Hello personality enthusiasts! We had the honor to be able to have Michael Pierce to do a public session for the Singapore Typology Community. Michael Pierce is a Jungian researcher and well-known figure online with his substantial work published under the book “Motes and Beams”. I hope his beautiful analogies and philosophical analysis can help many MBTI beginner to move from simple personality quizzes to the beautifully nuanced world of Jungian Typology.
If you like Michael, check out his popular YouTube channel @MichaelPiercePhilosophy or purchase his book at http://subjectobjectmichaelpierce.blog
Michael: “You’re about to join me down the rabbit hole of this more complex, advanced system known as Cognitive Function Theory or Jungian Theory. So, we begin with Perception and Judgment. These appear in the MBTI test as a dichotomy pair. In Jung’s Theory, they serve a bit of a different role. Perception simply refers to how you perceive the world. It takes in information and it doesn’t categorize it, it doesn’t make any judgments about it. It is only interested in what the things are that are being perceived and are coming into the personality, into your mind. Judgment, as it’s been laid out here, assigns some sort of value to these things. It categorizes them, it judges them. So these two are opposites, but they’re complimentary.
Perception has two flavors, or there are two kinds of perception, and in the same way, there are two kinds of Judgment. There are slightly different theories about precisely the correct way to justify splitting them into two flavors, but for our purposes, we’ll just take it for granted and say Perception has two flavors. One is Sensing or Sensation. That’s the perception of what is actually there, the here and now. It has to do with the present, and it also has to do with concrete objects, a lot of the time. Whereas Intuition is a perception of the future, of underlying patterns, of the possibilities of things. That’s how I often try to refer to it. So Sensation is almost like a more direct line to the object, whereas Intuition tends to go around it to things that are implied by the object. So, Sensation is generally very concrete, down to earth. Intuition is very creative but can also be very head in the clouds about things. Those are two ways of just perceiving the object.
Judgment also has two kinds: Thinking and Feeling. It’s important to note that we use the terms Thinking and Feeling in a very different way from how they are more precisely used in Jung’s Theory. But as Ching has laid it out nicely here, Thinking is judgment of the quantifiable, and Feeling is judgment of the unquantifiable. There’s a correspondence, at least in my theory, my approach to it, between Thinking and Sensation and Feeling and Intuition. Thinking has to do with judging things in terms of rigid categories and logic, whereas Feeling has more to do with values, ethics, how you and other people are feeling. So that’s sort of the distinction.
Okay, so now we have four functions, and note we’ve just sort of built them beginning from Perception and Judgment, and we’ve built our way up to Sensation, Intuition, Thinking, and Feeling, which again you would recognize those from the MBTI, the Myers-Briggs test, and other tests online.”
The Dichotomy of Extraversion and Introversion
Michael: “So now we’re going to do the division game again. We’re going to introduce a new dichotomy, Introversion and Extraversion, and by doing that, we will multiply the four functions into eight cognitive functions.
Extroversion is an attitude. It’s a focus on what we call ‘the object’. So I perhaps should have started with this, but just so you understand the terminology, the object is anything that is not you. It is the thing that you are focusing on, in order for anything to happen in psychology, you have to have an object and you have to have a subject. The subject is the mind, the subject is the person or the being that has the psychology going on inside them, as it were. And for every subject, there needs to be objects that that subject can think about and can focus on. For Extroversion, there is this, as it were, outward turning and outward focus towards the objects that are out there in the world. And Introversion is a turning inwards to the way that your own subject is. So in some sense, Introversion, you could say, is making an object of your own subject. But I don’t want to start getting into loops of language and so forth. The more important thing is the outward motion versus this inward motion.
And so we can split up Sensation and Thinking, and Feeling and Intuition via Extroversion and Introversion. So we would get extroverted sensation, introverted sensation, extroverted thinking, introverted thinking, so forth.
You’ll notice in the little chart up here, they are abbreviations. So Fi would be Introverted Feeling. So the F is for Feeling, the T is for thinking, the S is for Sensation, and the N is for Intuition. Even though intuition starts with an I, it’s abbreviated with an N so it doesn’t get mixed up with Introversion. And then each of those has a little I for Introversion after it or a little E for Extraversion after it. So that’s the notation and how that works. It’s a lot faster to just write, say, Fe rather than Extroverted Feeling because that would get a lot of letters on the page.
So finally, we have eight cognitive functions. And now what we’re going to do is we’re going to arrange these functions in order to get 16 different personality types. Let’s just run over what these cognitive functions are and how they work.”
What is “Sensation”?
Michael: “There are two kinds of Sensation: Introverted and Extroverted. I’ll start with Extroverted Sensation. Going by our definitions, Extroverted Sensation would be sensation but directed outward, as it were. It is directed to objects in the here and now. Somebody who is using Extroverted Sensation is someone for whom that is the dominant function they prefer to use. There tends to be a very, as it were, carpe diem, YOLO, living in the moment, thriving on uncertainty. People who are Extroverted Sensing types in my experience thrive in situations where there’s a bit of chaos, and it can stress them out as well, but they’re often much better than introverted types at dealing with that because they’re just going moment by moment. They see what concretely is happening around them, and they just keep track of everything and flow in order to adapt to what is happening in the moment. So, you know, emergency workers, firefighters, police, a lot of people who have to deal with emergency situations. It doesn’t just have to be that. You can still find them in more academic disciplines at times, though that is usually through focus on other functions. So that’s Extroverted Sensation, very in the moment.
Introverted Sensation reverses that in an interesting way, because the sensation is directed inwards. So Introverted Sensation people, not in a political sense at all, per se, but there’s a kind of conservatism, they’re much slower and more removed from the outside world, as compared to the extroverted sensor. It is perception of the here and now but brought inwards.
My mother, for example, is a dominant Introverted Sensation type, and she has a very sensitive palate. She usually does a lot of the cooking. She prefers to do the cooking because she can cook the things right. And every time we sit down to dinner, she will eat the food and she will be comparing what she is tasting here and now with these sort of ideal sensations that she has in her own mind. And she compares those sensations to that ideal sensation, and it’s that ideal sensation which is more real for her than the sensations in the here and now. And so she will taste and say, “This tastes like it has too much salt. This shouldn’t have as much salt as it does at the moment,” whereas I’m sitting there, and I’m like, “Oh, this is a salty dish“. But for her, it’s like, “No, it’s more salty than the way it should have salt”. And if you’re clever, you might notice there’s some relation with judgment, which I don’t really have time to get into that right now, but it’s a valid observation. So anyway, you get a conservatism there. It’s not “live-in-the-moment”.
One of the other things my mother would do is when something flashy or wild or very quick would happen, she would take a moment and she would just say, “I’m just processing what just happened”. And she’s processing the sensory aspect of it. So they all also will often be very good journal keepers, very meticulous, able to remember all of the details and repeat those back.
What is “Intuition”?
Michael: “So now we move on to Intuition. We have Extroverted Intuition, which is a perception of implications and possibilities brought outwards. It is a focus on ideas and possibilities. Almost like they’re juggling a lot of different ideas at one time. But more importantly, it’s the fact that those ideas are out there. A better way of putting it is it’s almost like ideas are actual objects for them that exist outside of themselves and exist on their own. So the result of this is that ideas tend to diverge for them. From one observation, you can derive ten new and distinct ideas from it. So there’s this branching out, and it very quickly can turn into a kind of chaos for them. But it’s very, very fruitful because they will see all of the ways you can split up one topic into different topics.
Introverted Intuition does sort of the opposite. Introverted intuition, because it turns inwards, has a tendency to see similarities between things to a certain extent and to say, “This idea is really just this idea if you put them next to each other.” You can sort of collapse things into each other. From 10 observations, you derive one sort of vision or one underlying principle.
Extroverted Intuition is almost like, you have one point, and then you draw an infinite number of lines through that one point to show all of the different ways you can diverge from that one point. Whereas intuition or introverted intuition, you have say 10 points, and then you try to draw a line of best fit, if you know that from algebra, you try to draw a single line that sort of averages out all of those individual observations, and that is the single idea which is then kept in Introverted Intuition.
So kind of like with Introverted Sensation where I mentioned this notion of having ideal sensations that you kind of use to organize the sensations in the outside world, similar idea with Introverted Intuition, but with ideas, you have sort of a single idea that you are relating things back to. So Extroverted Intuition is stereotypically… it doesn’t necessarily look like this, but stereotypically, lots of different ideas. Very kind of scattered brains, running all over the place, whereas introverted intuition is like, “I have the eyes that stare into your soul,” you know, kind of like the chess grandmaster or something like that.”
What is “Thinking”?
Michael: “Thinking is judgment that is based on logic and facts, and it’s broader than that, but that’s the quickest way to explain it. So Extroverted Thinking is very goal-oriented. It’s very, “I want to accomplish things out there in the world. I want to organize the actual materials or people or resources that I see outside of me. I want to work with the external facts of a situation. Here’s where we should go with something. Here’s how we make things more efficient.’”
Ching: “Everyone always has this mindset that Extraversion means party animal, you know? So when I meet someone and I say, ‘Oh, I think you have a very strong Extraverted Thinking,’ they often say, ‘Oh, I’m not an extrovert. I’m just doing all the work in the background,’ but it is precisely the fact that they are doing all the work that is the Extroversion, and that is the Jungian definition of Extroversion that is that we don’t really use nowadays.”
Michael: “Thank you, Ching. Yes, that’s a very good point. It’s important to leave aside some of your preconceptions about what Extroversion and Introversion mean in order to properly understand these. You can get people who will seem very introverted in a colloquial sense, in an everyday sense, but the way that their mind actually functions would be described better by one of the extroverted functions. Perhaps, and as we shall see soon, everybody has extroverted sides and introverted sides. It’s just a matter of how they are arranged in relation to each other. So it’s never as simple as whether you’re a party animal or you want to stay home and read books.
So that’s Extroverted thinking, very pragmatic. Introverted Thinking, again, we have this idea where it’s almost the thinking idea inside of one’s own subject which takes precedence over the facts out there. So there’s a focus on refining logical ideas, refining and making those ideas perfectly precise, pure mathematics almost all the time. That’s where you’re going to find more Introverted Thinking types. But they’re much more interested in the theory and in making things logical and consistent, and then taking that theory and then after the fact applying it to what’s going on out there.
They’re always much more interested in making the definitions and ideas more precise. Rene Descartes, a French philosopher, he’s famous for saying, “I think, therefore, I am”. That is very introverted thinking because what he literally did was said, “I can’t trust any of my external knowledge of the outside world because, you know, it’s possible that I am deceived or I’m hallucinating or I’m dreaming or something. All I can trust, and what is more real for me, is my own thoughts, my own principles that I’ve developed.” This is very introverted thinking. So that’s how those two go. You kind of have this difference between theory and practice, which would be a very general way of differentiating them.”
What is “Feeling”?
Michael: “Finally, we have Feeling. Extroverted Feeling is a feeling which is sort of directed outwards. It is objectified. Extroverted Feeling will generally be much more naturally outwardly expressive. It will be in tune with what expressions are the most socially acceptable or most harmonious to the needs of the group.
Ching wrote a nice little thing, actually, a very nice little description here: “Each individual is one Mosaic of a beautiful group dance, and everyone needs to play their part.” That’s great. The dance especially is a great way of putting it because you have this notion of the need to not focus on how you’re feeling or your own feelings, but to harmonize with the group and to try to promote the feelings of the group as a whole. So you see there’s this movement outwards in terms of one’s ethics. When someone has dominated Extroverted Feeling, there will often be this sort of blurring of the line where they will be literally feeling what they think should be felt. And if they’re not feeling what should be felt, then they’re like, “Something’s wrong. If I’m not crying at a funeral, something’s probably wrong. This isn’t how you’re supposed to feel objectively in this situation”. They also don’t say certain things to certain people because they think they’re just going to screw everything up.
Introverted Feeling is where the feeling is directed inwards. You have to get past some of the connotations of the language because when I say they’re much more focused on how they are feeling, it sounds as though they’re self-absorbed and selfish. And from the Extroverted Feeling perspective, they are. From that perspective, that’s what’s going on. But then that gets challenged when you find that some of the most empathetic and self-sacrificing people I’ve met have been Introverted Feeling types. And that’s because it sort of messes with the selfishness-selflessness division.
Introverted feeling is that feeling which is internal or individual to you. If you’re crying at a funeral because you knew the person and you had a personal connection with them and you are genuinely, like, this is how I feel regardless of how everybody else is feeling, that’s good because that indicates that you are more in alignment with your own feelings and your own soul. But if you’re just crying at the funeral because that’s what you’re supposed to do, then that’s like, who are you? You’re like an empty shell. I once had an argument with a friend of mine who wasn’t a dominant Introverted Feeling, but they had that in there as one of their major functions, and they were always asking me, like, “So, how do you feel about this or that controversial issue?” And I, being more Extroverted Feeling, was always like, “I don’t really want to answer that .. What’s more important is how are you going to react to how I feel about such and such”. As far as my feelings go, those just seem so ephemeral and so kind of unrelated to the topic… and it would turn into just us arguing over whose feelings are right, and that wasn’t useful. But that wasn’t how she thought about the things. So, that’s your crash course in the eight functions.“
How are cognitive functions organized to form personality types?
Michael: “The way that the functions are organized in a personality is that you have four function slots. You have the dominant function, you have the auxiliary function, the tertiary function, and the primitive or inferior function. We’ll start with the dominant.
The dominant function is the one that most defines you and the way that you tend to think. It’s the one that you use the most. Nicely compared with walking here, which I know is drawn from the book. Thank you, Ching. Yes, it’s the most easy and natural thing for you to do. In some cases, it can be so natural that the person will not even notice that that is definitely their mode of thinking, and that can actually sometimes be a bit of a challenge in typing people or at least in self-typing. But in any case, that’s sort of the easiest one to understand in a lot of ways.
But in order to function as a person in general, you can’t just have one function, because you need multiple ways to see and to situate yourself in reality. So you have to start off with the auxiliary function, which compensates for your dominant function. So there’s always a bit of opposition there. The auxiliary function nicely compares to swimming; it requires more effort to do it, but you can do it, and it’s very useful for you to orient yourself in society.
For example, I believe my dominant function is introverted intuition, so that’s what I sort of just do in the background all the time naturally. My auxiliary function is Extroverted Feeling. That is what helps compensate for my Introverted Intuition so that I’m not just sitting in my room, staring, and reading a text and trying to understand the secrets of the universe. I can actually go out and buy food and act like a normal human being. That’s a silly way of putting it, but more importantly, I associate it with my ability to situate myself in relation to other people and also a concern with social harmony.”
Ching: “The Fe auxiliary really helps you in a teaching role because you’re always focused on translating that vision to something that’s palatable to the people we are speaking to, or tailoring it specifically to the people you are talking to.”
Michael: “Exactly, yes. It’s not the thing that you’re naturally doing; it’s something that assists your dominant function with what it wants to do.
Then you get the tertiary function. The tertiary function is something that you are very interested in, but you may not realize that you’re not actually the best there ever was at it. There can often be a bit of overestimation of one’s abilities with the tertiary function. It’s like the term here, the action metaphor, is lusting. Though you might associate it more with infatuation or fascination, you’re attracted to it, and yet it’s one-dimensional in your understanding of it, which sometimes can be a benefit. But you’re not actually, if you go up against somebody who is dominant in that function, it often becomes clear where the weaknesses lie or where the naivete lies, where the lack of cultivation there lies.
So my tertiary function is Introverted Thinking, and you can see this, say, in my book where I’m creating these strict structures that are very Introverted Thinking, very logical, and they build one thing after the other. So my natural tendency would be to say, “Wow, it’s like I’m an Introverted Thinking type. I’m the master at ‘logic’ and figuring things out.” And then you compare it with my father, who is an Introverted Thinking dominant type, and he is an actual mathematician, and he can manipulate concepts and logical concepts in a way that is just completely out of my league. But in a way, he’s much more… he would not make some of the bold leaps that I make in Introverted Thinking precisely because he’s more of a veteran with it. So there’s a trade-off there. So that’s sort of scratching the surface of auxiliary and tertiary. I hope that maybe helps to differentiate them a bit.”
Ching: “Oh, maybe just one point I can add to that. So, in Chinese, there is a phrase that goes “showing off in front of a master”. I use this phrase to help people differentiate between dominant and tertiary because basically when the first person, you know, who uses the tertiary function meets someone who is using it in a dominant way, they would be exactly that phrase where you are showing off in front of this master.”
Michael: “Yeah, I really like that because that’s exactly what happens, that’s actually a very good phrase.”
Ching: “And also, I can think of some examples. For instance, there’s a friend of mine who is an ENFJ, and she said her boyfriend is an ESTP. The ESTP’s tertiary function is extroverted feeling, making him a super party animal and a social butterfly. He’s always friendly, saying “Hey, what’s up?” to everyone and making everyone laugh. My ENFJ friend feels that he doesn’t need to be that friendly to everyone. In fact, she believes he may encourage inappropriate behaviors or enable the wrong people to become popular by focusing on only one aspect of the tertiary function.”
Michael: “Yes, that’s very good, and in some sense, there is a descending order of maturity to the functions, is another way of characterizing it. The dominant function is your most mature function, the auxiliary function is pretty mature, but it’s almost like the assistant to the hero. The tertiary is much younger, much less experienced, and finally, you get the inferior function, which is the least experienced and often the most… all-or-nothing, in a lot of ways. You compared it to tiptoeing, which is very nice, difficult, and low payoff. One may get away with suppressing and ignoring it altogether. It can be a worthwhile challenge if one wishes to turn all weaknesses and blind spots into strengths and also a source of unusual elegance.
So all of the functions have a function, which is the most directly opposite to it. The dominant function represses its opposite function, and its opposite function thereby becomes the inferior function. So introverted intuition is opposed to extroverted sensation, because extroverted sensation has to do with the actual objects outside of me, whereas introverted intuition has to do with the ideas inside of me. So you have this repression between the two of them, and yet it’s sort of a yin-yang, complementary association between them because you can’t have one without the other.
You get a similar opposition between the auxiliary and the tertiary, where you’ll have somebody who, say, with the ESTP example that Ching gave, the ESTP is much better with Introverted Thinking, and they’ll use that in order to organize their life and give themselves principles of action. But especially as they get older, they’ll become more infatuated with Extroverted Feeling and almost think that is more important and want to associate more with that than with the introverted thinking, which they’re much better at. So, there’s this element of natural ability, self-awareness, engagement.
That’s sort of the organization for the different types. So you get 16 types, in which each type has four functions, and these different slots. The reason that there are only 16 types built from eight functions is because of the natural oppositions I mentioned, where if you have Ni as your dominant function, you must have Se as your inferior function. That’s just they always go together in that way. And you can… if you have a perceiving function as your dominant, then you have to have a judging function as your auxiliary. So you get these natural oppositions, and in this almost very geometrical, mathematical way, it works out, so you only end up getting 16 distinct types.”