Fictional MBTI – James “Bucky” Barnes (ESTP)

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” ( 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:

Loki – INFJ

Scott Lang -ISFP

Steve Rogers – ISFJ

T’Challa – ISFP

Thor – ESTP

Tony Stark – ENTP




Fictional MBTI – Scott Lang (ISFP)

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).

This one was harder for me to pin-down in Scott. The difference between Fi and Ti confuses me, but a couple articles from Personality Junkie helped clear things up (click to read “Introverted Feeling (Fi) vs. Introverted Thinking (Ti)” and “The Laws of P-Types: Fi & Ti Laws“). Prelude Character Analysis’ ISFP vs. ISTP article was also useful.

  • 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:

Bucky Barns – ESTP

Loki – INFJ

Steve Rodgers – ISFJ

T’Challa – ISFP

Thor – ESTP

Tony Stark – ENTP