This is an unusual post to write, because there is for the most part, absolutely no factual evidence that I know of which can support this.
My Myers-Briggs type is INTJ. The Myers-Briggs index is something I have an interest in. INTJ means – in terms of my preferences with regards to functions for interpreting the world around me – my favourite functions are introverted INTUITION, and extraverted thinking. I’m fascinated by this in part because I realise there is an inherent truth to it. One I profoundly identify with. The INTJ is classed a ‘rational’ type, but oddly, certainly in terms of myself, I find that little thinking happens at the CONSCIOUS level. By which I mean, in contrast to say, an INTP (and I’m presuming here because I’ve never been in the head of one) whose dominant and auxilliary functions are: introverted thinking followed by extraverted intuition, there isn’t really some kind of ‘internal playhouse‘ in the sense you might imagine. One where you can go to to just retreat into your thoughts to ponder the subtle nuances and make sense of say, Quantum Physics, at your leisure. I am brushing with broad brushstrokes here and this post is really through the lens of myself, my dominant and auxilliary functions, in order to function I have to be essentially engaged with the world around me. I have to be almost constantly doing things. This serves this purpose of a) absorbing new experiences and information which ‘feeds’ intuition – which we will come to view intuition as essentially a kind of great data-bank which grows organically with all new experiences and information it ascertains and absorbs and b) gives the existing intuition, as my primary, preferred and favourite function the ‘fun’ of playing around, observing, assessing, deconstructing and making sense of all of this new information. There is of course a price to be paid for this function. As this is a process and function that is absorbing information constantly, this can be extremely draining – this is when I find myself becoming withdrawn, or worse still, as the auxiliary extraverted thinking function becomes over-burdened, the weak tertiary function of introverted feeling will come into play. When I experience this loop I generally find myself experiencing something of a ‘melancholy’ for want of a better word. I think that in actuality to get to this point, it’s because I’ve been overwhelmed by external stimuli and because the tertiary introverted feeling function is so weakly developed. I personally find ‘feelings’ confusing and because I’m not good with them at the best of times, in the sense they’re not something I naturally use constructively, anyway. When the stronger function of extraverted thinks absents itself due to being already overwhelmed, this sense of ‘melancholy’ quite easily takes hold. This will carry on until the stronger auxiliary function of extraverted thinking returns from its proverbial malaise. I actually think it would probably be interesting to explore this separately in a less glib and trite manner.
I digress. Introverted thinking – and as I’m brushing with broad strokes, I’m also referring here to the societal stereotype and perception of the scientist enveloped deep in thought – is not a developed function for me, yet conversely, I am therefore prone to place a value on some level on this kind of thinking. Therefore if for example, I’m to actually say to myself, “Oh, I don’t really think as much as I should.” The internal dialogue following this would then be frankly bizarre (I’m actually acutely conscious of my own value judgement here). As my primary and preferred function for interpreting and making sense of the world around me is introverted intuition, I would find myself in some weird loop where I’m observing myself thinking about thinking and then trying to make sense of why I am effectively fucking rubbish at introverted thinking. Case in point: “Ok, I’m thinking. What should I think about? Why is it when I try to think about things, I only think about thinking?” This is not to say I’m actually incapable of thinking about things at some length. The point is merely that the primary function of introverted intuition is an observing and prospecting function. It is one where you OBSERVE the world around you, not always consciously, and THEN, once you have observed something and usually when it peaks your interest at a CONSCIOUS level, supported by the EXTRAVERTED thinking function, that will usually be when I’ll find myself pondering the subtle nuances of say, Quantum Physics and organising those thoughts into something coherent. Notice, I didn’t say ‘try to make sense of.’ The intuition observes, assesses, understands. Extraverted thinking organises it into something relevant and useful. I wondered about this for many years, why whilst I consistently tested as a rational, thinking type I spent little time actually thinking at any kind of length, and my internal monologues when I essentially tried to think about things deeply and at length in what I would consider to be an introverted manner would be like the one described above. It seemed quite counter-intuitive, how can you be a thinker if you don’t actually consciously think in what would be therefore deemed the conventional sense? For an INTJ, the thinking is a secondary function done extrovertly. Introverted thinking is not a function the INTJ actually possesses. Understanding introverted intuition at the subconscious level combined with extraverted thinking is the key to unlocking how this process actually works.
This is where it gets interesting. Introverted intuition is not a conscious function. It’s not even something you are even usually aware of. Usually, the only times you’ll become aware of it, is when you try to use your favourite function – and it can be something of an auto-pilot/crutch – to try and do something moderately complex you have no previous experience and background knowledge of, I mean, not speaking from experience or anything, but have you ever tried to learn to drive by essentially ignoring your driving instructor and going by your instincts of how to drive, or turned up at say, an important grievance meeting where you accurately and perfectly outline someone’s strategy and malign intentions, right down to the nth degree along with the number of job losses that will entail, and they turn around and say, ‘Well have you actually got any evidence in writing to support all of this?’ They don’t tell you, you’re wrong, only, ‘Have you got evidence?’
‘The lion’s share of INJs’ “thinking” or cognitive processing occurs outside of their conscious awareness. Their best thinking is typically done without thinking, at least not consciously. For INJs, “sleeping on” a problem is as sure a route to a solution as any.
Because it does much of its work subconsciously, Ni can seem to have a certain magical quality about it. In fact, it is not unusual for INJs to be viewed as having some degree of psychic or prophetic abilities.Despite its magical appearance, Ni can be understood on a rational basis. What seems to be occurring is that many INJs have a highly sensitive inferior function, Extraverted Sensation (Se), which gathers copious amounts of sensory information from the outside world, including subtleties that other personality types tend to miss. Their Ni then subconsciously processes this data in order to make sense of it, like assembling pieces of a puzzle. Once finished, Ni generates an impression that seems to come out of “nowhere.” But the fact is that the intuition did not come out of nowhere, but from a synthesis of sensory data gathered from the immediate environment combined with information from the INJ’s own psyche.’
As described above, intuition is not random. However it can certainly appear that way. It’s not a mysterious power, although it can certainly appear that way too. It is essentially grounded in your experiences. It’s a subconscious function that bubbles away beneath the surface. It’s every experience you’ve ever had. It’s everything you’ve ever read or seen. At it’s best, along with strong EXTRAVERTED thinking it can make you appear to have profound insight. To bastardise a Malcolm Gladwell quote, ‘It’s the power of being rational, without being remotely (consciously) rational.’ My reason for writing this however does actually seem to me to be random and actually at odds with everything I’ve just said. So let’s run with this:
This morning, at about midday, I was in a shop. I decided I wanted to buy some clothes. I somehow – and for a supposed ‘rational,’ there is no easy way of squaring this, I came to the conclusion I had £235 – which is quite an arbitrary number as it happens – to spend. At midday today, I knew I didn’t actually have £235 to spend on clothes at all. I know this, because I obsessively keep spreadsheets for my finances and pretty much everything else, actually. However, the auto-pilot took hold, and I ended up spending just shy of £200 on clothes and footwear I knew rationally, I couldn’t afford. Now this where it gets odd. I went for coffee at three pm. I had a coffee, some food and sat reading a book centred on the Guy Debord notion of psycho-geography. Around four pm I became absolutely convinced that if I went to the casino I would win. I’m not a big gambler. I haven’t even been in a casino for around ten years. But I was convinced I would win. I have no idea where this thought came from. I mean, I have a friend who won big on roulette a few weeks ago. I also have a friend from within the same group who has just been to Vegas, had a few ‘spins’ as he put it and is around £3000 worse off than he was when he initially left the country. So if we take something of a psycho-geographic approach and start trying to ascertain my reasons for going to the casino by analysing the whole world around me, well, we’re still no better off. Although there may be grounds for saying, I had the idea to go to a casino because I know two people who have been to casinos lately, rationally, knowing a person lost far more than the other won, certainly would not convince me it was even a good idea to go, let alone convince me that I was going to win. Suffice to say, I went to the casino and I won £235.
So how did I seemingly know I was going to win £235, hours before it happened? Well, I didn’t. There is numerous ways I could’ve got to the seemingly arbitrary figure of £235. The likelihood, from an ‘intuitive’ level is probably far more banal. It would probably be some sub-conscious calculation that looked roughly more like: there’s a sale on, so: something that seems relatively good value against percentage of weekly wage I’m willing to spend on overpriced clothing that looks good, against debt and/or overtime I would be willing to endure to actually pay for this. But how come I ended up winning £235? The exact amount I had in my head. I’m actually a firm believer, that if you want something, your mind will immediately start constructing ways for you to get it. Again, let’s take the psycho-geographic approach. But £235? Prior to going for coffee, I was going to go to the cinema which is across the way from a casino. My mind has probably registered this as a reasonably safe way of making money. The sheer conviction that I was going to win is a little bit more difficult to square away, however, there have been studies done on the intuition of gamblers in test conditions. One such example is as follows:
“Gamblers – given four deck of cards – A,B (red) and C,D (blue). The red cards give high payoffs, but also have high costs. The blue cards give slow payoffs, but are better in the long run. By the 50th card, gamblers have a hunch that the blue cards are a better bet. By the 80th card, they can tell you why. The brain has formed a theory. But the amazing finding is that when researchers put sensors on the palm to measure sweat (skin conductance response or SCR) – the sweat glands under the palm produce more sweat when we are hot, but also when under stress (that’s why we have “clammy hands” when stressed.) They found that the subjects were generating stress responses to the red deck as early as the tenth card, forty cards before they could were able to say that they had a hunch … Right around this time, their behaviour also started favouring the blue cards and taking fewer and fewer of the reds…”
‘An Extraverted Thinking-based, objective approach generally entails measurements and quantitative standards. Never vague or ambiguous, it employs clear definitions, policies, plans, and procedures. It carefully spells out how to get from here to there, using as many maps, directions, and labels as appropriate. The modern world, characterized by a sprawling system of laws and bureaucracy, might be viewed as the offspring of an unchecked Te.
Inspired by their Extraverted Thinking, INTJs and ENTJs are champions of the development and utilization of clear and measurable goals. After receiving the big-picture vision from their Ni, they use their Te to convert it into a set of measurable objectives and to delineate the steps and strategies for its actualization.’
Essentially the nature of introverted intuition combined with extraverted thinking, is one of sub-conciously and then consciously making sense of a series of seemingly random variables, to form snap-judgements of the type that I’ve just taken around 1800 words to rationalise how I may or may not have came to the conclusions I did.
This is what differentiates the tru INTJ from those who wish they were INTJ. These are usually stuffy, tedious ISTJ types often found in academia, who have an abundance of introverted sensing:
‘In SJ types, Si often translates into an adherence to existing facts, traditions, worldviews, or methods. These types are typically not well-equipped for, nor are they highly interested in, creating their own ideas or theories, which would require a stronger Ne. They are more concerned with ensuring their beliefs and behaviors are consistent with an existing standard than they are in formulating their own set of standards. In many ways, they are dependent on what has already been already been tried and established, systems of thought that grant them a sense of consistency and security.’
This is really just something of an aside. Introverted sensing acts like the proverbial spider-sense, they have a profound ability to detect certain shifts or when something appears to be ‘not quite right,’ however, the rigorous adherence to a particular mode of thinking or a certain culture whatever that may be – (this is why these types, even when ‘liberal’ in outlook will still appear to be quite conservative in relative contrast to their peers) in many cases, as their thinking will be rather black and white, they will be unable to fully grasp what the problem is.
‘SJs often experience a strong sense of conviction, a gut feeling about whether some is true or false, right or wrong. This, without having really done much as far as conscious reasoning to arrive at such conclusions. So while Si types may seem stubborn or closed-minded, they may feel that they have little as far as free choice in what they believe. This is why Jung considered Si an irrational function. Not because its conclusions are necessarily irrational, but because of the unconscious way it receives information and draws conclusions.
An excellent example of the irrational element of Introverted Sensing can be found in the book, The Woman Who Can’t Forget. There, the author explains her uncanny ability to accurately recall the details of each and every day of her life, including related historical dates and events. While her powers of memory are undoubtedly unprecedented, what is most telling with regard to her Si is that fact that she cannot control it. She reports feeling great frustration because her mind is constantly replaying memories in a random fashion, despite her best efforts to eliminate them and focus on the present. Even if extraordinary, her experience speaks to the passive, involuntary way in which Si in records and recollects information. This helps to explain why Si dominant types seem to effortlessly recall all sorts of random details and facts. Their recall is simply too quick to be attributed to conscious effort. Such displays of effortless and accurate memory why many non-Si types may see ISJs as unusually intelligent.
Finally, while Ni and Si are both irrational functions, Si is less synthetic and creative than Ni.Si more or less preserves and relays information in its original form. Ni acts more synthetically, weaving together disparate information to construct novel theories, visions, and insights.’
The above underlined is the crucial delineation between introverted sensing and introverted intuition. A dramatic example here, but I will always be reminded of a classic ISTJ type who would not believe that his girlfriend had cheated on him. This was despite the absurdly overwhelming amount of empirical evidence to suggest that yes, she had. Amusingly, in order for him to firmly establish that she had actually cheated – I mean, the person in question was actually sent a barely censored picture where the lady in question quite obviously mid-coitus was wearing a distinctive necklace and ring his mother had gave her a few weeks ago – insisted on being sent a sex video so he could independently verify the date the video was made.
None of this would have been necessary for an INTJ. The would have known she was going to cheat before she did.