A Quick Guide To Understand Jung’s Cognitive Functions

Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, developed a theory of personality that included eight cognitive functions that he believed influenced the way individuals perceive and process information. According to Jung’s theory, each individual has a dominant function that strongly shapes the personality.

His theory on cognitive functions are closely related to the personality types described in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The MBTI is a psychological assessment tool that is based on Jung’s theory of personality and is used to identify an individual’s personality type based on their preferences for certain cognitive functions.

According to the MBTI, each individual has a dominant function, followed by a an auxiliary function, which work together to form their personality. The eight cognitive functions identified by Jung are:

  • Introverted Sensing (Si)
  • Extraverted Sensing (Se)
  • Introverted Intuition (Ni)
  • Extraverted Intuition (Ne)
  • Introverted Thinking (Ti)
  • Extraverted Thinking (Te)
  • Introverted Feeling (Fi)
  • Extraverted Feeling (Fe)

Here is a brief overview of how the MBTI personality types correspond to Jung’s cognitive functions:

  • ISTJ (Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, Judging): Dominant function is Introverted Sensing (Si), auxiliary function is Extraverted Thinking (Te)
  • ISFJ (Introverted, Sensing, Feeling, Judging): Dominant function is Introverted Sensing (Si), auxiliary function is Extraverted Feeling (Fe)
  • INFJ (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging): Dominant function is Introverted Intuition (Ni), auxiliary function is Extraverted Feeling (Fe)
  • INTJ (Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging): Dominant function is Introverted Intuition (Ni), auxiliary function is Extraverted Thinking (Te)
  • ISTP (Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, Perceiving): Dominant function is Introverted Thinking (Ti), auxiliary function is Extraverted Sensing (Se)
  • ISFP (Introverted, Sensing, Feeling, Perceiving): Dominant function is Introverted Feeling (Fi), auxiliary function is Extraverted Sensing (Se)
  • INFP (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving): Dominant function is Introverted Feeling (Fi), auxiliary function is Extraverted Intuition (Ne)
  • INTP (Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Perceiving): Dominant function is Introverted Thinking (Ti), auxiliary function is Extraverted Intuition (Ne)
  • ESTJ (Extraverted, Sensing, Thinking, Judging): Dominant function is Extraverted Thinking (Te), auxiliary function is Introverted Sensing (Si)
  • ESFJ (Extraverted, Sensing, Feeling, Judging): Dominant function is Extraverted Feeling (Fe), auxiliary function is Introverted Sensing (Si)
  • ENFJ (Extraverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging): Dominant function is Extraverted Feeling (Fe), auxiliary function is Introverted Intuition (Ni)
  • ENTJ (Extraverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging): Dominant function is Extraverted Thinking (Te), auxiliary function is Introverted Intuition (Ni)
  • ESTP (Extraverted, Sensing, Thinking, Perceiving): Dominant function is Extraverted Sensing (Se), auxiliary function is Introverted Thinking (Ti)
  • ESFP (Extraverted, Sensing, Feeling, Perceiving): Dominant function is Extraverted Sensing (Se), auxiliary function is Introverted Feeling (Fi)
  • ENFP (Extraverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving): Dominant function is Extraverted Intuition (Ne), auxiliary function is Introverted Feeling (Fi)
  • ENTP (Extraverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Perceiving): Dominant function is Extraverted Intuition (Ne), auxiliary function is Introverted Thinking (Ti)

Definitions & Examples of the Functions

  1. Extraverted Sensing (Se) – This function involves the use of the five senses to gather and process information about the physical world. People who are strong in this function are practical, detail-oriented, and focused on the present.

Example: A person who is strong in sensing might be a skilled craftsman who is able to accurately measure and cut wood using a ruler and saw.

Or a person who is strong in sensing might be a successful farmer who is able to observe and understand the needs of their crops and animals, and use their practical skills to care for them.

  1. Extraverted Intuition (Ne) – This function involves the ability to process information through pattern recognition and the interpretation of symbolic meaning. People who are strong in this function are imaginative, open-minded, and focused on the future.

Example: A person who is strong in intuition might be a successful entrepreneur who is able to see the potential in a new business idea and take risks to bring it to fruition.

Another example is, a person who is strong in intuition might be a successful writer who is able to generate new ideas and explore multiple possibilities in their writing, and use their imagination to create compelling and engaging stories.

  1. Extraverted Thinking (Te) is a cognitive function that involves the ability to organize and implement ideas in a practical way. People who are strong in this function are organized, efficient, and action-oriented. They tend to focus outwardly on the practical implementation of their ideas, and they are skilled at getting things done.

Example: A person who is strong in extraverted thinking might be a successful project manager who is able to develop and implement plans to complete projects on time and within budget. They might be adept at organizing tasks and resources, and at communicating effectively with team members to ensure that projects are completed successfully.

  1. Introverted Feeling (Fi) is a cognitive function that involves the ability to understand and process one’s own emotions, values, and beliefs. People who are strong in this function are self-aware, independent, and true to their own values and beliefs. They tend to focus inwardly on their own emotions and values, and they are skilled at understanding their own feelings and motivations.

Example: A person who is strong in introverted feeling might be a successful poet who is able to express their own emotions and values through their writing. They might be adept at understanding and exploring their own feelings, and at using their writing to express those emotions in a deeply personal and authentic way.

  1. Introverted Sensing (Si) – This function involves the ability to recall and compare past experiences to inform present actions. People who are strong in this function are reliable, grounded, and detail-oriented.

Example: A person who is strong in introverted sensing might be a successful chef who is able to recall the flavors and textures of various ingredients and use that knowledge to create new dishes.

  1. Introverted Intuition (Ni) – This function involves the ability to foresee and predict the most likely outcome and scenarios, using the whole brain to unconsciously see the hidden patterns and to see the aha moment.

Example: A person with strong Ni can be a visionary business man who foresees potential shift in the market and invest in the right market and products way ahead of his competitors.

  1. Introverted Thinking (Ti) – This function involves the ability to analyze and understand complex systems and concepts. People who are strong in this function are independent, analytical, and logical.

Example: A person who is strong in introverted thinking might be a successful scientist who is able to conduct experiments, analyze data, and develop theories to explain natural phenomena.

  1. Extraverted Feeling (Fe) – This function involves the ability to understand and respond to the emotions of others. People who are strong in this function are outgoing, empathetic, and sensitive to the feelings of others.

Example: A person who is strong in extraverted feeling might be a successful teacher who is able to connect with and understand the emotional needs of their students, and use that understanding to create a positive and supportive learning environment.

I hope the above has shed more light on the various cognitive functions in Jungian psychology & MBTI. Have questions? Feel free to comment below and I will answer promptly!

Are You A Thinker Or Feeler?

Can I ask if you are left-handed or right-handed? The chance is you are a right-handed person, because it is the majority of our population. How do you know that you are right-handed? It is a very obvious question almost without a need to explain. If we need to break down the reasons, there are three ways you know that your type is a right-handed: 1) The frequency of you using your right hand in a day is higher than your left and 2) Your right hand feels a lot more natural and real and 3) Your right hand will objectively be better at handling heavier objects or more complex tasks. 

That is how you should think about your opposing function of Thinking and Feeling as well. Do keep the above ideas of left and right hand in mind as we further learn about the true definition of Thinking and Feeling in Jungian psychology.

If you are a visual learner, you can also follow this video below:

The definitions

Carl Jung

Besides Introversion and Extroversion, Thinking and Feeling are the second dimension in analytical psychology (the third dimension is Intuition versus Sensing). These concepts were first introduced in the early 20th century by Carl Gustav Jung (1875 – 1961), a famous Swiss psychiatrist who developed the idea of Psychological Types, the precursor to the extremely popular Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test and framework.

My philosophy for Our Human Minds have always been to adhere as much as possible to the original understanding and work of Carl Jung to help readers understand accurately the cognitive functions. It is a longer path, but trust me, it is more rewarding and surer way to achieve more accurate self-understanding than purely taking the online test and read the descriptions of the 16 MBTI personalities!

Unlike left and right hand, Thinking and Feeling preferences in analytical psychology are more distinct, serving very different purposes. Your two hands do not oppose each other, but Thinking and Feeling do by definition. Hence, being aware of them and knowing how to develop your weaker function and learn to make them synchronize holds the potential for not only more productivity but also psychological maturity and wholeness.

The definition of  “Thinking” and “Feeling” in Jungian psychology are easily confused with the more layman definitions that we use in our daily languages. They should not be confused with logic versus emotion. You need to understand them in a more fundamental way, that they are evaluative & rational processes to judge incoming information, whether something is right or wrong, good and bad…

Thinking and Feeling aim to clearly distinguish between the two distinct preferences for decision-making: impersonal versus personal/interpersonal respectively. The easiest way to visualize this difference is in the common stereotype between men versus women in our society. Men are known to prefer to “solve problems” and break down problems “logically” while on the other hand, women simply want to be listened to, to be empathized and understood. 

Thinkers (both men and women) prefer to solve problems objectively

While this is a stereotype, indeed, some of the surveys  have shown that there is a slight preference (55%) among men for Thinking and a strong preference (75%) of women who have a Feeling preference. How much of this is the surveyed individuals’ true preferences and how much is a result of social expectation & conditioning, is for another debate. However, I would like to add that based on this survey, thinking that all men are or have to be super logical or women have to be relationship-oriented is a gross simplification and unfair treatment to both sexes.

To break it down further, thinking manifests itself as preference for using objective and measurable frameworks for clear-cut decision making. It is about using objective criteria, conceptual frameworks, pros and cons, structures, logical systems… People with Thinking preference value and take pride in being efficient, precise, goal and task-oriented. Something is good if it is placed in the right category, gives better measurable results, more efficient etc.

On the other hand, Feeling places stronger emphasis on human’s welfare, values and preferences. As an introverted function, it’s about knowing a strong moral sense of right and wrong, of feeling an urge to help the less fortunate, to be humanitarian, to overcome unfairness and restore equality. Extroverted version is about about maintaining a harmonious atmosphere (when hosting a house party for example), making sure common pleasantries and “civilized” etiquettes are adhered to, while making sure everyone has a good time.

ThinkingFeeling
DefinitionImpersonal evaluationInterpersonal and value-based decision-making
Related conceptsobjective criteria, pros and cons, measurable results, conceptual frameworks, logical systemsvalues, morality, harmony, personal preferences, gut feels of right and wrong

Quick Exercise : What is your true preference based on the above definition?
You might need to think about when you are younger or in a more comfortable place at home without any stress of work or “have to” pressure. Social expectation and work stresses might force us to over-compensate to the point of losing sight of who we truly are, like Feeling men are often expected to appear logical and tough, or your jobs have required you to develop your weaker function, even if in your younger years you are the opposite.

Develop Thinking

This section is more relevant for Feeler who has a natural strength in making decisions based on personal values or harmony, but as a result, devoting less consciousness energy in using systemic/impersonal perspectives. We will look at concrete steps that you can take to gradually build up confidence in using the skills and become more holistic in decision making.

Playing a big part of your ego, Feeling – the preference for using value and personal-preference based approach, is part of your identity. The cause that you care about, friends and family, the social connection and status that represent your deepest conviction and meaning of life, are valid. As much as it’s important to acknowledge the other side of the equation, in the end, Thinking should serve in a supporting role and not to dominate your preference for  personal values or interpersonal harmony.

Just like this two-people bike, you should let your dominant function to take the lead and guide the other function, not the other way round!

The development of your weaker functions and achieving wholeness is a life-long quest, so the instruction below serves as a general direction and examples of the kind of steps you can take to develop Thinking.

Remember that the basic definition of Thinking is the use of impersonal systems, framework and measurable results and data. Hence, you can:

  1. Learn from someone close to you who is strong in Thinking like your family members or colleagues. Talk to them more or reflect on the time you guys spend time together. Learn about how they conduct themselves differently, understand why they do it and see if you can learn and integrate some of their techniques or philosophy.
  2. Develop interests in activities that require strong impersonal reasoning and decision making such as chess, finance, computer games…
  3. Integrate productivity tools such as planner, calendar, deadlines and KPIs clearly for both personal work and managing others.
  4. Take courses, read books, watch videos… on productivity, time and project management.
  5. Learn to say No. It’s very natural for Feeler to go with the flow and say yes to keep harmony. Saying No doesn’t mean being harsh or rude if you can explain yourself clearly. It doesn’t have to be black and white either, you can also negotiate what you’d like to do and what you cannot do or you feel is not fair. It’s hard at first, but it’s an essential skill that will go a long way!

Knowing other ways to develop your Thinking side that can help other readers? Feel free to comment below!

Develop Feeling

This is more relevant to Thinking dominant type. Again, it’s important that you acknowledge and embrace your identity as a Thinker and develop Feeling as a support for a more holistic decision making process. Your Thinking function should still be in the driver seat!

  1. Find friends, family or colleagues who you know well and you are fairly certain they are stronger in Feeling. Get to know them more and reflect on how they conduct things differently and see whether you can integrate some of their physiology and methods to your daily life.
  2. Engage in reflective activities like meditation, arts, writing… to reflect on your values and what’s important to you. Remember, it’s a gradual process that requires patience and regular practices.
  3. Engage in social activities and roles that you have to interact more with people. Recognise some of your biases and see it from a more positive light when it comes to social relationships. 
  4. Immerse yourself in nature, away from distraction of work and technology, to hear and embrace your inner voices, values and feelings.

Are you a Thinker that has other ways that work? Feel free to share below.

I hope you now have a clearer understanding of the distinction between these rational dimensions of Thinking versus Feeling. In reality, these two preferences never exist as standalone in a healthy person’s psyche but work in tandem. But since they are mutually exclusive/cancelling out, it’s natural to prioritize and put your conscious energy into one while “send to exile” the other, giving little conscious energy to nourish and maintain it.

If possible, you should learn further about how Introversion and Extroversion are combined with Thinking and Feeling to give rise to 4 distinct Cognitive Processes/Functions: Introverted Thinking, Extroverted Thinking, Introverted Feeling and Extroverted Feeling. This breakdown will bring in a whole new level of depth and opportunities for self-understanding and development. Good luck!

References

Type Fundamentals Guide @mbti-notes

Psychological types by CG. Jung

Valid or pseudo science? A brief history of the MBTI

Carl Jung and cognitive functions

Carl Gustav Jung (1875 – 1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology. He was one of the best students and confidants of Sigmund Freud, a forefather of modern psychology who is well known for the discovery and study of the unconscious. The unconscious is defined as a reservoir of feelings, thoughts, urges, and memories that are outside of conscious awareness. Many of these unconsciousness are influenced by our early memories as an infant and young child.

While Feud theory is only about the personal unconscious, Carl Jung studied and developed the unconscious further to show the collective unconscious, which represent a form of the unconscious common to mankind as a whole and originating in the inherited structure of the brain. It is distinct from the personal unconscious, which arises from the experience of the individual.

He was the first to distinguish the two major attitudes or orientations of personality – extroversion and introversion. He also identified four basic functions (thinking, feeling, sensing, and intuiting) which in a cross-classification yield eight pure personality types. He advocates for individuation, which can be defined as the achievement of self-actualization through a process of integrating the conscious and the unconscious.

Jung’s theory is less mainstream than Freud’s as it is very abstract and related to the magical realm of dreams and historical symbols… However, the testimonials for the soundness and usefulness of his work are the continued development of his theory into more structured framework by renowned psychologist in the field such as Isabel Myers, Linda Beren, Lenore Thompson, Dario Nardi..

About the MBTI

The MBTI by Isabel Myer is probably the most popular (extremely popular to be exact) with 1.5 million people taking the official test each year and almost 90% of Fortune 500 companies using them. Its popularity certainly drew criticism with questions from the scientific community about its validity and reliability as a test.

Jung’s theory is less mainstream than Freud’s as it is very abstract and related to the magical realm of dreams and historical symbols… That is one of the main reason for the MBTI being questioned in its scientific foundation as well as the its accuracy as a psychomtric test, which is another matter and debate on its own.

However, the testimonials for the soundness and usefulness of his work are the continued development of his theory into more structured frameworks by renowned psychologist in the field such as Isabel Myers, Linda Beren, Lenore Thompson, Dario Nardi…

Recent discovery in cognitive science does reveal and prove that introversion and extroversion exist as real pattern in the brain with extroverts having the thinking and talking parts wired together while for introvert, they can work independently. Dario Nardi’ Neuro science of brain scan book, he used EEG method to show that across hundreds of participants, similar MBTI types do have similar brain activity patterns at work or when in flow.

Example of brain scan images of different MBTI types – Credit to Dario Nardi