This is the start of a mini series talking about the 4 main cognitive functions of the INTP. If you’re unsure about if you’re an INTP, you can check out this article first.
We all have 8 functions, but the bottom 4 (called “shadow functions'') don’t show up as much in our lives. So for now we’ll just focus on introducing the top 4 functions of the INTP.
As INTPs we naturally gravitate toward the introverted sides of ourselves. So it will likely be more exciting to talk about our Introverted Thinking and Introverted Sensing parts of our personality. The extroverted sides can get a little tricky and tough to get comfortable with, but we'll be okay. When we get to talking about the extroverted functions, we’ll work through this together and I’ll help you understand a little more about how to access and utilize them.
But in this article we’ll start with an introduction to Introverted Thinking.
Accuracy & Scrutiny
Introverted Thinking is a function that is commonly known as “accuracy,” if you follow Personality Hacker. They are where I learned most of my knowledge around INTPs. I also have followed Personality Junkie and Dr. A.J. Drenth. He has a couple of really amazing books on INTPs. My personal favorite is “The INTP Quest.”
It was really helpful in understanding the trickiness and absurdity that comes with being an INTP because Introverted Thinking is really good at scrutinizing. We scrutinize ourselves, ask ourselves all sorts of questions, and battle cognitive dissonance at every turn. We then often scrutinize and battle cognitive dissonance with other people as a result of doing it with ourselves.
And because we constantly do it to ourselves and are used to self-managing, we kind of expect other people to do the same. So it gets really tricky when we try to bring our Introverted Thinking out to other people. We'll talk about that more when we get to Extroverted Feeling in an upcoming article.
Introverted Thinking is really about calibration. And I'm talking about the healthy version of Introverted Thinking.
On its own, Introverted Thinking has no emotion attached to it. It’s about collecting and organizing data. If you think about Tony Stark working with J.A.R.V.I.S. as he throws around bits of information. Introverted Thinking works kind of like that.
When you’re first starting out as a young INTP you’re often collecting any information you can find, but as you get older you start to focus a bit more on collecting information for something that you’re interested in—a personal research project. Perhaps you’re trying to learn more about computers, writing code, video games...or some other INTP cliché.
So we have to collect disparate information until it eventually all starts to line up. Introverted Thinking is really good at looking at all the individual bits of data and connecting them. It’s sort of a Ti and Ne combination, but Ti is really good at organizing all of these seemingly disparate pieces of information. And it’s something we can normally access pretty quickly—pulling all sorts of random trivia from our minds as it connects to something that might be useful. It’s an interesting and unique type of intelligence.
Subjectively Seeking Objectivity
It’s important to remember that it's an introverted thinking function. Therefore, it is a subjective thinking process. It can get really tricky because an introverted thinker can believe they have an objective thinking process. The goal is to get as close to objectivity as possible. But I think if you're really doing good Introverted Thinking work you inherently know that there is bias in everything. It's really hard to be completely objective, but we're going to still try to get as close to it as we can.
When we are working toward objectivity we may sometimes share our opinion as if it's fact. But it's important (and a pivotal part of our growth) to make sure that we understand that Introverted Thinking is a subjective thinking experience. It has to make sense to us in order to take data seriously and move forward with it.
And, again, because it's subjective, we are constantly scrutinizing ourselves. At any point we are leading with a decision making function, so we are making all sorts of little decisions throughout our lives. And that can mean that we're a little bit contradictory at times. For example, you can have a conviction towards a thought one day and then you get presented with new information that can lead to the next day having a completely different conviction that contradicts the thing that you were thinking yesterday.
It's kind of like rewriting code. We do that in our minds all the time as Introverted Thinkers. We are constantly assessing and rewriting our personal code to sort of come up with new ways to approach a problem or to fill in our sense of knowing. So Introverted Thinking does a lot of that for us. And I think that's really important to remember, if anything, is that Introverted Thinking is a subjective thinking process.
Harmful Use - Cold Criticism
Now another problem that can come as a result of Introverted Thinking (and its connection to Extroverted Feeling inherently) is that we want to correct other people. If we're not using Extroverted Intuition correctly, it can be a little bit rigid, meaning it's gonna pair up with Introverted Sensing, which we'll talk about in a few articles. It can get a little bit rigid in terms of looking for perfection and perfect objection. And you can start correcting people too much or poking at people a little too inappropriately, I guess you could say. In a way that's kind of hurtful and not helpful to a common problem. For example, you could be pointing out someone's misspelling and missing the context of what they're trying to say.
While Introverted Thinking is also about finding truths, again, what we're really looking for is cognitive dissonance to remove to get to a truth. We eliminate in order to reveal what is true. We gather all sorts of bits of information, scrutinize it, eliminate what’s not true, and then what's left must be true.
So that can get really tricky when it comes to something like nihilism, right? I think a lot of INTPs can sort of absorb a sense of nihilism because we are capable of drilling down and down and down and down so deep that life can get pretty absurd, right? And life can get absurd to the point where it feels like nothing really means anything if you really think about it.
But I tend to think that if you get to a place where you can drill down to the point of absurdity and not have a clear answer, then there's maybe something along the way that you eliminated that did not need to be eliminated. Or maybe you just haven’t gotten enough information yet.
And I think sometimes nihilism can be a problem for INTPs. Not that nihilism is necessarily inherently a bad thing; it can be fine for some people. But in terms of gratitude, appreciation, and stuff that we're going to talk about more in terms of Extroverted Intuition in our next article. I think nihilism can happen more often for an Introverted Thinker who doesn't experience enough life. Because the more information you have, the more information you can properly scrutinize and eliminate to reveal what is actually true, instead of revealing nothing to be true. If you're revealing nothing to be true, then you just haven't found the information that should be left.
I'm gonna try to explain that one more time. I think as an INTP you probably understand what I mean. The point is to eliminate and scrutinize so that there is something left. So that what is left is true. But if you scrutinize so much that you eliminate everything, then you haven't found “the thing” yet.
I think that applies to most things for Introverted Thinkers. But I want you to contemplate that. Now I could be wrong; I could be missing information for myself too. But I found it in most cases, including in my own life. I've gone down the nihilism paths. I've gone down the atheism path. It's not about finding religion or spirituality in particular, but it's more about gratitude, which we'll talk about in the next segment about Extroverted Intuition.
So for now, I think that covers a lot of what Introverted Thinking is, and in the Cosmic Calibration for INTPs course, we talk about it in a little more detail, and I give some more advice to help you understand your introverted thinking a little bit more, find a way to utilize it as a strength, become better at sifting in ways that are actually helpful, rewriting your own personal code in ways that are most beneficial, and connecting your Introverted Thinking to other functions.
Because, again, Introverted Thinking on its own in a vacuum can be kind of cold and sometimes cruel because you're just trying to point out truths and remove dissonance. And sometimes that means not considering Extroverted Intuition needs, Extroverted Feeling needs, or Introverted Sensing needs. And if you just do it in a vacuum, then you're just demolishing things for the sake of demolishing things. There has to be some kind of a purpose tied to it. So that's why we talk about that in the cosmic calibration program.