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INTJs, like their INFJ counterparts, are among the rarest of the personality types, thought to comprise only 2-3% of the population. More often than not, INTJs carry a y-chromosome, outnumbering INTJ females at a clip of four to one.

Like other Intuitive Introverts, INTJs try to see the big picture and look beyond appearances and superficialities. They place little stock in outside or “expert” opinions, preferring to look inward for answers. They feel they possess the inner tools and insights required to independently determine truth. When they do consult outside information, it is largely for the sake of confirming their own insights. Because of their strength of mind, will, and insight, INTJs may well be the most productive theorists of all types.

INTJs often present as austere and impassive, displaying little as far as variability of emotion or expression. Exuding an air of learnedness and erudition, they may sometimes be perceived as intellectual snobs or elitists. Perceptions of arrogance or aloofness notwithstanding, their status as intellectuals is typically well-founded. Not only do INTJs sport the highest collective IQ of all types, but they are generally well-informed, displaying broad-ranging knowledge and impressive memories.

As left-brained masterminds, INTJs wield logic and language like swords. They sport impressive vocabularies and precision in articulation. They are undeterred from directly and firmly expressing their viewpoints. At times, onlookers can be taken aback by their directness, viewing them as opinionated, dogmatic, or closed-minded.

INTJs can also be quite talkative (see this post) and witty. Some are downright hilarious. Drawing on their memory for details and strong oratory skills, INTJs can make for good storytellers. Like INFJs, they enjoy employing stories, metaphors, and examples from popular culture (Se) to help illustrate abstract concepts or ideas. This represents a point of difference from their INTP counterparts, who, while witty, are generally poor at delivering stories or jokes. INTJs who allow the inner playfulness of their Ni to shine through will enjoy better success with people, taking the edge off what can be perceived as their sometimes harsh or insensitive Te.

Overview of INTJs’ Functional Stack & Type Development

INTJs’ functional stack is composed of the following functions:

Dominant: Introverted Intuition (Ni)

Auxiliary: Extraverted Thinking (Te)

Tertiary: Introverted Feeling (Fi)

Inferior: Extraverted Sensing (Se)

The type development of INTJs can be broadly conceived as follows:

Phase I: Early in life, INTJs are characterized by a dominance of their top two functions, which quickly make judgments and draw conclusions about the world. During this phase of life, INTJs can seem particularly inflexible and opinionated. Since their Ni/Te judgments are not being weighed by and balanced against their tertiary Fi, they can be quick to come to closure on a number of fronts. They are generally swifter than Perceivers in identifying a career niche, which often involves working toward a high level of specialization.

Phase II: In the second phase of their development, INTJs differentiate and incorporate their tertiary and inferior function, compelling them toward greater openness. During this phase, their Te judgments become softened as they become more open to subjective values, both their own and others (Fi). This paves the way for the development and differentiation of their inferior function, Extraverted Sensation (Se), through which they learn how to take life as it comes, tempering their penchant to constantly plan for and control the future. As they develop and utilize their lower functions, INTJs may look and function more like Perceivers, appearing more open, flexible, and relaxed.

INTJs’ Dominant Function: Introverted Intuition (Ni)

INTJs’ dominant function is Introverted Intuition (Ni). As with all Introverts, INTJs’ first order of business is an internal one. They enjoy tinkering with ideas, perspectives, theories, visions, stories, symbols, and metaphors. Their dominant function, Ni, serves as the veritable foundation for this inner playhouse.

Since Ni is a perceiving function, INTJs often report that its workings often feel effortless. When INTJs express the need to “think about” something, this means something very different from what it might for other types. Namely, the lion’s share of INTJs’ “thinking” or processing occurs outside of their conscious awareness. In other words, their best thinking is typically done without thinking, at least not consciously. For INTJs and INFJs alike, ”sleeping on” a problem is as sure a route to a solution as any.

Because it does much of its work subconsciously, Ni can seem to have a magical quality to it. In fact, it is not unusual for INJs, particularly INFJs, to be viewed as having some degree of psychic or prophetic abilities. Despite its magical appearance, Ni can be understood on a rational basis. What seems to be occurring is that INTJs have a highly sensitive inferior function, Extraverted Sensation (Se), which gathers copious amounts of sensory information from the outside world, including subtleties that other personality types tend to miss. Their Ni then subconsciously processes this data in order to make sense of it, like assembling pieces of a puzzle. Once finished, Ni generates an impression that seems to come “out of nowhere.” But the fact is that the intuition did not come from nowhere, but from a synthesis of sensory data gathered from the immediate environment combined with information from the INTJ’s own psyche.

It is often said that human beings rely more heavily on vision than any of the other senses. This seems especially true of INJs, who often associate a strong visual element with their Ni. They think by way of images rather than words. Their intuitions often manifest in the form of symbols, images, dreams, or patterns. This is consistent with Jung’s characterization of the Ni type as a dreamer, artist, or seer. There is a distinct visual character to these notions, which is why vision-related terms—foresight, insight, seer, visionary, etc.—are invariably used in describing INJs.

Of all types, INJs are those most concerned with the “big picture.” This can be understood in terms of their Ni, which is the most abstract and forward-looking of all functions. Ni is comprehensive and holistic. Its visions, answers, and insights manifest as comprehensive wholes. Consequently, they often feel more like recipients than they do creators of their ingenious ideas.

In his memoir, On Writing, Stephen King, most likely an INTJ, describes his process of writing novels. He is adamant about the fact that he does not consciously plan or piecemeal the plot or direction of his stories. Rather his stories emerge from his unconscious as preexisting wholes, requiring little as far as conscious effort or planning. Other INJ novelists report similar experiences, feeling that once they have established the spigot to their creative unconscious their ideas seem to flow effortlessly and without volition.

Because of the inherent sense of completeness in Ni-spawned insights, INTJs often feel they have been granted a sneak preview of the future, or at least a vision of a possible future. This strong sense of foresight can serve as the driving force behind their desire to see their ideals actualized.

While not technically a judging function, Ni often functions in a convergent fashion, providing elegant answers and solutions to complex problems. As discussed above, it takes clues gathered by Se and unconsciously pieces them together toward a comprehensive solution. INTJs commonly report that the solution arrives through a single flash of insight—an “aha!” moment. This may occur while dreaming or awake, but often comes suddenly and all at once. INJ philosopher Frederich Nietzsche describes his intuitive process this way:

Something profoundly convulsive…suddenly becomes visible and audible with indescribable definiteness and exactness…There is a feeling that one is utterly out of hand…Everything occurs without volition, as if an eruption of freedom, independence, power, and divinity. The spontaneity of the images and similes is most remarkable; one loses all perception of what is imagery and simile; everything offers itself as the most immediate, exact, and simple means of expression.

INTJs’ Auxiliary Function: Extraverted Thinking (Te)

Whereas Introverted Thinking (Ti) represents a combination of left (T) and right-brained (P) thinking, Te hails squarely from the left brain. The left brain is characteristically abstract, logical, analytical, and systematic. It takes the perceived world and breaks it down into parts. It then proceeds to name each part, describe its functions, and determine its relationship to other parts. Te functions to rationally understand the world, thereby making it more amenable to structuring, prediction, and control.

While INTJs’ Ni is anything but systematic, once an intuition has been uploaded into consciousness, their Te takes over and works to give it rational form, sort of like decompressing a computer file. This process can be painstaking, often taking longer than birthing the intuition itself. But in order for others to trust and get behind their ideas, INTJs must do their best to translate their intuitions into words, images, or formulae. (This process is exactly the opposite for INTPs, who start with a logical starting point (Ti) and try to flesh it out by way of intuition (Ne). Many INTJ-INTP misunderstandings are likely to be rooted in this reverse ordering of their N and T functions.)

In honing and shaping their intuitions, INTJs’ Te is highly systematic and methodical, even perfectionistic. They proceed carefully and slowly, always looking forward to foresee potential obstacles and contingencies. They work to incorporate facts, data, and other objective considerations. Unlike FJs, INTJs are not as concerned with preserving social harmony. Te is characteristically impersonal, focused on objects and systems rather than subjective feelings. Through the impersonal and objectifying lens of Te, the world becomes a giant machine, a system of interrelated parts that functions according to the laws of cause and effect.

A Te-based approach also emphasizes quantification, including utilizing objective and measurable goals and standards. Never vague or ambiguous, it employs clear definitions, policies, plans, and procedures. It carefully spells out how to get from here to there, using as many maps, directions, and labels as appropriate. The modern world, characterized by a sprawling system of laws and bureaucracy, might be viewed as the offspring of an unchecked Te.

Because of its extraverted direction, Te can also inspire a concern for external order and organization. This is more readily observed in ETJs, however, who are more attuned to their immediate surroundings. INTJs are generally less concerned with tidiness and organization than they are in contemplating and working toward their objectives. In fact, INTJs can function quite well in what may appear a chaotic office or living space.

In the end, it is important to remember that INTJs are not Te-dominant types. Not only are they blessed with the ability to isolate and analyze specifics, but they can simultaneously maintain a clear vision of the whole system, including its hierarchical structure and the interrelationships of its constituent parts. Their proficiency with seeing both the big picture (Ni) and its specifics (Te) makes INTJs masters of strategy, systemic analysis and reform, and contingency planning. They are quintessential “systems thinkers.”

INTJs’ Tertiary Function: Introverted Feeling (Fi)

Introverted Feeling (Fi) is INTJs’ tertiary function. One of its primary concerns is the development of a personalized worldview, independent of societal conventions. Fi is similar to Introverted Thinking (Ti) in that it involves an ongoing process of building or modifying an inner structure. This was beautifully illustrated by one of my INFP blog contributors:

“My inner values and feelings (Fi) are like a building, a structure of affections that inform my worldview. This involves an inner love for certain things, and an inner repulsion for other things. My values and feelings form “blocks” of varying hardness, depending on how strongly I feel about them; the stronger ones are more resilient…I constantly discover more about the structure as I go, and what I should change to make it better. For example, I didn’t have to factually discern a respect for human dignity; I simply found myself in situations where people did not respect human dignity, and it made me angry — I found out that I hate bullying.”

This idea of an inner structuring, involving affective blocks of varying degrees of hardness, seems to me a perfect illustration of the nature of Fi.

One of the more important features of Fi is its direction. Namely, because it is introverted, onlookers may be barred from accessing INTJs’ emotions. This is exacerbated by the fact that Fi falls lower in their functional stack, coming after their Thinking function. Hence, rightly or not, INTJs are commonly perceived as impersonal and insensitive to others’ feelings.

As INTJs develop their Fi, they begin to attend more closely to their personal feelings and values, while also considering those of others. They begin to recognize and appreciate the merit of subjective concerns, to the idea that truth does not merely reside at the level of universals (Ni) but also in the felt experience of the individual (Fi). Such INTJs take on a more personable and humane quality, interested not only in abstract ideas or principles, but also in individuals.

A developing Fi may prompt INTJs to engage in self-discovery. Frederich Nietzsche, often cast as an INTJ, was deeply concerned with self-discovery and self-actualization. This is exemplified in his famous dictum: “Become who you are.” It is not at all uncommon for INTJs to be entirely career oriented as young adults. As they develop in their type, they are more apt to ask themselves if their current work is what they really want to be doing and whether it is consistent with their values. As their Fi blossoms, they may, for instance, opt to transition from for-profit to non-profit work, granting greater priority to their subjective concerns.

Fi also contributes to INTJs’ desire to act as moral change agents. Because of their unique functional trio of Ni-Te-Fi, INTJs can make for the most prodigious of change agents and reformers. Their Ni and Fi can work together to formulate a grand vision, while their Te specifies a plan for its implementation. Their drive for change and reform may find roots in any number of fields—from politics, to business, to education, and so on.

INTJs’ penchant for acting as change agents is well-illustrated in the life of an INTJ friend of mine. While relishing intellectual study and discourse, he apprised me that detached thought and abstract study are rarely fully satisfying to him. He reaches a point where he feels compelled to think more practically and apply his knowledge toward making a difference. His sense of mission and desire for social justice have inspired him to apply his ideas on several social and political fronts.

The combination of Ni-Fi ideals, along with INTJs’ bent toward perfectionism, can also engender a strong concern for moral rigor and ethical conduct. Endowed with a natural sense of duty, obligation, and responsibility, INTJs often set high moral standards for themselves. They are admired for their moral courage, perseverance, devotion, and loyalty. They practice what they preach, holding fast to their commitments and convictions.

When stressed or when their Fi is underdeveloped, INTJs are prone to taking things personally. They can seem excessively sensitive, quick to overreact and defend themselves. As INTJs develop and differentiate their Fi, they become less defensive and less apt to take things personally.

INTJs’ Fourth/Inferior Function: Extraverted Sensing (Se)

In its undeveloped state, the inferior function is unconscious, childlike, simplistic, and black-and-white in character. Those who are “in the grip” of their inferior function act very much like children. They behave in ways that are extreme and irrational. An undeveloped inferior function should not be confused with notions such as “the inner child,” which have a positive connotation. Rather, an unconscious and poorly developed inferior function is better understood as a portal to one’s dark side, one’s inner devil.

The inferior function opposes the dominant and in many ways has its own agenda. Its needs and values are contrary to those of the dominant function, setting up a sort of inner tug-of-war. It is largely responsible for what might otherwise be considered the inconsistent, paradoxical, or irrational attitudes or behaviors of any given personality type.

In many ways, the inferior is more powerful and problematic than the tertiary function. This is because there is greater psychic tension between the dominant and inferior functions than there is between the auxiliary and tertiary. It can be useful to think of the dominant and inferior as representing opposite ends of a rubber band. As the dominant moves toward greater consciousness and is pulled tighter (i.e., becomes stronger), the inferior shows a commensurate increase in tension as it is pushed/stretched away from consciousness. And as this dominant-inferior tension increases, the individual is more likely to snap, involving any number of irrational and immature behaviors.

Like INFJs, INTJs struggle to reconcile their Ni with their inferior function, Extraverted Sensing (Se). They can be blinded to the degree to which their Se impacts their decisions and behavior. Without sufficient awareness of and development of their inferior, INTJs will continue to feel incomplete and may be prone to unwise decision-making in their lifestyle, careers, and relationships. We will now consider five ways in which this S-N tension manifests in INTJs.

1. Mind (N) vs. Body (S)

INTJs tend to downplay the importance of the body. They often report feeling detached and disconnected from their physicality. This makes INTJs and INFJs the most disposed to out-of-body experiences. In commenting on INTJ philosopher and novelist Jean Paul Sartre’s work, Nausea, Thomas King, in his book Jung’s Four and Some Philosophers, writes: “The Introvert Intuitive is discovering Sensation; his hands are alien to him and his body unfamiliar.”

Assuming their environment permits it, INTJs can enter a trance-like state in which they remain entirely unaware of their bodies. Unless their body rebels against them, INTJs may go on functioning in a more or less disembodied state for hours on end. For instance, founder of Facebook and INTJ Mark Zuckerberg would reportedly spend upwards of twenty consecutive hours perched in front of his computer. With the exception of INFJs, this would be unheard of for any other type.

Because of their detachment from their physicality, INTJs may have nightmares about unexpected declines in their health. One INTJ, for instance, recounted to me his recurrent dreams of his teeth falling out. Another reported his fear that he might develop a disease and be unaware or ignorant of the symptoms until it was too late. Some INTJs might forget to eat regularly and appear undernourished, while others may overeat because of lack of attention to how often or how much they are eating. In order to compensate for this mind-body disconnect, INTJs may develop overly strict, even obsessive, regimens of diet and exercise. Like other types, when trying to manage their inferior function, INTJs can easily go to extremes.

2. Metaphysical (N) vs. Physical (S)

Despite being the most otherworldly and abstract of types, many INTJs have a curious attraction to material goods, physical thrills, and aesthetics (Se). They may drive fast cars, fly planes, and purchase luxurious homes. They are more intrigued by fine food, art, and architecture than INTPs, for whom Sensing is directed inwardly.

In the grip of their inferior Se, even the most responsible INTJ may suddenly throw caution to the wind and turn to thrill seeking. They may turn to drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography, extravagant vacations, or shopping binges for the sake of indulging their Se. In such moments of indulgence, they may resemble the “eat, drink, and be merry” approach of ESP types. The difference is that INTJs tend to feel more out of control when doing so. Such behavior is not characteristic of who they see themselves to be. To guard against such extremes of their inferior, they may again feel compelled to impose stringent rules on their behavior in attempt to preserve their physical, mental, and/or material well-being.

3. Ideal (N) vs Actual (S); Reflection (N) vs. Action (S)

Like INFJs, INTJs are visionaries and planners. They find their intuitive visions incredibly beautiful and compelling, making it difficult for them to accept anything less than perfection. To actualize this ideal, they must find a way to transform it into a tangible reality (Se). Unfortunately, because life is slow to conform to their ideals, INTJs quickly learn that their visions are almost always tarnished in the process of actualization. This leaves them with two primary options.

The first is to merely act as producers of ideals without concerning themselves with their actualization. While this option may satisfy their Ni, it fails to present them with tangible evidence of outer change (Se) they desire. And since INTJs are wired to be change agents, producing only ideas can often feel unsatisfactory. Nonetheless, when faced with the alternative of accepting a less than ideal product, many INTJs will settle for this mode of operation, at least for a while. This may be why INTJ is the most common type among academics, since the academy allows INTJs to develop their theories independently of their application. Writing and other artistic pursuits also provide INTJs with the opportunity to express their ideals without concern for their direct application. This was the option taken by INTJ philosopher Jean Paul Sartre who found it nearly impossible to act:

“Indeed it is impossible for a determined process to act upon a spontaneity (consciousness), exactly as it is impossible for objects (S) to act upon consciousness (N). Thus any synthesis of two types of existence is impossible; they are not homogenous; they will remain each one its incommunicable solitude.”

The second option for INTJs is to actively work to implement their ideas while being willing to accept something less than perfection. This option, while frustrating to their Ni, is enticing to their Se, which pushes for a tangible result or product. It also introduces a new set of concerns. Namely, once the Ni ideal is no longer ideal, at what point is it no longer acceptable? This question is relevant to INTJs’ work as well as their relationships. Those who find the courage to act are constantly forced to grapple with whether the product or relationship is acceptable or whether they should cut their losses and start over.

4. Universal/Whole (N) vs. Individual/Part (S)

Intuition is more concerned with the big picture and the relationship among the parts than it is with the parts themselves; it favors the forest over the trees, the universals over the particulars. Of all types, INTJs are most apt to discount personal experience (SFP) as a valid form of evidence. They distrust anecdotal evidence and arguments made in the name of “common sense.” Rather, it is universal laws, ideals, and theories, things they can know and understand through their Ni and Te, that they are inclined to accept as truth.

An INTJ friend of mine is a physical therapist, one whose Se inferior got the best of him and landed him in a field dominated by S-types. Nonetheless, in talking with John about his experiences, I have gleaned some interesting insights about INTJs. One of his assertions, very much contrary to conventional wisdom, is that a therapist’s level of experience (Si) is not all that important when it comes to clinical expertise. Instead John feels that sound theoretical understanding (N), one based on science and critical reasoning, is what distinguishes the expert from the novice. The next, and perhaps most egregious of John’s perceived sins, is his insistence that he has no way of knowing, without conducting some sort of formal study, if his therapeutic approach to painful conditions actually works. This points to his distrust of the subjective and anecdotal responses of his patients. The last of John’s soapboxes is his belief in the relative unimportance of the physical evaluation when it comes to helping patients with chronic pain. In his view, the problem is rarely with any particular part (S), but with the interrelations of the various parts (N), including the role of the mind.

The INTJ preference for abstract universals stands in contradiction to that of someone like Soren Kierkegaard (INFP). Kierkegaard was convinced that living passionately according to one’s own convictions was far better than formulating universal theories. He viewed theories and systematic thought as demoralizing, stripping human beings of their most precious gift—their individuality. INTJs, especially those who have yet to develop their tertiary Fi, are apt to disagree with Kierkegaard, privileging the objective and universal over the subjective and personal.

INTJs downplaying of the individual is also evident in their own lives. Especially early in their careers, many INTJ can be seen prioritizing their work and accomplishments above all else. Many are willing to sacrifice themselves, perhaps even their own health, for the sake of achieving their career objectives. It is not until they begin listening to and developing their Fi*that they can truly appreciate the more personal elements of life.

5. Investigative Careers (N) vs. The Business World (S)

Of all the IN types, INTJs are the most likely to end up the business world, where they often function as managers or executives. My former neighbor, at the time a corporate executive, worked long and grueling hours. He was firm and assertive, rarely backing down from confrontation. Considering his occupation, confidence, and hard-driving persona, one might have initially suspected him an ENTJ. I found myself pleasantly surprised when I learned of his underlying philosophical and artistic bent and discovered that he was actually an INTJ.

Many people are surprised, as I was with my neighbor, to see INTJs going into business. After all, most INTJs pursue Investigative careers and business careers are generally pursued by Sensing types. Despite this, the business world does provide INTJs with opportunities to exercise many of their hallmark abilities. As upper-level leaders, they can function as visionaries, strategic planners, operations managers, systems thinkers, and the like. They are also drawn into business for what are ultimately less healthy reasons for the INTJ. Namely, their inferior Se, which revels in the beauty and comfort of material things, is often a strong player in their original decision to enter the business world. Not only do careers in business promise material security, but they often include opportunities for travel, fine meals, and attractive accommodations. The thought of this lifestyle, even if largely unconscious, can be quite appealing to INTJs’ Se inferior. Since Se might be equated with the ego in INJ types, it is not unreasonable to suggest that success in the business world is sure to provide INTJs no small amount of ego gratification.

This sort of fatal attraction to business embodies INTJs’ love-hate relationship with the material world. On the one hand, they love the novelties and sensory pleasures that the world has to offer. On the other, they love the life of the mind and wish they did not have to concern themselves with making money and working a less than ideal day job. For this reason, we often see a midlife shift in INTJs, migrating away from business and becoming more interested in investigative or creative pursuits.

Moving toward Wholeness: Reconciling Ni & Se

From a very young age, INTJs enjoy envisioning and planning things. They love imagining an ideal and formulating plans for its actualization. However, because they are perfectionists and are not as gifted as S types when it comes to enactment, the process of actualizing their ideals can be immensely frustrating and disappointing.

One way of reducing this frustration is for INTJs to learn to appreciate the present moment (Se). Rather than constantly thinking about and planning for the future, INTJs can practice attending to and savoring what is available to them in the present moment. Through a change in perspective (N) they can learn to enjoy the simple pleasures of being and existing (S) that they either ignored or glutted themselves on previously. Rather than always seeing the world as flawed, problem-ridden, and in need of modification, INTJs can learn to see the world and its workings as already beautiful.

Such a change in perspective does not mean that INTJs will no longer make judgments or work toward change, but only that their efforts will be tempered by an appreciation for what already*is. Self-actualizing INTJs learn to loosen their grip on life, negotiating what can often be a fine line between embracing and releasing it.

Admittedly, negotiating a treaty between their Ni and Se does not happen overnight. When INTJs first experiment with ”living in the moment” mindset it can often feel insipid and meaningless. They may wonder if all their grand dreams and plans have been in vain and if they are being left with what amounts to an overly ordinary sort of existence. Hence, INTJs may spend years dabbling and experimenting with the idea of "living in the moment” before working out a way of living that seems to honor and incorporate both their Ni and Se.


1. This is one area in which the Enneagram seems to get it right. Most INTJs are either Enneagram Fives (5w6, 5w4) or Ones (1w9 or 1w2). For the Five, the direction of disintegration is toward Seven, which can be roughly viewed as an embodiment of Extraverted Sensing/Sensation. Interestingly, for Ones, Seven happens to be the direction of integration. Hence, moving toward Seven (i.e., Se) can represent a step toward personal growth or toward pathology. The difference involves how INTJs go about getting to their Se. If they “jump their functional stack,” moving quickly to gratify or indulge their Se, they can find themselves in an unhealthy predicament, succumbing to addictive, compulsive, or obsessive types of behavior. If they move from the top of the stack down (Ni-Te-Fi-Se), however, effectively using and developing each function, they will display a healthier version of Se. They learn to accept and appreciate life as it comes with a diminished need to control, plan, and micromanage. Instead of setting up rules, standards, and expectations that keep life out, they learn to let go and let life in.

Source: by Dr. A.J. Drenth Personality Junkie | INTJ

127 Posts
Well, I am sort of a hypersensitive INTJ 6w5-1w9-4w5 so/? and much of the function description actually fits~

9 Posts
Interesting article, but I disagree with INTJ's not being individualistic considering how almost every scientist(which I imagine are mostly INTJ) name their discoveries after themselves. i.e. Jacobson's organs in snakes that were discovered by Levin Jacobson.
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