Character Temperaments: Rationals

This is the last of four articles about character writing based on David Keirsey’s personality theories. Keirsey was an educational psychologist who invented the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, a personality questionnaire that divides people into four groups with four sub-types in each group. It has much in common with the Myers-Brigs Type Indicator and uses the MBTI letters to designate each of the sixteen sub-types, though there are significant differences in underlying theory and type descriptions.

David Keirsey's Rationals.
Famous Rationals taken from Keirsey’s list. Fictional examples pulled from a variety of sources, including my own opinions.

There is much in Keirsey’s temperament theory that can be useful for writers. For example, Rationals are even rarer than Idealists and only make up about 5 to 10 percent of the population. If you’re working with a large cast of characters, something will seem off if most of your characters are Rational-types. Here’s an article that talks about Keirsey types in literature, if you need more convincing.


According to the Rational profile on David Keirsey’s website, this personality type shares the following core characteristics:

  • Rationals tend to be pragmatic, skeptical, self-contained, and focused on problem-solving and systems analysis.
  • Rationals pride themselves on being ingenious, independent, and strong willed.
  • Rationals make reasonable mates, individualizing parents, and strategic leaders.
  • Rationals are even-tempered, they trust logic, yearn for achievement, seek knowledge, prize technology, and dream of understanding how the world works.

Keirsey calls Rationals “the problem solving temperament, particularly if the problem has to do with the many complex systems that make up the world around us.” Rationals tend towards an interest in abstract ideas, though they also like their ideas to have practical, real-world applications. Efficiency, logic, and independence are more important to them than worrying about how other people might view their methods. Here’s a link to Keirsey’s guide to ideal careers for Rationals.

Fieldmarshal (ENTJ)

The Fieldmarshal type excels in organization, particularly organization that involves coming up with strategies, policies, and goals. They are a very driven type, and they may disregard the feelings of other people in order to implement their goals in the most efficient way.

Keirsey says this is the rational type that gravitates towards leadership the most — “they cannot NOT lead.” Likely careers include general, business executive, medical administrator, politician, judge, and other positions where they have a chance to reach goals and rise to higher ranks. They would be a formidable villain in any genre.

Mastermind (INTJ)

Masterminds are rare, and appear even more rare by their tendency to work in the background. Planning is one of their strengths, and they usually have multiple plans to fall back on in case one doesn’t work out. They can lead if necessary, but will retreat into the background once someone else is capable of taking over. They are strong willed, and only adopt new ideas if those ideas make sense on an individual level.

In work, Masterminds like “tough intellectual puzzles.” They might be research scientists, engineers, medical researchers, lawyers, or teaching at a university level. Some may become artists. A character of this type will bring a high level of intensity to the pursuit of their goals. I’ve written Derien in Queen of Ariland as this type.

Inventor (ENTP)

Keirsey writes, “Inventors begin building gadgets and mechanisms as young children, and never really stop, though as adults they will turn their inventiveness to many kinds of organizations, social as well as mechanical.” They would far rather come up with a new, innovated approach to something than be conventional. They can be accomplished conversationalists, and are probably the most outgoing Rationals.

They may be found in politics, heading a company, managing marketing and public relations, workings as a sports agent, or a brilliant inventor. Think of Tony Stark/Ironman from the Marvel universe (as portrayed by Robert Downey Jr).

Architect (INTP)

Here, the term Architect should be understood to mean “master designers of all kinds of theoretical systems.” They want to analyze, understand, and explain the world around them. They cannot stand nonsense, and are superb at winning arguments. Facts are of interest only in so far as they are useful.

Shy and reserved, Architects like to find roles that allow them to work alone or be their own boss. Possible careers include analyst, surgeon, scientist, mathematician, or consulting detective (sorry, couldn’t resist. This type always makes me think of Sherlock).


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