The Fourth Type Category: Perceiving or Judging
As I said in the following articles: Sensation and Intuition and Thinking and Feeling, the two middle letters of our type stand for the functions we use most in everyday life.
- The first of these middle letters designates our Perceiving function (Sensation or iNtuition), which encourages a response-ready mode of behavior: action right now, as a situation is happening.
- The second designates our Judging function (Thinking or Feeling), which prompts us to hesitate before we act--to recognize the predictable and to anticipate consequences.
The fourth letter of our type, P or J, tells us which of these two functions we use in an Extraverted way--that is, to understand and relate to our external conditions.
P types use their Perceiving function (Sensation or Intuition) to understand and relate to external conditions:
- ESTPs, ESFPs, ISTPs, and ISFPs use Se.
- ENTPs, ENFPs, INTPs, and INFPs use Ne.
J types use their Judging function (Thinking or Feeling) to understand and relate to external conditions:
- ESTJs, ENTJs, ISTJs, and INTJs use Te.
- ESFJs, ENFJs, ISFJs, and INFJs use Fe.
The function we use to interact with the external world helps to determine what we take for granted about outward reality in general. Whether we're Extraverted or Introverted types, we all use our Extraverted function to fit into society and to carry out our goals. Thus, the P or J at the end of our type tells us a great deal about the way we understand the pleasures, problems, and purpose of life.
Because our Extraverted function characterized our expectations of others and our visible behaviors, it also influences the way others see us. P types, who are response-ready, display different characteristics than J types, who like to know what to expect before they act.
Our typological architecture mirrors other natural systems, in that stability is founded on the union of opposites. In the physical world, this structural arrangement allows for creative variation within the constraints of natural law. To a large extent, P types and J types illustrate the psychological correlates of this dynamic process. P types are drawn to novelty and variation; J types focus on boundary conditions and direction.
Some researchers believe that this distinction has its roots in evolutionary development. For hunter-gatherers, P traits were crucial to survival. Rapidly shifting attention, hands-on intelligence, and hair-trigger responses ensured the ability to exploit opportunity and to defend against predators in a dangerous prehistoric environment. J traits, by contrast, developed in a more secure environment, which encouraged focused attention, structural maintenance, and the development of long-term goals.
One can see the same distinction, from a radically different perspective, as it exists in information theory, which deals with the accurate transmission of communication signals. A message that's been converted into electrical signals is difficult to reconstruct if the patter of signals is too highly varied. Too many interpretations are possible. The only way to ensure correct interpretation is to reduce a message to its essentials and to repeat the signals most important to its understanding.
One might say that P types emphasize variation and multiple options over exactitude of communication. They want all the information they can get and diverse possibilities for understanding and response. J types are more inclined to introduce redundancy into a system, focusing on essentials, and anticipating regular occurrences of the same event over time.
It should be remembered that P and J traits are most pronounced in our dealings with the outer world. When we're alone, doing exactly what we want to do, we may exhibit some traits that conflict with our P or J designation. For example, TJs may be highly task-oriented in their career objectives, but somewhat indecisive in their personal lives. FPs may be highly flexible in social situations, but exacting in areas important to themselves. This outer/inner division is the normal state of affairs--for all types.
Extreme Extraverts, therefore, may find that their self-experience coincides almost entirely with their P or J traits. For extreme Introverts, the opposite is true. That is, high-scoring Introverts generally find that their self-experience coincides strongly with many traits opposed to their P or J designation.
P types J types never feel they have enough information to decide, and may seek new options even after deciding may decide before all the facts are in or limit their options just to have things settled and off their minds react fully and quickly to whatever happens to catch their attention want to know what's going to happen so they can prepare for it are ready for anything but may depend too much on chance and circumstance are self-motivating but may be unprepared to deal with the unexpected resist structure; may not start a project until motivated by the arrival of a deadline prefer structure; will organize time and efforts to meet goals and deadlines may take on too many projects or keep going until they're overloaded and unable to do it all do exactly what they say they're going to do, and will re-negotiate if more is required may experience their emotions as physical states and become run down may not be aware of their physical needs until they have a real problem are curious, adaptable, masters of improvisation, but may not follow through or stick to something very long are responsible, firm, true to their word, but may be unwilling to change, even when things are going badly are enthusiastic, engaged, impetuous are decisive, committed, determined can be reckless--may not consider risks or time constraints when drawn to something exciting can be controlling--may take authority instinctively, certain they know what needs to be done
The P Types
Because P types use Sensation or Intuition for their outward behaviors, the goals they formulate usually emphasize direct engagement. When people consistently take action in Perceiving terms, they develop a way of looking at reality that colors their behaviors and is apparent to others. These traits are more pronounced in the Extraverted P types, but Introverted P types also display them.
For example, because they value the immediacy of direct engagement, P types tend to be flexible and will change directly easily if something else seems more interesting or more exciting at the moment. A very high P score may even suggest resistance to time constraints and external limits.
Given their openness to experience, P types may avoid making decisions until circumstances force their hand. They don't want to "push the river" or close off other options that might turn up. Such types may believe that the right choice will simply happen to them or become apparent to them in the process of living their lives. As author Alice Walker says, in fine Perceiving tradition, "Expect nothing; live frugally on surprise."
Surprise, for these types, doesn't mean being startled or forced to contend with the unknown. It means leaving room for life to happen without too much predetermination. Perceivers are like surfers in this respect. The goal may be the perfect wave, but you can't control the wind or the tides or the weather. What's important is to recognize the moment when the wave is beginning to build and to go with it in a glorious leap of faith, co-creating the experience as it's unfolding.
For this reason, P types can be discouraged by too many obstacles. They may not anticipate problems realistically, figuring they'll improvise if they need to when the time comes. If they can't do this successfully, they may be frustrated and impatient, as though life were being unfair to them.
Most P types have some difficulty shutting down their perceptual receptivity. For example, they can be influenced by the views and ideas of each new person they talk to, or each new article or book they read. They get restless when their attention is not fully engaged, and they tend to change direction and careers more often than J types.
Their moods, accordingly, seem to run in cycles--periods of enthusiasm and receptivity alternating with periods of overload and withdrawal. P types often experience their legitimate need to withdraw as a feeling of disappointment and depression.
The J Types
Because J types use Thinking or Feeling for their outward behaviors, they don't believe for one minute that the right things will "just happen" to them naturally. As Lois Lane, the very decisive female reporter, once said to Clark Kent: "You're wrong about me. I really like surprises. I just want to know about them in advance."
J types handle outward events rationally, by anticipating the predictable and being prepared for it. They don't want their hand forced by unanticipated circumstances. They want to organize their experience in advance so they know what's essential and can attend to it in terms of their goals.
P types generally misunderstand a Judging approach as restrictive and controlling. From their perspective, J types are conformists, intent on imposing the very limitations that P types regard as suspect--the dull security of rules and systems that tell people what to do and how to feel. It's important to recognize that this distinction--between P types as free spirits and J types as authority freaks--is a stereotype. All types cherish freedom. And all types crave security. It's just that P types and J types understand these things in different ways.
P types, who are response-ready, naturally understand freedom as the absence of constraint. They want the ability to take immediate action, as a situation is occurring, without having to explain it to themselves or reckon with prior limits.
J types understand freedom from the opposite perspective. Without plans or expectations, one has no choice but to be response-ready, constantly alert to all the data available in the situation. This lack of choice makes J types feel trapped. It forces them to react, and only to react, without recourse.
From this point of view, the ability to establish priorities doesn't limit one's options. It creates options that don't exist in nature, thus freeing one from the mercy of chance and circumstance. If a course is worth pursuing, then immediate information is important only when it has some bearing on the issue.
Accordingly, J types react badly to a change of plans. They don't want to entertain new options when a decision has already been made. On the other hand, J types are more philosophical than P types when implementation of a plan goes awry.
As suggested earlier, P types are a bit like surfers. They make decisions by recognizing the right wave and "going with it," relying on their natural skills and past experience to handle problems as they arise. Like a surfer shifting to maintain balance, P types count on their ability to improvise, and their reflexes are often keen.
If improvisation doesn't work, however, the experience is simply ruined. Once you've fallen off the board, there's nothing more to be done. The moment is gone. P types in this situation are crushed and disappointed and feel exposed as inadequate. Indeed, when P types find themselves contending with circumstances in which they have neither skills nor experience to count on, they die a thousand deaths, anticipating all manner of awful things that could go wrong.
J types aren't like this. Not that they react well to failure. No one does. But they have more patience with obstacles. They don't invest their self-worth in the successful outcome of one moment. They make plans with an eye toward using them again, and they expect to refine them over time. If a system doesn't work, a J type will get frustrated, but ultimately regards the failure as a useful piece of information. It suggests a way to anticipate the problem or prevent it before it happens.
Our Introverted Function
Although the P or J at the end of our psychological type tells us which function we use for our Extraverted behaviors, there is a good deal more to us than meets the eye. Inside ourselves another world exists, in which we reflect on and interpret our experiences, relating them to our individual needs and point of view. We don't use our Extraverted function for these tasks. We use our other function, our Introverted function.
P types use their Judging function (Thinking or Feeling) for Introverted reflection:
- ESTPs, ENTPs, ISTPs, and INTPs use Ti.
- ENFPs, ESFPs, ISFPs, and INFPs use Fi.
J types use their Perceiving function (Sensation or Intuition) for Introverted reflection:
- ESTJs, ESFJs, ISTJs, and ISFJs use Si.
- ENTJs, ENFJs, INTJs, AND INFJs use Ni.
For all practical purposes, our psychological division of labor sees to it that our two strongest functions offer us two entirely different perspectives on reality.
As suggested earlier, P types who are easygoing and flexible in an Extraverted social situation can be ruthlessly self-critical or hold very stubbornly to a set of values in those Introverted areas of life that apply to themselves and their own priorities. Many a Perceiving comedian, athlete, or performer is responsive, spontaneous, and improvisational onstage or in the field but quite decisive and even controlling about things at home that involve personal time and space.
In contrast, a J type may be a high-powered manager among colleagues or in a club or organization but display a surprising lack of boundaries where immediate personal satisfactions are concerned. Part of our development, typologically, is learning how to bring our inner and outer worlds into balance.
The P/J Split in Pop Culture
In Willy Holtzman's stage play, "Sabina: The Untold Story of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and Sabina Spielrein" the following exchange occurs between Freud and Jung:
Carl Jung: You declined the invitation to America?
Sigmund Freud: I was inclined to. But an entire nation half Puritan and half savage--what analyst could resist?
I can think of few characterizations that capture more succinctly the stereotypes that Judgers and Perceivers maintain about each other in this country. Indeed, Freud's observation was downright Jungian. Our political and social conflicts are often framed in terms of the polar distinctions within us.
Simply at the level of popular culture, an extraordinary number of movie and TV plots are fueled by the particulars of the puritan/savage (Judging/Perceiving) opposition. Apart from the obvious examples as The Odd Couple, Simon and Simon, Starsky and Hutch, or Cagney and Lacy, the tension between the two approaches is also a staple of the cop/cowboy genre, which often pits direct action against principled decision making.
In fact, media detectives are almost invariably hard-knuckled Perceiving types whose code of honor is entirely situational. Our films, TV shows, and novels tend to represent such men as woefully misunderstood by the rule-driven J types overseeing their cases from behind the safety of a desk. In the Perceiving-oriented world of entertainment, Judgment types are almost invariably played as uptight hypocrites devoid of physical passion.
In the short-lived series Kindred: The Embraced, a story about five clans of modern vampires, a young musician of the Toreador clan, known for being free spirits and artists, says disparagingly of the Vendru clan, "They're not like us. They're power brokers and bankers--suits with sharp teeth." The P/J split apparently reigns even among the undead.
Not surprisingly, many of our popular films represent the P/J split in terms of gender issues. Pretty Woman and The Bodyguard, which might be regarded as popular fairy tales, both tell the same basic story: a Judging male, accustomed to life as an emotionally controlled pragmatist, is gradually thawed by the playful, vulnerable, sexually open immediacy of a Perceiving female.
For the most part, however, Perceiving qualities are more likely to be represented as masculine--as in the popular novel The Bridges of Madison County, which pairs a dissatisfied but loyally committed J housewife with an itinerant P photographer, surprised by love in midlife.
Such Perceiving heroes are almost always represented as latter-day Huck Finns who suspect that females are "out to civilize" them. For example, in Moonlighting, Maddie Hayes spends all her time setting rules (Judgement), while her partner, David Addison, regards escape from the rules as a declaration of personal freedom (Perception).
On Cheers, sports-jock-turned-bartender Sam Malone is the classic Perceiving type of the Peter Pan variety, while his intellectual snob of a barmaid, Diane Chambers, is the classic Judging type who won't tolerate even her stuffed animals' being out of order.
On Remington Steele, Laura Holt, a smart, aggressive, Judging-oriented detective with a strong moral code, is forced to rely on a mysterious cat burglar whose Perceiving style has unaccustomed him to moral considerations and long-term commitment.
In all plots of this sort we are meant to recognize the sexual tension between the principals, fueled, in part, by their mutual antagonism. And we have a stake in the characters' discovery that they are falling in love, somewhat despite themselves. We instinctively recognize in their situation an image of our own P/J conflicts.
On the other hand, we also recognize the potential for growth in the characters' fundamental polarity. A film like Pretty Woman can end at the point of climax, so to speak, and we are left with a feeling of exhilaration. In a TV show, however, which continues season after season, sexual resolution of a P/J conflict nearly always drains the energy from the couple's relationship. This is because, typologically, the tension between our P and J functions is the source of our creativity and psychological evolution. If we resolve it by way of merger, we become less conscious.