Personality Type and Intense Emotional Reactions (Part One)

When it comes to emotional reactions, we can all go a bit overboard sometimes. It can be easy to get overly excited or unreasonably upset every now and then, especially when something that we truly care about is at stake. But are some personality types more prone to intense emotional reactions than others?

For this 16Personalities study, we asked our community to reflect on their emotional reactions not just on a personal level, but also in terms of the perceptions of other people. We asked our readers to affirm or deny the following statement: “Some people around you would say your emotional reactions can be intense.” Overall, a modest majority agreed (59%).

Note that our statement doesn’t specify whether the emotional reactions in question are negative (screaming, cursing, sobbing) or positive (laughing, hugging, celebrating). Our focus in this study is on the intensity rather than the flavor of the emotion. Here’s how the responses broke down by personality type:

Since this study deals with emotions, we might have expected the Feeling trait to play a big role. But you might be surprised by the results. Which personality types are the most likely to think that others view their emotional reactions as intense? Let’s analyze the data in detail below.


Diplomats (68% agreeing)

Diplomats were the most likely personalities to agree that other people sometimes describe their emotional reactions as intense, but the Feeling trait was not the main reason why this Role topped the results. In fact, the difference between the Feeling trait and Thinking trait was negligible (61% versus 59% agreeing, respectively).

One way to think of the Feeling trait is that it serves as a constant filter through which those who have it make decisions and create worldviews. So although emotions are always at the surface for Feeling types like Diplomats, that certainly doesn’t mean that they’re going to have strong or unreasonably emotional reactions to every situation they encounter.

The Intuitive trait played a much bigger role in this survey: Intuitive types were 16% more likely than Observant types to agree with our statement (67% versus 51%). What accounts for this difference? Personalities with the Intuitive trait are a little bolder in expressing ideas and less invested in steadiness. Communicating deep, unconventional notions can sometimes involve a strongly emotional tinge, especially if those ideas may be misunderstood by others.

Diplomats in particular can become emotionally intense when they feel that someone rejects (or maybe accepts) the ideals and principles that they hold as fundamental. On top of that, Intuitive personalities are more likely to spend time imagining how others are responding to their emotional displays after the fact.

Analysts (64%)

Although we often think of Analysts as coldly rational, these Thinking types can be just as emotional as Feeling types – they just prefer to keep their emotions inside. The organic process of expressing and resolving emotional issues is less appealing to Thinking personalities. Rather than go deeper into their feelings, they may try to clear their heads of emotion and figure things out logically. 

Because Analysts are not as in touch with their emotions as Feeling types, when they finally do express their feelings, they can be more explosive. To test this, one only needs to cross a temperamental Analyst’s sometimes-perfectionistic view of things at the wrong time. As with Diplomats, these Intuitive personalities can be idealistic and unorthodox (and easily misunderstood), and they will protect their ideas fiercely when they find it necessary to do so. Complicating this further, Analysts may not have the sensitivity that it takes to curb their emotional reactions when the feelings of others are at stake.

Turbulent Debaters (ENTP-T) were the individual personality type that agreed with our statement the most (83%). Debaters like to engage others in intellectual arguments and show their mental prowess that way. With the tempestuous Turbulent trait as part of the package, this can take the form of an intense “take-no-prisoners” tactic. Provoking reactions from others is often exactly what Debaters are trying to do, but sometimes they inadvertently work up their own emotions and take things too far.

Explorers (54%)

Explorers’ lower rate of agreement is due mainly to their Observant trait, which makes them grounded and realistic in their perceptions. They may rein in their reactions more than Diplomats and Analysts do for practical reasons. For instance, Explorers are often considered invaluable in emergency situations because of their ability to remain calm and levelheaded while acting quickly to resolve a crisis.

That said, Explorers are also very spontaneous, due to their Prospecting personality trait, which can make them somewhat more emotionally unpredictable than Sentinels, their fellow Observant types. Overall, Prospecting individuals were 7% more likely than Judging individuals to concur with our statement (64% versus 57%). Prospecting types are not as locked into stability and order as their Judging counterparts. This is probably the difference between impulse and structure. By keeping themselves open to possibilities, freewheeling Explorers also open themselves up to emotional surprises and potentially intense reactions.

Sentinels (50%)

Sentinels are Observant stabilizers who like to keep things running smoothly. Their efficient practicality may moderate any impulse to react intensely. After all, can anything upset a day more than when someone has an emotional blowout in the office or at the breakfast table? Even intensely positive displays of emotion can disrupt a day.

Thanks to their Judging trait, Sentinels prefer predictability and may experience fewer surprises than other personality types because they’ve already thought out how they would react in any number of possible scenarios. That’s not to say that Sentinels are overly calculated or unfeeling, just that they may be more measured with their emotions, especially when they’re around other people.

The individual personality type with the lowest agreement was the Assertive Defender (ISFJ-A) (28%). Defenders, aside from valuing order and efficiency, tend to be deeply considerate of and concerned for the well-being of others. They don’t like to take the spotlight with their own feelings. Assertive Defenders are particularly confident in their abilities as protectors and would naturally try to keep an even temper.


Social Engagement (78% agreeing)

Our study confirmed that reacting intensely is an inherent tendency of the Turbulent personality trait. Individuals with the Turbulent trait were 31% more likely than those with the Assertive trait to affirm our statement (73% versus 42%). Whereas the Feeling trait is a constant emotional filter, the Turbulent trait is a reactionary trait that responds to the world in an immediate and often fleeting way. Turbulent personalities can expect many emotional ups and downs, and intense emotional reactions are not uncommon.

Extraverts in our survey were slightly more likely than Introverts to think that others see them as sometimes being emotionally intense (62% versus 58%, respectively). This makes sense not just because Extraverts are more likely to seek social contact in the first place, but also because they’re more open to feedback from the outside world. They’re probably aware of how others respond to their positive or negative emotional extremes and may even value the opportunity to learn about themselves and to improve their relationships with others. 

This is especially true of Extraverted, Turbulent Social Engager personalities, who were the most likely to agree with our statement. Social Engagers place very high value on their personal relationships and are always thinking about their social status. They may expend a lot of energy worrying about whether other people perceive them as overly emotional, and that added stress only contributes to reactions that can already be somewhat intense.

Constant Improvement (69%)

Constant Improvers are also Turbulent personalities, and while they’re not as concerned with social status as Social Engagers are, they still care a great deal about what others think of them. That self-consciousness, combined with a tendency toward emotional volatility, makes them likely to agree that other people would say that their emotional reactions can be intense.

As Introverts, though, Constant Improvers agreed at a lower rate than Social Engagers. It’s easy to imagine Introverts holding their emotions back in order to avoid the exhausting exchanges that might result when one “flies off the handle.” Even intensely positive emotions take some social managing and can deplete the energy of an Introvert.

People Mastery (47%)

Personality types with Assertive Identities, like People Masters, tend to approach the world with a confidence that overrides much of the insecurity and stress that typically fuels extreme emotionality. And they usually aren’t too bothered by what other people think of them.

Extraverted People Masters aren’t shy about expressing their opinions – and sometimes, their emotions. But because they are connected to their communities and value personal relationships, People Masters may be more conscientious about keeping their emotions in check. After all, they can’t be effective leaders if others can’t trust them to be sensible, and if that’s how people regard them, these personalities will be aware of it.

Confident Individualism (34%)

As Assertive Introverts, Confident Individualists’ behavior is likely to be more even-keeled, both when they’re alone and when they’re with others. Even if other people would describe their reactions as intense, Confident Individualists are the least likely personalities to realize it or to care.

Of course, Confident Individualists are not immune to feeling strong emotions. They just prefer to keep those feelings to themselves. These Introverted personalities have little tolerance for drama and would probably go to great lengths to avoid dealing with the fallout from an emotional outburst, which would inevitably require even more social interactions to resolve.


It’s worth noting that we probably all have at least a few people in our lives who might say that our emotional reactions can sometimes be intense – whether because those people (perhaps unintentionally) can be somewhat negative or judgmental, or because they genuinely care about us and want us to be happy. But this study confirms that personality types who are naturally more intuitive, bold, spontaneous, social, and self-conscious are more likely to have strong emotional reactions in the first place and to believe that others view them as emotionally intense. 

We’ve considered how other people may perceive our emotional reactions, but how do we view our own moments of emotional intensity? Which personality types get upset with themselves and which take it in stride? Stay tuned – that’s the topic of our next article.

What about you? Would other people call your emotional reactions intense? How does that fit with your personality type? Let us know in the comments below.