Personality type for dummies: Part 1 – the basics

Something that’s been part of my life for a while now (some 5-6 years I’d estimate) is the personality type system variously called Myers-Briggs, MBTI, Jungian typology, or just “typology”. You know, INTJ’s, ENFP’s, ESTJ’s, etc. When I say “part of my life”, I mean “stuck in my head”. I used to be extremely interested in typology, reading deep into the theory and spending a lot of time trying to figure out the personality types of every person I met and fictional character I watched. Read my previous post about why and how I use typology.

My interest in typology has waned, but it’s something that sticks in my head. I still type people (and fictional characters). At this point it’s like a reflex rather than a conscious thought process. Once a user of typology, always a user of typology, etc.

If typology interests or has ever interested you, I’m writing this post to give you a crash course in the theory and practice of typing others and yourself. Why? That it’s an amusing trainspotting exercise aside, understanding typology is worthwhile for the sake of understanding how people’s brains work differently, exactly how other people’s brains are different from yours, and why people act the way they do. Ultimately, by better understanding others and yourself, you can use it to improve your relationships—which is an eminently worthwhile end. Also, it’s really fun to guess the Twelfth Doctor’s MBTI type.

This post ended up being a lot longer than I anticipated, so here’s a table of contents of sorts to signpost what’s ahead:

  1. What’s this about
  2. The cognitive functions
  3. Function pairs
  4. Function preferences & the dominant function
  5. The function stack
  6. The four-letter code
  7. What the cognitive functions do
  8. Typing yourself and others
  9. Part 2

What’s this about?

The typology system I’m talking about here is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) system which derives from Carl Jung, was developed by Katharine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, and was perfected by teenagers on Tumblr. It’s dangerous using the term “personality type” (although I use it anyway for convenience) because what we colloquially undersand by “personality” are things that MBTI has nothing to do with: characteristics, attributes, traits and behaviour.

MBTI is not about behaviour, but cognition, which can be boiled down to two things: how you gather information, and how you make decisions, referred to in MBTI terminology as perceiving and judging. As you’ll appreciate, perceiving and judging have little to do with a person’s sense of humour, gregariousness, confidence, snobbishness, excitability and other attributes and behaviours we colloquially associate with “personality”.

Remember: this is about how a person gathers information and makes decisions.

The cognitive functions

If you have a passing familiarity with typology, you would know about the four-letter code that represents each of the 16 personality types: INTJ, ENFP, etc. For each of the letters in the four-letter code, there are two alternatives:

  • Introversion (“I”) or Extraversion (“E”)
  • Intuition (“N”) or Sensing (“S”)
  • Feeling (“F”) or Thinking (“T”)
  • Judging (“J”) or Perceiving (“P”)

You may have learned, or been told, that you pick which of the two alternatives for each of the four letters matches you, and that’s your personality type. While that’s technically correct, and for practical purposes will be accurate 70% – 80% of the time, that’s not actually how it works. In type theory, the letters in the four-letter code are not actually what make up a personality type; they are actually shorthand for something else: the function stack.

Every type has a function stack. A “function stack” is a set of four “cognitive functions”. It is the cognitive functions, not the actual letters in the four-letter code (and the concepts they represent, e.g. Introversion, Sensing, etc.), that are what make up a personality type. The cognitive functions are the central concepts of typology.

There are eight cognitive functions in total, and of those eight, each type has four cognitive functions, but not the other four. The eight cognitive functions are:

  • Extraverted Intuition (or “Ne” for short)
  • Introverted Intuition (“Ni”)
  • Extraverted Sensing (“Se”)
  • Introverted Sensing (“Si”)
  • Extraverted Thinking (“Te”)
  • Introverted Thinking (“Ti”)
  • Extraverted Feeling (“Fe”)
  • Introverted Feeling (“Fi”)

These functions can be grouped into two categories: “perceiving” and “judging” functions:

  • The perceiving functions are the intuition and sensing functions (Ne, Ni, Se, Si). Perceiving functions are about information-gathering. They determine how you take in information, and what kind of information you take in.
  • The judging functions are the thinking and feeling functions (Te, Ti, Fe, Fi). Judging functions are about decision-making. Once you’ve gathered information via the perceiving functions, the judging functions interpret the information and come to conclusions about it & make decisions. What kind of judging functions you have determines the basis on which you make decisions.

Function pairs

You need both perceiving functions and judging functions, otherwise you can’t function properly. As mentioned above, each type has a “function” stack comprising four of the eight functions: two perceiving functions and two judging functions. The two perceiving functions you have will be opposites of each other: for example, you will either have Introverted Intuition and Extraverted Sensing, or you will have Extraverted Intuition and Introverted Sensing. Ditto for the judging functions: you will either have Introverted Thinking and Extraverted Feeling, or you will have Extraverted Thinking and Introverted Feeling. I’ll explain what the “introverted” and “extraverted” part of the functions is later on.

The two perceiving and judging functions you have are opposites because, in addition to needing to be able to both perceive and judge, you need to both intuit and sense, and both think and feel. That’s because, as a human with an evolved human brain, you have the capacity to do both; it’s not one or the other.

To use an example, take my type, INTP. My cognitive functions are Introverted Thinking, Extraverted Feeling, Introverted Sensing and Extraverted Intuition. I have both thinking and feeling functions, and both sensing and intuition functions.

Function preferences & the dominant function

However, while each person has the capacity to use thinking, feeling, intuition and sensing, in reality you will prefer one of either thinking or feeling, and one of either intuition or sensing. One will feel more comfortable than the other, and you will use it more than the other and become better at it than the other. It’s similar to the way you are either right- or left-handed: you still have two hands, but through preference and greater use of one hand over the other, one becomes stronger and more dextrous than the other.

In addition to preferring one of each of your perceiving functions and judging functions to the other, you will have a function you lean on significantly more than the other three, called your “dominant function”. It’s probably the function you took to first, or most, when you were a child, and interacted with the world predominantly through the use of that function, drawing on your other functions only when you needed to. Even as you grow up and develop your other functions with increased use of them, you still lean heavily on your dominant function over the others, both through habit and because it becomes the function that’s most comfortable and effortless for you.

Not only is your dominant function effortless, you scarcely notice yourself using it—it becomes like a sixth sense, and you don’t understand why others can’t use it as effortlessly as you do; it’s the lens through which you experience the world, and the water you swim in. It’s absolutely central to your identity.

The function stack

This brings me to the “function stack”. It’s called a “stack” because the functions in the function stack are grouped in order from strongest to weakest, as if they were stacked on top of each other. Going back to my type, INTP, my function stack is (in order):

  1. Introverted Thinking (Ti)
  2. Extraverted Intuition (Ne)
  3. Introverted Sensing (Si)
  4. Extraverted Feeling (Fe)

Introverted Thinking (Ti) is my dominant function. You’ll see that its pair or opposite, Extraverted Feeling (Fe), is at the bottom of my function stack. The pair/opposite of your dominant function will always be your weakest function and at the bottom of your function stack; therefore it’s called the “inferior” function.

The pair of your dominant function is weakest and “inferior” because, with such heavy use of your dominant function, you scarcely exercise its pair. That’s because you can’t use two types of judging simultaneously, or two types of perceiving, because they are diametrically opposed ways of judging or perceiving. Using one function at a given moment necessarily means you are not using its pair, and so the more you use one of a pair, the less you use the other. If you use a function so much that it’s your dominant function, its pair, your “inferior” function, will be severely underused, weak, underdeveloped, immature, and you will be extremely clumsy and uncomfortable in using it.

The second and third functions are known as your “auxiliary” and “tertiary” functions, respectively. If your dominant and inferior functions are judging functions, your auxiliary and tertiary functions will be your pair of perceiving functions, and vice versa. Your auxiliary will be the preferred function of that pair, and the tertiary the non-preferred. So, for INTP again, as my dominant and inferior functions are judging functions, my auxiliary and tertiary are perceiving functions: Extraverted Intutition (Ne) and Introverted Sensing (Si), respectively.

The role of the auxiliary function is to support the dominant function. Because, in interacting with the world, you need to both judge and perceive, if your dominant function is a judging function, your auxiliary function will be a perceiving function (and vice versa). And because you interact with an external (objective) world and an internal (subjective) world, if your dominant function is an extraverted function, your auxiliary function will be an introverted function (and vice versa).

The latter is the reason your auxiliary function will always be the opposite orientation to your dominant function—your dominant and auxiliary can’t be both introverted functions, or both extroverted functions, because you need to relate to both the external and internal worlds, both the world of things and people outside you, and the world of ideas, impressions, thoughts and feelings inside you. As your dominant function already does one (either extraversion or introversion), your auxiliary will do the other.

So, your dominant and auxiliary functions together will be your primary ways of both perceiving and judging, and both extraverting and introverting. The role of the tertiary and inferior functions is to supply the needs that the dominant and auxiliary can’t supply. I’m an INTP, I mainly judge with Introverted Thinking (Ti) and perceive with Extraverted Intuition (Ne); but I also sense and feel, albeit less and not very well. For my sensing and and feeling needs, I use Introverted Sensing (Si) and Extraverted Feeling (Fe).

The four-letter code

So, the function stack converts into the four-letter code you’re familiar with, as so:

  1. The 1st letter (“E” or “I”) represents the orientation (extraverted or introverted) of the dominant function.
  2. The 2nd letter (“N” or “S”) represents which type of perceiving function you use primarily: intuition or sensing.
  3. The 3rd letter (“T” or “F”) represents which type of judging function you use primarily: thinking or feeling.
  4. The 4th letter (“P” or “J”) represents which category of function you primarily extravert with: perceiving or judging.

So, for an INTP, my first letter is “I” because my dominant function, Ti, is introverted. My second letter is “N” because I primarily use intuition over sensing. My third letter is “T” because I primarily use thinking over feeling. My fourth letter is “P” because I primarily extravert with a perceiving function: Extraverted Intuition (Ne).

Taking any type, you can reverse-engineer its function stack. Let’s take ESFP, for example:

  1. The “S” and “F” indicate that ESFP uses sensing and feeling as its modes of perceiving and judging, respectively.
  2. The “P” indicates that ESFP extraverts with a perceiving function, which will be its sensing function, so, ESFP’s sensing is extraverted: Extraverted Sensing (Se).
  3. The “E” indicates that ESFP’s dominant function is extraverted. Since Se is ESFP’s extraverted function, ESFP’s dominant function will be Se.
  4. As ESFP’s dominant function is an extraverted perceiving function (Se), its auxiliary function will be an introverted judging function. ESFP’s primary mode of judging is feeling, which makes its auxiliary function Introverted Feeling (Fi).
  5. ESFP’s tertiary function will be the opposite of its auxiliary function: Extraverted Thinking (Te).
  6. ESFP’s inferior function will be the opposite of its dominant function: Introverted Intuition (Ni).
  7. ESFP’s function stack, therefore, is: Se-Fi-Te-Ni.

What the cognitive functions do

So, after all that, the fun part: this is where I explain what the cognitive functions actually do.

First, I need to explain what sensing and intuition, and thinking and feeling, are. As you now know, sensing and intuition are two ways of perceiving (information-gathering), and thinking and feeling are two ways of judging (decision-making).

Taking the perceiving functions first, sensing gathers information that can be gathered with the five senses, and information that is “concrete”, material and verifiable. Intuition gathers information that is abstract and conceptual, and relies on seeing patterns and making connections between data points. Sensing takes things as they are in reality and focusses on the material, “real” facts and data in front of it, whereas intuition attempts to peer around the corner, see how things relate to other things and envision the possibilities of what things could be.

As for the judging functions, while thinking and feeling can be (not unfairly) stereotyped as “logic” versus “emotion”, it’s not as simple as that. It’s really the difference between evaluating things, and making decisions, based on standards that are impersonal and empirical/system-based (thinking), or standards that are values- and people-based, i.e. values about how people should relate to each other (feeling).

As foreshadowed above, the “extraverted” and “introverted” aspects of the functions is about whether, in using the function, you are directing your attention and energy toward the objective world of people and objects outside of you (extraverted), or toward the subjective world of thoughts, ideas, feelings, impressions, memories, consciousness and personal experience inside of you (introverted).

So, here we go:

Extraverted Sensing (Se) is highly attuned to the physical and material world around it. It takes in sensory information from its physical surroundings in real time—objects and people, and changes in its surroundings—and reacts fluently and confidently in the moment. Se seeks out stimulation from the physical and sensory world, which is why you will find many Se-users among sportsmen, artistic people, cooks and foodies, outdoorsy types, party animals and accomplished flirts.

Types that use Se as a dominant function are ESFP and ESTP. Types that use Se as an auxiliary function are ISFP and ISTP.

Introverted Sensing (Si) is highly attuned to its own, personal, subjective experience, i.e. how an experience is affecting the Si-user personally & how it is making the Si-user feel. Si then takes these subjective impressions and stores them, and creates a vast store of such subjective experiences, impressions and memories. It uses that store as a framework for interpreting new experiences, by way of comparison and reference. Because of this, Si-users tend to develop a very unique and personal way of looking at the world, because they view present experiences through the lens of their past experiences. This can make them hidebound and tied to what they know, and uncomfortable with new things and things that challenge what they know from their past experiences.

Types that use Si as a dominant function are ISFJ and ISTJ. Types that use Si as an auxiliary function are ESFJ and ESTJ.

Extraverted Intuition (Ne) sees new possibilities and opportunities about what can be. It does this mainly by seeing connections and patterns between ideas. It is always seeing new patterns and throwing up new possibilities for how reality can be changed. Ne-users tend to generate a lot of novel, unconventional and original ideas, and quickly see unexpected and apparently random connections between ideas and things.

Types that use Ne as a dominant function are ENFP and ENTP. Types that use Ne as an auxiliary function are INFP and INTP.

Introverted Intuition (Ni) stores subjective patterns and interpretations in much the same way Si stores subjective experiences. This store of patterns and interpretations creates a framework for interpreting new events and phenomena that the Ni-user encounters. Ni-users are therefore highly attuned to (how they interpret) things will play out, and (what they interpret to be) the “essence” and “deeper meaning” of things. They use their tendency to visualise the future in order to guide their actions.

Types that use Ni as a dominant function are INFJ and INTJ. Types that use Ni as an auxiliary function are ENFJ and ENTJ.

Extraverted Thinking (Te), a judging (decision-making) function, evaluates and makes decisions based on objective rational standards, being rules, procedures, external systems, empirical data, and results. Ultimately Te asks “what works? what gets the best results?” Te wants to organise and rationalise the external world by imposing procedures and systems, and Te-users will often be meticulously organised in their own personal and work/study lives.

Types that use Te as a dominant function are ENTJ and ESTJ. Types that use Te as an auxiliary function are INTJ and ISTJ.

Introverted Thinking (Ti) evaluates and makes decisions based on its own, subjective understanding of how things work. Whereas Te asks “what works (in practice)/gets the best results?”, Ti asks “what makes sense (to me)?”. Ti wants to boil things down to first principles and understand on a conceptual level how things work. Ti constructs a logical framework for understanding things/the world that is ultimately based on its own subjective reasoning (“what makes sense to me?”) rather than objective standards and evidence.

Types that use Ti as a dominant function are INTP and ISTP. Types that use Ti as an auxiliary function are ENTP and ESTP.

Extraverted Feeling (Fe) evaluates and makes decisions based on interpersonal standards, i.e. what promotes interpersonal harmony, what makes everyone feel good, what’s best for others. Similar to the way Te puts stock in external impersonal systems and procedures, Fe attributes importance to external personal systems and procedures, such as social norms and rules, forms of social organisation and status, social traditions and social authorities, because such things, Fe sees, promote interpersonal harmony and reduce conflict. Fe-users tend to be highly attuned to the way other people feel, and tend to be naturals at empathising, dialogue, bringing people together, and leadership.

Types that use Fe as a dominant function are ENFJ and ESFJ. Types that use Fe as an auxiliary function are INFJ and ISFJ.

Introverted Feeling (Fi) evaluates and makes decisions based on the Fi-user’s own personal values and understanding of good and bad & right and wrong. Fi-users are highly in touch with their own feelings and will always know how they feel about things. Authentically expressing one’s own feelings, values and identity, and remaining true to one’s own values, is extremely important to Fi-users. Fi-users will not care for interpersonal harmony and social norms and organisation the way Fe-users do if those things conflict with the Fi-user’s personal values.

Types that use Fi as a dominant function are INFP and ISFP. Types that use Fi as an auxiliary function are ENFP and ESFP.

Typing yourself and others

Now that you know what goes into a personality type (cognitive functions in a particular order), and what cognitive functions go with what types, you should be equipped to go out and do some type-spotting (starting with yourself!). To be fair, there’s more to type theory than what I’ve written in this post—this is “MBTI for dummies” after all—but, with a knowledge of the basics, you should be able to type people with decent accuracy.

What you’re looking for, above all, is a person’s dominant function. What’s the function that dominates their personality? What do they do so effortlessly it’s like a sixth sense? With extraverts, whose dominant function is extraverted, it shouldn’t be difficult to determine this, as their extraverted dominant function is out there in the open for all to see. With introverts, whose dominant function is introverted, it can be a bit trickier. The side of themselves introverts show to the world will often be their auxiliary function, which is extraverted, whereas their introverted dominant function can be quieter in their interactions with most people. It’ll take getting to know some introverts to see their dominant function more clearly.

One way to determine an elusive dominant function is to look for a person’s inferior function, which you do by asking “what do they really suck at? what do they suck at so much it causes them anxiety and stress? what’s the thing they run away from because of how uncomfortable it makes them?” Once you’ve pinned down an inferior function, you can deduce their dominant function (which is the inferior function’s opposite).

Determining between intuition and sensing can sometimes be a source of confusion. To be clear, not every person who has ever had an abstract thought, or enjoys talking about abstract things, is an intuitive. Sensors can intuit and intuitives can sense. Look for what they’re better at and more comfortable with. Look for how they express themselves: in concrete, straightforward language (sensors), or in generalisations and analogies (intuitives). Look for what they’re interested in: abstract things like personality theory, particle physics, philosophy and Doctor Who fanfiction, or sensory things like sport, arts, food, fashion and all-night raves.

Also don’t make the mistake of assuming that being intellectual means a person is a thinker, or that being emotive means a person is a feeler. Thinking and feeling (judging) is about a person’s underlying motivations for making decisions and evaluating things, rather than their abilities or behaviour. Do they make their decisions based on impersonal, “rational” standards, or with reference to people, their feelings, and people-focussed values.

Ultimately you can get away with using the “dichotomous” method of picking which letters in the four-letter code most applies to a person, which will be accurate 70-80% of the time, but it’s best to verify by identifying a person’s cognitive functions. Moreover, “extravert sensor feeler perceiver” just doesn’t tell you much. Knowing how the cognitive functions work allows you to understand so much more about why a person is the way they are, than the dichotomous four-letters method.

If you’re interested in reading my thought process in identifying a person’s type, you can look at any of my Typing Doctor Who blog posts, where I type Doctor Who characters and show my reasoning. So far I’ve done Clara Oswald, the Eleventh Doctor, Sarah-Jane Smith, Rose Tyler, Amy Pond and Victorian Clara.

Part 2 – Going deeper

When I began writing this post, I didn’t intend it to be more than a single part. However, in the process of organising all this information in what has hopefully been a clear and simple way, I was reminded of how much more there is to type theory. To properly accurately type people, and genuinely understand how they work using type theory, requires knowledge of the deeper aspects of type theory.

I’m going to go deeper into type theory in a Part 2 post. This will cover subjects such as inferior grips, dominant-tertiary loops, function dynamics, type maturity and growth, the significance of types of functions in different positions, and anything else relevant I think of in the meantime.

Happy typing!

Why I use Myers-Briggs

Some of my most popular posts on this blog have been my “Typing Doctor Who” posts, where I assign a Myers-Briggs (MBTI) type to a Doctor Who character and show my working. A couple of years ago I was completely absorbed in everything MBTI, and those posts were the product of my obsessive habit of typing everything that moved.

My MBTI mania has abated since then, probably for the better (it’s not wise to place too much stock in any personality theory). However, when you’ve been as immersed as I was in MBTI and its progressive levels of theoretical convolution, you can never really let go of it. MBTI is still very much a tool I use in my day-to-day life, to understand myself and the people around me, and how I relate to those around me.

It’s the kind of theoretical tool that helps you understand, for example, what’s going through your partner’s head when you’re locked in an argument and you’re both frustrated that the other can’t just see things the way you do. You would use MBTI to understand why the people in your office (or class, team, etc.), who annoy you and perplex you and who couldn’t be more different from you, are the way they are.

Personally I use MBTI partly as an amusing train-spotting exercise (“Jack’s an ENFJ, interesting.”, “Ooh, Amy’s an ISFP, haven’t met many of those.”), and partly as a genuine tool to understand what Jack’s being an ENFJ or Amy’s being an ISFP means for how I relate to them, how we can best get along, work together, and avoid misunderstanding and conflict. That is, I use MBTI to improve my relationships with other people. And, partly, I use MBTI to understand myself, my strengths and weaknesses, what it means for me in various facets of my life, and where I need to grow as a person.


Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs-Myers

No one who uses MBTI, though, can ignore the charge that it is nonsense. A quick scan of the Wikipedia page for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator will reveal that it has been criticised by some Very Serious People as “unscientific” and a “pseudoscience”, if not outright refuted. It also can’t be ignored that Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs-Myers, who developed the theory in its modern form, were not qualified psychologists, but more like amateur hobbyists and Carl Jung devotees (who developed the theory in its rudimentary form). Real psychologists don’t take it seriously (I’m hesitant to mention my devotion to MBTI to my friends with psychology qualifications), and its adherents consist mostly of hobbyists on the internet – like me – and corporate HR departments.

The critiques are fair, and should be taken seriously by anyone who wants to place any reliance in the theory. They can be answered to some extent by pointing out that practically all scientific critiques of MBTI refer to the “official” Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® test administered by the Myers & Briggs Foundation, which is considered by most adherents of MBTI theory (which would better be described as Jungian typology) who aren’t corporate HR departments as unreliable and based on a butchered and considerably watered-down version of the fuller, far more sophisticated theory. Moreover, scientific opinion even on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® is hardly uniform.

But it’s true enough that MBTI lacks the empirical scientific validation one would need to make use of it with confidence. I’m perfectly conscious of that. Why use it, then? To put it simply, I use it because it works. I find the categories and functions of MBTI to be accurate and useful for describing what I see in other people and making sense of others’ decisions and thought processes. I find that it is a system that helps me understand how people (and fictional characters, no less) work.

The idea of different personality types, variously called in different places “archetypes” or “temperaments”, is nothing new. Katherine Myers and Isabel Briggs-Myers (or Carl Jung, for that matter) didn’t invent the idea of personality types, which has a venerable intellectual pedigree going back to the ancient world. It’s this that makes me think, despite the lack of enthusiasm from the academic community, that there might just be something in the most sophisticated and enduringly popular attempt to explain and systematise personality types yet developed.


I’m hardly a scientist – I dropped all science subjects after 10th grade (a mistake) – but it wouldn’t surprise me if MBTI is not something that can be tested emprically, and should be better placed in the realm of social science or philosophy than the natural sciences. It seems sensible: in typing people we’re simply putting a name on traits and patterns we observe in ourselves and others. We don’t require the aid of scientific testing to observe that some people are more outgoing than others, or that some people are highly in touch with how they feel about things but have poor powers of dispassionate logical judgment (and vice versa). Or that some people enjoy nothing more than spending hours discussing type theory while others find this unutterably boring and would prefer to go bike riding or photo shooting.

Those differences and those patterns are there. Postnominalled scientists don’t need to tell us that Jess is outgoing and free with her feelings, or that Josh is reserved and cerebral, or Noora an unfocussed free spirit, because our experience tells us that they are. We construct mental archetypes and character traits (“outgoing”, “scattered”, “analytical”, “principled”, etc.) to describe and make sense of personality differences in other people, which in turn inform how we think about and treat different people. Personality types exist because we make them exist, not because they’re biologically inherent in us. MBTI is no more than an attempt to systematise this very human process of assigning constructed archetypes and traits to other people.

There is therefore a fundamental difference between how MBTI and how scientific psychology would treat the subject matter of human personality differences. MBTI is about observing the personality traits and patterns that are there and putting names on them: the “what”. Psychology would explain “why” those traits and patterns are there, and “why” different people have different sets of traits and patterns, the “why” being what is actually going on at a biological level in the brain.

Ultimately, though, MBTI is just a tool. The utility of a tool should be judged by how effectively it helps you do what you’re using it to do. In other words, how well it works. For me, MBTI works for what I’m using it for. It gives me a frame of reference for understanding how the people in my life think and act differently. It helps me empathise with others and improve my relationships. And it helps me understand myself and my own brain. It helps me practise self-awareness and identify areas for growth. To me, it doesn’t necessarily matter whether MBTI is, or is even capable of being, endorsed by peer-reviewed psychologists. I’m using it positively in my life, and that’s enough for me.

Typing Doctor Who: Victorian Clara (ESTP)


Flexible and tolerant, they take a pragmatic approach focused on immediate results. Theories and conceptual explanations bore them – they want to act energetically to solve the problem. Focus on the here-and-now, spontaneous, enjoy each moment that they can be active with others. Enjoy material comforts and style. Learn best through doing.

So yesterday I was watching The Snowmen, the 2012 Christmas special which featured Jenna Coleman’s second appearance in Doctor Who, as the Victorian incarnation of Clara. And it struck me as I was watching it that there are some subtle differences in the way Clara’s various incarnations are written. The ones we’ve seen—the original Clara, Victorian Clara, and Oswin—all fit broadly into the same mould, but they’re not the same. For example, the original Clara (Clara Prime?) from 21st Century Britain, was written as a technological illiterate (much like me), but the first of Clara’s incarnations we saw, Oswin (or Dalek Clara), in Asylum of the Daleks, was a technological genius. Victorian Clara, too, was noticeably different from Clara Prime and Oswin, yet sharing much in common in terms of personality.

This should be expected—when Clara entered the Doctor’s time stream on Trenzalore, she birthed thousands of versions of herself throughout the Doctor’s timeline, living thousands of distinct lives in thousands of different places. Personality is partly a result of genetics (nature), but also substantially determined by environment (nurture). How could the various versions of Clara not differ in certain ways? No doubt there are versions of Clara of every personality type running around the Doctor’s timeline, and none, since the MBTI describes human personality, and we know at least one version of Clara was an alien: the Gallifreyan Clara who persuaded the First Doctor to choose his Type 40 Tardis.


With all that said, I think Victorian Clara is an ESTP. That’s a subtle difference from Clara Prime, whom I typed as an ESFP, and I stick to that typing. (I’ll also tentatively type Oswin as an ENTP, a rather more considerable distinction). Along with the description I linked to above, a good brief description of ESTPs is:

ESTPs are outgoing, straight-shooting types. Enthusiastic and excitable, ESTPs are “doers” who live in the world of action. Blunt, straight-forward risk-takers, they are willing to plunge right into things and get their hands dirty. They live in the here-and-now, and place little importance on introspection or theory. The look at the facts of a situation, quickly decide what should be done, execute the action, and move on to the next thing.

Some celebrity and fictional ESTPs you might know are: Miley Cyrus, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Donald Trump, Madonna, Jaime Lannister (Game of Thrones), Bart Simpson (The Simpsons), Oliver Queen (Arrow), Dean Winchester (Supernatural). And of course, Captain Jack Harkness.

Let’s start with what Victorian Clara and Clara Prime have in common. They’re both perky, flirtatious and outgoing. They’re both daring and have a thirst for action and danger. They’re both cleverer than they let on. Everything Steven Moffat seems to like in a female companion, in other words. But I think they clearly differ in one fundamental respect: Clara Prime is more gentle, more touchy-feely, and Victorian Clara is more hard-nosed and logical. Clara Prime’s emotions are more frequently on show—not in the sense that she’s emotional or irrational (she can be very rational and tough-minded when she wants to), but in that she more readily feels about things, she processes things through her emotional filter, and since she’s an extrovert (an ExFP), her feelings are much more clearly on show (something I’ve learned about ExFP types from knowing quite a few of them).


Compare Victorian Clara. Victorian Clara’s emotions don’t leak out of her the way Clara Prime’s do. She has feelings, sure—there are a couple of times in the episode when Victorian Clara becomes emotional—but she typically approaches things coolly and logically. She’s an adept problem-solver: the way she figured out what the Doctor’s plan was (to take the Ice Lady up to the cloud) was a masterclass in using quick deductive logic in a crisis situation. See, too, how she responds to happening upon the snow and the Doctor: she wants to understand the snow, and understand the Doctor. She interrogates a random stranger about the snowman rather than dismissing it as something inconsequential, or as her memory playing tricks on her or something. The curious Doctor piques her interest and she follows him all the way to his Tardis in the clouds. She wants to know, to understand. That’s very typical of the Introverted Thinking (Ti) that characterises TP types—the desire to understand and to make logical sense of things. Curiosity.

What I’ve been talking about is what fundamentally distinguishes Victorian Clara, the ESTP, from Clara Prime, the ESFP. Expressed in MBTI terms, it’s the distinction between each type’s primary judgment process: ESTPs use Introverted Thinking (Ti) to make judgments, and ESFPs use Introverted Feeling (Fi). But both share Extraverted Sensing (Se) as their dominant perceptive (information-gathering) process. Se is being attuned to the sensory details of things around you, in the moment. It’s being aware of sensations, colours, tastes, people, activity, beauty around you, and wanting to interact with it all. It’s also taking action in the moment. The example I gave above of Victorian Clara deducing the Doctor’s plan also illustrates this, her ability to react and take action and think coolly in the moment. Crisis and danger don’t fluster her, she thrives on it. That says ESTP all over. Victorian Clara’s Se is also illustrated when she decides on the spot to pursue the Doctor after basically being told to bug off, and in the way she spontaneously kisses the Doctor. The latter, overt (and spontaneous) displays of sexuality, is very Se, and very ESxP. Amy, an ENFP, spontaneously kissed the Doctor too, once, but one thing I noticed about Victorian Clara was how much more physical a person she was than Amy, which indicates to me SP rather than NP.


One last thing I noted about Victorian Clara is her deftness, as a governess, in caring for Francesca and Digby, Captain Latimer’s children. I think this is illustrative of another point of distinction between Victorian Clara and Clara Prime, between ESTP and ESFP. Although she’s a Thinker, Victorian Clara’s nurturing abilities come from her tertiary Extraverted Feeling (Fe), which is being attuned to the feelings and values of others and being skilled in dealing with others’ feelings. As an extravert, and a well-rounded person in general, Victorian Clara can slip fairly easily into using Fe in her role as a governess, a carer of children, when she needs to. In contrast, FP types like Clara Prime use Introverted Feeling, which, in contrast to the outward, interpersonal focus of Fe, is attuned to the person’s own intrapersonal feelings and values. Victorian Clara’s emotional expression is somewhat affected, because it’s focussed upon others, while Clara Prime’s expression comes off as more authentic and sincere, because it’s focussed upon herself. See my post on Clara (Prime) for more on the way Clara uses Fi.

Typing Doctor Who: Amy Pond (ENFP)


Quick, ingenious, stimulating, alert, and outspoken. Resourceful in solving new and challenging problems. Adept at generating conceptual possibilities and then analyzing them strategically. Good at reading other people. Bored by routine, will seldom do the same thing the same way, apt to turn to one new interest after another.

(What is this? Read my introduction to my Typing Doctor Who series).

Well, I’ve been re-watching Doctor Who in recent weeks, and I felt the familiar sensation of affection as I reached Series 5 and 6 and got to watch my favourite fictional characters again: Eleven and the Ponds. Amy is my all-time favourite companion, and Eleven is my favourite Doctor. I already typed Eleven (as an ENTP) here, but, with Eleven and Amy fresh in my mind from my rewatching of Series 5 and 6, I couldn’t resist thinking about the type of Eleven’s iconic partner in crime shenanigans too.

Amy, by my reckoning, is an ENFP. In short, ENFPs are excitable and spontaneous free spirits. Like their thinking cousins, the ENTPs, they are energised by the exploration of possibilities and ideas. They are restless and enthusiastic, driven primarily by a need for novelty and exploration. In this way—their overt openness to possibilities and novelty—they’re similar to their sensing cousins the ESFPs (such as Clara and Rose), but, as an intuitive type, ENFPs tend to be more cerebral and intellectually-oriented than ESFPs. Beneath their extroverted enthusiastic, excitable, spontaneous exterior, ENFPs harbour a depth of feeling and passion which, in combination with the intuition and imagination they display to the world, makes them a highly idealistic, compassionate and creative type. They’re adept at inspiring and motivating others, and fluent at navigating social and emotional dynamics. They’re some of the most fun people to be around, and, once you get talking to them, make for absorbing conversationalists. Some fictional and celebrity ENFPs you might know are Robin Williams, Phil Dunphy (Modern Family), Aang (Avatar: The Last Airbender), Willy Wonka, Andy Dwyer (Parks and Recreation).


If you come to see that Amy is an ENFP, you can understand why the Doctor-companion duo of Eleven and Amy worked so well. They’re both ENxP types who lead with Extraverted Intuition: they are both extroverts energised by the perception of possibilities, the craving for novelty, the flightiness and the lust for exploration. They both have an imaginative turn of mind which manifested in the fairytale, romantic, somewhat fanciful and surreal dynamic of their Doctor-companion relationship (of which the high point was Series 5)—a dynamic which might have ascended into pure fancy and fairytale totally divorced from the reality of Amy’s (and the Doctor’s) life if not for the grounding, sensible influence of Rory, an ISFJ.

You see the tension between Amy’s respective relationships with the Doctor and with Rory in Amy’s Choice: with Rory, the down-to-earth, comfort- and stability-seeking ISFJ, Amy has a contented married life in a quaint English rural village; it’s a life Rory adores but Amy, although she seems to appreciate it (she has inferior Si after all), finds herself feeling restless and bored. Contrast with her life with the Doctor: an unreal and fantastical life of adventure, excitement and danger aboard the Tardis. It’s sort of clear which Amy prefers: her affection for the life in Leadworth is associated with her investment in her relationship with Rory, but it’s obvious she finds more appealing the life in the Tardis:

RORY: I want the other life. You know, where we’re happy and settled and about to have a baby.
AMY: But don’t you wonder, if that life is real, then why would we give up all this? Why would anyone?

AMY: We’re in a time machine. It can be the night before our wedding for as long as we want.
RORY: We have to grow up eventually.
AMY: Says who?


Consider, too, the way Amy as a child imagined a whole world around her “imaginary friend”, the “Raggedy Doctor”, after a brief encounter with the Doctor one night. She made toys and created stories and let her imagination run wild with the possibilities associated with the strange, raggedy man with his box who invaded her garden one night when she was a child. She imagined an idealised Doctor in her stories and fantasies, the Doctor taking on a whimsical, fairytale quality in her imagination, and imagined that he was one day going to return and whisk her away in his time machine (in spite of, maybe because of, the insistence of almost everyone that the Doctor wasn’t real). All of this—the whimsical imagination, the idealisation, the projection of emotion into fantasy—is so xNFP, and so very much like an xNFP child.

As an FP type, Amy uses Introverted Feeling—she makes judgments based on her subjective valuation of things: good, bad, right, wrong. In this way she’s similar to Clara and Rose, both ESFPs (whom I’ve previously typed), but different from her husband Rory, an FJ type who makes judgments based on considerations of group values and harmony and the feelings and needs of others. In The Almost People she spurned and acted frostily towards the (apparently) flesh Doctor because she recoiled at the idea that her emotional attachment and feelings for the Doctor could or should be transferred to manufactured clones of the Doctor. In The Girl Who Waited the elder Amy initially refused to help herself, because she and the last 36 years of her life would cease to exist, but relented when she understood that it would be cruel to Rory to deprive him of the chance to grow old with the love of his life. Amy is a passionate woman—not overtly so (FP types typically aren’t), her passion and feeling is internal, but there’s no doubt it’s there.


To end with a note about ENFPs, they’re a magnetic personality who inspire and captivate others with their energy, spontaneity, excitement, ingenuity and charming lack of inhibition. They’re some of my favourite people in the world—my best friend in high school was an ENFP, and I’ve also, er, found myself inexplicably attracted to people and characters of this personality type (he says blushingly). Maybe that’s why I took such an immediate and deep liking to Amy Pond, who will forever remain my all-time favourite companion, and one of my favourite fictional characters. Amy is undoubtedly a fantastic ambassador for this type, and ENFPs should be proud to count her among their number.

Typing Doctor Who: Rose Tyler (ESFP)


Outgoing, friendly, and accepting. Exuberant lovers of life, people, and material comforts. Enjoy working with others to make things happen. Bring common sense and a realistic approach to their work, and make work fun. Flexible and spontaneous, adapt readily to new people and environments. Learn best by trying a new skill with other people.

(N.B. If you’re confused about the odd MBTI terminology throughout this piece (“Extraverted Sensing”, “Fi”, etc.) this link explains it pretty clearly and succinctly. I’ve tried to make these posts as readable and comprehensible to those uninitiated with MBTI as I possibly can, but some use of theoretical terms and concepts is unavoidable. There’s no need to be intimidated, though, the concepts are actually really easy to understand, and the link above explains it all well.)

The first companion of the revived series of Doctor Who, the most beloved and arguably New Who’s archetypal companion is, to my mind, a classic ESFP. In my post on Clara Oswald (another ESFP), I characterised ESFPs as the adventurous, fun-loving thrill-seekers of the world. ESFPs are ruled by their need for sensory stimulation, which they seek out in the world of experiences, people and things. Unlike introverts and even many extroverted types, ESFPs are typically not drained by constant social interaction and activity—as SPs it’s what they thrive on, and much of an ESFP’s life is an unending search for novelty and stimulation. They’re always doing things, seeing things, experiencing things, having fun. ESFPs are the people who make life fun for everyone else. They also have a deeper, passionate side, and they feel very deeply and have a strong sense of who they are and how things should be. They’re very fluent with people, very warm, and sympathise with others easily.

Rose fits this characterisation quite well, I think. She decided to travel with the Doctor because she felt unsatisfied with her mundane, boring ordinary life and the mundane, boring trappings of that life: her job, her home life, her boyfriend, her future. Against this unsatisfying reality, she found irresistible the idea of leaving it all behind, relinquishing all her responsibilities and attachments, to travel in time and space with the Doctor, a free and unbound spirit. Nor can she keep away from it. Unlike some later companions, the Doctor isn’t her hobby, it’s her life, and a life of travel and adventure is just what every ESFP dreams of. It’s clear that Rose can’t stand the idea of leaving the Tardis behind and going back to her old, mundane life. She was thoroughly depressed when Nine sent her back home in The Parting of the Ways about having to return to her ordinary life of sleep, work and chips; and she couldn’t comprehend how others—Mickey and especially her mother, Jackie—neither wanted to join her in the Tardis nor felt happy for her travelling with the Doctor.

empty child

The above is basically a description of the way Rose’s Extraverted Sensing (Se) manifests, the dominant cognitive function of ESFPs. But more specifically, we see Rose’s Se in the way she likes to immerse herself in the new places she visits. Compare the way she reacted to visiting Satellite Five to the way Adam (probably an IxTP) did: Rose immediately took to interacting with her new, strange surroundings, buying a strange alien drink to share with Adam, while Adam felt overwhelmed by it all and needed to go clear his head and take it all in. See, too, how Rose loves to try on new pretty clothes to fit in with her surroundings: her pretty Victorian dress in The Unquiet Dead, her cute 1950s garb in The Idiot Lantern. She has a great dress sense in general, and, like Clara, her outfits are always distinctive and stylish. Rose also has a keen eye for a pretty face—although she’s theoretically tied down to a relationship with Mickey, she can’t help flirting and showing interest in every pretty boy who crosses her path: Adam, Captain Jack, and even the Doctor himself; and she doesn’t seem to feel very committed to Mickey. That’s a trait I’ve noticed in the ESFPs I’ve known, a manifestation of their dominant Se: they just can’t resist pretty things.

ESFPs also have auxiliary Introverted Feeling (Fi), which makes them deeply, internally sensitive about things. They have feelings, man. They have clear ideas about what’s good and bad, right and wrong, and a strong sense of who they are, or who they want to be. Rose’s Fi is illustrated perfectly by her famous, character-defining outburst at Jackie and Mickey in The Parting of the Ways when the Doctor sent her back in time to protect her from the Daleks. She was overcome by emotion because one of her strongly-held principles was being violated by her having to sit safely at home while her friends fought for their lives in the far future. You could practically feel the Fi spilling out of her. There are other instances of this in other episodes: the way she sympathised with the Dalek in Dalek in defiance of the Doctor, and the way she stood up for Gwyneth against the Doctor and the Gelth in The Unquiet Dead.


But I also see Rose’s Fi manifested in the way she treats Mickey. For example, in Boom Town, she returns to her own time and sees Mickey again, and expects Mickey to return to her side at her beck and call like a loyal lapdog, and even feels indignity and confusion when Mickey tells her he’s seeing someone else. She’s snarky and mean to Mickey about it before Mickey expresses how Rose made him feel betrayed and belittled, which snaps Rose into realising, finally, how badly she’s treated him and how she’s made him feel. Rose was totally oblivious to the way her lifestyle and her choices make Mickey feel, because she’s led by what feels right for her, not necessarily taking account of the needs and feelings of others. The same goes for the way Rose treats her mother Jackie, who worries deeply about her, although Rose is dismissive of the anxiety her lifestyle causes her mother, and rarely checks back in with Jackie to reassure her that she’s alive and safe.

Rose’s character arc in Series 2 was characterised by the under-the-surface romance between Rose and the Tenth Doctor. Rose grew to become deeply in love with the Doctor, and she came to see her future, the rest of her life, to be spent with the Doctor, as illustrated by the dialogue in the opening to Army of Ghosts (“How long are you going to stay with me?” “Forever.”) What I think is happening in MBTI terms here is that Rose’s auxiliary Introverted Feeling (Fi) and inferior Introverted Intuition (Ni) are working together. Rose has fallen hopelessly, romantically in love with the Doctor, and her Fi has idealised a life and a future with him. Her Fi has created a picture of what she wants her life to look like—a life with the Doctor. Her Ni has gone ahead and told her that the Doctor is her future, but her inferior Ni is weak and unreliable, and it doesn’t raise the warning signs that should tell her that this vision is never going to work out, and that holding to it will end in tears. She becomes upset and angry when the Doctor suggests that she can’t stay with him forever, or that she’s not necessarily special to him, as in School Reunion.

army of ghosts

So that’s Rose. She’s not a character without her flaws and weaknesses, and no personality type is without its flaws and weaknesses, but she’s undoubtedly one of the best ESFP characters in television. Rose sort of set the template for modern Doctor Who companions, and as such the default archetype for a companion is an ESFP—Clara and arguably Donna were also ESFPs, and Bill looks like she’s going to fit into that general mould (although, from what we’ve seen, Bill looks like she might be an ENxP). Nevertheless, I like writing about ESFPs because they’re some of my favourite people. I’ve had the privilege of knowing some fabulous ESFPs in my time, and I think they make for great people, friends and characters.

Typing Doctor Who: Sarah Jane Smith (INTP)


Seek to develop logical explanations for everything that interests them. Theoretical and abstract, interested more in ideas than in social interaction. Quiet, contained, flexible, and adaptable. Have unusual ability to focus in depth to solve problems in their area of interest. Skeptical, sometimes critical, always analytical.

I have some special expertise in this subject matter, because the INTP personality type is actually my own type. I spoke about the Eleventh Doctor, an ENTP, last time, and INTPs are the dorky, introverted cousins of ENTPs. As the description above indicates, INTPs are a highly analytical and intellectually creative personality type, ruled as they are by their urge to understand and make sense of things according to their own personal logical framework. INTPs live more in their own heads than in the physical world, as they are relentlessly contemplating ideas and generating new ideas in their heads. This also makes them, stereotypically, both quite absentminded and lazy: they prefer thinking about exciting possibilities rather than actually putting them into action. INTPs are also highly independent, both intellectually and socially, and typically crave social interaction to a lesser degree than most people.

I’ve tentatively typed one of Doctor Who’s most all-time beloved companions, Sarah Jane Smith, as an INTP (although an N.B. to this is that I’m basing my evaluation predominantly on Sarah Jane’s character in The Sarah Jane Adventures and the modern Doctor Who series, as it’s been a while since I’ve seen the classic Sarah Jane serials). I’ll admit I wouldn’t have picked Sarah Jane as an INTP at first, especially when I compare her to myself and other INTPs, but, after thinking about it, it’s the conclusion I’ve (tentatively) come to.


I’ve often seen Sarah Jane typed as an INFJ, so it’s worth beginning by detailing why I opted for INTP over INFJ. I’m definitely inclined to see Sarah Jane as a Thinking type rather than a Feeling type. While Sarah Jane, no doubt taking the Doctor as her example, holds strongly to a set of personal values which inform her worldview and guide her actions, having strong personal values is not of itself an indicator of Feeling. In any case, I’m almost certain Sarah Jane does not have high Extraverted Feeling (Fe): she isn’t highly attuned to the feelings and values of others, at least not as her first, natural instinct, nor does she particularly care what others think of her or seek the affirmation and recognition of others, as a high Fe-user would. She spent literally decades of her life in self-imposed solitude and reclusion after she and the Doctor separated, and, until she became embroiled with Maria, Luke and Clyde, seemed perfectly content with that life. That indicates strongly that she’s not an FJ type.

Rather, my impression of Sarah Jane is that she’s in fact very logical and analytical, as her dominant mode of operation. She tends to be highly rational when making decisions, and doesn’t make decisions before carefully considering all the available data. Despite being constantly engrossed in the alien and the extra-terrestrial, she brings a healthy dose of scepticism towards her work, often expressing scepticism when her young charges imagine fantastical situations involving malevolent alien intervention from things that, she insists, could easily be much more mundane. That said, she’s capable of perceiving and entertaining seemingly fanciful possibilities which her intuition presents to her, which she sets to investigating through the resources available to her and her own reason. She’s also highly inquisitive, being, after all, a journalist by vocation: she’s interested in seeking the truth, and has something of a subversive mindset in relation to powerful institutions such as governments and large corporations, treating the official platitudes of such organisations with scepticism and contempt, as in Invasion of the Bane with respect to the Bubble Shock corporation, interested, as she is, in finding the truth. This, to me, is all very indicative of the NTP type personality with Introverted Thinking and Extraverted Intuition.


More generally, what suggests Sarah Jane is an INTP to me is her lifestyle. She’s a highly independent woman, spurning the idea of working for UNIT or Torchwood. This is a very INTP thing: INTPs don’t deal well with authority and institutional hierarchy, nor do they like compromising their principles or their discretion as working for an organisation would require them to do. Sarah Jane eschews very attractive opportunities to work for UNIT and Torchwood in order to preserve her independence and autonomy. Moreover, her lifestyle in general is a very independent, and, until she became involved with Maria, Luke and Clyde (and Rani), a reclusive one—she was something of a bohemian, totally absorbed in her work. INTPs—I would suggest unhealthy INTPs—can be this way, throwing themselves wholly into some passion, whether intellectual or vocational, without feeling the need for things like love and meaningful human connection.

I anticipate that many objections to my typing of Sarah Jane as an INTP would be founded in a misunderstanding of the INTP personality. For example, that Sarah Jane spent so much of her life after parting ways with the Doctor pining after him and the life she led with him might be raised as an example of a very un-INTP thing Sarah Jane did: it seems an unusually sentimental thing for a super logical, rational INTP to do. I think such an objection would suffer from the very common fallacy of misconceiving INTPs as logical robots without emotions. INTPs feel emotions; we experience sentiment; and we can be as sentimental and intensely emotional as any other type, it’s just that we’re not comfortable trusting those feelings as part of our cognitive processes. Sarah Jane’s pining after the Doctor actually strikes me as a pretty clear manifestation of tertiary Introverted Sensing (Si): I can confirm from experience that INTPs are prone to cynically comparing the present with a happier time in the past, and find it hard to let go of memories and people (sometimes to the point of being loath to be open to new opportunities and possibilities in the present) when they’re seized by this kind of nostalgic, wistful cynicism.

Typing Doctor Who: Eleventh Doctor (ENTP)


Quick, ingenious, stimulating, alert, and outspoken. Resourceful in solving new and challenging problems. Adept at generating conceptual possibilities and then analyzing them strategically. Good at reading other people. Bored by routine, will seldom do the same thing the same way, apt to turn to one new interest after another.

This was an easy one, because ENTPs are one of the easiest types to pick. Do you know anyone who speaks predominantly in memes and puns, with whom every conversation feels like an exhilarating rollercoaster ride, and who relishes debating and arguing — about anything — just for the thrill of it? If so, you have yourself an ENTP friend, and you should consider yourself privileged, because they’re one of the rarest, but also the most awesome and engaging types (in my opinion).

ENTPs are ruled by Extraverted Intuition (Ne), which means their heads are constantly brimming with new ideas and possibilities which they can get very excited about, and allows them to perceive connections between ideas and phenomena very quickly and instinctively. Their Ne is supported by auxiliary Introverted Thinking (Ti), which processes and analyses the many ideas that present themselves to the ENTP with internal, subjective logic, making them a very rational and logical, but also profoundly intellectually creative personality.


It’s pretty clear to me that the Eleventh Doctor (who also happens to be my favourite Doctor), is an ENTP. For one thing, the Eleventh Doctor positively bleeds Extraverted Intuition (Ne). He’s constantly excited by the many new ideas and possibilities that his intuition generates, leaping dizzyingly from idea to idea, leading to his appearing hyperactive. Dominant Ne-users (ENTPs and ENFPs) are very easy to spot because of their Extraverted Intuition, and the way it constantly generates a slew of ideas, which tends to lead Ne-dominants to have a very animated and hyperactive, and often whimsical and child-like, manner. The Eleventh Doctor definitely conforms to this stereotype: he has a goofy and whimsical manner and comes across as unfocussed and excitable. Another great fictional ENTP character characterised by Ne-dominant “goofiness” is Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean.

One thing that struck me as a very ENTP thing Eleven did was in Flesh and Stone, where River chided him “Time’s running out!” while they were being pursued by Weeping Angels, and Eleven momentarily scoffed at the remark before becoming captivated by another completely abstract idea that his intuition generated from that innocuous remark of River’s: “maybe time could run out? Maybe time can be unwritten?” So Eleven was distracted by arcane metaphysical ideas in the middle of a life-threatening crisis situation. ENTP af.


It’s also clear that, frivolous and goofy and personable as Eleven may be, he’s also highly rational and calculating, sometimes coldly so. That’s his auxiliary Introverted Thinking (Ti). Behind those animated, childlike eyes lie cool, rigorous mental processes with which he makes judgments and decisions. In The Girl Who Waited he comes to the conclusion which his logic tells him is the only feasible one — that the elder Amy must be left behind — and, putting sentimentality aside, manipulates and lies to Rory and the two Amys in order to bring about this resolution. In The Big Bang, with some quick and agile mental analysis, he figures out why the Pandorica restored the Dalek, and how he can use the Pandorica, in combination with his exploding Tardis, to restore the rapidly decaying universe. The way he puzzles continuously over Clara, the “Impossible Girl”, in Series 7 is also indicative of Ti in that he simply can’t rest until he understands it, he can’t just let it remain a mystery—a very Ti thing.

Another, more empathetic and sensitive side of Eleven’s is represented by his tertiary Extraverted Feeling (Fe), which makes him sensitive to the feelings of others and concerned about maintaining group harmony. Eleven’s Fe is fairly well-developed, I think. He knows when people need emotional support, and how to give it to them. Eleven is adept at comforting and giving reassurance to his companions and friends. In Vincent and the Doctor he comforts Amy after she becomes upset at finding that, even after all they did for him, Vincent van Gogh still took his own life within months of their visit. His taking Amy to see Van Gogh’s paintings at the Musée d’Orsay and lots of other things she wanted to see is itself a manifestation of his Extraverted Feeling, in his empathy and generosity towards Amy after Rory’s apparent death. His Fe also manifests itself in his need for affirmation, for example, of his fashion choices (“bowties are cool”).


Eleven also has a darker, brooding, tortured side to his personality which simmers beneath the surface. I think this is a manifestation of his inferior Introverted Sensing (Si), particularly in the way his subjective memories, and the sensations and emotions associated with those memories exert an influence over him. The negative emotions associated with his negative memories (negative because his memories are processed through the subjective, internalised filter of Si) of things like the Time War, his past companions, and his own actions weigh intensely heavily upon him, and create this bubbling well of regret and self-loathing inside of him which sometimes boils over onto the surface. I also think we see him in the throes of a Si-grip in The Snowmen, where, after losing Amy and Rory, he retreats into reclusion and self-hating isolation, spiting the thought of engaging with the world and with new people again, being full of regret over the fate of his two best friends (for which he blames himself).

Typing Doctor Who: Clara Oswald (ESFP)


Outgoing, friendly, and accepting. Exuberant lovers of life, people, and material comforts. Enjoy working with others to make things happen. Bring common sense and a realistic approach to their work, and make work fun. Flexible and spontaneous, adapt readily to new people and environments. Learn best by trying a new skill with other people.

(What is this? Read my Typing Doctor Who introduction.)

Clara is an adventurous thrill-seeker who enthusiastically soaks up the novel and fantastic experiences and sensations that travelling in the Tardis affords her. More than just loving the Tardis life, it’s obvious that she’s positively addicted to the life of risk and adventure that she leads with the Doctor. For Clara, the Doctor and the Tardis are a drug. This is clear, for example, when Clara, in Mummy on the Orient Express, throws her doubts and uncertainties, and resentment, about the Twelfth Doctor to the wind — lying to both the Doctor and Danny in the process — because she can’t keep away from the Tardis life. The Doctor even becomes concerned about Clara’s reckless and thrill-seeking attitude, as we see in Under the Lake and The Girl Who Died. To me, this all points emphatically to the dominant Extraverted Sensing (Se) function of the ESFP.

Clara’s relationship with Danny Pink (INFJ?) is also strong evidence of dominant Se. Given their natural desire to explore and seek excitement and novelty, ESFPs can sometimes feel constrained by relationships, and are hesitant about seriously committing to a person. Clara was never as invested in her relationship with Danny as he was, despite being the one who instigated the relationship in the first place. She was constantly trying to balance her relationship with Danny with her much more exciting life of adventure with the Doctor, with the result being that she never fully invested herself in that relationship. Her relationship with Danny was just one more thing in her life, and I don’t think it’s unfair to say that, if she had been made to choose between Danny and the Doctor, she would choose the Doctor (and she kind of did, in Death in Heaven… “He is the closest person to me in this whole world. He is the man I will always forgive, always trust. The one man I would never, ever lie to.”) That said, I think she did really love Danny, but only realised the extent of her feelings for him after he died.


I wavered between ESFP and ESTP for Clara. Both are Se-dominant types, but the difference is in the auxiliary function: ESFPs have auxiliary Introverted Feeling (Fi), and ESTPs auxiliary Introverted Thinking (Ti). Clara often comes off as a Thinking type: she’s adept at working out solutions to problems that present themselves to her, and she’s particularly good at thinking on her feet. But there are other times she displays a lot of Introverted Feeling. I think this is where there is a lot of confusion about Clara’s type, and I think it’s because she isn’t an “archetypal” version of an ESFP or of any type. I think she’s an ESFP whose lower functions, Extraverted Thinking (Te) and Introverted Intuition (Ni) have undergone a great degree of development due to the influence of the (Twelfth) Doctor, whom I think is an INTJ, a type which uses all the four same cognitive functions as ESFPs, but in reverse order. Naturally, hanging around with a type who constantly uses your lower, weaker functions, and who has exercised as profound an influence over your personality as the Twelfth Doctor has over Clara’s, you’ll tend to experience a lot of development of those lower functions.*

So, in Series 9 we see Clara displaying a confident command of her tertiary Extraverted Thinking (Te), a function which seeks to impose order on the external world and figure out the most efficient, logical way of accomplishing goals and solving practical problems. In The Girl Who Died, she was the only one who thought to use the Vikings’ swords to attempt to jam the door on the Mire’s spaceship, and she deftly (and almost successfully, if it weren’t for some meddling kid) took to persuading the Mire to leave Earth in peace. In Before the Flood, she figured out that Lunn was able to bypass the ghosts to retrieve the phone, so they could talk to the Doctor. The show constantly makes it clear that Clara’s pragmatic, often cold logic is a product of the Doctor’s influence:

LUNN: “She said to ask you whether travelling with the Doctor changed you, or were you always happy to put other people’s lives at risk.”

CLARA: “He taught me to do what has to be done.”


In contrast, Clara’s auxiliary Introverted Feeling manifests itself more naturally and instinctively. Although she’s good with people and has fluent social skills (typical for an ESFP), she’s generally more attuned to her own feelings than those of others, and, especially in her relations with the Doctor, frequently elevates the importance of her own feelings. In her outburst at the Doctor in Kill the Moon, she didn’t even try to engage with the Doctor’s logic or perspective, insisting that her own feelings of abandonment were paramount. In Dark Water, she attempted to blackmail the Doctor into bringing Danny Pink back, contemptuously brushing aside the Doctor’s protestations about the laws of time, which paled in importance, in her view, before her feelings. She did something similar in Before the Flood when the Doctor decided he had to die because he saw his ghost (“Not with me! Die with whoever comes after me. You do not leave me.”) And I don’t see what Clara’s insistence that the Doctor not wipe her memory in Hell Bent, disregarding the Time Lords’ solemn warnings about the fracturing of time, is if not a manifestation of Introverted Feeling. On the other hand, Clara protested against the Doctor activating the Moment in The Day of the Doctor, despite seeing no other alternative, because she felt on a deep, personal level that what the Doctor was doing was wrong, logic and pragmatism be damned.**

In summary, Clara is an ESFP, an adventurous thrill-seeker, driven by exploration, who thrives on excitement and sensory stimulation, albeit, by Series 9, a more balanced, well-rounded one who has successfully developed the weaker sides of her personality through her association with the Twelfth Doctor. I should mention that one of my best friends is a female ESFP, and it was seeing such a striking resemblance between Clara and my friend that first made me see Clara as an ESFP. Both are passionate, excitable, energetic people who live for adventure and experience, and I adore them both.

* It’s also, I think, because Clara’s personality has been something of an enigma over her time on the show. In Series 7 there wasn’t much to her character beyond the Impossible Girl arc, and what personality she had was a generic constellation of standard Moffat female character tropes. In Series 8 the writers gave her personality more substance, but I felt like they still only had a very general idea of what Clara’s character was supposed to be. Only by Series 9 did Clara feel like a realistic, convincing, fleshed-out character—and it’s on Clara’s character in Series 9 that I’m predominantly basing this personality analysis.

** I hope I haven’t come across as too disparaging of Fi here with my mostly “negative” examples of Clara’s use of Fi. I was just using the most overt examples of Clara’s Fi, and, also, because it’s not a function I have myself, I don’t thoroughly understand it except by description, and so I find I struggle to recognise it except by its more obvious manifestations. I assure Fi-users that I don’t have a negative view of Fi at all—in fact it’s probably one of the functions that most fascinates me.

Typing Doctor Who

So there’s not much going on in the world of Doctor Who at the moment. No new episodes until Christmas, and the next series won’t be on our screens for at least another 12 months. The new companion should be announced imminently, and I’ll do a post about that when it happens, but, otherwise, there’s not much for this blog to do at the moment in terms of Doctor Who-related content.

I want to keep this blog active during these dark, Who-less times, though. Apart from devoting more attention to non-Who topics to make up for the dearth of Doctor Who material, I’ve also decided to embark on a project that I’m sure many of my readers will find interesting and which I’ve no doubt will keep me busy and engaged on this blog.

So, recently I’ve become very interested in MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator). For those who don’t know what it is, MBTI is a very well-known theory of personality types. The theoretical foundations were laid by psychologist Carl Jung, which were later developed and expanded upon by Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers (thus “Myers-Briggs”). It’s by a good length the most popular “personality type” theory (it’s certainly the most accessible to laypeople), and, although it’s not really rigorous, scientific psychology, as far as I know it’s generally accepted among psychologists as a legitimate and useful, albeit limited and rudimentary, theory.

You might have worked out where I’m going with this. It’s popular among lay enthusiasts of the MBTI to attempt to work out the personality types of fictional characters. I’ve become so engrossed in this theory that I find myself silently typing not only every fictional character I watch or read about, but also every person I meet. I find it a very fun mental exercise, and it helps me understand how others work and how they’re different from me. Inevitably, I’ve thought about the MBTI types of the characters of my favourite TV show, and I thought you all might be interested in knowing my thoughts and my reasoning.

So that’s what I’m going to be doing with this blog (among other things) over the coming months. Hopefully, at least once a week (if I have time), I’ll do a post about a Doctor Who character and their MBTI type, giving my reasoning behind why I’ve typed them the way I have. You needn’t worry—this isn’t going to be a set of impenetrable, arcane, theory-heavy pseudo-academic discussions: MBTI by its very nature is a very simple and accessible and easy-to-understand theory, which is part of the reason it’s so popular. And, of course, I’ll try my best to keep my posts as readable and relevant as possible.

As general disclosure, I’ll say that I’m by no means an expert on MBTI, but I have a decent amateur’s understanding of the theory (which is what at least half the people who run MBTI Tumblr blogs have). But I don’t claim that my typings will be definitive, they’re just my best estimations using what mastery of the theory that I have (which is the best anyone can do when you’re dealing with made-up characters anyway). I certainly invite those with a more thorough understanding of the theory to share their thoughts and feel free to disagree with my conclusions.

This is just an introductory post—my next post will be my first character typing. But here’s a teaser of what’s to come: some of the characters I’ve typed and which I’ll be writing about:

  • Twelfth Doctor — INTJ
  • Clara Oswald — ESFP
  • Eleventh Doctor — ENTP
  • Amy Pond — ENFP
  • Rory Williams — ISFJ
  • Tenth Doctor — ENFP
  • Ninth Doctor — INFP
  • Fourth Doctor — ENTP
  • Etc.

Stay tuned!

Some resources:

For the uninitiated, although I’m going to make these posts as readable to those completely ignorant of MBTI as possible, it still might be useful to have at least some basic grasp of the theory. It’s not difficult to understand at all.

  • Here is a brief basic overview of MBTI.
  • Here is a slightly more in-depth overview of the cognitive functions (which are the fundamental underlying theory of MBTI—yes, it’s more than just the four letters).
  • And, if you’re interested in working out your MBTI type, this is probably your best resource. Regarding quizzes, MBTI quizzes are fun to take, but they’re not the most accurate or reliable way of working out your type, simply because the nature of the theory actually makes it quite difficult to test accurately with an online quiz. If you can’t be bothered learning the theory and want to take a quiz, try to take a few different quizzes and see if your results are consistent.