The Preference Preference

Lego link of the day: Lego Tarot

I’m going to have to backblog (place on the blog back burner) the fascinating topic of sexual politics until I’m feeling more meta. Today, I’d like to start, at least, on the final chapter of MBTI Theatre: J/P. I was inspired to return to this long-backblogged topic by an article on introversion currently making the blog rounds.

People have trouble understanding the J/P distinction, partly because it doesn’t give rise to the personality stereotypes that extreme E, I, T or F behavior does, and partly because of the dual definition. It is a mystical truth of MBTI that the J/P preference in behavior corresponds to the J/P preference in preferences, but it’s a tough idea to wrap your mind around.

In behavior, the J/P preference distinguishes between the judging types, who like to come to conclusions and make decisions (or at least to have the finality of the decision having been made). The perceiving types prefer to leave matters open-ended, to take in all new information rather than closing off some future possibility with a hasty decision now. Judging types tend to take control of a situation and give it direction. Perceivers tend to go along for the ride. J’s like to finish things; P’s like to start things. J’s are regimented, P’s are curious.

In preference, J’s prefer their judging preference over their perceiving preference, which is to say, either thinking or feeling (T/F), whichever is in their official personality type, over sensing or intuiting (S/N). For example, an ESFJ, given a choice of approaching a matter with his sensing abilities or his feeling, will lean towards the feeling approach. An ESFP, on the other hand, will go with the sensing. The J will decide how he feels about it, while the P will investigate what concrete data she can sense in the matter.

If you’re not boggled yet, there is an added complication. The J/P distinction establishes a preference for dealing with the external world, not the internal one. For extroverts, whose domain is the external world, the J/P preference therefore determines which out of S, N, T, or F is the dominant process - the leading part of their personality. The ESFJ has F for his dominant process; the ESFP has S.

For introverts, however, the external world is of secondary concern, so the J/P preference determines which process, S/N or T/F, is delegated to the scut work of dealing with the outside. Their dominant preference is instead the one that is left free to govern their internal affairs. Thus, an INTP such as yours truly has T for her dominant process, while an INTJ prefers N.

So that’s the explanation. It’s singularly unconvincing next to the more obvious distinctions of E/I, S/N and T/F. J/P is tied into the E/I preference, further muddying the waters. While it’s easy to say what an E as opposed to an I would do at a party, it’s not so clear what an IN (introvert with N as the dominant process), for example, would do differently from an IT.

I think personalities tend to be more balanced (that is, in the middle) between J and P than between any of the other opposites, and that makes it hard for the average person to get much out of their J/P label. I’m still searching for my inner P - or is that my inner J?

3 Responses to “The Preference Preference”

  1. R.J. Anderson Says:

    I thought of this a while ago, mostly as a joke –the INTJ vs INTP approach to argument.

    INTP: “People should agree with my viewpoint because it is the most logically and lucidly expressed.”

    INTJ: “People should agree with my viewpoint even if I didn’t express it the most logically or lucidly — because, darnit, I’m right.”


  2. Lisa Says:

    Meanwhile, the INFP over here is saying:

    “You should have got my drift by now, you feelin’ me?”

  3. Lori Says:

    Ents - the stereotypical P of Middle Earth. “Hoom, let’s not be hasty….”