Fight the Power? Distrust of Authority Figures by Personality Type

Most people would say that authority, in some capacity, is necessary – but authority can be problematic. Conflict with authority figures is sometimes unavoidable: as children, we may balk at cleaning our room when our parents tell us to, and as adults, we may question a request made by our boss at work or challenge the integrity of our elected officials. The way we feel about authority, and the way in which we respond to such conflicts, is ultimately a matter of trust.

We asked our readers whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “You distrust authority figures.” On average, half of our readers agreed, but the results revealed wide disparities among personality types.

The most striking difference was in the Energy aspect, with Intuitive types being 20% more likely than Observant types to say that they do not trust authority figures (58% versus 38% agreeing, respectively). But there was a statistically significant gap between every personality trait pairing, with the Introverted, Thinking, Prospecting, and Turbulent traits also leaning toward greater distrust of authority.

Which personality types have the most trouble trusting authority figures? Let’s find out.

Roles

Analysts (69% agreeing)

The Thinking trait was the number-one predictor of agreement in this study, with 61% of Thinking personality types saying that they distrust authority. Since all Analysts share the Thinking trait, they topped the Roles.

Independent and strong-willed, Analyst personality types are more likely to be convinced by sound, logical arguments than by a prestigious title and generally have no qualms about questioning existing systems. On top of that, their Intuitive trait makes them aware of the fact that one can never truly predict how people will use their power, and prone to imagining suspicious scenarios. They’ll likely view those who use emotional appeals to cement their authority as especially untrustworthy. While Analysts’ resistance to authority can be useful in fighting abuses of authority, it can also get these personalities in trouble in cases where it’s not really warranted, especially in the workplace or at school.

Logicians (INTP) agreed more than any other personality type that they have a hard time trusting authority figures (76%). Because they are so deeply focused on innovation and creativity, Logicians question everything, and they tend to be averse to any sort of rule or authority figure that could hold them back. They have a reputation for emotional insensitivity that, combined with their desire for autonomy, can sometimes cause these personalities to misunderstand authority figures who could actually help, rather than hinder, them.

Diplomats (52%)

Next, we have Diplomat personality types, who were more divided in their response than Analysts, with whom they share the Intuitive trait. Diplomats are idealists moved by injustice and abuses of authority. Each time they hear about someone using their authority for personal gain or to harm others, it may damage their trust in authority figures as a whole.

Even so, their Feeling personality trait often helps them overcome distrust or resentment. Because they’re able to approach others with empathy, they’re more willing to give authority figures the benefit of the doubt, in the interest of working toward cooperation and harmony, which can’t be achieved without some degree of trust.

Explorers (46%)

Explorers were also quite divided, with a slight bias toward trusting authority figures. As Observant personality types, Explorers are generally more down-to-earth and practical than both Analysts and Diplomats, and they may trust authority figures as a matter of expedience. But Explorers’ nonconformist, Prospecting side can make this trust shaky. Some Explorer personalities may also have found themselves on the wrong side of authority figures from time to time – thanks to their propensity for risk-taking – and these experiences might make them slightly less likely to trust authority figures in general.

Sentinels (34%)

Unsurprisingly, Sentinels were the least likely of all the Roles to distrust authority figures. In fact, a sizable majority (66%) of Sentinel personality types do trust authority figures.

As Observant, Judging types, Sentinels feel most comfortable in situations with defined hierarchies and enforced rules, and trusting authority is part and parcel of this philosophy. The fact that many Sentinel personalities are likely to be authority figures is also worth consideration. Trusting in themselves and in like-minded colleagues or leaders, it stands to reason, in a Sentinel’s mind, that the vast majority of authority figures are trustworthy.

Consuls (ESFJ) were the least likely personality type to distrust authority figures, with only 24% agreeing. Consuls believe in the necessity of social order and respect the authority figures who make it work. Even if they feel skeptical about a particular superior or leader, they’re usually not ones to rock the boat with disobedience or protests, since they’re so conflict-averse.

Strategies

Constant Improvement and Confident Individualism (57% and 53% agreeing)

A slight majority of both Constant Improvers and Confident Individualists said that they do not trust authority figures. Why? Well, both Strategies are Introverted, which could imply that their greater amount of distrust stems from their self-reliant tendencies. The two Strategies differ in one aspect, though, and that’s their Identity.

Constant Improvers are Turbulent personality types who often respond to conflict with stress and emotion, two things that can fuel even greater feelings of distrust rather than help resolve them. They may also be less likely to trust authority figures because of how intensely aware they are that nobody’s perfect, including our most powerful leaders.

Assertive Confident Individualists – who strongly prefer to make their own way in life – may simply resent the unwanted intrusion authority figures represent, as well as their power to dictate how certain things must be done. But as Assertive personality types, they’re more confident than Constant Improvers that things will work out, especially because they know they can depend on themselves.

Social Engagement (48%)

Social Engagers were not far behind in their responses, but they represent a shift to minority agreement. As Extraverts, Social Engagers are more comfortable interacting with people and working within societal structures, which include authority figures. On the other hand, as Turbulent personality types, Social Engagers tend to be less self-assured, which may result in suspicion of others, and particularly the motivations of those in power.

People Mastery (40%)

Of all the Strategies, People Masters were the least likely to distrust authority figures. Since they’re natural leaders, many People Masters may themselves hold positions of authority, making them more likely to trust and respect authority figures in general. Their Assertive personality trait gives them inherent confidence – both in expressing their own opinions and in distancing themselves from the opinions of others. When they find themselves in conflict with authority figures, People Masters are capable of building stronger relationships and improving trust over time.

Conclusions

Our study revealed that personality types who devote time and energy to exploring creative ideas, finding logical solutions, and seeking better opportunities – notably Intuitive, Thinking, and Prospecting types – tend to be more distrustful of authority. In a way, this is natural, since these activities generally start with questioning existing systems and require a willingness to challenge authority when necessary.

On the other hand, personality types who prefer to stay grounded in reality and tradition and who are more open to building relationships with people, like Observant, Feeling, and Extraverted types, are more likely to trust authority figures.

How we handle distrust of authority is key. While some degree of skepticism and activism is a good thing, deep distrust that evolves into constant defiance, paranoia, or isolation can be unhealthy and unproductive.

What about you? Do you trust authority figures? Let’s talk about it in the comments section!

You can see the full set of data, including correlation coefficients, in the Academy. Please also consider participating in our Member Surveys!

5 months ago
As an Assertive Logician (INTP-A), I have literally no trust for any authority in my life. Usually, they interfere with my affinity– in addition to many other Logicians'– for innovative thinking. My French class in particular, is lethargic and geared towards those with extreme S or J traits, and those with a like mind set– my close comrade is an Assertive Architect (INTJ-A), suffer greatly when attempting to move forward without the rigid, restrictive guidelines and hovering supervision of authority.
Lae
6 months ago
I am not surprised that INFJs and INFPs challenge authority. I myself am an INFx, and I challenge the authority (especially at home) all the time, because their rules are often full of holes and incredibly unfair towards different people.
Ashton
6 months ago
I'm an INTP-A and absolutely distrust authority figures. I believe highly in voluntarism, non-aggression, and anarchist principles. I exist to challenge the authority and leadership of leaders, commanders included. ;)
6 months ago
I was surprised that Commanders didn't top the charts for mistrusting authority figures, as they seem only to be truly comfortable when THEY'RE the ones in charge. As for myself, I have a highly ambivalent attitude toward authority. On the one hand, I constantly question the way things are done and the reasons behind them because I'm terrified of being controlled or led blindly into supporting a cause or a status quo that I don't agree with. On the other hand, I'm terrified of making all the descisions myself and especially of being responsible for the consequences, because deep down I believe I'm incompetent and that I need a strong authority to keep me in check and grounded in reality. My mind is a very complicated place...
6 months ago
I was also surprised with Advocates challenging authority. As an INFJ, I am almost unquestioningly co-operative towards members of authority (and unfriendly towards my own colleagues), and I even step up to take responsibility for others when such a structure is absent.
6 months ago
I have a few INFJ friends, and one of my exes was most likely INFJ. What they all have in common is a set of strong principles. Most are passionate about social justice, and very distrustful of authority figures who do not share common goals with them. This could be a reason why a slim majority of INFJs who responded answered that they distrust authority figures.
6 months ago
I'm an INFJ as well, and actually, I do challenge authority a lot. This is because I feel sometimes, power doesn't fall into the right hands; as an Advocate, I strongly believe in what I care about, and authority can make that uneasy for me a lot of the time. Yes, authority does bring structure in our lives; but I'm just saying that when I am forced to do something I'm uneasy about, I can challenge peoples' authority a lot.
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