INTP vs ISTP- How Can You Tell Them Apart?


INTP vs ISTP. What’s it for you? For most people, the answer is obvious. For others, it can be tough typing yourself as either. They look so similar on the surface. The only difference when you look at their letter is intuition (N) and sensing (S). Even these two functions can be borderline on tests that you take.

So how can you tell the difference? We’ll help you do that by comparing several things that are different between these two types.

What Is The Main Difference Between The INTP And The ISTP?

The main difference between the INTP and ISTP is their approach to life. ISTP is more into physical activities and gets a great deal of their information from their environment. INTPs, on the other hand, are more interested in concepts and abstract thinking. Generally, an INTP will prefer discussion and mental sparring to physical activities.

However, this is only the first clear difference you’ll see on the surface. Dig deeper, and you’ll see a lot of differences starting from their cognitive functions.

INTP vs ISTP- Cognitive Functions

All MBTI types have at least 8 functions. Out of these cognitive functions, four are very dominant. These cognitive functions help the MBTI types to receive and process the information they get. In other words, it helps them to understand this information.

So here are the cognitive functions of the INTP and ISTP

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

Looking at the table, you’ll quickly realize that the INTP and the ISTP share the first and the last cognitive functions. However, the 2nd and the 3rd functions are different.

Let’s consider all four cognitive functions.

Introverted Thinking

Both types use introverted thinking as their leading function. This means that both types’ first course of action when they receive information, is to pass it through their filters. Thus, every decision or conclusion that is made by the INTP and the ISTP is made after the Ti is done with its analysis.

This function also means that the INTP and ISTP’s words are often thought out and very clear.

Ne vs Se

For the INTP, their second function is Ne. This function allows them to express themselves clearly. They can communicate their thoughts and opinions clearly and understandably.

Because Ne is more interested in possibilities and innovative projects, the INTP can use the accurate data that has been produced by their filters to create real possibilities.

The ISTP, on the other hand, is going to be using the Se. This allows them to take in all the data they need to help their leading function Ti make a decision.

So, while the INTP focuses on the endless possibilities that have been filtered through their Ti, the ISTP focuses on the external environment and processes it through their Ti.

Si vs Ni

For their 3rd cognitive function, the INTP uses Si. This is more like a mental storehouse for the INTP. This is where they store the ideas that they have filtered and probably thought about.

These ideas and facts can be called upon at a later date when needed for any purpose or use.

For the ISTP, Ni is used as their 3rd cognitive function. This function helps the ISTP to locate and connect the dots from the information gathered.

Because the ISTP focuses on the five senses to gather such information, this particular function can help them be great craftsmen or technicians. They will also be excellent chefs as they will know just what they need to solve a recipe problem.

Extroverted Feeling

Finally, both MBTI types make use of extroverted feeling. This function allows them to understand the problems that others face and to put themselves in their shoes.

This function will help them be compassionate with friends during their time of need.

However, as the Fe is the last function, this is not something that both MBTI type looks forward to.

INTP vs ISTP- Relationship and Love

The INTP is surprisingly very idealistic when it comes to choosing a partner for themselves. Thus, you can expect them to have specific conditions that they feel should be in a partner.

However, the INTP is also a romantic at heart and really wants to find a partner that they can share their lives with. While this is true, they will often be clueless about how to act in a relationship. Overall, the INTP will be very supportive.

The natural partners of the INTP are the ESTJ and the ENTJ.

The ISTP, on the other hand, is very practical and logical. This means that they will pay less attention to romance and all the mushy things that come with a relationship.

So, if you are dating an ISTP, you have to know this. This does not mean that they are not going to fall in love. It just means that they might show it in ways that you probably didn’t expect.

Their need for logic means that their way of showing love might often include solving the other person’s problems. This might be tricky for feeler types to fully grasp.

If you are an ISTP, it might be nice to show more emotions and be more vulnerable with your partners. Also, try to know what love language your partner likes. That can be a real life-saver.

The natural partners of the ISTP are also the ENTJ or the ESTJ.

INTP vs ISTP- Population Count

INTP makes up about 5% of the total world’s population. The female INTP makes up just roughly 1.5% of this population.

The ISTP is a bit more popular than the INTP. They make up about 5.4% of the total population. This makes both of these types quite rare compared to others.

INTP vs ISTP- Enneagram Types

According to Thought Catalog, INTP is more likely to be a type 5 than any other type. This is followed by a large distance by type 9 and type 4. This is probably because type 5 shares the introverted traits of the INTP.

The ISTP, on other hand, is also more likely to be a type 5 than any other type. In second place is type 9 while type 6 and 7 share the third place with the exact same percentage.

Once again, the major reason for an overwhelming number of people typing as enneagram 5 could be because of the thinking and introverted traits in both types.

INTP vs ISTP- in the Work Place


The INTP is full of creativity. However, it might take a while for it to show. They have to process it and make sure the final result is accurate. Therefore, the INTP in the workplace might want to work alone.

However, it is often better for them to work in smaller groups. This allows them to spar mentally with others about innovative projects that might benefit the organization.

It might also be a good idea to place your INTP in a position where they can use their creativity. Giving your INTP mundane and routine work will be a waste of their abilities.

Looking at the INTP in the workplace, here are some career options that will be perfect for them.

  • Poet
  • Lawyers
  • Auditor
  • Professor
  • Mathematician
  • Writer
  • Director
  • Computer Programmer

Careers the INTP should avoid

  • Paralegal
  • Chef
  • Plumber
  • Carpentry
  • Craftsman
  • Physician
  • In-house lawyer


In the workplace, the ISTP is the ultimate machine. They can get all the work done in a productive and timely manner. However, to get the best out of the ISTP, the workplace should have a bit of excitement.

It should also be very flexible. Unlike their counterpart ISTJ who simply lives for the rules and regulations, the ISTP would prefer more flexible hours to get the work done.

If you are an employer, getting your ISTP to work on an exciting behind-the-scenes project would be absolutely fantastic.

Here are some possible careers for the ISTP

  • Craftsman
  • Builder inspector
  • Public health officer
  • Farmer
  • Designer
  • Law enforcement officer
  • Economist
  • Office manager
  • Paralegal

Careers that the ISTP should avoid include

  • Pre-school teacher
  • Evangelist
  • Social worker
  • Nurse
  • Journalist
  • Entertainer

INTP vs ISTP- Childhood

The ISTP child is going to be smart, logical, and have a free spirit. They are also going to be fully in touch with the physical world.

They are going to want to know how things work and will be very spontaneous. However, the ISTP is still an introvert at the end. This means that your child is going to need some space to themselves.

They are going to need a lot of love and nurturing.

The INTP child is going to be curious and on a search for truth. They are going to want to see how the world ticks and will try out things on their own.

Their curiosity can often put them in trouble. Thus, parents will need to set clear boundaries with their INTP. When setting these boundaries, it might be a good idea to explain to your INTP child logically while this rule is in place.

The more logical your explanation is, the more likely it is that they will respect these boundaries.

INTP vs ISTP- Dealing with a Breakup

The INTP will deal with a breakup by keeping themselves busy. They always have something to look forward to. So, burying their heads into a new theory or project will be quite easy for them.

However, the INTP will still feel the emotional turmoil of being in a relationship gone bad. They are humans after all.

The ISTP, on the other hand, was never a big fan of all these romantic kinds of stuff anyway. So, when they do experience a breakup, they are not ones to dwell on it. One of their biggest fears is actually being controlled by their emotions.

So, it’s more likely that you will see the ISTP simply move on. Sooner or later, they might even have a new partner.

Bottom Line

So, are you an INTP or an ISTP? Regardless of where you fall, you can be sure that every type can be successful. You just have to play to your strengths.

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  1. Thank you for the information. I noticed a few typos however. For example, you give the correct description it appears of Fe as the fourth function but refer to it as Fi instead of Fe. Also in the statistics area of INTP, you refer to INTJ.


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