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
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!
I saw Black Panther yesterday, so naturally today’s post is a new installment in the superhero Myers-Briggs types series. I know I get pretty excited about most of the MCU films, but this one is seriously good. I love the hero characters and the principles they stand for like loyalty and peace. The acting is great, the plot’s tight, I love the music (I’m listening to the score as I type), and while it still has a superhero-movie feel it doesn’t shy away from digging into some really deep and difficult subjects.
T’Challa’s judging functions are pretty easy to pin-point: Fi/Te. But the fact that he uses Introverted Feeling and Extroverted Thinking when making decisions only tells us that he’s either a TJ or FP type. We’re going to need a little more to go on than just those two functions if we’re going to narrow-down a type for him. After Captain America: Civil War came out, most people typed T’Challa as an ISFP. However, a couple of the discussions I found online pointed out that he’s an ENTJ in the comics. I haven’t read the comics, though, so this typing is only going to focus on his film portrayal. From that, I ended up going with ISFP.
A Personal Code
Everyone has and uses both a Thinking and a Feeling mental process as part of their personality type. They’re both a “Judging” function, which means you use them to make decisions and answer “should” questions. The one you’re most comfortable with is either your driver process or co-pilot, and then its opposite is either your inferior or tertiary process. Personality Hacker uses nicknames for the Jungian cognitive functions, and I think they make it easier to talk about exactly what I mean when saying T’Challa uses Fi/Te when making decisions.
Introverted Feeling is nicknamed “Authenticity” and it’s an ISFP’s primary function. It’s an internally focused, subjective process that mostly boils down to making decisions based on what “feels right” to you. Unlike the Extroverted Feeling process, it’s not primarily worried about what other people think. Authenticity is concerned with making a decisions that lines up with one’s own personal beliefs. And that’s what we see in T’Challa.
Though T’Challa certainly cares for other people, when he makes decisions they’re in line with what he believes is right rather than what will make the majority of the people around him happy. Fi is the mental process that drives his decision at the end of the film to share Wakanda’s resources with the world (see — I told you we were going to talk spoilers). And this personal code is also why he let his father’s killer live at the end of Civil War. He discovered that killing an unarmed man for revenge wasn’t in line with his moral compass (though making sure he faces justice is). Similarly in this new film, he offered to save his cousin’s life even after the man tried to kill him and steal Wakanda.
Extroverted Thinking, or “Effectiveness,” is a much more impersonal function than Introverted Feeling, though it’s still used for making decisions. It’s an ISFP’s fourth function — the one they’re least comfortable using.
Effectiveness users look for the most efficient answer to a question. In other words, this process makes decisions based on what’s going to work. This is why in Civil War T’Challa tells Natasha that he doesn’t approve of all the politics. It’s because a hundred people arguing in a room doesn’t seem like an effective or efficient way to actually get things done.
I also don’t think his decision to go after Bucky himself was just fueled by an emotional type of revenge. It was also a coldly logical assessment of the most efficient way to handle the problem since he knows that, as Black Panther, he can take down a super assassin. Since Te is where an ISFP goes when stressed, it makes sense that one of the times we most clearly see T’Challa using it is after his father’s murder.
Interacting With The Real World
SP types have a certain advantage in physically-demanding tasks since this mental process is so focused on real-time interaction with the outer world. While being the Black Panther certainly enhances T’Challa’s abilities as a warrior, this new film shows us that he’s quite capable without them. He displays the sort of “real-time kinetic” intelligence that Personality Hacker says characterizes types that use the Extroverted Sensing, or “Sensation,” process. On a side-note, the ritualistic combat you see in Black Panther is inspired by real-world African martial arts, which is pretty cool.
SP types thrive on being in the middle of the action. And since Sensation is their Learning/Perceiving function, this is also how they prefer to learn new information. The things they can experience and verify with their five senses are the things that seem most reliable. And they often use their skill for interacting with the real world in creative, productive ways, earning ISFPs nicknames like Artist, Composer, and Producer.
As an SP type, T’Challa isn’t content with delegating tasks and that he can do himself. He goes after his enemies personally, even when not required by tradition and ritual. And he doesn’t just want to read reports or have people come to him to say what’s going on in Wakanda. We see him visiting his people and interacting with their worlds first-hand. He’s also interactive when planing missions. For example, there’s an early scene in Black Panther where he’s watching a projection of a convoy he’s about to attack as part of a rescue mission and he picks up one of the projected trucks to move it around and get a closer look.
Possibilities and Patterns
As far as we know, T’Challa is the first Black Panther to reveal his powers to the world at large. And he’s certainly the first king of Wakanda to share their country’s secrets with the world. While there is a struggle between the part of him that believes in a vision for Wakanda’s future where they help the world and his duty as king to protect his own people above the others, the idealistic visionary side wins out.
An ISFP has Introverted Intuition as their tertiary or “10-year-old” mental process. It’s also called “Perspectives” and it functions as a pattern-recognition system. ISFPs typically have conscious access to their Perspectives function, but it’s not always reliable. T’Challa is mature enough to recognize this and does not rely on his Ni too much or make a rash decision based on it.
However, he’s also comfortable enough with Intuition to not shy away from what his friend Nakia and sister Shuri have to say about considering a future where Wakanda and its technology play a larger role in the world. And as an Ni-user myself, I find it very satisfying that Wakanda’s first outreach center will be built in the location where T’Challa’s father killed his own brother and abandoned the brother’s son to protect Wakanda’s secret. It brings the pattern together in a way that feels right.
If you enjoyed this post, check out my other MCU typings:
With Thor: Ragnarok now out, it seemed like a good time for another Fictional MBTI post, especially since Ragnarok is so good. Who would have thought a film about the destruction of Asgard and fall of the gods (that’s not a spoiler — it’s Norse mythology) could be so light-hearted and fun?
I’ve been typing Thor as an ESTP since the first film came out, which I think is pretty much the standard typing for him (please note: I’m only typing the MCU version of Thor, not his character in the comics or mythology). Still, just because there’s not much debate about his type doesn’t mean we can’t give him his own post. There are several different nicknames for this type, and for Thor I decided to go with “Adventurer” rather than the more commonly used David Keirsey nickname “Promoter.”
A Man of Action
ESTP types lead with a mental process called Extroverted Sensing (Se). Fittingly, this is the most visible aspect of Thor’s character in the films. SP types are doers. They thrive on taking action in the real world and they’re good at it. Really good. In fact, I’d venture a guess that most action heroes in fiction are SP types, especially STP types. It’s not that they can’t pause for reflection or plan ahead. It’s that they don’t really see the need since things usually work out so well for them.
ESTPs have a reputation for being thrill-seekers, and it’s not hard to see why. Their dominant Se seeks variety and physical stimulation. They like to take risks, yet they are so aware of their physical surroundings and their limits that they are probably the smartest physical risk-takers around. They have a natural awareness for what their body can or can’t do, paired with quick reflexes, and an ability to keep their wits in a crisis.” — Susan Storm, Understanding ESTP Sensing
This side of Thor’s character is at the forefront in the new film as well as his past appearances. In Ragnarok’s opening scene, he even comments that fighting against overwhelming odds without a real plan seems to always work out for him. And not only does it work out, he’s clearly enjoying himself. He thrives on challenge and risk-taking.
I’m going to skip over an ESTP’s co-pilot process for now and talk about their tertiary side. It’s tempting for any type to bypass their secondary function and spend more time in their less-developed tertiary side because that lets them stay in their preference for introversion or extroversion. For example, an ESTP’s primary and tertiary functions are both extroverted, while their secondary one is introverted.
Extroverted Feeling (Fe) isn’t all that well-developed or reliable for ESTPs. It can lead to bad decisions based on doing things that will make them look good to or fit in with the people around them (Fe is a process focused on harmony in relationships). Thor is clearly enjoying his social position in the opening scenes of the first film and I suspect that a large part of how he acts is because “reckless military leader” is the persona people expect (though I doubt he’s analyzed it that much). We also see him using his Fe to connect with people on earth as the charming gentleman Jane Foster falls in love with.
Learning After Doing
ESTPs learn best by doing. They’re not the sort to listen to lectures or spend a lot of time planing. They’d rather do something and see how it works out, then adjust future actions accordingly. Until something doesn’t work out there’s not much of a reason for them to spend time figuring out why. Which leads us to a discussion of an ESTP’s secondary function, Introverted Thinking (Ti).
Most people start to develop their secondary function in their teens, but it’s not a comfortable process for people to be in so we don’t always focus on growing it until we have to. For ESTPs, this “co-pilot” is a judging function that they use when making decisions. Ti is concerned with figuring out what makes sense, aligning to personal convictions, and impartially looking at facts. Thor starts doing this when his exile from Asgard in his first film forces him to look at the sort of decisions he’s been making and re-think his actions.
We do also get glimpses of an ESTP’s healthy thinking side in Thor’s character. People of this type can be incredibly clever and intelligent, though they’re often underestimated because so many outsiders just see their action-oriented side. An example from the first film is when he’s explaining the science behind Bifrost travel to Jane. He makes it look easy, but he’s managing to translate two completely different cultural way to framing the world (science and magic) in a way that makes perfect sense to an earth scientist. And in Ragnarok, we get a conversation between him and Bruce Banner where Thor effortlessly keeps up with and understands the scientific terminology used by a man with multiple PhDs.
Stress And The ESTP
Being cast out of Asgard in the first film, and especially learning that Mjölnir doesn’t see him as worthy anymore, pushes Thor into his least developed function. For ESTPs, that’s Introverted Intuition (Ni). When intuition is a type’s stress function, stressful situations tends to confuse their normally clear thought process and they may become angry, paranoid, or feel hopeless. It typically doesn’t take ESTPs long to bounce back, though, which helps explain why Thor’s despondency only lasts until he’s given a chance to take action and fight back.
What’s really interesting about Thor of the MCU films is that this version of his brother Loki is an INFJ type. Making Loki and Thor complete opposites in their personalities means they use the exact same mental functions in the opposite order. Thor’s weakest mental process is Loki’s strongest (INFJs lead with Ni), and vice-versa. No wonder they’re constantly butting heads and struggling to understand each other.
If you enjoyed this post, check out my other MCU typings:
It always intrigues me how certain characters attract so much investment from viewers. Browsing Pinterest lately, it seems like Bucky is the new Loki — the Marvel fandom’s dark, mistreated character who just needs a hug because we love him soooooo much. In Bucky’s case, the reasons why we find his character compelling aren’t too hard to find. He’s a good man who was forced to do terrible things and is now constantly fighting a battle to be himself. Sebastian Stan’s portrayal allows audiences to glimpse Bucky’s human side under the soldier persona he wears and the assassin role he’s forced to adopt, and audiences are drawn in by a realistic, sensitive portrayal of a compelling character.
Most people type James “Bucky” Buchanan Barnes as an ESTP, and I’m inclined to agree with them. Operating under the assumption that MBTI type doesn’t change, when we see him as Bucky in Captain America: First Avenger he’s a healthy, stable version of his MBTI type. The version of Bucky we see later in Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a severely stressed and traumatized man of the same MBTI type. Bucky in Captain America: Civil War is still dealing with the fall-out of all he went through, but he’s more recognizable as an ESTP.
Typing Bucky Barnes
We only get about 13 minutes of footage with Bucky in the first Captain America film, but those scenes reveal a character in line with type descriptions of ESTPs as people characterized by decisive action, contagious energy, and enjoyment of being in the moment. They are “thrillseekers who are at their best when putting out fires, whether literal or metaphorical. … They assess situations quickly and move adeptly to respond to immediate problems with practical solutions” (Truity.com description). David Keirsey writes that ESTPs (whom he nick-names Promoters) “live with a theatrical flourish which makes even the most routine events seem exciting. … Promoters demand new activities and new challenges. Bold and daring at heart, and ever-optimistic that things will go their way, Promoters will take tremendous risks to get what they want, and seem exhilarated by walking close to the edge of disaster.” Other nicknames for ESTPs include “problem solver” and “realist.”
ESTPs lead with a mental process called Extroverted Sensing, or “Sensation.” This process “can get into the action in the moment. Think of it as ‘real-time kinetic’” (from Personality Hacker). It’s a fun-loving function that delights in sensory experiences, such as Bucky spending his last night in New York dancing with girls he probably doesn’t care whether or not he ever sees again. On that same night, he and Steve are talking about Steve’s inability to enlist and he says, “I don’t see what the problem is. You’re about to be the last eligible man in New York.” He’s trying to make Steve feel better with joking and doesn’t really ‘get’ the duty-fulfilling and self-sacrificing aspect of Steve’s character. It’s not a deeply ingrained aspect of his personality type (like it is for ISFJ Steve), though in practice he still does his duty and sacrifices himself because he’s a loyal friend and a good man.
We also see Bucky demonstrate sensory skills in more serious situations. Even post-experimentation and groggy when escaping Redscull’s prison, Bucky could walk across that metal girder with coordination, balance, and no hints of fear other than a healthy caution. As a Howling Commando, we see him as a sniper (which requires skills that come naturally to SP types) and making split-second sensory decisions with ease in the final train fight.
ESTP types support their Sensation function secondary with Introverted Thinking (or “Accuracy”) and then tertiary Extroverted Feeling (or “Harmony”). These mental processes describe how ESTPs, like Bucky, make decisions. First he’s using impersonal criteria to evaluate information and make decisions that are motivated by his own understanding of how the world works. Extroverted Feeling gives ESTPs an insight into other people that they stereotypicaly use to be charming and get people to do what they want. When he tries to ask Peggy to dance, he’s clearly not used to being ignored in favor of his friend (or any other guy). ESTPs are not primarily an emotional sort of people, though. In an early scene, Bucky had just had an argument with his best friend and turns that emotionally invested side of himself ‘off’ to take the girls dancing and enjoy himself.
The Winter Soldier
Once Hydra turns Bucky into the Winter Soldier, it’s difficult to use any scenes to get a clear picture of his personality type. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier we see a few glimpses of the real Bucky trying to get out, but not really anything to help with typing him. In Civil War, however, his own mind is starting to reassert itself and we can talk about his personality type in that film.
When ESTPs are stressed, one of the most common things they experience is internal confusion. They feel out of control, forget details, and become paranoid. Their inferior, or 3-year-old, function is Introverted Intuition (also called “Perspectives”). It’s a mental process that speculates on things that cannot be known, which is great for creativity and insight if you’re using it as a driver process but not so good if it’s an underdeveloped function that comes out when you’re stressed. Most ESTPs snap out of what Naomi Quenk calls a “Grip experience” (where stress causes your inferior function to assert itself) fairly quickly, but “Chronic grip behavior can lead the individual and others to believe that he or she is typically negative, pessimistic, and worried about both the present and the future” (Was That Really Me? p.180). Add to that all the torture and brainwashing used to turn Bucky into the Winter Soldier, and you have the Bucky who’s fighting alongside Cap in Civil War.
Here, we see a man who is not only fighting physical battles (and with extraordinary skill now that super-soldier enhancements have been added to his natural sensory abilities), but who is also fighting a mental battle. As extroverts, ESTPs tend to focus more on the external. Bucky’s experiences have turned him inward, making him more serious and forcing him to develop his Introverted Thinking side. Though type theory holds that your base personality doesn’t change, Bucky is in many ways a different person than the one we see in The First Avenger. He’s burdened with the weight of what he’s done and his friend Steve is now his only real connection with another human being.
In some ways, Bucky’s joking remark from the first Captain America movie “I’m turning into you” has come true. He’s become much more introspective and aware of the weight of his actions. Yet he’s also still thoroughly himself. We have a scene where he and Cap are reminiscing about fun times they had and a girl Bucky tried to impress, and he’s really Bucky against instead of the Winter Soldier. The fun-loving young ESTP is still in there, just buried deeply under the weight of all he’s been though.
In The First Avenger, we see Bucky fighting to protect his best friend and giving his life for his country. Now in Civil War, he trusts his best friend to help him through and gives up his freedom by going into cryostasis so he’s can’t be used to hurt others. Bucky’s decision to enter cryostasis at the end of the movie is also an intensely individualistic move that’s characteristic of SP types. If he can’t guarantee he can control himself, then at least he can make sure no one else can take control of him either.
If you enjoyed this post, check out my other MCU typings:
With Captain America: Civil War coming out in just seven weeks, I thought I’d add a post on Scott Lang to my collection of fictional MBTI types. It’s also a pretty good excuse to buy and re-watch Ant-Man.
If you do a quick Google search to see how others on the interwebs are typing Scott Lang, you’ll mostly find ESTP, with a few ISTP, ISFP and one INTP guesses thrown in. One thing all these types have in common is that they’re extroverting their Perceiving process, so that’s where we’re going to start (the P/J preference in an MBTI type refers to how we interact with the outer world).
Sensing vs. Intuition
The S/N preference describes our perceiving function, which is the mental process we use to learn new information. Isabel Meyers wrote that Sensing types “depend on their five senses for perception.” They want to see, touch, and test the information they’re taking in. Subjective or indirect information is less trustworthy, and less interesting, than their own direct experiences. Intuitives, on the other hand, “are comparatively uninterested in sensory reports of things as they are” (Gifts Differing, 57). Intuition is an innovative process that resembles advanced pattern recognition (in Personality Hacker’s words) and focuses on exploring possibilities.
Types that have a “P” in their four-letter name extrovert this mental process. Personality Hacker describes Extroverted Sensing (Se) as a “real-time kinetic” function that’s very in-tune with verifiable details of the outer world. Types with Se high in their function stack are typically very comfortable in their bodies and have a natural talent working with their hands.
Extroverted Intuition (Ne) is the function that ENTP Iron Man leads with. It’s very much about exploring the outer world and trying things just to see what will happen. It actively searches for patterns that haven’t been found and understood yet.
Looking at Scott Lang in Ant-Man (we’re not covering the comics here, just the film), I don’t really see much evidence of him using Intuition. He’ll still have intuition in his function stack (Introverted Intuition is the opposite of Se, so in an SP type that will be either his tertiary or inferior function) but it’s not what he leads with. Just a few examples:
Se types are typically very good working with their hands and coordinating their bodies. Scott possesses the skills to burgle houses (quite impressively) even before having the suit. He is also trained as an electrical engineer and we see him doing skilled hands-on work throughout the film.
When Scott encounters a challenging safe to crack, he doesn’t explore possibilities or try different things. He relies on what he knows will work from past experience and quickly implements it to bypass the fingerprint scanner and freeze the door. He also doesn’t forget any Sensing details (blows up air mattress for the door to land on, hangs comforter in the door to catch the flying hardware).
The “Whose pajamas are these?” question would be irrelevant to Ne, but it’s a detail Se would notice.
Scott learns to control the suit and fight fairly quickly by testing it out actively. It become natural to him and he’s soon effortlessly coordinating sensory details (like timing his jump off the servers at Pym Tech to coincide with bringing Antony into position to catch him).
Feeling vs. Thinking
The F/T preference describes how we make decisions about our behavior and what we think the world should look like. Feeling types typically prioritize how a decision lines up with their values and those of society. Feeling is concerned with the emotional impact of a decision. Thinking, on the other hand, “is essentially impersonal” (Gifts Differing, 65). This process seeks objective truth that doesn’t depend on the perspectives of other people
For “P” types, the judging process is internally focused. Introverted Feeling (Fi) types tend to check-in with the emotional impact of a decision by looking inward. They want to “determine what feels the most in alignment with oneself” (Personality Hacker). For them, decisions have to “feel right” and authentic.
Introverted Thinking (Ti) also checks in with the inner reality, but doesn’t focus on authentic feeling. Instead, it prizes things that “make sense.” Whether or not Ti types can objectively explain a decision, it has to line-up with the theory they’ve formulated about how the world works. They are interested in facts, but “chiefly as illustrative proofs” of their ideas (Gifts Differing, 78).
Scott’s infamous VistaCorp burglary was based on what he felt was right, not on logic. There’s an interesting interview on YouTube where Scott talks about this incident. He says he’s tired of having his “name dragged through the mud” by media who don’t recognize why he did what he did. He’s willing to pay the price for his choices, but he wants the world to respond according to his internal value system and recognize VistaCorp was morally culpable.
In the film itself, Scott is very careful about how he’s defined. He insists he’s a cat-burglar because “robbery involves threat” and he detests violence. This is not just about specificity and getting facts right — it’s about how he’s seen by others in society and how he feels about himself.
When Scott talks about how he sees himself and his subjective view of the world, he defines himself in relation to the kind of man his daughter wants him to be. This is also why he chooses to help Hank Pym. It isn’t about logic — it’s about a “chance to earn that look in your daughter’s eyes, to become the hero that she already thinks you are.”
Scott is certainly not suspicious of emotions or hesitant to share and talk about feelings, unlike the typical ISTP (such as Black Widow and Hawkeye, who I’ll eventually write posts about). He’s not very well in-tune with how others will respond, though (unlike an Extroverted Feeling type, such as ISFJ Steve Rogers). For example, when Pym and his daughter are reconciling Scott expresses his appreciation of their feelings, but in doing so ruins the moment.
Extrovert vs. Introvert
The question now becomes what order Scott uses these functions in. Does he lead with his Extroverted Sensing process (ESFP) or with his Introverted Feeling process (ISFP)? There are very few scenes where we see Scott seeking out people so he can re-charge or where he seems focused on the outer world. His internal ides, cares, and identity are what’s important. Those are all marks of an Introvert. For a character whose entire motivation is based on doing what lines up with his internal locus of control, it makes sense for that introverted decision-making function to take center stage. This makes his ISFP function stack:
Primary: Introverted Feeling
Secondary: Extroverted Sensing
Tertiary: Introverted Intuition
Inferior: Extroverted Thinking
You can learn a lot about people by how they respond under stress, and in Scott we do see a stress-reaction consistent with Inferior Thinking rather than Inferior Intuition (as would be the case for an ESFP). When stressed out, he doesn’t lose control over sensory details or withdraw and get angry. Instead, he starts asking questions and trying to get back on familiar footing (“Who are you, who is she, what the hell is going on here, and can I go back to jail now?”). Stressed Feeling types also tend to act rather than shut-down, which is what Scott does whenever there are obstacles to his plan or when something traumatic happens (like Antony’s death).
One reason people might not like an ISFP typing for Scott is that this type is consistently stereotyped as too “artsy” to go into a field like engineering or implement logical plans. Yet, Dr. A. J. Drenth notes that SFP types “may find themselves curiously drawn to Investigative subjects like math, science, computer science, engineering, etc.” though it’s not necessarily a good fit for their type. They can do it, like Scott, but they may struggle to fit into the system, become frustrated, and even act out in some way (though not necessarily as illegally as Scott did). You can also find personal accounts from ISFPs who work as chemists, geologists, computer programmers, doctors, and engineers. Personality type describes how someone’s mind works — it doesn’t limit what they can and cannot do with those mental processes.
If you enjoyed this post, check out my other MCU typings:
My first Fictional MBTI post was about Loki, and though it wasn’t the most complete or polished post it quickly became the most active in terms of comments. Even now, over a year and a half later, people are still posting new insights and observations on Loki’s character. And when the latest comments are more in-depth than the original post, it’s time for an update.
Quick note: my typing for Loki is wholly based on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, not on the comics or on Norse mythology. Loki is a controversial figure to type (as those 40 commends on the last post can attest), and his instability further complicates things. Also, I suspect Tom Hiddleston is an NF type, which would color his depiction of Loki.
The letters “INFJ” stand for Introvert, iNtuitive, Feeling and Judging. This means INFJs lead with a function called Introverted Intuition (called “Perspectives” in the Personality Hacker system). Introverted Intuition is a perceiving function that takes in and processes information, and is particularly interested in things that can’t be directly experienced. Intuition is great at pattern recognition and extrapolating future possibilities, and I’ve never seen anyone argue Loki is not an Intuitive.
In INFJs, Introverted Intuition is supported by the decision-making function Extroverted Feeling (or “Harmony”). Types that use Extroverted Feeling are extremely good at reading people, and many INFJs say they can literally feel other peoples emotions. Typically, this results in a type that will avoid conflict at any cost because they don’t want to hurt people and because interpersonal tension hurts them as much as it does anyone else (contrary to popular belief, INFJs can be quite selfish). Loki has been avoiding conflict for most of his life — we just see him when he reaches the snapping point. You can see Loki’s Feeling side when he’s manipulating people (this comes easily for types that understand emotions and motivations), when he’s interacting with his mother, and in several scenes with Thor.
Speaking of manipulation, it is here that we see Loki fit David Keirsey’s description of INFJs as “The Counselor.” Loki gets power by counseling other people in ways that prompt them to play into his plans. His counsel sends Thor to Jotunheim, cripples Thor with guilt and strands him on earth, subverts The Avengers for a while, directs Malekith’s Kursed lieutenant, sets-up the circumstances allowing him to fake his death, and encourages Thor at the end of Dark World to feel comfortable moving to earth. Loki is frequently typed as an ENTP or ENTJ because of his more theatrical, trickster side and his portrayal in the comics (just for reference, Magneto is an example of an ENTJ villain), but I think in the films that’s a show Loki puts on when it suits him. At his core, he’s much more subtle and would rather control from behind the scenes to a certain extent and use people as puppets instead of leading out in the open.
INFJs who are stressed can effectively “turn-off” their compassion for a while and move to their inferior thinking function, and it’s not pretty when that happens. Introverted Thinking (or “Accuracy”) is an INFJ’s tertiary function, and provides a logical core that can make impersonal decisions. It’s still a subjective function, and is concerned about what makes sense to the individual, rather than with making sense to anyone else. If Loki can explain his actions to himself, he doesn’t feel the need to explain them to anyone else. That’s how INFJs think when they reach a point where they don’t care anymore (though even then there’s still a deep, central part of themselves that desperately wants human connection and affirmation).
Extroverted Sensing (or “Sensation”) is an INFJ’s inferior function. It’s the one we use least effectively, but also the one we end up spending the most time in when we’re stressed. This is where Loki lives for most of the movies.
Everything Loki does as an adult is informed by his childhood, which we have very little information about. From the first Thor film, we see that Odin told Thor and Loki, “Only one of you can ascend to the throne. But both of you were born to be kings!” Loki was pushed toward learning to rule, but then he was told he could never fill that role no matter how hard he tried. From Thor: The Dark World we know Freya was the one who trained him in magic, which is a much more INFJ-type weapon, but that still didn’t give him the approval he desperately craved from his father Odin.
Normally as a maturing INFJ, you develop your primary function Introverted Intuition first, become comfortable with your secondary Extroverted Feeling function as you become a teenager, start using tertiary Introverted Thinking in your late 20s or early 30s, then maybe you start exploring inferior Extroverted Sensing in midlife. All those functions are there the whole time, but you don’t develop them equally and in the case of Extroverted Sensing you might only notice it when you’re stressed. You never use your inferior, or even your tertiary function, as effectively as your primary and secondary functions.
Now, imagine you’re a young INFJ boy growing up with an ESTP brother (this is Thor’s type – click here to read about him). ESTPs use the same functions, but in the exact opposite order. So you see your brother being praised for exercising Extroverted Sensing, supported by Introverted Thinking. You probably hear, “Why aren’t you more like Thor?” all the time. Loki has been living with his stress function held up as a paragon. On top of that, he’s a Feeling boy who probably identifies with his mother more than the men in a world that prizes more traditionally masculine traits. Loki knows he isn’t what his father hopes for in a son, but INFJs are good at imitating other types and he tries to make Odin proud. This goes on for years, until Loki learns that the person he’s been trying to be his entire life isn’t good enough because no matter what he does, Odin “could never have a frost giant sitting on the throne of Asgard.”
In The Grip
If Loki is an INFJ, then the only times he really has a chance to use his dominant functions are when he’s using his Intuitive grasp of abstract concepts to dream-up complex plots and solutions to problems and wield magic, and when he’s using Extroverted Feeling to manipulate people. Otherwise, he spends his time first trying to win Odin’s approval by being like Thor, then lashing out at the people who hurt him while trying to discover who he is now that he’s no longer Odin’s son. That, on top of the huge amounts of stress he’s under in the films, means INFJ Loki spends most of this time in the grip of his inferior Extroverted Sensing function.
One of the questions asked by a commenter on the previous Loki post was this: “can you see yourselves (as INFJs presumably) carrying on a constant fight with everyone around you for the majority of your existence? And all so you can continue your life as their master and ruler?” While I couldn’t say “yes” to this exactly how it is phrased, I can say that as an INFJ, I will fight for the right to be my authentic self, especially if I feel like I’ve been stifled. I will turn into someone people don’t expect when I reach the end of my rope, and if I’m stressed and feeling out of control I don’t shy away from conflict like INFJs typically do. My goal isn’t to continue life as “master and ruler,” but I desperately need to restore order to my world and if that means taking control, then that’s what I want to do.
The Avengers is probably the film where Loki seems least like an INFJ, but this is also the film where he’s dealing with the most stress. The last thing he heard before falling into the destroyed Bifrost was Odin voicing disappointment in him, then he is captured and presumably tortured by Thanos.
“Loki disappears through that wormhole of space and time, when the Bifrost is destroyed, and he kind of goes through the Seventh Circle of Hell. And he’s on his own. He’s on his own in the dark corners of the universe, and the journey he goes on is pretty horrible. It’s like getting lost in the rainforest or something. You’re going to come out the other side a bit mangled on the outside, and on the inside.” — quote from an interview with Tom Hiddleston
Naomi Quenk’s book Was That Really Me? includes information about what she calls “lengthy episodes in the grip.” Usually, we experience our inferior function for short periods of time when we’re stressed. If you spend months or years working out of this function, though, bad things happen. For INFJs, she says it looks like this:
Obsessiveness about details in the form of micromanaging others both at work and at home may cause great distress to other people in these environments. “Irrational” accusations by INFJ can alienate others, causing them to avoid the person or attempt to remove him or her from a position of authority. Family members of an INFJ in a chronic grip state may be unable to find ways to sidestep the ready anger and criticism expressed by their loved one. Co-workers are likely to be similarly at a loss. …
Chronic grip behaviour may lead the individual and others to believe that fierce anger, excessive control of others and the immediate world, and distrust that approaches paranoia are a part of the natural makeup of the INFJ, and that the person has always been that way. Since the process of becoming chronically in the grip is often gradual, even people who have known the person in a non-stressed state are likely not to notice what, in retrospect, will be recognized as a radical alteration of personality. The person will appear to be a rather exaggerated, poorly developed, and distorted version of an Extraverted Sensing type. (Quenk, Was That Really Me? page 202)
Interestingly, the latest comment on my previous Loki post states, “Loki pre-snap seems quiet and very introverted, but afterwards seems to become a twisted version of Thor: self-centered, narcissistic, showy, entitled to power at the expense of others, and merciless in conquest.” This is pretty much exactly what Quenk says of INFJs looking like a “distorted version of an Extraverted Sensing type,” which is what Thor is as an ESTP.
When you take into consideration his background and the fact that he’s operating out of his inferior function for most of the films, the objections against typing the MCU’s Loki as an INFJ don’t carry nearly as much weight. Loki doesn’t look like a stereotypical INFJ, but he does act like an INFJ who’s been stressed to the breaking point.
If you enjoyed this post, check out my other MCU typings: