It’s hard to get to know someone who is private and reserved. That’s especially true for the quiet ISFP personality type (also referred to as The Adventurer). Although ISFPs are warm and approachable, they tend to keep to themselves. Adventurers usually don’t express themselves openly unless you get close to them. But the saying “still waters run deep” is very applicable to this type. Behind their reserved exterior often lies a rich internal world.
What defines the ISFP? We will explore the meaning of this personality type, as well as the common traits and characteristics associated with it. We’ll also look at ISFPs’ preferences and cognitive functions, as well as how they are expressed in this type. Lastly, we will outline Adventurers’ common strengths and possible weaknesses.
The ISFP type is part of the SP originator temperament, also known as the Artisan temperament, as defined by American psychologist David Keirsey. ISTP, ESTP, and ESFP are the other three types that fall in the same group. These personalities are defined by their Sensing and Perceiving preferences, so they are concrete thinkers with an inclination for spontaneity. They are tuned to the objective world around them and they dislike strict routines.
What Does ISFP Stand for?
What does ISFP mean? As you’re probably aware, the four letters of each personality are an initialism for the type’s preferences. In the case of the ISFP those are Introversion (I), Sensing (S), Feeling (F), and Perceiving (P). We will examine how each of these manifests in the Adventurer type. But first, let’s outline the main ISFP characteristics in a brief overview.
ISFP Description – ISFP Personality Traits and Characteristics
ISFPs live in a colorful and immediate world. They are artistic individuals, always on the lookout for new experiences and new ways of expressing themselves. Their creativity can flow through all of their endeavors, even if they are not directly involved in art. If they do see art as their calling, however, they are likely to rely on direct and emotive means of expression, such as visual art and music. In fact, along with Adventurers, they are sometimes referred to as Artists and Composers.
As Adventurers, ISFPs are fun-loving and spontaneous. Action-oriented, they seek out new ways to experience the world. This also makes them aversive to abstract or philosophical musings, as they prefer to focus on the here and now. But this does not mean that they ignore unexplored possibilities. They are often looking for hidden potential in things, and simply choose to look for it in the experiential rather than the symbolic.
ISFPs are also known for their unpredictability. One reason for this is an apparent contradiction in the ISFP traits, which can only be resolved with closer inspection. On the one hand, they are sensitive and emotionally aware. They always take into account how others feel and work to accommodate them. Despite being somewhat distant, Adventurers are tactful and considerate.
But that friendliness can disappear in certain situations, especially if they feel that their autonomy is threatened. ISFPs place a high value on their creative freedom and don’t like it when something is imposed on them from the outside. They may view norms and traditions as pointless and rebel against them. Adventurers recharge their energy by spending time alone, which combined with their other traits makes them very protective of their independence. What’s more, at times they can become fiercely competitive, and are driven by a strong desire to avoid a perceived defeat. Nevertheless, ISFPs are loyal and devoted to those closest to them.
ISFP Facts and Figures
To paint a more nuanced ISFP portrait, here are some facts about this personality type:
- ISFPs make up 6% of the total population.
- The ISFP male is one of the rarest type/gender combos.
- ISFP women are more common than ISFP men — male ISFP types make up a bit more than 40% of overall ISFPs.
- ISFPs are likely to score low on assertiveness in college.
- The ISFP is among personality types least likely to graduate from college.
- The ISFP is one of the types most likely to suffer from hypertension and heart disease.
- ISFPs’ common stressors include financial and child-rearing problems.
You’re probably aware that preferences, as described by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, point to each personality type’s natural inclinations. But did you know that every MBTI type actually has all eight preferences, to some extent? Although each personality is defined by one preference from each of the four pairs, in certain situations a person may lean towards behavior that seems uncharacteristic of his/her type. For instance, an introvert may appear outgoing and exuberant within a small group of close friends. With that in mind, let’s explore how ISFPs tend to express their four preferences. As a reminder, here are all eight of them:
- Extroversion vs Introversion
- Sensing vs Intuition
- Thinking vs Feeling
- Judging vs Perceiving
Like other Introverted types, ISFPs prefer to spend time alone rather than with large groups of people. Being by themselves helps them recharge their energy. The Adventurer tends to be quiet and reserved, which can sometimes make them seem distant to those who don’t know them well. However, people are often drawn to them because of their warm and easy-going attitude. Given ISFPs process so much of what they experience internally, and often don’t share their feelings directly, it may be hard to get to know them well.
As a Sensing type, ISFPs focus mostly on the information they receive through their senses in the present moment. In fact, of the 16 personality types, they have the strongest awareness of their surroundings. Although people may perceive them as withdrawn, they often notice the smallest details of what is happening around them. This also makes them good listeners. As Sensors, ISFPs prefer to focus on the concrete instead of abstract ideas. They want to relate to the world in tangible ways. ISFPs are also practical and down-to-earth and prefer to learn through experience rather than through theory.
This preference accounts for ISFPs’ reliance on subjective feelings when making decisions. They trust their gut and follow their principles. As Feelers, they are considerate of others’ emotions; they seek harmony and understanding. Helping people and making them feel appreciated tend to be among The Adventurers’ highest priorities. Given their strong emotional awareness and their desire to maintain harmony, ISFPs often find it hard to tolerate conflicts or disagreements. They may also be sensitive to criticism.
The Perceiving preference explains ISFPs’ spontaneous nature. For them, rules are made to be broken. Adventurers don’t like being bogged down by strict schedules or regulations, preferring to have their options open instead. This flexibility makes them great improvisers, but it can also hinder their ability to bring projects to fruition. They often approach new endeavors enthusiastically but get bored quickly. Their autonomy and personal space are important to them, so they tend to avoid adhering to predefined structures. Being pressured to do so can bring their rebellious side to the forefront and make their behavior unpredictable.
ISFP Cognitive Functions
What are cognitive functions? Despite being foundational concepts in MBTI theory, they are often misunderstood. To put it in simple terms, cognitive functions are ways of relating to the world that tend to be consistent for each Myers-Briggs personality type across time. In interacting with the environment we perform two main functions — we take in and interpret information from the outside world (Perceiving) and then we use it to make decisions (Judging).
Each of these main functions can be performed in either of two ways. When using the Perceiving function, we may rely mostly on Sensing or on Intuition, which determines whether we mostly take things as they are or rather look for the meaning behind events. Judging, on the other hand, can be done mostly on the basis of Thinking or Feeling, i.e. we are either prone to making choices based on facts and logic or conversely on subjective values and a desire to maintain harmony.
So we have two main functions performed in two opposing ways, adding up to four cognitive functions. You may know that there are a total of eight functions, so where are the other four? This is where Introversion and Extroversion come in. Each of the four functions described can be broken down one last time into either introverted or extroverted. In other words, they can be focused mostly on the internal or the external. This adds up to a total of eight functions:
- Introverted Feeling (Fi)
- Introverted Intuition (Ni)
- Introverted Sensing (Si)
- Introverted Thinking (Ti)
- Extroverted Feeling (Fe)
- Extroverted Intuition (Ne)
- Extroverted Sensing (Se)
- Extroverted Thinking (Te)
Confused? No worries! It may seem daunting at first, but the breakdown of functions is actually pretty simple if you keep in mind that there are two main processes we perform in interacting with the world and each of them can be done in four ways. Once you grasp this, the whole MBTI personality type theory flows logically from there.
With that foundation laid, let’s get back to the ISFP cognitive functions. Like every other type, ISFPs have a stack of four functions ordered from most to least often used.
ISFP Function Stack
ISFPs’ dominant function is Introverted Feeling, while their auxiliary function is Extroverted Sensing. These are followed by Introverted Intuition as their tertiary function and Extroverted Thinking as their inferior one. Let’s explore what each of these means and how they are expressed in the ISFP.
This is ISFPs’ dominant function, so they rely on it most often. Introverted Feeling drives Adventurers to base their decisions on subjective views and to trust their gut feeling. When making a choice, ISFPs consult their conscience and personal values instead of facts and logic. Adventurers may take a long time before evaluating a situation and choosing how to respond to it. That’s because they process all aspects of the events internally and don’t move forward until they are certain that their decision abides by their principles.
ISFPs’ use of Introverted Feeling largely accounts for their empathic and considerate nature. When deciding how to treat others, they check how they would like to be treated in a similar situation. As a decision-making function, it also partially explains their aversion to norms and conventions. They distrust society’s definitions of right and wrong and prefer to abide by their own.
ISFPs use this function fairly often. Extroverted Sensing, their auxiliary function, moves them to focus on the information they receive from their senses. The Adventurers have a highly developed awareness of their surroundings — they notice the smallest details and slight changes in the environment. This also explains their strong memory, especially for visual detail. ISFPs prefer to deal with concrete matters instead of hypotheticals. They would rather jump into action than spend a long time discussing possibilities.
Extroverted Sensing is responsible for ISFPs’ fun-loving side. They are constantly seeking novel sensory experiences and easily get bored with routine. Their focus on the experiential often goes hand-in-hand with a refined taste and strong aesthetic sense. What’s more, Sensing accounts for Adventurers’ playful nature and ability to quickly adapt to change.
ISFPs use this function less often than their first two, which means it mainly operates subconsciously. As the opposite of Extroverted Sensing, Introverted Intuition enables Adventurers to see underlying patterns and to make projections into the future. Since it operates largely in the background, as a tertiary function, ISFPs may experience this function as an intuitive perception of the hidden meaning of events.
As with all different personality types, Adventurers have the possibility of developing their less often used functions. If ISFPs manage to harness this introverted function it could help them advance their creative side and employ more symbolic means of expression. They can also develop their ability to gain perspective of situations. However, most of their attention is still likely to be occupied by concrete and immediate experience.
This is ISFPs least-developed function, so they tend to use it rarely and without much conscious awareness. Extroverted Thinking is the opposite of Adventurers’ dominant function — Introverted Feeling, so it can be considered a weak point. Extroverted Thinking is usually expressed as the ability to organize experience and find ways to improve processes. It also allows a person to find efficient ways of solving a problem. So with Extroverted Thinking being an inferior function for ISFPs, they may struggle with situations that call for a structured and systematic approach.
Although Adventurers may benefit from developing this function, in all likelihood they will continue to be mostly driven by values and make decisions spontaneously. Nevertheless, Extroverted Sensing can help them follow logical sequences and make more informed decisions.
ISFP Strengths and Weaknesses
Each personality type’s unique mix of functions and attitudes holds the potential to be expressed as either strengths or weaknesses. And in all likelihood, an individual will have some strong sides and some blindspots at the same time. But that doesn’t mean that any of them are inevitable. So how do we maximize our strengths and avoid possible pitfalls? Well, ancient Greek sages offered their advice in a succinct maxim: “Know thyself.”
Recognizing our inherent aptitudes is the first step to developing them into full-blown talents. The same goes for our shortcomings. Although focusing on them can be a bit more painful process, it is ultimately very rewarding, as it helps us achieve personal growth and healthy functioning.
Not all ISFPs are the same (for proof check out our famous ISFPs article). But, in general, they are warm, sensitive, and always on the lookout for ways to help others and to express themselves more authentically. But they may also be prone to sudden mood swings or impulsive behaviors that cause others to perceive them as unreliable. However, healthy ISFP individuals will attempt to cultivate their natural abilities, as well as to downplay their potential faults. To help Adventurers on their journey towards their full potential, we’ve compiled a catalog of typical ISFP strengths and weaknesses.
Warm and Empathic – ISFPs have a genuine concern for the well-being of other people. They are attuned to others’ feelings and seek to accommodate their psychological needs. An easygoing and affectionate attitude is the norm for Adventurers, and others are usually drawn by their natural charm.
Curious and Observant – ISFPs are keenly aware of their environment. They notice everything in their surroundings down to the smallest detail. Adventurers approach experiences with a natural curiosity, especially if it presents some novelty. Their strong ability to focus on the environment, combined with their compassionate nature, also makes them very good listeners.
Adaptable and Adventurous – ISFPs prefer to spring into action instead of pondering possibilities. They are fun loving and always ready for a new adventure. They crave excitement and stimulation and boldly leap into new experiences. Change does not scare them but is rather something they seek out and adapt to quickly.
Artistic and Imaginative – ISFPs are often drawn to art and aesthetics but their creativity is not confined to these spheres. They approach life with an unquenchable thirst for new experiences and often find creative ways to enjoy them. Given Adventurers are action-oriented they don’t hesitate to explore new means of expression.
Principled and Independent – ISFPs rely on their belief system when making decisions. External pressure is unlikely to sway them in directions they don’t see as right. Adventurers treat others as they themselves would like to be treated. They value their personal freedom and stand by their principles, making them honorable and sincere individuals.
Distant and Withdrawn – ISFPs are hard to get to know. They tend to process their feelings and intentions within themselves and to share only after they have reached a conclusion. This can make them seem detached from others. However, most of the time they are fully present and actively processing experiences. This also explains their apparent unpredictability, which if too salient may cause others to distrust ISFP individuals.
Neurotic and Overwhelmed – Adventurers’ sensitivity may sometimes make it hard for them to cope with stressful situations. They are so attuned to the present moment and guided by their inner feelings that if circumstances seem out of control they can easily lose sight of the big picture. If overwhelmed they may even become hostile, which explains their propensity for rapid mood swings.
Diffident and Kvetchy – Although ISFPs’ strong sense of autonomy and principled nature help them maintain their composure most of the time, they can easily be knocked out of balance by criticism. They find it hard to accept negative feedback and can quickly lose confidence in themselves. Since they are sensitive and considerate towards people’s feelings, they generally expect the same from others.
Disorganized and Jaded – ISFPs’ focus on the present helps them live life to the fullest but can also make it difficult for them to stick to long-term plans. They dislike strict rules and easily get bored with routine, which could cause difficulty in career paths or romantic relationships that require some level of commitment (check out our ISFP careers and ISFP relationships articles for more). Adventurers’ flexibility and spontaneity may border on indecisiveness and lack of perspective.