Understanding the Jungian cognitive functions is key to Myers-Briggs typing. Unfortunately, it can also be very confusing. Basically, the four letters in a Myers-Briggs type tells you what kind of mental processes you use most effectively in making judgements and decisions (Thinking or Feeling) and in perceiving the world (Intuition or Sensing). It also tells you whether you are more oriented to the outer world or inner world (Extrovert or Introvert).
Everyone has and uses four functions (out of a possible eight). Your primary function is the one you’re most comfortable with and use most effectively. It’s supported by your secondary function, which acts as a sort of co-pilot. The third and fourth functions are less developed, and while we have access to them they are not often used effectively. You can look up your type’s cognitive functions on a variety of websites, including PersonalityJunkie.
For this first post, we’ll focus on the perceiving or learning processes (there will be a part two next week for the decision-making processes). Everyone has an introverted or extroverted form of Sensing and Intuition in their function stack. We use one or the other most effectively when learning new things and interacting with new ideas. Most Myers-Briggs enthusiasts still refer to these functions by their full names or abbreviations, but I think the Personality Hacker labels are easier to use when first learning about cognitive functions so I’ll include those as well.
Sensing types are primarily concerned with what exists in concrete, observable reality. They focus on either the past or the present, and would rather work with something tangible than something theoretical. They can enjoy life in the moment and appreciate sense-impressions like good food and attractive surroundings.
Memory/Introverted Sensing (Si)
Personality Hacker says “that people use this process to learn new information based on their memories.” Isabel Meyer said a person using Introverted Sensing “sees things highly colored by the subjective factor,” and develops an inner self that may appear eccentric because of their unique way to seeing the world. However you phrase it, the Memory process is concerned with collecting sensory information and taking the time to check it for reliability and see how it fits in with their other ideas.
This is the perceiving process used most effectively by ISFJs, ISTJs, ESFJs, and ESTJs. The introverts use it as their primary function; the extroverts use it as a co-pilot to support their dominant decision-making function.
Sensation/Extroverted Sensing (Se)
The difference between the introverted Memory process and the extroverted Sensation process is that Se types process their sensory impressions externally. They want to experience and interact with something when they encounter it, rather than after-the-fact. People who use Sensation as their primary or secondary process have a reputation as adrenaline junkies.
This is the perceiving process used most effectively by ESTPs, ESFPs, ISTPs, and ISFPs. The extroverts use it as their primary functions; the introverts use it as a co-pilot to support their dominant decision-making function.
Intuitive types are primarily concerned with what could be. They focus on patterns and future possibilities, and would rather deal with theory and potential than something that’s already here. They are imaginative, original, and value achievement and inspiration.
Perspectives/Introverted Intuition (Ni)
When focused inward as the Perspectives process, an intuitive type is concerned with deep insights and understanding patterns that form inside their mind. Perspectives types are extremely creative, and analyze external data as well as internal thoughts and feelings to come to an understanding about how their minds work. We then use our self-insight to interpret life and promote understanding (as Isabel Myers puts it).
This is the perceiving process used most effectively by INFJs, INTJs, ENFJs, and ENTJs. The introverts use it as their primary functions; the extroverts use it as a co-pilot to support their dominant decision-making function.
Exploration/Extroverted Intuition (Ne)
Extroverted Intuition is also concerned with ideas, possibilities and a desire to understand, but it’s focus outward. Often, these types will perform experiments just to see what will happen. Personality Hacker calls this process Exploration because “the best pattern recognition system for the outer world is to mess with everything that can be messed with, and to explore, explore, explore.”
This is the perceiving process used most effectively by ENTPs, ENFPs, INTPs, and INFPs. The extroverts use it as their primary functions; the introverts use it as a co-pilot to support their dominant decision-making function.