Why Woodrow Wilson Is INTJ

“For Heaven’s sake never allude to Wilson as an idealist or militaire or altruist. He is a doctrinaire which he can be so safely with his personal ambition. … He hasn’t a touch of idealism in him. … [He’s] an utterly selfish and coldblooded politician always.” – Theodore Roosevelt, quoted in Kessler: Inside the White House Pocket Books 1996

“Wilson’s profile … is notable for … a low score on Agreeableness. … He scored highest of all presidents on Simonton’s Inflexibility scale [and was] most similar to Adams. … [Wilson] was ‘recalled as a man whose inability to compromise at critical times led to devastating defeats.’” – Steven J. Rubenzer and Thomas R. Faschingbauer: Personality, Character, and Leadership in the White House Potomac Books 2004

By Dylan Shapiro, with additions by Ryan Smith

The ‘default’ type assessment of Woodrow Wilson is as an Ni type, i.e. as an INJ. He has often been portrayed as a full-blooded idealist, reluctantly compelled to commit the United States to war but at heart a pacifist and a dreamer who, according to his psychological biographers William Bullitt and Sigmund Freud, “esteemed nothing higher than human motives and opinions.” Going by such accounts, one could understandably be led to believe that Wilson was an INFJ type, but this view of Wilson is not in accordance with the historical reality.

woodrowwilson1An early influential account of Wilson as a tender-hearted idealist was offered by the Bullitt-Freud account just mentioned. But since its inception, historians and psychologists have universally derided Bullitt and Freud’s analysis of Wilson. To give but two examples, psychologist Erik Erikson called the book “disastrously bad” and historian A.J.P. Taylor called the book “a disgrace.” Indeed, more recent studies have done away with the image of Wilson as a soft-spoken idealist and revealed a power-loving, dogged visionary. As such, it is my assertion that Wilson was INTJ rather than INFJ.

Why Wilson Is Not Fe/Ti

In Jungian typology, INFJs have Fe/Ti while INTJs have Te/Fi. Fe, or Extraverted Feeling, is characterized by a cooperative and mutualistic attitude that furthers its aims in the outer world through appeals to appropriate and commonly accepted social mores. Fe’s strength is typically to be found in the realm of social interaction, deploying soothing sentiment and furthering group harmony in order to sway others to the will of the Fe type. And while it is clear that Thomas Jefferson possessed these powers in abundance, Wilson did not.

In their study to compute and compile the Big Five scores of the various U.S. presidents, the psychologists Steven Rubenzer and Thomas Faschingbauer found that while Jefferson’s score on Agreeableness was the 51st percentile, Wilson’s was the 13th. Since Fe is the Jungian function that, by nature, is the most agreeable, it is unlikely (but not impossible) that Wilson, with his very low Agreeableness score, had auxiliary Fe. Indeed, as we know from decades of Big Five research, a person with low Agreeableness is likely to be argumentative and stubborn when others disagree with his views, which is really diametrically opposed to the soothing and appropriate Fe mode of approach.

As examples of this high-Agreeableness Fe, Thomas Jefferson himself said that: “In stating rules … I must not omit the important one of never entering into argument with another. I never saw an instance of disputants convincing each other by argument.” He also said that: “Self-love … [leads] us [to violate] our moral duties to others.” Wilson, on the other hand, according to the Rubenzer and Faschingbauer study, “was not modest or cooperative” and “was emphatic in asserting his judgments.” Both of these observations are in stark contrast to Jefferson’s manner. They suggest that Wilson did not exhibit an Fe mode of expression.

INTJ and INTJ: Wilson Compared to Adams

big fiveOn the other hand, if one compares Wilson to John Adams, striking similarities emerge. First, Adams’s Big Five scores look like a caricature of Wilson’s, but follow the same pattern: High Neuroticism and Conscientiousness, moderately high Openness, and low Extraversion and Agreeableness. Rubenzer and Faschingbauer’s study even groups Adams and Wilson while grouping Jefferson with other Fe types.

Aside from their very similar Big Five scores, Adams and Wilson share other similarities. Notably, both of them had extremely low scores on Interpersonal Style in the Rubenzer and Faschingbauer study, alluding again, perhaps, to the (all else being equal) lower interpersonal agreeableness of the INTJ when compared to the INFJ. Of all the U.S. presidents from Washington to Bush Jr., Wilson was deemed the lowest on the Interpersonal Style parameter, and Adams was deemed the second lowest.

Wilson’s Writings

Another way to determine whether Wilson was INFJ or INTJ is to pore over the body of Wilson’s political writings: When we examine Wilson’s political thought prior to his ascension to the presidency, we find indeed that Wilson’s writings contain many ideas that oppose those values and mental contents that we usually associate with Fe/Ti.

As previously detailed on this website, a person who has an Fe/Ti axis is more likely to believe that all people are created equal and that everyone should be held to the same standard (as indeed many of the founding documents of the United States, penned by Thomas Jefferson, seem to suggest). Conversely, a person with a Te/Fi axis is more likely to believe, a priori, that all people are not created equal and that it is thus mistaken to hold all people to the same standards. Setting aside the matter of FP types, in whom Fi is stronger than Te, a common belief of the TJ types, not just in politics but with regards to organizational principles as a whole, is that those who are the most competent should make the decisions while most others absolutely should not. In addition, a TJ type would be more likely to believe only in laws that are executable, as opposed to the more open-ended theoretical political principles which Fe/Ti types would be more inclined to enshrine as law. Though we are dealing here with mental contents (not processes), Wilson, during his academic career as a political scientist, argued for exactly the things we would expect of a TJ type. In his book Constitutional Government of the United States, Wilson wrote:

“No doubt a great deal of nonsense has been talked about the inalienable rights of the individual, and a great deal that was mere vague sentiment and pleasing speculation has been put forward as fundamental principle. The rights of man are easy to discourse of, may be very pleasingly magnified in the sentences of such constitutions as it used to satisfy the revolutionary ardor of French leaders to draw up and affect to put into operation; but they are infinitely hard to translate into practice. Such theories are never ‘law,’ no matter what the name or the formal authority of the document in which they are embodied. Only that is ‘law’ which can be executed, and the abstract rights of man are singularly difficult of execution. None the less, vague talk and ineffectual theory though there may be, the individual is indisputably the original, the first fact of liberty. Nations are made up of individuals, and the dealings of government with individuals are the ultimate and perfect test of its constitutional character. Liberty belongs to the individual, or it does not exist.”

In a few sentences Wilson scorns and mocks the abstract ideals of the Declaration of Independence while at the same time advocating more concretely executable practices of tangible law and individual-based liberty. Likewise, in the essay The Study of Administration, Wilson laconically asserts that “the bulk of mankind is rigidly unphilosophical, and nowadays the bulk of mankind votes,” and then proceeds to remark:

“In government, as in virtue, the hardest of things is to make progress. Formerly the reason for this was that the single person who was sovereign was generally either selfish, ignorant, timid, or a fool – albeit there was now and again one who was wise. Nowadays the reason is that the many, the people, who are sovereign have no single ear which one can approach, and are selfish, ignorant, timid, stubborn, or foolish with the selfishness, the ignorances, the stubbornnesses, the timidities, or the follies of several thousand persons – albeit there are hundreds who are wise. Once the advantage of the reformer was that the sovereign’s mind had a definite locality, that it was contained in one man’s head, and that consequently it could be gotten at; though it was his disadvantage that the mind learned only reluctantly or only in small quantities, or was under the influence of someone who let it learn only the wrong things. Now, on the contrary, the reformer is bewildered by the fact that the sovereign’s mind has no definite locality, but is contained in a voting majority of several million heads; and embarrassed by the fact that the mind of this sovereign also is under the influence of favorites, who are none the less favorites in a good old-fashioned sense of the word because they are not persons by preconceived opinions; i.e., prejudices which are not to be reasoned with because they are not the children of reason.”

Where once a reformer could appeal to one person and possibly convince them to change their mind, now the elective body of the people forms a group a million strong, and to reason with such a body is nearly impossible. Ultimately, Wilson’s solution to the problem of the masses is to create a bureaucracy drawn from the select minority of wise individuals and to make that bureaucracy independent of popular opinion, thereby commissioning a public bureau of skilled, economical administrators.

While we may say that this hierarchization of people points more to Te/Fi than Ti/Fe, all else being equal, it is nevertheless not beyond INFJ philosophers, such as Plato, to arrive at similar conclusions: Most people are base natures and only a few are fit to rule. However, where Plato holds holistic insight into “the whole of the good” as the primary qualification to rule, Wilson’s stated arguments are those of competence, proper training, and professionalism – the expertise itself entitles the few to rule rather than any alleged connection with an ineffable greater whole. In his own words, Wilson eschews “theoretical perfection” in government, while Plato and Jefferson appear guided by it. To Plato, there are people who are competent, but not insightful (Republic §485bc), whereas to Wilson, competence and insight seem to be inseparably connected as two sides of the same coin. Given that a cat has to be skinned, we are simply to establish the most rational and effective way to skin the cat. Amorphous considerations supplanted onto the task of skinning the cat, but not directly related to it, appear superfluous to Wilson.

Wilson’s preference for objectively measurable efficiency over theoretical perfection and his confounding of the efficient execution of a task with its moral value both suggest Te over Ti and Fe, but perhaps Wilson’s own terseness will make the point better than any exposition offered by us. In Wilson’s own words, “seeing every day new things which the state ought to do, the next thing is to see clearly how it ought to do them. … This is why there should be a science of administration which shall seek to straighten the paths of government.”

Why Wilson Is Te/Fi

Most of the evidence we have supplied for Wilson being a Te/Fi type so far has come from his academic career, which preceded his ascension to the presidency. As president, Wilson seemingly exhibited much more idealistic characteristics, and it is from this period of his life that the popular image of Wilson as an idealist is derived.

However, it is our contention that closer inspection of Wilson’s characteristics as president only serves to make his Te/Fi axis even clearer. One cardinal difference between INFJ and INTJ is the differing nature of how they translate the dictates of Introverted Intuition into action: Because INTJs have Te, they tend to translate their visions into something pragmatic and clear-cut; something that allows itself to be determined by outer objects and tasks while diminishing the holistic nature of the original Ni vision (Psychological Types §583). Hence when the original amorphous observations (Ni) are transformed into a series of specific injunctions (Te), the transformation tends to entail a certain lessening of the purity of their ideas. Conversely, INFJs have no Te and thus no need to transform the discernments of Ni into reductionistic and clear-cut conclusions. Consequently the mental processes of an INFJ are frequently more nebulous and abstract, rendering them more idealistic, but also less applicable to reality.

If one were to examine Wilson’s speeches and rhetoric from his presidential period, it would perhaps be understandable if one came away with the impression that INFJ was the better fit for Wilson’s personality. Yet as is so often the case in politics, rhetoric can be beguiling; indeed it often serves to mask the unpopular aspects of a politician’s underlying ideology or agenda.

In spite of the popular image of Wilson as a soft-spoken idealist, there is an ongoing scholarly debate over whether Wilson was really a hard-nosed realist or a starry-eyed, too-good-for-this-world idealist. The debate has raged for nearly a century and has still not been resolved. Yet if Wilson’s visions were so unabashedly idealistic, then why the need for this ongoing debate?

Even in the world of Jungian typology, both sides have been taken: There are those, including Keirsey, who class him as an STJ type, portraying him as a pragmatic realist with little need for impractical intellectual introspections, while at the other end there are those who class Wilson as an INFJ, supposedly on account of him being a full-blooded idealist type (and perhaps being led on by Bullitt and Freud’s “disastrously bad” but widely-read account of Wilson’s personality that was discussed above).

It is our suspicion that this century-old and perennially enduring divide in scholarly opinion may itself offer a clue to Wilson’s true leanings: He was neither an unabashed realist nor a pure-blooded idealist, but rather something in-between – a “pragmatic idealist.”

Wilson’s Factual Empiricism

“[We have not] adjusted to the facts of the case, and until we do, and unless we do, the facts of the case will always have the better of the argument.” – Woodrow Wilson: The New Freedom

One salient distinction between INTJs and INFJs is that INTJs, having Te, tend to be more empirically oriented than INFJs who have Fe/Ti and who are therefore more guided by principles and ideals. Wilson, despite his sometimes moralistic exterior as president, was really an empiricist with regards to the mental processes that led him to his conclusion. In the book Reconsidering Woodrow Wilson Trygve Throntveit explains:

“Empirical yet empathetic; reformist yet restrained – what exactly was the nature of the progressive politics Wilson brought to the White House? His injunction against drawing-board reforms sounds like the creed of a conservative, while his rejection of ideological rigidity created a safe distance from the ‘radicals’ of his day. Yet his legislative accomplishments in office mark him as one of the most radical reformers to occupy the presidency. In fact, the sweeping changes he effected in office can only be understood as the product of a skeptical and deliberative yet creative and adaptive mind – as the work of radical empiricist in politics.”

In other words, it may well be that “the facts as they were” – the arbitrary historical starting point that Wilson inherited as president – formed the irrefutable psychological basis of the changes that Wilson instituted in office. Rather than the nemesis of a radical and principled idealist, “the facts as they were” were Wilson’s enablers – the stepping stones that allowed him to see clearly the ways in which he wanted to reform the American government.

This characterization, if true, points again to a preference for Te over Ti in Wilson’s psyche. As explained in Psychological Types, Te types tend to begin with the facts before moving onto principles and theory, whereas with Ti types, the reverse is often true. Despite his idealistic aura as President, Wilson’s thought had empiricist origins.

Wilson’s Pacifism, Hegel, and the League of Nations

“Wilson’s thought owes a substantial intellectual debt to G. W. F. Hegel, especially when one considers the historicism and organic state theory that serve as the backbone for Wilson’s political arguments.” – Ronald J. Pestritto: Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism

“[Hegel] used to search for – and in most cases, find, it seems to me – the fundamental psychological facts of society.” – Woodrow Wilson: Personal Letter to Ellen Louise Axson

Finally, a large part of Wilson’s reputation as an idealist is grounded in his founding of the League of Nations and his ostensible love of peace. This is the popular view that Rubenzer and Faschingbauer allude to when they say that “Wilson is remembered as visionary, a man ahead of his time, whose dream did see eventual fulfillment in the United Nations.” If Wilson were indeed just someone who dreamt of reciprocal relations amongst all nations with no ulterior motives, then in terms of mental contents, then this longing might suggest the workings of an otherworldly INFJ over an empirical INTJ concerned with the practical efficiency and purpose of his commendations.

However, it is our contention that, far from forming an antithesis to Wilson’s political writings from before he was president, Wilson’s internationalist agenda as president and support for the League of Nations is actually a continuation of the same view of politics that Wilson had been espousing all along. In his essay The Wilsonian Chimera, the historian Stephen Wertheim argues that “understanding Wilson‘s political thought is especially important to understanding his internationalism.” Indeed, as Wertheim sees it, Wilson’s political ideas as an academic were wholly integrated into his ideals as President. This is our contention also.

As the quotes furnished above make clear, Wilson was strongly influenced by the philosophy of G.W.F. Hegel. Far from the popular image of the League of Nations as a forerunner to the United Nations that we know today with its use of conventions as a mode of ethics, it may well be that Wilson viewed the League of Nations as the embryo of “a fuller global polity,” that is to say, as a form of Hegelian teleological integration of world politics in its progress towards the end goal of history. Hence the Wilson of the pre-president years who had written that “seeing every day new things which the state ought to do … there should be a science of administration which shall seek to straighten the paths of government” is not at all different from the Wilson of the later president years who advocated an internationalist order as a step on the road towards global government.

If this analysis is agreed to, it will no longer make sense to view Wilson as a moralistic idealist or the savior-like persona that he is sometimes perceived as. Wilson did dream and he did have definite visions but his dreams were of a Hegelian nature and laden with empiricism. Overall, when examining Wilson’s thought and actions, there is little evidence of principled idealism and much evidence of pragmatic empiricism in spite of the outwardly idealistic rhetoric that he sometimes employed.


If the point that Woodrow Wilson was an Ni type is granted, the only feasible possibilities are INTJ or INFJ. Though Wilson may seem moralistic and idealistic at first glance, this view of him appears untenable once the full range of his life and work is factored in. In reality, Wilson was neither a realist nor an idealist, but rather something in-between – a “pragmatic progressivist.” Because Wilson was neither one nor the other, a century-long debate has ensued over whether he was really a realist or an idealist, and this debate has never been fully resolved.

However, examining Wilson’s viewpoints from before the presidency and reconciling them with his actions as president, we see that Wilson held empiricist and pragmatic leanings. His conclusions were thought through empirically, in spite of the seemingly idealistic conclusions he sometimes reached.

A final point of curiosity may be that Wilson’s personal values (namely self-love, power, measurable efficiency, self-confidence and a pride in standing firm in the face of opposition) are diametrically opposed to Jefferson’s beliefs in equality, modesty, mutuality, moral righteousness, and avoiding debate. While Wilson’s values are different from Jefferson’s, they are similar to those of John Adams. Wilson’s Big Five scores also closely resemble Adams’s in all regards but diverge strongly from Jefferson’s on Agreeableness, which correlates with the T/F dimension as known from the Jungian system.


Photo of Wilson restored especially for this publication by artist AnushyaDevi Jeyaram.


Bullitt & Freud: Woodrow Wilson: A Psychological Study Houghton Mifflin 1966
Garrett: Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events, 1880s-1930s University of Georgia Press 2011
Pestritto: Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism Rowman & Littlefield 2005
Rubenzer & Faschingbauer: Personality, Character, and Leadership in the White House Potomac Books 2004
Throntveit, in Cooper (ed.): Reconsidering Woodrow Wilson: Progressivism, Internationalism, War, and Peace Woodrow Wilson Center Press 2008
Wilson: Constitutional Government in the United States Quid Pro Books 2011
Wilson: The New Freedom Mundus Publishing 1965
Wilson: The Study of Public Administration Public Affairs Press 1955

Todd Essig’s Misconstrual of the MBTI

By Sigurd Arild and Eva Gregersen

In a quote that is popularly misattributed to Joseph Goebbels, it is said that “if you repeat a lie often enough, it eventually becomes the truth.” Since Adam Grant kicked off his sensationalist critique of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) last year, there has been no shortage of uninformed bloggers willing to sacrifice scientific integrity in order to bring down the Myers-Briggs. The latest of these derogators is Todd Essig, in a piece written for Forbes.

Since we have dealt with the majority of the issues raised by Essig long ago, we will ignore the idle repetitions and only respond to what’s new in his piece. Essig could have saved himself and his employers at Forbes some embarrassing misconstruals if he had read our previous articles first.

Here, in brief, is why Essig’s article fails:

Essig’s headline says that the MBTI is “meaningless.”

But the MBTI is not “meaningless.” Every single scientific, peer-reviewed study ever conducted into the validity of the MBTI has ended up concluding that there is some truth to the assessments yielded by the MBTI, while at the same time it is also true that the instrument has noticeable shortcomings.

Essig writes that: “The MBTI is pretty much nonsense, sciencey snake oil. As is well-established by research, it has no more reliability and validity than a good Tarot card reading.”

But Essig is flat-out wrong here. There is no well-established body of research proving that the MBTI has “about the same reliability as Tarot cards.” To furnish evidence for his point, Essig links to a scientific article. But this article does not conclude that the MBTI has no more reliability than a Tarot reading – on the contrary, the article concludes that “The available evidence suggests that the MBTI does measure constructs related to personality.” So the very article provided by Essig himself concludes the opposite of what Essig says it does.

Like Adam Grant, Essig belongs to a band of MBTI critics who are so willing to bring down the Myers-Briggs that they are willing to misquote from the scientific sources when they can’t find proper studies to back up their assertions.

Essig then addresses one of the well-known empirical problems with the MBTI instrument, namely that it breaks the indices measured into halves. Essig purports to illustrate this weakness by the following analogy: “Consider an imaginary single-letter Myers-Briggs Weight Indicator. The fictional MBWI, just like its namesake, is an either/or designation. You stand on the MBWI scale and it says your weight type is either obese (O) or anorectic (A). Can you imagine taking that seriously? Saying one’s weight is either obese (O) or anorectic (A) is not just lacking validity, it’s actually pretty absurd. And so too is the MBTI itself with its “four pairs of opposing preferences.” Personality traits just don’t fit the either/or structure of the MBTI any more than weight does. And like our absurd fictional example, it is absurd to say they do.”

The basic criticism voiced here is a sound one – the cut-up indices are an empirical problem for the MBTI. But the analogy is misleading because it suggests that the MBTI’s categories are either 0 or 100 when in fact its categories are rather 0-50 and 51-100. In Essig’s own analogy, it would be more accurate to say that the MBTI purported to tell you whether your body weight was over or under 150 pounds, not whether you were anorectic or obese.

However, as we have previously covered on the site, the MBTI is not an end in itself: It is an attempt to quantify C.G. Jung’s cognitive theory empirically, which means that the scores yielded by the MBTI are indicators and should not be taken to be direct depictions of the type preferences involved, just like a column of smoke should not be taken to be fire itself, but indeed can often be taken as a legitimate indicator of fire.

Finally, Essig gives us a rundown of some of the criticisms that his own reporting is based off: Adam Grant, Joseph Stromberg, and Drake Baer, as well as a New York Times article re-hashing the pieces of Adam Grant, Joseph Stromberg, and Drake Baer. In other words, we are dealing with a mindless copy-paste job of fallacious reasoning going back and forth between the usual suspects, all of whom we have previously debunked on the site, and all of whom can be demonstrated to be ignorant of even the most basic tenets concerning the MBTI. There is nothing new going on here – it is merely par for the course that the lie, repeated often enough, eventually becomes the truth.


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ENTJ vs. ENFJ: When Te and Fe Collide

Raja Burrows is a contributing guest writer for CelebrityTypes. As with other guest writers on the site (such as Malin Gustavsson, Michael Pierce, and Jesse Gerroir), the views expressed in this article are not necessarily completely overlapping with our own.

By Raja Burrows

Extraverted Thinking (Te) and Extraverted Feeling (Fe) have much in common. They are both extraverted judging functions and, as such, naturally goal-oriented and closure-seeking. ENTJs and ENFJs have these functions in the dominant position, and are often seen as “powerhouses” with “big, dynamic personalities.” For the most part, both types also tend to eagerly assume leadership positions, and rarely opt to blend into the background.

The natural tenacity of Te and Fe is often magnified by the auxiliary Introverted Intuition (Ni) and the tertiary Extraverted Sensation (Se) of the ENJ types. As a rule, the convergent, austere nature of Ni paired with the broad, carnal nature of Se gives well-developed ENJ types the ability to adapt to changing circumstances while simultaneously maintaining the integrity of their visions. Of course, this is not always the case, and it’s especially important to be aware of the bias against sensation in ENJ types. Even though they don’t repress their Se like INJ types do, it is still far more comfortable for an ENJ type to remain detached from immediate reality and true to their subjective plans and ideals than to wholeheartedly immerse themselves in reality as it appears in the here and now.

buldozerheartredoBut for all their similarities, ENTJs and ENFJs engage the world in fundamentally different ways. The ENTJ’s dominant Te means that she will gravitate more naturally towards an impersonal solution which she arrived at through the use of objective data. It might rightly be said of imbalanced Te that “all the world’s a spreadsheet, and all the men and women merely cells.” But even in the case of healthier Te types who are somewhat more attuned to their Introverted Feeling (Fi), the idea of each person being his or her own, individual “cell” still very much applies. All Fi users (TJ and FP types) experience their feelings as being distinct from those around them, something that is particularly evident in the Fi-dominant IFP types. As a result, ENTJs may see feelings as an unnecessary distraction from the ultimate goal they’re pursuing. And since they experience feelings in such a subjective, individualized way, it is unlikely that they will take into account the overall “mood” of the room, or the emotional ambience that sometimes greets their plans as a mild form of resistance. (There is one exception to this obliviousness, however, and that is if the ENTJ notices that the discord is negatively impacting productivity; in such a case she will be inclined to do whatever it takes to get everyone back on track. But this newfound amiability doesn’t mean that the ENTJ is using Fe directly; rather, the ENTJ is softening her ordinarily no-nonsense style as a concession towards her ultimate goal.)

Compare the ENFJ

For the ENFJ, it’s just the opposite: A harmonious emotional ambience is not just a means but an end in itself. Whether she’s giving a lecture on astrophysics or championing civil rights for a disenfranchised minority group, the ENFJ’s experience of closure is bound to be strongest when feelings of goodwill fill the air. True to Fe, she is willing to sacrifice some sincerity in the name of group harmony and social appropriateness in a way that doesn’t quite sit right with dominant Te and which is utterly foreign to inferior Fi.

True to Fe, the ENFJ sees feelings as being malleable and belonging to the group as a whole. However, her instinct to soothe and smooth over potential conflict may come at the expense of unresolved inner tensions in her logic, which is the result of her repressing her Introverted Thinking (Ti).

When Ti is repressed in ENFJs, it often results in a smooth surface with fragile foundations underneath. When Fi is repressed in ENTJs, the result is a brawny battering ram with no heart behind it.  If an ENTJ and an ENFJ are on the same page, their union is truly a force to be reckoned with. In conflict, however, things can get ugly and fast. ENTJs naturally relish conflict and see it as the natural way for the best ideas to rise to the top. Their tendency in an argument is to multiply facts, piling facts upon facts and browbeating their opponent with them until they submit. ENFJs, however, will naturally look for ways to find common ground with their adversary and win arguments by persuading the opposition with succinct, “unimpeachable” appeals, rather than brute force. Unfortunately, such appeals are the exact opposite of what an ETJ wants. Te is all about establishing hierarchy, and there’s almost nothing an ENTJ loves more than winning by a landslide (preferably of the objectively measurable kind). But if they must lose, they want to lose to a worthy opponent who was proven to be objectively superior – not by being wrapped up in velvety appeals to mutuality where the conflict was avoided and the logic was unclear.

It is just as wrong to say that ENFJs are “illogical” as it is to say that ENTJs are “unemotional.” Just because Thinking and Feeling are their inferior functions, respectively, it doesn’t mean they are not there. And there are many ways for an ENFJ and an ENTJ to reach compromise, especially since they both have similar access to Ni and Se. But when Thinking and Feeling are contested between them, it is in the best interest of both to recognize the unique challenges that arise from having inferior Fi and Ti, respectively. They should cultivate that awareness as much as possible, and try to use that knowledge to rationalize the compromises they will inevitably have to make.


Image in the article commissioned for this publication from artist Francesca Elettra.

An Interview with Steven Pinker

Interview by Ryan Smith

Steven Pinker is the Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University and Chair of the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary. Dr. Pinker has been named as one of the world’s most influential intellectuals and his work has won numerous awards. He is the author of 10 books, including his latest volume, The Sense of Style, which is subtitled ‘The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century.’

Dr. Pinker, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions regarding your new book, The Sense of Style, and perhaps also a question or two concerning your other books.

I’ve enjoyed your site, and am happy to chat with you.

IIevX5rRWhen I tell people that your new book is about writing in style, they typically remark that it was an obvious subject for you to tackle (since your own style is widely appreciated). But ideas that are blindingly obvious in hindsight are not always so obvious at the moment of their conception. How did you come upon the idea of writing a book about writing?

Like most of my book projects, it had been ricocheting in the back of my mind for many years, waiting for an occasion that would make me decide to do it as the next project. My previous book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, was on genocide, war, torture, rape, sadism, and domestic violence. So I decided I should next write a book on really controversial topics, like split infinitives and fused participles. Seriously, I like to alternate books on human nature with books on language. The immediate impetus to do the style manual that had long been on my mind was the clumsy copy-editing done on the manuscript for Better Angels – the copy-editor was clearly following a number of rules robotically, like switching every passive sentence into the active voice. It’s true that academics, politicians, and corporate hacks overuse the passive, but it’s not true that you can improve prose by eliminating the passive—in many contexts, the passive is the better choice. I decided that the world needed a style manual that explained the rationale behind rules of style, rather than just listing them, and that those rationales ultimately came from my fields of expertise, psycholinguistics and cognitive science.

Your writing style is generally acknowledged to be elegant, entertaining, and clear. I assume that you, like most other good writers, weren’t born with this ability. How has your own process been in learning to write well? Can you share a little of your ‘coming of age’ story when it comes to acquiring the sense of style? Also, is there anyone in particular – a book, teacher, or role model – whom you look back upon as having had a foundational impact on your writing style?

Starting in grad school, I began to consume style manuals, both to improve my writing and as a source of phenomena that were relevant to my interest in psycholinguistics. But as I say in the new book, most writers acquire their craft not by consulting style manuals but by reading a lot, and savoring and reverse-engineering examples of good writing. I was particularly influenced by two gifted prose stylists who were also brilliant pioneers in the psychology of language: George A. Miller, famous (among other things) for his “Magical Number Seven Plus or Minus Two” paper, and my advisor Roger Brown, who wrote Words and Things in 1957 and founded the modern study of child language acquisition.

Books on how to write well generally have a reputation for being tedious. The market is saturated with titles still in print, and a common criticism is that they are all cut from the same cloth. As a prospective reader, how can I expect The Sense of Style to be different from other style manuals?

pinker2The “thinking person’s guide” in the subtitle alludes to the fact that I explain the rationale behind my advice, rather than issuing edicts, so that readers have a way of judging why and when they should apply a particular guideline. Together with cognitive science and psycholinguistics, this requires a look at the study of usage, and here my experience as Chair of the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary is relevant. Most people assume that dictionaries are like the rules committee of Major League Baseball – the stipulators and arbitrators of correctness. In fact, dictionaries cultivate an ear for actual usage, particularly among careful writers, and craft their definitions and usage notes accordingly. My advice on traditional questions of correct usage – whether to end a sentence with a preposition, whether aggravate can be used to mean “annoy” as well as “intensify” – are based on data and historical evidence on how these forms are used by careful writers, not on my peeves and prejudices.

One thing I hear that a lot of college professors inculcate into their students these days is that “good writing is re-writing.” As a consequence, a lot of college graduates seem to be under the impression that the more they re-write, the better. But on the other hand, a common criticism of first-time academic authors is that their books are “overwritten” and that they seek to impress with posture rather than substance. What advice would you give to fledgling authors who have yet to find their own sense of style?

The advice is good. The “overwritten” quality of academese does not come from too many revisions. Quite the contrary – it’s surprisingly easy to write in turgid mush. It takes a lot of work and skill to write clearly and elegantly.

You have previously been active in the field of Evolutionary Psychology and that theoretical framework has either underpinned, or been the overt topic of, several of your books. Since you first wrote about the subject, there has been a deluge of writings on Evolutionary Psychology and it can be very hard for the non-specialist to separate the wheat from the chaff. How do you see the field of Evolutionary Psychology today versus, say, 12 years ago when you wrote The Blank Slate?

It’s matured tremendously, and has become an indispensable part of psychology today. This is not to say that every hypothesis is correct, just that psychologists are increasingly realizing that no psychological explanation is complete unless it says something on the phylogenetic and adaptive basis of a trait.

Lastly, I’m sure our readers would find it amusing if you could point out an error of style that I have committed in this interview.

I didn’t spot any errors, but then I don’t think that playing “Gotcha!” is the best way to encourage good writing – clarity and coherence are far more important than avoiding the occasional error of usage or diction.

Well, I guess in your own way you ‘got me’ there – Dr. Pinker, thank you for doing this interview and best of luck with your new book, The Sense of Style.

Many thanks for having me on the site.


Dr. Pinker’s new book, The Sense of Style, is available via Amazon.

Shankara’s Criticism of Yogacara

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Presidential Personality

Presidential Personality

The Context of Pauli’s Typings

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Tips for the Fledgling Psychologist

Malin Gustavsson is a contributing guest writer for CelebrityTypes. In this article, Gustavsson draws on her personal experience as a therapist to share some tips on how to be an effective counselor. As with other guest writers on the site (such as Michael Pierce and Jesse Gerroir) we do not necessarily agree with Gustavsson on every point. In fact, we positively disagree with Gustavsson on the importance of diagnosis. Still, we consider her admonition to be a valuable counterpart to our usual perspective.

By Malin Gustavsson

In this article I am going to provide a handful of tips for the psychologist who wants to better his or her therapeutic skills. Though people have come to think of “psychologists” as being merely the members of one specific profession, my view is rather that we are really all psychologists.

cupidoLikewise, because the history of psychotherapy has focused heavily on abnormal people and clinical settings, the cartoonish image of the therapist as an all-knowing expert has been allowed to form in people’s minds. This image tends to obscure the fact that we are all therapists in different areas of our lives and that our loved ones may benefit from our therapeutic assistance when dealing with a whole range of everyday situations. Commonplace problems, such as deciding whether or not to accept a given promotion, may just as easily benefit from being met with therapeutic assistance as clinical ones. So here are some tips for the fledgling psychologist.

Tip #1: Help the Other Person Become Himself

A fundamental mistake that people make when approaching the practice of psychotherapy is that they think of it as advice-giving: The better the advice that is given to the patient, the more of a psychologist you are (or so the thinking goes). Viewed through these spectacles, psychotherapy almost becomes a sort of guide to the stock-exchange: “Buy!”, “Sell!”, “Up!”, “Down!” Follow the therapist’s advice and all of your problems will be naught.

When practicing psychotherapy, a useful rule of thumb is that even if the person is genuinely in doubt about what to do, the psychologist should think of the therapeutic situation as if the other person already knows what to do. She carries the answer inside herself; she just hasn’t been able to clarify that answer to her conscious mind yet. The task of the psychologist in therapy is really to help the other person figure out what she is going to do of her own accord – not to give advice or to be the infallible expert that the patient will look up to.

Again, because the misleading image of the dejected patient and the all-knowing therapist has been allowed to form in people’s minds, people all too often assume that the patient is a weak and indecisive individual with no resourcefulness of her own. But the truth is that most of us are able to come to our own conclusions if we’re encouraged to, allowed to, and listened attentively to.

Think of it like this: When the patient presents a problem, the lazy psychologist will search his pre-existing and personal knowledge to come up with an answer and deliver the best possible piece of advice to the patient. “Your boyfriend doesn’t clean up after himself and expects you to do all the housework? – Of course you should move out!”

This is a mistake – a form of laziness that even many professional psychologists fall prey to. The diligent psychologist will instead remind herself that there is a wealth of emotional nuance and factual information that she is not privy to and which she has not experienced first-hand.

As wonderful a gift as the practice of psychotherapy is, there is still a whole range of things that therapy cannot do. For example, if a person is not emotionally ready to leave her relationship, there is nothing you can say from your own perspective that will impart that readiness to her. It has to come of her own volition, and it will come of her own volition, once the therapist helps her clarify her own thoughts and emotions by reflecting the elements of her own considerations back to her.

The exception to this rule is when the other person is trapped in a relationship with overtly violent elements. In such situations, it is permissible, even advisable, to use whatever authority or closeness you have with the other person to get her to leave the relationship. The reason it can be okay to advise someone to get out of a violent relationship is because a person’s base biological instincts take over when one is habitually subjected to violence. The person who lives in fear cannot rationally decide whether she wants to remain in a relationship or not – her limbic system has kicked in and is deciding for her.

Tip #2: Be Cautious About Diagnosis

While CelebrityTypes obviously places great value on diagnosis here on the site, the psychologist should nevertheless be wary of making diagnosis too central a component of the therapeutic situation. Way too often, diagnosis becomes an attempt to transplant a hard-science mindset onto the practice of psychotherapy – a setting in which such certitude is neither desirable nor possible.

Of course, the practice of proper diagnosis is critical when dealing with patients beset by conditions that have a firm biological foundation (e.g. schizophrenia, epilepsy, brain disease, etc.). But in everyday psychotherapy, diagnosis becomes less crucial. It can even be counterproductive.

The dangers of applying diagnosis should be obvious to most students of psychology: A diagnosis is an idealized prototype, but the actual patient is a concrete and specific phenotype that is shaped by her unique blend of experiences and dispositions. Once we apply a diagnosis (such as a Jungian type or DSM style) everything about the patient that conforms to the type or style immediately springs to mind. This sudden blaze of illumination can be helpful, of course, but it often comes at the cost of our neglect of those aspects of the other person’s psyche that do not fit the diagnosis.

A diagnosis may also become a self-fulfilling prophecy, especially in a clinical setting where the therapist is imbued with medical authority. From the very earliest days of psychology, the field has been rife with patients who unwittingly became more “borderline” or “narcissistic” because the therapist kept referring to them as such. It was hardly a coincidence that the sexually deprived Freud and the erotically licentious Jung kept discovering “hysterical” women who needed help sorting out their sex lives.

Even when applying a diagnosis, the psychologist should always keep the relatively poor reliability of the Jungian types and the DSM styles in mind. Even the mighty Big Five system of personality, so often hailed as the gold standard in psychometric testing, cannot relieve the therapist of his obligation to engage with the whole human being.

Tip #3: Help the Patient Develop Empathy

When people are struggling with problems that are within the normal range of psychological functioning, the gist of their problems can often be traced back to an inability to develop and deploy proper empathy in their relationships.

For the majority of relations in life, empathy is the key to developing meaningful relationships with others. Think about the most empathetic person you know: Even if you don’t like that person when thinking of him critically and from afar, chances are that you nevertheless tend to be charmed by him in the hours that follow an extended interaction between the two of you. This ambiguity illustrates the raw power of empathy to act as the plaster that binds people together and which leads them to perceive relations with one another as meaningful.

Obviously, not every patient is able to develop empathy to the level that could ideally be desired. Like a person’s capacity for mathematics, much of a person’s empathic ability is inborn and cannot be altered by the therapeutic process. Yet no matter what capacity for empathy the other person brings to counseling, the therapist must approach the conversation with an optimistic mindset. The fact that an ideal outcome is not always achievable does not discount whatever actual gains the patient is able to make.

Like I mentioned in tip #1, the psychologist should not set out to equip the patient with a textbook understanding of empathy. The patient is fully capable of acquiring such knowledge of her own accord or to pursue such knowledge in other settings. Instead, the therapist should use the here-and-now of the therapeutic situation to be empathetic towards the patient, so that she will experience empathy first-hand. If the psychologist is successful in getting the patient to feel that the two of them are sharing an empathic connection, the patient will quite naturally wish to extend that feeling to other important people in her life. And she will do so all by herself.


Image of Hermes in the article commissioned from artist Francesca Elettra.

This article provides educational information on psychotherapy. The information is provided “as-is” and should not be construed to constitute professional services or warranties of any kind.

Function Biases in Buddhism and Vedanta

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Is It Possible to Change Types?

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