Fictional MBTI — Neal Caffrey (ESTP)

Season 4 of White Collar is now on DVD, which means it’s on Netflix, which means I’m finally catching up on episodes. White Collar is probably my favorite crime drama (the only other candidates are NCIS: LA and Castle, and I haven’t liked them as well lately), and I’m fascinated by the characters.

When I first read David Keirsey’s Please Understand Me II chapter on Artisans, I was thinking of Neal Caffrey from White Collar even before Keirsey mentioned that most con-men were extroverted SP types (though of course most SP types [about 30-35% of the population] are not con-men). A hunch like that isn’t enough to type a fictional character, but it’s a good place to start.

Why SP?

Like Loki, typing Neal is complicated by his criminal behavior and possible psychopathy. I have not seen his Myers-Briggs type discussed often, and most of the ones I have seen type him an ENTJ or an ENFP. Since my decision to place him as a sensor instead of intuitive is apparently unpopular, I’d like to address why. While he does go with his “gut feeling” sometimes and rely on intuition, he does not display classic NF qualities like valuing personal authenticity, a focus on lasting emotional connections, and preoccupation with personal journeys. I could almost see him as an NT, but his problem solving abilities seem more focused on real-world results (a Sensing attribute) than on the abstract ideas behind the problems (an Intuitive trait).

The core characteristics Keirsey uses to describe Artisans are these (quoted from his website):

  • Artisans tend to be fun-loving, optimistic, realistic, and focused on the here and now.
  • Artisans pride themselves on being unconventional, bold, and spontaneous.
  • Artisans make playful mates, creative parents, and troubleshooting leaders.
  • Artisans are excitable, trust their impulses, want to make a splash, seek stimulation, prize freedom, and dream of mastering action skills.

Extroverted Sensing

Fictional MBTI: Neal Caffrey -- marissabaker.wordpress.comNow that I’ve narrowed Neal down to one of four types (ESFP, ISFP, ESTP, or ISTP), I want to switch from Keirsey’s approach to cognitive functions (which is too elaborate a subject to go into here. If you want background info, see this article).  I’ve settled on ESTP for Neal, which gives him this function stack:

  • Dominant: Extraverted Sensing (Se)
  • Auxiliary: Introverted Thinking (Ti)
  • Tertiary: Extraverted Feeling (Fe)
  • Inferior: Introverted Intuition (Ni)

Note: For the remainder of this post, I rely heavily on Keirsey’s Portrait of The Promoter, and Dr. A.J. Drenth’s ESTP Personality Profile.

Extroverted Sensing types (ESxPs) are life-of-the-party people. They enjoy presenting themselves well (for example, Neal’s expensive taste in clothing), and are generally seen as charming (that Neal fits this description goes without saying if you’ve watched the show). Se types are easily bored by routine, and actively seek out new sensory experiences (such as fine dining, romance, and [in Neal’s case] running a con). They like to take action, accomplish tasks, and experience the world. Keirsey describes them as a risk-taking type.

Introverted Thinking

Fictional MBTI: Neal Caffrey -- marissabaker.wordpress.comI’ve settled on Introverted Thinking instead of Feeling for Neal’s auxiliary function because of his gift for planning and how serious he becomes when he has to stop and think instead of just being free to act. It is one reason he is such a successful criminal, and why he is so valuable to the FBI. Dr. Drenth phrases it this way:

The fluid nature of their Ti, combined with the keen observational powers of their Se, contributes to ESTPs’ acumen as practical problem solvers. ESTPs can analyze a situation, diagnose the problem, and then determine how to fix it.

You can see examples of Neal’s thinking function in most episodes, as he responds to problems that arise by thinking and planning. Primarily, he approaches problem-solving from a perspective of getting things done efficiently (as opposed to worrying about how each option will affect people involved).

Relationships

Farther down the function stack, and less conciously available, is Extroverted Feeling. The typical ESTP does not like to share their judgments or true feelings. Keirsey says, “While they live in the moment and lend excitement – and unpredictability – to all their relationships, they rarely let anyone get really close to them.” Even when Neal does open up to people and form bonds with them (like his friendship with Peter), he is still able to run off to a tropical island and smoothly settle into a new life (though it only lasted for one episode in the fourth season).

So, what do you think? Does Neal fit the profile of an ESTP? Is there another type you think fits him better (maybe you have an argument for him as an iNtuitive)?

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20 thoughts on “Fictional MBTI — Neal Caffrey (ESTP)

  1. He just “knows” certain things. I’d say ENFP because he’s a romantic at heart that can only come from feelers. He puts up a smiley front to protect how vulnerable his feelings can be.

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    • You’re not alone — like I said, I’ve seen several people type him as an ENFP. I don’t think his romanticism is enough to push him into the Feeler category, though. Thinking types use feeling too, though it’s lower on their function stack. An ESTP would have Extroverted Feeling as their tertiary function, which would make it a less developed and more “vulnerable” side of his personality.

      I think Patrick Jane from The Mentalist is a better example of an ENFP. His character seems similar to Neal’s on the surface, but he has the constant idea generation, drive to understand the world (Extroverted Intuition), tendency to hide his feelings (Introverted Feeling), and intense focus that characterize ENFP types.

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      • You said Neil tends to “go with his “gut feeling” sometimes and rely on intuition” I mostly agree with ESTP, except for the fact that ESTPs don’t trust their intuition (or others who do) and rely solely on their trust in real world sensing.

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        • I think part of this has to do with the fact that he’s a fictional character and the writers can give him characteristics that aren’t typical of a single type. Sometimes I feel like he’s a blend of ESTP and ENTP. That said, overall I see much stronger evidence of him being a dominant sensor than an intuitive. He is typically skeptical of Peter’s gut and has a low tolerance for purely theoretical discussion. Which type do you think he is, if not ESTP?

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          • I have not. Just off the top of my head, I’d type Peter Burke as an SJ type, perhaps ISTJ? Elizabeth reminds me of the ESFJs I know. Mozzie I’m leaning toward INTP or INTJ.

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    • Hum, guess I didn’t. Re-reading it, I just realized I didn’t really talk about any of the other characters. Can’t remember why not. If I were writing this now, three years later and having seen the whole series, I think I’d have written the analysis differently and mentioned more characters. Still type him as an ESTP, though.

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  2. I am not really great at typing people, but I think Neal is more of an ESFP or an ENFP. Why ? Because not only is he a romantic but he also expresses his feelings rather often (how many times does he seem about to cry in this series ?) and he also acts very much because of his emotions (running out of jail to see Kate out of love even if his sentence is almost over). But you may be right as I don’t think I am as good as typing as you. But it is just me who sees Neal as someone who reacts a lot because of his emotions.

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    • Thanks for your comment! Neal definitely has a visible feeling side and I’ve seen many people type him as an ExFP type, so you’re not alone 🙂 It all depends on how you interpret what we see of his personality. My guess is that Feeling is lower on Neal’s function stack and therefore a less developed and more “vulnerable” side of his personality. I’m interpreting his Feeling traits as an ESTP’s tertiary Extroverted Feeling, but you could be right that he’s a type using secondary Introverted Feeling.

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      • Hey ! Thanks a lot for your answer 🙂 I could spend days talking about Neal lol 😀 I’ve got to say I evaluated Neal as an ENFP after watching the fifth and the sixth Seasons (that aired on television in my country last month) and since I just bought the DVD sets for Christmas the first Season in which I think Neal might be as his most vulnerable as he is looking for Kate and he is just a bit lost and confused after getting out of jail. To me, Neal is very attentive to what others think of him and what their feelings are (especially those who he cares about like Peter ahah) but also those that only sees him as a con which hurts him and he tends to get emotionnal at some points so I thought of him as a Feeler but I have to say you have pretty solid good points 😉 It is true that on some occasions, he does seem more detached and casual and sarcastic more like an ENTP and I’ve got to say I found a lot of people diagnosing Neal as an ENTP on the internet too (but not sure if diagnosing is the right word for MBTI) It is clear that Neal is an ENxP but I guess for the show, his actions shifted from times to times. Anyway, I re-read my first post and I hope I did not seemed too pushy (English is not my first language so…). Have a nice day anyway ! 😀

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        • I didn’t think you seemed pushy at all 🙂 Character typing is very subjective and I usually expect some readers to disagree with me, especially when we’re talking about a character as interesting and complex as Neal. I’m just happy when the comments that disagree are as kind and thoughtful as your’s 🙂

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          • Aw thank you that is really nice 🙂 Yes, I love how Neal is a complex character, it really changes from the characters there are often in TV series 😉 Guess I kinda have a crush on him now LOL ❤

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  3. I would certainly agree with your assessment of Neal. I can see why many would think he’s intuitive because there’s a tendency to see intuitives as “masterminds”. Nonetheless many people interested in mbti are in fact intuitive thems creating an unspoken bias among typing every fictional character as N. You provided a great analysis as to why SP’s are indeed masters of the physical world.

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    • Thanks Roger! Being a strong intuitive myself, I really try to guard against bias creeping in. With about 70% of the human population being sensors, it’d be ridiculous to think all fictional characters are intuitive

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