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Differentiating the Types via the Tertiary Function: ISFP and ESFP

By John Barnes

In this article I’ll continue my tour of the sister types and their tertiary functions, this time dealing with the ESFP and the ISFP types.

In the ISFP Ni is tertiary. Ni, as I’ve seen it argued, can be understood in part as a focus on the subjective representation of an idea. Evidence of this kind of heuristic can be seen in types with more differentiated Ni, e.g., Plato’s theory of forms and Martin Luther King Jr.’s use of vivid symbolism in his speeches. The ISFP brings the symbolic representative nature of Ni into union with Fi and Se often by expressing itself through some aesthetic form. The ISFP Leni Riefenstahl says it better than I could: “I [seek] a style in the realm of legend. Something that might allow me to give free rein to my juvenile sense of romanticism and the beautiful image”

In the ESFP, Ni is repressed instead of tertiary. The ESFP, therefore, does not have a meta-representative view of reality. Instead, they have a very direct view of reality. The ESFP Mussolini provides a great example of this perspective: “The reality of experience is far more eloquent than all the theories and philosophies on all the tongues and on all the shelves.” This lack of theoretical representation gives the ESFP an ability to focus on (as Boye Akinwande says) the ever-changing object as exemplified in another quote from Mussolini: “My political evolution has been the product of a constant expansion, of a flow from springs always nearer to the realities of living life and always further away from the rigid structures of sociological theorists.”

In the ESFP, Te is tertiary. Similar to the ENFP this gives them an enterprising and adventurous disposition. Although, unlike the ENFP, Te is paired with Se in the ESFP. The investor Mark Cuban gives an excellent illustration of this interplay:  “[To succeed in business you have] to put yourself in a position where if luck strikes, you can see the opportunity and take advantage of it.” The emphasis here is on the realistic awareness of circumstances (Se) as well an ability to execute a successful plan (Te). However, because Te is tertiary in the ESFP its influence on the psyche ranges from helpful third flavor (as I’ve just described it) to a mildly repressed function. For example, this Justin Bieber quote: “I want my world to be fun. No parents, no rules, no nothing.” Here there is a lack of Te’s desire to organize and control based on hierarchy and instead Fi’s desire to be unrestrained and free.

In the ISFP Te is repressed instead of tertiary. One doesn’t need to look far to see evidence of their repressed Te. They, much like the INFP, often shy away from positions where they are forced to make effectual decisions. As Steven J. Rubenzer said of the ISFP President Grant: “His personality was a very poor match for the presidency – the worst of any president thus far.” But it’s not all bad for the ISFP’s repressed Te. Their repressed Te gives them an ability to live unrestrained and let others do similarly. As the ISFP Prince says: “I don’t live in a prison. I am not afraid of anything. I haven’t built any walls around myself.”


  • Akinwande: The Hidden Significance of Fi CelebrityTypes 2015
  • Akinwande: Why Taylor Swift is ESTP Open Journal of Jungian Typology 2015
  • Barnes: Differentiating the Types via the Tertiary Function: ENFP and INFP Open Journal of Jungian Typology 2015

Published in John Barnes