The Mind Behind Sherlock

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I go through life in obsessive spurts. I’ll be into something for awhile, then lose interest, and when a new aspect (or episode, as the case may be) turns up, I’m back in the thick of it obsessing to an unnatural level. Well, Sherlock is back for its all-too-short third season and I’ve been Sherlocked. My brain plugged in, I started analyzing the show, and for the first time, I listened to the commentaries on previous episodes.

That was an enlightening experience. From what I can see, the two brilliant writers behind the series, Moffat and Gatiss, don’t really understand how either of the Holmes brothers’ minds work. Their explanation for the scene where Mycroft and Sherlock stand in the morgue on Christmas Eve and ponder someone else’s grief is that the brothers are acknowledging the fact that they are “freaks,” because they are so far removed from most people’s emotional responses. But the truth is… they aren’t freaks.

Humans always assume everyone else is exactly like me, and their brain works as mine does. That simply isn’t true – and is the primary source of conflict between people. This is the main problem between the Holmes brothers, and something the writers haven’t figured out.

Mycroft is a brilliant ISTJ, and his little brother is an ingenious IXTP (truthfully, he varies between ISTP and INTP a lot). Different function order, different functions, and enormously different behaviors. Since Mycroft’s cognitive functions make him a J, he’s all about order, control, minions, and long-term plans. I’m sorry, my dear Mycroft, but your P little brother will never be like you. He’ll never conform. He’ll never adapt. He’ll never BE you, as much as you try to force him into it. He will always be easily bored, with a constant need for stimulation, and an obsessive need to defy you, because P’s really, really hate to be bossed around.

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When you use introverted thinking you also use extroverted feeling – you care about other people, but through a veil of logic. Ti-users are accused of being cold, unfeeling, and cruel, because they express logic in response to a situation rather than sentiment. They see things coming before they arrive and know what the repercussions will be. This makes them strongly opinionated about my friends’ life choices because they don’t want them to get hurt. They want to stop that before it happens. Like Mycroft, they try to run interference and get irritated if they resist their advice. However much he denies it, he wants his brother to be protected. He sees what’s coming and tries to stop it.

When Sherlock loses a woman to an explosion in The Great Game, and John is so furious over his lack of compassion, IXTPs identify with Sherlock’s answer: will caring about her change the fact that she’s dead? No? Then let me concentrate on saving other people!

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That is not a sign of a “high functioning sociopath.” That is the sign of a dominant introverted thinker with opposing extroverted feeling. It’s how they act. It’s how they think. It’s not freakish, it’s emotion held back by logic. Their brain says: it’s happened, I can’t change it, I refuse to get bogged down in the sadness of it, and I’m going to make sure it never happens again. It’s the sign of a problem-solver. Their emotions fuel into our desire to protect and act rather than grieve.

Someone who doesn’t use dominant introverted thinking can’t even begin to comprehend what it’s really like, yet, Sherlock is a decent (albeit, over the top) example of a Ti-dominant. Logic first, facts and observations second, emotions fourth. It’s a problematic combination that also has benefits. It makes the IXTP impartial and rational, but also with the potential to be detached and manipulative. (Sherlock knows how other people’s emotions work, so he can mimic them perfectly to get what he wants.)

Each type has a unique way of looking at the world. Those who find it hard to emote aren’t freaks, just different. And they change and grow when interacting with other types. John has brought out more of Sherlock’s compassion. Where once he didn’t care if he offended people, in subsequent episodes he curbs his bluntness with apologies and then, extraordinarily, goes out of his way to make people feel good about themselves. He’s still a bit of a jerk, but at least he’s trying.

We all need one another and the first step toward resolving our differences as individuals is understanding and accepting that not everyone thinks like us.

38 Replies to “The Mind Behind Sherlock”

  1. Despite not being very fond of BBC’s Sherlock for myriad reasons that I won’t get into, I think this is quite a good article. Moffat and Gatiss really don’t understand Sherlock Holmes–which to me explains why in this version he differs, in some ways, so starkly from the original character. They understand him so little that they’re inconsistent with their OWN interpretation, in their OWN SHOW. Like wow, dudes.

    Along with that, I think the confusion that arises from the whole “sociopath” mess is due less to Sherlock making a conscious decision to paint himself as one and more to the writers not having much knowledge (read: basically none whatsoever) of personality disorders, their criteria, and modern behavioral health terminology. . . . Though I suppose that could be passed off as Sherlock himself not having a good understanding of such stuff, in keeping with the character’s classic practice of willful ignorance. (The Earth goes round the sun? Thank you for sharing that fact, Watson. Now excuse me while I forget it.)

    1. I think the enormous differences from the original lie in their desire to make him rude and socially inept, both as a source of humor and a contrast with Watson. We live in a time when rudeness, social ineptness, and outright asshat behavior is considered funny in a lead character (“Mad Men,” “House,” etc). They have taken Sherlock Holmes and turned him into a depiction of THEIR interpretation of Sherlock Holmes… which only bears a passing resemblance to the original. And to some extent, that is fine. Each generation re-interprets Holmes, and “Sherlock” irritates me less than the emotionally-needy, outright jerk of the recent Big Screen adaptations. But yes, their Sherlock is inconsistent even with himself, which is a shame.

      Moffat did turn around later and say that naturally, Sherlock has no disorders; it’s a defensive mechanism to pretend he cares less how others see him than he actually does. But it’s funny that, given Sherlock’s emphasis on logic, he does not see the inconsistencies in his own statements… and that is the fault of the writers not being able to see contradictions in how they write him. 😉

  2. I only just stumbled across your blog today. Though I do not agree with all that you say I definitely enjoy the way that you have with words. I am a bit of a Sherlock Holmes enthusiast and beginning to dig into the Myers Briggs test. I found your blog by combining the two in a google search. I’m glad I did. I wrote a bit to you via your goodreads account but then it occurred to me that I might have a better chance for a response if I write here.

    As I’ve already spent my thoughts in the email I don’t feel I’ve got much to say now but I will continue to read your blog.

    1. Actually, two cups of coffee have ensured that I will remain awake for the present. As I am awake I will respond to your blog entry. I do agree that the Holmes brothers are not freaks. And even the Sherlock played by Cumberbatch cannot be a sociopath, he has clearly displayed affection and emotion.

      I confess that I am out of my depth when folks begin to decide which personality types different fictional and historical characters might be. By and large we can only take guesses. In my opinion you may observe someone’s behavior but you cannot say for certain why they make the choices they make.

      Let us use a simple example (because my understanding of the Myers Briggs test is simple,) say that two different men both choose to be alone as often as they are able. One might conclude that they are both introverts, which may or may not be true. It also might be speculated that they avoid social interaction because they are uncomfortable with it, which also may or may not be true. Do you see where I’m going?

      I know that I am an introvert. I spend the majority of my time alone. I do not believe that makes me anti-social. I love people in general and appreciate specific people a great deal but when I am tired I seek to recover in solitude, crowds do not recharge my “batteries” but drain them. Social interaction requires something from me and so a little goes a long way. But you could not know that by simply observing me, even in close proximity over a long period of time. There are people who have known me for years and they presume wrongly about the reason I desire much time alone. This is one example.

      I find my beginning understanding of the Myers Briggs personality types to be useful in understanding myself a bit more and also useful in understanding others to some extent but I think it important to remember that we generally carry our subjective perspective with us when we are attempting to delve into anyone else’s psyche.

      In essence I am echoing what you wrote in that we tend to believe that everyone else thinks the way we do.

      Another example; I tested as an INTJ. I am led to believe that this personality type, statistically speaking, is the least likely to be at all religious. I’ve even borne witness to folks making the case that an INTJ cannot believe in the God of the Bible. They begin with the presupposition that Christians choose to believe in God because someone told them to or because they read about Him in the Bible and are persuaded in some sort of argument. They insist that there is no proof for God and find the argument to be weak and uncompelling. INTJs, they say, are too rational to believe such an argument.

      However, they have not understood my motivation for “being religious” at all. I do not believe in Jesus because I read about Him in the Bible or because someone told me about Him. I have met Him. I know of Him the way I know of my parents. I do not need some sort of argument. I would be a fool to believe anything other than what I have come to know by experience. God exists and I know Him.

      I did not intend to proselytize but the example seemed a very illustrative one and I am not sorry.

      Further, it is perhaps argued that Sherlock is not an ‘N’ but an ‘S’ (please correct me if I’m abusing these terms, I’m sort of working this out as I type) because he retains so much information. I think that this is presumptuous. There may exist someone who definitely favors ‘N’ over ‘S’ but still retains a lot of information because they simply have an excellent memory.

      If you watch Sherlock Holmes as played by Jeremy Brett (old stuff, I know) you will find that he has hunches and a gut instinct which he employs to set him paying attention for the pertinent information rather than simply gathering all data. There was one case where this was exceedingly evident; the Norwood Builder. All the information pointed to a specific answer but his instinct (or intuition) pointed to a contrary answer.

      And now, caffeine or not, I will attempt to retire.

      1. Observation over a long period of time gives HUGE indicators as to people’s personality types. Other times, functions just scream to be noticed. Places a lot of emphasis on personal memories and experiences? Holds onto sentimental items from the past? That person uses Si somewhere in their function stack. Total adherence to logic? TJ type. Etc. We reveal more about ourselves based on what we do and do not say than we think.

        Any type can retain information, but the way it is retained and the way it is shared differs. Different personalities retain different things, for different reasons. And yes, some types are more scatterbrained and forgetful than others, simply because of the way they process information. (Yet, even those types have fairly good long-term memories!)

        Since posting this, I’m rethinking my stance on Sherlock Holmes as an ISTP. He may very well be an INTP/INTJ hybrid in a lot of his incarnations, simply because he does go on hunches at times (both use a different aspect of hunch-giving intuition, though, which can further stir the confusion pot).

  3. Clearly, I need to follow your blog.

    Intriguingly, my best friend is an INFP but sometimes comes up as an INTP, and I’m an ISFJ. I wonder if those types are drawn to each other? My husband is an INTJ, and with both of them, I’m the one they turn to when they have some kind of interpersonal fracas where they want to know, “How should I act?”

    I’ve only seen the first ep of season 3 so far, so doing a little bit of sticking my fingers in my ears and saying, “La la la la la” here — not reading other comments so I don’t get tooooo spoiled. Just so you know, in case someone else has commented something like this already.

    1. You’re welcome to! I always like meeting new people! (I’m following yours now as well!)

      It’s very possible that the INTP/ISFJ ARE drawn to one another; they share all the same functions, just in a different order — so being around each other brings out prominence in different functions. When Carissa hangs around me, I’m a little more Fe-using and she’s a little more Ti-using. But I can see where the two types could also drive one another nuts — the INTP needs mental stimulation all the time and is very easily bored; the ISFJ tends to “mother” a bit, which is good in some ways — the INTP can come up with ideas, and the ISFJ can execute them — but can also make for misunderstandings and personality conflicts!

      Telling apart an INFP and an INTP can be difficult. I think it all comes down to purpose and execution. The INTP simply wants to know WHY — why does this work? How does it work? What does it do? How did you think of it? And they try not to ruffle too many feathers or rock the boat much, because we’re… well, pretty apathetic in general. We’re also not very sure of ourselves, because we like to leave our options open. The INFP, on the other hand, wants to know how they can USE the information to do something and is somewhat self-assured once they make up their mind. Carissa’s little sister is an INFP. We’re a lot alike in our creativity and we get on well, but there are obvious conflicts — I’m more coldly rational, and she has warmth and depth (if she lets you in! which… I do that too!).

  4. For the most part, I greatly agree. Just today I was thinking of a way to approach a sensitive topic without seeming callous. Sometimes I wonder, in this effort, if I come off as to coddling before hitting them with my logical opinion. Something of a fear factor for me at times–I worry that I will let my logical, cold thinking outweigh being kind. Thanks for the post. It was very thought provoking! And I like those best.

    1. Been there, done that. Written 15 drafts of the same e-mail. It’s hard, because you want to warn and protect them, but do so without insulting them.

      My Fe works pretty well, so that usually keeps me from being too heartless. I feel sorry even for people I don’t like if something humiliating happens to them. (I find that… well, mildly annoying to tell you the truth!)

  5. “…it’s happened, I can’t change it, I refuse to get bogged down in the sadness of it, and I’m going to make sure it never happens again. It’s the sign of a problem-solver. Our emotions fuel into our desire to protect and act rather than grieve.”
    One of the best short descriptions of Ti dominant users I’ve read. Well said.

  6. And here’s another thread.

    Then again, those perceptions are Sherlock’s deductions of his brother, (through Watson’s eyes) and not necessarily the actions of his brother. It also depends which story you’re talking about.

    So I’ll address the three types. (For the show, not the book.) (This will be long.)

    INTP – I wouldn’t select this type because Mycroft is very focused, and not nearly as easily distracted as NPs seem to be. I also don’t think he has a very theoretical mind (based on his dialog) as in, he’s not always thinking of complex theories, just complex solutions. (Not the “absent minded professor” stereotype.) We don’t actually know that he sits in his club while he has his minions do things for him, though it is inferred, but it could easily be just his introversion playing out. (I also wouldn’t call him charming. I’d say his ability to get people to do what he wants has more to do with his checkbook.)

    ISTJ – I’d most likely type him as this on a regular basis, if I could see Mycroft as a regular person, interacting in his day to day. He seems less likely to be a feeler (when it comes to anything but his little brother) when he makes his decisions for the government. Also, ISTJs are known for their devotion to their loved ones as opposed to anyone else, so I suppose that accounts for his other behavior. He absorbs massive amounts of information and favors fact and logic over someone else’s reasoning. His abilities to draw conclusions from his deductions have to be based on data though, instead of the jump that Sherlock usually makes about a person’s behavioral identity. (The scene with the hat, and the scene with John in ep 1.) He likes order and will favor his duty to the government over his personal life. The only thing that I find at odds with this type is his high position in government, which usually aligns with a very motivated personality type, but then again, people with high IQs hate being bored.

    ISFJ – My reasoning was an “almost,” it was a wry remark. The only time we ever really see Mycroft is in relation to his brother. And in relation to his brother, he really only makes Feeling based decisions. Melodrama. Shaded cars and parking garages. Which would (very simplistically, and in a joking manner) type him as this. I think he does understand emotion though (just not his own) which would characterize him as being an S (his intuition about his inner self is lacking).

    Honestly, I don’t think there is enough information on him. I would rather not type him at all (though you can see what I favor) and wait until we see more of him.

    1. I agree that this Mycroft probably isn’t an INTP for the simple reason that he seems very purpose-driven rather than knowledge-driven, although I will add that we can be incredibly focused – when we want to be, or need to be. If we have a task set before us, we usually do it – it’s only in our “free brain” time that we’re distracted. We can be very OCD / zeroed in on something, to the point where it takes over our every waking moment.

      Mycroft is always alone whenever anyone contacts him – that’s a pretty big indicator of his total anti-social behavior. (Alone on Christmas Eve? Come, come, Mycroft!)

      Mycroft does strike me as very ISTJ. It’s possible that his sheer efficiency aided him in climbing the corporate ladder – when you find someone incredibly intelligent, you tend to call on them more and more, and he’s nothing if not a genius. (Mycroft learned an entire language in an hour! … can I have his brain? No? Can I marry and observe him then? No? Darn.) An ISTJ I know pretty much runs an entire department behind-the-scenes for a major Hollywood business – the difference is, she’s very hands-on and often just does the work herself rather than trust it to the minions. But then again, Mycroft can fire, blackmail, and exile people. That might tend to make the minions more attentive. (“Don’t speak. Just look frightened and run away.” Love it.)

      Ah, yes, the shared melodrama of the Sensors. I know it well. I’m not sure who can be more melodramatic in that regard – my ISTJ or my ISFJ. It may very well be a tie. 😀

  7. A new thread it is.

    I liked their version because it was so completely different from the written Holmes. Not the facts, nor the cases, just his personality. He seems so extroverted, and Watson, instead of adoring admiration, openly admits his irritation. It’s a refreshing take.

    I’ve never been so happy to see a quote. Good. I’m glad they know. “He’d really like to be a sociopath.” I think that’s perfect. It makes much more sense than otherwise. (Meaning it’s an emotional decision on his part.)

    1. Yay! New thread!

      I’m laughing right now, because what you loved about it — the dramatically different personalities — is probably what made me hate it. Plus RDJ. I don’t like him for some reason. Ahh, how we all differ, eh?

      I’m glad they know that too. I always suspected Sherlock was a first-class BS-er. He puts on a farce to convince himself and everyone else that he doesn’t care — but he does. He makes LOTS of emotional decisions (his solution to the CAM problem wasn’t all that rational, it was completely fueled through a desire to protect the people he loves), which is something Mycroft is always on him about. Sherlock is actually much better emotionally balanced than his big brother — he does care (“… my brother elected to be a detective; what might we deduce about his heart?” — as well as Mycroft’s concern over what to tell Sherlock about Irene Adler’s “death”), whereas Mycroft will make brutal decisions if he has to.

      1. I think that’s funny. That we differ on the exact same things.

        It’s much more in line with his character that it was all BS, however, it seems more a of a personal BS (as in he wants to be a sociopath, a personal emotional decision) because every time he brings it up, it’s when someone calls him a psychopath for his deductions or in a personal moment. It looks like he’s desperately trying to fool himself. He’s much younger (emotionally) than book Holmes.

        Mycroft in this adaptation is hilarious. He very often plays the straight man to Sherlock’s antics, and it’s almost adorable.

        1. Yes! I’ve come to dislike the RDJ films less over the years but I remember sitting there in the theater literally ten minutes in going I HATE THIS!!! 😀

          That is an excellent point — this Sherlock is indeed very young, and not that well grounded yet. And you’re right, his response of sociopath usually is a reaction to someone else accusing him of being a psychopath — I never realized that until now. Except with CAM, of course — but that was more of a “—- you!” I think he hides behind it.

          I love Mycroft. I really do. He was sort of there the first two seasons, but something clicked for me in season three and now I absolutely adore him. He is absolutely playing the big brother card, even if he is a BS’er himself. (Come on, Mycroft… you don’t care about anyone? Really? Is that why whenever Sherlock is in trouble, you turn up within five minutes? Even when it’s inconvenient?)

          If you consider Sherlock to be an INTJ — what’s Mycroft? People argue INTJ for him quite a bit, but they are different enough that I don’t quite buy the argument that both are INTJs and one is just more successful / driven / mature. (I’m actually having this discussion in-depth on a forum elsewhere — we’re picking apart everything Mycroft has done and evaluating it based on the functions — so far we seem stuck on an INTP/INTJ/ISTJ hybrid, with insufficient evidence to prove one of them as dominant.)

          1. And in about ten minutes of RDJ’s performance of Holmes I was quite thrilled. Fascinating.

            Yes. How Gatiss plays him as eternally exasperated is pretty wonderful. And his love for melodrama is just as big, if not bigger than Sherlock’s.

            I think Mycroft is very difficult to type because there is so little to go on. In the books he rarely showed up, so what’s been done on him on the screen has largely been speculation.

            Also, its clear that ACD preferred the introverted, intelligent, logical, long-range planner type (IxTJ) that observed much (S) and had many theories (N) – which is why you’ll find discussions that all three (Mycroft, Sherlock and Moriarty) were INTJs. That I don’t think is true, but the qualities are all there.

            This specific Mycroft – it’s difficult to say. I don’t think we know enough about how he works in the day to day to really establish his type.

            If I make the conjecture that he delegates often and lets his minions do a lot of work, then I’d type him as a P.

            If he prefers to do the work himself, that’s more consistent with a J type.

            As per S and N, it all depends which function dominates more often. He makes plans and conjectures (N) but he’s also very, very, good at absorbing a lot of information (I’d say, arguably better than Sherlock and even venture saying he taught Sherlock a lot of that ability.)

            Sometimes, looking at how he explains his motivations, I’d almost want to type him as a repressed and quiet ISFJ. (To which most people would respond, but he’s so logical – and I’d say he’s actually more observant than logical.) I could explain further how I came to that conclusion, if you like, but in the end, I don’t think there’s enough data in order to type Mycroft.

          2. Book Mycroft is probably an INTP – Sherlock Holmes is annoyed with him because he’s brilliant but lazy, and makes assertions that he doesn’t bother to back up with evidence (which is kind of evidence in and of itself of Ti-Ne – how did you come up with that? I dunno, but it’s true!).
            The fact that we hardly see Mycroft on the show does indeed make him hard to type. I have him pegged either as a very, very successful INTP or an ISTJ. I think he uses Ne-Si or Si-Ne in the way he so aptly reads people, situations, and possibilities. He seems to be able to calculate the fall-out (and the potential for goodness) in things that seems more Ne than Ni, and he seems to use Si quite a bit (he bases a lot of his predictions on previous evidence – like his brother’s behavior). He IS a lot faster at making connections than Sherlock, which I think a Ne-Si/Si-Ne could do, since they are subconsciously absorbing a LOT of information all at once.

            That leaves us trying to decide what kind of a thinker and feeler he is.

            I think he’s much too callous and unemotional to be an ISFJ – auxiliary Fe users tend to be very sensitive to the emotions of everyone around them, and if we believe Mycroft, he really doesn’t understand emotion all that well; ISFJ’s are very sentimental, and he’s pretty much… not. He’s traditional to a point but Christmas dinner with the family? UGH. (My best friend is an ISFJ and… even on her worst days, when she totally cuts off her Fe, I can’t see her doing anything like Mycroft is capable of – certainly not standing aside and letting someone beat her sister within an inch of her life.) But… I’m still interested in how you come to that conclusion! You might have very valid points!

            The fact that he’s so out of tune with emotions yet so charming and able to get people to do what he wants them to do suggests Fe, though – which could mean INTP. (I love the way he has minions do things for him, so he can sit around in his club and not talk to anyone all day long. That’s probably what every INTP aspires to, right there.)

            On the other hand, he gets things done. He comes up with plans and implements them. He is arrogant in the way that an unhealthy Te-Fi user is, which suggests ISTJ. (He reminds me a lot of an ISTJ I know, actually…)

            Maybe someone should tweet Mark Gatiss and ask him what Mycroft’s type is. That might save us all a lot of time! 😀

  8. Excellent post! It’s weird being Sherlocked again. I wasn’t keen on the 2nd season, so I’ve actually gone without the obsession for almost three years. It’s awesome being back!

    I can’t believe the writers are so clueless about personality types. If they understood the motivations of their characters then their writing would be much more cohesive. It’s weird knowing more about these characters than Moffat and Gatiss!

    So, Sherlock isn’t actually a sociopath. That’s either a flaw in the writer’s design of the character to have him say that he is one, or it means Sherlock is not all that familiar with his own motivations. It could be either, or a bit of both.

    Sherlock and Mycroft will never fully accept one another’s differences until they understand that they can’t change each other. Sherlock will never, ever be like Mycroft. And vice versa. Their personality differences are set in granite, completely immovable.

    And just randomly, RDJ’s Holmes is an extrovert?! Man, they should have planned his character better. I think he’s the only extroverted Holmes in history, and that explains why he literally cracks when left alone too long, and why he can’t stand being without Watson!

    1. Thanks! 🙂

      I felt the same way about season two. The Irene Adler incident put a bad taste in my mouth and soured me on the subsequent episodes as well, but over time I’ve begun revisiting them and even though I will never like what they did with Irene, I do admit that particular episode is brilliant on its own terms. I think what Gatiss did with HOUND was quite clever, and even though I love the original more, I enjoyed the comedic timing of it (on the commentary, Moffat laughed during Mycroft’s only scene and said, “I give you pages and pages of dialogue in my episodes, and you give yourself an eye roll!” Oh, but what an eye roll it is!)

      But yeah… with a who-knows-how-long-we’ll-have-to-wait hiatus ahead of us, I’m Sherlocked. Revisiting episodes. Discussing them at length. Tearing everything to pieces to understand it. Pointing out the utter LIES the characters tell one another. (Sherlock, you are not a sociopath – stop using that as an excuse for irrational and outrageous behavior. Mycroft, you care a hell of a lot more about your brother than you pretend to; otherwise, you wouldn’t leave your country home on Christmas Eve, change into a suit, and travel all the way to London just to be in the morgue when your brother came to view a body.)

      In fairness to the writers, they’re working off Doyle’s model (only cranking up the eccentricity / rudeness by about a million percent) in which Sherlock Holmes is virtually un-type-able. (Although in “A Study in Scarlet,” he gives the most eloquent, mind-blowing, simple description of introverted intuition ever known to man – to look at something, and reason backward to understand it.) But it IS true that their characters are hybrids – Sherlock is the ISTP/INTJ, and Mycroft is the ISTJ/INTP. I think they DO understand the motivations of the characters, just not always their behavior. Sherlock’s motivation is independence from authority and to prove himself intelligent, while solving crimes (and preferably, staying off “the sauce”). Mycroft’s motivation is to keep his little brother safe and out of trouble, while simultaneously running the British government. (Ha, ha… I wonder which one is harder?)

      I would like to see the brothers move toward greater understanding and acceptance of one another. I think that’s very possible, because one thing the writers are doing absolutely brilliantly is growing these individuals as characters. Sherlock is very changed from the man he was in season one – when he insulted everyone and never apologized for it. In season two, he still insults people but also either offers a dismissive explanation (to the man with the backfiring car) or actually apologizes for it (Molly). This season, he acknowledges his need for relationships (while pointing out that flaw in his brother) and tries to do his best at the wedding not to insult John. He fails miserably because his logic screams “spit out the truth” but… at least he’s trying.

      Okay… RDJ’s Sherlock. Yes, I believe he is an extrovert. I haven’t seen those movies in a long time, but he acts like one. I think the writer may have meant him to be an INTP but RDJ is an ENTP and stamps ENTP in big, flaming letters all over everything he’s ever done. He even makes Iron Man (ENTJ) look like an ENTP (bring this up anywhere, and you will have a hundred ENTPs swearing that Iron Man is one – shame he uses Se, though).

      (Sorry but not sorry for the long response. I starve for conversation and get excited whenever anyone actually shows interest in talking about anything I like to talk about.)

  9. In relation to sociopathy.

    Unless the writers of Sherlock stated expressly in those commentaries that they wrote him as a sociopath – I did not see the commentary – he’s not one. He’s not even a high functioning sociopath. Not even close. (And if they stated that they attempted to write him as one, I’ve yet to see examples of such.)

    I’ve done some research on the subject and while there are some traits that Sherlock does posses that seem similar to sociopathy (the most common one is his seeming lack of empathy – which, as you’ve pointed out, is due to his personality, not sociopathy) he’s not at all like a sociopath.

    Sociopaths understand human emotion (though they do not have it), copy it and use it to manipulate others. This is the big one. The most misunderstood. Sociopaths are charming, they use moments in their life to charm others, manipulate them and humiliate them – for the emotional response, for the feeling of power.
    Sherlock on multiple occasions has demonstrated that he doesn’t understand why humans would put emotion before logic. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have emotion. Nor is he charming. He’s the last thing from charming. (The only occasion where one might warrant that he used charm to beguile someone was in the last episode of season three, and even that was for a specific goal, not to emotionally humiliate them.) He only manipulates people to achieve specific ends,

    Sociopaths are pathological liars. They lie for no reason, just because they can. Just to feel power over another human being, Sherlock seems to prefer the truth, unless lying is the most effective tool to achieve his ends.

    Sociopaths have parasitic lifestyles. They move from place to place, for no reason, just to see what they are capable of in a new place. They’re unreliable and promiscuous.
    Sherlock is the exact opposite of this. He lives on Baker street, and only leaves when Mycroft has him on assignment, and always finishes his cases. He says he’ll be somewhere at a certain time, he’s there, and I’m don’t believe I even have to address his lack of promiscuity.

    Despite Sherlock claiming that he is a sociopath multiple times, his behavior indicates otherwise. He is utterly logical in most of his decisions, which sometimes means that his moral code seems off. However, it always correlates to a grand plan (which makes me think he’s more of a J – but that’s irrelevant) instead of correlating to a deep seated rage against humanity.

    1. Thanks for commenting with this information! I haven’t really researched sociopaths as much as I would like (I couldn’t tell you the main differences between a psychopath and a sociopath for example), so you raise some excellent points. Sherlock is nothing like a sociopath — he calls himself one, but as you point out, his behavior is inconsistent with his own self-diagnosis.

      Sherlock gravitates between INTJ and ISTP. The writers write him with Ti/Ni/Se/Te. His correcting grammar, intellectual boredom, the way he goes inside his mind to sort out facts and hairsplitting is very Ti; his purpose-driven approach, self-assurance in his conclusions, and interest in learning only useful information is very Te. He shares a lot of identifiable traits with both (extremely well dressed) but if he is an INTJ, he defies the stereotype of intuitives dismissing facts for theories; if he’s an ISTP, he defies the stereotype of auxiliary sensors being short-sighted. The way he zeroes in on a case is more of a tunnel-vision INTJ trait; the utter chaos in his flat suggests ISTP. Sherlock Holmes is a baffling, wonderful mystery that doesn’t completely fit into any single MBTI type.

      1. You’re welcome. (By the way, Psychopaths are higher risk takers and have more violent tendencies. Though sociopaths can be violent, they favor anonymity. A psychopath would risk everything for his game. It’s a very difficult line to determine however.) I’m really not certain what the writers are going for with the sociopath comments, except for it maybe being a security blanket. (But then again, I’d like to think that Sherlock would prefer a more accurate security blanket.)

        I agree with you in that this particular Sherlock has multiple MBTI types. I’d say it’s mostly due to the fact that he is a written character, and there are so many hands in his creation. Which is why when you see many variations of Sherlock Holmes, they always end up being different types. (RDJs for example, completely different.)

        In relation to his flat, because INTJs are so internal, I would say it’s more likely that it’s his own method of organization – INTJs internal thoughts and abstractions are highly individualized and specific – rather than him being messy. (As in, his organization comes from his intuition rather than his sensory perception.)

        When it comes to dismissing facts for theories, it depends which situation you refer to. There are episodes where he has a theory but will not share it until proven correct, and will dismiss facts that disprove it. (like in Hounds of Baskerville)

        Which are few of the reasons why I favor him being an INTJ. However, I could easily come up with examples that support him being another MBTI type. It all boils down to multiple personalities creating one – which leaves the one created slightly odd.

        1. Ah, okay. I’ll just remember that psychopaths are usually in the vein of Hannibal Lecter.

          I think the fact that the writers are misusing/misunderstanding the term sociopath validates my belief that they don’t do a lot of research and don’t fully understand their subject. Sherlock would get the term / definition right – the fact that he’s using it wrong is a flaw in the writing. (And I love the show, but factually and logically, it’s not always… um… sound.)

          The fact that different writers are contributing to him does make a difference. I also think Doyle made him so super-human (ie, using conflicting functions) that any representation of him is going to be a hybrid between types. He reads very much like an INTJ in the books but depending on the case, can also look like an INTP or an ISTP. Rathbone’s Holmes is very INTJ. So is the one from Elementary. Both of them are WAY more laid back and personable than Benedict’s. His is harder to peg, and the writers haven’t explored external facets of his personality so much as his relationships (like… does he actually HAVE a filing system? The original Holmes could point to a stack of newspapers and say, “It’ the fifth one down” – can this one do that?).
          What further confuses the issue is… there are brilliant ISTPs that you would swear are INTJs (they test INTJ, and can zone in on fixing something like an INTJ, and can even make Holmesian deductions – I knew an ISTP once that rationalized, observed, deduced, and figured out a fact about someone that no one else listening in on the conversation was even aware of – he pulled a conclusion seemingly out of nowhere that was absolutely correct).

          I’m not 100% sold on Sherlock’s personality type, although I think INTP (despite everyone’s arguments to the alternative) is less likely than INTJ or ISTP. He uses Se way too much to be an INTP and stays largely focused – something I have a hard time doing, even when I’m determined to finish something. I’ll watch one episode and think, “ISTP…” and then the next, “… INTJ.” It’s a sad little existence I live. 😀

          1. Yes. Hannibal.

            And yes (absolutely) about the writers, but then again, they’re human. I’m not so inclined to forgive them for the sociopath comment though, since it’s clear they pay specific attention to other details.

            And I agree with your second analysis. It’s a problematic issue. I think it’s the eternal issue with typing characters that weren’t specifically created to fit MBTI types – they end up overlapping.

            On a personal note, I did read him before I watched him, so I can understand why I favor one type over another.

          2. It is strange that they would make that big of a mistake — it’s possible they simply don’t know the difference between a psychopath and sociopath, so they picked one as a running joke.

            I grew up reading Sherlock Holmes stories, too. I came into this series having seen almost every Sherlock Holmes movie/television series ever made, having read the short stories and novels multiple times, and even a few of the “newer” Holmes novels. I remember thinking, “Why is this Sherlock such a jerk!?” when the show came on, but it was so clever in its utter fanboyness I am able to forgive its flaws.

          3. Somehow, I cannot find the reply button after your response.

            I think besides the original stories, RDJs and Sherlock may be my favorite adaptations. They are both quick and clever and fun, without taking themselves too seriously. (Which is one of the drawbacks of the Sherlock fandom, a bit of taking too seriously there. I digress.) I think Jude Law’s portrayal of Watson was inspired. And quite funny.

            As for sociopathy, I can’t account for their choice unless it is some sort of flippant joke, or they plan on doing something with that later. Or it could be simply that it began as a joke, and now it’s gotten out of hand. (But they should know what it means – even a quick read through of a scholarly article would define sociopathy differently.)

          4. (Sorry about that — my blog stops allowing the reply button on a thread after a certain number of posts, to prevent the posts from becoming unreadable — ie, one or two words to a line, since it’s shifted so far over to the right. You can always start a new thread if you like — I don’t mind.)

            Jude Law was a great Watson… but I don’t like the RDJ movies at all. For whatever reason, I really disliked their interpretation of Holmes. Many of my friends like it, though. 🙂

            I think the writers use it to vindicate his sometimes horrible behavior — they use it as an excuse for him to be a jerk, throw people out windows, and shoot people in the head. Oh, well, he’s just a sociopath, after all!

          5. Just saw this:

            “He’s not a sociopath, nor is he high-functioning. He’d really like to be a sociopath. But he’s so —– not. The wonderful drama of Sherlock Holmes is that he’s aspiring to this extraordinary standard. He is at root an absolutely ordinary man with a very, very big brain. He’s repressed his emotions, his passions, his desires, in order to make his brain work better — in itself, a very emotional decision, and it does suggest that he must be very emotional if he thinks emotions get in the way. I just think Sherlock Holmes must be bursting!”

            -Steven Moffat [ x ]

  10. Oh wow, I was having a conversation with my Mom about this just the other day!

    Basically, we discussed that a common vice, weakness, call it what you will, is that people assume that everyone is like them, or, worse, people FAVOR those who are like them. I suspect many of us also tend to think that if everyone, or at least MORE people were just like us, the world would clearly be happier, more efficient, and overall more pleasant place, right?

    The truth is–the world would not only be BORING, it wouldn’t even work. When I showed my Mom statistics for the various MBTI types, she said that the reason most people are SJs, is because these types bring stability. They not only “play by the rules” they MAKE the rules and enforce them as the case might be. If making rules were left up to the creative, spontaneous SPs, the mad scientist NTs or dreamy-eyed NFs…well it probably wouldn’t work out too well 😛

    Then you’ve got SPs, who are awesome, they often have artistic flair, or an eye for detail, they provide entertainment, they notice the “little” things, that others overlook. Their role in society might not be as “obvious” as that of the SJ “guardians”, but we couldn’t get along without them either!

    Ah…NTs. I think what NTs bring to society is objective analysis and innovation. They often have unusual insights, notice how things could be improved, and are the instigators of change.

    Now the NFs…uh…I’m not quite sure what we NFs do despite being one myself. But if we go with the “visionary”, “idealist” etc; label, then I suppose you could say NFs dream up wild ideas nobody else would, such as imagining how society could be a BETTER place.

    So you could say that the NTs and NFs think or dream up changes, the SPs embrace their ideas, and promote them via the arts, the SJs consider these ideas, weigh the pros and cons, and give them the OK (though sometimes only to certain aspects of these ideas, or to a less radical extent than the people behind the ideas might like). This is how societal change happens, and it can be seen both with cultural trends, and new technology. Or at least, that’s the conclusion my Mom and I came to the other night. 😉

    (Although the above is a rather simplistic outline, and some people are always exceptions to the rule, due to experiences or expectations. )

    Hmm…but if Moffat and Gatiss don’t understand how the Holmes’ brothers think–then how can they write them? Is it even possible to write a character so different from oneself? Are they drawing on some sort of mental melange of the books and their personal experiences with ISTJs and ISTPs? The fact that you mention other incarnations of Sherlock are INTJs, INTPs or ENTPs is interesting, suggesting certain key elements are present in every Sherlock Holmes.

    I don’t really get why a lot of Thinkers are accused of being “cruel” or “cold”. Perhaps from a somewhat childish perspective, in that you think those who do a bad job of offering comfort just don’t care. (Ironically I used to think this about my ISFJ Mom, I mean, my dinosaur action figure was broken, and I was GRIEVING!!!! *sob* How could she seem so unaffected in the face of my ANGUISH???) To me, to be truly cruel you’d have to be one of those people who enjoys intentionally inflicting pain on others, and those, sadly, are found in every type.

    1. Moffat may have experience with a thinker type of some kind. He’s either attracted to NT women or married to one – the vast majority of his female characters are either NTPs (Amy, Madame de Pompadour, Clara) or NTJs (Irene Adler, possibly River Song). He’s got a thing for bold, argumentative, dominating, sexy women.

      I have to wonder if they did look up MBTI profiles and model Mycroft after the ISTJ. The resemblance trait-wise between him and an ISTJ friend of mine is downright uncanny. CREEPILY so, in fact.

      They are modeling Sherlock after patterns of behavior in the original stories and in the various television adaptations (they use Basil Rathbone a lot, which I love, because he was always my favorite interpretation of the character). They’re also writing him as a high-functioning sociopath (ironic, considering Mycroft is colder) and Mycroft as his more grounded older brother. Since both of the writers are likely feelers in some form (Gatiss MUST use Fe – he’s too physically emotive / externally charming not to), they can’t really comprehend dealing with any situation through pure logic. They do a brilliant job of mimicking it, using the original stories as a guideline, but at the same time consider Sherlock to be… well, a freak of sorts.

      Thinkers CAN be cold. We don’t mean to be, but our first opinion is logic, and that doesn’t always go over well in emotionally charged situations. When the Boston bombing happened during the marathon run, my feeler friends were horrified and worried about all the people who got hurt / lost loved ones. I asked what happened, how it happened, then brutally assigned the blame. I was angry because it was ALLOWED to happen. (Fortunately, by now my family is used to these responses, so they weren’t horrified.)

      * Mycroft is the one, after all, who sends secret service thugs to Baker Street to rough up Mrs. Hudson and has zero compassion for anyone. I adore Mycroft but… daaamn.

  11. I agree Sherlock doesn’t seem to actually be a “high functioning sociopath” — more “emotion held back by logic” than an inability to feel emotion. I usually see Sherlock and Mycroft typed as INTP and INTJ (not sure if that’s only the classic stories, or if it’s supposed to take into account changes made in the Sherlock series), so it was interesting to read your analysis of them as ISTP and ISTJ

    1. The Mycroft of the books is an INTP — a brilliant man too lazy to do his own footwork. His brother admires his mind but disdains his laziness.

      The Mycroft of the series is ruled by practicality through past experiences, and constantly referencing former interactions and experiences when dealing with his little brother — that’s introverted sensing, which rules out NTJ, since you can’t use introverted intuition and introverted sensing. It leaves either STJ or NTP, but his purpose-driven approach to life and multiple attempts to control Sherlock are J-leaning (he expects Sherlock to act like him — that’s an introverted feeling indicator). STJ. He uses a LOT of Ne, but hates people and does everything in his power to avoid them, which rules out ESTJ.

      His little brother is often claimed by INTJs, but he uses Ti-Fe, not Te-Fi. He thinks outside the box and analyzes everything (introverted thinking), filtering it through his extroverted sensing (hyper-awareness of his environment, ability to notice the smallest possible details) and his introverted intuition (looking forward, then following the clues backward to discern motivations). BBC’s Sherlock is so ISTP it hurts — but in the books, he has a better-developed Fe, and does cross over into INTP territory at times. Ironically, ISTPs frequently mis-type as INTJs because their Ni is so well developed.

      Much as I would LOVE to claim this Sherlock as an INTP, he isn’t. He’s much, much too aware of minor details. The INTP tunes out much of the time and is easily distracted. Details aren’t our strong point.

      BUT…
      RDJ’s Sherlock is an ENTP.
      Elementary’s Sherlock is an INTJ.

  12. Thank you. My feeler (F-dominant) friends are always getting angry with me for my detached manner in dealing with their problems. Just last night my ENFJ friend was going on an emotional rampage over a situation, and she proceeded to reject every one of my solutions, leaving us both frustrated. You’re right: people tend to believe that others think (or should think) exactly as they do. But God, in His wisdom, put varying personalities so that some could function effectively in an crisis without getting emotionally bogged down and others who can freely feel every shade of human emotion.

    Ok, mini-rant over. I’m just tired of being accused as cold and heartless.

    1. You’re not cold and heartless. You care in a purpose-driven way. You’re going to be the calm problem-solver when the world around you implodes. That’s why, as you said, God put some of us in this world — to ground others.

      I find it very difficult to simply listen and allow someone to rant without wanting to problem solve. My logic thinks that if they’re talking to me about this, they want it fixed! Often they just want sympathy, but sympathy won’t FIX IT!! It WILL make someone feel better but it doesn’t get rid of the problem. Often, I have to step back and let them rant, nodding and biting my tongue, until we reach a point where they can be rational again and THEN we can discuss ways to solve it.

      You’re not alone. =)

    2. On behalf of Fe users, I apologize for our overly-emotional reactions to certain things. We can actually tone it down if we try, and we’re usually a lot happier if we try to find logical solutions to problems, at least I am. But I know how tiring we can be when Fe is our primary or secondary function. You’re solution-driven and sometimes dominant Fe users just aren’t. But we can be if we try! I’m sure you’re not cold and heartless, you just don’t want to hear the same problem on repeat when your friend isn’t willing to try solutions. 🙂

      1. And our reaction to an emotional meltdown is:

        I don’t know what to do. Should I make her brownies? Should I pat her knee? Should I crank up my 747 and go bomb the person’s house that hurt her feelings?

        We struggle with knowing how to relate, and not really knowing what the other person needs from us. That’s why we prefer directness — if someone can say, “I just need you to listen to me, without trying to fix it,” then we can do that, because we have our “assignment.”

        It can be hard when Fe needs emotional support, and Ti is more about taking action in some form — literally, either solving the problem, talking you rationally through it (sadly… especially with YOUNG Ti-dominants, this is usually to point out how irrational your behavior is, which isn’t helpful), or doing something to cheer you up. (Oh, my friend is upset. I know! She likes chocolate! She likes movies, and she didn’t buy that new one she wanted! I’ll send her a care box with chocolate and a card and a DVD in it!) <- how I do things.

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