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Articles > The ISTP Personality Type

The ISTP Personality Type

Quiet, calculating, and skeptical, ISTPs can have a tough exterior and a strong independent streak.

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This series of short articles touches on several aspects of the ISTP personality type.

You can jump straight to any section by clicking the links below, or keep reading to learn about the definition of the ISTP personality type.

What does ISTP stand for?

ISTP stands for Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, and Perceiving.

  • Introverted vs. Extraverted
  • Sensing vs. Intuitive
  • Thinking vs. Feeling
  • Perceiving vs. Judging

Here’s how to understand the ISTP’s place on all four dimensions:

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ISTPs have an introverted attitude or orientation.

ISTPs tend to focus more on the inner, subjective world of concepts and ideas, while an extraverted attitude leads to a greater focus on the external world of objects and people.


ISTPs prefer to use the cognitive function of sensing over intuition when taking in information about the world.

This dimension, sensing vs. intuition, is known as the perceiving function in MBTI theory.

Sensing refers to perceiving and gathering information directly through the sensory system. People who prefer sensing trust their five senses to directly observe the world, and they can be more skeptical of more intuitive, theoretical approaches to learning and understanding.


ISTPs prefer using their thinking function when judging information and assessing values and needs among people.

This dimension, thinking vs. feeling, is known as the judging function in MBTI theory.

By prefering thinking over feeling as their judging function, ISTPs lean heavily on logic, consistency, and correctness when making decisions, rather than focusing on others’ emotions, desires, and perceptions.


As a perceiving type, ISTPs tend to present their perceiving function of sensing to the external world.

Because they present their perceiving function externally, other people see ISTPs as highly observant realists who focus on the facts and the present moment.

ISTP cognitive functions

The four-letter types from MBTI theory encode each type’s attitudes and preferred cognitive functions.

  1. The first letter indicates an introverted vs. extraverted attitude
  2. The second letter indicates the preferred sensing function
  3. The third letter indicates the preferred judging function
  4. The fourth letter indicates a judging vs. perceiving attitude

For the ISTP,

  • I: This type has an introverted attitude
  • S: This type prefers perceiving through sensing over intuition
  • T: This type prefers judging through thinking over feeling
  • P: This type has a perceiving attitude or orientation and will present their favored perceiving function (sensing) to the outer world

From this, we can determine how the ISTP prefers the four cognitive functions of intuition, sensing, thinking, and feeling:

  • ISTPs’ primary function is thinking (T)
  • ISTPs’ secondary (auxiliary) function is sensing (S)
  • ISTPs’ tertiary function is intuition (N)
  • ISTPs’ inferior function is feeling (F)

Why? ISTPs have an introverted attitude (I) and a perceiving attitude (P), so they present their perceiving function (S) to the external world.

However, as an introverted type, ISTPs prefer an orientation to the inner world, so their primary cognitive function is not what they show to the external world. Instead, their primary cognitive function is their judging function: thinking (T).

ISTPs’ secondary function is the one they show to their external world: sensing. This counterbalances their introverted primary function.

In MBTI theory, the tertiary function is the opposite of the auxiliary function, which for ISTPs is intuition.

Lastly, the inferior function is the opposite of the primary function, which for ISTPs is feeling. The inferior function in all personality types is the least developed function.

How rare is the ISTP personality type?

According to the MBTI, somewhere between 2% and 5% of all people will be classified as an ISTP.

ISTP compatibility with other types

For comparisons between ISTPs and other types from the 16 Personality typology, visit any of the type pairings below:

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