While most of us can agree that there are many aspects of life that we don’t understand, we are bound to come up with differing ideas when trying to explain the unexplainable. If you have ever seen the TV show The X-Files (and if you haven’t, seriously, watch it!) you will recognize the characters Dana Scully and Fox Mulder, the two FBI agents who are the protagonists of the show. As partners in the FBI, Scully and Mulder could not be more different in how they attempt to explain unnatural or “paranormal” events.
Scully could be best described as an Assertive Logistician (ISTJ-A), while Mulder would be a Turbulent Mediator (INFP-T). They are not complete opposites personality-wise, but they’re pretty dang close. As a medical doctor and scientist, Scully prides herself on her skeptical nature. Objectivity and facts are of the utmost importance to her. Anything that cannot be described using the scientific method is not “quantifiable” in nature and is, therefore, invalid.
Mulder, on the other hand, is far more open to obscure, abstract, and downright “spooky” interpretations of the events that they investigate. He always “wants to believe” in potential paranormal explanations, due to his childhood experiences in which his sister was (supposedly) abducted by aliens. For Mulder, the crazier and more unlikely the theory, the better.
Not all Logisticians are as skeptical as Scully, and not every Mediator wants to believe in the paranormal as much as Mulder. To determine which personality types are most likely to believe in paranormal phenomena, we asked our readers to agree or disagree with the following statements: (1) “You believe that people can communicate telepathically under certain circumstances”; (2) “You think that there are life-forms on Earth that evade detection”; and (3) “You believe that some people can change the course of events through magic or spells.”
Clearly, these statements touch on very different topics, but they all address paranormal events. Each one represents some ability (telepathy, magic, spells) or concept (unidentified life-forms) that goes beyond what has been scientifically proven.
The data revealed several personality traits that are clearly related to an openness to paranormal situations. Most notably, Intuitive types were always more likely (and usually significantly more likely) than Observant types to agree with these three research statements. The same was also true of Prospecting and Turbulent types.
So grab a bag of Mulder’s favorite sunflower seeds and settle in while we discuss these results, and their potential implications, in greater detail below (pencil-throwing optional).
Diplomats and Analysts (70%, 71%, 27% and 56%, 71%, 22% agreeing on telepathy, undetected life-forms, and magic/spells, respectively)
“Highly unlikely, but not outside the realm of extreme possibility?” – Fox Mulder
Unsurprisingly, Diplomats and Analysts were the most likely Roles to agree with our three metaphysical questions. The Intuitive trait – the only one shared by all Diplomat and Analyst personality types – played the most significant role in responses for each question. Intuitive types were 18% more likely than Observant types to believe that people can communicate telepathically under certain circumstances, 21% more likely to believe that there are life-forms on Earth that evade detection, and 13% more likely to believe that some people can change the course of events through magic or spells.
Unlike the rational thinking that Observant types rely on, Intuitive personalities are much more open to the realm of possibility. They don’t always make decisions because they are the “reasonable” thing to do. Rather, Intuitive types tend to go with their gut when making decisions. This is not necessarily right or wrong – it’s just a very different (and, to Observant types, unorthodox) method of determining an answer. An Intuitive trait, however, is not all that it takes to make one a believer.
Prospecting personality types were also more prone than their counterparts with the Judging trait to agree with the paranormal questions we posed. They were 7% more likely to believe that people can communicate telepathically, 10% more likely to think that there are life-forms on Earth that evade detection, and 8% more likely to believe that some people can change the course of events through magic or spells. Why is this? Prospecting types are much more open to change and more comfortable with uncertainty than Judging types. A Loch Ness Monster sighting might be frighteningly fascinating to Prospecting types, but Judging types might actually question their own sanity.
Feeling types were also more apt to be open to the paranormal than Thinking types, with 12% more Feeling types believing in the possibility of telepathic communication and 2% more believing in magic or spells. The only exception was that slightly more Thinking types (63%) than Feeling types (61%) agreed about the existence of unidentified life-forms on Earth.
One possible reason for the variation in responses between Feeling and Thinking personality types may be as simple as how the questions were worded. Thinking types agreed at higher rates when the question was posed as, “You think that there are life-forms on Earth that evade detection.” They were less likely to agree when the stronger word “believe” was used (“You believe that people can communicate telepathically under certain circumstances,” and “You believe that some people can change the course of events through magic or spells”). For Feeling types, beliefs, emotions, and feelings are all valid tools for making decisions, especially when the matter at hand does not have a rational explanation. As Mulder would say, “When convention and science offer us no answers, might we not finally turn to the fantastic as a plausibility?”
How does this play out for the specific personality types within the Diplomat and Analyst Roles? Mediators (INFP) were the most apt to agree with the paranormal questions we posed. They were second only when asked about telepathy (70% agreeing), closely following behind Campaigners (ENFP) (74%). For Diplomats, Prospecting types were always significantly more likely than Judging types to agree. Needless to say, labeling Mulder as a Mediator personality type would be an accurate representation of his character.
Analysts presented a slightly more complicated view of the paranormal, according to our data. Analyst personalities with the Prospecting trait – Logicians (INTP) and Debaters (ENTP) – for example, were only more likely than Judging types to agree when asked about life-forms on Earth that evade detection. Commanders (ENTJ) were at least as likely to agree, if not more so, when asked about telepathy and magic. Architects (INTJ), however, maintained their skepticism and were the least likely Analysts to agree with any of the questions posed.
While Commanders may not seem like the most likely Analysts to believe in telepathy or magic, it does make sense to a certain degree. Commanders are very imaginative and creative types, often seeing possibilities and ideas in places where no one else would. If telepathy or magic were a possibility, Commanders would be one of the first personality types to jump on board and figure out how to utilize those capabilities. Loath to be left behind when it comes to any new and potentially groundbreaking resources, they would prefer to keep an open mind to them.
Explorers (48%, 54%, and 15%)
“A UFO party?” – Fox Mulder
Explorers are a much more skeptical group, and quite possibly uninterested in the paranormal in general. While these personalities are creative and ingenious, they dislike discussing theoretical or abstract concepts. They may engage in a spontaneous discussion about paranormal topics, but they are unlikely to spend a significant amount of time pondering them.
Explorers possess the Observant trait, which prioritizes the here-and-now over new or future possibilities. While they may not spend time thinking about or discussing metaphysical concepts, these types would likely be first in line to participate in a ghost hunt or paranormal investigation, for entertainment if nothing else. Even if they aren’t convinced about the likelihood of telepathy, undetected life-forms, or magic, Explorers are generally open-minded and prefer anything that goes against the grain.
Due to their Feeling trait, Entertainers (ESFP) were the most likely Explorers to believe that telepathy is possible in some situations (54%) and that people can change the course of events with magic or spells (15%). Interestingly, they were the least likely Explorers to believe in undetected life-forms on Earth (49%), while a majority of Entrepreneurs (ESTP) (59%) found that idea more plausible than telepathy and magic.
This could, again, be a result of the wording of the questions, as Feeling personality types are more likely to “believe” in things, while Thinking types may be more comfortable expressing agreement with something they “think” might be true. It may also have to do with Entrepreneurs’ tendency toward the rational, compared to Entertainers’ greater interest in the unique. Either way, Explorers remain less convinced in the existence of the paranormal than Diplomats and Analysts, but they are at least open to the possibility.
Sentinels (47%, 48%, and 11%)
“Nothing happens in contradiction to nature, only in contradiction to what we know of it.” – Dana Scully
People with Sentinel personality types are skeptical of anything that doesn’t follow the known rules of the universe. They desire logic, order, and rules because this type of structure provides them with the security and stability they need to truly feel comfortable. The prospect of telepathy, magic, cryptozoology, and aliens does not make sense or offer comfort to them. Instead, it causes them to question their most deeply held beliefs, as Scully often does when facing the unexplainable.
Whereas Intuitive and Prospecting types welcome the novelty and possibilities of new experiences, the Observing and Judging Sentinels are more likely to do everything within their power to disprove anything peculiar and unknown. They go by the book and have no desire to add new chapters, unless it is absolutely necessary.
That said, Sentinels are quite possibly the most loyal personality types, and as long as they respect their more idealistic and imaginative family members, friends, or coworkers, they will support them unwaveringly. Logisticians (ISTJ), like Scully, were the least likely to believe in telepathy (36%) and magic (9%), but they were more open to the possibility of undetected life-forms on Earth (49%). Assertive Logisticians (ISTJ-A) were especially unconvinced, being the least likely Sentinels to believe in telepathy (33%) and magic (6%).
Social Engagement and Constant Improvement (65%, 62%, 23% and 58%, 65%, 22% agreeing on telepathy, undetected life-forms, and magic/spells, respectively)
In general, there was little variation in results between the different Strategies. Turbulent personality types were more likely to agree with all three questions than Assertive types, making those in the Social Engagement Strategy (Extraverted, Turbulent types) and Constant Improvement Strategy (Introverted, Turbulent types) the most apt to believe in paranormal possibilities.
Turbulent Mediators (INFP-T) were the most likely to believe in the possibility of telepathic communication (71%), undetected life-forms (76%), and magic or spells (33%). Clearly, the majority of individuals polled did not believe in magic, and this includes Turbulent Mediators. However, nearly one-third did agree, which is still a significant number when compared to Assertive Logisticians who, as previously mentioned, agreed at only 6%.
People Mastery and Confident Individualism (56%, 59%, 16% and 49%, 60%, 14%)
With an Assertive Identity comes skepticism, and members of both the People Mastery Strategy (Extraverted, Assertive types) and the Confident Individualism Strategy (Introverted, Assertive types) were the least likely to agree with our paranormal questions.
Again, we saw that the Scullys – a.k.a., Assertive Logisticians – agreed at among the lowest rates, tying with Assertive Virtuosos (ISTP-A) (33%) as least likely to believe in telepathy, falling second only to Assertive Consuls (ESFJ-A) (48% versus 49%) as least likely to acknowledge undetected life-forms, and being least likely of all personality types to believe in the power of magic (6%).
“The truth is out there.” – X-Files
The world needs people like Mulder and the Lone Gunmen, people who believe in the unknown and recognize that all new discoveries were unknown at some point. Diplomats and Analysts excel at imagining and theorizing, linking together ideas that others would not think to connect. Their ideas are incredibly valuable, but these personality types may get so caught up in fantasies that they become out of touch with reality.
That’s where Explorers and Sentinels come in. The world needs the skeptical Scullys and Skinners to pull those idealistic types out of the clouds. They can provide logic and rationale when the Mulders of the world get too involved in the thrill of the chase and neglect their own personal well-being.
Explorer personalities can bring the Diplomats and Analysts back to earth, but they can also help by jumping in and investigating those wild theories with them. Sentinels can provide the support, stability, and loyalty with which Scully saw Mulder through thick and thin (not to mention the much-needed reality check from time to time).
So, are you a Mulder, a Scully, or someone who is completely uninterested in unexplained phenomena? Why? Leave us a comment below!