I first discovered Law & Order when I was still living with my parents. One afternoon, they started watching. Tried to interest me in it. Didn’t work. Then, I caved one afternoon, got hooked… and that was all, she wrote. I watched back to back episodes on TNT and new episodes on NBC for years. I started watching SVU once in awhile, and got hooked on Criminal Intent, too.
The introduction of Zach Nichols (Jeff Goldblum) in the eighth season of the latter series was an interesting choice; I recognized him from Jurassic Park, but didn’t really care either way. I simply liked him as a detective; he was a great alternative to Bobby Goren, the intense, hyperactive detective more than willing to play “bad cop” … because Nichols was the quiet, introspective, analytical “good cop.” Put them in the same episode, there were fireworks set off by two distinctly different personalities, each with differing strengths … but most of the time, Nichols went head to head with villains of every stripe alongside one of his two female partners.
Naturally, at the time I knew nothing about personality typing … but now, I understand why I always did like Nichols: he’s the latest in a long line of ISTP characters that have won me over with their intelligence, flashes of insight, and laid-back approach to life. From sci-fi to crime drama, and including the book character of Sherlock Holmes, ISTPs showcase one of the more driven personalities … and none is a better example of healthy functional interaction than Nichols.
Personality typing is a theory based on how each individual processes information; through introverted (subjective) functions and external (objective) realities. Different combinations and orders of functions determine the 16 personality types. ISTPs are extremely common in action films but also turn up in crime dramas as detectives; they’re the ones who are very sensory-aware (watchful of environment, quick to respond) but go off of “hunches” and “gut instinct.”
Foremost in the personality of the ISTP is their dominant function, introverted thinking (Ti)… a highly logical, detached process of filtering information according to its rationality. Nothing gets past it, and it will hang up a conversation if a total logical acceptance of the subject at hand is not accomplished. It thinks… and thinks… and thinks… constantly, because it sees the world and all the people in it as a system to be analyzed and figured out. Nichols showcases this often, either by challenging established logical belief systems or by asking questions that no one else is thinking about. She also does not tell anyone what he is thinking until it is fully formed into a working hypothesis, with which he can then use evidence to prove his logical conclusions valid. He’s a man of few but carefully chosen words, as all ISTPs are.
Next up is his extroverted sensing, which is the ability to remember information without personal bias or needing an emotional attachment to it; it’s objective recall of environments, individuals, and situations based merely on the facts. This enables him to approach crime scenes and assess them without personal biases interfering in his conclusions; he is highly observant of his environment, and notices things that others do not … from bed bugs on the floor to micro-expressions on the faces of the accused. He is interested in engaging with his environment (even if that means buying something from every vendor on the street), and is not afraid to get his hands dirty or take big risks … including approaching bombs, going into hostage situations open-handed, or push criminals to the breaking point. Extroverted sensing makes ISTPs reactive, opportunistic, and observant… risk-takers.
More importantly, however, Nichols also has introverted intuition, which is where his gut instincts come from. Often, he knows more about what is truly going on in a situation than is readily apparent; he works out how something is going to unfold in his head, and then orchestrates others to make it transpire as he envisioned it. He connects random threads of information to form a bigger picture, which gives him motive and guilty party. Introverted intuition is a process, in ISTPs, of narrowing down the options, in focusing on a single truth and/or vision for the future, and in sensing more about people and situations than is superficially apparent in conversation and appearances. It’s pure instinct… knowing how to handle a situation and turn it to an advantage. It’s intuitive awareness of something, which is why ISTPs are so good at mechanical things; flashes of insight make them good mechanics, hackers, or problem-solvers.
Finally, his least-used function but the one that gives him his mild mannerisms and sense of humor, is extroverted feeling. It is the desire to be socially appropriate, the ability to read other people’s emotional reactions, and a desire to be liked as an individual. Like an introverts who use it, Nichols is not very forthcoming with his emotions and disinterested in sharing his feelings too easily, but has a warm and amiable nature. Because his extroverted feeling is so far down in how his brain processes information, he is not easily insulted and rarely becomes emotionally engaged. He’s able to stay calm in intense situations and also is willing to “cave” to a consensus of opinion even if he doesn’t agree, for a greater cause.
His unusual approach makes him something of a mystery to his coworkers, most of whom are TJ personalities. His reasoning is beyond them, abstract and based on hunches and invisible insights, but he’s rarely wrong and always entertaining to watch.