Happy Diwali!


Mthe_guardian The expression of the Guardian temperament is related to a need for to belong to organisations, a desire for order, and a drive to be dutiful. Those who strongly express this pattern of emotional response make up roughly half of the populace and collectively provide the dependable backbone of our societies. It is the driving pattern behind commerce, shop keeping and sales, libraries and museums, as well as law and law enforcement. 

Please read the Statistical Disclaimer before proceeding (which also includes the copyright notices). Remember that what is provided here is effectively a detailed definition of an adjective, ‘Guardian’, which has been defined in line with a psychological model.

Conversion from Myers-Briggs Typology

To anyone familiar with the Myers-Briggs inventory, the Guardian temperament is expected to be the primary Temperament pattern for any preference code containing SJ (Sensing and Judging preferences), and a supporting pattern for any code containing NJ (Intuitive and Judging preferences). 

1. Profile 

In the Introduction to Temperament Theory, we saw how the Guardian temperament was related to Concrete language use, an Affiliative attitude and a focus on Structure. We will begin by reviewing these three axis in the specific context of the Guardian temperament. Throughout this piece we shall be referencing the work of David Keirsey, marked [K], and his student Linda Berens, marked [B] (complete references are provided in the disclaimer).

Concrete language use reflects a focus on solid and sensible topics. For people expressing Guardian as their primary pattern, conversation will frequently be concerned with tangible elements such as money, goods and services, weather and housing, accidents and disasters, poverty and wealth, famous and infamous, and what is going on in the current TV shows or the popular movies.

Keirsey notes how the flow of conversation becomes highly associative when it is dominated by the Guardian pattern: 

When [people strongly expressing Guardian] are reminded of something, however distant from or unrelated to the topic at hand, they mention it. And often this reminds others of something else, who then mention that. And so the conversation goes from topic to topic, by contiguity rather than implication, like a row of dominoes, each toppling the next… no single topic is pursued at length, and issues, if surfaced, tend not to get settled. [Such people] are very good at this sort of small talk, something [people expressing Rational] are very poor at… [K] 

Furthermore, the Guardian pattern is associated with remembering facts (what some would consider trivia):

On topics that interest them, [people expressing Guardian] are able to store an enormous fund of facts, which they will call up and, again, freely associate in conversation. They can remember people’s names, birthdays, the names of the friends’ parents and children, how those children are doing at school, who their relatives’ friends are, who’s gotten what job, who’s recently been born or has died (when, and of what), the date, time, and location of family, social, or civic events, and so on, one bit of information easily calling forth another. [K] 

Berens reiterates this point:

In the Guardian pattern, concrete language often references the past, the sequences of events, or how one fact is linked to another. [B] 

Another aspect of the speech patterns associated with the Guardian temperament is an orthodox tendency, favouring both time honoured phrases, and local sayings:

[People strongly expressing Guardian] tend to use a rather conventional vocabulary and phrasing, often throwing in old sayings, proverbs, and adages (particularly about value and amount) such as “a penny saved is a penny earned,” “a stitch in time saves nine”, “one bad apple spoils the barrel”, or “it’s either feast or famine” [as well as using] words and sentences common to the area they call home. [K] 

The focus on their home region is critical to understanding the Guardian pattern; as we shall see later, a core need associated with this pattern is that of membership – and this need to belong means that people strongly expressing Guardian generally stay in the area they grow up unless other forces tear them away.

Concrete language is common to the Artisan pattern as well, but the language use associated with Artisan is less structured, and more focussed on immediate events (or the near future), with none of the tendency for quoting maxims or recalling trivia. 

The second aspect of the basic profile is a bias towards an Affiliative approach, that is, towards identifying with other people, and particularly with organisations and their appointed leaders – that is, with favouring the group over the individual:

For the Guardian pattern, affiliative roles have clear lines of responsibility and authority. This makes it easy to know where we belong and how we fit in. The concern is to maintain the group. [B] 

The method by which the group is maintained from the perspective of the Guardian pattern is upholding the socially agreed rules:

[People strongly expressing Guardian] work hard to make and enforce the laws that govern actions, insisting that only by establishing and obeying rules and regulations can we hope to maintain civil order, and thus safeguard our homes, communities and businesses…

[Their] grasp of regulation is exceeded only by their faith in regulation as the cornerstone of society. [Those expressing Guardian] have confidence that legal authority is the only proper means of sanctioning action or solving problems, and indeed, the numerous laws, bylaws, codes, ordinances, statutes and charters found in every community or institution exist for [them] as the best hope of maintaining civil order. [K] 

This focus on rules and law is in marked difference from the focus of the other temperament patterns – the Artisan and Rational pattern favour a more pragmatic approach, which will take precedence over any obstructionist rule encountered, while the Idealist pattern shares the Affiliative focus but is unconcerned with rules, being more interested in ensuring that individuals know themselves, and have the freedom to express their unique identities.

This is not to suggest that only people expressing Guardian will be law abiding – those that do not express Guardian are either quietly thankful that there are people out there maintaining order; observe the rules as long as it is to their benefit (especially in the case of expression of Artisan); or (often in the case of expression of Rational) harbour rather grandiose notions of how things should be run, with little or no capability to implement or enforce such wild ideas. 

(Anyone who has lived in a house with peers who express Guardian will have encountered this rule-based approach to life through such people's attempts to regulate household chores, often by means of a rota or some other agreed distribution of labour).

The third and final aspect of the basic Guardian profile is a focus on Structure, which further underlines the influence of rules and law on this temperament:

In the Guardian pattern, the interest in structure is concrete and procedural, Guardian structures provide rules, norms, roles, and responsibilities. Examples include sequential outlines, family tress, and organisational charts. These structures serve to inform others about what is appropriate and what can be expected. [B] 

This focus on Structure is shared with the Rational pattern, but as we have already seen, the abstract language use associated with the Rational temperament leads to very different interests. The Guardian pattern is associated with maintaining rules and laws, while the Rational pattern is more interested in uncovering the laws of nature (as in science) or creating systems of rules (as in game design).

The Guardian pattern's association with upholding rules and law may sometimes seem officious to those who do not express Guardian to any great degree, but it should not be doubted that in general terms those who express Guardian firmly believe they have the best interests of their family, organisation, town or country at heart, as we shall see by examining the type of intelligence associated with this pattern. 

2. The Logistical Intellect

According to Temperament Theory, each of the patterns is associated with a particularly kind of intelligence. The Guardian temperament is related to Logistical thinking: 

Logistics is the procurement, distribution, service, and replacement of material goods. Logistics is vital to the success of any institution – a business, a household, a school, an army – and [people expressing Guardian] can be enormously creative in seeing to it that the right personnel have the right supplies in the right place at the right time to get the job done.

[Such people] care about being reliable, particularly in the maintenance and continuity of materiel. In other words, [they] are less interested in fitting things together in new ways than in holding things together as they are… [Anyone that expresses the Guardian pattern] knows as well as others that change is inevitable, necessary, and even, on occasion, desirable; but it should be resisted when it is at the expense of old standby products and time-tested ways of the institutions that have served us well. Better that change occur through slow evolution than sudden revolution. [K] 

Without the Guardian pattern as a force working to maintain the agreed upon procedures, any large organisation simply could not function. Society in a very real sense depends upon logistics for its function:

[People expressing this pattern] excel at noticing when something required or agreed upon is not done and then following up to make sure it happens. Regulatory activities within society such as conserving, policing, guarding, counting, stabilising, and ritualising often come under their jurisdiction. They recognise that establishing and articulating the rules, sanctions, standard operating procedures, timelines, predictable routines, and protocol makes things easier for people and institutions. [B] 

Berens summarise the talents behind logistics quite succinctly:

[Those who express Guardian] masterfully get the right things, in the right place, at the right time, in the right quantity, in the right quality, to the right people, and not to the wrong people. [They] know how things have always been done, and so they anticipate where things can go wrong. They have a knack for attending to rules, procedures, and protocol. They make sure the correct information is assembled and presented to the right people. [B] 

When the Guardian pattern is supported by the Rational pattern, the focus of logistics tends to become administration:

Tough-minded [people expressing Guardian] are particularly interested in the role of administrator, that is, they are given to regulating those procedures and products in their charge in the light of a standard of performance. These administrators are the directive [side of the Guardian pattern], which means that their first instinct is to take charge and tell others what to do. [K] 

In general terms, this side of Logistical thinking can be understood as maintaining standards. Faced with operational problems, the logistical intellect can establish or standardise policies that will provide stability for the group, and oversee the implementation of these procedures, monitoring the plan as it is executed. This administrative side of logistics includes investigating what has happened before, examining and assessing the situation, before instructing how to meet the required standards.

Examples include the management of any organisation (such as project managers, office managers, factory supervisors, school principals and so forth), highly procedural financial work (such as accounting and stockbrokers) as well as government and law enforcement roles (such as police officers and civil servants). 

Conversely, when the Guardian pattern is supported by the Idealist pattern, the focus of logistics tends to become people and not procedures:

The friendly [expression of Guardian is seen in people who] are prone to choose the part of the conservator, that person whose job it is to support institutions by insuring the supply and security of those persons and properties they are responsible for. In their support role, [these people] tend to be more informative than directive, giving information – reports, accounts, records and so on – first, and giving orders only as a last resort… [K]

In general terms, this side of Logistical thinking can be understood as providing support. Faced with people in need, the logistical intellect determines what is required and supplies it, whether in terms of providing service and care, or protecting against danger, dirt or decay. This side of logistics attends to people’s comforts, and aims to make things easier for others, while sheltering and protecting in order to ensure people’s safety and general well-being. 

Examples include all manner of secretarial work, the role of a librarian or curator, shop keeping (and other sales positions, including telemarketing or insurance sales), caterers and other providers of food and drink, as well as roles reflecting direct care (such as teachers, counsellors, social workers, and child care providers), not to mention religious roles such as minister, priest, imam or rabbi, all of whom support the needs of their community in their own way.

3. Motivations 

Those who express the Guardian temperament as their primary pattern feel a powerful drive to belong. This need for group membership is not necessarily consciously known, but it is essential to the expression of this pattern:

[Those who express Guardian] like to be included in what’s going on. Thus, they find membership in family, groups, and organisations satisfying. They often view organisations as either families or armies united for some useful purpose. [B] 

Keirsey suggests that this need to belong is a defence against insecurity:

Perhaps hoping in some degree to fulfil their search for security, [people expressing Guardian] are prone to join a number of social and civil groups. Maintaining their membership status in such groups is fundamental to [their] character; it is not too much to say that [people expressing Guardian] actually yearn to belong, needing each and every day to confirm that they are a member-in-good-standing. To this end, [such people], far more than others, create and foster the social arm of the institutions they serve: the church auxiliary, the PTA, the community service club, the lodge, the municipal or political organisation, the professional association. [K] 

As mentioned in the above quote, it is insufficient for someone expressing this pattern simply to earn membership – it is vital that they are seen as dependable, respectable and responsible. Their self-esteem depends upon this:

[For those people strongly expressing Guardian] self-esteem is greatest when they present themselves as dependable, trustworthy, or accountable in shouldering their responsibilities. “No matter what,” says [such a person], “you can count on me to fulfil my obligations and to honour my contracts.”

Self-confidence can be a problem for [them, however]. More than others, [such people] are innately modest, unassuming, even self-effacing – and putting themselves forward comes perilously close to showing off, a kind of behaviour which they find truly repugnant. But if having confidence in themselves is difficult for [such people], being respected by others is a great comfort, and public recognition is indeed the foundation of their self-confidence. Such recognition usually comes in the form of physical tokens of respect such as plaques, certificates, awards, and diplomas. [K]

This desire for responsible behaviour can become extended to others: 

Above all others, [people expressing Guardian] value the presence of order, lawfulness, security, propriety, bonds, and contracts. Activities that foster these principles keep life simple and insure the continuance of the world as it is known. Likewise the virtues of dependability, responsibility, obedience, compliance, and cooperation are necessary in their world, as these virtues add up to everyone contributing his or her fair share to the common good. As those who tend to make constant comparisons, [such people] are often concerned about everyone carrying a fair portion of the load for benefits received. [B] 

Indeed, the Guardian pattern is preoccupied with morality – determining right from wrong:

[People expressing Guardian], even as children, feel responsible for the morality of their group, whether it be their family, their classmates, or their circle of friends. And they are never able to shake off that responsibility, even if they sometimes what to. [B] 

The combination of a focus on morality and a need to belong is probably the reason that so many people who express Guardian tend to practice the dominant religion of their culture. In the United States, this is some form of Christianity; in India, Hinduism; in Turkey, Sunni Islam and so forth. If the family that someone strongly expressing Guardian grew up in practiced a religion, they will likely carry this practice into later life. This can be seen as an expression of the membership need: to be a part of the religion of the family is to be a dutiful member of the family. However, if raised without a religion, a person who expresses Guardian may still find their way to a system of faith, since agnosticism and atheism generally fail to deliver any sense of belonging. (This connection should be considered hypothetical, but would be comparatively easy to investigate).

4. Problems 

Everyone is stressed by different circumstances; one of the advantages of looking at behaviour in terms of the patterns of Temperament Theory is the capacity to identify different stressing factors that relate to the patterns.

According to Berens, those who express the Guardian temperament strongly are stressed by both a lack of belonging, and the insubordination of others: 

Abandonment, exclusion, disrespect for authority, dereliction, and disobedience, all of which threaten the common bond, are particularly offensive and stressful to [people expressing Guardian]. [K] 

When stressed, such a person will complain to those around them (often privately), especially using words such as “sick”, “tired”, “sorry” or “worried”. This stress can be alleviated by the person in question being included in activities, or in current news (or gossip), or by expressions of appreciation such as the plaques and certificates mentioned previously. Alternatively, membership in a new organisation can help alleviate the stresses of the Guardian pattern.

A certain pessimism is also associated with the Guardian pattern:

Because so many of their efforts are holding actions, trying to maintain the status quo in fast-paced, ever-changing situations, [those who express Guardian] have learned to expect the worst. To be sure, even the most cursory glance at [someone strongly expressing Guardian] will detect a streak of pessimism colouring their attitude… they cannot easily shake off their worries about all the possible things that can, and often do, go wrong. After all, the Murphy’s of this world – surely [people expressing Guardian] -are the makers of the laws of pessimism. Remember Murphy’s Law, which says “whatever can go wrong will.” There are many variants of this basic law, such as “everything costs more and takes longer,” and Olsen’s addendum, “Murphy’s Law is optimistic.” [K] 

Oddly, Berens notes that many people expressing Guardian see themselves as optimistic, and that their pessimistic side may not be apparent to them:

[People expressing Guardian] frequently portray a mood of concern. While they see themselves as optimistic, the unknowns of the future invariably disrupt their world and give them plenty of experiences that can sometimes foster a pessimistic point of view. [B] 

Keirsey suggests that this pessimism is not necessarily negative:

Above all else, [such people] are prepared, and even though many of their preparations are for things to go wrong, we must not conclude that they are gloomily forecasting calamity and disaster. Rather, we might see them as being realistic about setbacks and shortages. [K] 

Conversely, however, if this pessimistic outlook is not kept in balance it can develop into depression, especially if the membership needs of the individual are not being met:

Kretschmer was first to take a careful look at the dark side of character and he named [those who express Guardian] “Depressives”… seeing them as somber, doleful, and solemn... If [such people] are forced by untoward circumstances to become downcast for no apparent reason, it is because they are beset by strong negative feelings that overwhelm them and render them immobile and helpless. [K] 

Another problem associated with the Guardian pattern is a tendency towards blind trust in authority:

[Those who strongly express Guardian] trust authority. They believe in a hierarchical structure of authority – rule from the top down. They believe there should be subordination and superordination, that the actions of members of communities, schools, churches, and corporations, but also of families, should be governed by those in the highest positions… Moreover, [such people] have an abiding trust in the heads of church and state, and popes and pontiffs, presidents and prime ministers, and royalty of all types seem to capture their trust and their loyalty. [K] 

When such figures are worthy of this trust, the support of people expressing Guardian is what allows these systems to achieve their goals, and in this regard this trust can be admirable. But when the figures are unworthy of such respect, it can be exceptionally difficult to convince such people that there is a problem:

They trust hierarchy and authority and may be surprised when others go against these social structures. [B] 

This blind trust in authority presents a possible explanation for the results of the famous Milgram experiment, in which some two thirds of participants were willing to administer what would have been a lethal electrical charge because they were told to do so. Since demographic studies show that 50-60% of the population display the Guardian pattern as either a primary or secondary pattern, the result of Milgram’s experiment seems less surprising in this perspective – although no less shocking.

A possible defence against this problem of “only following orders” is to encourage those who express Guardian to temper their loyalty with the scepticism of the Rational pattern, the empathy of the Idealist pattern, or the drive for freedom associated with the Artisan pattern, since we all have the capacity to express all four patterns to various degrees.


The Guardian temperament is defined as concrete affiliation with a focus on organisation. It drives those affected by it to seek membership and responsibility, and to trust in the authority of those institutions they have allied themselves with. The logistical intellect associated with this pattern is capable of establishing and maintaining procedures, as well as supplying support and protection. This intellect appears to be the force behind the law, commerce and the noble tradition of libraries.

Stressed by feelings of exclusion, or by the insubordination of others, the Guardian temperament is associated with pessimism and when it is out of balance, depression. Caught between a genuine desire to do what is good, and a need to be a dutiful and responsible member of the institutions and cultures they belong to, there is a danger that someone expressing Guardian will do what they are told without question. Nonetheless, the very fabric of society depends upon the assistance, protection and support of those that express the Guardian pattern, without whom none of the daily comforts we take for granted would be possible.

Do you recognise yourself in this pattern? Feel free to share your perspective in the comments. Don’t recognise yourself? Check out the other three Temperament patterns and see if they fit you better. For more information, see BestFitType.com or check out the books referenced here.

Note: If you have any comments specifically regarding justifications or criticisms of Temperament Theory, please use the comments to the post entitled Justifications and Criticisms, which has been set aside for that express purpose. Thank you!

The opening image is The Guardian, by Leon Verdun, which I found here. As ever, no copyright infringement is intended and I will take the image down if asked.


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Mmm... nope. The *only* thing in here with which I can identify is a tendency towards wandering conversations with people when making small talk - but even there I much prefer a conversation with minimal small talk that then jumps into the meat of the discussion within a few seconds.

Not me.

Given your bias towards the Rational pattern, we shouldn't be surprised that you can't match this pattern up with yourself.

I find in respect of the Guardian pattern that people can see this behaviour in other people more easily than they can see it in themselves, however - myself included. :)

Take care!

Hi Chris! I'm in Australia now... catching up on some of the Only A Game posts I've missed.

I loved reading this because it characterizes much of my mother's personality. It's easy to say that it's a very good thing she tends toward Guardian characteristics, too, since she's the mother of 8 children :)

My mother also relates much of her past experience and time generally in reference to family history; on any given day she can the death of a grandparent or great grandparent, birthday of a cousin or other such event. "This day a year ago I was" or "ten years ago our family was" are very common reckoning points for her.

What I found particularly funny/insightful were the bits about small talk... being the matron of a large family and also the oldest sibling in her own family of eight (oh, the confluence of temperament and birth order!), often in the regulation of good order she will diffuse most arguments-in-progress using much the same techniques as described--the preference for quickly shifting topics and a desire to quell confrontations mean that before you know it, she's got you talking on a different subject when you were attempting to be angry about something :)

Thank you for taking such a great deal of time and effort on these Chris.

Thanks Jack - hope you are enjoying your travels!

Thanks also for the description of how this relates to your mother's behaviour. In a private discussion with a friend, the issue has come up as to whether the Guardian temperament becomes expressed more strongly after parenthood i.e. do people who express Guardian start expressing it much more strongly after they have children? My suspicion is yes, but of course I lack the resources to mount a study into something like this that lies outside of the sphere of games! :)

I worry, with this one, that by including the reference to Milgram's experiment I have undercut the value of this description by effectively giving a reason for people to not want to identify with it. Still, I thought it was an interesting observation, so I included it.

Besides, it is probably best if people read these descriptions and attempt to apply them to people they know (as you have done) rather than to themselves - it is easier to observe behaviour in others than in self. :)

Enjoy Australia!

"I worry, with this one, that by including the reference to Milgram's experiment I have undercut the value of this description by effectively giving a reason for people to not want to identify with it. Still, I thought it was an interesting observation, so I included it."

This is one of the tough things about writing about personality types. Despite the best intentions, the fact is that it's almost certainly Rationals (NTs, whatevers) that are doing the cataloging. Beyond that, I'd imagine that Guardian-Rationals (or vice versa) generally are not drawn to the social sciences. Then add the fact that this is a blog and not a formal university setting, and I doubt we'll be getting too much input from Guardian perspective here, as opposed to other temperaments commenting about Guardians. I know I find the mentality to be quite alien, and difficult to value without conscious effort, as a Rational-Artisan.

Matt A: thanks for sharing your perspective on this. As a Rational-Guardian myself, I spent many years being vehemently "anti-Guardian". It was only in recent years, reviewing a lot more of the paperwork in the field, and considering my own behaviour more carefully, that I came to realise this *was* a pattern I express quite strongly. I just had been blind to it because my need to identify with Rational was far stronger.

I appreciate you taking the time to look through these Temperament posts; they don't see a lot of 'action'. ;)

I am a Guardian-Rational as well, and I came across this page by googling for "rational-guardian". Glad to know there's more of us. :)

What is this "Guardian-Rational" thing? NTJs?

Hi Oddity,
More or less. Guardian is SJ and Rational is NT. So Guardian with Rational is STJ and Rational with Guardian is NTJ. Hope that helps!


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