5 Crucial Differences Between INTPs and INTJs
I have a working theory that every type in the Myers-Briggs system is integral to social ecology. It doesn’t matter if a specific type drives you crazy, they are necessary to keep us balanced as humans.
When we’re trying to figure out our own type it can be difficult when two (or more) types fill a relatively similar role in society.
I mentioned in the article about INFPs vs INFJs that these two types are here to help us gain greater emotional intelligence, but they do so in slightly different (and necessary) ways.
The same could be said of INTPs and INTJs. Both types blow me away with their ability to manage extraordinary amounts of information while trying to avoid cognitive biases. I believe they’re both intended to question common sense to prevent mental stagnation.
While the service these two types perform for humanity is similar, they help us calibrate to new ways of thinking in different ways.
This article is intended to be a deep-dive, side-by-side comparison of their similarities and differences.
(If you’re in the middle of trying to figure out whether or not you’re an INTJ or an INTP, remember that these aren’t intended to describe your individual interests or values, but rather how the two types are ‘wired’ differently.)
First, let's discuss why these two types are "look-a-like" types.
How INTJs and INTPs are Similar
Why do INTJs and INTPs often get mistaken for each other? At first glance, both types radiate a contemplative and analytical presence. They're the ones you'll catch deeply engrossed in complex problem-solving, or exploring theories that push the boundaries of conventional thinking. Both types possess a keen intellect, cherish independence, and pursue knowledge with an insatiable curiosity. Yet, despite these shared traits, their core differences become apparent upon closer inspection.
The manner in which they gather information, approach problems, and conceptualize their inner and outer worlds diverges significantly, primarily due to their cognitive functions. Let's dive into these distinctions, illuminating why these two analytical types, though seemingly similar in their quest for understanding, are fundamentally distinct in their cognitive approach.
Cognitive functions are the building blocks of personality, helping us understand how different personality types process information and make decisions. Each personality type uses a combination of these functions, with a dominant mental process leading and others playing supporting roles.
We explain how cognitive functions work using the Car Model in this article.
The Car Model of INTJs and INTPs
INTJ Car Model
Driver: Introverted Intuition, or "Perspectives"
Copilot: Extraverted Thinking, or "Effectiveness"
10 Year Old: Introverted Feeling, or "Authenticity"
3 Year Old: Extraverted Sensing, or "Sensation"
INTP Car Model
Driver: Introverted Thinking, or "Accuracy"
Copilot: Extraverted Intuition, or "Exploration"
10 Year Old: Introverted Sensing, or "Memory"
3 Year Old: Extraverted Feeling, or "Harmony"
1. INTP vs INTJ: Different “Driver” processes
The Driver process can also be called the “dominant cognitive function.” It’s the mind’s first point of contact and the primary lens through which everything gets filtered.
For an INTJ, this dominant process is technically called Introverted Intuition, but we’ve nicknamed it “Perspectives.”
Perspectives is a learning function (technically called a “perceiving function”), and works by watching one’s own mind form patterns. After years of use, eventually Perspectives begins to see the ‘pattern of the patterns’ and understands that what is happening inside of themselves cognitively is also happening for other people.
INTPs, on the other hand, lead with a process called Introverted Thinking, which we call “Accuracy.”
Accuracy is a decision-making function (technically called a “judging function”), and works by creating a framework and then sifting through all the data within that framework, scanning for incongruities and inconsistencies. Its ultimate goal is to find things that make sense to the user, and once clarity is gained then the INTP knows the right course of action to take.
Because both are Thinking types – meaning, they both make decisions based on impersonal, analytical criteria – it’s important to both INTJs and INTPs to be intellectually honest. And while both have this same desired outcome, there’s an important nuance between the relationship each has with data.
Since INTJs are leading with an intuitive process there is more credence given to creative internal thought. They aren’t scanning for content that could be wrong, they’re scanning for new patterns that could be right.
This is why INTJs must pair their Driver process with the Co-Pilot of Extraverted Thinking, or “Effectiveness.” The only way to truly know if those patterns have merit is if they play out in the ‘outer world’. If they work, awesome! That was a great new pattern. If they fail, then it’s back to the internal drawing board.
For an INTP, the outer world isn’t where thoughts are vetted. In fact, INTPs couple their Accuracy with Extraverted Intuition, or what we call “Exploration.” The world outside of themselves is where intriguing new patterns are observed, and it’s up to them to make sense of what those possibilities could mean.
A logically consistent argument is the proof that supports their speculation.
This is why INTPs must be so ruthless with their content and data. The criteria aren’t necessarily provable to an outside observer, and so an internally consistent argument may be the best they’ve got to give credibility to their conclusions.
Think of it in terms of Nikola Tesla (most likely an INTJ) and Albert Einstein (most likely an INTP).
Tesla thought up extraordinary new technologies, but the real test was whether or not those inventions actually worked.
Einstein, the on the other hand, saw patterns in the outside world and mulled over them until he culled from the herd everything but the most internally consistent reasons.
Tesla could point to the invention. Einstein had to point to the math.
This results in two very different relationships with data.
For an INTP, ‘clean’ data is of the utmost importance. Personal biases, what we want to believe, and social attachments to concepts muddy the waters. This is why there’s always some attraction to math, formal logic and/or binary code for an INTP. These are disciplines that tolerate little to no personal interpretation, which is hugely satisfying.
An INTP will unconsciously vet people for when they can and cannot be trusted with data. For example, they may have a good friend who always knows when someone is being fake, but can’t seem to wrap their head around time. When talking to them about motivations and intent the INTP knows they’re a trusted source of information, but they will dismiss that person whenever they talk about how long it will take to get somewhere.
There is such a thing as clean data, one just has to be ever vigilant for it.
For an INTJ, there is no such thing as data separate from the person holding that data. That is to say, our perceptions will always color the information we carry and so data is never clean. This is why an INTJ will frequently counter an inquiry for a piece of data with the question, “Why do you want to know?”
The context changes the content, and so if they don’t know why you want to know they can’t produce the data. (Not that it matters, but this can be maddening to an ENTP. Or, at the very least, to this ENTP. :p)
No matter! It’s not the empirical nature of the data that’s important, it’s the result it produces that’s the important thing. This is why INTJs unconsciously vet people for their usefulness, not the data they hold (unless that’s how the person is ‘useful’).
Understanding the difference between these two Driver functions is crucial to understanding the difference in types.
2. INTP vs INTJ: Two different intrinsic insecurities generate different strategies
Even when we’ve graduated beyond our insecurities, the fact that they existed at some point influences our early strategies for navigating the world.
It’s been said by some that both INTPs and INTJs can come across arrogant, which I think is a surface understanding of what’s going on with both types (even when they’re at their “I’m going to strangle you now” worst).
As mentioned before, an INTP is constantly scanning for the cleanest data possible because they can’t actually show proof for their conclusions. Accuracy is by definition a subjective criteria: “it makes sense to me.”
Like Authenticity users (as mentioned in the INFP vs INFJ article), if the audience isn’t getting it an INTP can become (in order) confused, frustrated and ultimately cynical. There is always some insecurity about others invalidating their arguments and conclusions, but instead of staying in the realm of hurt (as an INFP may), the easiest solution is to just assume everyone else is an idiot.
Harboring insecurities is just another way for indicating immaturity, and an immature INTP will show up as The Authority On All Subjects, assuming they are right and you are wrong. When an INTP is accused of arrogance, it’s generally because they have a growing pathology toward being right at all times.
Conversely, the more mature an INTP becomes, the more they’re delighted at being proven wrong. That’s the outer world helping them cleanse data they may have grown attached to / become biased toward!
This is generally done through the development of their Co-Pilot process of Exploration, a function that opens frames and actively looks for more information to plug into existing frameworks.
They also become more cheerful as they develop, losing their grip in cynicism and enjoying a naturally egalitarian disposition where anyone at any time could offer interesting perspectives and content.
Of course, that doesn’t mean an INTP won’t still engage in argument and debate. Iron sharpens iron, after all, and debate is anything but personal.
For an INTJ, there is little to no insecurity about being right. If you don’t agree with them they might debate with you about it, but they understand that perception defines reality and you may just be seeing things fundamentally differently.
Ultimately, the proof is in Effectiveness, and you’ll see how wrong you are when the outer world plays it all out.
The insecurity an INTJ faces is more of a well-guarded secret. INTJs are surprisingly sensitive, and as mentioned in our article about the INTJ personality type, anyone they let in can do real damage.
The insecurity lies in just how amazingly vulnerable they are to others. For a hardcore Thinker, it’s incredibly disconcerting for the INTJ to realize they are wired to be sensitive without the benefit of commensurate (natural) emotional intelligence.
The arrogant front an INTJ puts up isn’t to deflect being proven wrong, it’s to deflect against the hurt and pain another person potentially represents. It’s a true wall, an impenetrable domain around the inner sanctum that you may or may not ever be invited into.
The more insecure and immature the INTJ is, the thicker and more impenetrable the wall.
Conversely, the more mature an INTJ the more they understand that their personal happiness is directly linked to their willingness to be vulnerable. They may still be protective, but they don’t close themselves off universally. The INTJ builds healthy boundaries that allow special people in, who are the lucky recipients of their extraordinary understanding.
If you’re trying to determine your type between INTP and INTJ ask yourself: are you more put-off by being wrong, or by being vulnerable?
3. INTP vs INTJ: How emotions show up
No matter what your type and no matter how much of a “Thinker” you are, you have emotions and feelings. Being a Thinker means you use impersonal criteria to evaluate situations, which generally results in putting emotions as a lower priority. But they still exist.
When you look at the car model for each of these types (or, for Myers-Briggs geeks, when you look at the cognitive function stack) you’ll notice that the INTJ type has a more conscious relationship with their emotional side, whereas an INTP’s emotional awareness is more unconscious and a blind spot.
Not only are the Feeling processes in different positions in the car, but they are also different expressions. For an INTJ it’s Introverted Feeling or Authenticity, and for the INTP it’s Extraverted Feeling, or Harmony.
Authenticity (at its core) is about understanding the emotional impact something has on you as an individual, and what’s in alignment for you as a person. It’s quiet, reflective and introspective. In fact, I’ve heard it described by Harmony types as “numbed out,” a misunderstanding of how the process works but an apt illustration of how inwardly turned the process appears from the outside.
Harmony (at its core) is about the emotional impact something has on others, aka the group, and checks in with social truths (like how we should behave and what people’s reputations are). It’s also outwardly expressive and emotive.
INTJs have a more conscious relationship with their Feeling process, which is in part why they’re sensitive. They’re often very aware of how things are impacting them emotionally, though they don’t always know what to do about it.
INTPs, on the other hand, have a very unconscious relationship with their Feeling process and a much higher threshold for tuning it out. Once it gets triggered, though, it’s anything but quiet.
When we go to our 3 Yr Old process (also known as our ‘inferior’) it’s generally in times of deep stress. (We can develop strategies to give our 3 Yr Old some attention to prevent it from controlling us, but most people only figure this out over time and through the concept of “failing better.”)
This is called Being in the Grip, and it’s never a pretty sight. For a generally rational and straight-faced INTP, this can look like a full-on temper tantrum. Uncontrollable crying isn’t just a possibility, it’s a probability. And the INTP – having no clue what the hell is happening to them – is swept up in the ride.
(When an INTJ is In the Grip it shows up as childlike self-indulgence – too much food, alcohol, sex and/or any other favorite expression of sensory pleasure.)
An INTJ will rarely temper tantrum. They’re more likely to get prideful as a first line of defense, and then move on to sulky and mopey. They may get angry, though this will generally be a controlled internalized version of the emotion. When an INTP gets angry, it’s more like a powder keg of an explosion.
Understanding each type’s relationship with their Feeling process isn’t just a great tie-breaker when profiling yourself or others, it’s also an important way to hold space for a loved one who may be one of these two types.
4. INTP vs INTJ: Hygiene, organization, and status
When one has a purely theoretical understanding of Myers-Briggs it’s easy to rely on things like, “Oh, the INTJ is a Judger, so they’ll be organized and the INTP will be messy.”
If only people would just closely follow stereotypes we could lock this thing down and all go home.
Unfortunately, it’s not so simple.
As mentioned before, the INTJ is leading with Introverted Intuition (Perspectives) which is technically a ‘perceiving’ process. That means their flow state is learning and thinking creative thoughts.
Organizing their outer world is absolutely preferential as the more organized things are the more they can mitigate distractions and stay Perspectiving, so to speak.
But that means getting out of Perspectives to go organize, and sometimes that’s about as unappealing as an idea gets.
They also couple Perspectives with Effectiveness, a process that naturally thinks in terms of delegation. I’ve known INTJs that wished someone would just come along and organize their space for them, but until that happened they were merely going to shut off sensory awareness and not acknowledge the disaster around them.
When an INTJ exercises the Effectiveness process this is less likely to be the case, but even then ‘cleaning and organizing’ has to be considered a high leverage activity. Which it may or may not be.
Generally, the biggest give-away between an INTJ and INTP (when taking into consideration that one is a J and the other is a P) is in personal grooming.
An INTP – having Harmony as their 3 Yr Old process – usually has an exceptionally easy time of just not giving a rat’s ass about how they appear to others. Actually, more accurately, they don’t give a rat’s ass if they’re socially acceptable. They may care how they come across, but that’s generally to send a message of not caring.
|There are exceptions to this! If an INTP believes it is a leverage point to be physically attractive, they will try to optimize it as much as possible. It tends to be binary - either they don't care at all, or they really, really care. But more often it's the former than the latter.
For most INTPs, status is a game other people play, and dressing up just to suit others almost feels icky.
For an INTJ, on the other hand, status is a resource. And resource is always on the radar of Effectiveness. Playing a status game doesn’t feel icky, it feels like a necessary part of life. And it’s not so much that they dress for high status, but that they understand just a little effort goes a long way.
Unless they’ve given up, and then they turn into the Comic Book Guy on The Simpsons. When an INTJ devolves they start looking more like an immature INTP.
Alternatively, when an INTP matures they stop seeing hygiene and personal grooming as “being under the thumb of society” and more as a way to connect with other people. They dress for leverage, or self-expression, or a number of other perfectly acceptable reasons to attend to their appearance.
5. INTP vs INTJ: Why we need them both
I’ve found INTJs to exhibit amazing intellectual integrity. I’ve found INTPs to exhibit extraordinary radical honesty.
For a society to exist well we need to have people who won’t bullshit themselves and won’t bullshit you. We need creative thinkers that question the status quo, implement new technologies that improve our lives while at the same time whistle-blowing and calling out that the emperor is, indeed, naked as the day he was born.
When an INTJ develops into the best version of themselves they are the walking think tanks of sustainable systems.
When an INTP develops into the best version of themselves they are the innovators of new paradigms, literally altering how we understand and see reality.
Both types are imperative, and if you are either type please understand how important you are. Develop into the best version of yourself by exercising your Co-Pilot process of either Exploration (INTP) or Effectiveness (INTJ).
And hug yourself for me. Cause I’m a fan.
p.s. This is by no means an exhaustive list and we’d love to hear what you think are ‘tie-breakers’ between the types. Leave a comment and let us know what you see as the biggest differences.
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