Understand Better MBTI dichotomies: Introversion, Intuition, Thinking, Judging

If you do not know or remember your Mayer-Briggs Typology Indicator (MBTI) results, you can take one of the many free tests available such as 16personalities.com or http://www.truity.com/test/ or http://www.humanmetrics.com

Your result is a personality type with a corresponding 4-letter combo such as INFP (The Mediator) or ENTJ (The Commander). The 4 letters come from 4 dichotomies: Introversion (I)-Extroversion (E), Intuition (N) – Sensing (S), Thinking (T) – Feeling (F), and Perceiving (P) – Judging (J).

What do these letter and dichotomies mean? Those free online tests often come with a general description of your type and functions. You can read them on your own. Below is my own brief but somewhat more advanced description of the functions in these 4 dichotomies that might be worth learning.

1. Introversion vs Extroversion

introvert-or-extrovert

An extroverted behavior is one where objective (environmental) data contributes more weight than subjective input in decision making. If extroverted behaviors become habitual, then such individual is considered an extroverted type. Conversely, if a person spends more energy staying detached from objective data to listen to their own mind, he or she is considered introverted.

A very important point put forth by Jung is that introversion and extroversion are not mere deliberate choices that can be easily changed.  They are more likely to be assigned by birth randomly in the population, representing two distinct yet balancing survival strategies in organisms. An organism can be greedy and aggressively grab food and mate around to maximize successful reproduction. While another is more selective to conserve energy, strike only when absolutely necessary. Basically, introverts prefer to conserve energy while extrovers expand.

Projecting the above strategies further into humans, Jung further points out that extroverts are more likely to adjust their behaviors faster to objective data and immediate surroundings. They are more driven by short-term immediate gains, be it business opportunities or valuable things. Their morals are heavily dictated by the prevailing demand from the society at the moment.

Extroverted behaviors may allow for quick adjustments and gains to a change in environment, but can be at odds with the universal trends or laws. This is where the introverts step in to gain advantage. They listen deeper within themselves and abide by the more universal, but often misunderstood rules coded in their genes and minds since birth.

Can one really change his attitude from introvert to extrovert and vice versa? According to Jung, it could happen, but with significant resulted psychological strains and disorders. For example, a kid having to suppress his natural attitude due to unfavorable parental influence will develop neuroticism  when grow up, which can only be remedied by allowing his natural tendency to redevelop.

Another essential model to keep in mind as proposed by Jung is the insidious influence of the unconscious to the other functions which received less conscious energy from the subject.  He emphasized the importance of the unconscious in balancing the conscious, which is most evident in the case of dreams. Dreams often have prophetic qualities in response to anything done excessive in a person’s waking moments.

According to Jung, no function will be entirely eliminated, it can only be greatly distorted. The suppressed functions become merged with unconscious content and become bizarre in character, though one of great importance to the overall psychological well-being.

Illustration of the functional stack of ENTJ type

 2. Thinking vs Feeling

photo of two women lying on grass

At the most basic level, thinking and feeling point to 2 contrasting approaches of survival for human beings as rational yet social creatures. On one hand, one may prefer collaboration and building relationships as a survival strategy. On the other hand, some choose a more independent approach with the aim of accumulating resources for oneself and devise plans to better compete with others. Of course anyone would need some mixture of these 2 strategies to navigate human’s complex social structures.

At individual level, thinking and feeling are somewhat more visible  and easier to understand than the other dichotomies, especially in the case of extroverts. I find Socionic offered more detailed and interesting description to contrast this dichotomy (Note that they are often referred to as logic versus ethic in socionic, which I find less misleading than the term thinking and feeling): https://www.the16types.info/vbulletin/content.php/429

By socionionic models, thinking individuals are more energized by changes in the “logical world”, which are rules, systems, logical criteria and measurable results. They pay more attention to the demand of the material worlds, and are more black-and-white in terms of statement of facts being correct or incorrect etc. Feeling individuals, on the other hand, are often more expressive and energized by the “ethical world”, which ranges from overall momentary atmosphere to deeply held individual values.

3. Intuition vs Sensing

intuition-versus-sensing

Intuition and sensing are often harder to understand and very often mis-typed in my experience. People would often prefer to be viewed as intuitive than sensing-dominant. Because if thinking is considered a more advanced function which develops later in human’s evolution, the same thing can be said about intuition. Another term for intuition is abstraction, the ability to perceive beyond immediate sensory data to see the hidden patterns and concepts. Intuitive people are big-picture oriented and energized more by abstract parameters such as timing, potential, expectations, meaning etc. 

The rest of the animal kingdom is mostly unable to perform any intuitive task. Everything to them is immediate sensory input and responses. They live in the moment with no concept of time, let alone higher abstract thoughts such as the meaning of life.

Sensor is the term often used to refer to individuals dominant in sensing perception. They are often quicker in noticing surrounding movements and superficial impression: aesthetic beauty, vibe, concrete results and actions. They are often more attuned with pop culture and have highly-discriminated aesthetic tastes, making for great athletes, cooks, singers and artists. They prefer quick and concrete results and action, with little patience for theories or abstract discussions.

With that being said, there are pros and cons in being intuitive or sensing dominant. Intuitive people are stereotyped as being absent-minded professors, bland in taste and impractical. Meanwhile, sensors often have a bad reputation, especially on personalty forums, as shallow, conformist, superficial, impulsive and lacking in foresight. Sensors may be the majority in the general population, but they are probably too bored to discuss personality theories online, thus being the minority here.

4. Judging vs Perceiving.

This last dichotomy is probably the biggest pain point for many MBTI and Jungian purists. Judging and Perceiving are actually NOT psychological functions. They simply point out how your other two dichotomies, thinking-feeling and intuitive-sensing, orientate. If you are a P, your Dominant Extraverted function is an Perceiving function. Similarly, if you are J, your Dominant Extraverted function is a Judging function.

This is extremely confusing, I know. Perceiving functions are Intuitive or Sensing, while Rational functions refer to either Thinking or Feeling. I will have to explain the difference another time, but in short, jugding functions prioritize the perception of the objects, result or expectations of results while perceiving ones are process-oriented. If you are an INFP, your dominant extraverted function is Extraverted Intuition as compared to an INFJ who possesses a Judging extraverted function of Extraverted Feeling. 

Even though they are important, (INFJ and INFP actually have no function in common), beginners of MBTI should be more comfortable to regard the J and P letter as functions denoting abstract concepts of Being Organized versus Being Impulsive. 

It is important to remember to take them at face value, especially in the case of introverts, because they only denote the outward behaviours. An INFP is actually a Judger at heart because their dominant function is Introverted Feeling, a judging function. They would prefer to start the day with a goal and plan in mind, while an INFJ would actually go with the flow despite their outward quality of being more organized.

Jung, C. G. (2017). Psychological types. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

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