Why Simon Cowell is ISTP

There seems to be universal recognition that Simon Cowell, the ‘mean’ judge on the hugely successful televised amateur singing competitions American Idol and X Factor, is a quintessential Thinker: Prioritizing truth over tact, he calls it exactly as he sees it, unconcerned with the feelings of hurt and humiliation his derogatory comments provoke in the less talented contestants. His interaction with his fellow judges (who are generally Feelers) is characterized by the same bluntness. Thinking is clearly his strongest preference and as such the discussion online boils down to which of the four dominant Thinking types he is (ESTJ, ENTJ, ISTP, INTP).

Cowell is blunt first and foremost simply because he values truth over tact: “I can’t bear political correctness. I absolutely loathe it.” This sentiment is the hallmark of the Introverted Thinker for whom integrity is everything. Introverted Thinkers do not naturally parse their words for public consumption.

When pressed regarding whether the harshness of his comments is really necessary, Cowell puts forth the rationale that it is better for a talentless contestant to hear the harsh truth so that he (the contestant) can turn his attention to more productive uses of his time. Such a strategic cruel-to-be-kind consideration draws upon Extroverted Thinking; compare with ESTJs Judge Judy and Dr. Phil who also preach and practice tough love.

However, we find that the beneficial effect of his scathing criticism on the fate of the contestant is more of a rationalization for Cowell to whom unfiltered commentary seems to be an end in itself. Although not an obvious introvert, his energy is calmly self-contained (as opposed to the exploring restlessness of the ESTP or the bossy impatience of the ESTJ), and he seeks not to make an  impression on the contestant (or on his fellow judges); he seeks only to express the impression the contestant has made on him. This lack of concern for the audience reaction is a feature of introverted judgment. As such we believe Cowell’s Thinking to be introverted, making him an IXTP.

Finally, there is the question of whether Cowell is an ISTP or an INTP. Cowell is the macho man par excellence and an entrepreneur who deals in a no-nonsense manner with tangible realities and successfully exploits opportunities in the present without losing himself in egghead intellectualizing, and so we call S without further ado.

One last remark: The salient criticism of Cowell is his lack of diplomacy. This flaw is the sign of repressed Extroverted Feeling, which yields another point for ISTP (the type whose MBTI prayer is: “Lord, help me to consider other people’s feelings, even if most of them ARE hypersensitive.”) ESTJs are also blunt, but ESTJs tend to have a controlling purpose to their criticism, and it is this domination that gets people’s backs up rather than the unnecessary tactlessness of their observations as in the ISTP’s case. Compare with Dr. Phil (ESTJ) who is also blunt but who is not criticized for pointless, uncalled-for negativity the way Cowell is so much as for steamrolling his clients. Of course, it is Cowell’s job to be the mean judge, but clearly he has the requisite predisposition, whereas he doesn’t seem to take an interest in browbeating anyone.

5 Comments

  1. Why is it necessary he be a Ti-dominant/P? I feel like his bluntness is from valuing honesty, rather than valuing logic over tact. He’s also quite metaphorical, making connections from what he hears to symbolism he creates internally (“If your lifeguard duties were as good as your singing, a lot of people would be drowning.”) He tends to tone the metaphors down for the American audience because he perceives them not caring for creative language as much. His language is quite N.

    I also feel that it’s not possible for him to be a P, as although he often envisions new business models, he personally follows through on details and actions himself as a producer. He’s additionally concise and seems to stick to decisions as a judge–he is the most persistent person in the room, rather than letting things go as an ISTP may do.

    I question the Ti dominance, and rather think he is most definitely Ni-dominant.

    I feel that he is an INTJ, leaning towards ISTJ in behavior although not in true identity. I’m pretty sure he’s an I, seeing that he himself states he prefers being alone. I do think he tries to work on his P and his S to appease the people he works on though. Earlier in his television career, he would make quick decisions and allow others to decide before him so that he can record his thoughts on paper to translate into words, signifying both introversion and J.

  2. ji has given a nice argument. Along with that, the article to reason for why Simon Cowell is ISTp doesn’t involve INTj and ISTj as part of the list “(ESTJ, ENTJ, ISTP, INTP)” from where to rule out options. I feel the need for reinforcing a defense for your “suggestion” that Simon Cowell is an ISTp.

  3. “Cowell is blunt first and foremost simply because he values truth over tact: “I can’t bear political correctness. I absolutely loathe it.” This sentiment is the hallmark of the Introverted Thinker for whom integrity is everything. Introverted Thinkers do not naturally parse their words for public consumption.”

    Bluntness due to Value of logic or truth would be more of an indicator of extraverted thinking with introverted feeling because VALUEING logic is not the same as USING logic. Introverted feeling is the function that assigns a value which is both relative and subjective. The value comes from how it makes the introverted feel: happy vs sad, love vs hate, distress vs comfort, etc. Introverted thinking is what uses logic because it focuses more on what it is in order to integrate into his larger framework as opposed to what its value is like introverted feeling. In the quotation, he is expressing his value for political correctness (which would be a negative value). Expressions of values is the hallmark of introverted feeling, not introverted thinking. If truth is what Simon values, then this would make it his own subjective code of ethics. If he doesn’t care about tact which is referred in this article as doing things in a way that is considerate of other people’s feelings, then this would mean that he is focusing more on doing his job independently of other peoples’ code of ethics. It means that his own code of ethics is subjective and independent of external factors.

  4. “Bluntness due to Value of logic or truth would be more of an indicator of extraverted thinking with introverted feeling.”

    Yes. On the other hand, though Te users tend to see the practical value in political correctness, even if they loathe it too.

    “Introverted feeling is the function that assigns a value which is both relative and subjective.”

    Depends on what you mean by “relative” in this context.

    “If he doesn’t care about tact which is referred in this article as doing things in a way that is considerate of other people’s feelings, then this would mean that he is focusing more on doing his job independently of other peoples’ code of ethics. It means that his own code of ethics is subjective and independent of external factors.”

    Not necessarily. It could also meant that he finds himself unable to deal with other people’s notions of conduite and give-and-take, and therefore adopts a neglectful attitude towards the whole show. I.e. that he represses Fe.

  5. Simon Cowell’s behavior in general and as judge on his shows is characteristic ESTP behavior. He is blunt – but the reasons for the bluntness are obscure. But bluntness itself is not limited to extroverted thinking. His “these are the facts whether you like them or not” is rather indicative of ST – S facts and T disdain for how you feel about the facts. Cowell’s goal to make “real money” and secure freedom and success for himself guarantees an SP personality. He is outgoing, adaptable, and prefers a care-free lifestyle to being cooped up in an office. All attempts to teach him structure as a child and youth failed. Cowell was undisciplinable, but he took from run-ins with his authority figures lessons in how to behave the way he does as a judge. But it is not all an act: it is the disdainful behavior of a typical ESTP who doesn’t like being cooped up, who would rather be somewhere else (such as out on his yacht), and who takes it out on others.

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