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6 ISTP Cognitive Functions Explained

Each Myers-Briggs Personality Type has four primary cognitive functions that drive them to think and act the way they do. Understanding these functions for each of the different personality types can help explain certain behaviors that different people have.

People with ISTP personality type indicators are always up and moving and working on a project. They are known for having great optimism, a generally jovial nature, and do very well in stressful situations as flexible problem solvers. ISTPs are also extraordinarily creative when it comes to tangible objects and will be very likely to find joy working on crafts or in the garage.

ISTP Cognitive Functions

Taking a closer look at the cognitive functions of ISTPs will provide some more profound understanding of their nature and how their brain functions to form their personality.

6 ISTP Cognitive Functions

1. Introverted Thinking (Ti)

The dominant function of ISTPs is their introverted thinking. Ti is a creative form of thought process stemming from a person’s internal interpretation of the data, rather than external, black and white facts. It allows ISTPs to come up with bold, original ideas and to think outside the box.

ISTPs, as a personality type, exhibit their introverted thinking strongest in the form of tinkering. ISTPs always have a project on the go, and they are always taking things apart and putting them back together. Understanding a physical object inside and out helps them to innovate as they are apt to do.

Introverted thinking for ISTP personalities is more than just taking things apart to learn about them. They also have the drive to analyze and solve problems and love to fix things. As a result, ISTPs are usually the first friend someone turns to when an item stops working correctly.

2. Extroverted Sensing (Se)

Acting in a support position to introverted thinking is extroverted sensing. Like introverted thinking, extroverted sensing drives ISTP people to interact with the physical world around them and get their hands on things that interest them. However, unlike Ti, Se is the process of using logic and reason to break down external data at its face value.

For many personality types with extroverted sensing as their secondary cognitive function, living in the moment is a marker of their personality. ISTPs are no different. They tend to be spontaneous and make impulsive decisions at times. However, because Se is an auxiliary function for them, they know how to prioritize and fight the urge to act in the moment.

What you will see from ISTP folks are bursts of impulsiveness that seem to break through. This is because they have enormous amounts of energy. Although they know how to focus and dedicate themselves to completing essential tasks, they will also reach a breaking point and act on the spur of the moment. This makes ISTPs fun friends who are a little unpredictable but always up for a good time.

3. Introverted Intuition (Ni)

The tertiary cognitive function for ISTP people is introverted intuition. This is the “aha!” function of the brain where brilliant, new ideas seem to come from nowhere. Introverted intuition is actually an internal thought process that allows us to make sense of patterns, symbols and to analyze other data.

For ISTPs, it is not a central function; however, it is present so they will have “eureka” moments seemingly inexplicably on occasion. More than likely, they will solve problems using their Ti and Se functions most of the time. More seasoned ISTPs will probably better understand this function and learn to trust their instincts and hunches.

An additional behavior that can be attributed to ISTP person’s introverted intuition is their aversion to being scheduled, controlled, or changed. They have confidence in themselves and their ideas and don’t need anyone to steer them away from their natural inclinations. Unfortunately, it can also make them very flakey when making and keeping plans (you’ll hear “maybe” a lot from ISTPs.)

4. Extroverted Feeling (Fe)

The weakest primary cognitive function for ISTP people is extroverted feeling. This is the function that rules how inclined a person is to connect with, or disconnect from, other people. Fe is what tells us what social actions are appropriate or rude, when to reach out to a friend to catch up, and to mediate conflicts between other people.

For ISTPs, having extroverted feeling as their inferior function means that they are not skilled in understanding others based on emotional connections. Because it is an extroverted function, it also means they have a challenging time understanding their own emotional needs.

ISTP personality prefers to stay private and have a small, close-knit group of friends. However, for that close group, ISTPs love to fall back on their stronger functions and discuss ideas, concepts, and inventions. They are also flexible and relaxed, so they know how to have a good time and go with the flow of the group.

5. In Their Personal Lives

ISTPs are introverts at heart. While they exhibit some extroverted cognitive functions, they still prefer to be in their own company. Extroverted vs. introverted cognitive functions only represent how they process information.

For ISTP people in their personal lives, they will dive head-first into projects. They are likely to have a car, computer, or other gadget half-built and meant for tinkering somewhere in their possession. They love spending their free time doing whatever they want whenever they want to do it.

Adventure calls to ISTPs. They are likely to pour their energy and zest for life into high-risk activities like skydiving or rock climbing. They are not inclined to join a team sport that relies on a strict schedule and set rules.

As friends, ISTP people are fun to have around. They are laid back and flexible – always willing to go with whatever plan is on the table. They don’t like being locked into plans too far in advance or forced into activities, but they have a great time when they do show up.

In regards to romantic relationships, ISTPs are going to go at their own pace. They will be upfront about their intentions and let their partners know where they stand. They will not be compatible with a partner who wishes to change them or force them to advance the relationship at a speed they are not ready for.

When they do decide to partner up (casually or seriously), they enjoy having a lot of time to themselves and can cancel plans on short notice from time to time. However, they can be very exciting partners for the right match. They live in the present, can be very creative, and are typically sexually uninhibited.

6. In Their Careers

As you can imagine, ISTPs will be drawn to careers where they can have hands-on projects. They also need some variety in their job to keep things interesting and exciting. Hence, dynamic, practically-applied careers are where ISTPs are likely to be.

You will find a lot of ISTP people find work paths as mechanics, engineers, and computer scientists. They love being able to work with objects and concepts, pick them apart, and put them back together in new and exciting ways. Their creativity can be put to good use, and they will never be bored.

ISTPs also make great first responders. As police, paramedics, doctors, and firefighters, they thrive on action, adrenaline, and fast-paced problem-solving. They also have the energy and the practical ability to do very well in these types of careers.

In the workplace, ISTP personalities can be challenging to manage. If they find themselves in a career with rigid structures or a hierarchical atmosphere, they will struggle to succeed. They will not fit into a mold; they need flexibility, action, and practical applications.

Suppose they do find themselves in a position where they have a boss and a deadline; it is more productive to give them a problem to solve and the freedom to solve it any way they wish. “Find a way to accomplish X.” This approach will earn the maximum amount of productivity from an ISTP.

As managers or even as co-workers, ISTP folks are going to be blunt and to-the-point with their goals. They are not going to micro-manage since they tend to treat others as they would prefer to be treated. They also deal well with conflict in the workplace and will be skilled at defusing tension with a well-timed joke.


When diving deep into the cognitive functions of ISTP people, we get a better understanding of what curates their personality. Their drive to tinker around, their hands-on approach, their flakey friendships, and their bursts of spontaneity. It is clear that ISTPs are not the warm and fuzzy type, but they are committed to the small pocket of friends and loved ones they trust.

An ISTP who can explore the world on their terms will be happy, healthy, and productive. They are fascinating people if you get the opportunity to get to know one since they have such varied and complex interests. Whatever their interests, ISTP folks are worth getting to know.