Sherlock Holmes and The Trouble With Typing Fictional Characters

Discussions about Sherlock Holmes’ Myers-Briggs® type can get pretty heated in the online community. He’s either an INTJ or INTP and whichever side you come down on (if you care about this sort of thing) is worth passionately defending. I’ve weighed-in on this myself in a blog post arguing that Sherlock as portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch in the Sherlock BBC series, Robert Downy Jr. in the Sherlock Holmes movies, and even the Basil of Bakerstreet version from Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective are all INTPs.

I do think that’s the best-fit type for all three of those versions, but they aren’t the only portrayals of Sherlock Holmes. We ought not forget, for example, the original character in the stories penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I’ve been reading and re-reading several of those for my Classics Club book list and Sherlock doesn’t seem very much like an INTP in those stories. In fact, the only thing I can say with absolute certainty is that he’s a Thinking personality type.

Typing People Who Aren’t Real

Sherlock Holmes and The Trouble With Typing Fictional Characters | LikeAnAnchor.com
image courtesy of The Sherlock Holmes Museum

That brings us to the second part of this post’s title: the trouble with typing fictional characters. Though I love looking at fictional characters’ personality types, there are limits to how accurately you can type them. It gets especially tricky in the case of someone like Sherlock Holmes or Batman because so many writers and actors have been involved in portraying this character over quite a long period of time. There’s bound to be some inconsistencies in how each creative sees the character they’re working with. Plus, I doubt very many of them think about the character’s Myers-Briggs® type and how they can keep it consistent in every portrayal.

Going back to Sherlock Holmes as our example, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle sometimes writes him in a way that looks like ISTJ, sometimes more like one of the NTJ types, and sometimes with traits of a TP type. He also calls Dr. Watson by two different first names (John is used three times, James once), so I think it’s safe to say Doyle wasn’t all that concerned with consistency. In any case, Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories were written about 30 years before Jung published Psychological Types, so we know he wasn’t relying on those theories when writing the character.

So Why Type Fiction?

Since it’s difficult to type fictional characters with a high degree of accuracy, why do it? For one thing, it’s fun. It’s one of the ways to turn an interest in Myers-Briggs® into an entertaining pastime as well as a useful hobby.

Typing fictional characters can also sharpen our skills typing real people. It gives us a chance to study how characters react and puzzle out which psychological functions they’re using based on what they say and how they act. In addition, well-written characters provide familiar examples of the different types to use in every-day conversation. If someone asks me what an ENTP or ISFJ, for example, looks like in real-life then Tony Stark and Samwise Gamgee are there to help clarify things.

Do you enjoy trying to figure out fictional characters’ personality types? Tell us about your favorite characters and what you think their types are in the comments!

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5 Crucial Tips For Standing Up For Yourself As An INFJ

For many INFJs, the feeling that we don’t stand up for ourselves well enough is a frequent one. We find ourselves in uncomfortable conversations that we don’t know how to leave, or we let people cross our boundaries because we’re not sure what to say, or we don’t speak up when someone assumes something about us that isn’t true. And then we feel guilty about it, but we aren’t sure how to change.

For this post, we’re going to define “standing up for yourself” as sharing your ideas, choices, and opinions with others and not compromising on your personal standards, morals, or beliefs. You’re not obnoxious or dismissive of others when you “stand up for yourself” in this way, but you are honest and upfront about who you are, what you believe, and where your boundaries are.

Some people reading this, including some INFJs, already live their lives in the way I just described. If that’s you, then wonderful! Keep doing what you’re doing (and maybe share some tips for the rest of us in the comments). For others, standing up for yourself is a real challenge. INFJs aren’t the only ones who deal with this either — any personality type can struggle with asserting themselves and practicing authenticity. Today, though, we’ll be focusing on INFJ-specific tips for getting comfortable with standing up for yourself. Other IN types (like INTJ or INFP) and FJ types (like ENFJ and ISFJ) might also find these tips helpful. Read more

7 Fictional Characters That You’ll Relate to If You’re An ISTJ

What fictional characters do you relate to as an ISTJ?

Just as we can describe real people using the Myers-Briggs® typology system, we can also use the system to type well-written fictional characters. Some of fiction’s most iconic and intriguing characters are ISTJs, and today we’re going to talk about seven of them that I think real-life ISTJs will find relatable.

Another great thing about looking at character personality types is that it helps us to better understand people who have different types than we do. Fictional ISTJs can serve as examples for what real-life ISTJs might be like, and also show how much variation can exist between individuals with the same type.

Bathsheba Everdene

Thinking-type heroines are a pretty rare thing in fiction, especially in older stories. But the heroine of Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd (1874) is one of the rare examples. Bathsheba Everdene didn’t really capture my attention when I first read the book, but in hindsight she’s one of the more unique female characters in classic British fiction. I also liked her in the 2015 film version.

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Why Is It So Hard For Sensing And Intuitive Types To Understand One Another?

I’ve been informally studying the Myers-Briggs® typology system for about 10 years now, but for most of that time I still felt confused about the difference between Sensing and Intuition. Though I’m usually pretty good at seeing things from other people’s perspectives as an INFJ, I’d have a hard time understanding Sensors. I had good friendships with Sensing types, and I’d protest when people in the Intuitive community spread hurtful myths about Sensors, but I got stuck explaining the exact difference between the two.

I think this is a problem that quite a few of us face. For myself and many others who I’ve talked with online, the Sensing/Intuitive dynamic is even harder to figure out than Introvert/Extrovert, Thinking/Feeling, or Judging/Perceiving. Someone who doesn’t share our S/N preference seems even less “like us” than those who don’t match on the E/I, T/F, or J/P. Our preference for Sensing or Intuition influences us, and how we relate to others, so much that most typologists say you should only date or marry someone who matches your S/N preference.

Of course, type isn’t really a good predictor of romantic happiness and many couples (including INFP Isabel Myers and her ISTJ husband) are quite happy without matching on S/N. So maybe it’s not a good idea to just assume Sensors and Intuitive can’t understand each other. Perhaps what we really need is a better grasp of the real difference between Sensing and Intuition and a commitment to using that understanding to appreciate the strengths and differences of each type. Read more

7 Fictional Characters That You’ll Relate to If You’re An INTJ

What fictional characters do you relate to as an INTJ?

Just as we can describe real people using the Myers-Briggs® typology system, we can also use the system to type well-written fictional characters. Some of fiction’s most iconic characters are INTJs, and today we’re going to talk about seven of them that I think real-life INTJs will find very relatable.

One of the other great things about looking at character personality types is that it helps us to better understand people who have different types than we do. Fictional INTJs can serve as examples for what real-life INTJs might be like, and also show how much variation can exist between individuals with the same type.

Bruce Wayne

Batman’s personality type is hotly debated, but the sheer number of INTJs who think he’s one of them merits Bruce Wayne’s inclusion on this list. Plus, the many iterations of his character do fit INTJ pretty well and inconsistencies could be explained just by the number of writers, actors, and other creatives involved in Batman’s portrayal throughout the years.

INTJs relate to Bruce Wayne/Batman’s rock-solid principles and his self-confidence when he knows he’s right. They also relate to the fact that he trusts very few people, but the ones he does trust are extremely important to him. Read more

How To Tell If An INFJ Likes You

INFJs have a reputation for being mysterious creatures. If you’re trying to figure out what an INFJ is really thinking, that reputation is somewhat justified. And judging by the number of people online asking, “How can I tell if an INFJ likes me?” it can be very difficult to figure out if an INFJ is attracted to you, especially in a romantic sense.

Even though the whole “otherworldly INFJ” thing has been blown way out of proportion in internet descriptions of the type, there are some things about INFJs that just don’t make sense to most other people. Since INFJs are the rarest type, our minds are wired to think in a fundamentally different (not better) way than the majority of the world’s population.

As a type which uses Extroverted Feeling to make decisions, INFJs are very interested in maintaining harmony in the outer world. This tends to make them very agreeable people. In groups, we can be friendly and sociable with just about everyone. However, we’re also introverts who spend a lot of time inside our own minds. We’re often reserved, private individuals, leaving many people confused about how we actually feel. In addition, many (though not all) INFJs struggle with varying levels of social anxiety and shyness which makes it even harder for us to make it clear when we like someone.

The following list of ways to tell if an INFJ likes you isn’t going to be 100% true of every INFJ. However, it does reflect general trends in the way many INFJs say that they act and think when they like someone. Read more