ISTP Functions: Primary and Supporting Cognitive Functions of this Personality Type


From big personalities to soft-spoken temperaments, everyone can be placed into one of the 16 Myers-Briggs personality type categories. Those who tend to be a little more on the serious, silent type will most likely be ISTP, which indicates introverted, sensing, thinking, and perceiving.

The primary function of personality type ISTP is introverted thinking. People who belong to the personality type ISTP tend to be deep thinkers, independent, and very serious. However, there are more functions to each personality type than just their primary, dominant functions.

People that fall into the ISTP personality type are often the ones to use finely-tuned logical concepts to govern their movements through the world. They can be aloof and independent, but this is just one aspect of the totality of an ISTP’s functions. Read on for all of the information about this thoughtful and introverted personality.

Functions of ISTP

ISTPs are independent thinkers with a keen insight into the emotions and feelings of others. They tend to work hard and think in a matter-of-fact way, struggling to conceptualize abstract ideas. All this is represented by their primary functions of Introverted Thinking, Extroverted Feeling, Introverted Intuition, and Extroverted Sensing.

These character traits are a result of the functions of the ISTP personality type, which are demonstrated in the table below:

Introverted Extroverted
Thinking Feeling
Intuition Sensing

Introverted Thinking

The ISTP personality type has many different functions, but none are as significant as their introverted thinking. People in this personality type are likely to be less talkative than others. People from the outside perspective may see them as recluses because they pour themselves into their planning and thoughts; these are people with a plan.

Here are some key characteristics of people with the personality type ISTP:

  • Deep thinkers
  • Independent workers
  • Soft-spoken
  • Stoic and unguided by emotion
  • Problem solvers

People in this personality type will often struggle with their introverted thinking and their extroverted feeling. This will see them diving into their work as an individual and putting their plans into action with subtle charm and likeability. They are not likely to talk anyone’s ear off, but people will find them pleasant and likeable at the very least.

This contrast between introverted thinking and extroverted feeling can create a struggle with the duality of self for the person in this personality type. Many people could confuse their dynamism as hypocritical or dishonest behavior. What the observer will fail to see is that this personality type is more complicated than being quiet and thoughtful.

The need for practicality resulting from this personality’s dominant function of introverted thinking will constantly clash with one of its other functions, extroverted feeling. These contradicting functions will create a daily struggle for identity in those that belong to this personality type. As the dominant function, introverted thinking will win the day more often than not.

Extroverted Feeling

People can be much more dynamic than one might think. This is very true of ISTPs: while their introverted thinking will usually carry the day, their extroverted feeling will certainly be expressed as well. This struggle between practicality and style will be a constant back and forth for those in this personality type to face.

Here are some typical characteristics of extroverted feeling:

  • High levels of emotional intelligence
  • Perceptive of people’s wants and needs
  • Comfortability with social settings

As an extroverted feeler, people with the personality type ISTP will find themselves tuned in to the social scene. They will excel at reading the emotions of other people and expressing themselves in an effective way. This will make them highly approachable and very likeable to those with whom they interact on a daily basis.

Their auxiliary function, extroverted thinking, makes ISTP capable of being much more sociable than one might think.

It can be difficult to narrow down what a person with the ISTP personality type will be like from day to day. Times for planning will see them withdraw into an independent state of study and reasoning. Times for actions will find them at the forefront of the scene, ready to do what needs to be done to see their plans come to life.

Extroverted feelers are wonderful leaders and motivators. They know how to get the most out of people and respond as necessary to elicit the responses they desire. Extroverted feelers are naturally in the pulse of things and find themselves being looked to with respect and admiration, so their emotional intelligence is naturally a terrific asset.

Introverted Intuition

People that belong to the personality type ISTP are more apt to develop their understanding of the world through the analysis of their past experiences. ISTPs draw from life experiences to develop a deeper understanding and perception of the world in a manner that is less immediate than those with a more extroverted intuition.

People in the ISTP category intuit unconsciously: their perception of the world and those within it are created through repeated interaction. Because of this, ISTPs tend to achieve objective insights into the people and matters that influence them the most. They tend to be less theoretically minded, focusing on concrete experiences.

ISTP people tend to draw conclusions from the following:

  • Prolonged interactions with familiar people
  • Exposure to specific ideas or concepts over a long period of time
  • Personal observation of phenomena

ISTPs can struggle to conceptualize things they cannot see or have not experienced. The best way for them to achieve a mental image or understanding of something is to manipulate or experience it physically. ISTP people tend to think about things in a way that is governed by logic, facts, and personal experience.

This matter-of-fact approach to discerning meaning and developing insight comes without effort. ISTPs are less likely to ponder the significance of certain experiences and more likely to be guided by the emotions and experiences they elicited. They develop and refine their stances as their perceptions change over long periods of time.

Extroverted Sensing

ISTPs love a challenge — their extroverted sensing draws them to tasks that push them to their limits in one respect or another. Because of this, ISTPs make excellent athletes and competitors who need to be stimulated with new experiences to enrich their lives and push them to success. ISTPs love to see what new challenge lies ahead.

Routines can be a struggle for people that belong to the personality group ISTP. People in this group often find themselves lacking focus in areas that are too familiar or not challenging enough. A change to one’s routine can be a breath of fresh air to a bored ISTP, while tasks that can hold their interest will satisfy their need to experience new things.

ISTPs experience the five senses in a way that is more detailed than other personality types do. They are much more likely to find interests in small details that others would tend to miss. Their need to discover fosters a childlike sense of curiosity and wonder in things that more introverted sensors might find plain or mundane.

ISTPs love to create things, an extroverted sensors tend to be artists, mechanics, and artisans. Their attention to detail, obsession with new experiences, and need to work with their hands draw them to these professions. Many of the great creative minds in the history of the world have been ISTPs with highly extroverted sensing.

Drives and Obsessions

One of the most attractive and beneficial traits of people in the personality type ISTP can also be their biggest obstacle to overcome under certain circumstances. ISTPs thrive in professions that require them to create things with their hands, search out patterns of irregularities in data, or challenge them in different ways regularly.

Even in these professions or hobbies, it is very easy for ISTPs to become overwhelmed with their workload if a challenge becomes too much or their need to create something perfect interferes with their level of productivity. Their need to push themselves can lead to an unhealthy amount of stress and anxiety.

Here are five ways ISTPs can avoid overworking:

  1. Exploring another hobby or interest
  2. Watching a show they can become emotionally invested in
  3. Connecting with their spouse or significant other regularly
  4. Sharing an interest or project with others
  5. Doing puzzles that satisfy their extroverted sensing function

ISTPs have been known to become workaholics under certain circumstances, and this can lead to problems in their personal lives. Their tendency to be more aloof and independent can lead ISTPs to throw themselves into their work or hobbies as they strive to satisfy their need to create, observe, and experience new things.

ISTPs that can balance their work and personal lives are incredibly efficient producers. Their attention to detail, ability to immerse themselves in the work they love to do, and need to challenge themselves can set them apart from people in other personality types. The key for ISTPs is to find the difference between drive and obsession.

Emotional Acrobatics

ISTPs’ extroverted feeling can lead to unpredictable interactions with other personality types. ISTPs can experience infatuation in ways that are naïve and more childlike. They can become swept up with the romantic gestures of other personality types that have a stronger sense of feeling, which directly challenges their sense of logic and factuality.

Due to the fact that extroverted feeling is their inferior function, ISTPs struggle to assert their emotions. They tend to find their feelings after the encounter or moment has passed. Because of this, ISTPs are usually the ones that are being pursued in romantic relationships by those in whom feeling is more dominant.

ISTPs struggle to find their emotions but have little trouble pushing them aside to focus on matters at hand. This is evident in their tendency to be more aloof and independent than other personality types. Their emotions are usually conjured by a second party that appeals to their feelings in a way that ISTPs were not presently conscious of.

ISTPs are fantastic empathizers because of this delayed process of contacting their own emotions. They can easily perceive the emotions of those with whom they are interacting and subconsciously activate their own like feelings. The fact that their emotions are expressed when triggered by outside influences results in fickle feelings.

Behavioral Balances

ISTPs will constantly be caught between their extroverted feeling and introverted intuition. These two functions of the personality type can often contradict each other and force the ISTP person into emotional turmoil. ISTPs will often struggle to find the balance between their work ethic and need to be admired, respected, and valued.

As mentioned before, ISTPs are prone to developing workaholic tendencies. These tendencies are brought on by their intense need for affirmation and praise and are compounded by their need to challenge and immerse themselves in the task at hand. These two traits can see the ISTP person overworked and living unhealthily.

Although ISTPs have an apt insight into the emotions of those around them, they struggle to express theirs, especially when doing so would damage their image or relationships with others. This can lead to the ISTP person expressing their emotions in passive-aggressive ways as opposed to directly addressing them with those in their life.

When people that are in the personality type ISTP perform a task, they tend to obsess over specific details due to their extroverted sensing function. They will prefer to handle the project on their own due to their introverted thinking function as well as their need to be respected and valued which is brought on by their function of extroverted feeling.

Strengths Weaknesses
Attention to detail Risky behavior
Competitiveness Obstinacy
Creativity Boredom
Openness to challenge Distractedness

Poor Conflict Resolution

When people with the personality type ISTP have embraced an extreme work ethic to gain the approval of those around them and to satisfy their desire to push themselves, they are likely to create distance with those who are closest to them. This can lead to tension that the ISTP is not likely to directly address.

Partners of ISTPs could see their relationship deteriorating while the ISTP spouse is overworking in an effort to uphold their image and receive validation from those in their life. ISTPs usually prefer to work alone due to their introverted thinking function. This can cause the ISTP to become absent and isolated.

While ISTPs are generally reticent and stay out of trouble, their poor conflict resolution can cause problems should they ever come to blows.

Here are three ways that ISTPs can improve their ability to address conflict:

  1. Appealing to their extroverted sensing to identify the needs of others
  2. Satisfying their introverted thinking function to analyze their inaction
  3. Thinking through the drawbacks of unhealthy communication

ISTPs are not likely to directly address the person with whom they are experiencing tension due to their extroverted feeling, which gives them a great desire to be looked at in a positive way. They might be overly worried that a direct confrontation would damage their image or relationships in a serious way.

This trepidation and unwillingness to take an active role in conflict resolution can lead to the ISTP person expressing their displeasure in ways that are passive-aggressive which could lead to further deterioration in their relationships. People with this personality type will often struggle to express themselves in a serious and healthy way.

Emotional Stability and Development

As with everything, balance is the key to success and wellness among ISTPs. Once an ISTP has learned their tendencies and identified their triggers, they will be more likely to develop strategies to control and combat them, respectively. Achieving this balance can be a mark of sincere personal growth.

ISTPs are very likely to become isolated workaholics that are emotionally unavailable. This will inevitably lead to poor quality of life and affect those around the ISTP in a negative way as well. The ISTP needs to know when to take a step back and reevaluate the task at hand before diving in too deep.

It is important that the ISTP does not ignore their needs while attempting to balance their work-drive with their personal relationships. Their extroverted sensing and introverted thinking are incredible assets as well. As employees, entrepreneurs, or volunteers, ISTPs often set the standards by which all others will be measured.

Their insight into the emotions of those around them is a wonderful asset. This allows them to sense another’s mood effectively and stir feelings in themselves as well. Despite this, they are too cautious when it comes to expressing their own feelings, which can lead to tension and isolation. ISTP people will develop when they find balance.

Success and Problem Solving

Despite the serious risk of succumbing to workaholism, ISTP people are often successful in their pursuits. They tend to excel at the things they have set their mind to. ISTP people that can channel their drive into the work often achieve the goals they have set for themselves, satisfying their extroverted sensing function.

Their drive is typically brought on by their need to be valued and respected which is brought on by their function of extroverted feeling. The need to develop and maintain a positive image is a recurring theme for many ISTP people, which can result in a tenacious devotion to achieving success.

Here are five careers in which ISTPs tend to find success:

  1. Detective
  2. Athlete
  3. Surveyor
  4. Artist
  5. Carpenter

Another personality function that can bolster an ISTP’s odds of success is their introverted thinking. This will push them to study data and work on solutions as an individual. ISTPs do not rely on the aid of others to solve problems or think critically, which results in greater independence and efficiency.

Due to the unique combination of their cognitive functions, ISTP people are hardworking, creative thinkers, and great at problem-solving. Their work ethic tends to border on obsession, but, when channeled in a healthy way, it can result in high levels of productivity and achievement; many successful people are ISTPs.

Conclusion

People in the type ISTP will struggle to find balance among the functions of their personality. ISTP people will struggle to express their emotions when it might impact their relationships or image in a negative way which could do even more damage in turn. Many of the problems ISTPs face will be self-created or perpetuated.

ISTPs make excellent employees and entrepreneurs due to their extroverted sensing and introverted thinking functions. Their extroverted sensing can offer them a wonderful insight into the feelings and needs of others. They are hardworking, independent, and empathetic people who are likely to find success in life.

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