What is an INTP?
INTP is an acronym used to describe one of the sixteen personality types created by Katharine Briggs and Isabel Myers. It stands for Introverted, iNtuitive, Thinking, Perceiving. INTP indicates a person who is energized by time alone (Introverted), who focuses on ideas and concepts rather than facts and details (iNtuitive), who makes decisions based on logic and reason (Thinking) and who prefers to be spontaneous and flexible rather than planned and organized (Perceiving). INTPs are sometimes referred to as Architect personalities because of their intuitive understanding of complex systems.
The INTP Personality Type
INTPs are philosophical innovators, fascinated by logical analysis, systems, and design. They are preoccupied with theory, and search for the universal law behind everything they see. They want to understand the unifying themes of life, in all their complexity.
INTPs are detached, analytical observers who can seem oblivious to the world around them because they are so deeply absorbed in thought. They spend much of their time focused internally: exploring concepts, making connections, and seeking understanding. To the Architect, life is an ongoing inquiry into the mysteries of the universe.
How the INTP Thinks
For the INTP, thinking is nearly an art form, not to mention a favorite activity and pastime. As the INTP takes in information, he or she is focused externally, observing the data of his or her world and experience in terms of patterns, associations and broad theories and concepts. Making connections between seemingly disparate ideas and identifying overarching themes and patterns, INTPs ride the conceptual wave, connecting the dots in creative ways that others may not readily see.
Logical, analytical, abstract and theoretical, INTPs go deep into thought to organize their observations and interpretations internally. Using their Thinking (T) component, they reason out their conclusions, making sure that no matter what, they stand the tests of logic. People of this type may, at times, even be described as “hyper-logical.”
INTPs are creative thinkers and savvy problem solvers and it wouldn’t be out of bounds to call them “ingenious.” They are non-conformists in the ways that they think, process data and approach the conundrums they face in life and work. And they’re typically lone rangers in their thought work. Rather than talk the matter out or bring others into their thoughts or plans, they’ll do their ideating within the secluded safe havens of their own minds.
INTPs are driven to understand how things work and to comprehend complex systems. It isn’t enough for them to accept at face value the way the world and its many systems and natural laws operate. They prefer to dissect, explore and learn exactly how these pieces or entities function and how theories can be applied—and they have the mental capacity to do so. INTPs tend to question everything they possibly can, seeking always to get to the bottom of things. Curious and mentally active, they want to know the underlying rules, principles and theories that explain our world and the way it works.
INTPs are comprehensive in thinking out their projects and the solutions to the problems they are working on, visualizing them from beginning to end and with all of the exact details in tact and in order. But their Perceiving (P) function will mean they’ll be tempted to keep changing, amending and “improving,” and thus may have a hard time deciding to leave the plan as it is and just get started on it.
INTPs are often more excited about what is going on in their imaginations, and the potential they see there, than real-life reality and the world of actual details. They want no limits on their thinking, innovating and inventing, and will reject any perceived roadblocks. For example, in order to better understand how the universe functions or how one of their theories would play out, they may temporarily pretend natural laws don’t exist. They believe in the possibility of their own dreams and imaginations, and are motivated to test limits, push boundaries and find out exactly where everything in the universe stands. Once they understand the rules, they want to figure out how to break them.
INTPs are lifelong learners and mental sponges—they never stop seeking, experimenting, questioning or trying to attain knowledge and understanding. They enjoy the study of foreign languages and relish mind games and logic puzzles. Despite the INTP’s characteristically high level of intelligence, however, people of this type often don’t perform particularly well in school or in accordance with their level of intelligence. Being unwilling to conform to the boundaries enforced by school and teachers, and preferring to think and learn in their own way, they often suffer a diminished grade.
INTP Values and Motivations
INTPs present a cool exterior but are privately passionate about reason, analysis, and innovation. They seek to create complex systems of understanding to unify the principles they've observed in their environments. Their minds are complicated and active, and they will go to great mental lengths trying to devise ingenious solutions to interesting problems.
The INTP is typically non-traditional, and more likely to reason out their own individual way of doing things than to follow the crowd. The INTP is suspicious of assumptions and conventions, and eager to break apart ideas that others take for granted. INTPs are merciless when analyzing concepts and beliefs, and hold little sacred. They are often baffled by other people who remain loyal to ideology that doesn't make logical sense.
The INTP Hierarchy of Priorities
INTPs place a high priority on the quest for truth. They see this as their worthiest mission and it will consume much of their lives. In addition to pursuing absolute truth, they are animated by the tasks of clarification and explanation, and they are well equipped to handle these endeavors. Whether the truth they arrive at, the explanation they come up with or the clarity they provide has any practical application is largely irrelevant to them; it is a worthy pursuit for its own sake. INTPs tend to believe they owe it to the world to uphold truth and demolish error. To see error or discrepancy and just “let it go” is to do a great disservice to their field of study or work, their cause and humanity in general.
Connected to the search for truth and explanation is the INTP’s focus on problem solving and discovery. They habitually investigate what makes people, objects and organisms tick and will spend a lot of time thinking, researching and dissecting. They value knowledge as well as mastery. INTPs prioritize learning and mental work for the very sake of it; it need not have any practical application or cash value.
What the INTP Values
Above all, INTPs value truth and reason, no matter where it is found—from the mouths of babes or the most skilled masters and experts. They are democratic and seek authenticity, not persuaded by that which the rest of society may consider influential; image does little for them. Logic and objectivity prevail and are the qualities they hold dear.
INTPs also place a premium on independent thinking, freedom, autonomy and the ability to self-determine. They’re not seeking to control anyone else, and they would only ask the same respect and latitude in return. They are generally non-judgmental, but will need to see a clear display of logic if they are to esteem and/or espouse the thinking or position of someone else.
INTPs value people and the small group of relationships they do maintain, but on the whole, they tend to appreciate, and experience affection for, humanity as a whole over individual humans. Always taking the big picture view, they are more interested in the collective and the grand scheme or plan than the individual or the micro-level perspective.
Low on the totem pole of their value hierarchy are social standing, status, popularity, wealth and security. They will willingly take great personal and financial risks for the sake of their ideas, or the potentialities that they want to pursue. Freedom for thinking and developing their ideas and theories will always carry more weight with them than money or status. Externals, social norms and accepted conduct simply do not resonate with INTP types and usually sail over their heads unnoticed.
What Guides the INTP in Life
The INTP is guided in life by his or her quest for ultimate truth and highest-level of understanding and mastery. This is the INTP’s calling and mission—to discover what is true, to understand it, and then to clarify and explain it to the world. They are driven to pursue deep knowledge of the subjects that matter to them—often science, mathematics and technology—and will, without even considering it, invest their lives in these kinds of pursuits. From early childhood to old age, the INTP will be learning, exploring and seeking to comprehend and explain.
INTPs desire not just to know and understand simply for their own enjoyment and satisfaction, but are driven to spread their important ideas in the hope of enlightening humanity and impacting the world in a positive way. This will involve attempting to make the abstract and theoretical concrete and tangible, and taking unexplainable ideas, concepts and truths and finding ways of explaining and communicating them. No matter the field or area of interest, they will spend much of their lives doing this.
INTP Ethics and Morality
The INTP’s ethical system is structured around his or her understanding of what is objectively true and what can be backed by logic and reason. This is their highest law. They aren’t characteristically rule followers, and while they won’t be blatantly rebellious toward the dictates of society, they aren’t afraid to break rules, laws or norms that don’t make sense to them.
Of all personality types, INTPs are the least likely to adopt religious beliefs or to put their faith in a spiritual life or Higher Power. This, however, does not mean that INTPs, as a type, reject religion, spiritual tenets or philosophies wholesale, but that they will need to be able to analyze any of the above in order to determine its tenability within their framework of logic.
What Motivates the INTP
INTPs spend their days seeking improvement and the betterment of systems, products and the self. This is their worthy cause and one of the main calls getting them out of bed in the morning. They want to know, and are determined to find out: is there a better idea, a better way or simply a different method that hasn’t been tried?
The INTP feels a duty to society and the common good to work through the problems of the world in order to find solutions and explanations. This doesn’t necessarily imply humanitarian or social issues. INTPs are primarily driven to solve the scientific, mathematic and technological enigmas of the universe. They see a higher purpose in this.
INTPs also invest a significant amount of their time devising solutions and imagining improvements, but whether or not they are ever realized or brought to market is not of the highest importance. People of this type genuinely love thinking and ideating just for the sake of it. If their ideas, theories and mental endeavors can translate to practical value and application, all the better, but this does not undermine the value of the activity for its own sake.
How Others See the INTP
INTPs are often thoroughly engaged in their own thoughts, and usually appear to others to be offbeat and unconventional. The INTP’s mind is a most active place, and their inward orientation can mean that they neglect superficial things like home décor or appropriate clothing. They don’t tend to bother with small talk but can become downright passionate when talking about science, mathematics, computers, or the larger theoretical problems of the universe. Reality is often of only passing interest to the Architect, as they are more interested in the theory behind it all.
INTPs are typically precise in their speech, and communicate complex ideas with carefully chosen words. They insist on intellectual rigor in even the most casual of conversations, and will readily point out inconsistencies of thought or reasoning. Social niceties may fall by the wayside for an INTP who is more interested in analyzing logic, and they may offend others by submitting their dearly held values and beliefs to logical scrutiny.
INTP Hobbies and Interests
Popular leisure activities for an INTP include reading, art and cultural events, chess and other strategy games, writing, taking classes, working with computers, backpacking, hiking, and meditation.
Quotes About INTPs
"INTPs are perhaps the most intellectually profound of all the types."
- Isabel Briggs Myers, Gifts Differing
"What is important is that the underlying structures of the universe be uncovered and articulated, and that whatever is stated about the universe be stated correctly, with coherence and without redundancy."
- David Keirsey, Please Understand Me II
"INTPs are free-spirited idea mills and absentminded professors, which makes them fun to be around, easily diverted, and a plethora of unending creativity."
- Otto Kroeger, Type Talk at Work
Facts about INTPs
Interesting facts about the INTP:
- On personality trait measures, score as Candid, Ingenious, Complicated, Independent, and Rebellious
- More likely than other types to study a foreign language
- Most frequent type among college students committing alcohol and drug policy violations
- Have lowest level of coping resources of all the types (with ISTPs)
- One of types least likely to believe in a higher spiritual power
- Highest of all types in career dissatisfaction (with INFPs)
- In school, have lower grades than would be predicted from aptitude scores
- More likely than average to complete engineering programs
- Personal values include Autonomy, Freedom, and Independence
- Overrepresented among working MBA students
- Commonly found in science and technical occupations
Source: MBTI Manual