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INFP (introversion, intuition, feeling, perception) is an abbreviation used in the publications of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to refer to one of sixteen personality types. The MBTI was developed from the work of prominent psychiatrist Carl G. Jung in his book Psychological Types. Jung proposed a psychological typology based on the theories of cognitive functions that he developed through his clinical observations. From Jung's work, others developed psychological typologies. Jungian personality assessments include the MBTI assessment, developed by Isabel Briggs Myers and Katharine Cook Briggs, and the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, developed by David Keirsey.
INFPs are driven by a strong sense of right and wrong and a desire to exercise their creativity, even if only behind the scenes. Their weaknesses include sensitivity to criticism, poor organization, and low assertiveness. Keirsey referred to the INFPs as Healers, one of the four types belonging to the temperament he called the Idealists. INFPs are one of the rarer types, accounting for about 4-5% of the population.
By using their preference in each of these areas, people develop what Jung and Myers called psychological type. This underlying personality pattern results from the dynamic interaction of their four preferences, in conjunction with environmental influences and their own individual tendencies. People are likely to develop behaviors, skills, and attitudes based on their particular type. Each personality type has its own potential strengths as well as areas that offer opportunities for growth.
The MBTI tool consists of multiple choice questions that sort respondents on the basis of the four "dichotomies" (pairs of psychological opposites). Sixteen different outcomes are possible, each identified by its own four-letter code, referred to by initial letters. (N is used for iNtuition, since I is used for Introversion). The MBTI is approximately 75% accurate according to its own manual.
According to Myers-Briggs, INFPs focus much of their energy on an inner world dominated by intense feeling and deeply held ethics. They seek an external life that is in keeping with these values. Loyal to the people and causes important to them, INFPs can quickly spot opportunities to implement their ideals. They are curious to understand those around them, and so are accepting and flexible unless their values are threatened.
According to Keirsey, based on observations of behavior, notable INFPs may include Princess Diana, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Audrey Hepburn, Richard Gere, William Shakespeare, Albert Schweitzer and Isabel Briggs Myers (self-reported to the test she invented with her mother, Katharine Cook Briggs).
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For illustrative purposes, Keirsey and his son, David M. Keirsey, have identified well-known individuals whose behavior is consistent with a specific type. Unless otherwise noted, the categorization of the individuals below, whether living or dead, as INFPs is a matter of expert opinion rather than the result of the named individual taking a personality type inventory.
Drawing upon Jungian theory, Isabel Myers proposed that for each personality type, the cognitive functions (sensing, intuition, thinking, and feeling) form a hierarchy. This hierarchy represents the person's default pattern of behavior.
The Dominant function is the personality type's preferred role, the one they feel most comfortable with. The secondary Auxiliary function serves to support and expand on the Dominant function. If the Dominant is an information gathering function (sensing or intuition), the Auxiliary is a decision making function (thinking or feeling), and vice versa. The Tertiary function is less developed than the Dominant and Auxiliary, but it matures over time, rounding out the person's abilities. The Inferior function is the personality type's Achilles's heel. This is the function they are least comfortable with. Like the Tertiary, the Inferior function strengthens with maturity.
Jung and Myers considered the attitude of the Auxiliary, Tertiary, and Inferior functions to be the opposite of the Dominant. In this interpretation, if the Dominant function is extraverted, then the other three are introverted, and vice versa. However, many modern practitioners hold that the attitude of the Tertiary function is the same as the Dominant. Using the more modern interpretation, the cognitive functions of the INFP are as follows:
Fi filters information based on interpretations of worth, forming judgments according to criteria that are often intangible. Fi constantly balances an internal set of values such as harmony and authenticity. Attuned to subtle distinctions, Fi innately senses what is true and what is false in a situation. With Fi as their dominant function, INFPs live primarily in a rich inner world of emotion.
Ne finds and interprets hidden meanings, using “what if” questions to explore alternatives, allowing multiple possibilities to coexist. This imaginative play weaves together insights and experiences from various sources to form a new whole, which can then become a catalyst to action. INFPs engage the outside world primarily with intuition. They are adept at seeing the big picture, sensing patterns and the flow of existence from the past toward the future.
Si collects data in the present moment and compares it with past experiences, a process that sometimes evokes the feelings associated with memory, as if the subject were reliving it. Seeking to protect what is familiar, Si draws upon history to form goals and expectations about what will happen in the future. This function gives INFPs a natural inclination toward "other-worldliness" and makes them more easily distracted.
Te organizes and schedules ideas and the environment to ensure the efficient, productive pursuit of objectives. Te seeks logical explanations for actions, events, and conclusions, looking for faulty reasoning and lapses in sequence. This function helps INFPs focus on external details, but being the inferior function, requires the expenditure of greater energy and is not as reliable.
Later personality researchers (notably Linda V. Berens) added four additional functions to the descending hierarchy, the so-called "shadow" functions to which the individual is not naturally inclined but which can emerge when the person is under stress. For INFP, these shadow functions are (in order):