Why Neil deGrasse Tyson is ENFJ

First, let’s look at the direction of Tyson’s Feeling function. Tyson revels in drawing out his points in order to build verbal crescendos and climaxes for the audience. Introverted Feeling (Fi) is about sincerity and raw immediate emotion. A constructed, built-up crescendo, by its very nature, is not sincere and immediate, but in fact the very opposite of Fi. So Tyson’s Feeling function is likely to be extroverted.

Next, let’s look at Tyson’s manner of presenting information to his audience: There are no disjointed, free-vectored nuggets of truth. In fact, every single piece of history, detail or fact that he presents to his audience aligns with his agenda to form a coherent and linear narrative. If this is indeed correct (and Tyson uses Fe and Ti), Tyson’s use of Introverted Thinking (Ti) is likely to rank somewhat low in his function order.

Notice further how whenever Tyson presents a piece of information, the “correct” attitude (i.e. what he wants us to think about something) is already obvious even before Tyson reaches any conclusion or presents any actual argument. So Tyson’s Fe must rank as his first or second function, and Ti is indeed likely to be either his tertiary or his inferior function.

We are thus down to four types: ENFJ, INFJ, ESFJ, or ISFJ

All rules of thumb obviously suggest that Tyson is an iNtuitive, but his manner of expressing himself traverses upon Sensing as he saturates his narrative with facts and details and takes care to hammer home the point by repeating it over and over with different fact-oriented examples. Yet when Tyson uses facts, he uses them in an immediate, sudden and surprising way, like a rabbit springing forth from a magic box. Tyson’s use of facts is that of a performer and not that of someone who wants to archive the facts and to subdue them by putting them in their proper context and order, as an Si user might.

So Tyson’s use of Sensing is extroverted, and this leaves us with two types: ENFJ or INFJ.

Here the thing to note is that Tyson’s manner of presentation is entertaining, animated and improvised, and that Tyson himself makes eager use of body language while presenting. He appears conscious of his Se mavericks as if he anticipates the audience’s reaction to those shenanigans in his mind, even while he is in the midst of presenting them. Hence we posit that his Se must be conscious to some degree and that it is actually Ti that is his repressed function.

Thus he fits the bill of an ENFJ spokesperson uniting people (Fe) in the pursuit of a common vision (Ni).

Update December 2012: We recommend this short video in amplification of our argument that Tyson has a well-developed Fe function. (Hat tip to Desmond F.)

23 Comments

  1. He’s definitely NOT a J. When he talks about the field of science he explains that it is about the journey not the discovery, and that if you are in the field of science for discovery, you’re in it for the wrong reasons. That alone points to P – the process of doing something rather than closure/completion/end result. I agree with you on the extroversion & intuition. He, in my opinion is an ENTP.

  2. It seems the previous poster does not understand the functions. Tyson’s an Fe dominant if I ever saw one.

  3. BD: There is room within the journey you describe to act in accordance with a judging demeanor because this journey of striving for scientific knownledge is very complex and long and filled with countless substages which can be strived for in a J manner. I believe that what Neil Degrasse Tyson is trying to convey is partly that you can’t expect science to prop up direct results in the same manner that a company presents an increase in stock value to shareholders, because the field of science deals with the unknown, which by defition is unpredictable. And; furthermore,that it would be naive to become a scientist for the sole reason of making a scientific breakthrough as it has been shown inductively that such breakthroughs are very rare. Many scientist would agree with Tyson here, and plenty of them will be J types, this is neither impossible nor even strange because whether you are a J or P type has little to with your overall understanding or picture of a matter, rather it has to do with how you achieved it, you can strive for a goal and desire it in a typical J matter but you needn’t necessarily expect to reach it to do so, as expecting breakthroughs and big discoveries are naive within the context of scientific research.

    I also think you’re intepreting his FE style of communicating much too litteraly, he can indeed be seen in many clips to prioritize conveying a message rather than stating a categorical truth. Indeed he is not so much interested in his own words as in what they will mean to those he is speaking to, as such he will unlike for instance Richard Dawkins only tell the truth to the extent and with the nuance that he believes can be percieved. Then again I don’t know the context of what you quote.

  4. I agree with the first poster, he is an ENTP, as an INTP i can relate to Tyson in a unique way, in fact the only difference i find between us is the fact he is better able to express his ideas to a wider audience than me since he is more comfortable expressing his thoughts.
    He is a “thinking” since his life revolves around creating logical conclusions to problems, rather than taking consideration to how others may be perceiving a given situation, he also responds well to logical questions he is able to understand the questions put to him and produce a logical response.
    He is a “perceiving” since it’s biggest trait is curiosity, there is a genuine longing to find truth, science is the only way a perceiver can actually accept something as true, thus the percevier is constantly looking for knowledge, nothing is held as fact before empirical evidence, a trait of a true scientist!

  5. KW: Thank you. We did some more research, and the Fe still seems heavier than the Ti in him. We don’t know if this applies to your argument, but in general people have a tendency to confuse the subject matter in which a person is actual with that person’s personality as a whole. The system would be neater if every scientist was a ‘T’ but, at least according to our research, that simply does not appear to be the case. Again, we are not saying that this caveat applies to you specifically, we merely list it as a general rule of thumb.

    If you have any specific arguments, which you would like us to answer, by all means list them here. In the mean time, you may find this video of interest, in which Tyson more or less rebukes Dawkins his flagrant Ti: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_2xGIwQfik

  6. Essentially I wanted to explain how inferior Thinkers EXFX can think logically whilst mutually arguing through contradiction that intuitors as weak sensors are unable to understand reality as it is and mutually “applied science”.

    Most of the responses above are coming from a Keirsey mentality were the best traits have been attributed to intuitors, especially “intelligence”. And sadly that is unhelpful once you actually start understanding Jung and actually understanding real people, and the real cognitive functions. The styles that affect how people see reality.

    Preference is not ability. When you start using your feelings you don’t get dumber. Had you guys been born ESF you’d just be prioritize the feeling aspect of you as it naturally dominates your personality, depending on your genes, you’d still have the same analytical ability.

    The problem is that we are all thinkers, feelers, sensors and intuitors. Theoretically since intuitors understand ideas, but suppress the actually state of reality, according to theory they are too stupid to understand what is actually there. Applied science is a intuitor’s worst nightmare since it involves “sensing” understanding concrete information about reality in order to manipulate it intelligently. Putting theory into practice is a headache as reality actually punishes you for not understanding its actuality. That the hallmark of high sensing intelligence in science.

    I don’t know why Keirsey an NT failed to look past his biases and typecasts.

  7. Neil deGrasse Tyson isn’t ENFJ. He uses Si instead of Se. My mother and sister are ENFJ and hate talking about nerdy technical details and facts. It quickly frustrates them. He could be an ENFP if you guys are so sure of Fe being a prominent function.

  8. Tyler, ENFPs do not have any Fe to speak of (they are heavy Fi users).

    I am an INTP, I use my Si in the way you describe. Neil does not as he does not have it. As the article states: “Yet when Tyson uses facts, he uses them in an immediate, sudden and surprising way, like a rabbit springing forth from a magic box. Tyson’s use of facts is that of a performer and not that of someone who wants to archive the facts and to subdue them by putting them in their proper context and order, as an Si user might.”

    Some ENFJs like nerdy stuff (indulging their Ti inferior). My sister and her boyfriend are both ENFJs (!!) and their Ti inferior LOVES engaging with my Ti-dominant clarity (again, I am an INTP). It’s also possible for ENFJs to not care about ideas and just focus on people, but it’s not super common. Your mother/sister might be one of those rarer ENFJs who don’t like nerdy stuff at all. Or maybe one could be something else like ESFJ or whatever (I have no idea obviously, just throwing that out there).

    Another thing to note is that ENFJs like technical details and facts much more than ENFPs do.

  9. I really think you guys dropped the ball on this one. It seems quite obvious to me that Tyson is ENTJ, like his Cosmos predecessor Carl Sagan. Why?

    The biggest reason is that he shows a hard reliance on empirical thinking and the scientific method. To him, anything that cannot be proven objectively and that does not follow scientific guidelines is not worth his time. One of the biggest red flags for his Te dominance can be found in this interview, in which he dismisses the field of philosophy as useless, distracting, time-wasting and inferior to science.

    http://io9.com/neil-degrasse-tyson-slammed-for-dismissing-philosophy-a-1575178224

    I have a very hard time seeing an ENFJ, or any user of the Fe/Ti axis, making these comments, considering most NFJs and NTPs seem to be very interested in philosophy and appreciate its worth at least as much as science. The opposite is true of NTJs, who prefer the more falsifiable nature of science. Indeed; I have heard the types referred to as “philosophers” before, whereas the NTJ types are often referred to as “scientists” specifically for this reason. In fact this brought directly to my mind this quote from another NTJ, John Adams:

    “I would not advise any one to study [philosophy] longer than to convince him that he may devote his time to more satisfactory and more useful pursuits.”

    I find it quite difficult to imagine that Tyson is closer in type to a more philosophical-minded person like Thomas Jefferson than to Adams based on that quote alone.

    This isn’t the only time Tyson made such comments in which he shows a diehard reliance on scientific empiricism either.

    “Scientific Method is doing whatever it takes not to fool oneself into thinking what’s true is false, or what’s false is true.”

    “The good thing about science is its true whether you believe it is or not.”

    He really seems to believe in an objective reality that can be measured and quantified according to empirical standards of evidence. Fe/Ti users tend to be much more flexible with this and see reality as more relative, using a more subjective, internal form of logical reasoning and a more objective, external form of feeling. Tyson externally only emphasizes what can be proven concretely to be real and would dismiss the notion that an idea can be proven to be valid through abstract logic alone.

    I also have a very difficult time seeing Tyson’s thinking, whatever its orientation, as his repressed inferior function; frankly I find the idea a little ridiculous. I definitely do not see any evidence of an accommodating, agreeable, polite, considerate Fe dom who emphasizes good manners. Quite the contrary; Tyson shows all the communication hallmarks of a Te dom: An abrasive, blunt, directive, confident, sharp demeanor that pulls no punches. Tyson has said repeatedly in the past that he does not bother wasting his time debating people he considers to be his intellectual inferiors and who hold ideas he considers ridiculous. (i.e. Creationists) And he is prone to ridiculing them as well. Moreover, I have seen Big Five analysis of Tyson somewhere before, regrettably I do not have the link now, and I distinctly recall he had relatively low scores on agreeableness, which correlates quite strongly to the F dimension of MBTI and particularly the Fe function

    That seems to me to be evidence of both Te and Fi. I disagree with your assertion that Tyson shows none of the latter; he clearly feels quite passionately about science and truly believes everything he says authentically. He is not the kind of guy who would say something he doesn’t truly believe for diplomatic reasons or who adopts the values of others as his own. Of course, as an ENTJ his Fi is his least developed function, and Te does steamroll over Fi in these types. So your focus on his not constantly experiencing “sincere and raw immediate emotion” is bizarre. Never mind that I would argue it is false, as he does seem quick to become rather agitated and impatient at times in debates and clearly his personal emotion starts to drive him more in a relatively immature way that would be expected from an inferior Fi user. As it does in most aspects of his life; his passion for science is what drives him to achieve.

    Just because Tyson showboats at times does not mean that he cannot possess Fi or that he must possess Fe. Sagan often did similar things, and David Letterman does it all the time. Are you arguing that Letterman, a talk show host, constantly shows his “sincere and immediate emotions” and never constructs built-up crescendos? Are you implying anyone who uses Fi, even as a weaker function with a more dominant extroverted judging function, could never do something similar for pragmatic purposes to get their message across? I’m confused; the only thing you seem to have shown in your line about “sincere and immediate emotions” is that Tyson is unlikely to be an ISFP. Given that he is the complete opposite of that type, that should be a rather obvious conclusion. And yet somehow you jump from that to his being an Fe dom. I must say that seems to be a very bizarre way of typing that also does not seem consistent with most of your other typings. Why you started out by focusing on Tyson’s feeling function anyway is also a mystery.

    Anyway, I really do believe that Tyson, the self-described “nerd who could kick your butt,” is a textbook example of the ENTJ type. Your article suggesting he is ENFJ instead does not in my estimation contain much information that is particularly relevant toward that conclusion, nor is it based on much well-researched or even very accurate information, with the only correct parts being related to his extroversion and his use of Ni/Se. I would strongly suggest that you at least look more deeply into the issue if you have not been sufficiently convinced that Tyson is ENTJ.

  10. @Heisenberg

    I don’t know enough about Tyson as a person outside of his work to guess his type. You may be right, you may be wrong. :)

    But I want to make a few points…

    1. Im a fairly clear INTP, yet Im inclined to agree with Tyson — I too think philosophy is a fundamentally useless distraction, generally a waste of time, and inferior to science.

    2. Richard Dawkins, an INTP, also views debating Creationists as a waste of his time.

    3. Though a primary orientation towards the objective facts is the keystone of Te, the fact that Tyson is a scientist himself complicates matters a little — he HAS to be focused on scientific truth, it’s part of the job! Whether this is his natural style, I don’t know enough about him outside of his work to say.

    4. Fe could easily present itself as a Te lookalike, if the culture it feels a part of is very Te-based and
    wants to be taken seriously in that environment. This wouldn’t be dishonesty on the part of the Fe type, merely an accomodation of the values of this intellectual group.

  11. @Heisenberg

    I’ve looked into Tyson more, and I disagree with you. I think the CT team are right about him being a Fe-Ti type rather than a Te-Fi; your description really doesn’t match him.

    Also, he seems pretty extraverted to me, so I’d say he is either:

    ENTP
    ESFJ
    ENFJ
    ESTP

  12. It seems as if some of you are not making the distinction between preference in how the mind operates, and preferences in life choices and interests.

    Granted, there is often alignment in these elements, but that needn’t be the case. This problem of assuming cognitive functions affect lifestyle is most evident when people assume that social attitude corresponds to introverted or extroverted functions. That’s not what they do. On a cognitive level, introversion and extroversion are simply distinguished by small or large scale perspective. That lends them to being inwardly or outwardly focused socially, but does not require them to be.

    Tyson is clearly an Fe dom in approach, enthusiasm, body language, and perspective. He’s -passionate- about science. Skills sets are independent of cognitive functions, except that cognitive functions filter how our minds use those skills. Tyson clearly approaches science with a lot of “should” and “should not”. Science “should” be open minded. Science “should not” be presented in a way that turns people off. (Again with the Fe people element).

    Cognitive functions are neither the cause nor the effect, but the means. Tyson’s means are ENFJ all over the place.

  13. Tyson is so obviously an ENTP it hurts. ENFJ: Fe Ni Se Ti. For sure he does not have inferior Ti. I’ve seen every possible interview he’s ever done. He leads Ne and Ti. There is absolutely no disconnect with how he thinks and how I think (being ENTP). Tyson just has very well developed Fe to where people are being easily fooled. Also, to see his Ne Ti in full effect, try watching videos of him talking actual physics with physicists rather than laypersons. He will not have to rely on Fe so much trying to get people interested in science like he does with the general public. This site seems to be frought with terrible mistypes, but I couldn’t let this one go unchecked since its so painfully obvious to me. And Tarantino being ESFP, come on.

  14. @Kai

    An interesting interview. :)

    Tyson comes across as an EXTREME Fe-dom in this. I can’t really see him being anything other than one of the EFJ types (not sure which yet).

    The exchange with Richard Dawkins – and his comments in the interview you posted about Dawkins’ communication style – goes completely against what ITPs stand for (like when he says good communication is about connecting to the soul of the person you are speaking to and being sensitive to their perspective, and not just getting the facts right and clearly, eloquently explaining them to the reader). An ITP like myself just wouldn’t think like that at all – I love the way Dawkins expresses himself (both in writing and speech) and in some ways I’m jealous of his style, but I can’t stand Tyson’s communication style, which seems to focus far more on persuading people emotionally than just focusing on the actual objective ideas he’s MEANT to be discussing. I’m interested in science, not some random scientist’s ideas on how to improve mankind and make the world a lovely place – that’s completely irrelevant to scientific discussion (in astrophysics anyway).

    On a different note, I’d definitely be what Tyson describes as “an arrogant scientist” haha.

  15. I would actually go with ENFP for Tyson, though I can see why you guys arrive at ENFJ. :) In fact, when I first looked into Tyson a few months ago, I arrived at him probably being EFJ myself! But I think I was mistaken.

    Firstly, with the question of FeTi vs TeFi, I would argue that if we look at Tyson’s underlying psychic worldview (rather than outward behaviour) we see FiTe and not FeTi.

    To go to this article’s arguments for Fe:

    1. Tyson uses “insincere” verbal crescendos and climaxes in his interaction style…

    Well this is a behavioural trait, and exactly the kind of thing you argue against people relying on to determine a person’s type. If it was true that Fi types weren’t capable of expressing emotions they didn’t personally feel, or of presenting statements in emotionally engaging ways, then there wouldn’t be any professional FP actresses. :)

    2. His ideas are expressed in an organised, linear way, uncluttered by “nuggets of truth”.

    I’m actually not sure I agree with this. He is very clear about what he is saying and has a natural ease at describing things in a way others will understand (which I’d suggest hints at Ne more than anything), but I wouldn’t say his thought process was particularly focused and orderly at all – and when it is it’s probably Te rather than Fe.

    3. Tyson’s idea about what is the “correct” attitude is usually clear before he presents his argument.

    I think this is generally correct, but I’d actually say this was more of an FiTe quality than FeTi. FeTi is more likely to show some level of accommodation to the other perspective and to not jump so quickly to “the right view”.

    ***

    Okay, so my arguments for FiTe…

    Well firstly, this idea that Tyson is insincere about his emotions is very wrong, in my opinion. He is a very emotional guy and he says time and again in interviews that what he’s trying to do is create a similar strong feeling of wonder in his audience as he has in himself. This whole outlook – especially expressed in the way Tyson does – hints at Fi rather than Fe to me.

    I remember reading a piece on the site about how FeTi will tend to see history as a kind of evolution and change of social and environmental factors etc, while FiTe types will tend to see history as a succession of brilliant individuals who change the world. Tyson actually says exactly the second view in an interview I saw (I can’t remember which one now, but it’s on YouTube) and he does tend to put great individuals on a pedestal in a way – particularly Isaac Newton. That’s not really much of an argument for FiTe, but it was interesting to see. :)

    I actually think that he does show the kind of authentic emotions FP types are known for in interviews – he just keeps it at a socially acceptable level, and seems to have a good idea of “normal” behavior. I don’t think this is really enough to say that his actual function is Fe though – I just put it down to him having a comfortably above average amount of Big Five Agreeableness. This also accounts for his response to Richard Dawkins. FP types can, and I’d say usually do, appreciate politeness and sensitivity too.

    Extroverted Thinking can be seen quite clearly too, I’d say. He has great respect for the empirical, quantifiable worldview – and I don’t believe this is down purely to him being a scientist, I think it’s probably why he became one in the first place. Whenever he talks, he gives a clear factual summary of what the current science says, and at no point moves into Ti territory (philosophical questions and the like). His principles of truth are purely Te, in my opinion. I actually put the point above about him speaking in structured linear narratives down to him having a strong tertiary Te function.

    ***

    Your paragraph about him being Se>Si doesn’t have anything to do with that difference, in my opinion. :)

    I put his factual, detailed approach – and repetition to “hammer home the point” – squarely down to Te rather than Si. The focus is never on specific facts for their own sake, but on making the point (usually a point about why x perspective is supported by science while y is not – and therefore useless).

    The part about facts being used in interesting and unexpected ways is not Se, but Ne+Te, in my opinion.

    Overall, I just find the ENFP type a much better fit for him. :)

  16. While we (unsurprisingly) don’t agree with ENFP, I (Ryan) personally agree that the piece is bad and needs to be removed. We actually have plans to revisit Tyson, though a bunch of other things before that too. ^^

  17. Hi, i was just wondering if Ti is his repressed function, then how is he such a good physicist ? I mean he has to be thinking most of the time. From what i know, prolonged use of one’s inferior function causes you to become tired very quickly. For eg. i am an infp, but when i use my Te constantly, i become heavily stressed and need some sleep. So how did he become a physicist ??

  18. @Mankumar

    Tyson is actually a pretty average physicist. His real talent is in presenting the facts in a simple and entertaining way to get the public excited about the subject, not in actually doing groundbreaking science himself.

    On a different note, I see no reason why an Fe-dom couldn’t be a good physicist. Especially ESFJs who actually care about the facts.

  19. When I think of his functions in a comparative way everything is clearer. It’s obvious that his use of intuition is Ni rather than Ne. He has singular vision not a vision which includes many possibilities for outcomes. He makes hard line sweeping predictions in almost every interview.
    Next lets look at his use of feeling between Fe and Fi. In most interviews he tends to come from a position centered around his own personal feelings like an Fi user rather than considering the feelings of the many and being sympathetic to others feelings like a Fe user.
    Next looking at his thinking, it is easy to notice that he tends to push his agendas when he speaks rather than speaking just to clerify thing for others. It seems obvious to me that his logic tends to take a cold hard “just the facts” approach to debate instead of considering concepts or entertaining thoughts for the fun of it like a Ti user would.
    Lastly his use of sensing is not used in a cataloging and reciting kind of way. He uses observations of facts as support for his arguments like a Se user rather than using the facts as his main arguments like a Si user would. This one is painfully obvious as he tends to mix up the details of certian quotes, facts and figures at times. When reciting a quote he thinks would be effective in the moment, he tends to struggle with pulling up a detailed memory of it. It almost seems like he is grasping at straws when trying to remember factual iinformation that is relavent to a particular situation. Instead of this, he often makes quick and witty observations about details for the effect or the shock factor rather than just for the correctness of his statments.
    With all these factors taken into account he can only be an entj, intj, esfp or isfp. Personally i consider his energy levels to be more like an introvert who is comfortable in one on one situatuons but gets overwhelmed with nervous energy when in the spotlight. He comes across as a spaz at times when he gets going on rants like when an introvert who is holding information or opinions back is finally provoked into opening the flood gates and starts spewing information. I personally think he is either an intj or isfp. Im slightly leaning towards isfp because it includes all the observations made pertaining to his similarities to entj since they have all the same functions but also makes him a dominant feeler which includes the arguments made for him being an enfj dominant feeler. And this view still keeps him as an Se Ni user as well. And the fact that he is a perceiver also works with his live and let live approach to religious views and other opinions so long as they dont try to sway his opinion or control him.

  20. Oh come on guys. Its like you are pretending every ENTP is a dick. His Fe is very developed and he is genuinely a nice guy, doesnt mean he has to be Fe dominant. Fe dominant types tend to be very into peoples faces, not so much into their own head. They have this a little intrusive vibe to me (personally). Also Ni kind of has this Ni-ness to it. Its hard to describe, but its like they look at you and expect you to think what they are thinking with a slight slight frown if you dont. Ni in a way is very accurate, if it is making a statement it usually very precise or it seems like its clear in the Ni users head. This sounds like complete bullshit, I know but there is something I cant quite describe. Tyson does not have what I am trying to describe. Ne in contrast seems to be constantly reading or looking into other people. Its that stare that seems to go right into you accompanied by a slight grin indicating that they are masking what they are truly thinking. Like an adult talking to a little kid. Most people think of Ne users as little kids that run around and that have no control over themselves, whilst in reality Ne users are really smart kids that play with their supervisors, pretending to be innocent and immature. I hope that there are some people in this world that know what im talking about, even if its just other Ne doms.

    Maybe Tyson is an ENFP. I think he is an ENTP. Definitely not ENFJ, or ENTJ! Call my reasoning pathetic but he does not have Ni.

    I was also thrown off by Tarantino being ESFP, I mean just because he makes movies and movies are visual doesnt mean he has to be the sensorial Se artistic ESFP. Come on. I dont mean to offend anyone but either you guys are bad at this or mbti is complete bullshit, that is utterly unreliable and completely subjective :( you chose, either way I would find another occupation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *