The INTP poster child, Albert Einstein, famously disavowed any interest in what he called “the merely personal.” In other words, he was indifferent toward the particulars of everyday life, including the personal lives of individuals. Instead, he preferred to focus on the universal and theoretical, on plumbing “the mind of God” through his work in physics.
As an INTP myself, I can relate to Einstein’s attestation, quickly losing interest when people wax eloquent about the details of their daily lives. Moreover, with certain exceptions, I rarely read fiction and usually bypass lengthy personal anecdotes when reading non-fiction. I also seem to pay little attention to the content of song lyrics, even after hearing them numerous times. These and other observations have led me to suspect that INTPs may be less enamored with stories, fiction, and personal anecdotes than other personality types.
As discussed in my book, The INTP: Personality, Careers, Relationships & the Quest for Truth and Meaning, INTPs are well described as philosophers. As such, their primary interest is to understand the deepest essence of things by way of concepts. In their view, this requires seeing past or stripping away details that strike them as arbitrary, superfluous, or purely stylistic.
I remember a phase in high school when I decided to study the Bible. I determined that my method would involve crossing out all the sections that seemed unimportant or irrelevant to its essential message. I later learned that another INTP, Thomas Jefferson, had done something eerily similar, deleting everything from the New Testament he disagreed with and producing what came to be known as the “Jefferson Bible.”
The problem with stories for INTPs is their most important content—the fundamental truths or ideas they contain—is buried in a sandbox of sensory details. Hence, extracting a story’s primary theme or message, especially through reading, can feel like more work than it’s worth. Hence, INTPs attraction to non-fiction.
Einstein’s indifference toward the “the merely personal” might be seen as pointing to his lack of Introverted Feeling (Fi). After all, Fi types (e.g., INFPs) are known to cherish and champion the unique stories, values, and interests of particular individuals and cultures. If I am correct about INTPs being largely disinterested in personal stories and anecdotes, then it’s likely no coincidence that Fi is their most unconscious (i.e., 8th) function.
One story INTPs may find endlessly fascinating is that of their own life. Their dominant function, Introverted Thinking (Ti), relishes self-analysis, which can also serve as a sort of gateway to understanding the human condition. In this sense, Ti combined with INTPs’ inferior function, Extraverted Feeling (Fe), may sometimes resemble Fi, which is why INTPs and INFPs may share interests in existential philosophy. Both types may also explore existential issues through the lens of psychology, as well as through biographies or memoirs of like-minded thinkers, artists, or innovators.
If you want to learn more about INTPs—their personality, careers, relationships, life struggles, etc.—you’ve come to the right place. We’ve written extensively about this personality type, including authoring the two best-selling INTP books worldwide:
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1. It is difficult to generalize whether stories are more attractive to S versus N types. While stories are typically loaded with details and particulars (S), they also contain patterns or themes (N). Regardless, INTPs will typically see non-fiction as a more efficient and effective route to finding what they are seeking.
2. It’s possible that gender may also play a role, with males being generally less story-oriented than females.