After learning about Myers-Briggs® types and taking a few tests, one question you might have is how to tell which of two similar types you are. Taking multiple online tests often gives you several different results, so that’s one way this question can come up. Or maybe you started reading about the types and realized more than one sounds like you.
If you’re trying to decide whether you’re more of an INTJ or an INTP type, I hope this article helps. Just looking at the letters in these two types, we might think the only difference between them is that one’s a perceiving type and one is a judging type. This is only party true. When we dive deeper into the cognitive functions each Myers-Briggs® type uses, it become easier to see the differences and similarities between these two types’ mental processes more clearly.
If you’re not familiar with cognitive functions, click here to read “The Simplest Guide to Myers-Briggs® Functions Ever.” INTJs and INTPs might look similar at first, but they use completely different functions, as shown in this graphic:
The way these cognitive functions work together makes INTPs and INTJs similar in some ways and very different in others. They might seem near-identical times but their underlying thought patters and motivations don’t look nearly as much alike as you might think.
J/P is a little odd for introverted types
The J/P preference describes how people relate to the outer world. J-types extrovert their judging function (T or F), while P types extrovert their perceiving function (S or N). Since INTJs and INTPs are both introverted, they lead with a function oriented toward the inner world. This means INTJs are actually a dominant perceiving type and INTPs are a dominant judging type.
- If you’re an INTJ, you’ll typically find your Intuitive side is the one that feels most comfortable. Pattern-recognition, big-picture thinking, and seeing things from multiple perspectives come naturally to you. You probably place a higher value on experiencing and understanding life than on controlling it. However, others may see you as being more organized and disciplined due to your extroverted judging function.
- If you’re an INTP, you’ll typically find that your Thinking side is the one that is most comfortable. Making sense of things for yourself, typically using impersonal criteria, comes naturally to you. You probably like having things and ideas settled and decided even more than you like experiencing life as it happens. However, others may see you as more unpredictable and/or spontaneous due to your extroverted perceiving function.
Your co-pilot’s influence
INTJs and INTPs both have an Intuitive function and a Thinking function as the first two in their function stack. However, each type uses those functions differently and relies on them in a different order. We’ve already looked at their dominant functions, so now it’s time for the co-pilot.
- If you’re an INTJ, you support your Intuition with a Thinking side that helps you relate to the outer world and made decisions. You probably notice it most when weighing impersonal criteria for decision-making, working with facts and data, or finding ways to explain your thought processes to other people. It’s not your most comfortable process, but you can get really good at using Extroverted Thinking if you take the time to grow and develop it.
- If you’re an INTP, you support your Thinking with an Intuitive side that helps you understand the outer world. You probably notice it most when you’re learning and processing information because it helps you experiment and explore to discover how things connect and what is possible. It’s not your most comfortable process, but you can get really good at using Extroverted Intuition if you take the time to grow and develop it.
You use Thinking and Intuition differently
We talked about this point already when discussing the primary and co-pilot process. It’s worth spending more time on, though, because it’s one of the most important things to understand if you want to tell INTJs and INTPs apart.
- In terms of Thinking, if you’re an INTJ then your Extroverted Thinking thrives when using objective data. Collecting facts, taking measurements, and solving practical problems are second-nature to you. For INTPs, the Introverted Thinking process is more subjective (i.e. “What makes sense to me?”). You tend to ask questions and formulate theories more readily than you focus on effective real-world implementations of ideas. This doesn’t mean INTJs never theorize or INTPs are never practical. It’s more about where your primary focus lies and how you most naturally think.
- In terms of Intuition, INTJs use it so naturally they may not even realize how good they are at noticing patterns, switching perspectives, and figuring out what’s “behind the curtain.” Since Intuition is your primary function it’s the one you’re most comfortable with. For INTPs, Intuition is the co-pilot process and it’s outward focused. It makes you good at coming up with new ideas and brainstorming possibilities. The way INTPs experience Intuition tends to be more exploratory, while INTJs will be more like observers.
What happens in the loop
Our co-pilot process is not oriented the same way as our primary process (i.e. it’s extroverted for introverts and introverted for extroverts). Because we tend to be more comfortable with processes that work in our preferred world we often bypass our co-pilot process and try to use our tertiary process instead. This is called a “loop.” Here’s what it looks like for INTJs and INTPs:
- If you’re an INTJ, you have Introverted Intuition as your primary function and Introverted Feeling as your tertiary. When you get into a “loop,” you become more preoccupied with your personal values system. You might even find yourself making decisions based on your emotions. If you spend too much time in this loop you may loose touch with your more logical side. This can lead to becoming withdrawn, self-righteous, and hypercritical of other’s values and beliefs.
- If you’re an INTP, you have Introverted Thinking as your primary function and Introverted Sensing as your tertiary. When you get into a “loop,”you may get stuck focusing on past experiences and become hyper-attentive to real-world details. You may also want verifiable, sensory facts but struggle to process them. Spending too much time in the loop can get you caught-up in the past. This can lead to trouble processing past mistakes and moving forward into the future.
How you are under stress
When people are trying to find their best-fit personality type, they often focus on figuring out which cognitive function they’re most comfortable with. But the functions that you don’t use well can also provide clues as to what personality type you are. The inferior function (the lowest on a four-function stack) typically shows up when we’re stressed. You might also use it to take a break and relax, and it often shows up in our favorite hobbies.
- If you’re an INTJ, stress can bring out your inferior Extroverted Sensing. When stressed-out, you can become obsessively focused on external data, overindulge in sensory pleasures (food, drink, shopping, etc), and develop a suspicious, hostile attitude toward the outer world. You can also use this function in a healthy way, and you might find that you enjoy activities that require sensory engagement (like cooking, hiking, or painting).
- If you’re an INTP, stress can bring out your inferior Extroverted Feeling. When stressed-out, you can become hypersensitive to relationships and much more emotional than usual. You might also respond to this by trying to swing the other direction and emphasize logic to an extreme. You could also use this function in a healthy way, and you might find that you enjoy activities that tap into your Feeling side (such as mentoring someone or joining an organized social group).
Before you go …
As a final note, I want to point out that there is plenty of room for individual variation within a type. Myers-Briggs® simply describes how your mind works. It doesn’t tell you everything about yourself. You’ll often find elements of yourself in several type descriptions. Similarly, not every description for a specific type is going to fit you exactly. You’re looking for your “best fit” personality type rather than one that’s exactly perfect.
What do you think? Did this article help you narrow-down which personality type you are? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Featured image credit: Robin Higgins via Pixabay