MR Week: Functions in Motion


Have you ever met someone that you felt both in and out of step with, at the same time? Like you were so similar in many ways, yet very different at the same time? You might find an unusual kind of synchronization with such a person, once the initial surprise at your differences wore off. You might even become friends.

The relationship of Dr. Bell and Mr. Doyle in Murder Rooms illustrates how radically different the cognitive functions of personality type theory can behave when in a different order. Bell and Doyle are both “Alpha” types, in that they use Introverted Thinking (Ti), Extroverted Feeling (Fe), Introverted Sensing (Si) and Extroverted Intuition (Ne), but the way these functions are aligned makes them very different individuals.

Dr. Bell is an INTP. He is concerned with logical soundness and screening ideas through their logic (Ti), before he takes in externally-based information and concepts based on unseen patterns and suspicions in his environment (Ne). He compares this information to his own personal experiences and his detail-driven intimate knowledge of the people and circumstances involved in the case (Si), while his Fe makes him affable, good-natured, concerned for the welfare of his patients, and on occasion, prone to emotional responses and outbursts. Bell defies the stereotype of an INTP as lazy, ineffective, easily distracted, and messy, because he personifies what they can be when using all their functions: intelligent, insightful into human nature, proactive in striving for a closed case, and warmly affirming.

His logic-first, emotions second approach contrasts nicely with Doyle, an ISFJ, whose functions are slightly inverted. Doyle approaches any subject aware of his environment and searching for personal meaning from it, while comparing the present to his own past experiences (Si). His Fe makes him warmly outwardly emoting, inclined to react emotionally to volatile situations, and a very affable, reassuring face for his patients. His use of logic is not as coldly analytical as Bell’s, due to it showing up after his Fe, but it also enables him to think through situations and come up with new questions, in his attempt for greater understanding of those involved. Lastly, his Ne is not as strong as Bell’s in picking up unseen connections and patterns, but it makes him suspicious of strange behavior and things that do not match with what he has seen (Si).

Together, they represent what a healthy ISFJ-INTP friendship looks like, in terms of strengthening one another’s functions, picking up on things the other one misses, and finding a comfortable compatibility with one another that is rarely overly demonstratively affectionate, but always caring. Where Bell is passionate, Doyle is often less so; and the reverse is also true. Bell is more cautious than Doyle; but Doyle often has greater insight into human motivations. On occasion, they trade ideas with one another and help build toward a reveal of the murderer… it is a dual partnership in crime-solving, unlike, say, Monsieur Poirot, who figures out all the details of a case in advance and then shares them, to the mutual astonishment of the murderers, innocent bystanders, and sidekick alike.

In this regard, Bell and Doyle differ from their literary counterparts of Watson and Holmes. David Pirie has chosen to make them equals, if not in their respective fields than as friends; they share unique perspectives as much as they share information, and frequently solve crimes together. There is no gleeful Holmes saying, “Elementary,” and explaining it all to a confounded Watson; there is only Doyle and Bell reflecting on how unfortunate it is that evil exists in the world, but at least, thanks to their friendship and hard work, this villain will not go on to harm another living soul.

Often, ISFJs and INTPs are stereotyped in entertainment, but here they are presented as realistic; as two largely compatible types that see the world and the horrors in it quite differently, but still manage without much fuss to become close friends.

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