As many of you know, I’m a big fan of using fictional characters to illustrate how Myers-Briggs® types work. I’ve written about Captain America as an ISFJ and about Loki’s more controversial personality (which I identify as INFJ), so I thought we’d continue with that series by talking about one of the most beloved and recognizable characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
I’ve seen Iron Man from the comics typed as an ENTJ or ESTP, but most people agree that in the Tony Stark portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is an ENTP. David Keirsey called this type “The Inventor.” While I often think Keirsey’s type descriptions are too stereotypical, it does fit Tony Stark.
It is so natural for ENTPs to practice devising ingenious gadgets and mechanisms that they start doing it even as young children. And these Inventors get such a kick out of it that they really never stop exercising their inventive talent, though in the workplace they will turn their technological ingenuity to many kinds of systems, social as well as physical and mechanical.David Keirsey
The Personality Hacker video that you can watch if you click this link is a pretty good overview for the type. ENTPs lead with a process called Extroverted Intuition (“Exploration” in Personality Hacker’s system). It’s supported by Introverted Thinking (also called “Accuracy”). Their tertiary function is Extroverted Feeling (“Harmony”), and their least developed function is Introverted Sensing (“Memory”). We can see this in Tony Stark’s character throughout the MCU movies.
I really love Personality Hacker’s nicknames for the cognitive functions. Antonia Dodge writes that the reason they chose “Exploration” as the name for Extroverted Intuition was because “the best pattern recognition system for the outer world is to mess with everything that can be messed with, and to explore, explore, explore.” Types who use Extroverted Intuition easily bounce from one idea to the next, often out-loud, as they sort through and experiment with different possibilities. This doesn’t mean they can’t focus. They just need to find something that captures their attention. Once they have something to focus on, it can consume them (at least until they understand it well enough to lose interest and move on to the next challenge).
This is where their secondary function, Introverted Thinking, comes in. An ENTP’s Intuition is focused outward gathering information and sorting through data. When they need to think deeply about something, their inward-focused decision-making process comes into play. For ENTPs, this process is concerned with “Accuracy.” Antonia Dodge says the ultimate goal of a type using Accuracy is “information purified from incongruities, inconsistencies and biases which produce clean concepts and an understanding of how things work.”
Dr. A. J. Drenth in his profile of an ENTP and Isabel Meyer in her book Gifts Differing both mention several defining characteristics of the ENTP personality type. Let’s look at a few.
- “Despite their tendency toward restlessness and distractibility, ENTPs can focus when partaking in stimulating discussions or activities” (Drenth). Just witness how focused Tony can be when speaking with Bruce Banner (discussions) or while alone in his private workshop (activities).
- “ENTPs may not always seem to ‘have a point,’ quickly bouncing from one idea to the next” (Drenth). Tony’s conversation with the other Avengers on the hellicarrier after they catch Loki lasts less than two minuets and the conversation bounces around like this:
- Begins explanation of Loki’s plan
- Takes a verbal jab at Thor
- Continues explanation of portals
- Notices and comments on the man playing Galaga
- Questions the design of Fury’s command center
- More on Loki’s plan, while planting a decryption program
- Explains his new expertise in thermonuclear physics
- Introduces himself to Bruce Banner and admires his scientific work and Hulk side
- “They are more apt to consider how others may affect their projects than how their projects may affect others” (Meyer). Extroverted Feeling — the function ENTPs use to connect with people, is third on their function stack. They use it rather well to read people and manipulate them (Isabel Meyer says, “They enjoy from the cradle a remarkable ability to get what they want”), but people are not the first thing on their priority list. Even in Age of Ultron, where Tony creates Ultron to try and avoid a future where he causes his friend’s deaths, his first focus is on the project, not on how others will react.
- “ENTPs scoff at what they see as unnecessary or overly rigid rules, regulations, or procedures” (Drenth). This is the source of much of Tony’s conflict with S.H.I.E.L.D and with Steve Rodgers (interestingly, ISFJs and ENTPs are exact opposites in their function stacks, and can easily act as stressors for one another).
- When stressed, Naomi Quenk says ENTPs’ inferior function shows up in the form of “withdrawal and depression,” “obsessiveness” and “focus on the body” (i.e. “exaggerated concern about physical ‘symptoms'” of a real or imagined disease). Just watch Iron Man 3.
If you enjoyed this post, check out my other MCU typings:
10 thoughts on “Fictional MBTI – Tony Stark (ENTP)”
I recently did a Personality Type Verification Session with Antonia Dodge at Personality Hacker, and one of her questions was, “which character from fiction do you identify most with?” I blurted out “Tony Stark from the MCU… but still working on the billionaire part…” Haha and of course she typed me as ENTP. We talked about that scene in Iron Man 2 where Tony is creating a new element, and he turns on the laser, then adjusts it to the right place as he cuts through other stuff in the room (instead of getting everything perfect first). That is a great analogy for how I invent things and ideas.
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I love Personality Hacker! and that’s a great story
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Kevin, since you took the extra step of having your type verified I will take your self-identification as an ENTP at face value. In a ‘fake news’ world you have to trust but verify every monetized offering. My Extraverted Intuition left me vulnerable to every gypsy who could read a tea leaf or palm. Being open to the ‘big idea’ demands an ethical reciprocity to be open to all ideas, so I’ll buy your BS if you’ll buy mine. The very concept of Capitalism is based on this ‘willful suspension of disbelief’ that all those 18th and 19th Century European ‘philosophes’ promoted.
I teed up this conversation simply from the impressionistic vibe that your professional businessman mature male look provides. It was heartening to find an Internet respondent, not in his pajamas or a distorted ‘selfie’ face. I also noted a sense of humor that is supposed to be predictive of an ENTP. As a retired corporate ‘guru’ I have to find a proper focus for my laser-like mind before I cut my house to pieces. Being a ‘high energy’ ‘high verbal’ Promoter I miss those golden days of crossed light sabers of competitively aggressive minds. Jabbering about cartoon characters seems a demeaning occupation for leaders of serious people but one has to stay current in restocking one’s illustrative quiver in these HUNGER GAMES days. So, what’s in your quiver?
I would argue that Tony is more of an Introvert than can be gleamed at first glance. He’s efficient in social settings but they seem rare and he doesn’t stay long, doesn’t do small talk, doesn’t like being handed things, and can be alone for long periods of time as part of innovative process. So, I actually think he’s a genius level INTP. I also think the entirety of Age of Ultron is the result of a ti-si loop of thinking he knows what’s best for everyone based on fear of the past and his sensing that something bad is going to happen if he doesn’t create Ultron. You could say the same for Civil War and his thinking he knows what’s best for the team and making decisions based on his inferior don’t particularly go very well resulting in the whole team clashing.
I’m hesitant to describe a character as introverted just because they don’t do small talk or seem very social. Extroversion has to do with being oriented toward the outer world as much as it does with gaining energy from being around people, and Tony doesn’t seem very inner-world focused to me. There are quite a few people with ET types that aren’t particularly social, especially ENTs. I’d have to re-watch Age of Ultron and Civil War again before I’d feel confident commenting on what you said about the Ti-Si loop, but ENTPs do have those functions, too.
First, I must put myself in a box in order to communicate an expansive intelligence. The box for an ENTP seems to be the Introverted Thinking that requires a rigorous logic to harness very the disparate associations enabled by Extraverted Intuition. My Extraverted Feeling nature creates great vulnerabilities in a world that is demonstrably so alien to my inescapable nature. Like all the Marvel-loused up ‘superheroes’ I am cognizant of my freakishness. Like all ‘monsters’ I am bound to be shunned by the mundane world despite the great gifts I bring to it. Thus, even the biblical prophets are rejected for their visions and healing natures. The pathos that is the metaphorical advanced energy source of Tony Stark’s heart, is the driving motivation of all innovative Creators, better known as Universal Love
. As a 68-year-old male, my taste for and awareness of these comic-adventure movies has been slight. Yet, by chance, I caught the last five minutes of IRON MAN III and I was brought to tears. The whole of the movie has been a narration by Stark to a disengaged therapist. The ‘high verbal’ Tony Stark has lost his audience while spilling his guts to a substitute father figure that never cared enough to listen.
Later, after seeing the entire film, I learned Stark’s father was equally remote and disengaged. Particularly in the results-driven ethos of American culture, there is little patience for the ‘free-associative’ ramblings of an ENTP. The famous line from the classic film COOL HAND LUKE: “What we have here is a failure to communicate!” becomes the pronounced judgment of all authoritarian regimes against rule bending mercurial sons who like Prometheus would steal fire from the gods to warm humanity. Tony Stark is held in stark relief against his uncomprehending brethren and like the Christ figure he represents is punished for the sin of being different.
Finally, the weakest function in the ENTP stack is Introverted Sensing. This function combined with Introverted Thinking makes for a painfully subjective question to arise for the universally creative mind of a superhero ENTP: “Why Bother?” Like Hamlet, the ENTP experience leads inevitably to a morose reevaluation of a ‘playboy’ life. The reality of existence never meets the expectant vision of this now melancholy Dane. All the earthy pleasures, all the grand imaginings of the ENTP tragically turn to dust and ashes blown away by the winds of time and change. Without substance, his story becomes a ‘tale told by idiots, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.’
That scene at the end tugged at my heart, too. Bruce (the character falling asleep during Tony’s story) is more of a friend than a father-figure or therapist, but still — that’s the sort of story that you should stay awake and listen to if you care about someone. Finding people that they can really connect with can be so hard for certain personality types, and I imagine ENTPs tend to struggle with that quite a bit.
Yes, thank you It was Bruce Banner that was snoozing while Tony was oozing his Extraverted Feeling. It is only recently that I have dived into the Wham-Bam cartoon character world. Like ENTP character DR. Venkman (Bill Murray) of GHOSTBUSTERS, I feel slimed by the generation that my generation generated. It’s inevitable that in a mass media world that each generation enfeebles the institutional values of its parents.
As humans, we no longer gather around a central and honored place to share stories of intimate and societal value. The needs of each emerging technology seek to maximize profitability prior to obsolescence, so it is not surprising that we are so inundated with the marvels of Marvel’s & Disney’s CGI graphics. Humanity goes all ‘Lady Gaga’ with the razzle-dazzle of the visual as it crowds out the humanistic quality of character development.
I knew I was different as a kid when I traded in my Daniel Boone authentic ‘coon-skin’ cap and Superman cape for an awakening moment with Hermann Hesse’s SIDDHARTHA. I wonder at the need to wonder about the wonderful wonders instead of listening to the ‘still small voice of conscience.’ My Extraverted Intuition may be quietly listening for ET to phone home, but my Introverted Thinking craves a keen intelligence on the other end of the line.
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Could you do one on Bruce Banner? I believe he’s and INTP, like me. I’ve always been intrigued by his and Tony’s interactions.
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yeah, I could do that. I really like Bruce’s character, and I agree he seems like an INTP