Online, Thinking (T) types are often branded as prone to unethical and socially irresponsible behaviour. They’re sometimes associated with what in the Big 5 is known as Disagreeableness, being able to disregard social norms and conventions, and with it, moral norms and values that are held as important in our society or in our in-group or family.
But most of all, Thinking types just want a good explanation before they participate in something. While Feeling types tend to hold moral principles to be indisputable anchors, pillars that hold up our society, Thinking types tend to see morality as a means to an end. And yeah, I know, this sounds a lot worse than it is in practice.
This does not mean they’re against morality in itself, just that they want to know what the point of morality really is. Will morality make us more happy? Will morality contribute to human progress? What is the purpose of the social norms in place and why should we follow them? While Feeling types seem to hate the thought of explaining or having to argue for their values, Thinking types seem to never stop wanting to disseminate moral concepts by how efficient the principle is.
The dark triad
There’s a small but not complete overlap between Thinking and Disagreeableness. This means Thinking types are more prone to being disagreeable, but not all Thinking types are Disagreeable, just as not all Feeling types are Agreeable in the Big5.
While just falling slightly lower than average on the scale of disagreeableness does not have to be a problem, scoring on the bottom end on disagreeableness is associated with some of the more dark human traits. Such a person may be highly manipulative, volatile, or prone to clearly unethical behaviour and moral immaturity.
Now, anyone can fall low on these traits on a bad day, and a person who is going through a difficult time may be more tempted to lie, cheat, or harm other people. But to fall consistently low on this trait is a problem, and there are people who are completely unable to feel empathy or to understand more emotional consequences. Thinking types are not more likely to struggle with this than other types.
A general theme I’ve noticed is that Thinking types don’t seem to be bothered by the thought of trying to be good, but that they sure as hell worry and stress about being evil. They don’t want to do wrong, and they usually have a more negative approach to ethics. They don’t want to hurt other people, or say something mean, or push people too hard, and worry that they may have done so. In comparison, NFs tend to be more focused on an idea of a utopia or a generally great world. When Thinking types want to avoid doing the wrong thing, Feeling types are more focused on doing something generally good.
Feeling as a source of extrinsic motivation
Thinking types constantly use their Feeling functions but perceive these to be less of an intrinsic motivation than an external one. That means, they will not get a positive emotional response simply for telling the truth, but will need additional environmental feedback. They’ll want to feel that telling the truth helped make the world a better place, or that their honesty somehow contributed to some progress.
That means Feeling is a source of extrinsic motivation to a Thinking type, while Thinking is an intrinsic motivation. Thinking types get a kick out of following rational rather than social principles when making their decisions. They will experience this positive feedback loop even if there were no external consequences for doing it, and don’t need a pat on the head from the tribe or a smile from the group to know it was the right thing.
I’ve had INTJs more than once be really nice to me in secret. They’d never admit to it, but I figured it out a while after, and when I thanked them, it didn’t really seem to matter to them. That’s not why they did it. They had just thought about it in their head and decided it was the logical thing to do.
So personally, in my experience, ENTPs have been some of the caring types I know in the sense that they care very much not to disappoint or hurt others, and INTJs tend to be some of the most empathetic types, in that they try very hard to not show bad character or weakness and to not engage in unethical behaviour. And so, I can only rule this out to be a stereotype. Thinking types are, I conclude, not in their nature more unethical than Feeling types, but grouped by negative association with Sociopaths and Narcissists and Psychopaths. Having an empathetic or emotional disability is not, however, the same as being a Thinking type.
What’s your experience of Thinking types and morality? Do you consider Thinkers to be more ethical or more unethical than Feelers? Share this article and share your thoughts with others.