Not So Rare: Feeler Men and Thinker Women

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on October 05, 2015

Women are kind and empathetic, but also cry too much and think with their hearts, rather than their heads. Meanwhile, men are rational creatures who inherently know how to lead and do math.

Psych! You were worried for a second, weren’t you? Don’t worry—not trying to perpetuate gender stereotypes here. Quite the opposite, actually.

Statistics on personality types report that 75.5% of women are Feelers and 56.5% of men are Thinkers. So, right off the bat we see that a substantial number of men—about 43%—have Feeling preferences. Already we see that men are not all the strong silent types who cry only at funerals and the Grand Canyon .

But what about the ladies? According to these estimates, only 25% of women are Thinkers. However, there are a couple of big problems with the assumption that all women are Feelers and therefore overly emotional, irrational beings whose brains periodically go haywire.

The first problem is that having a Feeling preference does not mean that you do not think deeply and frequently. For an example of how this works, let’s look to Clemens Lode, who explains it like this:

“A Thinker’s actions depend on the situation. Given the facts, the Thinker asks, ‘What is the next logical step?’ A Feeler’s actions depend on the people and morality involved: a Feeler will ask, ‘Given the people, what is the next logical step?’”

The Thinker and Feeler's approach might differ in this case, but both people handle the situation as they do for a particular reason.

A second problem with the Feeler-woman stereotype—and the statistic that seemingly supports it—is that it becomes more complicated once you start thinking in terms of nature vs. nurture. A majority of women test as feelers, but are a majority of women born as feelers?

By the time a woman takes a personality test, she has already endured years of cultural indoctrination concerning how a woman ought to think, feel, and act. In many regards, women are still expected to uphold the feminine goals of half a century ago—stay pretty, have babies, keep a tidy home, and cook a good nutritious meal every night. Only now, in addition to those old standards, most women plan on working and having careers. But even in the workplace, displaying a Thinking preference can be problematic. Women who take charge or offer criticism may be perceived as bossy. (Or, more likely, another word that also starts with a b and ends with a y.)

So by the time a woman reaches adulthood, she has been sent some conflicting messages by society, the media, and even her peers. In light of this onslaught of expectations, isn’t it possible that a woman might test as a Feeler more because of cultural expectations, rather than her innate preferences? Might she be responding to the assumption that women are more motherly and nurturing and therefore exhibit more Feeler tendencies?

Of course, the same nature vs. nurture issue applies to the Thinker-man stereotype. Boys learn at a young age that being emotional or sensitive can earn them a lot of unpleasant nicknames—“sissy” at the gentle end of the spectrum and homophobic slurs at the other.

Even stereotypes that seem to be backed up by statistics are more complicated than they might seem at first glance. One of the downfalls of personality testing is that it offers another way in which to cram people into boxes—but only when one fails to think critically.

A great older article here on Truity, entitled “Some Women are From Mars, and Some Men are From Venus,” touches on the same issue of traditional perceptions of masculinity and femininity, but it looks at the Agreeableness dimension of personality as well and discusses the role of emotional intelligence in personality. (Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is to emotions what IQ is to traditional intelligence.) In this article, Jacki Christopher emphasizes the importance of knowing oneself and not relying on cultural stereotypes. Similarly, when taking a personality type inventory, you should think about each question as it applies to you as you are, rather than you as you would like to be or you as society suggests that you should be.

The title of Jacki’s article alludes to the famous book by John Gray entitled, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. This book, published in 1992, was a bestseller, but it also followed the stereotype of focusing on talkative, emotive women and solitary, practical men. It focused on how Martians/men and Venusians/women could learn to communicate with each other, since they literally come from different planets. And thus the Feeler-woman and Thinker-man roles lived on.

All of this is not to say that there is anything wrong with being a Feeler-woman or a Thinker-man. Being a Feeler does not mean that you’re a rollercoaster of emotions who might flip a table at any moment. Nor does being a Thinker mean that you are an infallible robot designed to make heartless decisions. Regardless of gender, your personality and preferences are completely valid; neither Thinking nor Feeling is right or wrong, good or bad. And of course, people who prefer a Thinking style still have feelings, and Feelers can be extremely intelligent. We’re all humans, which means we all have the capacity to be astonishingly brilliant or appallingly stupid—sometimes even both in the same day.

Rachel Suppok

Rachel holds a B.S. in Neuroscience and usually a cup of coffee. She is an INTJ, but she is not a super-villain. Yet.

Folow Rachel on Twitter @rsuppok .

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About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.


Pamela (not verified) says...

Morning Rachel, I enjoyed reading your article. As a T woman, I've always bristled and even struggled with the stereotypical portrayal of genders and the ubiquitous self-help ideas on how to relate to men based upon those stereotypes.

One sentence near the end of your article did trouble me a bit: "And of course, people who prefer a Thinking style still have feelings, and Feelers can be extremely intelligent."

The assumption here, which is a bit different than the way this dichotomy is portrayed in the rest of your article, is that feeler equates to feelings and thinker equates to intelligence. Most personality assessments, including MBTI, pretty clearly state that they are not measures of intelligence. While I'm not sure of their claims on indicating social intelligence, I don't really believe they would want to be identified as measuring that either.

Early you're clear that Feelers begin from a value of people and Thinkers begin from a value of facts (or analysis). Clearly, your point is that regardless of our preference for F or T, we all use both. It just seems that the sentence in question would be better stated something like: "And of course, people who prefer a Thinking style still value people and can make consideration for them in their decision making, and people who prefer a Feeling style still value facts/analysis and can make can make consideration for them in their decision making.

It's probably a fine-line point I make, but as one T woman to another, I'm "thinking" you're going to enjoy the "analysis" and hopefully the dialogue. That being said, and to your latter point, I care about you (smile) and am excited to see that you're young and studying and writing about this stuff for future generations. Keep up the great work and the sharing!


Rachel Suppok says...

Hi Pamela! You are certainly correct--I do enjoy the analysis and the dialogue! I do recognize that, as you say, "Most personality assessments, including MBTI, pretty clearly state that they are not measures of intelligence," and I never meant to imply that they do. I was actually trying to say that a preference for F/T has nothing to do with intelligence (social or otherwise). I see why the wording there was not the best, and I like the way you reworded it better. I think I probably oversimplified the issue in that sentence, and I see how it could definitely be read to mean the opposite of what I meant to say!

Ayo (not verified) says...

For me, I think the basic difference in how feelers and thinkers operate is how they process things, getting from point A to point B. They use different tools; feelers use people facts and thinkers use hard/situation facts. Intelligence I think is based on how effectively they use the facts to get from point A to point B. And they might get different results but I'm guessing for equally intelligent feelers and thinkers, the effectiveness of the solution will be the same even if different. Variations may come in when a situation is more people oriented or more fact oriented and so a more feeler or thinker solution may be more appropriate.

Jason Kluge (not verified) says...

My personal experience says thinkers are much better than feelers when it comes to logical reasoning! I guess this is because practice makes perfect! Feelers can "think", just not as good as thinkers. Anyway, psychology is only a pseudoscience or soft science it's difficult to say anything with certainty.

Joy Love (not verified) says...

Hi Jason. I feel like you may have meant that thinkers think "different" than feelers. It's not better or worst just different. I am a thinker and I think that feelers are much more thoughtful in their process because they are putting others feelings into their decision making. I have had to train myself to add that to my logical thinking. Many times I find the feelers thinking process elicits a much better result.

Roy Ness (not verified) says...

I was always under the impression that part of the difference between Thinking and Feeling was how an individual expresses themselves and interacts with others. For example, a Feeler might be more comfortable expressing themselves emotionally, and are more likely to give their friends emotional support in a situation. Thinkers, on the other hand, have a more difficult time displaying their feelings to other people. They would be inclined to offer advice to a struggling friend. This may be what you said, but I just wanted to clarify. (I type as a Thinker, but am very boardrline Feeler.)




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