friendly with their close group of family and friends.

Because INTPs enjoy solitude and deep thinking, they sometimes strike others as aloof and detached. At times, people with this personality type can get lost in their own thoughts and lose track of the outside world. They love ideas and place a high value on intelligence and knowledge.

In social situations, INTPs tend to be quite easy-going and tolerant. However, they can become unyielding when their beliefs or convictions are challenged. Their high emphasis on logic can make it difficult to not correct others in situations where other people present arguments that are not rational or logical. Because they rely on their own minds rather than others, they can also be very difficult to persuade.

Career Paths

Because they enjoy theoretical and abstract concepts, INTPs often do particularly well in science-related careers. They are logical and have strong reasoning skills, but are also excellent at thinking creatively.

INTPs can be very independent and place a great deal of emphasis on personal freedom and autonomy. In some cases, they can be aggravated by authority figures, particularly those that they feel are trying to suppress their ability to think and act for themselves. Because of this, INTPs typically do best in careers as they have a great deal of flexibility and independence.

Popular INTP Careers

  • Chemist
  • Physicist
  • Computer programmer
  • Forensic scientist
  • Engineer
  • Mathematician
  • Pharmacist
  • Software developer
  • Geologist

Tips for Interacting With INTPs

Friendships

Shared interests are one of the best paths to forming a friendship with an INTP. They tend to value intellect over all else and can be very slow to form friendships. While this often leads to fewer friendships, the ones that an INTP does gain tend to be very close. Remember that you INTP friends may not be the best at dealing with excess emotions, but they love to bond over deep conversations and shared passions.

Parenting

If your child is an INTP, it is important to remember that your child may respond better to reason and logic rather than appeals to emotion. Encourage your child to develop his or her intellectual interest, but also look for situations that may help your child foster friendships. This can be an area where your child struggles, but putting them in contact with other kids who share the same interests can be helpful.

Relationships

INTPs tend to live inside their minds, so they can be quite difficult to get to know. Even in romance, they often hold back until they feel that the other person has proven themselves worthy of hearing these innermost thoughts and feelings. One thing to remember is that while INTPs do enjoy romance in the context of a deeply committed relationship, they do not play games. Be honest and forthright. Because INTPs are not good at understanding the emotional needs of others, you may need to be very direct about what you need and expect in that regards. INTPs also struggle to share their own feelings, so you may need to pay attention to subtle signals that your partner is sending.

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Article Sources

  • Keirsey D. Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence. Del Mar, CA: Prometheus Nemesis Book Company; 1998.
  • Myers IB. Introduction to Type: A Guide to Understanding your Results on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Mountain View, CA: CPP, Inc; 1998.