I love typing fictional characters. Partly it’s the same part of me that enjoys studying English literature in an academic setting. I like analyzing stories and character motivations, and writing deep-dives into why something works the way it does. It’s also partly about my interest in typology. I like thinking about how Myers-Briggs® types show up in actual people and fictional characters can provide a nice way to analyze that.
It’s this second reason that starts to get at why I think it’s useful as well as entertaining to type fictional characters. Discussing the personality types of fictional characters gives us a chance to exercise our typology skills without running the risk of wrongly interpreting real people’s motivations. My friend might not appreciate me micro-analyzing their every word and action to figure out what their type is but Tony Stark, Scarlett O’Hara, and Luke Skywalker don’t mind.
Typing fictional characters also lets us use them as examples when we’re describing personality types. One of the first questions my mom always asks if I’m talking about a specific type is, “Do I know any of them?” Sometimes I can give her an example of someone she knows in real life but more often I’ll use a fictional character as an example. They’re a great way for us to see examples of how a single type can look in different for different people based on their individual preferences and personal background. And it also shows that we can relate to people even if they don’t share a type with us (such as the INFJs I’ve talked with who relate to ISFJ Cinderella).
This brings us to the reason for today’s post. I ran out of time to write a full-length post for Tuesday this week because I was working on a post for my other blog, Star Wars Personalities. Susan Storm asked me to guest post about the Myers-Briggs® types of Star Wars characters, and I got that post done with plenty of time to spare (I’ll share a link with you when she publishes it). But then I got distracted writing a full-length post about Princess-General Leia Organa’s personality type. Here’s the link if you’d like to click over there and read it.
England in the 1860s was not a good place to find a husband. By the early part of the decade, there were about 600,000 more women than men living in the country. And when employment options are limited, especially for women of noble birth, and marriageable men are hard to come by a 25-year-old spinster doesn’t have many options. Especially when her stepmother wants her out of the house. That’s the situation Arabella Lawrence finds herself in when she agrees to marry her father’s employer. The man is old enough to be her grandfather, and he turns out to be anything but gentlemanly.
Fleeing what would certainly be an abusive marriage, she takes passage in one of the Columbia Mission Society’s bride ships bound for Vancouver Island and British Columbia, where men outnumber women approximately 10 to 1. Their need for respectable, Christian wives is Arabella’s chance at a new beginning. Upon arriving, she instantly attracts suitors with her compassion, charm, and fiery red hair. The most persistent are two very different men — Lieutenant Richard Drummond, a gentleman and naval officer, and Peter Kelly, the local baker. Read more →
Most people who I spend lots of time with are readers. We tend to gravitate toward each other, I suppose, drawn together in part by a mutual love of books. But I also encounter quite a few people who wonder what’s the point of all this reading, especially if it’s fiction. “Do you really want to write/read a book full of lies?” one might ask. Or another may say, “Why bother reading stories? It’s just escapism.”
We all need a bit of escape from reality now and then, and I’d say fiction is one of the healthiest ways to do that. And, as many writers have pointed out, these books full of “lies” are actually one of the most effective vehicles for truth-telling. Those are both excellent reasons to read and write stories, but for today’s post I want to focus on another reason that numerous studies have been looking at since 2013. Reading fiction can actually make you a better person.
Theory of Mind and Fiction
Back in 2013, a study in the journal Science by David Kidd and Emmanuele Castano suggested that reading “literary” short stories immediately improved participants’ scores on the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET). This test asks people to look at photographs of actors’ eyes and select one of four states of mind the picture conveys. It’s designed to measure “theory of mind,” which is the ability to attribute mental states to yourself and to others, as well as recognize others have distinct beliefs, desires, intentions, etc. from your own.
The media tends to embellish their reports on scientific studies, so it’s no surprise many popular news outlets said this study proved fiction can increase your empathy. That’s not exactly what the study measured, though, and a subsequent study in 2016 failed to replicate the original’s results. The new study did, however, find that “People who were lifelong readers of fiction … had significantly higher scores on the RMET.” Read more →
What fictional characters do you relate to as an INFJ?
Just as we can describe real people using the Myers-Briggs® typology system, we can also type well-written fictional characters. Some of fiction’s most iconic and intriguing characters are INFJs and today we’re going to talk about seven that I think real-life INFJs will find relatable.
One great thing about looking at character personality types is that it helps us better understand people who have different types than we do. Fictional INFJs can serve as examples for what real-life INFJs might be like, and also show how much variation can exist between individuals with the same type.
The things that makes INFJs such great fictional characters are some of the same things that make them such interesting people. Though the rarest personality type on the planet, INFJs are fairly common in fiction. They’re thoughtful, introspective characters with a unique way of looking at the world and a keen interest in other people.
It’s fascinating to read the narrator of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov discuss the story’s hero Alexi Karamazov (more often called by his nickname Alyosha/Alesha). He spends most of the introduction apologizing for presenting readers with such an unusual hero. “He is by no means a great man,” the narrator explains, but he is doubtless “a strange man, even an odd one.” He was strange “from the cradle,” growing up a quiet child preoccupied by something inside him while at the same time loving people. I’m sure many INFJs can relate to that in their own childhoods — liking other people but being too preoccupied by their inner worlds to be considered sociable.
As the story progresses, we see Alyosha dreads conflict with a loathing that I think all INFJs (and the other FJ types as well) can relate to. We see him weeping when others are hurt, displaying the empathy that’s so much a part of real-life INFJs. We see him make social blunders in an effort to make everyone happy and at peace, all with an INFJ’s insistence on working toward harmony in all situations. Like so many INFJs, he’s sensitive, emotional, indecisive on certain things (though quite decisive in others), and isn’t afraid to appear weak so long as he’s being true to his beliefs. Read more →
What fictional characters do you relate to as an ESTJ?
Just as we can describe real people using the Myers-Briggs® typology system, we can also type well-written fictional characters. Some of fiction’s most iconic and intriguing characters are ESTJs and today we’re going to talk about seven that I think real-life ESTJs will find relatable.
One great thing about looking at character personality types is that it helps us better understand people who have different types than we do. Fictional ESTJs can serve as examples for what real-life ESTJs might be like, and also show how much variation can exist between individuals with the same type.
The things that makes ESTJs such great fictional characters are much the same things that makes them such interesting people in real life. They tend to be well organized, disciplined, and skilled at making tough decisions. This makes them excellent leaders, something we see in most of the ESTJ characters on this list.
I haven’t seen Taken, but Susan Storm lists Bryan Mills as the ESTJ in her post “The Greatest Movie Heroes of Every Myers-Briggs® Personality Type.” She says that he “He embodies the quick-thinking precise nature of the ESTJ. He knows how to take charge, create an effective plan, and can easily give instructions to other people over the phone on how to move forward.” Like so many TJ types, he’s able to put emotions aside and take decisive, logical action.
As for the other aspects of his character, Susan says, “Mills shows his Introverted Sensing (Si) in the way he systematically pays attention to everything around him.” Like other ESTJs, he’s a detail-oriented person and can easily recall important information. He also relies on skills acquired in his past to solve the problems of his present situations — something SJ types tend to do very well.
Eve Baird from The Librarians is a fairly stereotypical example of an ESTJ in fiction, embodying the ESTJ’s blunt demeanor, no-nonsense attitude, and ability to keep things moving forward. ESTJs like Eve are grounded in reality and care about keeping the world running as it should be, a trait Eve devotes to keeping the Library safe and magical artifacts out of the wrong hands. Though she can seem gruff, she’s very loyal and cares deeply about people (a TJ trait that’s often overlooked).
Like other ESTJs, Eve’s preferred mental process of Extroverted Thinking involves measuring and managing impersonal criteria when making decisions. There are examples of this in literally every episode. Her co-pilot process is Introverted Sensing, which filters everything she learns learn through the lens of her own memories and experiences. That’s not to say ESTJs are inflexible. Once given enough information to work with, they’re quick to adapt their actions to match the situation. Anything else would be inefficient. This is partly due to the fact that they prioritize effectiveness, and partly due to their tertiary Extroverted Intuition.
Leia Organa of the Star Wars saga has a much different personality type than your typical princess figure in fiction. Most are Feeling types, but Leia’s response to Darth Vader, her criticism of her seemingly inept rescuers in A New Hope, and the way she instantly takes charge of every situation are characteristic of dominant Te types. She’s a take-charge sort of person who is fiercely loyal to family and values, and expects the same level of commitment from others.
Like other Sensing types, Leia’s focus is on the here and now. Even through she and the Rebellion (and later the Resistance) are fighting to change the future of the galaxy, she does that by shaping the present in a practical way. Her strengths as an ESTJ type make her a fantastic leader both in the Rebellion against the Empire and, later, in a variety of political and leadership roles. She also makes good use of her tertiary Extroverted Intuition (especially later in life) to help her see multiple solutions to problems and adapt quickly to changing situations.
Nick Fury from the MCU might be more of an ENTJ than an ESTJ, but I include him on this list because I think ESTJs will find the way he uses the TJ side of his personality relatable and (depending on how you read his character) there’s also an argument to be made that he is an ESTJ type. Either way, Fury leads with a strong Extroverted Thinking function and (like many real-life ESTJs) he’s good at crashing through red tape to get the job done. He has zero patience for people who make stupid decisions, and he has cultivated the power needed to go around them.
Fury is motivated to make the world a safer place, even if he has to do that in ways that make other people like ISFJ Captain America uncomfortable. He’s concerned with the big picture and future security (more typical of ENTJs, but could be an ESTJ’s tertiary Extroverted Intuition). He is also highly pragmatic and makes decisions based on what he has learned in the past (more typical of ESTJs).
If you haven’t yet watched Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood I highly recommend it. It’s full of amazing characters, including ESTJ Olivier Armstrong. She is an extremely talented leader who commands absolute loyalty from her troops. While people might see her (and, in many cases, real-life ESTJs) as harsh and critical, those who get to know her find her scrupulously honest and see she doesn’t expect anything less of herself than she demands from others.
Major General Armstrong is the sort of character who self-confident, aggressive, go-getting ESTJs will find highly relatable. She doesn’t let other people, circumstances, or even herself stand in the way of what she wants to accomplish. She lives in a world of concrete facts and is devoted to a strong, efficient moral code much like many real-life SJ types.
Peter Pevensie has been my favorite character from The Chronicles of Narnia since seeing the 2005 movie for The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (I didn’t read the books until later). In our modern world, ESTJs have a reputation for being the hard-hitting, no-nonsense types that steamroll anyone in their way. Peter’s an example of the more gentle, guardian-like role that characterizes certain ESTJ types.
Like many ESTJs, Peter likes to be in charge but he doesn’t abuse his power. He uses it for others’ good, and is reliable, practical, and logical in all his roles from eldest sibling to high king. He takes his responsibilities very seriously, even making them part of his identity, and has a hard time adjusting to the real world once he has to leave Narnia. Like many real-life SJ types, he doesn’t like change and it takes him a while to figure out how to navigate new situations if he doesn’t have an existing framework for interpreting reality.
Like many real-life ESTJs, Tiana from Disney’s The Princess and the Frog is never shy about sharing her thoughts or making decisive decisions. She’s assertive and expressive in the face of friends, creditors, and villains alike. With her strong work ethic, family-focus, and adherence to doing what’s right, Tiana is strong example of the SJ Guardian type. She also has another trait I’ve noticed in SJs — they are, as Naveen observes, “secretly funny.”
Even better, Tiana isn’t an SJ stereotype. Many people assume types using Introverted Sensing as one of their functions are unimaginative, solidly traditional, and somewhat boring. That’s far from being true. Like other Sensing types, SJs are concerned with taking in information about the world around them, but they’re also interpreting that information in a highly subjective way. And so you get Tiana, building up a dream of the future that doesn’t look practical to outside observers, but makes perfect sense within her framework of reality. Her dream is solid, detailed, planned, and responsible.
What did you think of this list? If you’re an ESTJ, which fictional characters do you relate to best? Is there anyone you’d add to or take off of this list? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
What fictional characters do you relate to as an ESFP?
Just as we can describe real people using the Myers-Briggs® typology system, we can also type well-written fictional characters. Some of fiction’s most iconic and intriguing characters are ESFPs and today we’re going to talk about seven that I think real-life ESFPs will find relatable.
One great thing about looking at character personality types is that it helps us better understand people who have different types than we do. Fictional ESFPs can serve as examples for what real-life ESFPs might be like, and also show how much variation can exist between individuals with the same type.
The things that makes ESFPs such great fictional characters are much the same things that make them so magnetic in real-life. ESFPs are engaging, passionate people who love “tangible reality” (to quote Jung’s description of Sensation types). They’re charming, interested in other people, and often have a talent for entertaining. Plus, ESFPs also have a highly practical side. It’s no wonder the fictional versions of this type can make for such intriguing characters!
Like other EP types, Amelia Pond from Doctor Who thrives on new experiences. More specific to ESPs is the fact that Amy is very much in-tune with the physical world and finds ways (like modeling and working as a Kissogram) to engage with that world in sensual ways. She’s also easily bored when there aren’t new places to explore and experiences to be had (which is one reason she loves traveling with the Doctor).
Though a Feeling type, Amy is guarded with her emotions and often struggles with picking up on what other people are feeling. The Feeling side of her personality is turned inward, and mostly shows up as a strong desire to be true to her authentic self. She makes decisions based on what she believes is right. When she does share her thought processes, it’s mostly in a no-nonsense way that makes use of her tertiary Extroverted Thinking. She’s one of the fictional ESFPs that demonstrates this type has much more to offer than just being the life of the party. They can also be intelligent, stubborn, and principled people like Amy. Read more →