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How to Spot an ISFP

As you get into the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, you’ll find yourself looking at the people around you in a new light. You’ll start asking yourself if this person is a Defender or if that person is an Adventurer. However, telling people they’re behaving to their type, or asking them to sit down for a test so you can get to really understand them, can be an awkward conversation to have, to say the least! You’ll find yourself looking for telltale signs and clues of this or that psychological type in those around you.

But if you’ve ever tried to guess someone’s type and then had the chance to compare your guess to an actual test result, you know it’s harder to do than it may seem. All personality traits exist on a spectrum, so it’s not always easy to pinpoint a person’s preferences. Besides, MBTI often aims to explain internal psychological processes, such as ways of perceiving and making choices, which may be expressed in more than one way. Two individuals may have contrasting motivations for behaving in a similar way.

So how do we refine our ability to identify the Myers-Briggs personality type of others? As a popular PSA series put it, ‘the more you know.’ By acquiring more knowledge about all 16 personality types, we become better at telling them apart.

In this article, we compare and contrast the ISFP to each of the other types to better understand what makes this personality unique. The ISFP is one of the most enigmatic and unpredictable types, so individuals with this personality are notoriously hard to recognize. Hopefully, by the end of this review, you’ll be better equipped to spot not only ISFPs but also other types, as well.

Not sure about your Myers-Briggs personality type? Take our free personality test to find out!

ISFP Characteristics

ISFPs possess seemingly contradictory traits – they are on a constant quest for authentic self-expression but tend to be quiet and reserved with most people. This apparent incongruity disappears once we find out more about this type. So let’s dive into their defining characteristics.

ISFP stands for Introverted (I), Sensing (S), Feeling (F), and Perceiving (P). Those are the type’s preferences. The ISFP is also known as the Adventurer and is characterized by kindness, creativity, and eccentricity.

As an introvert, the Adventurer personality tends to be private and restrained. ISFPs prefer spending time with a small group of people rather than in big social gatherings. They recharge by spending time alone.

ISFPs’ dominant cognitive functions are Introverted Feeling (Fi) and Extroverted Sensing (Se). Fi as their dominant function means that they base their decisions on their own value system rather than external norms and regulations. ISFPs tend to process information internally rather than rely on discussion and other people’s expectations. They care more about being authentic in their expression than about objective criteria for success or acceptable behavior.

Se as ISFPs’ auxiliary function accounts for their observant and down-to-earth nature. They are keenly aware of their surroundings and are grounded in the present. This makes them hungry for new experiences; they are always on the lookout for adventure (hence their nickname). Their focus on sensory data combined with their creativity also contributes to the strong appreciation of beauty that often characterizes this type.

The synergy between ISFPs’ two dominant functions explains their tendency to be withdrawn, especially with those they don’t know well, as well as their search for artistic self-expression. ISFPs are quiet and observant but stay in line with their principles. They are drawn to immediate and aesthetically pleasing ways of manifesting their true self.

Another personality trait that defines the Adventurer type is thoughtfulness. ISFPs are kind and easygoing; they are keenly aware of other people’s feelings and always seek to accommodate them. They will go out of their way to help others, especially if they feel that it is the right thing to do.

ISFPs value their autonomy. Despite their warmheartedness and aversion to conflict, they may sometimes react negatively if they feel someone is trying to control them. Others may see this as mood swings. Combined with their overall quiet nature this explains why they are sometimes described as unpredictable.

The Adventurer is also practical and action-oriented. They prefer hands-on learning and engaging in fun, novel activities as opposed to spending time discussing abstract theories or debating ideas. ISFPs are easygoing and spontaneous. They like to go with the flow and keep their options open. As a Perceiver, the Adventurer feels oppressed by strict rules or rigid structures, opting for flexibility instead. This can sometimes make it hard for them to plan and keep an eye on the big picture, but it does serve to make them adaptable.

For a complete review of ISFP traits, functions, strengths, and weaknesses, check out our ISFP Personality Traits article.

How Do ISFPs Compare to Other Personality Types?

Below we’ve compiled a comparison between ISFPs and each of the other MBTI types organized by temperament. But first, let’s quickly outline the basics of the MBTI theory and what actually delineates the different personality types.

As you’re probably aware the four letters of each type indicate their preferences. These explain what a given type tends to prefer in life when it comes to dealing with people, things, ideas, and lifestyle. There are a total of eight preferences, organized in four pairs as follows:

  • Extroversion (E) vs Introversion (I)
  • Sensing (S) vs Intuition (N)
  • Thinking (T) vs Feeling (F) 
  • Judging (J) vs Perceiving (P)

Each MBTI type also has four cognitive functions out of a total of eight. The first two are called dominant and auxiliary functions and as a pair, they are known as the primary functions. These are used in most situations the person finds themselves in. The third and fourth are the weaker functions, known as the tertiary and inferior functions respectively. They operate mostly in the background. Functions explain how a given type takes in and interprets information from the world and then makes decisions based on that information. Below is a list of all eight possible cognitive functions. As mentioned, the ISFP dominant and auxiliary functions are Fi and Se, while Ni and Te are their tertiary and inferior functions respectively.

  • Extroverted Feeling (Fe)
  • Extroverted Intuition (Ne)
  • Extroverted Sensing (Se)
  • Extroverted Thinking (Te)
  • Introverted Feeling (Fi)
  • Introverted Intuition (Ni)
  • Introverted Sensing (Si)
  • Introverted Thinking (Ti)

ISFP vs SJ Pragmatist Temperament Types

The SJ pragmatist temperament (also known as the Guardian temperament according to psychologist David Keirsey) consists of four types – ESTJ, ESFJ, ISTJ, and ISFJ. They are defined by their Sensing and Judging preferences and as such tend to be realistic, practical, and orderly. Pragmatists see norms and conventions as a necessary part of life. They prefer to follow tried and tested methods in pursuit of their goals. The types from this temperament also tend to be responsible and result-oriented.

ISFPs and Pragmatist types share a focus on the concrete and practical side of things. They would rather take specific action than engage in theoretical or abstract discussions. However, while ISFPs prefer open-ended situations that give them space to be spontaneous, Pragmatists function best in a more structured environment.

ISFP vs ESTJ

The ESTJ type (also known as the Administrator) is characterized by confidence, decisiveness, and reliability. ESTJs don’t shy away from hard work or responsibility. They are drawn to leadership roles and rarely leave a job undone. With Te as their dominant cognitive function, ESTJs base their decisions on logic and objective criteria. While this makes them effective and productive, it can also make them seem too blunt or insensitive to others. The Administrator also values tradition which, combined with their outgoing and decisive character, often makes them upholders of customs and family values.

ISFPs and ESTJs share just one personality preference, so it’s not surprising that they have little in common. Nevertheless, the two types interpret experiences in concrete and objective terms, so in that sense, they have similar worldviews.

The two types differ in their general approach to making decisions. As a Feeling type, ISFPs tend to base their words and actions on their principles. They distrust societal norms and expectations and would rather consult their internal moral radar. ESTJs, on the other hand, place a lot of confidence in established ways of doing things. Despite the two types’ contrasting starting points, they may both be perceived as unrelenting if they see something as the right thing to do. The key to telling them apart is checking where their view is coming from. Also, ISFPs tend to be more easygoing and considerate, while ESTJs are usually more direct and assertive.

ISFP vs ESFJ

The ESFJ (also known as the Consul) stands out with a penchant for helping others. They care deeply about the well-being of others and are most comfortable when they can contribute to it in some way. ESFJs’ dominant function is Fe, which leads them to base their decisions on concern for other people’s feelings. It also makes them susceptible to criticism. The Consul often tries to please everyone to gain their acceptance. Another thing that characterizes ESFJs is their tendency to make hasty judgments about others, as well as about situations. They are also likely to share these opinions readily, which may sometimes hurt those around them.

ISFPs, like ESFJs, are sensitive to perceived criticism, as both types are attuned to emotion and expect reciprocal thoughtfulness from others. The two also share a realistic and pragmatic view of the world. Both are unlikely to engage in abstract theorizing.

One of the main differences between ISFPs and ESFJs is in their attitude towards order and structure. ISFPs are comfortable with change and unpredictability, while ESFJs prefer to be part of an established system with clear rules. The Adventurer is guided by their own moral code, while the Consul prefers to rely on an external value system. Consequently, their tolerance for being controlled is different. What’s more, ISFPs are a lot more private and reserved, while ESFJs seek out large social gatherings.

ISFP vs ISTJ

The ISTJ (also known as the Archivist) is one of the most practical, dependable, and organized of all 16 personality types. Their focus on the tangible and their orientation toward results make them efficient and productive. They are unlikely to leave a task unfinished. ISTJs tend to be committed to those close to them, but also to their idea of right and wrong. Si as their dominant function means that they focus on the information coming in through their senses and use it to draw connections between past events and current situations. They also use their auxiliary function – Te – to look for rational explanations for what they see.

Both ISFPs and ISTJs tend to be quiet and reserved. They recharge by spending time alone rather than from social interactions. Both types favor focusing on direct sensory information instead of abstract theories. Also, ISFPs and ISTJs are two of the most observant and detail-oriented personality types.

Although both the Adventurer and the Archivist may seem a bit withdrawn to others, you can tell them apart by their general disposition. ISFPs are usually warm and easygoing, while ISTJs are often perceived as more serious and even emotionally distant. The Adventurer is keenly aware of other people’s emotions and considers them when communicating. The Archivist is more focused on the rational side of things, so they can sometimes come off as insensitive. Another difference between the two is that ISFPs prefer to live in the moment and improvise, while ISTJs like planning things in advance.

ISFP vs ISFJ

The ISFJ type (also known as the Defender) is usually quiet, thoughtful, and reliable. ISFJs are another type of Pragmatist temperament that derives satisfaction from helping others. People tend to appreciate the Defender’s care and selflessness, but individuals from this type usually avoid the spotlight and prefer to assist others without being noticed. ISFJs are organized and systematic; they are aversive to chaotic and unpredictable situations. Si is their dominant function, so they prefer focusing on concrete and practical information. They live in the here and now and have an eye for detail.

ISFPs and ISFJs share three of their preferences, so it makes sense that they have a lot in common. For one thing, both types are grounded and observant. They are unlikely to ponder hypotheticals but would rather deal with concrete phenomena. Both ISFPs and ISFJs tend to be reserved but also warm and affectionate, as they are sensitive to other people’s feelings.

The two types diverge in their preference for structure. The Adventurer highly values personal space and wants to have enough room to be spontaneous and go with the flow. The Defender, on the other hand, is less tolerant of unpredictability and would rather adhere to a pre-established routine. So in that sense ISFPs tend to be more adaptable, while ISFJs are usually more dependable.

ISFP vs SP Originator Temperament Types

The SP originator temperament (also known as the Artisan temperament according to psychologist David Keirsey) consists of four types – ESTP, ESFP, ISTP, and ISFP. They are defined by their Sensing and Perceiving preferences. The personalities in this group are often comfortable with change and dislike rigid structures. They prefer to have the flexibility to determine their next move as they go, rather than follow a predetermined plan. Their focus on the data coming in through their senses leads them toward new and stimulating sensory experiences. Originators would rather connect to others through fun activities than long conversations.

Since ISFPs are part of this temperament, it’s hardly surprising that they have a lot of similarities and are often mistaken for one another. However, there are a few telltale signs that can help us tell them apart.

ISFP vs ESTP

The ESTP (also known as the Daredevil) is one of the types that are the most fun to be around. ESTPs are gregarious and enthusiastic; they don’t shy away from the limelight and are always on the lookout for novel experiences. They are so drawn to new and exciting things that they may sometimes be impulsive and prone to risky behavior. Another thing that characterizes Daredevil is their focus on the present moment and the immediate environment. Driven by their dominant function – Se – ESTPs pay attention to their surroundings and are stimulated by fun activities rather than discussions.

The biggest similarity between ISFPs and ESTPs is their spontaneous and adventurous nature. Hardly a surprise when you consider their nicknames – Adventurer and Daredevil. Both types enjoy novelty, especially when it involves sensory stimulation. Like ESTPs, ISFPs favor action over words.

The two types differ in their approach to decision-making. ISFPs fall back on their personal values when they evaluate a situation and choose how to respond. They may not always be completely rational in their actions but can be counted on to be authentic. ESTPs, on the other hand, take in information from the outside world and apply logic to interpret it and move forward. Another way to tell the two apart is to observe their interaction with other people. The Adventurer is private and even withdrawn, while the Daredevil is outgoing and energetic.

ISFP vs ESFP

The ESFP type (also known as the Entertainer) loves being where the action is. Individuals of this type usually do not shy away from the spotlight and recharge through lively social interactions. ESFPs are fun-loving and spontaneous, so they tend to be the life of the party. The Entertainer’s impulsive and flexible nature leads them to avoid strict rules or rigid structures. ESFPs are practical and realistic but, nevertheless, they refer to their gut feeling when making a decision rather than rely on objective facts. Their here-and-now focus sometimes prevents them from seeing the big picture and making plans.

ISFPs and ESFPs have the same two dominant functions but in reversed order, so they share a lot of views and attitudes. Fi is primary for the Adventurer and secondary for the Entertainer, so both types follow their own set of principles. Se is secondary for the ISFP and primary for the ESFP, so they share a tendency to focus on the present moment and the concrete over the theoretical. Both types prefer to go with the flow rather than stick to a plan or a predetermined order.

However, since the Adventurer is an introvert and the Entertainer is an extrovert, the two behave differently in social situations. ISFPs prefer spending time alone or with a small group of friends, while ESFPs are energized by lively social gatherings.

ISFP vs ISTP

The ISTP (also known as the Tinkerer) is one of the most easygoing and individualistic types out there. Although they are friendly and laid back, they are usually hard to get to know, as they value their privacy and independence. Their introverted nature combined with their analytical thinking make them unlikely to focus on their feelings or share them with others. ISTPs’ dominant function is Ti, which means that they rely on logic to process information internally before making a move. The Tinkerer is usually very handy and practical, so individuals with this type tend to be drawn to tools and solving real-world problems.

ISFPs and ISTPs share three of their preferences, as well as their auxiliary function – Se – so they are alike in many ways. Both are down to earth and attentive to their environment. The two types enjoy novelty and are not interested in abstract information. ISFPs and ISTPs both learn best by hands-on experience and easily get bored by routine or theorizing. Autonomy is important for ISFPs and ISTPs alike, so both may react negatively to being controlled.

The main difference between the Adventurer and the Tinkerer is in the way the two make decisions. ISFPs rely on their subjective evaluation of the best way forward in a given situation. ISTPs use their dominant function – Ti – to analyze the situation and come up with a logical and practical solution.

ISFP vs NT Analyzer Temperament Types

The NT analyzer temperament (also known as the Rational temperament according to psychologist David Keirsey) consists of four types – ENTJ, ENTP, INTJ, and INTP. Types from this group are defined by their Intuition and Thinking preferences. They are usually rational and inquisitive individuals. Analyzers like to apply their considerable intellectual abilities to abstract and theoretical problems. The hidden meaning and potential of events are more important to them than the events themselves. These types are often driven to obtain more knowledge in order to form a coherent picture of the world around them. They rarely take emotions into account when making decisions.

Analyzers have little in common with ISFPs, as the latter is a lot more focused on the practical and down-to-earth aspect of the experience. The Adventurer rarely engages in abstract thought and relies on their gut feeling when making decisions, unlike Analyzers, who rely on logic.

ISFP vs ENTJ

The ENTJ type (also known as the General) is defined by traits such as decisiveness, self-confidence, and curiosity. ENTJs tend to be born leaders; they have a natural inclination to take charge of situations. They are talented debaters and have strong communication skills. Since ENTJs’ dominant cognitive function is Te, they mostly consider rational and objective criteria when making decisions. The General’s drive to find ways to improve the world around them may sometimes cause them to make snap decisions instead of considering things carefully before moving forward. ENTJs are also orderly and competitive.

ISFPs and ENTJs are exact opposites in terms of preferences, so it shouldn’t be hard to tell them apart unless the two individuals in question happen to be close to the threshold of their respective preferences.

ISFPs are quiet and prefer spending time with a small group of friends, relating through fun activities. ENTJs are gregarious and talkative, so they would rather engage in lively discussions, especially on abstract or theoretical topics. The Adventurer decides how to respond to situations by referencing their subjective values, while as a Thinker, the General relies on logical and objective considerations. On top of that, ISFPs are spontaneous and focused on the present, while ENTJs tend to be structured and methodical.

ISFP vs ENTP

The ENTP type (also known as the Debater) is characterized by a strong intellectual focus and an ability to think creatively. They like to explore patterns and look for meaningful connections between events. As their nickname suggests, ENTPs love debating, sometimes for pure enjoyment. This can be attributed to the fact that their dominant function is Ne, which makes them good at spotting patterns and possibilities. Logic is the Debater’s main instrument when making decisions. However, they sometimes focus so much on the big picture that they lose sight of the particulars of the current situation.

ISFPs and ENTPs have more differences than similarities, but there are still some traits that they share. Both types dislike strict routines and prefer to follow their impulses. They feel bogged down by rigid structures that don’t allow for their spontaneity to flourish. The two types need enough space to unleash their creativity.

However, creativity is expressed in differing ways in the Adventurer and the Debater. ISFPs like to engage in direct expression through tangible, artistic means, such as drawing or music. They are also drawn to novel experiences that please their aesthetic sense. ENTPs, on the other hand, would rather find creative ways to apply logic to abstract or conceptual problems, since they are an intuitive type. Another difference is that ISFPs prefer action over words, while ENTPs find conversations more enjoyable.

ISFP vs INTJ

The INTJ (also known as the Mastermind) is another analytical and intellectual MBTI personality type. INTJs like to set specific goals and strive toward their achievement. They have very high expectations of themselves and usually don’t rest until they have reached success. INTJs also like to apply their analytical mind to abstract problems and unexplored possibilities, driven by their dominant function, Ni. The Mastermind tends to be quiet and reserved, spending long periods in deep thought. This may cause others to perceive them as withdrawn. Despite their penchant for theoretical considerations, as a Judger, the INTJ usually follows through on their plans.

ISFPs and INTJs have little in common besides their preference for spending time alone or with a small group of close friends over bigger social events. The two types get exhausted by social interaction and need time by themselves to recharge. Also, both ISFPs and INTJs are usually great listeners.

These two types have contrasting approaches when it comes to making decisions. ISFPs consult their inner moral compass, while INTJs gather objective data from the outside world and base their actions on logic. Another distinction between the two is their level of emotional sensitivity. ISFPs are well-tuned to the emotional context of a situation and aim to be considerate of other people’s feelings. Conversely, INTJs don’t pay much attention to emotions, both their own and those of others. They focus on rationality instead.

ISFP vs INTP

The INTP type (also known as the Logician) tends to be individualistic and analytical. INTPs love to explore concepts and abstract ideas and are often drawn to scientific fields. In fact, one of their other monikers is the Engineer. They value their autonomy and dislike following rules and regulations. With Ti as their dominant function, INTPs take in information from the outside world and process it internally by drawing a logical relationship between things and events. The Logician also enjoys projecting the patterns they find into the future to explore possibilities, driven by their auxiliary function, Ne.

ISFPs and INTPs are two types that tend to be private and independent. Both types like to have enough personal space to be flexible and spontaneous. However, the two may also struggle with long-term planning and following through on commitments because of their desire to go with the flow.

ISFPs and INTPs have different worldviews. As a Sensing type, ISFPs are interested in the concrete side of things and tend to abide in the present. INTPs care more about meanings and potentials; they look at phenomena and try to interpret them rationally. Furthermore, the Adventurer follows their heart when they consider the right way to move forward, while the Logician reviews information through analysis. Consequently, others often perceive ISFPs as kinder and more considerate than INTPs.

ISFP and NF Empath Temperament Types

The NF empath temperament (also known as the Idealist temperament according to psychologist David Keirsey) consists of four personality types – ENFJ, ENFP, INFJ, and INFP. They are defined by their Intuition and Feeling preferences and, as such, tend to value meaningful emotional relationships. As the name of the temperament suggests, types from this group are empathetic and generally tuned to people’s feelings, both their own and those of others. They are guided by ideals and are focused on the meaning of events and the potential they present.

ISFPs and Empaths generally have different ways of looking at the world. The Adventurer is realistic and takes things at face value, while NF types live in a world of ideas and possibilities. However, ISFPs and Empaths share an emotional sensitivity and a compassionate nature.

ISFP vs ENFJ

The ENFJ type (also known as the Guide) stands out with kindness and empathy. ENFJs are outgoing and always on the lookout for ways to help others. They seek to establish harmonious and meaningful relationships with those around them and strive to maintain an agreeable tone. ENFJs’ dominant function is Fe, which makes them keenly aware of other people’s feelings and the emotional context of situations in general. In their effort to accommodate others they sometimes ignore their own needs or become overly sensitive to disapproval. However, their caring nature and warm-heartedness usually serve to uplift and inspire others.

ISFPs and ENFJs are unlikely to be mistaken for one another, as their traits are fairly distinctive. However, there is at least one way in which the two types are alike. Both are warm and considerate; they derive satisfaction from helping others and are sensitive to people’s needs.

But their compassion may be expressed in different ways. ISFPs are more likely to provide concrete and specific advice to a close friend in need, while ENFJs are more focused on maintaining the consensus among bigger groups of people. The Guide aims to bring hope and understanding to their social circle. ISFPs and ENFJs also look at the world from differing perspectives. The Adventurer focuses on the present and their direct sensory experiences, while the Guide looks for meanings and patterns.

ISFP vs ENFP

The ENFP type (also known as the Optimist) is characterized by a penchant for idealism and spontaneity. ENFPs are more likely to focus on the big picture and look to the future than explore the details of the current situation. They look for hidden patterns and unexplored possibilities, driven by their dominant function – Ne. Their enthusiasm and gregariousness often spill over to others. Strict order and predictability bore the Optimist. They prefer open-ended situations that allow them to be flexible and creative.

ISFPs and ENFPs are both warm and empathetic. The two types share a focus on the emotional dimension of life. The Adventurer’s dominant cognitive function – Fi – is the Optimist’s auxiliary function, so both types tend to base their decisions on their inner values. The two types’ emotional and spontaneous nature also makes them susceptible to getting overwhelmed by feelings, especially in stressful situations.

Both types tend to focus on the external world but in differing ways. ISFPs are observant and aware of their environment in the current moment. They enjoy immersing themselves in sensory experiences. In contrast, ENFPs pay more attention to the significance of events and the meaningful connections between them. The Optimist tends to consider the future implications of the current situation.

ISFP vs INFJ

The INFJ type (also known as the Sage) combines seemingly opposing traits, such as realism and idealism. One of INFJs’ main aims is to find their true purpose and achieve personal growth. They usually look for the underlying meaning of events and strive to make the world a better place. However, this doesn’t mean that they are blind to the dark side of life. On the contrary, they tend to see the world as it is. What’s more, INFJs are good at devising plans and usually follow through on what they set out to achieve. Ni is their dominant function, so they tend to trust their instincts when evaluating a situation and sometimes stick to it a bit stubbornly.

ISFPs and INFJs are two of the most artistic and sensitive types. They are both on a constant quest for creative and authentic self-expression. The two types are also private and emotional, so they recharge by spending time alone and try to avoid confrontations.

ISFPs and INFJs tend to look at the world differently. The Adventurer is concerned mostly with their immediate environment, while the Sage interprets the world by drawing meaningful connections between events. Besides this, ISFPs enjoy having the flexibility to decide on their next move as they go, and not to be bogged down by rules and routines. INFJs, on the other hand, prefer to plan things in advance and stick to a schedule.

ISFP vs INFP

The INFP (also known as the Mediator) is another warm, creative, and idealistic type. They are often kind and considerate, as they are keenly aware of other people’s feelings and try to accommodate them. In their attempt to please others, they can sometimes lose sight of their own needs. INFPs enjoy spending time in their inner world, immersed in abstract thought and dreams about the future (fittingly, one of their other nicknames is the Dreamer). This often makes them seem distracted or even withdrawn to others. INFPs idealism helps them keep things in perspective but they can sometimes fail to notice small details.

ISFPs and INFPs share three of their preferences, as well as their dominant cognitive function – Fi. So they have quite a few similarities. In fact, these two types are often mistaken for one another. Both are kind, empathic, and artistic. Both make decisions based on their subjective views rather than objective criteria. Furthermore, ISFPs and INFPs are quiet and reserved, preferring to spend time by themselves instead of in large groups of people.

One way to tell them apart is to keep an eye on their general focus when it comes to interpreting information. ISFPs are usually concrete and focused on the here and now, while INFPs are more likely to focus on abstract ideas and the future.