Extroverted (energized by social interaction and the outer world)
iNtuitive (innovative and theorizing)
Thinking (bases decisions on logic)
Perceiving (adaptable and spontaneous)
Dominant Function: Extroverted iNtuition (Ne)
The dominant function is one’s “default setting,” the function one feels most comfortable using. Ne is concerned with exploring possibilities, developing multiple ideas and trying as many as possible, innovating, being creative, initiating concepts for projects, looking for new options, picking up on hidden meanings and interpreting them, brainstorming and strategizing from here-and-now.
Psmith’s Ne is evident from the very first in his decision to defy convention by changing the spelling of his name. His “never confuse the unusual with the impossible” tenet is characteristic of Ne, which never does things the expected way. An excellent outside-the-box thinker, he develops creative ways to deal with problems (e.g. the shoe incident, in which he has to do some rapid-fire strategizing to keep ahead of Mr. Downing). While in a dilemma, he creates new options, such as “confessing” to painting the dog in order to get Mike out of trouble. Generating ideas is more natural to him than actually carrying them out (something he leaves to Mike). He also has a taste for new experiences and “getting into atmospheres that were not his own.” Familiarity bores him, and he enjoys socializing with people who live in a different world from his. Where Mike tends to only see the obvious (someone is challenging their occupancy of the study), Psmith has a gift for reading between the lines of a situation and understanding how best to deal with it (how to manipulate events to get an authority figure to give them the study).
Auxiliary Function: Introverted Thinking (Ti)
The auxiliary function assists and balances the dominant function and is used when one helps or mentors someone. Ti is concerned with developing personal understanding of information, less concerned with whether something works and more concerned with how something works, analyzing, aiming for precision, examining for inconsistency, categorizing, figuring out how and why something functions, checking for adherence to a model/principle.
This is the function that Psmith uses when putting together a strategy. Notice he is less vocal about this than about the flow of his ideas—this is an Introverted function. It is Ti that keeps his ideas structured and consistent. Though with his ideas and speech he tends to ramble without structure, his strategies (the shoe incident again) are well thought through, providing for potential problems (dealing with invaders in the dormitory, the strategy to drive Mr. Bickersdyke crazy, etc.). We are told that “Anything in the nature of a rash and hasty move was wholly foreign to Psmith’s tactics. He had the patience which is the chief quality of the successful general. He was content to secure his base before making any offensive movement.” Ti gives him the ability to foresee possible ways that a system could break down and to provide for them (sticking an innocent shoe in the chimney as a decoy, for instance), as well as to see inconsistencies in arguments, such as his criticisms of Mr. Bickersdyke’s political policies.
Tertiary Function: Extroverted Feeling (Fe)
The tertiary function is the area where one seeks guidance and accepts help, where one is either childish or childlike and vulnerable. It can also be a source of relief, a means of unwinding, or how one expresses creativity. Fe is concerned with focusing on group values/emotions, being influenced by the emotional atmosphere, basing decisions on societal norms/others’ feelings, seeking connection and harmony with others, “people pleasing,” anticipating others’ needs/wants and seeking what is best for them, using tact.
Psmith uses his Fe to read other people and understand what makes them tick. However, since it’s a tertiary function and therefore an area of weakness, he usually uses it to manipulate people rather than out of genuine empathy. Fe tact may tone down his Ti when dealing with people, but his professed desire to maintain good relations with everyone may or may not actually be sincere. To some extent, he does have a need to connect with someone. He is good at “making friends” on a superficial level but is more vulnerable with close relationships. Note that he only has one close friend for most of the series, and when he does sincerely use Fe self-sacrifice to help Mike out, he’s not comfortable discussing it and prefers to keep it secret. Also, in Leave It to Psmith, at a time when he’s under more stress than usual, he seems more worried than usual about what others think of him—whether the Jacksons’ maid disapproves of his respelling his name, whether or not Eve will return his love, etc.
Inferior Function: Introverted Sensing (Si)
The inferior function is the area one is at one’s weakest in and least comfortable using, something one might aspire to but not be able to use well. It can emerge in times of great stress as a negative version of itself. Si is concerned with recalling past experiences, maintaining traditions, storing detailed information, linking and comparing what one knows to situations in the present, following established customs and procedures, valuing stability and the tried-and-true.
Adhering to any kind of structure, details, routine, or rules is an area of difficulty for Psmith, to whom it is more natural to innovate. He has trouble fitting into the system of school and the bank, which are highly regulated, controlled environments ideal for those who use dominant Si. However, some areas in which he manifests his Si is his “immaculate” dress, a detail-conscious interest, as well as his particularity about living conditions, how to properly make tea, etc. When inferior Si comes out under stress, it appears as withdrawal and depression, obsession with details, and intense focus on the body. While I cannot recall anywhere in the books where we see Psmith actually withdraw, the obsession with details when under stress is certainly there. The challenge of solving a newspaper puzzle appeals to him, but he easily becomes frustrated with the detail-oriented working of figuring it out. The boredom of working in the bank drives him to complain incessantly about his coworker’s lack of fashion sense. Although Psmith never really reaches the extent of worry about his health that some ENTPs in the grip of inferior Si do, his comments about his “exquisitely balanced” nerves and the famous “I get thinner and thinner” line hint at it.