The Psychology of Curiosity: an introduction

“Curiosity is the most superficial of all the affections. It has an appearance of giddiness, restlessness, and anxiety (Edmund Burke – an Irish philosopher)”

Speaking of curiosity, people usually come up with the idiom curiosity killed the cat. Why does curiosity seem to be associated with such a negative connotation? Is this also a popular perception of our daily lives and in society? In this article, I shall walk you through the definition, main types of curiosity and how it varies among in individuals

1. Two main types of curiosity

Curiosity is a critical cognitive function that influences human’s behaviors. From a broader perspective, curiosity might be seen as a stepping stone for major developments in science, decision-making, and learning. According to Psychology iresearchnet, curiosity is “a motivational state involving the tendency to recognize and seek out novel and challenging experiences”. 

Since curiosity originates from the thirst for new knowledge, it differs from other positive emotions. For example, joyful feelings such as enjoyment and cheerfulness exist when an individual already has a clear picture with ample necessary information regarding the experience. Curiosity, on the other hand, occurs when someone feels the excitement of explorations with uncertainty, hesitation, and lack of information. 

Curiosity has been classified into two main types: perceptual curiosity (or cognitive curiosity) and epistemic curiosity (or sensory curiosity). The definition of these two types lies in the matters that one is curious about. Cognitive curiosity describes the desire for new information and knowledge, or in general, cognitive matters. 
Sensory curiosity expresses the yearning for new sensations and thrills. This type involves the exploration of novel physical experiences such as do something for a try, go for an adventure, pick up a new sport, etc.

“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”

Albert Einstein

2. State versus trait : the opposing theories on the origin of curiosity

The concept of curiosity is central to motivation. Whether curiosity emerges internally or externally remains a controversial debate. However, this leads to two distinguished classifications of curiosity types: state and trait. Both of the terms determine how and why humans get involved in curious behaviors

a. State curiosity is externally stimulated

When curiosity is used as a description of specific behaviors towards a stimulus, it is known as state curiosity.  This is a state of increased arousal response stimulated by an event or activity in which an individual gains nearly no essential information in advance. It is generally based on an external situation that evokes the curiosity-driven behaviors of an individual.

Suppose you happen to know one of your friends is intrigued by the universe and always asks several questions during the National Geographic Cosmos series, or your family members wonder about the wide-opening window from the neighbor’s house during wintertime. In these cases, state curiosity appears to be the most suitable description for these behaviors. 

2. Trait curiosity comes from internal urge to gain knowledge

The concept that curiosity resides from the inside is called trait curiosity. This relates to people who have a strong interest in acquiring novel knowledge and experience, simply for the sake of learning and self-discovery. For instance, if some of your classmates have the following characteristics: highly self-motivated by discovering theoretical knowledge, being curious and passionate about trying new sports or travelling to new, unknown places, we can say these people have trait curiosity.

3. Different individuals experience different levels of curiosity and the matters they are curious about


When people get older, both the types and degree of their curiosity will change. Human beings, at different ages, are curious about different matters. When we are a little kid, we often drive ourselves to a specific  goal: to understand something better at the moment. This explains why kids ask a lot of questions because they are curious about everything and want to know more about it. 

However, when we grow older, we realize life is much more complicated, and we tend to “extend” the initial question, from “why” to “what if”. We not only want to know about present matters but also want more information about the unknown events that are likely to occur in the near future. 

When ones get older, they tend to draw various possibilities; they yearn for anticipating or foreseeing future events for better preparation. The question “why” indicates a thirst for an answer, an explanation, or could be an initial step for a novel discovery. 

“What if” represents one or several possibilities generated from a fact, or a present event that an individual already knows. “What if” plays a vital role in activating the analysis phase in the process of seeking out new information. After “what if”, people tend to define advantages and disadvantages, solve the problem and compare the results. 

As ones grow older, they expand their scope of knowledge and interests. They look at life from different perspectives; hence their curious behaviors tend to change. The two questions “why” and “what if” tend to be combined and used in different circumstances to know and understand things better

4. The 4 components that power curiosity

Curiosity can be induced  by 4 main factors: novelty, complexity, uncertainty, conflict

Novelty indicates the newness, the unknown things compared to prior experience, learned knowledge, and expectations. For example, a 5-year-old kid reads an astronomy comic book. She realized there is a lot about the universe she did not know before, compared to what she learned at school. The more she reads, the more curious she is about the universe. Reading this astronomy book brought her novel experiences, which evokes her curiosity for the universe.

Complexity is a quality that represents the variety of components within the scope of understanding. The more diverse and challenging the components are, the higher level of complexity.

Uncertainty describes the insecure and doubtful feelings when facing an issue with little knowledge acquired. Uncertainty also displays the presence of multiple possibilities and outcomes with almost no knowledge gained.

Finally, conflict describes the presence of a contradiction between what you feel and what you want to do. For example, a conflict might occur when you find a dark place, and half of you want to enter to find out what it is on the inside, and the other half is getting scared of dark places and the urge to turn away.

The four factors that drive curiosity

5. High in curiosity might mean high in openness, yet low in neuroticism

A study by Furnham and Chamorro (2006) discussed the positive connection between curiosity and the five personality traits. In particular, individuals with high scores in openness tend to be more intellectually curious and have more comfortable attitudes and feelings towards novel or challenging activities.

However, research shows that curiosity has a negative relationship with neuroticism. Research by Renner (2007) indicated a negative correlation between curiosity and the control of anxiety. In other words, highly curious individuals are associated with low levels of anxiety. Curious people tend to take challenges in open attitudes and high readiness to confront unexpected risks. They do not seem to get anxious easily, thus being able to control their anxiety more effectively. 

6. Summary

Curiosity has occupied a vital position in the study of motivation, emotion, and cognition since the origins of psychology. To this day, several basic principles and concepts of curiosity continue to confound science. Yet the importance of curiosity in personal development and daily life activities is undeniable. 

Harnessing curiosity in real-life environments, such as in work and educational settings, plays a fundamental role in growing an individual’s ability and an organization’s overall achievements. Albeit certain pros and cons, stimulating curiosity helps nurture personal growth, strengthen social bonds, and sustain our motivation and sense of exploration.

Assertiveness: A More Effective Way To Resolve Aggression

Today I would like to discuss a concept which is a significant cause of conflict in personal and work life: the quality of being socially dominant and its counterpart, passive aggressiveness. From my own observation, these two yin-yang approaches result in two camps of thoughts which are constantly at war with each other.

The benefits of being assertive

Assertiveness has been a well-known concept that contributes to good communication skills. Being assertive means to be able to speak up and project your point of view so as to protect your self-interest and create win-win situations through clear communication. It is a more healthy way of channeling aggression than said, bottling up inside just to explode later.

Potential benefits of being assertive:

  • Protect your personal benefits 
  • Communicate and find win-win situation in teamwork
  • Make individuals more stress-resistant and hence, improve productivity
  • Speak up and protect your boundary, thus improve mental healths
  • Be happier in general and reap associated health benefits
  • Feel more confident and competent, and therefore improve self-esteem

The definition of assertiveness: a skill or mindset?

The definition of assertiveness can range from a very positive meaning to domineering or openly aggressive. 16personalities.com, a very popular psychometric site, defines assertive individuals as “self-assured, even-tempered, and resistant to stress”.

So the keywords here are low on stress and aggression, or simply, low on neuroticism on the Big Five scale. For the discussion of this article, we will stick closely to the definition of Assertiveness as “the quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive“.

The implication is that loud and aggressive people can still be considered as not assertive if the underlying motivation is frequent excessive stress and aggression. Assertiveness in this sense closely resembles the laid-back type B in the popular Type A/ B personality model.

A loud and domineering person might not be considered assertive due to underlying aggression

How is assertiveness a mindset? I have observed two distinct patterns among people. On one hand, assertive individuals find it easier to set boundary. Their typical emotional reactions are either neutral or anger towards things or other people. It’s not that they cannot take blame or feel guilt, but they just do not dwell on it and instead quickly fix the issues either through correcting their own or other’s behaviors.

On the other hand are apparently meeker individuals who shy away from displaying outward anger or judgement and tend to internalize feelings of shame or guilt. That doesn’t mean they do not have aggression. These individuals may appear easy-going on the surface, but can harbor  victim mentality and passive-aggressive behaviors.

Yin and Yang: Is assertiveness all good and passive-aggressiveness bad?

Like most of other mindsets, being openly or passive-aggressive tends to be reinforced and biased by our egos. Passive-aggressive people tend to have a martyr complex, thinking that other people are immoral or ignorant, but keep such thoughts to themselves. They view assertive people as insensitive, domineering and even shallow.

Openly aggressive people on the other hand, view the majority as too inefficient, soft, overthinking or even lazy. While passive people often furnish their thought system with idealism, morality and sensitivity, assertive people reinforce their egos with the ideas of logic, efficiency, survival and bottom lines.

Such self-reinforcement results in a continuous battle between the overly assertive and the passive, like yin and yang, in our social interactions. The effect of a domineering personality is easy to see but passive aggression can be equally nasty. Especially when having a superior position, passive aggressive people can intentionally or unintentionally channel their aggression through guilt tripping, sarcasm or petty politics to cause pain to others.

Victim mentality is often a behavior associated with passive-aggressiveness

From an objective standpoint, both of these perspectives are valid. When something goes wrong, you can look outside and find faults in the system or others. You can also look into yourselves and find reasons for shame or guilt, or to do better next time. The key is balance so that you don’t over-blame yourself at the expense of leadership or don’t blame yourself enough to learn and improve.

How does assertiveness correlate with personality types?


Overall, introverted feeling types such as ISFP, INFP, ISFJ and INFJ tend to be the least assertive while extraverted thinkers such as  ESTJ and ENTJ are often assertive to the point of being brash. Genders also play a role where females would likely downplay their assertiveness which is traditionally considered a masculine quality.

How to practice assertiveness

Introvert and sensitive individuals often have the most to gain by practicing assertiveness
  • Avoid the martyr complex: people can’t read your mind even if they try to. We often have very skewed and over-simplistic views of other people’s minds so we shouldn’t expect others to understand us with the same depth and details as we understand ourselves. Communication is key!
  • Read books to improve soft skills and communication. There are many well-known books out there such as the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, How to Win Friends and Influence People… Having the foundation on communications and people’s skills will allow you to transition from being closed up to assertive without coming off as brash or confrontational.
  • Read books on psychology to understand different personality types: learning about MBTI, Enneagram, Big Five can all help us to recognize the distinct personalities and their corresponding point of views, which are all valid.
  • Understand and tame your aggression: Ultimately, it’s a matter of channeling our aggression effectively or best of all, not having one in the first place. Meditation, talking to our support network, contemplating to see a wider perspective and challenging our own biases would help to alleviate our inner tension.

The Big Five’s Agreeableness: An In Depth Analysis

Followed by a series of five personality traits from the Big Five personality model, the next personality dimension that we will look into is agreeableness. The word “agree” indicates the likelihood to say yes, to compromise, or to agree to do things, either for oneself or others. Agreeableness measures the tendency to be kind, friendly, cooperative, and supportive. It shows how well one gets along with with others in a group-based environment. 

Highly agreeable people exhibit prosocial forms of behavior. They tend to be more sociable, considerate, tender-minded, and are concerned with the welfare of others. Low scorers tend to be more tough-minded and consider their interests and benefits above others. Sometimes, they are perceived as cynical, domineering, and antagonistic. 

If you want to know how agreeable you are, we recommend you taking the Big Five Personality Test here 

1. The importance of agreeableness: generate positive thoughts and improve mental health

Agreeableness helps to form relationships with  peace and empathy, trust and harmonization. It also helps to minimize the possibility of conflicts and arguments. On an individual scale, agreeableness enables one to harbor and nurture positive thoughts and actions towards others. 

Agreeableness, if placed at the right place and to the right people, attracts positivity and reduce negativity

2. The six facets of agreeableness

According to the International Personality Item Pool, each dimension of the Big Five Personality Traits comprises six facets, or also known as sub traits. The facets of the conscientiousness domain are:

Trust: to believe that someone or something is initially reliable, ethical, and truthful. A trusting individual tends to believe people are well-intentioned and fair. The opposite of being trusting is skeptical. Skeptical individuals tend not to trust others easily without considering other aspects. They tend to base on various other factors, such as their personal experience, facts, or evidence, to trust a person.

Morality: This facet shows the desire to be sincere and candid as opposed in dealing with others. Those who have high levels of morality tend to lean towards being sincere and kind-hearted with others. Those with low levels of morality believe a certain amount of deception or manipulation is needed in communications and relationships. It should be noted that this facet is not about being wrong or right, but rather the degree an individual feels comfortable and pleasant to interact straightforwardly with others.

Cooperation: the willingness to work together with others for a common goal, purpose, or benefit. These people do not like confrontations and tend to compromise. They are often not concerned much with their own needs or interests. Those who tend not to cooperate efficiently with others are more competitive and prioritize their personal needs and benefits. 

According to Dr. Todd Grande, looking at the overall personality trait, cooperation is one of the facets to be associated the most with agreeableness, in terms of the popular conception. For instance, a manager would view an agreeable employee as cooperative toward his or her co-workers. 

According to Dr. Todd Grande, looking at the overall personality trait, cooperation is one of the facets to be associated the most with agreeableness, in terms of the popular conception. For instance, a manager would view an agreeable employee as cooperative toward his or her co-workers. 

Cooperation is considered the most associated facet to the agreeableness trait, especially in working environments,  based on the popular conception

Altruism: the willingness or the desire to help others. Altruistic people find it fulfilling to help others in need. People with low levels of altruism might appear to be helpful towards others, yet the way they see these kind actions is different. Instead of feeling self-fulfilling and joyful when seeing others receive help, they feel inconvenient and look at it as an imposition

Modesty: how willing someone is to claim himself or herself better than others. Modest people do not like making this claim and would rarely consider themselves at a higher position than others. The opposite of modest is arrogant people who act as if they are superior to others.

Sympathy: the ability to understand and resonate with other people’s feelings, particularly that of sad events and sorrows. They are better at identifying, understanding, and connecting with human sufferings. Less sympathetic people lack the ability to recognize and harmonize with sorrowful experiences others are going through. 

Sympathy, in different situations, is considered as justice versus mercy. These two aspects appear as two extremes of a spectrum, where sympathetic individuals tend to lean towards mercy, and less sympathetic ones tend to lean towards the justice side

Sympathy                                                                                                                                                                                 More
Sympathetic people can understand and resonate well with other people’s emotions

3. Suggested careers for highly agreeable people

Highly agreeable people enjoy assisting others and feel more fulfilled when seeing others getting better from the help they receive. An ideal working environment for agreeable people would be a place that allows them to build connections and make positive contributions to the community.

Potential job ideas for agreeable people:

Teacher / lecturer

Nurse / caregiver

NGO / NPO leader

Religious Leader

Counselor

Community service staff

4. Suggested careers for those with low levels of agreeableness

Those who tend to behave bold, assertive, and tough-minded are not suitable for community-related jobs. They find it hard to place others’ needs and benefits above or emotionally connect to others. These people strive best in environments that focus on the outcomes, welcome counter opinions, and allow their competitiveness to glow.

Potential jobs ideas for low scorers in the agreeableness trait:

Scientist / researcher

Politicians

Programmer

Data analyst

Manager / director / association leader

Accountant

Engineer / mechanic

Author / writing content creator

5.Interesting facts about agreeableness

5.1 Agreeable people shouldn’t be perceived as “less intelligent”

Being too agreeable might lead to some behaviors that could be regarded as less intelligent. Agreeable people place their needs and interests lower than that of others. For this reason, agreeable individuals are perceived as less intelligent, especially in competitive working environments. 

However, how agreeableness is related to intelligence depends on how one chooses to define intelligence. Studies found that agreeableness has zero correlation with objective tests of general intelligence

5.2 People who consider themselves superior to others tend to appear disagreeable

Disagreeable personalities were found in those who perceived themselves at a higher position than others, regardless of their actual ability. This is a study result from Furnham & Buchanan on “Personality, gender, and self-perceived intelligence.” This has significant implications because that means agreeableness is not a fixed trait but can also change fluidly. A person can be more agreeable to a superior but less so with someone in an inferior position.

5.3 Agreeable individuals are more likely to experience Placebo Effect

A study published in 2013 found that there is a higher likelihood for agreeable individuals to undergo the placebo effect. For agreeable participants, they appeared to be more relieved by the placebo effect than other subjects having lower levels of agreeableness. They are less likely to object to the experimenters, more motivated to please them, and more hopeful for positive outcomes. 

5.4 Agreeable individuals are less bothered by grammatical mistakes

Subtle errors in emails might annoy some people, yet this is exceptional for agreeable people. The way personality affects an individual’s reaction to email mistakes was thoroughly discussed in this study. The study results suggested that agreeable people are less sensitive to grammatical errors in emails. It would be wrong to claim that agreeable people have worse grammar than others. They simply do not want to exaggerate the minor mistakes and willing to pass them through.

5.5 Social media is mostly used for positively connecting with others, rather than complaining, by agreeable people

How personality affects the usage of social media platforms has become the subject for a study in 2013. According to the results, agreeable people are more likely to use social media to build and maintain positive connections, rather than a platform for complaints and judgemental opinions. Another interesting study found that agreeable job applicants are less likely to be found badmouthing others on Facebook.

Social Media Sharing and Mobile Phone Networking Concept, Businesswoman is Using Smartphone for Communication Chat While Drinking a Cup of Coffee. Technology Connection for Entertainment Media Network , #Aff, #Concept, #Networking, #Smartphone, #Businesswoman, #Phone #Ad
The primary purpose of social media – building connections – is utilized the most by highly agreeable people

6. Conclusion: agreeableness needs to be utilized efficiently in the right place

Most people fall somewhere between agreeableness and disagreeableness. Depending on the circumstance, agreeableness can be perceived as a strength or weakness. On the overall perspective, agreeableness is a personal positivity that shows trust, cooperation, and support. This is a good thing and has become the keystone ingredient for organizational harmonization. However, in circumstances where assertiveness and counter opinions are more welcomed and focused, it is better to be tough-minded and competitive to protect one’s self-benefits.

References:

Six facets of the agreeableness personality trait, Dr. Todd Grande

Agreeableness has a zero correlation with objective tests of general intelligence, DeYoung, 2011

There is a higher likelihood for agreeable individuals to undergo the placebo effect

Agreeable people are less sensitive to minor writing errors in emails

Social media is used for positive connection purposes by agreeable people

How to Know If You Are An Introvert or Extrovert?

Let’s start with the definitions:

The simplified definition of introversion-extroversion scale is the source where an individual gain energy from. An introvert will gain energy reflecting and listening to his inner world of thoughts, feelings or ideas. Meanwhile, an extrovert is energized by interacting with surrounding people, ideas or projects and will get bored being left alone for too long.

I would like to clarify some common misconceptions. Many tests give you results in percentage such as 70% Introvert, 30% Extrovert. However, this does not mean you are a different type 30% of the time. Being 90% or 51% introverted still means you have an introverted outlook in life. Being more in the middle of the scale probably means you are more versatile in channeling your energy to meet extraverted tasks.

Being more introverted does not guarantee you are a loner, unfriendly or have very few friends either. It is simply a generalized tendency,. Introverts are very capable of being confident in public speaking or having more friends than an extrovert. Outward behaviors can be misleading. Being an introvert or extrovert is deeper than that, going to the core values and overall attitude towards the outside world. So read below for 3 guidelines which will help you better decide which side you are on. 

Extroverts seek social approval while introverts prioritize individuality

From a sociology point of view, since the time where mankind still lives in cave and in small closely-knitted communities, there are two distinct social strategies. One one hand, one may regard the community’s standards and needs as absolute and everything he thinks or does ultimately allows him to be better recognized by the tribe. The introvert’s ultimate basis is his own needs and himself. It is not about being selfish, but prioritizing individual perspectives and standards over the norms.

For example, an introverted feeling-dominant person will prioritize his moral standards and his subjective experience over the tribe’s. Such a type is the inspiration for the typical protagonist in many classic romance stories where the character is willing to fight and suffer for a personal passion despite resistance from the community or family. An extraverted feeling person, as you can guess, would more likely to follow what the social norms dictate.

introvert feeling in Hunchback_of_Notre_Dame
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a good illustration of introverted feeling

In the case of thinking, an extraverted thinkers will have the habit of thinking how to obtain knowledge from well-validated external sources and to apply a principle or rule to as many people as possible. An introverted thinker, on the other hand, is often more comfortable relying on his original understanding of how things work and how he can “game the system” to obtain what he wants.

Extroverts prefer quantity while introverts want quality

Carl Jung himself mentioned in his book that the extroversion scale points beyond humans to include all living organisms. In the same population of a specific species, on one end of the spectrum are individuals who are more aggressive and less discriminate in acquiring food and mates. On the other end, there are those that prefer to conserve energy, striking with fewer but more efficient attempts.

Of course, like many other biological drives, introversion-extroversion has grown to be more complex in humans. But the general principle stays the same: extroverts prefer to expand their energy while introvert conserves. Both are valid survival strategies. It explains many different outward behaviors between the two types, like how introverts tend to prefer fewer but closer friends or how extroverts seem more outgoing and socially assertive in pursuing their goals. 

Extroverts are often generalists while introverts are specialists

Introverts often can think and work for much longer on a single topic or project, obtaining more unique and in-depth insights than their extroverted counterparts. Extroverts, like Thomas Edison, are of course capable of invention and creating ideas. However, what introverts are naturally good at is depth in subject matters. They are certainly over-represented in professions such as research, writing, drawing, engineering etc.

Meanwhile, extroverts often use ideas to achieve real world objectives. They are over-represented as managers, politicians, marketers… They usually prefer well-validated or popular knowledge and have relatively less patience to dwell on a topic for too long.

Conclusion

If you are a so-called ambivert, trying to pinpoint the side of this spectrum is not an easy task and personality tests online often do not help due to a lack of accuracy. I believe the best way to do is to contemplate the 3 principles above and search within yourself about what you really want. 

Most of us want success or popularity eventually, but does that success needs to come from your original understanding and ingenuity? Do you often distrust the mass and wish everyone can be more unique and think more for themselves? If those questions constantly itch you, you are more likely to be introverted than extroverted. 

Yardstick Introvert Extrovert
Social approval Have a general dislike and often question popular ideas , standards or tastes Seek to achieve socially-approved concepts and objectives without “overthinking”
Quantity versus quality Prefer quality, being picky (job, relationship…) Want to experience it all, easy-going and easy to blend in
Generalist versus specialist Are often specialist Are often generalist

 

The 4 Types Of INFP

The INFP MBTI type is stereotyped as misunderstood, meek and emotional introvert who is obsessed with morality  while having a natural gift for written languages. However, in truth, INFP is a very diverse range of people with varied strengths and interests. Let’s explore 4 main subtypes of INFP which you can better identify yourself with:

The “Marketer”

INFP type often correlates with Enneagram type 4 – the Individualist. Type 4 Enneagram shares many characteristics with the poster child INFP: individualistic, creative, emotional with desire to be unique. Enneagram type 4 can develop wing 3 or wing 5. Enneagram Type 3 is nicknamed the Performer, or someone who is achievement and status-oriented. Meanwhile, type 5 is labeled the Investigator, or someone who is logical and always want to understand things deeper.

Depiction of INFP Marketer in Team

The Marketer is INFP with Enneagram 4 Wing 3. It combines type 4’s knack for creative expression and a somewhat conventional career-focused mindset. They are career-driven and often have lofty goals, taking pride in conveying with passion the values of the brands and products which they believe in.

The Marketer type often has a better time to blend into teamwork and corporate environment compared to INFP 4 Wing 5. They enjoy using their creative ability to produce marketing materials that can touch the audience while enjoy career stability and progression.

The “Bohemian”

Bohemian is defined as a socially unconventional person, often in the arts. This is a pretty apt term to describe Enneagram 4 with wing 5 (4w5) because the 5 wing adds an additional layer of introversion and bizarreness into their perspectives. Enneagram 4 and 5 are both introverted in attitude, resulting in a really introspective and original character.

Unlike 4w3 who is often more comfortable with teamwork and corporate settings, 4w5 Bohemian is truly a lone wolf. The emotionality of type 4 combined with the rationality of 5 itself seems like an oxymoron. Imagine an INFP who has learnt to temper his feelings with logic and objectivity. This type wants their work to be not only unique but also original and insightful. They will more likely do a mundane day job while using their creative talent to produce few but high-quality work compared to the Marketer INFP.

Vincent Van Gogh Enneagram 4w5
Van Gogh is most likely a 4w5 (not necessarily INFP)

Read more: https://enneagrampaths.com/2019/01/13/enneagram-4w3-vs-4w5/

The Turbulent INFP

I use the terminology Turbulent and Assertive from 16personalities.com to describe another pronounced dichotomy among INFP. In fact, the majority of INFP seems to be Turbulent, which is expected among feeling-dominant types. Turbulent is equivalent to Neurotic in Big 5, describing someone who is more prone to worrying, perfectionism and seeking social approval.

The turbulent INFP fits more with the usual expectation of INFP type who is prone to overthinking and perfectionism, the chief cause of their notorious procrastination. Turbulent INFPs are pretty socially-conscious despite being an introvert. They would often worry about meeting conventional social expectations such as career, income, status…

Yet, turbulent individuals are said to be more creative. Having both creativity and perfectionism, they are very capable of producing art masterpieces.

The Assertive INFP

I’m not sure if Assertive INFP are born or grown because neuroticism can change. Many INFPs including myself appeared more turbulent when younger and through repeated self-conditioning, are able to attain better inner-peace to become more assertive.

Regardless, assertive individuals are more self-assured and confident in their abilities, at the risk of being complacent and arrogant. While turbulent INFP are perfectionistic in their work and relentless in self-improvement, assertive ones seem contented and nonchalant. 

At their best, assertive INFP are calm and comfortable in asserting themselves. According to surveys by 16personalities.com, they are more resistant to stress and seem more happy with life. They can also possess more perseverance to pursue their visions as they are less dependent on other people’s approval or conventional expectations.

Conclusion

I understand that if you are an INFP type, you may not like to be pigeon-holed into labels or being categorized as more typical or mainstream. However, the writing above is in no way exhaustive and also limited by my own repertoire of personality psychology. I would say, at the risk of sounding cliche, we are all unique… 

There can be many other personality dimensions yet to be discovered. The personality labels, whether being mainstream or not, only serve to help us better understand our strengths and weaknesses through well-known concepts. You are always encouraged to explore other unique aspects of your individuality so as to grow to the fullest of your potential.

Overall, there are pros and cons for being in each of the INFP subtypes listed above. One type can always learn from the opposite type to become a more balanced and mature individual.

MBTI Superpowers Part 2: The ENTJ and INTJ

At the core, INTJ and ENTJ are very similar and hence one type often gets confused for the other. They are both visionary doers who prioritize external measurable results. Both often are straight-shooters who dislike politics and small talks.

ENTJ’s superpowers: effectiveness and vision

The reason I put ENTJ first is because their inner workings are probably easier to imagine than that of INTJ. They are over-represented among CEOs and corporate managers, often pictured as smart, decisive and even ruthless about profit and bottom lines.

ENTJ’s superpower in leadership and strategy is derived from Extraverted Thinking (Te). Te is adept at recognizing and applying the rules of the system. It is energized by external, socially-approved rewards. Te-dominant personalities like ENTJ and ESTJ, or even INTJ and ISTJ, work really hard and are industrious. They look for measurable results and can be impatient with explanation or speculation. Their motto is “ What matters is the results, not the process”.

But what distinguishes ENTJ from ESTJ is their auxiliary function, Introverted Intuition (Ni). Ni helps ENTJ to be more imaginative and visionary. If ESTJ is more of a traditional manager, ENTJ are often innovators and change-makers who can realize and turn new technology or invention into profitable enterprises. 

Bill Gates and Napoleon Bonaparte are said to be of ENTJ types. Napoleon was well-known as an effective and ruthless conqueror, but he was also a forward-thinking law-maker who spearheaded various changes to the legal, military and political landscape of France.

The most mature ENTJs even go beyond the pull of their typical competitive and controlling Te and become magnanimous and forgiving. They are extremely protective of their team, employees, and friends. They have the vision and disciplines to push the entire company towards goals but are also flexible and open-minded enough to give individuals under them space to perform with autonomy and trust.

napoleon in battle - a poster child of ENTJ
Mature ENTJs can be inspiring and magnanimous leaders

 

INTJ’s superpowers: patience, vision and integrity

INTJ’s dominant function, however, is Introverted Intuition (Ni). The chief purpose of Ni is understanding, not external achievements. It seeks clarity and truth. Especially during the younger years where Te is not yet developed, INTJs will often indulge in Ni, spending hours daydreaming and contemplating. They are voracious readers of both fiction and non-fiction and often enjoy computer games and fantasy genre when young.

As INTJ becomes more mature , their more developed Te allows them to become more engaged with the external world. They learn to channel their fountain of unique perspectives into achieving real-world objectives. If their extraverted counterparts seem like brash go-getters, INTJ’s superhuman strength lies in his extraordinary patience to plan and wait to execute with relentless precision, when all the pieces fall into the right place.

INTJ’s penchants for logic and planning often allow them to be great engineers and scientists. The more socially-inclined and ambitious type often find resounding success in the commercial world, conducting their business with cutting-edge technology and uncompromising integrity. Yes integrity is very true for INTJ who is also very much influenced by their third function, Introverted Feeling, which is the epitome of integrity and moral character.

However, logic and precision are not enough to describe INTJ’s ingenuity and potential contribution. Leading with Ni, their understanding are global and highly objective. They are forward-looking visionary leaders who can make the impossible happen for society at large. Think about Mark Zuckerberg. Though Facebook can be controversial nowadays, it is undeniable that Mark’s ambition and strategic mind have enabled an once college-campus social network to boom into a global phenomenon. 

A really good place to understand INTJ’s inner workings is the Cold-war classic Atlas Shrugged. Most of the heroes and heroines in the book are INTJ (and maybe INTP) and the author, Ayn Rand, herself is said to be an INTJ.

INTJ can exude unflinching confidence and passion when talk about their topics of interest

MBTI Superpowers Part 1: The INFP and ISFP

The MBTI is invented by Myer and Catherine Briggs to help people better find a suitable job in the post World War 2 era. They believe that each person has a special role in society according to his or her MBTI type. Today, let’s us explore the roles and super powers of the INFP and ISFP.

INFP’s superpowers: emotional insights, creative expressions or scientific minds 

INFP – the Mediator, leads with Introverted Feeling (Fi) – a powerful yet often misunderstood function. Fi is a moral compass with its root taken from deep inside the human psyche. It is activated especially when one witnesses human suffering and social injustice, which triggers a powerful desire to restore the moral balance to the universe. Fi is somewhat an oxymoron. It is highly subjective based on one’s personal experiences, yet its very basis is the universal and timeless ethical rules of humanity.

Fi is shared between both INFP and ISFP. What makes INFP special is the addition of the auxiliary Extraverted Intuition (Ne). Ne is the master at seeing big-picture possibilities and connecting far-flung dots. It allows the users to easily speak in metaphors and parables  and enable them to be highly creative problem solvers. Writing is a form of complex creative problem-solving as it often involves generating several options and picking the most suitable one to best describe the nuanced meanings ( And Fi is the master at pin-pointing feeling or meaning)

A powerful moral drivers combined with big-picture creativity results in a determined justice warrior who is also a powerful wordsmith. The term warrior may seem strange to describe the peace-loving INFPs who would often start out as highly sensitive individuals who shy away from conflicts or asserting themselves. However, as their Ne perspectives become more developed, they become more eloquent and flexible in navigating the world.

The INFP justice warrior
INFP can combine a powerful sense of justice with vision and eloquence

Ultimately, INFPs are over-represented in professions of writers, film-makers and psychologists. Their Fi and Ne allows them to have a keen structural understanding of human’s motivations and emotional make-ups. This combination also allows them to translate those insights into powerful story-telling device, be it poems or movies, to move thousands or even millions of audience in the moral causes of their interests.

Think of J. K. Rowling or J. R. R. Tolkien who are most likely INFP. Their highly developed Fi and Ne produced highly epic and intricate classics that can resonate and captivate millions of people worldwide. The more scientific-minded INFPs like Mayer Brigg (founder of the MBTI) are gifted psychologists who develop innovative yet practical theoretical frameworks to help generations of ordinary people to understand themselves better. 

The third and more action-oriented INFPs are the true justice warriors who prefer hands-on work such as volunteering, nursing, animal rescuing… Joan of Arc, the famous heroine who mobilized and inspired the French population to fight against the English occupation of France, is often regarded as INFP. Their purity of heart and verbal eloquence can help them easily connect with and inspire people to follow their conviction.

   

ISFP: sensitivity, artistic expression and aesthetic sense

ISFP – The Adventurer, has only 1 letter different from INFP. Yet, that one letter results in fundamental difference. ISFP belongs to the SP (Explorer) group who thrives on spontaneity, sensuality and living in the moment, which is chiefly the result of Extraverted Sensing (Se). Se is a concrete, matter-of-fact way of perceiving which thrives on quick reflexes and fast decision-making.

At the core, ISFP shares with INFP Introverted Feeling. Fi is a powerful emotional motor and its aim is to control the external environment or oneself to restore a feeling of ethical balance. These seemingly passive and meek creatures have a sea of feelings bubbling within, waiting to pour over when there is injustice and unfairness present. Fi is keenly aware and gives absolute respect to individuals’ right to live autonomously without being forced to live against their nature or will.

Picture of a girl showing free-spirit of ISFP
Ultimately, ISFPs dream of living freely as who they are

However, Se instead of Ne results in ISFP being more in-tune with and also, limited by their immediate presence and surrounding. The Adventurer lives in the here and now and their concerns are often confined in themselves and their immediate family or friends. They are quicker with action and their senses instead of words. They make for excellent nurses, care-givers, chefs, painters or even athletes.

ISFP is often said to be the most intuitive among all the sensors personality. Their introversion and sensitivity might allow for a more introspective nature. Well-educated ISFPs also make good social-justice warriors, vehemently advocating for popular causes such as women’s equal rights, animal rights or climate change. They are similar to the action-oriented INFPs but are also more conventional.

ISFPs can also be well-known for their artistic inclination. They often can sing well and have good fashion sense. They are also good at appreciating good vibes and enjoying the finer and luxurious things in life. Their aesthetic talents serve them well in a wide range of outlets, from singing, painting, cooking to architectural designs.

 

ISFP woman enjoys the finer things in life
ISFPs are often the master at appreciating the trendy and luxurious

 

Is Your Relationship Meant to Last?

Relationship is a complex topic that has been much written about. We all yearn for the right recipe to find “the one”, our soulmates, our missing halves. Yet how many of us feel confident that we find satisfying answers from internet articles? Again, this article may still not be “the one” for you, haha. But I will try my best to source and consolidate the best knowledge online.

First, let’s get some clarity on the feelings we are seeking. The English vocabulary gives us a wide confusing range of terminologies: true love, soulmates, chemistry, compatibility, crush, infatuation, limerence etc. 

man wearing black and white stripe shirt looking at white printer papers on the wall
Love, crush, infatuation, limerence? The list goes on

Let’s not get too technical, but focus on the 2 main things: the short-term romantic delusion and that elusive one true feeling. As a somewhat logical person, I cringe at the latter. But for the sake of truth-seeking, let’s delve in to see what the experts have to say. For the sake of simplicity, we called short-term feelings as Crush and long-term ones as Love.

Crush versus Love

Short-term feelings such as crush or infatuation are often characterized by having butterflies in the stomach, occurring early in the relationship when two people are not yet familiar with each other and fueled mostly by sexual drives and hormones. In general, it has all the emotional up-and-down of a typical teenage fantasy.

Meanwhile, Love relies more on compatibility than chemistry. It is characterized by trust, comfort and having common values. It is about “still water runs deep”, happening over a long period of time. Having compatibility often means having much similarity, which may seem boring at first. 

Chemistry versus Compatibility

Chemistry refers to the sparks between two people. It is about energy and excitement. Chemistry can come from compatible sense of humor, physical attraction and even situations. We all know that famous tip of taking your crush to ride roller coaster because apparently the rising heartbeats may be mis-attributed to attraction towards you.

Overall, chemistry is caused by differences, which can make someone appear mysterious and awe-inspiring. A well-educated woman from a conservative upper-class family may feel very attracted to a brute yet athletic plumber for example. An introverted and anxious person may be mesmerized by someone with a more outgoing and confident personality.

sexy plumber driver
It’s hard not to fantasize about that mysterious plumber

If you want to explore further, there is Sternberg’s triangular theory of love which proposes 3 main components of love: intimacy, passion, and commitment. Having all 3 results in true love, while a combination of any two gives rise to other kinds of relationships. 

Triangular_Theory_of_Love

Passion combined with intimacy but no commitment results in romantic love. Intimacy and commitment with no passion, like the case of most long-term marriage, is companionate love. Lastly, having passion and commitment but no intimacy is fatuous.

Signs of long-lasting relationships

Compatibility is actually the cornerstone of stable relationships. Most couples may start out with more passion, which is eventually replaced by intimacy and compatibility in various value and lifestyle factors. A couple also adapt and become more alike, as research has shown. But ultimately, having similar religious, political or philosophical backgrounds are important compatibility factors which are harder to change.

Psychologist John Gottman studied thousands of couples for four decades to determine what separates long-term couples from short-term ones. An important discovery is that the more physiologically aroused a couple (heart rates, sweating…) the more likely they will break up.

On a day-to-day basis, Dr. Gottman took note of the reciprocal responses between partners. These responses, or “biddings” are crucial for the couples to maintain their long-term intimacy. If a partner does a bidding related to his interest, like talking about his soccer game, the other partner has the choice of displaying interests or turning away. The more supportive and attentive the interactions are, the more likely the relationship will last.

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Lack of positive reciprocation is a bad sign for relationships

Read more : Master of Love

Dr. Gottman’s finding, to a certain degree, confirms the importance of compatibility in relationships. Couples who come together because of passion with little similarity in values may lie to themselves and over-exaggerate their compatibility. But their heart rates don’t lie. Unconsciously, they are in the fight-or-flight mode because  they are too different at the core.

I guess the main takeaway is that it is prudent to take a step back and ask yourself, if you truly feel comfortable around your partner. Putting aside desirable but superficial factors such as look, income or status, deep down below, do you respect who they are and what they value? Do you truly believe in the same things in life as them? A few decades down the road, when they become wrinkled all over, do you still want to hold their hand and listen to their stories?

old couple walking while holding hands

Common MBTI Misconceptions

1. Your functions’ percentages show how often you use them

mbti results enfp
Example of a test result from 16personalities.com

There are many free online MBTI tests out there and some of them, such as from 16personalities.com, offer results in percentage. So you may get something like 30% Thinking – 70% Feeling, 49% Intuition – 51% Sensing, etc.

So does the test mean you use your feeling about 70% of the time and thinking the rest? The answer is: that is not how thing works. I would say showing a percentage scale is misleading to the audience. Whether you are 90% or 51% feeling, you are still a feeling type. 

Your thinking and feeling are not created equal. If you prefer feeling, your feeling function receives most of the conscious energy in your waking moment. Meanwhile, the thinking directly opposing your darling feeling is “exiled” into the abyss of unconscious thoughts, turned into something childish and immature. A mature and conscious function are often more positive and forward-looking while an unconscious function play a supporting role, and often being egocentric and appear in negative tones.

For example, if you are an INFP (The Mediator) with dominant function of Introverted Feeling, you are pretty adept at feeling stuff such as empathizing with people, listening to your deepest conviction and aspiration. Your Extraverted Thinking, however, play a supporting role to help you organize your thoughts into action, turning your conviction into concrete results. However, especially under stress, your thinking has certain negativity. It is often perfectionistic and absolutist – classifying everything as black-and-white right or wrong morally.

The percentage may be helpful in showing how balanced a person is. Often as people grow older, they tend to move towards the centre of the scale. The inferior function, though diminished and distorted, is still of great importance to our psychological well-being. An INFP more balanced in thinking has mastered his feeling function enough to give more energy to extraverted thinking, which becomes more helpful and objective in its supporting role. 

Hence, as you can see, it does not make sense to say you are thinking 70% of the time because the polarity of function produces a strong conscious function on one hand and a distorted function on the other. They are just not of the same quality to compare quantitatively.

2. Judging means judgmental

man working using a laptop
Yes, Judging doesn’t mean judgmental

This dichotomy is probably the biggest pet peeve for people who have understood the functional stack. Judging is often regarded as a trait or function which causes a person to be more judgemental or more organized than their perceiving counterparts.

First of all, judging doesn’t mean judgemental. Judging and Perceiving are actually NOT psychological functions or traits. They simply point out how your other two dichotomies, thinking-feeling and intuitive-sensing, orientated. If you are a P, your Dominant Extraverted function is an Irrational or Perceiving function. Similarly, if you are J, your Dominant Extraverted function is a Judging or Rational function 

This is extremely confusing, I know. Irrational functions are Intuitive or Sensing, while Rational functions refer to either Thinking or Feeling. In short, rational functions prioritize the perception of the objects, result or expectations of results while irrational ones are process-oriented. If you are an INFP, your dominant extraverted function is Extraverted Intuition as compared to an INFJ who possesses a Judging extraverted function of Extraverted Feeling. These two types differ by one letter but actually have no functions in common!

3. Feeling is the same as emotion

There is a common stereotype that thinkers, especially INTJ or INTP, are emotionless robots functioning purely on facts and numbers. This is certainly not true. Thinkers feel emotions too. They get angry when people get their facts wrong or they feel insecure about not being competent in their skills. The bottom line, they have emotions just like any other human being.

Feeling in MBTI is a form of making judgements. Its chief concern is ethics and morality, which overlap with but are not the same with emotions. Instead of the materialistic and objective bent of the thinking-dominant counterparts, feelers care more about things like honor, harmony and aesthetic. Being thinking-dominant means favoring logical criterion over ethics, but not an absence of emotions.

It is also not right to say thinkers are more immoral or unethical. It is a matter of balance and flavor.  Morality can be subjective. An introverted feeler may be more likely to say that harming anyone innocent is wrong while an extroverted thinker would be more likely to agree to sacrifice individuals’s for the collective good.

4. Introverts are incapable of being talkative or gregarious

I often laugh when people label themselves as introverted extrovert or extroverted introvert.  I know you are proud of the fact that you have bravely conquered your fear of the crowd to become more outspoken (as most people do), but those terms do not make sense if you truly understand Jungian and MBTI theories.

boston terrier wearing unicorn pet costume
People love to think they are unicorns!

As mentioned before, being 51% introverted doesn’t mean you use extroversion about half the time. If the result is accurate, you are an introvert through and through. Your whole perspectives of life and judgement are mostly filtered through your dominant introverted function. Yes, being more balanced likely allows you to have more energy in the crowd when need to, but you are still an introvert inside. And if you think it is just a matter of inside or outside energy, you are missing the point.

Being an introvert doesn’t mean you are shy or anti-social all the time. Everyone can open up and be talkative with the right person or group of people. The fact that you are louder than your best friends do not make you an extrovert. Also, some introverts can actually have very large social circles, even if they maintain them through mostly one-on-one meetings. INFP is one example of an introverted type that can often make friend easily.

5. Your MBTI type can change

This is controversial and from what I know of, there has been no thorough research on people’s MBTI changes, whether through natural or deliberate causes. From my personal research and observation, one thing is clear: a person’s natural tendency is more pronounced when younger. As people get past the age of 25, they learn to be more balanced. 

Your type is like a natural psychological patterns imprinted in your mind since birth, like right arm versus left arm. You can certainly work over time to mess and reshape these patterns but to totally change your type to the opposite will likely require significant environmental stress and personal effort.

Carl Jung in his work also mentioned that, through his observation, a child will face significant stress if parental influence requires him to act against his natural tendency for a long period of time. The damage is only remedied as he is allowed to be himself again in adulthood.

If people claim each time they take the test the result is different, then it is more of a problem with the test itself for not being able to overcome self-test bias-ness. The questionnaires often give too much room for different semantic interpretations, resulting in fluctuating results.

A more recent work by Dario Nardi who scans people’s brains to detect MBTI patterns indeed discovered distinct patterns among different types. He identified preliminary 20+ areas in the brain responsible for these patterns. One can certainly change from being left to right-handed given enough willpower and practices, but brain patterns are way more complicated and not yet understood well. You can mess up the natural patterns, but it is unlikely that you can replicate another type’s brain patterns through sheer willpower.

Dario Nardi INFP ESTP
Brain scans of INFP and ESTP volunteers by Dario Nardi, showing distinct patterns

Do you have any questions or comments? Feel free to drop them below and I will be happy to discuss with you.

Quick Facts about MBTI Types: Distribution, Career and Relationship

Type Distribution In The Population

The table below shows the percentage of each type in the general population. Clearly, INFJ (The Advocate) is the rarest of all types followed by ENTJ (The Commander) and INTJ (The Mastermind). But apparently, INFJ is one of the most trending MBTI searches on Google, which means either there are more INFJ interested in reading up on MBTI or many people mistype themselves as one because ahem, we just love to feel special.

Data source: data is compiled from a variety of MBTI® results from 1972 through 2002, including data banks at the Center for Applications of Psychological Type; The Myers-Briggs Company; and Stanford Research Institute (SRI).

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Percentage of each MBTI Types in general population,

Digging a little further, we see an almost 50/50 split between Introvert and Extrovert (Sorry to disappoint the introverts out there, you are actually the majority). Sensors are the majority at about 75%. Perceivers and judgers are also close to 50/50 while thinkers are slightly the minority at 40% 

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The stereotype that women are more feeling-dominant while men are more logical does have statistical validity. Among females, ⅔ of them are feelers. For male, the difference is less pronounced with about 44% of guys are feelers. I suspect the actual figure is closer to 50/50 for males because men are traditionally conditioned to hide their feelings.

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Income And Job Satisfaction

Believe it or not, there are markerly predictable patterns in earning by personality types. The infographic below is a recent comprehensive survey done by Truity Psychometrics LLC on over 4,300 volunteers. The ENTJ (Commander) and ESTJ (Executive) top the chart in yearly income. This is not surprising because they are typically pictured as CEOs and managers, and indeed over-represented in managerial positions according to this survey. 

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Some other useful observations include introverts in general earn less than extroverts, feelers earn less than thinkers and judgers earn more than perceivers. An interesting question for types at the short end of the stick, like ISFP, INTP or INFP, is whether you choose to be satisfied with having less of the material success or rather challenge the income stereotypes.

In terms of job satisfaction, the graph below shows an interesting dynamic. Extroverted feelers are the happiest at work even though thinkers are the highest earners. It can be explained by the tendency of feelers to pick jobs that makes them feel good and allow them to make positive social impacts such as in teaching, counseling or volunteering. Thinkers are more driven by income potential and professional prestige at the expense of their true calling. Both thinkers and feelers can learn from each other in this aspect.

pasted image 0 (4)Introverts, especially perceiving ones, are the most unhappy at work. I hypothesize that the typical workplace which often emphasizes teamwork and corporate politics are not suitable for the introverted tastes.

Relationship Compatibility

In terms of compatibility, different sources differ on the ideal match for each type. A popular school of thought is that the best couple are similar at the core, but complementary (opposite) in their orientation towards the world. This often translates into a relationship where one or two letters in the middle are common and the E-I and P-J are reversed. For example, an INFP is most suitable with ENFJ or ENTJ, while an ISFJ is most compatible with ESFP or ESTP.

Socionic, which derives from Carl Jung’s work and MBTI to assess intertype relationships, proposes an even more singular yet controversial recommendation. It categorizes and ranks the various relationships between types, proposing that relation of duality is the most optimal and closest to the so-called soulmates. Duality refers to two types of exact opposite in MBTI, such as INFP and ESTJ or ISTP and ENFJ.

An old survey by Tieger and Barron-Tieger (2000) offers a very interesting and comprehensive relationship satisfaction statistic. You may have been familiar with the 4 main temperaments in MBTI based on the 2 common letters and similar characteristics of each group: Analyst (NT), Idealist (NF), Sentinel (SJ) and Explorer (SP).

As can be seen in the below table which ranks the pairings in decreasing order of happiness, SJ are most happy with SJ, followed by NF paired with NF. The idealists paired with sensing groups, SP and SJ, produce the most dissatisfactory combinations. Analyst and Idealist pairings are also pretty suitable at 65% and 64%. Another pattern which can be deduced is that sensors and intuitives often do not make happiest matches, which can be attributed to the famous intuitive-sensing divide – the hardest divide to overcome according to many sources.

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Ultimately, there has been rather scant research on relationship compatibility using MBTI framework. There are also many other significant factors which influence relationship satisfaction. Several MBTI authors have claimed that any two well-developed individuals regardless of type can form a successful relationship. But the above serves only as a guide for each of us to form our best  judgement when choosing friends and romantic partners.
References:

Click to access PersonalityType-CareerAchievementStudy.pdf

http://oddlydevelopedtypes.com/content/infps-love