MBTI: Sherlock Holmes- INTP


Has there been a bigger influence on the detective influence on the detective genre? Batman, L, and whatever Angela Lansbury’s name was in Murder, She Wrote. There’s just nobody bigger than Holmes in the fictional detective game, or even the real-life detective game for that matter. Unless you’re related to one or something.

Holmes has been back and forth between INTP and ISTP for as long as people have been typing characters, but what’s the verdict? INTP is our best answer. Why? Abductive reasoning, son!

It’s not a mystery (pun!) that Holmes’ first function is Ti. His style of thinking and M.O. in solving crimes isn’t a matter of applying what you already know, but mixing and matching what you know with what you’re experiencing. But the more you read about Holmes, his abilities become more apparently something beyond just inducing and deducting to figure out where he should look next.

"It looks like...two tickets to Paradise...Watson- pack your bags. We leave tonight."

“It looks like…two tickets to Paradise…Watson- pack your bags. We leave tonight.”

In fact, his methods of detection are so unique that they’ve been dubbed “Holmesian deduction” as he employs the use of abductive reasoning. Abductive reasoning is described as (in summation) having the answer, and “guessing” the question that would most likely lead to said answer. You then move forward on that guess as it could be wrong, but that’s why you don’t just say anything and move on. As Holmes puts it in multiple stories, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”.

This alone doesn’t convince me that Holmes as an entire character isn’t ISTP though it does push me in the Intuitive direction. Often times different writers rely on different strengths and aspects of a character and their type can change. As mentioned, Batman is INTJ as a character but the Nolan films have him display more sensor-qualities. Not being familiar with every incarnation of Holmes, the character as a whole can be typed INTP.

I've never seen this show, but here's Cumberpatch, since he's so popular these days.

I’ve never seen this show, but here’s Cumberpatch, since he’s so popular these days. Just look at the head on this guy.

ISTPs in fiction generally play more into the private eye subgenre; the wrong dame asking the gumshoe for help from a lover- the ISTP has sex with the woman while trying to solve a crime, only to figure out that it was the woman all along. He’s been set up, he makes it out, and probably didn’t even get paid. Case closed, more or less. Since ISTPs rely on their Ti like INTPs do, they’re well suited for more logical professions like the varied sciences or something practical, physical. The difference lies in what backs them up and Se doesn’t seem to be what Holmes uses in his “abductions.”

In fact, abductive reasoning seems to be almost describing Extraverted Intuition- seeing the possibilities and and coming to a single result at the time. Ni handles the long-range stuff, but Ne gives you what you want at the moment. And Holmes doesn’t seem to be taking in his surroundings as much as he is observing his surroundings and making well educated guesses as to what happened.

"I deduce that this man is getting married. Case: SOLVED."

“I deduce that this man is getting married. Case: SOLVED.”

Another interesting difference between the ISTP and INTP in Holmes’ case is that while ISTPs don’t have to have sex with everything they see, Holmes’ love life is suspiciously absent if he were to fall into the Artisan group. Their Se makes them want to take advantage of the moment while Holmes’ acknowledges not knowing many people, and not ever knowing that many people. In so many words, Holmes has described women in his life as only being as interesting as any problems they might bring to him to solve. Doesn’t sound like Se to me, who would more likely be annoyed at the problems someone would bring to them, preferring to use their mind then hands on a problem, rather than just the mind.

-"Watson man, I told her, I was like, 'I'm doing it!' Don't try and stop me!" -"Holmes! You didn't! What'd she say??"

-“Watson man, I told her, I was like, ‘I’m doing it, Irene Back off!’ Don’t try and stop me!” -“No way! You didn’t! What’d she say??”

Guy Ritchie’s films play up to an INTP type as well, being that Robert Downey Jr. as the title character displays a brilliant man child afraid to lose his partner Watson to marriage, and acts belligerent in ways that almost can’t be argued in their reasoning but don’t take away from how rude they are. Like an INTP, he’s crafty in his theories and analyses, but a right idiot in terms of people. If the person can be systematically solved in a sense would be one thing, but just as a person? The INTP is just about hopeless.

Holmes also shows himself to take on the INTP habit of getting so involved in their against-the-grain lifestyle that in their eyes, to do anything as “normal” is ludicrous.

INTPs are also thought to be the most likely to experiment with drugs and while Holmes doesn’t seem to be experimenting, he is a fan of pipes, cigars, cigarettes, morphine and cocaine; which could be said to be an experiment as Holmes believes it helps stimulate his brain and further his abduction abilities. Why would an ISTP Holmes do cocaine? It was there, probably.

What a day

What a day

The one things that sticks out to me as an uncharacteristic INTP would be Holmes’ fondness for several different forms of fighting, but it’s not as though it’s unrealistic. An INTP known to me studied Tae Kwon Do for a number of years. What’s unrealistic is when you read that Holmes is formidable with multiple firearms, hand-to-hand weapons, and a couple different forms of hand-to-hand combat. At this point, I’ve written Holmes off as the ultimate INTP akin to Batman’s ultimate INTJ. Good at everything, weaknesses- none.



Many have typed Holmes as INTJ which seems unfair to author Arthur Conan Doyle’s work in that mastermind archenemy Moriarty is clearly an INTJ and without much argument for opposition, while Holmes’ outlook, methods, and attitude all reflect that of the upbeat, competent and socially air-headed INTP.

24 Responses to “MBTI: Sherlock Holmes- INTP”

  1. Jasper Says:

    I very much enjoyed this. That said, I can’t help but feel that Downey’s Holmes strays into ENTP territory, just like his Tony Stark.

    Further, I think that Moriarty isn’t the only INTJ in the Holmes-stories; Mycroft absolutely has to be one as well.

    • Taylor Says:

      I’ve thought that Mycroft was an INTJ too though, though in the Guy Ritchie movies he seems more upbeat than your average INTJ. I’m sure it has to do with Stephen Fry playing him, who’s thought to be an ENTP in reality.

      Yeah, Downey plays up to more of the manic side of Holmes giving an extraverted impression. I could see that, but his aversion to lock himself indoors with his music, experiments, and studies seemed more TiNe. Though I’m not saying ENTPs aren’t guilty of that…

      • Jasper Says:

        You should give the BBC adaption a try. Mark Gatiss’ Mycroft is definitely INTJ.

        And Stephen Fry is definitely not a thinker. ENFP is definitely a possibility, but I highly doubt ENTP.

        • Taylor Says:

          Yeah I’ve had a few friends tell me to check it out, saying it’s amazing.

          I’ll take your word on Fry, there’s a reason you don’t see real people typed on here. What do you think he is and what’s your type?

      • Jasper Says:

        Having read one of his autobiographies (one detailing his time at Cambridge), I get the impression that he’s an introvert, but on the other hand he very much seems to want fame and recognition.

        He’s definitely NF. He also strikes me as having very much Fe, as opposed to Fi, so I wouldn’t put it past him to be xNFJ.

        • Taylor Says:

          Gotcha. About the only thing I can say for certain on his personality (whatever he is) is that he seems to really enjoy getting his views out there in an interview; not just stating a response to a question, but soaking it in, the time he has. Still, that could be I or E, yeah.

  2. I think Holmes is ESTJ…like all the greats!

  3. I’ve noticed in at least 3 of your articles your misuse of the word “aversion.” It seems you think it is its opposite:
    aversion |əˈvərZHən|
    a strong dislike or disinclination: he had a deep-seated aversion to most forms of exercise.

    I do like your content. Keep up the good work!

    • Taylor Says:

      You know what’s more annoying about this is that I can’t give you a good excuse for this. What the hell was I getting it confused with? Diversion? Thanks anyway. I’ll read up on my dictionary before the next post.

  4. I totally agree with your analysis and I really don’t see him as an INTJ or ISTP as a lot of people do. He clearly uses Ti and Si to construct his brain attic/memory or mind palace (often called differently) and he uses Ne to a great extent during his deductions. He clearly doesn’t possess the Te of the INTJ (his messy flat and he hates when people talk during his deductions, he doesn’t need them to bounce off his thoughts) and his Se is nonexistent because someone with an auxiliary Se would care more of his bodily needs (he rarely eats and sleeps during cases and says his body is there to transport his brain) and care a tad more about sex.

    • Taylor Says:

      Nice elaboration. Not enough of a jerk for INTJ, not “cool” enough for ISTP. The absent minded professor in the body of a detective.

      • Zaoldyeck Says:

        Oh I thought it was the other way around: not cool enough for an INTJ, and not jerk enough for an ISTP.Just a thought

        • Taylor Says:

          It could go either way, sure, but the INTJ I’ve been friends with forever wouldn’t call himself cool, ever.

          • Kiyoe Zaoldyeck Says:

            lol is that so. that really makes me wanna meet one irl.
            and thanks for that bit of info

            Ah, on another note, I’m glad to see someone type Holmes INTP, and in one of the most encompassing and reasonable method I’ve honestly seen so far, aside from a remarkable impartiality.

            I really enjoyed your article.

            Now I can say something more convincing about Holmes being predominantly intuitive other than ‘he himself already said so!’ or that ‘I know, cause I’m like that as well.’ (ah the first ever Holmes anyway).

  5. […] of why Sherlock is an INTP instead of an ISTP (which would use Se instead of Ne), check out MBTI: Sherlock Holmes- INTP. One quote I really like from this post connects Sherlock’s perceiving function with his […]

  6. Hmmm, I take issue with the INTP being exclusively non combat orientated. I became proficient in riot control techniques (and then control and restraint in civvie street). Studied Taekwondo for 3 years. Proficient in rifle and pistol (made marksman in the army).

    • Mudibarát Says:

      I’m an INTP too, and I used to train with sword, and studied karate. Oh, and I learnt how to use firearms too (I was one of the best that fall), because I had the oportunity (I study wildlife management at the university). I also trained with bows when I was little, and was very fond of horse riding. Gosh, I’d like to ride again, but it’s too expensive here.

    • Zaoldyeck Says:

      I agree with this. I loved martial arts/kung fu since I was a kid and would have loved to learn a lot of them (if I had an opportunity in the past). Figuring out how the people of the past wielded their various weapons as well, and becoming proficient at it, was a great interest for me, too. Even now, if I finally have an opportunity, I’d learn at least one.

      • @Paul

        So yes ISTJ or ISTP because, I don’t see how an INTP could become an expert in a work that is focused on real-time observation.


        Yes, you are probably the nearest of martial art interest for an INTP.

    • You are not ok because probably an ISTP or ISTJ, study the cognitive functions…

      • I know a real ENTP who is a french boxe intructor… But It’s not a very aggressive martial sport.

        • And besides, ESTP look like ENTP or ENTJ with age, so finally nothing sure. A bit for this reason some ISTP think to be INTP or INTJ.


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