Most of us tend to oversimplify Myers-Briggs® personality types. Even the types we think of as more complicated and which some writers treat as almost otherworldly (like the INFJ) gets reduced to stereotypes. Some types are painted in broad strokes as boring traditionalist, others as logical geniuses, and still others as innovative daydreamers.
And then there are the SP types. They’re the live-in-the-moment adrenaline junkies and hedonists, who love to make art and party and never commit to anything. But is that really a fair stereotype? Or is it just as overly simplistic and unfair to these four personality types as are the myths surrounding other Myers-Briggs® types?
Roots of the Stereotype
When David Keirsey published his own personal take on the Myers-Briggs® personality types, he paid particular attention to the SP types. He’s the one who decided to categorize them together and labeled them the “Artisans.” He also called them the “hedonist” types and said they are looking for a “playmate” in relationships. Though he didn’t really use function theory to describe type, he mainly focused on the Extroverted Sensing side of their personalities to the exclusion of other factors.
This oversimplification of the SP types is one of the main reasons why I don’t like the way David Keirsey talked about personality types. He skips over their inner motivations (a problem that Lenore Thomson talks about in her book Personality Type: An Owner’s Manual) and leaves us with the hedonistic stereotype that has come to be so much a part of the definitions we use for ESFP, ISFP, ESTP, and ISTP types (especially the extroverts).
- I highly recommend Thomson’s book if you’re interested in learning more about personality types. Click here to get a copy. Please note that this is an affiliate link, which means that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase.
This isn’t to say that SP types can’t be adrenaline junkies or hedonistic people who enjoy the sensory pleasures life has to offer. ESFPs and ESTPs have Extroverted Sensing as their favorite mental process. Personality Hacker nicknames this cognitive function “Sensation” because it gets into the action of the moment with real-time kinetic skills. Neuroscience research backs up this observation. When Dario Nardi, Ph.D., and his research team were doing brain scans on SP types they found that the Extroverted Sensing process shows up as a “tennis hop.” If you’d like to learn more, you can click here to get a copy of his book (this is an affiliate link).
“Just as a tennis player hops back and forth in anticipation of the ball going in any unpredictable direction, Extraverted Sensing is always ready for the world to throw something unpredictable at it. This is part of why SPs can be such adrenaline junkies, in particular Se dominants. Their minds are always ready for something intriguing or exciting to happen anyway, that when it DOES it’s massively satisfying.” — Why Personality Hacker Uses Nicknames For The 8 Jungian Cognitive Functions by Antonia Dodge
The thing is, that’s not the only process going on in an SP type’s brain. And for ISFPs and ISTPs, this is only their co-pilot process. It comes in second-favorite behind either Introverted Feeling (“Authenticity”) or Introverted Thinking (“Accuracy”). There are nuances and layers to every personality type, and the SPs are no exception.
Bringing Truth to Light
In her article “The Online Myths About Each Myers-Briggs® Personality Type,” Susan Storm highlights prevalent myths about each type and counters them with a truth. I highly recommend reading the whole article, but here’s a quick look at what she has to say about the SP types:
- ESFPs – The Myth: Airheaded party-animals and shallow spotlight-seekers. The Truth: Extremely realistic, conscientious individuals who believe in finding joy in every moment and living with integrity.
- ISFPs – The Myth: Shy, weepy emo-types with impeccable fashion sense. The Truth: Determined, adaptable individuals who want to fight for good and stifle any form of hypocrisy within themselves.
- ESTPs – The Myth: Disloyal adrenaline-junkies who have no self-control and are always looking for sex or a fight. The Truth: Extremely realistic, rational individuals who crave opportunities to act quickly and cleverly in the moment.
- ISTPs – The Myth: Mechanics, plumbers, and motorcycle racers who can fix literally anything while maintaining a cool, stoic expression. The Truth: Highly analytical, clever individuals who are good at staying objective and troubleshooting in a crisis.
The truth is, even an accurate and nuanced description of any Myers-Briggs® type only describes how people’s minds work when they have that personality type. It doesn’t tell you how they’re going to act in every situation. In other words, types are descriptive not predictive. Someone with an ESPF type might act hedonistic, or they might not. An ISFP might be an artist, or they might never do anything they’d consider artistic. ESTPs might be commitment-phobic, or they might thrive in a long-term relationship. ISTPs might like to defy death as a hobby, or they might not.
ESFP, ISFP, ESTP, and ISTP types are “hardwired” to thrive in situations that call for directly interacting with the sensory, outer world. They also care deeply about aligning their decisions with what they believe is right (ESFP and ISFP) and making logical sense of data for themselves before they choose how to act (ESTP and ISTP). And that’s just their lead and co-pilot processes — every type also has a tertiary mental process and inferior processes that contribute to how our minds work. In short, we shouldn’t try to reduce anyone to stereotypes no matter what their personality type.
Featured image credit: ktphotography via Pixabay