ESFP (Extraversion, Sensing, Feeling, Perception) is an abbreviation used in the publications of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to refer to one of the sixteen personality types. The MBTI assessment was developed from the work of prominent psychiatrist Carl G. Jung in his book Psychological Types. Jung proposed a psychological typology based on the theories of cognitive functions that he developed through his clinical observations.
From Jung's work, others developed psychological typologies. Jungian personality assessments include the MBTI instrument, developed by Isabel Briggs Myers and Katharine Cook Briggs, and the Keirsey Temperament Sorter (KTS), developed by David Keirsey. Keirsey referred to ESFPs as Performers, one of the four types belonging to the temperament he called the Artisan. ESFPs account for about 4–10% of the population.
By using their preference in each of these areas, people develop what Jung and Myers called psychological type. This underlying personality pattern results from the dynamic interaction of their four preferences, in conjunction with environmental influences and their own individual tendencies. People are likely to develop behaviors, skills, and attitudes based on their particular type. Each personality type has its own potential strengths as well as areas that offer opportunities for growth.
The MBTI tool consists of multiple choice questions that sort respondents on the basis of the four "dichotomies" (pairs of psychological opposites). Sixteen different outcomes are possible, each identified by its own four-letter code, referred to by initial letters. (N is used for iNtuition, since I is used for Introversion). The MBTI is approximately 75% accurate according to its own manual.
ESFPs live in the moment, experiencing life to the fullest. They enjoy people, as well as material comforts. Rarely allowing conventions to interfere with their lives, they find creative ways to meet human needs. ESFPs are excellent team players, focused on completing the task at hand with maximum fun and minimum discord. Active types, they find pleasure in new experiences.
ESFPs take a hands-on approach in most things. Because they learn more by doing than by studying or reading, they tend to rush into things, learning by interacting with their environment. They usually dislike theory and written explanations. Traditional schools can be difficult for ESFPs, although they tend to do well when the subject of study interests them, or when they see the relevance of a subject and are allowed to interact with people.
Observant, practical, realistic, and specific, ESFPs make decisions according to their own personal standards. They use their Feeling judgment internally to identify and empathize with others. Naturally attentive to the world around them, ESFPs are keen observers of human behavior. They quickly sense what is happening with other people and immediately respond to their individual needs. They are especially good at mobilizing people to deal with crises. Generous, optimistic, and persuasive, they are good at interpersonal interactions. They often play the role of peacemaker due to their warm, sympathetic, and tactful nature.
ESFPs love being around people and having new experiences. Living in the here-and-now, they often do not think about long term effects or the consequences of their actions. While very practical, they generally despise routines, instead desiring to 'go with the flow.' They are, in fact, very play minded. Because ESFPs learn better through hands-on experience, classroom learning may be troublesome for many of them, especially those with a very underdeveloped intuitive side.
Others usually see ESFPs as resourceful and supportive, as well as gregarious, playful, and spontaneous. ESFPs get a lot of satisfaction out of life and are fun to be around. Their exuberance and enthusiasm draw others to them. They are flexible, adaptable, congenial, and easygoing. They seldom plan ahead, trusting their ability to respond in the moment and deal effectively with whatever presents itself. They dislike structure and routine and will generally find ways to bend the rules.
Sometimes life circumstances do not support ESFPs in the development and expression of the Feeling and Sensing preferences. If they have not developed their Feeling preference, ESFPs may get caught up in the interactions of the moment, with no mechanism for weighing, evaluating, or anchoring themselves. If they have not developed their Sensing preference, they may focus on the sensory data available in the moment. Their decisions may then be limited to gratification of sensual desires, particularly those involving interactions with other people.
If ESFPs do not find a place where they can use their gifts and be appreciated for their contributions, they usually feel frustrated and may become distracted or overly impulsive. They may have trouble accepting and meeting deadlines. They may also become hypersensitive, internalizing others’ actions and decisions.
It is natural for ESFPs to give less attention to their non-preferred Intuitive and Thinking parts. If they neglect these too much, they may fail to look at long-term consequences, acting on immediate needs of themselves and others. They may also avoid complex or ambiguous situations and people, putting enjoyment ahead of obligations.
Under great stress, ESFPs may feel overwhelmed internally by negative possibilities. They then put energy into developing simplistic global explanations for their negativity.
Drawing upon Jungian theory, Isabel Myers proposed that for each personality type, the cognitive functions (sensing, intuition, thinking, and feeling) form a hierarchy. This hierarchy represents the person's so-called default pattern of behavior.
The Dominant function is the personality type's preferred role, the one they feel most comfortable with. The secondary Auxiliary function serves to support and expand on the Dominant function. If the Dominant is an information gathering function (sensing or intuition), the Auxiliary is a decision making function (thinking or feeling), and vice versa. The Tertiary function is less developed than the Dominant and Auxiliary, but it matures over time, rounding out the person's abilities. The Inferior function is the personality type's Achilles' heel. This is the function they are least comfortable with. Like the Tertiary, the Inferior function strengthens with maturity.
Jung and Myers considered the attitude of the Auxiliary, Tertiary, and Inferior functions to be the opposite of the Dominant. In this interpretation, if the Dominant function is extraverted, then the other three are introverted, and vice versa. However, many modern practitioners hold that the attitude of the Tertiary function is the same as the Dominant. Using the more modern interpretation, the cognitive functions of the ESFP are as follows:
Se focuses on the experiences and sensations of the immediate, physical world. With an acute awareness of the present surroundings, it brings relevant facts and details to the forefront and may lead to spontaneous action.
Fi filters information based on interpretations of worth, forming judgments according to criteria that are often intangible. Fi constantly balances an internal set of values such as harmony and authenticity. Attuned to subtle distinctions, Fi innately senses what is true and what is false in a situation.
Te organizes and schedules ideas and the environment to ensure the efficient, productive pursuit of objectives. Te seeks logical explanations for actions, events, and conclusions, looking for faulty reasoning and lapses in sequence.
Attracted to symbolic actions or devices, Ni synthesizes seeming paradoxes to create the previously unimagined. These realizations come with a certainty that demands action to fulfill a new vision of the future, solutions that may include complex systems or universal truths.
Later personality researchers (notably Linda V. Berens) added four additional functions to the descending hierarchy, the so-called "shadow" functions to which the individual is not naturally inclined but which can emerge when the person is under stress. For ESFP, these shadow functions are (in order):
Each person is unique; there is no "right" or "wrong" type. The purpose of learning about personality type is to understand oneself better and enhance relationships with others. Results on the MBTI suggest the probable type based on the choices made when answering the questions; however, only the individual can determine his or her true type preference. Moreover, type does not explain everything. Human personality is much more complex.