Podcast – Episode 0384 – Theory vs Reality of Personality Type Dynamics

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In this episode, Joel and Antonia chat with Personality Hacker’s Advanced Profiling Coach Melissa Harris about the theory vs reality of personality type dynamics.


In this podcast you’ll find:

  • Guest host Melissa Harris, our Advanced Profiling coach joins. 
  • There can be a difference between what type theory teaches us about our relationship with the functions in our stack (based on their position in our car), versus how this plays out in real life.
    • Training and reality don’t always match – an illustration
  • Check out our article on The Car Model to find out how the function stack works
  • A deep dive into the 4 positions in the car – what does the theory say and what is our real relationship with each function?
  • The Driver (Dominant) function:
    • Why it’s not the loudest or most obvious function a person is using
    • Understanding the subtle confident energy of the Driver function
    • How fluency and transferable skills relate to the Driver
  • The Copilot (Auxiliary) function:
    • Why the Copilot isn’t necessarily just behind the Driver in terms of skill development
    • Our push-pull relationship with the Copilot and our need for permission to use it
    • The Copilot as an access point for growth
  • The 10 Year Old (Tertiary) function:
    • Why does our 10 Year Old try to “prove its value”?
    • Our love-hate relationship with the various areas of our 10 Year Old function
    • How do you spot the limitations of the 10 Year Old function, especially when there’s evidence of high skill development present?
  • The 3 Year Old (Inferior) function:
    • What are some of the stereotypes about how people view and use their 3 Year Old function – and are they accurate?
    • How spikes of aspiration and skill development can show up here
    • Our relationship to the philosophy of our inferior function 
    • Using the relationship between our Driver and 3 Year Old function to overcome “one-sidedness”
  • How do people view their lower functions within themselves – and how can this alter their perception of its position in their stack?
  • How our functions develop through the seasons of our lives.
  • Looking at how the functions are woven into people’s stories during profiling sessions.


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Showing 11 comments
  • KJ

    Yeah this podcast it’s really on point especially about the dominant and tertiary functions. In my type (ISFJ), I do find that my (Ti) process or Accuracy I feel like I need to justify my conculsions there more. For example, I’m really into Astrology and I enjoy learning about it and showing other people I understand it thoroughly. Or the need to make sure my logical arguments are pretty internally logically consistent. I try to also be aware of my own logical biases and try to remedy them as much as possible. I think it can be hard for types to find the balance with the tertiary function. Like you guys said using the tertiary function in many different contexts, can be difficult for the type.

    In a real life example, with me and my INTP friends. I may outclass my INTP friends in understanding a system like astrology or personality theory because I’m spending more time studying it than they are. But they usually outclass me in using Ti across many different contexts. Like when there is problem, they know how to problem solve it effectively and in reasonable amount of time. Whereas I can tend to dismiss the problem and let it fester and build up. They are also better at spotting them and removing the bad lines of thinking better. Whereas I can attach more to the lines of thinking and not spot the personal biases I have.

    On the flip side of that, my hero function (Si), I do this so automatically and it’s a big part of who I am that I don’t need to show this off. Besides, Si is known as boring function in MBTI Circles 😂 jokes aside I don’t need to show this off. I’m pretty much a natural at paying attention to small details, tuning into my physical body and create stability/security in my life. Whereas with my INTP friends and INFP sisters, I’ve seen a pattern where they like to brag about how good they are with paying attention to details and taking a slow and safe approach to life. It’s funny that as an Si driver, they seem to at times pick out or see risks when the risks aren’t that big.

    But yeah great podcast and I got a lot of out of it! Especially the parts about the driver and 10 year old function.

  • Justine G

    Oh dear, I can’t stand unacknowledged contradictions, in this case with what was said in a previous podcast. It can’t be put down to having a guest on either, as Antonia said it as well.

    ‘It is rare for someone to find an opportunity to further develop their primary function, as they’ve already done so much there’ apparently contradicts something in an earlier podcast about how not everyone has developed every aspect of their primary function, for example INTJs and INFJs have not necessarily developed, or not necessarily developed much, an ability to predict the future. Sure this was accompanied by ‘but they have the talent to develop it if they so wish’, but that still means they haven’t developed it (much) and thus it remains an opportunity for development.

    In addition to that, I’m pretty sure that one of the reasons given for developing one’s co-pilot (over repeated podcasts) is that it is supposed to help you get better at using your primary function as well, thus implying that there is plenty of scope for further development of the primary and thus opportunities for developing it are not ‘rare’, unless you are already an overall ‘well-developed, well-rounded’ individual, however that might look.

    That said I still found most of the podcast to be interesting and well-considered, yet due to this one problem I still feel negative about it overall as it is important in my opinion to develop a consistency of messaging over podcasts, and not just within the same one. I suppose this is part of an innate problem with one-way teaching methods – pupils cannot ask questions of inaccessible teachers.

    • Justine G

      I apologise as I realise that what I describe is not so much a contradiction as an exaggeration.

      I think this latest podcast makes it sound like there is not much more fertile ground to be developed in the primary function, which even with the ‘we’re talking about general trends’ caveat at the start didn’t really gel with some previous podcasts.

      Obviously age and maturity has to be factored in, but more than that it has been previously suggested that it is quite common for there to be entire areas of the primary function that have not been developed much, possibly due to life circumstances. This and the stated effect of how developing the co-pilot in turn improves the primary function, bearing in mind that it is has been hammered home that lots of people under-develop their co-pilot, thus in turn ‘impoverishing’ their primary.

    • Antonia Dodge

      Hey, Justine –

      I just re-listened to the podcast to review the original intent of the statements you’re referencing. I suspect the approximate time stamp of the statements in question is 9:10 – 11:45. (If I’m inaccurate, please provide the time stamp.)

      The distinction between what I said and how it may be have been interpreted is that I’m speaking of the feeling we have about our dominant. The theme of the dominant function is “quiet confidence” because of how we experience this part of ourselves. Life circumstances, career choice, environmental factors… these will all influence how much development we’ve done with our dominant and how flexible we are with it, which varies greatly. But what doesn’t often change is our feelings about our dominant. We may not have developed all aspects, but we still have the confidence that comes with watching ourselves behave with dexterity throughout our lives. That’s why we also said that opportunities to refine the dominant are ‘exciting’.

      I hope that helps.


      • Justine G

        Yes, thanks for responding.

  • William (ISFJ)


    This comment is going to be more along the lines of “sharing the story,” because I have a question that could be best asked after giving some information. This question is open to anyone, but in particular someone who is knowledgable around the “Memory” process.

    I am fairly positive that my best-fit type is ISFJ, but what I found interesting about applying the principles in this podcast to myself is that my “driver” function is actually the one that I understand the least by far.

    As for the “co-pilot” function, I can see how my “extraverted” side definitely leans towards that “Harmony” process. I often do have to use it deliberately, but I see massive benefits in my life to using it. My “ten-year-old” process of “Accuracy” is certainly my loudest function, although it can be a help and a hinderance at different times. My “three-year-old” of “Exploration” is more of a blind spot for me, and I end up in a down place trying the more spontaneous approach to life too much. However, I love to use this in little ways.

    All this to say, I mostly resonate with all the information given on these functions, and this is a very over-summarized description of how ISFJ comes out in me. Getting to understand the “driver” is harder for me to get. It is, along with “Exploration,” a very quiet function for me, but unlike Ne, I don’t really have a way to describe my version of “Memory,” despite my frequent research into this function and much introspection into how my perspective of life compares with your descriptions/explanations. I have spent many hours over the past month spending extra focus into Personality Hacker’s content on Si, and yet I still don’t see how it comes out in my life. I believe it is there, because I keep on noticing really little things about myself and having major “ah-ha”s about where they come from, but they are all very little things.

    I think that the easiest way for me to figure all this out is through some sort of discussion. I would greatly appreciate somebody’s answers that they think are helpful, questions to better understand where I’m coming from, or stories to share about similar experiences.


    • Justine G

      Interesting comments, sorry I don’t have any answers for you, but thanks for posting.

    • spg

      William, I am fairly new to typology, however as fellow Si (I identify as ISTJ), I understand a little bit what you are talking about.

      I believe one the problem understanding your Si is that it is a perceiving function. The perceiving functions are king of passive, while the judging function are kind of active. For the perceiving (Si), you don’t do anything, it is just how informations come to you. Whereas for your judging function (Fe), it is how you process things to get to conclusion. You become easily aware of it.

      Coming back to your Si function, look for those examples:

      You are down to earth, you pick up (almost) all details of things of importance to you. I won’t be able to tell what king of things for the Fe that you are. I am a Te, and I can tell you that I am so bad at recognizing people, but if you move and object by a iota, I can easily tell. If somebody says something interesting (to me), I can remember it in detail with the context for long time, even though I won’t be able to put a face to who said it. My being bad at recognizing people is possible related to my inability to use the F functions.

      When an example is drown from everyday life, you become a genius, you understand the concept. When example are drown from things you have not encounters, it will sound like a mystery. I recall that back at high school, I sometime got in trouble with teachers for their using of foreign examples to explain new concepts; I will tell them that it does not make sense; and I will ask them to use local example to explain the concept or to tell me how it applies to the local context. They will get very frustrated, because they were using examples from books with no relation to the local context. At the same time people with Intuition as pilot or co-pilot seemed to get those explanations with foreign examples and move on. Then I will struggle to relate the concept to the local context, and when I did, I was the one to help the teacher explain to other students.
      When you relate something to the local context, you are unbeatable. That is a version of what personality specialist will call familiarity. That you love familiarity.

      You can recall vivid details of things that hapen long time ago.

      Your decision process is based on past experiences, what you have seen to work

      You are skeptical about new ideas until they are proven to work;

      You like to play it safe, you prefer established belief, process, procedure, behaviors, etc.

      You like to know what to expect so that you can plan accordingly;

      People qualify you as loyal and reliable;

      You pay attention to details;

      You follow instructions to the letter;

      You check and double check things;

      Those points are how I understand myself. If you identify with most of those points, then you might be saying: what is the deal with that? It is how it is supposed to be. If such is the case, welcome to your dominant Si.

      • William (ISFJ)

        Wow, thank you so much for your reply! About 90% of all the characteristics/examples that you gave just clicked. Like they mentioned in the podcast (and what you reiterated in your last paragraph), is that the majority of these dominant function characteristics all just seemed like how life works to me. Along with one insight I’ve had this week (that my mind is very often replaying and re-post-processing past experiences), your information was just what I needed to get on the road of understanding how my dominant Si works.

        Thanks again,

    • Keith Daniels

      Spg gave pretty solid response as to what Si is. But I’d say a few general traits that Si doms have as well include

      A natural talent for knowing what is safe and secure in life

      A tendency to play it safe, even when you take a risk you like to know that’ll probably work out.

      A tendency to remember details well especially about people. (I’m an ISFJ too and I have this trait)

      Being very in tune with your physical experience

      Tendency towards making decisions based on what ‘s been proven to work, natural skepticism towards new ideas.

      Aspiring to be more adventurous and spontaneous, but struggling with this part and sometimes seeing this desire within you.

      -KJ (ISFJ)

  • Julia

    Great podcast with a lot of insights to think about. I wanted to comment on and discuss the theory vs reality of the co-pilot function further. While I really identified with parts of what was described there were other aspects that didn’t match up with my own experience with the function. The theory of developing your co-pilot as being the key starting point and biggest leverage point for personal growth has been a tough one for me to figure out what to do with regarding what that means for my own path forward and even figuring out where on that path I actually am, as it hasn’t been a linear process for me.

    I don’t mean to say that the advice to develop ones co-pilot isn’t extremely sound just that my interpretation of how that theory translates into the reality of what I need to do doesn’t line up cleanly. When I think of needing to developing a process, it implies to me a lack of proficiency and competence around using it and a need to learn/develop skills in how it works and expand the ways in which I use it. I believe that my co-pilot is already fairly well developed from a skills and general aptitude perspective, is something I can and have used effectively and that I have used extensively in the past prior to having a model/system to identify or name it.

    The huge key I picked up from the podcast surrounded the comment about needing to give myself permission to use my co-pilot more often. Given that I have drifted away from using at often now as I once did, it would mean going back to embracing it more fully and this time from the perspective of it being an inherently useful function, necessary to supporting all the other functions rather than just something that I was good at, provided enjoyment to use but that I had come to view as somewhat frivolous in its applications beyond being a good way to gather information. So that for me ‘develop it more’ actually means to not just be good at it from a competency/skill perspective, but to understand its purpose better, use it more often and in more deliberately targeted ways. And using extraverted sensing more has got to be the best homework assignment I have ever gotten.

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