The ISFP Composer Reference Guide

A Few Caveats

Please bear in mind that none of this has to be a stereotype that rules your life.  You're a unique individual with a unique background, and this description is simply a generalization based on statistics and averages.  It is not your destiny, your fate, or anything like that.  Don't take what you read here as limitations, but as an invitation to grow outside your core strengths.  And especially don't use this description as an excuse.  You're better than that!  :)  Besides, why box yourself in?  Type is a starting point, not an ending place.  Enjoy it and then grow from it.


ISFPs are estimated at:

  • 5.40% of the American population  (sample size 9,320; Myers & McCaulley, 1985)
  • 6.1% of the UK population*  (sample size 1,634; Kendall & McHenry, 1998)
  • 3.68% of the Australian population  (sample size 3,373; Macdaid, McCaulley, & Kainz, 1986)
  • 6.6% of the New Zealand population  (sample size 993; Bathurst, 1995)
  • 3.2% of the Singapore population  (sample size 1,733; Lim, 1994)

*Be chary about comparing the UK estimate with the others.  There's a long explanation. 

There is a certain tendency to forget that the ISFPs are, after all, Artisans--and hence prize boldness and skill.  But there is a stereotype in our modern culture that quiet, kind individuals cannot simultaneously be adventurous spirits.  This is simply a false notion.  In fact, in the Famous ISFPs section you will find a modest, reserved ISFP who signed up for WWII and gently twisted arms till he could get sent to the front lines; a soft-hearted, lone wolf ISFP who ran away from home, stowed away on a ship to South America, and learned how to kill jaguars with a spear; and a generous, kind-hearted ISFP whose full time job was hunting and being hunted by maneating tigers and leopards. 

Not that all ISFPs will go off and have adventures, but in the interest of balance I thought I'd present that first.  ;)  Another ISFP we can look at is Bob Ross, the quiet, easy going painter who hosted "The Joy of Painting" on PBS.  Anyone who has seen Bob paint a happy little tree must surely appreciate the ISFP's kind, relaxing--even, soothing--style. 


A caveat.  Isabel Myers (INFP) married a man named Chief, an ISTJ and a good man.  They were happy together, but according to Isabel's own type theory they weren't predicted to be perfect for each other.  Later on, Myers said that if she had known about type theory, she probably wouldn't have married Chief.  Hm!  There is a lesson to be learned here: type is not everything, nor should it be the decisive factor in choosing your lifemate.  Take it from the founder of type herself.

Then too, the connections between type, attraction, love and marriage haven't been well studied yet.  (The question is more complicated than you'd think.)  You can read about this question and the various attempts to answer it here.

ISFPs are one of the two introverted types most likely get married. 

In terms of Sensors, ISFPs tend to have average satisfaction with their marriage/intimate relationship.  (Intuitives in general have lower satisfaction than Sensors, and most Sensors are more satisfied than most Intuitives regardless of type.)


A study found that ISFPs were among the top four types liking the work environment characteristics "Loyalty/security," "Makes job simple," and "Does not expect extra hours."  (All liked by over 50% of ISFPs.)

77.6% of ISFPs liked the work environment characteristic "Variety of tasks."  However, even though fully 3/4 of the type liked this characteristic, this turns out to be the least of all types.

An inventory of various kinds of vocational roles identified six basic categories that jobs fall into.  For each the six categories, the types were asked to 1.) rate their confidence in their ability to perform the kinds of jobs described, 2.) Describe how often they performed these roles, and 3.) Described how much they liked these roles.  ISFPs rated themselves as having the lowest confidence of all types in their ability to perform jobs in four out of the six categories (Myers, McCaulley, Quenk & Hammer, 1998).  The only categories in which they did not rate themselves as lowest included "Artistic" and "Realistic," which is to say, jobs that involve consuming/producing art and jobs that involve hands on work/outdoor activities/construction/maintenance/etc.  Note that ISFPs were only rated lowest twice in terms of actually performing the category of jobs in question.  (One was "Investigative"--basically ENTJ and Rationalville) and the other was "Conventional," i.e. working on a computer, filing, doing office work or accounting.  For the performance of other four tasks, they were not rated lowest.  I rather suspect that ISFPs underrate themselves. 

Hammer (1993) suggests that occupational trends for ISFPs include "Health care," "Business," and "Law enforcement."  I am leery of the law enforcement suggestion, however, since most cops are STs and to a lesser extent, NTs.  Male SFs (moreso than females, who are in the minority anyway) have trouble fitting in, though they tend to have some of best street connections since they cultivate relationships more readily than Thinking cops (Hennessy, 1999). 

Job Satisfaction

ISFPs were one of the types least likely to leave their job.  However, they also had the lowest income of all types.  Dissatisfiers for ISFPs were "Promotions," "Job security," and "Salary."  The most important organizational value for ISFPs was "Happy family."  They rated the organizational value "Variety and challenge" low. 

School and I.Q.

Most type practitioners avoid discussing the relationship between type and I.Q. because they assume that people can't deal with the truth.  To some extent, this is accurate; the internet is full of arrogant type bigots and people with crushed self esteem who either believe their type is particularly smart or particularly dumb.  However, they are both wrong. 

We do not know if type is related to intelligence.  However, type is related (unfairly) to grades and (also unfairly) to your ability to score high on an I.Q., SAT, or ACT test.  Here's the rub: intelligence is different from an I.Q. score.

You probably think I'm just being politically correct, but no, I'm a Rational.  ;p  Let's get real here: it may still be unknown whether type is related to intelligence, but you can use an I.Q. test instead of the Myers-Briggs to figure out a person's type preferences.  I.Q. tests measure abstract reasoning skill (Intuition), the ability to solve problems alone and silently within your head (Introversion), the ability to think objectively about non-people oriented problems (Thinking), and flexibility in solving never-before-seen problems (Perceiving).  There is no news here; all of this is predicted by type theory. 

And indeed, the more of those preferences you have, the higher your score on an I.Q. test is likely to be.  Intuitives tend to do better than Sensors.  Introverts tend to do better than Extraverts.  Perceivers have an advantage over Judgers.  Thinkers are slightly preferred over Feelers.  These are averages, of course, but they all add up to a clear ranking based on personality characteristics. 

Now, what happens to someone like Mozart, the Artisan child progidy who couldn't have looked less like Einstein (INTP), the conventional embodiment of genius (i.e. the kind measured by the current crop of I.Q. tests)?  Mozart was a frightently brilliant guy, but his brilliance would have been shortchanged by such a test, which measures type as well as genuine intelligence.  Unfortunately, our cultural stereotypes and the widespread acceptance of I.Q. tests have misled some into believing that their natural but non-stereotypical intelligence "doesn't count." 

In fact, type strongly determines how intelligence is expressed.  An Artisan genius won't work math problems; they will make music.  An Idealist genius won't make music, they will write literature.  For example, an NF child genius may have somewhat above average math ability, but college level poetry comprehension ability.  Sorry Mozart, you may be able to compose original music at age 5, but that doesn't make you "smart."  Show us some math and critical thinking skills and maybe then you'll count. 

Bottom line: if you want to limit your idea of intelligence to the conventional one, i.e. Einstein the INTP, okay fine.  Just don't foist your definition on the rest of us.  I.Q. tests determine your personality type as much as they measure your intellect. 

Okay, so now that we've beaten that horse into a pulp, you're probably curious as to where your type falls in the I.Q. ranking.  You have Introversion and Perceiving in your favor, but Sensing and Feeling against you.  Intuition is the biggy, however, so your Sensing preferences will tend to the weigh the test against you more than might be expected.  So, it seems probable that ISFPs will fall somewhere in the middle-low range. 

Three I.Q. studies have placed ISFPs between 9th and 14th place out of 16 types.  This is what we would expect based on our hypothesis above--a midrange to low score. 

If you take an I.Q. test, bear in mind that your true intelligence will likely skewed lower than your actual level due to the inherent bias of these type-based effects.  Also note that no two ISFPs are alike either in terms of type or intelligence.  The discussion above is of averages and generalities; you may be above or below average compared to the rest of your type. 

As for your grades, they are also strongly affected by type.  Not just your type, but the types of your teachers.  You have a particular favored learning style that you find enjoyable, fulfilling, and easy.  Your teachers have a preferred teaching style that they find enjoyable, fulfilling, and easy.  But whereas students come in every type, teachers come in just a few types.  A teacher's enjoyable, fulfilling, and easy teaching style may be a student's boring, pointless, and difficult learning style. 

So, here's a breakdown: in elementary school, your teachers are mostly ESFJs.  In high school, your teachers are mostly an assortment of Guardians.  In college, your teachers are mostly Rationals and Idealists.  (Erg, sorry Artisans.) 

Of course, your grades have a lot to do with your type, too.  "Shakespeare, how meaningful," says the NF, sitting rapt as they absorb English Literature.  "Shakespeare, how pointless," says the SP sitting nearby, yawning as they doodle a zebra on the margin of their paper.  Different types have different affinities for different subjects and will tend to get grades reflecting those preferences. 

There are quite a few variables affecting how well you will do in school.  You can find a full discussion of them here (along with more stuff about type and I.Q.) in my article, Type, I.Q., and School Grades

I won't go into much depth here; suffice to say that when comparing ISFPs with other Sensors, it can be seen that they are fairly middle of the road in terms of grades and aptitude test scores. 

The question of whether or not ISFPs persist in college is still up for grabs.  One study found that they were among the highest in college persistence; another, among the lowest.


One study measured type and burnout among workers as a major hospital.  It turned out that ISFPs had the highest burnout level when it came to the areas of "Emotional Exhaustion" and "Depersonalization."  (Depersonalization is when a worker becomes calloused and uncaring about those they serve, i.e. patients or customers.)

In a similar vein, ISFPs are among the types that experience the highest stress.  A study found that ISFPs were the most stressed out type for the areas of "Finances" and "Children."  They were also among the top four most stressed out types for the areas "Health," "Caring for aging parents," and "Other."  However, they were among the low stress types for the area of "Work."

Each type copes with stress differently.  A study found that ISFPs were the type most likely to cope with stress using the methods "Try to avoid stressful situations," "Get upset or angry but don't show it," "Sleep," and "Watch television."  (It should be noted that they were also the second most likely type to "Get upset or angry and show it" too, so clearly there is some ambivalence here.)




Like their cousins the ESFP Entertainers and ISFJ Protectors, the ISFPs were somewhat overrepresented for the leisure pastime of "Watching TV 3 or more hrs per day."  ISFPs were also overrepresented for "Watching TV for leisure." 

What is interesting is that ISFPs were underrepresented for more categories of leisure than for any other type.  They were underrepresented for the activities of "Reading," "Achievement/accomplishment very important," "Education/learning very important," "Working out/exercising," "Writing," "Appreciating art," and "Taking classes."  Only the ISFJ Protectors came close in terms of things they didn't enjoy doing, having just one category less than the ISFPs. 


According to Tieger, the ISFPs prefer a casual, relaxed style without too much attention to spit and polish.  Like all SPs, there is a certain desire to look "hot," or "cute," though as Introverts the ISFPs are less likely to want to stand out. 

Type Dynamics and Cognitive Functions (Or Not)

I won't be covering type dynamics or cognitive functions here.  Type junkies may be wondering why not, since Fi, Se, Ni, and Te are widely considered to be characteristic of ISFPs.  But there is doubt over whether the cognitive functions exist.  You can read about it here

Although many of the observations that have been explained by cognitive function theory are valid, many simply are not.  I believe that cognitive function theory causes more confusion than it clears up--particularly in the all-important area of figuring out one's type.  I just don't see much point in pouring more time and effort into a bucket so full of holes, and have opted to leave out this part of type theory.


ISFPs are quiet, kind, generous souls who dislike and avoid interpersonal conflict.  This may lead them to avoid situations such as arguments or confrontations. 

Which is not to say that they can't confront, but it may take a little more push.  For example, Jimmy Stewart (the famous actor) was a bomber pilot in England during WWII.  One day it came to his notice that his men were not being paid because of a trifling bureaucratic requirement.  He went to the bureaucrat in question and observed in his quiet, unassertive way that unless dramatic progress was made with the red tape, the bureaucrat would shortly find himself serving on the front lines.  The problem vanished. 

Another, less productive ISFP way of dealing with conflict is to bottle it up until they can't take it anymore, then explode.  Sasha Siemel (the jaguar hunter) for instance, put up with daily harrassment from a coworker until one fateful day he erupted and attacked him physically.  Thinking the coworker dead, he then fled for his life into the jungle.  Though he managed to evade getting his ears chopped off by the local law enforcement, he wasn't able to evade his coworker, who wasn't dead, and later tried to hunt him down and kill him.  The moral of the story?  Don't hold your anger in until you blow.  It's bad news. 

Present Orientation

A study of personal essays written by junior high students revealed that different types project their lives different amounts of years into the future.  The ISFPs planned eight years ahead, which is actually the least of all types.  Perhaps the ISFPs, more than any other Artisan type, tend to enjoy "living for the moment"?

Post-Apocalyptic Survival for ISFPs

Does your type have what it takes to survive the end of the world, or will you be eaten by monsters?  Read on and find your fate...or don't, and die in unimaginable agony.  The choice is up to you.

Famous ISFPs

Real People

  • Bob Ross - The popular painter who makes "happy little trees" on TV.
  • Jimmy Stewart - Actor, WWII bomber pilot
  • Sasha Siemel - Professional tigrero who hunted jaguars using a spear alone.
  • Jim Corbett - Hunter and naturalist who slayed infamous man-eating tigers and leopards. 

Fictional People


  • ISFP forum on Personality Cafe - Meet ISFPs here. 

Books of Interest