The benefit of investigating gender roles and experiences across MBTI Types, as well as across cultures, is plain: the broader and more diverse the data is, the more reliable it will be for verifying commonalities shared by each personality type.
Luckily for INTP women, our type is rare enough overall, and even less widespread among females, that we were the subjects of a fairly robust, cross-cultural experience inventory (published in the paper INTP Women Across Cultures). Researchers Nancy J. Barger (Organizational Consultant and Trainer) and Linda K. Kirby (Writer and Editor) note several features common among INTP women, summarized in the article's conclusion:
Of course, we share several quirky features---after all, INTP is one of the "quirkier" MBTI types. Indeed, our unusual nature is one of several reasons why the researchers selected female INTP women, as the focus of their study. Most importantly, however, is our "outsider" status---according to their hypothesis, this is not only according to natural preferences, but also put upon us for a number of socio-cultural reasons:[The] sense of the environment [INTP Women] needed to be their best was similar (independence, time alone, work flexibility). They clearly expressed their sense of being quite different from what their society expected and wanted from women and being identified&by others and by themselves as fitting more into male patterns of thought and behavior.
The study itself involved an extensive questionaire, distributed to twelve INTP women, each from an ethnically/ nationally diverse background---it spanned the course of the individual's lifetime, and delved deeply into each of several, distinct life-stages. (Here, they are provided in summary---please visit the original article Online, to read more thorough accountings of each woman's interview):Why did we choose to start with INTP women?
According to Isabel Briggs Myers, the preferred type for women in U.S. culture is ESFJ (Myers & McCaulley, 1985, pp. 155-157). Women with preferences for INTP are thus the opposite of the culturally-preferred type for women. Examining the experience of the least-preferred group provides a sharp picture because of the contrast between their natural ways of being and the culturally-prescribed model.
What is the evidence for a preference for ESFJ women in U.S. culture?
It is well-known that there is a significant difference between reported preferences of men and women in U.S. culture on the thinking-feeling dimension, with 60%-65% of women reporting a preference for feeling, while only 35%-40% of males do so (Myers & McCaulley, 1985, pp. 148-150). Estimates of type preferences for females within U.S. culture show that women are also more likely to prefer E, S, and J than are males in the same large samples (McCaulley, Macdaid, & Kainz, 1985). While the differences on the 100 BARGER, KIRBY other three scales are smaller and must be interpreted cautiously, the trend for reported type for females in the U.S. is clearly ESFJ.
The impact of cultural preferences on type distributions has not been resolved or even much discussed. However, Eduardo Casas, in his work with the MBTI and anglophone Canadians, francophone Canadians, and French students suggests that differences in reported type between different cultural groups provides evidence for cultural values in relationship to type (Casas, 1992). Thus, the fact that women in the U.S. report preferences for E, S, F, and J more than do males in the same culture would provide evidence of cultural values.
Another kind of evidence comes from Portraits of Type (1991), by Avril Thorne and Harrison Gough. Their study analyzes 30 years of data collected about participants at the Institute of Personality Assessment and Research (IPAR) at the University of California at Berkeley. IPAR assessors (trained psychologists) conducted intensive individual interviews, observed group problem-solving tasks and social interactions, and assessed creativity and personal adjustment to arrive at their evaluations of individuals. They then used such instruments as the Adjective Check List (Gough & Heilbrun, 1983) and the California Q-Set (Block, 1986) to describe participants. The observers did not know individuals' types when they recorded their observations.
Thorne and Gough compiled the words and phrases observers used to describe/assess different types and then reported those most highly correlated with a particular type. According to Thorne and Gough, a large number of correlates were significant for both male and female INTPs, making this type one of the most clearly depicted (1991, p. 86).
The words and phrases used most often to describe INTP women were entirely negative. Those used most often to describe male INTPs were mixed some positive and some negative. INTP females were depicted more negatively than women in general and than women of any other type. Female INTP descriptions were also more negative than those for any male type.
It is important to note that Thorne & Gough's sample was a selective group well-educated and creative. The samples included undergraduate students at the University of California at Berkeley, senior-year students at a liberal arts women's college, students in the law school at Berkeley, mathematicians, architects, creative writers, business executives, and other professionals. Participants were generally chosen for their creative accomplishments or potential (1991, pp. 4-5). The INTP women were predominantly mathematicians, law students, and undergraduate students (p. 86).
THORNE & GOUGHS CORRELATED DESCRIPTORS FOR FEMALE INTPS
Phrases most often used to describe:
- is basically distrustful of people in general; questions their motivations
- keeps people at a distance; avoids close interpersonal relationships
- is subtly negativistic; tends to undermine and obstruct or sabotage
- tends to be self-defensive
- extrapunitive; tends to transfer or project blame
Adjectives most often used to describe:
Phrases least often used to describe:
- emphasizes being with others; gregarious
- has social poise and presence; appears socially at ease
- has a clear-cut internally consistent personality
- appears straight-forward, forthright, candid in dealing with others
- is turned to for advice and reassurance
Adjectives least often used to describe:
- understanding (1991, p. 87)
It may be that this particular group of INTP females was especially poorly developed in type terms, though the percentage of students and successful professionals was similar to the makeup of women in other type groups. Descriptors chosen may also (and we think they do) provide important information about American cultural values for women.
INTP WOMEN AND CULTURAL VALUES
Our interpretation is that characteristic behaviors of INTPs when displayed by women in the U.S. are interpreted by others in negative ways because of cultural assumptions about how women should be and behave. Whether the descriptors for women in this study were significantly influenced by the cultural biases of the observers, or the behavior and adjustment of these women was influenced by their life experience with cultural/family values is impossible to judge from the evidence. Either may be true or, more likely, the negative picture of INTP women is the result of both these factors. Thus, our beginning hypotheses about INTP women are:
- characteristic behaviors/attitudes of INTPs are viewed in a negative light when they are observed in women in the U.S.;
- this cultural bias may impact the development of INTP women and their ability to express their type preferences in positive ways.
What happens when a culture does not accept or support some types? How is the development of individuals affected by the type biases of family, co-culture, or culture?
We have developed the following hypotheses as a basis for exploring questions related to the impact of culture on type and the interaction of psychological type preferences and cultural values. They underlie our project:102 BARGER, KIRBY
- Every culture has preferred types. Those types will find support and encouragement for developing their preferences.
- People with preferences different from the preferred type may find it more difficult to develop and demonstrate their type.
- People with non-supported preferences may find it difficult to find a place to utilize their gifts.
- People with non-preferred types may disguise or mask their preferences and operate less effectively than they otherwise could.
- Self-esteem is affected positively and negatively for preferred and non-preferred types
There are alway flaws in research that assumes its subjects have prior understanding of the material in question (in this case, MBTI Types, and specifically INTP women). Despite any potentially muddling factors, the striking similarities among female INTP experiences cannot be easily dismissed, or arbitrary. In fact, even the researchers note their surprise, upon discovering so many parallels between them.INFORMATION ABOUT INTERVIEWEES
1. Japanese, late 20s, married, 1 child. Middle class family, middle of three sisters. University education. Creates psychological tests using statistical procedures.
2. Polish Catholic, 39 years old, divorced, 2 children. Professional family, youngest of three children. University education, lawyer.
3. Great Britain, 45 years old, never married, no children. Middle class family, youngest of three children. Commercial course. Now pursuing University degree.
Industry, computers, consulting.
4. New Zealand, 54 years old, separated, 4 grown children. Middle class family, oldest of 5 children. University education as adult. Involved in education and training, first as volunteer, then as paid worker.
5. New Zealand, 46 years old, never married, no children. Middle class family, only child. University education. Teaching, vocational guidance, management development.
6. Francophone Canadian, 39 years old, divorced, 1 child. Middle class family, 2nd of 4 children. University education. Organizational and management training.
7. Barbados, British colonial family, lived in Canada since 18 years old, late 30s, married, 3 children. Middle class family, part of white power group in a country 90% black. Nursing education. Part-time nurse, volunteer in adult education.
8. Anglophone Canadian, mid-30s, never married, no children. Grew up on farm in Ontario, small town, oldest of 5 children. University education, with some graduate school. Librarian.
9. U.S. Mormon, 35, married, 4 children. Middle class family, grew up in Mormon Utah. University education. Professional in computer/communications.
10. U.S. African-American, 37, married, no children. Middle class family in upper Midwest. University education. Human resources professional, in-house training design and delivery.
11. U.S. Mexican-American, early 20s, no children. Middle class Catholic family, 6th of 8 children. Currently a student, anticipating becoming a family counselor.
12. U.S. white, 49, divorced, 2 children. Middle class family, middle of 3 children with 2 brothers. Teacher in high school and university, self-employed editor and writer.
FAMILY [of Origin], FAMILY'S REACTION TO INTERVIEWEE
Of the 12 women, 10 reported feeling different within their families, feeling unsupported, feeling like an outsider. All recalled numerous ways in which they did not fit. Half reported strong feelings of rejection and lack of support from families.
Of the 12 women, 9 reported being smart or especially good in school; none reported academic difficulties. Three different behavior patterns were reported, with several indicating more than one of these: 1) being a leader; 2) being a good girl; 3) being "contrary. The aggressiveness/rebellion generally took the form of rejecting statements/rules which were not logical and reading books in class which were not assigned.
Most reported increased feelings of being different, separate, during their adolescence. They generally described themselves as being independent and thinking for themselves, but having difficulty with social relationships and gender expectations. Only 2 dated or had romantic relationships with males. Academics were important, and they were successful. Several described participation in social activities, always in the form of belonging to clubs or sports teams, but they reported few friendships. (Especially noteworthy: No one reported close intimate friendships with males or females.)
Many reported not being able to make free choices about college/careers because of family finances and expectations. A few came alive in college or university. Most found it a continuation of their previous experience small circle of friends, little dating, feeling different. There was also continuing evidence of, as several put it, being contrary.
CAREER DECISIONS, EXPERIENCE
Few found a good-fit career quickly; most tried several areas before finding one in which they could use their abilities and in which they felt comfortable. All expressed the importance of having jobs which allowed freedom and flexibility. All mentioned the importance of their careers to their self-identity. All reported few friendships, fairly formal relationships with colleagues.
Of the 12 women, 7 have children, 5 do not. In general, they stated that parenting was important to them but that they were not like most mothers: they were more detached, had few rules, and liked their children better as they get older. Several expressed frustration at the limitations motherhood placed on them.
This is a question we did not think to ask, but all 12 stated that people saw them as having a male perspective, that their primary identifications were with males, or that they felt most comfortable interacting with males. Nine expressed finding it difficult to relate to other females, feeling very different from them.
All reported some degree of difficulty in recognizing or expressing feeling judgment. Most reported relationship difficulties related to this.
All except two expressed discomfort with gender expectations and an awareness of acting outside their culture's gender roles.
TIME ALONE AND INDEPENDENCE
Without exception, the women portrayed themselves as being independent in their thinking and actions. They also consistently stated the importance to them of time alone. Most indicated that these characteristics caused difficulties for them in relationships.
CULTURES PREFERRED TYPE FOR WOMEN
All who expressed an opinion (11) agreed that their culture preferred extraverted feeling in women that is, the combination of feeling and judging (or the inferior function for these dominant introverted thinkers). ISFJ and ESFJ were most commonly suggested by these INTP women.
If you are like me---and anatomically female INTP---I imagine you will relate to nearly everything reported by these twelve, cross-cultural interviewees. It might be helpful to know that within our feminine sphere of existence, INTP women unwittingly struggle against external forces (societal constraints) which compound an already naturally sense of our "difference". Perhaps it's better for us that we are less "emotional", that our proclivity for detachment allows us to better tolerate our alterity. Personally, even though I sometimes feared I might forever feel like a "stranger in a strange land", I have always at the same time jealously guarded my individuality. I don't want to be like other women. I don't feel a burning urge to have much in common with my opposite type (ESFJ). At the same time, everyone needs too feel understood. Perhaps we (INTP ladies) might take solace in one another---even if she speaks a foreign language, another f-INTP is more likely to "get me", better than other f-types who have known me my whole.