My main character is an ISF. I'm not using their MBTI character type to dictate their entire personality as I understand that all people are complex but when I'm creating a new character I like to figure out their personality type. I've been having trouble understanding the difference between an XSXX and a XNXX and as I am an INFP I'm worried that if I don't understand sensers enough I'll make the MC be more intuitive.

Can someone please explain how these two differ?

  • Scientists consider the MBTI pseudoscience. Apparently the personality types invented by Briggs and her daughter cannot be found in reality. Therefore, asking for their distinction is essentially meaningless. If you want to consctruct meaningful realistic personalities, you should use concepts that are scientifically valid such as the Big Five. I suggest you get a personality psychology first semester textbook from your local university or public library to get an overview.
    – user55858
    May 23, 2023 at 4:37
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    Your ELMC is an EIEIO? WTF? TLDR.
    – Boba Fit
    May 23, 2023 at 12:17
  • The question's reliance on initialisms make this question a challenge to undestand. Providing embedded links in the question will help others understand the nuances you are wanting to express
    – EDL
    May 23, 2023 at 14:39
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    I’m voting to close this question because the question is asking for an explanation about personality classifiers, and isn't asking anything about writing. This is the kind of research that writers need to do for themselves. AI tools like Bard can provide effective answers to these kind of academic kind of questions
    – EDL
    May 23, 2023 at 15:04

1 Answer 1


A quick web search gives many answers.

Sensing's motto is 'seeing is believing' (also called Observant personality). Importance is placed in things that are real and tangible, and the here and now.

Contrasted with Intuitive (which does not start with the letter N), as a personality that is often thinking ahead, taking leaps of imagination, and less able to focus on practical matters.

Creating a character who is more Sensing than Intuitive probably means someone who looks for doable, practical solutions. They probably hit a limit of 'talk' before it soon turns to action. They have a fanciful imagination, but it's not the decision-making voice in their head. They are not the type to allow all the possibilities to overwhelm them, instead they may be busy 'fixing' before they are quite sure what the problem is.

As a frame challenge, Meyers Briggs has been criticized by writers as a poor tool to create characters (although it's popular to try) because it doesn't inform how a character changes through their arc, or what they need to discover about themselves. It's not 'wrong' but it just isn't helpful for stories.

The structure of most stories is to take a character out of their normal and put them under stresses until they change. Over the course of a novel, the main character would appear to flip polarities in a personality test, passive then active as the action turns direct, dreaming of a far-fetched desire in the 1st Act and making practical decisions by the climax.

  • +1 for your "frame challenge". Personally (I'm a psychologist) I find personality concepts from clinical psychology most helpful when exploring the personality of my characters. A personality disorder can be understood to be an extreme manifestation of a normal personality style under long lasting or extreme stress. For example, someone whose personality is slightly pronounced on the dimension of being headstrong and unconventional may turn paranoid (in the clinical psychological sense) as the extreme form of that trait on a continuum.
    – user55858
    May 23, 2023 at 6:21
  • Or someone who under healthy conditions is careful and meticulous might turn obsessive-compulsive under life-threatening circumstances. (The continuum is: neutral/unpronounced – personality style – personality accentuation – personality disorder.) Here is an introductory overview: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personality_disorder
    – user55858
    May 23, 2023 at 6:26
  • As a writer, I tend to make the character and then take a myers-brigg answering as I believe that character would. I use that assessment to understand how they might react in situations I didn't personally craft for them, but it's a guideline and not a rule that I use it. I almost never use it to make a character whole cloth, but to approach how the character might handle certain social situations and to ensure my characters think differently than myself (typically I use my own personality type for villains, since they tend to rely on big picture planning).
    – hszmv
    May 23, 2023 at 13:04
  • @hszmv So you're the villain type ... :-)
    – user55858
    May 23, 2023 at 14:04
  • @user52445 I'm not. It just happens that in fiction, Villains are the drivers of the action, while Heroes are reactors to the Villain's actions. This requires long term planning skills that certain MyersBriggs types are notable for having.
    – hszmv
    May 23, 2023 at 14:26

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