Why Sherlock isn’t an INTP

Why Sherlock isn't an INTP | #MBTI #INTJ #INTP

There are several reasons that people often type Sherlock as an xNTP. #1 They don’t fully understand the Jungian functions and are basing their argument in stereotypes… or #2 they don’t fully understand Sherlock as a character, or have rationalised his persona to fit their reality.

Just for you, I’m going to discuss each Jungian function in depth, and explain to you why Sherlock cannot possibly be an INTP…

Fi vs Fe:

Sherlock understands his own feelings a lot better than he understands anyone else’s. When he freaks out about feeling fear in The Hound of Baskerville, it’s not because he doesn’t understand what he’s feeling –it’s  #1 because he doesn’t like the idea of being controlled by his emotions, and #2 because he wants to understand the logical reason for why he is feeling those emotions. Usually he’s able to control his emotions to an extent and when he suddenly he finds that he can’t, he knows that there has to be some external cause.

Sure, he doesn’t always know how to handle his emotions, but then, most immature INTJs don’t. My view is that although he understands his feelings, he views them as a weakness and thus, tries to detach from them.

So maybe he wants to be a sociopath, but he certainly isn’t one. (I’m not a sociopath either, but I’ve been called one, and I pass most sociopath tests floating around the internet).

I think too many people confuse tertiary Fe with the NiSe combination. People think that Sherlock naturally understands people’s emotions simply because he’s able to figure them out, but I really don’t think he does.

Here’s why.

When he observes people closely (Se), his conclusions about them (Ni) are always more accurate than than when he doesn’t pay close attention to them (thus, his slowness to recognize Molly’s infatuation). I think an Fe would have noticed a lot quicker and more naturally, whereas, Sherlock has to use the scientific method to figure out people’s emotions.

When he decides to reveal that he’s “not dead” to John, he doesn’t really think about the emotional implications that this will have in John’s life. He fakes his death because he doesn’t want his loved ones to die, but doesn’t consider the fact that it might hurt them more to have him dead than if they died.

A lot of people think that what Sherlock did was incredibly selfless, and in a way it was, but at the same time, his primary reason for doing it was because he was emotionally attached to those people and didn’t want them to die, not because he didn’t want them to hurt. If he didn’t want them to hurt, he would have considered their feelings in his decision, not just their lives.

Ti vs Te:

He’s such an NiTe user that it’s actually funny.

SHERLOCK: Look, it doesn’t matter to me who’s Prime Minister, or who’s sleeping with who…

JOHN: Whether the Earth goes round the Sun…

SHERLOCK: Oh, not that again.

Sherlock cares far more about the use of knowledge, things and people than he does about the idea of them. Have you ever noticed his references to “deleting things?” Sherlock forgets everything that isn’t directly important to his goals. The solar system is irrelevant, so he forgets it. He forgets that we don’t have a current King of England etc.

My room-mates recently rented a puppy. Since puppies have no relevance to my life goals, I naturally forgot about it, but my room-mates kept bringing it up over and over again as if they could think of nothing else. When I was seventeen, my sister had to explain who Angelina Jolie was to me. Obviously… because Angelina Jolie has no relevance to my life goals.

Anyroad, back to Sherlock.

INTPs tend to be a little bit more indecisive than Sherlock is. Unlike an INTP, Sherlock focuses on one thing at a time. Even when considering all the possibilities, he doesn’t get distracted by anything that doesn’t have a direct correlation to his goals.

INTPs jump from idea to idea, without really caring whether they accomplish something as a result of those ideas. I have a friend who’s an INTP and he’s one of the most indecisive people I know (beaten only by my Dad, also an INTP). My friend constantly talks about ideas, but never implements any of them. Two weeks before both he and I were about to head off to university, he decided out of the blue that he wanted to be a missionary for two years. I haven’t seen him since.

Sherlock is always decisive and typically very predictable in his habits. He knows exactly what he wants, figures out how to get it (Ni) and then goes after it with passion (Te). The most blatantly tell-tale sign that Sherlock is an Te user is how task-oriented he is.

SHERLOCK: Seriously? I just told you that the entire world is run from this house and you want to talk about dinner?

Furthermore, Sherlock needs closure to feel satisfied. Whereas an NeTi user would be satisfied just to analyse information, Sherlock has to see a problem all the way to the end or else  he continues to think about it for the rest of eternity (at John’s wedding, he was still thinking about the Mayfly Man, because he never solved it).

Lastly, Sherlock’s thought process rarely stays inside his head. His Ni plans and ideas do, but his thought process happens majorly out loud.

Se vs Si:

The existing arguments for Sherlock being an Si user mostly concern a fundamental misunderstanding of Sherlock’s mind palace.

However, I have the fortunate vantage point of having used the Method of Loci since I was 13. That being said, I understand that while it is a system for memorising information, it is certainly not something an Si user would normally employ (not to say they couldn’t). The reason for this is that the memory palace system operates primarily based off of vivid, visual imagery –not internal facts.

The mind palace is essentially a visual tool that only an Se user would truthfully be able to use in great depth. INTJs tend to think in very concrete terms, which often translates to thinking in images. Sherlock is a visual learner, not an auditory or kinesthetic one. Sherlock very clearly thinks in concrete images. Ever notice how we always see the words that he’s thinking?

The reason for this is that in order to know that a word is the correct one, Sherlock must have a visual image of it in his head. He can’t remember them just by sound –it has to be by sight. And…the very fact that Sherlock needs a system to help him remember things suggests that he isn’t an Si user.

Remember that you can’t assume that just because someone has a really fabulous memory that they are automatically an Si user. That’s an unfortunate stereotype that Tumblr has infused into the minds of millions of the world idiots.

Secondly, Sherlock hates tradition. His approach to everything is unconventional and often socially inappropriate. He doesn’t care about rules (other than the rules of logic) and doesn’t value social conventions (he will leave a wedding early, or walk around in a bed sheet at Buckingham Palace).

Se users are prone to noticing things about their environment that other people miss –Sherlock, obviously. His deductions are typically based off of careful external observations (Se) that then feed his Ni, giving him intuitions about possibilities and liklihoods.  The more visual/physical observations he can make about a person, the more accurate his deductions are.

I do this myself –though certainly not to the extent and prowess of Sherlock Holmes.

A few months ago, I covered as a temporary dental assistant and I distinctly recall an older gentleman coming into the office to have his teeth worked on (it wasn’t very busy that day). Based on the type of pants he wore, I figured out that he worked in some form manual labor. His farmer’s tan was also quite noticeable, suggesting that he worked outside.

He had a jacket with a memorialised name and dates of birth-death embroidered on it. The dates suggested that the person had been 35 years old when they’d died and the name was male. Because of corresponding last names I assumed that the name belonged to this man’s son, because the gentleman was roughly 6o years old and the death had occurred about a decade prior.

He had a wedding ring on, so I guessed that he was married and based on the styling of the embroidered jacket I presumed that he most likely rode and loved a motorcycle, but because the jacket was a relatively normal jacket, (not “out there,” or “over the top,”), I determined that he probably rode with his wife, or a single friend, rather than with a large group or gang.

As I worked on his teeth, I talked to him. As it turned out, he was an engineer, but he had a garden that he worked in every day. He had one son that was still alive and another that had died from cancer. He and his wife liked to ride motorcycles together on weekends.

Not too difficult, but it proves the point. Sherlock sees physical evidence, then they logically computes it into a deduction.

Ni vs Ne:

I don’t really think I should need to clarify why Sherlock is an Ni user…but I will.

I’ve heard people claim that Sherlock is an Ne user just because he always wants to be doing something new. Well, guess what, all of those new things involve solving problems (which is basically a necessity for Ni doms).

Sherlock has got to be solving problems otherwise he gets moody and stir crazy. I know exactly how this feels, because when I’m not intellectually stimulated, I start to get depressed and angry at life. In school, I do much better in the hardest classes than I do in easy ones, because I get my energy primarily from problem solving.

Easy isn’t something that INTJs flock to.

Sherlock’s Se observations (which we’ve gone over) feed his Ni, but there are also times where Sherlock knows the answer long before he can logically or empirically prove why it’s true. This is something that’s relatively unique to Ni users –especially Ni dominants.

I, for instance, have been able to pin people down as suicidal upon a first meeting, only later to actually see the evidence of scars on their wrists. I’ve also known intuitively that various people that my sister hung out with were gay years before they came out of the closet. I know which of my co-workers are porn-addicts, which are secretly dating each other, which spend all their time playing video-games etc.

The point is, Ni dominants are notorious for knowing things that they’re not supposed to know.

Does this sound like Sherlock? Maybe a little?

It’s a piece of cake for me to intuitively pin down the outcomes of the plots in movies. The first time I watched Broadchurch, I knew who the murderer was within the first twenty or so minutes. Eight episodes later, it turns out I was right.

Sherlock makes intuitive leaps to get the answers (Ni), then rationalises them into logical explanations (Te), going off of his visual memory to provide empirical evidence (Se).

Next, Sherlock makes detailed plans. He improvises only where he has to, but otherwise, his acts are only appear to be improvisation because he doesn’t specifically tell others what his plan is. Take a look at His Last Vow if you want a perfect example of Sherlock making long-term plans and carrying them out To. The. Letter.

Then, you see his inferior Se act up when his plan doesn’t work out. Magnussen is actually ahead of him –to the point where Sherlock can’t see any way out and ends up acting in the moment by shooting him. That’s INTJ stress.

Lastly, where INTPs are primarily possibility focused, INTJs are more focused on probability. Sherlock’s whole theory of deduction (which is actually a theory of induction btw), is completely in line with theories of causation, probability and Ockham’s Razor.

SHERLOCK: If you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable must be true.

Sherlock doesn’t try to think up all the possible ways an event could develop. He tries to narrow it down to the one way that events did develop. He’s not interested in possibility where probability is an option.


Think whatever you wish. This is my analysis –educated comments welcome.

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81 thoughts on “Why Sherlock isn’t an INTP

  1. 1. Sherlock is an introvert as can be seen easily on screen
    2. He is an N/S hybrid with both an incredible sense of his surroundings as well as its patterns, he can not be fully integrated into one side.
    3. He is clearly a T
    4. He acts as a J in his work life and often sticks to his plans however he has no remorse over abandoning or failing them and often merely pretends to have had a plan, he also acts as a P in his personal life. Once again I believe he is a hybrid of both sides however he leans toward P more than J which unfortunately for the INTP I am does not make him an INTP.

    Note: I use hybrid to mean messy mix as he is a fiction super genius this sort af messy crossing should be expected, He is not strictly MBTI Definable.
    I would also like to point out that most of your arguments were nearly as circumstantial as the arguments you described but I certainly no longer belive Sherlock is an INTP for equaly terrable reasons.

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  2. HA! I knew Sherlock was an INTJ! He just has too many INTJ traits to not be one. The ni was very obvious but equally as obvious was his fi. As an fi dominant I know an fi user when I see one. Like this person basically said in the article, the very fact that he doesn’t really consider other’s emotions in things and doesn’t care about social norms should tell you something. That’s the mark of a fi user. We don’t care so hard it’s not even funny sometimes lol.

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  3. This entire analysis can be boiled down to this:

    Author: I believe I’m an INTJ. I want Sherlock to be just like me. Let me rationalize everything to talk about myself in relation to Sherlock Holmes to show we are both INTJ’s, and that INTP’s are lazy and indecisive.

    There are many things here that you claim INTP’s can’t do, and it shows your obvious bias against it. INTJ’s and INTP’s are very similar. There is no better

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  4. I agree that Sherlock may not be INTP. But Sherlock is not INTJ. Sherlock is most likely ISTP. Both INTP and INTJ are knowledge hogs. INTP wants mostly to just understand (Fe) , and INTJ to implement them and achieve a goal in reality (Se).

    There is no doubt that Sherlock employs Ti above all. Ti isn’t just about data collecting for the sake of data collecting; it is logic. A=B. B=C; therefore, A=C. Couple that with Se auxillary, which would give Sherlock that well-developed awareness of everything around him which he uses consciously to observe and search for clues, then arrive at conclusion via tertiary Ni, based on the evidence collected. He’s not arriving at a conclusion (Ni), then employing logic to determine how he’ll make the story fit (Te) in line with his moral beliefs (Fi).

    You have to think about how Sherlock is using his knowledge. He’s using it to solve his cases; not to implement a new policy, not to influence another’s opinion, or change a world view. The outcome does not matter in the sense that he has no vested interest in what the outcome should be (Te-Fi not in play), merely that the outcome be correct (Ti-Fe).

    Also, Fi vs Fe isn’t about emotions necessarily; it’s a value system one employs to make a judgment/conclusion; those two should not be taken as synonyms. Also, what INTJ explodes in anger that regularly? Ni-Fi loop would occur in unhealthy INTJ, which would seem very different than as seen in Sherlock’s regular explosive anger (which is more indicative of lower Fe awareness and control… say, inferior Fe). It goes against every definition of Fi being an introverted function. Fi explosion would always be expressed through Te, Ne or Se as they’re the extroverted functions.

    Sherlock’s anger tantrums are very in your face, very Fe. It’s easy to tell when someone is angry via Fe more than Fi because it shows. Sherlock not having much of any control over Fe makes sense if Sherlock employs ISTP functions.

    But I do think his brother Mycroft, could definitely be in the running for INTJ. “He’s the British Government”? That’s a classic INTJ right there.

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  5. I feel like the major problem with typing characters like this (characters based on observances of stereotypical INTJs) is that they are 1: written by an author that is not skilled enough to fully form an INTJ or 2: played by an actor with heavy Ne or Si. (or worse, a combination of the two.)

    Ni can be felt like a 10,000lb magnet. Ne/Si actors have to be genius to disappear into an Ni dom role. Otherwise I often feel like I’m getting some sort of ISTJ/INTJ/INTP hybrid which is always disorienting & disappointing. Cumberbatch has waaayy too much Si to be a convincing Ni dom.

    I feel the same when I watch Mr. Robot. That is NOT an INTJ…it’s an INTP dreaming what it would be like to be an INTJ. :(

    I need more good, convincing & fully formed INTJ heroes/heroines in my life…like Helena from Orphan Black, good. Which reminds me, if anyone cares, I would wager that ISFP actors/actresses most easily portray convincing INTJ character on screen.

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  6. Personally I find Sherlock very ENTP, the use of the Ne is pretty noticeable in my opinion; he can stay alone thinking theories and tracks, but in the end he needs to “go out”, be on the field to get energized, work on a case.

    He needs to share his thoughts with someone immediately (even if most of the times the others don’t even have a clue what he is trying to say) without that much introspection (more common in INTP using Ti as dominant).

    Jumping from an idea to another very fast, and only after he needs a bit of time alone to elaborate what he deducted; seems very Ne -> Ti in my opinion (ENTP).

    Almost a stereotype of an ENTP.

    This is just my personal opinion.
    I don’t consider myself a mbti expert so…

    Thanks for your attention.

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    • ENTP…I think you might be right. As an INTP, I am content to talk to and argue with myself…come to think about it…if I met a Watson that called me “brilliant”…I’d run. In some ways, it’s even worse than negative feedback. Positive feedback is a bit like a “threat” of extended interaction…or worse – FUTURE interaction and expected interaction upon subsequent meetings.

      It also makes me wonder if the lack of “eye contact” could be why an INTP might be diagnosed as “autistic”. “Eye contact” is an invitation to interaction. I avoid it – consciously…always have…SH both does and doesn’t…interesting…

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      • I think that would really depend on the level of introversion in the INTP though, as well as how self-confident they are.
        I’m a INTP, while my younger sister is a “Watson” as you put it, and while she calls me idiot more than brilliant (much like Watson does as he gets to know Sherlock), I’ll take as much praise as I can get from her, or from anybody for that matter. The only problem I have with receiving praise is when they’re complimenting the wrong thing or they’re doing for the wrong reason, and simply clearly do not have a clue about how I did what I did but are making assumptions anyway. Then I hate it because they’re ignorant and probably wouldn’t listen to a correction as they’d get offended at the idea that they were wrong.
        And there’s the real difference, while often INTP’s have no filters, they can tell when they should shut up to avoid prolonged interactions and arguments with people they perceive as less intelligent. It’s not worth spending a hour in a heated debate with an idiot just to prove their point. Especially since it’s unlikely the idiot will admit to being wrong.
        Sherlock has no such apparent idiot-filter and instead pretty much goes straight to name calling when faced with someone like this as he simply doesn’t care to prove his point to the idiot, but rather than avoid conflict like a INTP might, he just jumps to the end of it.
        If anyone got anything from the muddled mess of thoughts up there, I congratulate you! And there’s a bonus piece of evidence that Sherlock might not be a INTP, he doesn’t ramble nearly as much as we do.

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        • I think he does “ramble” but, outwardly which is simply slower than inward rambling which isn’t really rambling at all, but many connections being made, one after another, very quickly. Something that, when expressed outwardly, at the inward speed, would contain gaps due to the simple fact that speech patterns wouldn’t be able to keep up with thought patterns making it appear “jumpy” when, in fact, there are clear paths from one statement to the next that went by so fast they were never expressed, creating an illusion of non-linear thinking. Or not – who knows? I know that I think faster than I type which creates the same result and leads to a seemingly endless rash of edits which I will try to forego, here.

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