Unexpected Similarities

This article explains why you might resonate with the mind-wiring of your type but also don’t quite fit the stereotype. I generalize an observation that I posted in the Hourglass Personality, which means that you might have an under-developed co-pilot relative to your tertiary. If you imagine your function stack and preference represented by width, this will make the auxiliary/co-pilot skinny in the middle like an hourglass. The article looked at what happens to personas that in order to adapt to their environment and external pressure respond by developing an aspect of them that lies deeper in their core – this makes that type more well-balanced and adaptable than the stereotype. I now generalize the concept to explain, for example, why an INFP can look like an ISFJ, or why an ISFJ might strangely look like an ISTP. These are very different types using the four-letter MBTI codes and the purpose of this article isn’t to say that there is an overt sense of confusion but rather that the connection between the types isn’t as remote as one might think. The similarities are made more clear in the context of the Cognitive Functions.

The reason the type transfer happens and why the person becomes so enigmatic is because the person starts emphasizing the role of tertiary function. All over the internet, people are confused about being one of two radically different types. For example, one person on an online forum writes:

Is it weird that I relate strongly to INFP and ISFJ both? There are times when I find ISFJ and INFP are both very strong in me. I’ve scored both types on tests, and both descriptions are very close to my personality. I know it seems weird, since they are supposedly very different types…but are they really? ISFJs are described as the “Nurturers” and INFPs are often described as “Healers”, which are kind of similar in a way — I find myself playing both these roles.

First I’ll show you a table of results and then I’ll show you how to do the cognitive function math.

True Type Look-alike Type Comment
 INFJ  INTP Hacker INFJ. Enneagram 5’s or 4w5. An example of a confused soul.
 INFP  ISFJ Stability-seeking INFP. Forum discussion on being an INFP or an ISFJ.
 INTJ  INFP Soul-seeking INTJ. Wants nothing more than to become the Kwisatz-Haderach, a prophetic character from Dune who can bend space and time. Might have a bohemian flare. Derek Sivers who himself identifies as an INTJ but writes like an INFP. Also see this.
 INTP  ISTJ Organized INTP. Am I crazy to think an INTP can be confused with an ISTJ? Think again.
 ISFJ  ISTP Adrenaline-loving ISFJ. read more.
 ISFP  INFJ Seer ISFP. Forum discussion.
 ISTJ  ISFP  Artistic ISTJ. This source of confusion I would never have guessed. This was a nice thread.
 ISTP  INTJ Thoughtful ISTP. who is certain of being an ISTP but really resonates with INTJ.
 ENFJ  ESFP Carefree ENFJ. People know that these types can be similar but they can’t seem to put their finger on it.
 ENFP  ENTJ Executive ENFP. Theresa Cullen from Westworld has an ENFP aura but is really tough and she is well-adapted to the stress and pressure of the job.
 ENTJ  ESTP Street-smart ENTJ. Both ESTPs and ENTJ’s love big-ideas and use Introverted Intuition. Helpful comparison here.
 ENTP  ENFJ Diplomatic ENTP.
 ESFJ  ENFP  Passionate ESFJ
 ESFP  ESTJ  Deal-Making ESFP
 ESTJ  ENTP  Improvising ESTJ
 ESTP  ESFJ  Affectionate ESTP.

The Cognitive Math

Simply swap the Tertiary and Primary functions. The INFP is shown below whose functions are Fi, Ne, Si, and Te. Thus after swapping we would be left with Si-Fi. Now, that’s not a “person” in the MBTI system but that result would look a lot like Si-Fe, which is a person. Therefore, simply swap the attitude, meaning if it is extraverted make it introverted and vice versa. Since you only need the first two cognitive functions to define a type it is clear that an Si-Fe type is an ISFJ in MBTI.


After I did this math for all the 16 types above I noticed that these were equivalent to the beneficiary relationships in Socionics, whereby one of the types thinks the other is particularly interesting and receives a benefit. I’ve highlighted the beneficiary relationships from a socionics chart so that you can see that they are the same as the ones we’ve been talking about.

Note that to convert a Socionics 4-letter code to an MBTI code, for introverts you need to swap the lower-case letter (f.ex. turn a “j” into a “p” or a “p” into a “j”) and then capitalize. For extraverts, simply capitalize.

One point that is made clear from this table is that the beneficiary relationship isn’t the same as the benefactor relationship. In other words, the relationship is asymmetric and one of the parties benefits more than the other. The following chart graphically illustrates as a circle and it organizes the 16 types into 4 quadrants in an interesting way.

Closing Thoughts

Typically when you have an enigmatic flare you resonate with the world-view of a different type. However, ultimately you would really resent yourself if you were to submit to that persona. F.ex. an INTP responds to stress by organizing everything and paying close attention to detail (like an ISTJ) but ultimately rejects authority and mindless rule-following just for the sake of it. Similarly, an INTJ is captivated by the visual arts and narratives but who experiences angst at the thought of never accomplishing anything.

An ENFP might resent the stereotype of barfing rainbows and has learned to be tough in negotiations in order to thrive in a competitive business world, yet struggles with the loss of authenticity and identity that comes with giving in to that. In each case, the duality represents an inner-conflict for which the person is always seeking balance. One particular ENFP once made the following observation.

I have a massive conflict inside of me between the rational and the irrational- between extreme Fi and strong ne-te loops, which ultimately leads me to feeling like I’m constantly on the cusp of being practical, analytical, and stressed or easygoing and much more empathetic and warm. – anonymous.

Good Will Hunting Functions

The “hacker-INFJ” isn’t exactly like an INTP because the INFJ is simulating these behaviors from a different context. In Socionics, valuing a function isn’t the same thing as being strong in a function. For example you may be good at playing the piano, but may have no interest in doing so. Think of these as the Good Will Hunting functions, because like Will Hunting’s Fields-Medal-worthy ability to solve abstract mathematical conundrums, he’d rather just spend time with his friends at a construction job. He could care less about what the world thinks about his genius. MBTI generally ignores this distinction and simply focuses on our preferred/ valued function and pretends like all the others are equally unconscious or uncontrollable, but this would be a mistake.

In fact, the 7th and 8th functions (“Opposing” and “Critical Parent” functions) reflect very interesting aspects of your personality and these two videos from Type Tips will help you understand that hugely under-appreciated concept. It will help you appreciate how, fe.x. an INTJ  skillfully wields the power of Ti or how an ENFJ unexpectedly demonstrates mastery of Fi. For an ENFP, The 7th and 8th functions are Ni and Fe  are things that the ENFP tends to ignore, but is actually really good at and can call on those functions at will. They are merely usually seen as boring and meaningless, but I think that traumatic experiences or special situations can bring those functions into a new light, causing them to be used in healthy and complementary ways. These are functions that are readily available and that can help eliminate a person’s cognitive biases.

About Esotariq

Quantitative Finance Professional with a passion for happy living, self-improvement, nutrition, and minimalist running over maximalist distances.