Stephen Colbert (Analysis)

Stephen Colbert recently got the attention of typology enthusiasts by completing the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) on a segment of his talk show. Even though both instruments are based on the theoretical groundwork laid by Carl Gustave Jung, Cognitive Type (CT) not only differs in the means of measurement, but also in the very structure and definition of cognitive processes. Thus, any direct comparison, however tempting, might ultimately come forth as improper and unnecessarily restrictive. In fact, it should probably be best to ignore as much as possible any preliminary assessment before proceeding to the observation of the cues.

Starting from a clean slate, one should identify some key features of Stephan’s Colbert presentation, whether in or out of persona. For example, one may come across the peculiar rhythm of his speech. From the beginning of the sentence, it keeps gaining velocity until reaching a steady, unbroken flow. Meanwhile, the upper lip stays consistently tense, which can give rise to asymmetrical mouth expressions, more easily identifiable through a frame by frame approach.

asymetrical mouth synthesis

Figure 1 : Tension in the levator labii superioris muscles and the zygomatici minor induces a stiff upper lip

When smiling, the tension builds up and rise upward, toward the center of the face, sometimes to the point of letting slip an uncontrollable giggle.

asmile synthesis

Figure 2 : Stephen Colbert’s “snarling”, somewhat “strained” smile

These signals are strongly suggestive of a judgement oscillation between Proactive/Extraverted logic, also abbreviated Te, and Reactive/Introverted Ethic, abbreviated Fi.

Another characteristic aspect of Stephen Colbert’s facial appearance is the overall “softness” of his gaze. As a result of a near focus, it alternates between a dull fixation, oftentimes accompanied by a more or less pronounced scowl with slanting outer edges, which may evokes “confusion”, and bright, “naive” eyes, which manifest in moments of presumable excitation.

ascowlbright synthesis jpeg

Figure 3 : Stephen Colbert’s concentrated scowl opposite to his “naive eyes”

These signals in turn denote a perception oscillation between Reactive/Introverted Concretion, also abbreviated Si, and Proactive/Extraverted Abstraction, abbreviated Ne.

One can thus consider Stephen Colbert’s type as belonging to what is often referred as the “Delta” quadrant. To further specify its affiliation, one may have to estimate the prevalence of the aforementioned functions in the individual’s mannerism.

First off, from the residual rigidity which inhabits the posture and the profusion of exacting gestures, one may determine that the primarily oscillation of the type is most probably defined by judgement. It appears notably when the whole upper body, from the waist to the top of the head, is going back and forth or pivoting, like a single block.


Figure 4 : Rigidity is concentrated toward the back and shoulders, dispensing an almost “mechanical” quality to the movement

From there, a more differentiated outlook should emphasize the antecedence of one of two complementary processes, Te or Fi. If one accounts for a majority of the material observed in this occasion, one can allege that the profusion of speech is outpacing the considerate pausing, and that the nasal, monotone pitch is stifling the affect. The smile itself, while genuine, is not radiating warmth. Gesticulations are large and assertive, sometimes overpowering the interlocutor. Most notably, there is a consistant simultaneity between the snippy, clear-cut motion and the elocution.

amannerism synthesis

Figure 5 : Pointing is one of the most emphatic tool in Stephen Colbert’s arguing stance

Even when the performance is at its most buoyant, the flood is orderly channeled.


Figure 6 : Parodic energy is dissipated in a regular manner

Altogether, this indicates that Stephen Colbert’s type belongs to the energetic quadrant of “articulators” (Je), and is lead by Proactive Logic (Te).

In accord with this conclusion, the secondary oscillation appears to be lead by Reactive Concretion (Si), over Proactive Abstraction (Ne). The curved brow is persistently hovering over a fixated gaze, to the detriment of eye-toggling, and sometimes even as the eyes brighten, resulting in long sequences evoking “sadness”.


Figure 7 : Involuntary muscles contraction convey a diverging emotion, which may be unrepresentative of the individual’s mental state

Thus, the definite Cognitive Type (CT) of Stephen Colbert can be referred to as TeSi or Edamer.

Now that the latest assessment has been carried out, it is important to mention that, in contrast to the initial theory by Carl Gustave Jung and to some of its continuations, Cognitive Type (CT) postulates that every cognitive process is integral to consciousness from the outset, and can be developed to a most comparable extent. More so, it describes the computing order in which content is treated, not necessarily the value which is ultimately imparted on it.

In this respect, one could eventually learn to nuance its psychological awareness with the help of a tool defined by “preference”. Given the significance of parody and associative imagination in Stephen Colbert’s work, it would be partial not to consider “intuition” as a meaningful aspect of his psyche, and so without shadowing his reputation as a trivia expert, for example on J.R.R. Tolkien’s fictional writing.

aparody synthesis

Figure 8 : Stephen Colbert’s displays the consummate art of parody

Likewise, a more subtle documentation about the individual also hints at a more contemplative, pondering, if not properly shy side, which finds substance among other things in humanism and faith. Both the ingenuity of the smile, and the accentuation of disengagement, breath and blinking during moments of reflection are corroborating this positive involvement in vultological terms. At the end of the day, and in the individual’s own words, the following quote may outline the intricacy of the experience :

Stephen Colbert : “And… that we now, that I could do my show, and make jokes, about the church, and now sit with a priest, and laugh about it, that’s a fairly… modern… behavior. […] This is a modern behavior, this is, I hope, the right relationship to have… with your faith, which is to love it, but not to exclude it from your… intellect.”

adisengaged jpeg

Figure 9 : Eyes disengages down, which implies a reference to the “Inner Compass”

It so happens that Stephen Colbert is entertaining a strong personal and comedic connection with Steve Carell, who exhibits patterns of the SiTe/Medain type. Comparing the two men might prove helpful in understanding the ins and out of notions such as “Te-humor” and “Ne-parody”.

Sources :
The Late Show – Who Is Stephen Colbert?
Stephen Colbert: “America Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t” | Talks at Google
Stephen Colbert – Witness
Peter Jackson on a possible Stephen Colbert ‘Hobbit’ cameo: ‘I’ve never met a bigger Tolkien geek in my life’ by Josh Rottenberg – Entertainment Weekly
The Stealthy Humanism of Stephen Colbert by Megan Garber – The Atlantic
The Late Show – Steve Carell Wants To Be More Pretentious – Steve Carell (Analysis)

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