What is an ISTP? Personality Traits, Myths & Cognitive Functions

ISTPs are one of the rarest personality types, which is why there's still a lot of confusion and myths about them. This article will go in depth about what an ISTP is, their cognitive functions stack, and what they're like as people.

The first thing to know about ISTP personalities is that they are introverted thinkers who have a preference for thinking over feeling. They also make up only 3% of the population- making them quite scarce indeed!

An Overview of the ISTP Personality Type

ISTP (introverted, sensing, thinking, perceiving) is one of the 16 personality types identified by the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). People with ISTP personalities are introverted, enjoy time for solitary thought and are fiercely independent. ISTPs are often drawn to action, new experiences, hands-on activities, and the freedom to work at their own pace.

ISTPs enjoy taking things apart just to see how they work. The ISTP personality type is logical and rational, but are more interested in practical applications than in abstract ideas. They love doing new things and can become bored with routines rather quickly.

Key ISTP Characteristics

  • People with an ISTP personality are results-oriented. ISTPs enjoy solving problems when they arise, and try not to worry about things too much before they become a problem.

  • ISTPs enjoy new experiences and may often engage in thrill-seeking or even risk-taking behaviors. Individuals who are ISTP often have different interests than the other types. They may enjoy hobbies such as motorcycling, hang gliding, bungee jumping, surfing, or ice hockey. These individuals sometimes choose careers which require a more risky lifestyle including racing and firefighting.

  • They are likely to make judgments based purely on objective criteria rather than personal beliefs or values.

  • ISTPs are usually described as outgoing and easygoing even on their most introverted days.

  • ISTPs may not always notice the emotions of others and can seem a bit insensitive. They are also prone to ignore their emotions, which surfaces when they become overwhelming.

  • One common myth about ISTPs is that they are the stoic, silent type. ISTPs are known for being private, but that does not mean they do not experience strong emotions. Instead, ISTPs have a tendency to stay calm and objective when in-the-face of issues or stressful situations.
  • myers briggs istp

    ISTP Strengths

  • Logical
  • Learns by experience
  • Action-oriented
  • Realistic and practical
  • Enjoys new things
  • Self-confident and easygoing
  • ISTP Weaknesses

  • Difficult to get to know
  • Insensitive
  • Grows bored easily
  • Risk-taker
  • Does not like commitment
  • ISTP Cognitive Functions

    The MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) identifies four key cognitive functions (thinking, feeling, intuition, and sensing) that are either directed outwardly (extraverted) or inwardly (introverted).

    The hierarchical order of these functions determines an individual's unique personality.

    Dominant: Introverted Thinking (Ti)

  • ISTPs spend a great deal of time thinking and dealing with information in their own heads. They do not speak much, so they are often seen as being quiet.

  • The ISTP approach to decision-making seem haphazard, but in reality their actions are based on careful observation and thought.

  • Rational and logical, their world view is focused on things that seem practical and useful.

  • ISTPs are good at looking at a situation objectively by avoiding subjective or emotional factors, since they are logical.. Those with the ISTP personality type often focus on action and result more than their emotions, which makes them difficult to get to know.
  • Auxiliary: Extraverted Sensing (Se)

  • ISTPs prefer to focus on the present and take on things one day at a time. They often avoid making long-term commitments and would rather focus primarily on what is happening now.

  • ISTPs tend to be very logical and enjoy learning and understanding how things operate. ISTPs might dismantle a mechanical device just to see how it works.

  • ISTPs are not particularly interested in theoretical or abstract information unless they can see a practical application.
  • Tertiary: Introverted Intuition (Ni)

  • This function often operates largely unconsciously in the ISTP personality. ISTPs are not usually interested in abstract ideas, but may take such concepts and try to turn them into practical solutions.

  • It is this function that is behind the "gut feelings" that ISTP sometimes experience when making a decision. This aspect of personality may be responsible for sudden "aha" moments of insight, as it combines information brought in by the above dominant and auxiliary functions.
  • Inferior: Extraverted Feeling (Fe)

  • This aspect of personality tends to operate in the background of the ISTP personality, but it can become more apparent during times of stress.

  • During highly charged situations, ISTPs can sometimes lash out in sudden outbursts of emotion. They usually take a long time to express their feelings, but when they do so it can be in an exaggerated or inappropriate way.
  • Famous ISTPs You Might Know

  • Clint Eastwood, actor
  • Zachary Taylor, U.S. President
  • Alan Shepherd, astronaut
  • Amelia Earhart, aviator
  • Bruce Lee, martial artist
  • Personal Relationships

    ISTPs are introverts and they tend to be quiet and reserved. The ISTP type thrives with new experiences and dislikes strict routines.

    In relationships, they are highly independent and do not like to feel controlled. This personality type have difficulty with commitments, but will likely go to great lengths for those who hold their interest.

    They do not often share their emotions with other people. ISTPs are often described as quiet and tough to get to know.

    Echoing their reserved nature, ISTPs tend not to share much personal information with others. ISTPs often make friends with people who share a similar hobby. These friendships can lead to people pursuing activities together and enjoying time spent with that friend.

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    Career Paths for ISTPs

    Because ISTPs are introverted, they often do well in jobs that require working alone. ISTPs do not like too much structure and prefer careers where they have a lot of freedom and autonomy.

    This personality type has a logical thinking process, so they enjoy work that involves reasoning and hands-on experience. In particular, ISTPs like doing things that have practical, real-world applications.

    Popular ISTP Careers

  • Forensic science
  • Engineering
  • Mechanics
  • Computer programming
  • Carpentry
  • Law enforcement
  • Software engineer
  • Video game designer
  • Electrician
  • Scientist
  • Pilot
  • Firefighter
  • Tips for Interacting With ISTPs


    ISTPs tend to be curious and even adventurous, but they also have a strong need to be alone at times. It's important to be aware of the ISTP type's need for isolation, especially when they're feeling drained. Encourage them to find new hobbies and social engagements if this suits their personality more often than not.


    If you are a parent to an ISTP child, it is likely that you have noticed their independent and adventurous nature. You can encourage them by providing safe opportunities so they can feel confident exploring things on their own. Provide guidance and yet allow children the freedom to explore. Allow them opportunities for hands-on learning, outdoor adventures, and experimenting with how things work.


    Because ISTPs live so strongly in the present moment, long-term commitments can be a real challenge. By being willing to take things day by day and respecting their need for independence, you can strengthen your ISTP relationship.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is the ISTP personality type?

    The ISTP personality type is a very introverted personality type. ISTPs are motivated by their curiosity and desire to explore the world around them. They want a lot of hands-on experience with things and they enjoy practicing skills that use physical activity or dexterity.

    ISTP personalities have strong senses but often do not show it on the outside

    Are ISTPs rare?

    They make up about five percent of the population. The personality type is more common in males than it is in females with men having a much higher percentage of being ISTP personalities.

    Are ISTPs dangerous?

    ISTPs are not dangerous at all, in fact they can be very helpful. They enjoy being able to solve problems and find ways around obstacles which have led them the nickname “The Mechanic” for their ability to fix things that others cannot figure out how to do on their own.

    What are ISTP females like?

    Your average ISTP female will enjoy being able to fiddle with things, they will have a strong sense of independence but often won’t show it on the outside. ISTP females are also likely to be very cautious and not like taking risks which can lead them into some self-fulfilling prophecies when they avoid opportunities out of fear that something bad will happen.

    Additional Resources

    Who Are the ISTPs? (YouTube video by CS Joseph)

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