Feeling Is A Rational Function, and Other Things You Might Not Know About Thinking and Feeling in Myers-Briggs®

In the Myers-Briggs® typology system, a preference for Feeling (F) or Thinking (T) shows up as the third letter in your personality type. But what does it actually mean to use Thinking over Feeling, or vice versa?

You’ve probably heard that Thinking types tend to be more rational and cerebral than Feeling types, who are typically more emotional. There’s a lot more to it than that, though, and the stereotype isn’t entirely accurate. Keep reading to learn 5 things you might not have known about the Thinking and Feeling processes.

They’re Both Judging Functions

Thinking and Feeling are both what we call “Judging” functions. They’re used to describe the psychological process you use most often when making decisions. If you have an F in your four-letter type code, then you use Feeling to make decisions. If you have a T in your type, then you use Thinking.

If you’re a Judging (J) type, then that means you use your judging function to interact with the outer world. A TJ type uses Extroverted Thinking and an FJ type uses Extroverted Feeling as their most comfortable way of making decisions. If you’re a Perceiving (P) type you still have a judging function, but it’s oriented to your inner world. A TP type uses Introverted Thinking and an FP type uses Introverted Feeling.

Both Thinking Are Feeling Are Rational

One of the biggest surprises when I started diving deeper into research on psychological types is that Feeling and Thinking are both considered rational processes. Read more

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What You May Not Know About Your INFJ Mind But Really Should

A few weeks ago a fellow INFJ named Bo Miller contacted me and asked if he could interview me on his new podcast. After picking my jaw up off the floor and texting my boyfriend to share that I was equal parts terrified and excited, Bo and I started a conversation that led to this interview. Our conversation focused on how INFJs can understand and learn to use their Extroverted Feeling and Introverted Thinking functions.

Click Here To Listen To The Podcast

What You May Not Know About Your INFJ Mind But Really Should | marissabaker.wordpress.comI already shared this link on my Facebook page, but in addition to the podcast I have a special treat for you all today as well. Bo is a Certified Myers-Briggs practitioner and the creator of iSpeakPeople.com as well as The INFJ Personality Show. He recently published The INFJ Personality Guide and would love to give you a free copy. I haven’t read it yet myself, but from my conversations with him I’m pretty well convinced it’s going to be really good. I hope you’ll grab a copy and check out his website. Here’s more info:

In The INFJ Personality guide, you’ll discover…
• Your greatest strengths
• Your weaknesses
• Why the rest of the world thinks differently than you
• Why you’re so good at discerning people’s thoughts, motivations, and feelings
• How to set better boundaries
• How to cultivate healthy relationships
• What to do when you get down or depressed
• Career advice
• How to manage your thoughts
• How to make your creative ideas, insights, and visions a reality
• How to communicate more effectively with other personality types
• How to handle criticism without getting your feelings hurt

The guide is divided into three sections:
• INFJ preferences
• INFJ functions
• How to develop your personality and reach your potential

Click To Download A Free Copy Of The Guide

Thinking vs. Feeling in INxJ Personality Types

Because INFJs and INTJs both use Introverted Intuition as their favorite mental process, the two types can appear very similar. Quite a few people who take a Myers-Briggs test and get either of these results (or both on different tests) are left wondering, how can I tell whether I’m an INFJ and INTJ?

My personality type is INFJ and my sister’s is INTJ. It would be well-nigh impossible to assume we share a personality type, but if you don’t have that contrast living with you (or if you’re a little less extreme on your T/F preference) I can see how deciding which type is your best fit could be a challenge. INFJs and INTJs lead with the same mental process and they react in very similar ways when stressed out. The main differences between the two types have to do with how they handle their Thinking/Feeling preference.

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INFJs use auxiliary Extroverted Feeling as their copilot and support it with tertiary Introverted Thinking. INTJs use auxiliary Extroverted Thinking as their copilot and support it with tertiary Introverted Feeling. The auxiliary process is how they prefer to make decisions and interact with the outer world, but they can slip into their tertiary quite easily. It’s not as well developed or as reliable, but it can seem comfortable since it’s introverted (just like their dominant intuitive function).

How comfortable each INFJ/INTJ is with their thinking and feeling processes depends on a number of factors, including age, environment, and past experiences. You can find INFJs who are very people-oriented and social, or INFJs that seem distant and logical. Similarly, you’ll meet INTJs who are stereotypically blunt and calculating, and INTJs who are comfortable experiencing their own emotions. Even so, the way these functions shows up looks different for each type.

My Cup of T

An INTJ’s Thinking side is focused on the outer world. It’s also the function they’re most comfortable using when making decisions. While mature, well-balanced INTJs will take the human side of a question into consideration, it’s typically secondary to finding the most logical, fact-based solution. Personality Hacker calls this mental process “Effectiveness” and says it “focuses on impersonal criteria for making decisions” and prioritizes efficient problem solving.

INFJs, on the other hand, use an inward-focused Thinking process and they’re not usually as comfortable with it as they are with their Feeling side. Personality Hacker calls Introverted Thinking “Accuracy” and says this function gives users “the ability to reason through a subject or concept within one own’s understanding, even if it doesn’t match ‘outer world’ data.” Basically, this process is trying to work through things until they make sense.

INTJs are much more likely to express their Thinking judgements externally than an INFJ. They’ll often seem more blunt and direct because efficient communication is more important to them than worrying another person’s feelings. INTJs are also more likely to draw on objective, external facts to support their ideas. They want their ideas to work and they want outer world validation for their problem solving. That’s not nearly as important to INFJs, who need things to make sense personally more than to the people around them.

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Feeling The Feels

An INFJ’s Feeling side, like INTJ Thinking, is the function they use most comfortably when making decisions. It’s also outward focused, but it’s primarily people-oriented. Personality Hacker nicknames this function “Harmony” because it “makes decisions based on how things are impacting people on an emotional level.” The key thing to remember about this function is that it’s outward focused. INFJs are more in touch with other people’s feelings than they are their own.

INTJs use a Feeling process that’s introverted, which Personality Hacker calls “Authenticity.” While it’s also concerned with how decisions impact on an emotional level, it’s focused on one’s own emotions rather than other people’s. To again quote Personality Hacker, “Introverted Feeling is about checking in with all those inner parts and voices to determine what feels the most in alignment with oneself.” Somewhat ironically, the stereotypically cold and logical INTJs are often much more in-tune with their own feelings than the stereotypically emotional INFJs.

INFJs are more comfortable expressing feelings in the outer world and also more likely to pick-up on what other people are feeling. They’ll typically seem much more empathic and expressive than an INTJ. An INFJ who’s comfortable with their Extroverted Feeling side will also appear more social and “extroverted” than a typical INTJ. But INTJs are far more in-tune with their own emotions than most people (and many type descriptions) will give them credit for.

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INxJs In Real Life

Even after you know about the technical differences between the ways INFJs and INTJs use thinking and feeling, you might still wonder they show up in real life. Let me give you some quick examples.

  • When making an everyday decision — an INFJ’s first impulse will be finding what makes as many people as possible happy, while an INTJ’s first impulse will be quickly finding the most logical answer. For me and my sister at least, the INTJ has a much easier time making simple decisions without overthinking them than the INFJ does.
  • In a stressful/emergency situation — I’m the one who’s in logic mode and my INTJ sister is the one indecisive and unsure. We’re talking something that calls for quick action and is stressful enough to push you out of your most comfortable mental processes (such as deciding to take someone to the hospital), Might not hold true for every INFJ or INTJ, but it’s an interesting observation I’ve made.
  • If asked to change their minds — an INTJ is most likely going to stick with what they’ve already decided because they know their idea is based on logic and that it feels right to them. To change their mind, you’ll need to present a fact-based counterargument that matches their deeply held beliefs about what’s right. A confronted INFJ will second-guess themselves because now they know someone isn’t happy with what they chose but they’ll also be reluctant to abandon something that makes sense to them. To change their mind, you’ll need to present an argument that hits emotion as well as logic.

I hope this helps you with telling the difference between these two types If you can’t tell if you’re an INFJ or and INTJ, looking at the differences in Thinking and Feeling functions is a good place to start figuring out your type. You’re not going to be a perfect 100% fit for every description of any one personality type, but there should be one that’s a “best fit” for your personality.

Your Turn: What are some differences and similarities you’ve noticed between INFJ and INTJ types?

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Befriending Your Inferior Function

Befriending Your Inferior Function | marissabaker.wordpress.com
photo credit: “i was just thinking…” by Scarleth Marie

Disclaimer: some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase on that website.

Ah, the infamous inferior function — the way Myers-Briggs theory explains why you don’t always act like “yourself.” If we’re using Personality Hacker’s car model* to illustrate Myers-Briggs types, the inferior function is like a 3-year-old sitting behind the driver. It’s the least-developed function in a person’s stack, but it plays a significant role, especially when we’re stressed. Since we don’t use this mental process effectively, we often try to ignore it or bury it deep and dismiss times when it shows up as being “out of character.”

That side of our personality is not, however, easy to ignore. Continuing with the car analogy, if you’ve ever driven with a 3-year-old you know they’re only quiet when they fall asleep for a little while. Even when they’re happy and chatting they can be distracting. When they’re upset, it’s almost impossible to focus on anything else.

When the 3-year-old mental process in the backseat of your mind is throwing a temper tantrum, it’s hard to see the inferior function as anything useful. Often, I feel more like I’m “dealing with” my inferior Extroverted Sensing than learning from it or profiting by it. But as annoying at it can seem at times, it’s still one of the four mental processes that you have most access too. Even if it’s only 3-years-old, it’s still better developed then one of the four mental processes that’s completely outside your function stack. Instead of treating it as the enemy, maybe it’s time to embrace it as an immature, but lovable, friend.

Meeting Your 3-year-old

First, introductions. You’ve been ignoring this side of yourself most of your life, so if you’re going to make friends with it you have to first learn more about how your mind works. If you don’t know your personality type yet, I recommend Personality Hackers’ test as the most reliable I’ve found online. If you already know your type, you can learn more about your inferior function here:

You can also look up your inferior function by Googling “Extroverted Thinking” or “Introverted Sensing” or whichever function is lowest on your type’s function stack. Most articles you find that way will be talking about a healthy, mature form of that function as seen in types that use it as their primary or secondary mental process. Remember when reading these articles that it will show up differently for your type, since it’s not well developed.

For example, ENTPs and ENFPs use Extroverted Intuition as their primary, or driver, process. It’s an innovative, idea-generating mental function that’s constantly looking for new possibilities and patterns. They’re not only comfortable with exploring new ideas — they crave and thrive on it. When this function is sitting in the inferior position, it’s still exploring possibilities, but in a less-mature way. For ISFJs and ISTJs, their Extroverted Intuition shows up in generating worst-case-scenarios when stressed, and a near-constant worry about “what if?”

Making Friends

You might be frustrated that your inferior function can’t work as effectively in your mind as it does for people who use that mental process more readily. I’m an INFJ, which means Extroverted Sensing is my inferior function. People who use Extroverted Sensing effectively have “real-time kinetic” skills and respond quickly to things happening in the outer world. I’m so oblivious to the outer world that I run into doors on an almost daily basis. Even keeping track of my own hands and feet can be hard — once I wondered why my ankle hurt, and looked down to discover blood dripping from a cut I couldn’t remember happening.

Things like that can be really frustrating. But if we’re trying to befriend and cultivate our less-developed mental process, it’s better to start out accepting it how it is than hating how our minds naturally work. In fact, many of us could already be using our inferior function and not realizing it. An ENFJ who works with computers is using their inferior Thinking side at work. An ISTP with who cultivates close friendships in their local church is tapping into their inferior Feeling side.

You might start out exploring your inferior function through hobbies. When you’re reading about your inferior function, take note of what sort of skills and hobbies are usually enjoyed by types who use that function effectively . In my case, I’ve always enjoyed gardening and cooking, which are two endeavors that use Sensing skills. I’ve also started consciously cultivating awareness of the world around me through my yoga practice.

Growing and Learning

I’ve found that just knowing about your inferior function is a personal growth step. You finally have an explanation for why you react to stress the way you do, and why sometimes you have a “Was That Really Me?“* moment (which is the title of an excellent book by Naomi Quenk on inferior functions). Once you start understanding why your mind works the way it does, you can start learning how to use your natural stills more effectively.

Naomi Quenk’s book includes a section on how each of the types changes as they learn to use their inferior function.  I also touch on this at the end of each post in my “Learning From Your Stress Function” series. Here are those links again:

Type theorists often call becoming comfortable with your 3-year-old mental process ‘incorporating your inferior function.” This should make you a more well-rounded, balanced individual who’s comfortable in their own skin and it better able to exercise forgiveness/acceptance toward self (and others) in areas where we’re naturally not as strong. As an added bonus, you’ll also start to strengthen that under-used part of your mind, making it less likely to trip-you up (at least in theory).

Your turn: What sort of hobbies do you enjoy, or skills do you have, that are not typical of your personality type? do you consciously use your inferior function?

*indicates affiliate links

Learning from Our Stress Function – Inferior Thinking

Disclaimer: some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase on that website.

When we’re talking about someone’s personality type in the Myers-Briggs system, we usually talk about their primary and secondary functions (also called mental processes). An ISFP, for example, leads with a process called Introverted Feeling (a judging/decision making function), which is supported with Extroverted Sensing (a perceiving/learning function). An ENFJ, on the other hand, leads with Extroverted Feeling, supported by Introverted Intuition. Using Personality Hacker’s car model,* we can compare our primary function to an adult driving a car, and the secondary function to a second adult navigating in the passenger seat.

Each type also has a tertiary function (the opposite of their secondary function), and an inferior function (the opposite of their primary function). These are less well developed. In the car model, our tertiary function is like a 10-year-old sitting behind the co-pilot, and the inferior function is like a 3-year-old sitting behind the driver. The processes you use most readily are the ones typically visible, and they define your personality as others usually see it. Our less developed functions play a significant role as well, though. Today, we’ll be looking at types which use Thinking as an inferior function.

Learning from Our Stress Function - Inferior Thinking | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Everyday Life

Inferior functions often show up in the type of hobbies people choose. INFPs and ISFPs, for example, may enjoy strategy games or something like crossword puzzles to engage their Thinking side. More than other types, though, dominant Feeling types often choose careers that tap-into less dominant functions (Was That Really Me?* Quenk 149). An ENFJ might use their thinking and intuitive sides to work with computers, or an ISFP could work in engine repair using their sensing and thinking sides. In this case, they’d be using their dominant function in hobbies and play, and their less-developed functions at work. ENFJs, ESFJs, ISFPs, and INFPs in this type of situation often retreat into nature or opt for a more social activity to relax.

Characteristics of Inferior Thinking

ESFJs and ENFJs use dominant Extroverted Feeling, which makes Introverted Thinking their inferior function. It’s their least developed function, and has different characteristics than the Introverted Thinking used by types like ISTPs and INTPs. Naomi Quenk says inferior Introverted Thinking displays the following traits (I’ve put the traits of dominant Ti in parenthesis):

  • Excessive criticism (Impersonal criticism)
  • Convoluted logic (Logical analysis)
  • Compulsive search for truth (Search for accuracy and truth)

ISFPs and INFPs also lead with a feeling function, in this case Introverted Feeling. This makes Extroverted Thinking their stress function, and it looks different than the Thinking used by ENTJ and ESTJ types. Here are the traits Quenk associates with inferior Extroverted Thinking (and their counterparts in Te-dominant types).

  • Judgements of incompetence (Competence)
  • Aggressive criticism (Truth and accuracy)
  • Precipitous action (Decisive action)

Stress Reactions

Inferior Thinking types are sensitive about how other people perceive their intellect. They’re very careful when handling facts and can become irritated or defensive if people question their competence (or if they feel someone might question them). When stressed, they’re quick to point out other peoples’ errors and judge them as incompetent, often aloud. Normally, dominant Feeling types value peace and harmony, but when stressed they are much quicker to voice their criticisms.

They can also turn this “excessive” or “aggressive” criticism inward. I have several good friends who are ExFJ types, and they are very hard on themselves whenever something goes wrong or pulls them into depression. It’s very frustrating to outside observers because it’s almost impossible to talk them out of self-criticism. When working out of their stressed function, Feeling types, especially ESFJs and ENFJs, often insist on solving problems alone and fall into a pattern of “convoluted logic” (Quenk 154). One ENFJ that Naomi Quenk interviewed talked about coming up with a plan to break her leg in an accident so she wouldn’t have to participate in a sporting event that had her stressed out (she didn’t actually go through with it).

Stressed Feeling types often feel compelled to take some kind of action to correct a problem and regain control. The introverts, whose stress function is extroverted, usually try for outward action without thinking it through (Quenk 108). Extroverts, with their inferior introverted function, are more likely to take internal action and seek out books or lectures they think might help (Quenk 155).

Getting Out of Stress

All Feeling types benefit from alone time away from everyday routine to process stressful situations. Introverted types especially say that their “grip experience” needs “to expire on its own” (Quenk 115). They need time to process what’s going on without other people trying to interfere too soon. Some INFPs and ISFPs, especially women, want to talk eventually but not right away.

ESFJs and ENFJs do need alone time, but they also need someone to bounce ideas off of much more than the introverted types. They need a friend who is willing to listen without criticism, take them seriously, remind them of their good qualities, and reassure them that they’re a good person (Quenk 163). Many Extroverted Feelers also appreciate someone taking the time to involve them in a low-pressure social activity.

Learning From the Inferior

For many people, the side of their personality that’s related to the inferior function stays a mystery throughout their lives. Type theorists say that most people who successfully incorporate their inferior function do so around middle age, but you can start working on it sooner. Isabel Meyer suggested that every type can, and should, exercise all their functions on a regular basis when making decisions. Dominant Feeling excels in weighing how much you care about different options, takes into account others’ well-being, and seeks the most authentic and harmonious solution. Making a conscious effort to incorporate Thinking adds a level of impersonal analysis that helps when working with facts and making long-term plans (Meyers, Gifts Differing*, 197).

Naomi Quenk says that ENFJs and ESFJs who successfully incorporate their inferior functions learn to take better care of themselves rather than always putting others first. They’ll often dig into their inner lives more fully and give themselves permission to explore interests they’d pushed aside when younger — like one ENFJ who left a successful law practice to become a minister (Quenk 165). The introverted types also become more comfortable with themselves, and more confident when making decisions. Incorporating their inferior Thinking helps INFPs and ISFPs cope with their own shortcomings and relax (Quenk 117, 118). It also helps both types learn to deal with outside criticism effectively.

Learning from Our Stress Function - Inferior Thinking | marissabaker.wordpress.com

credits for pictures used in blog images:

*indicates affiliate links

Learning from Our Stress Function – Inferior Feeling

Disclaimer: some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase on that website.

If we’re describing someone’s personality type in the Myers-Briggs system, we usually talk about their primary and secondary “functions” (also called mental processes). An ISTP, for example, leads with a process called Introverted Thinking (a judging/decision making function), which is supported with Extroverted Sensing (a perceiving/learning function). An ENTJ, on the other hand, leads with Extroverted Thinking, supported by Introverted Intuition. Using Personality Hacker’s car model,* we can compare our primary function to an adult driving a car, and the secondary function to a second adult navigating in the passenger seat.

Each type also has a tertiary function (the opposite of their secondary function), and an inferior function (the opposite of their primary function). These are less well developed. In the car model, our tertiary function is like a 10-year-old sitting behind the co-pilot, and the inferior function is like a 3-year-old sitting behind the driver. The processes you use most readily are the ones typically visible, and they define your personality as others usually see it. Our less developed functions play a significant role as well, though. Today, we’ll be looking at types which use Feeling as an inferior function.

Learning from Our Stress Function - Inferior Feeling | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Everyday Life

As with other types, ISTPs, INTPs, ESTJs, and ENTJs do use their inferior function in everyday life.  They use Thinking for most decision-making, but Feeling still shows up in several ways. For Extroverted types, it often influences the causes they champion and/or is connected with their religion. Their Feeling function helps them connect with the human community and drives them to contribute in a way that meshes with their sense of authentic self.

Introverted Thinking types are often (unfairly, I might add) stereotyped as areligious, coldly analytical and unconcerned with other people’s feelings. They can come across that way, but they really do have a feeling side. ISTPs and INTPs can be deeply spiritual and they value their friendships just as much as dominant Feelers do (though they often have fewer close friends and aren’t as comfortable expressing emotion).

Characteristics of Inferior Feeling

ESTJs and ENTJs use dominant Extroverted Thinking, which makes Introverted Feeling their inferior function. It’s their least developed function, and has different characteristics than the Introverted Feeling used by types like ISFPs and INFPs. In her book Was That Really Me?* Naomi Quenk says inferior Introverted Feeling displays the following traits (I’ve put the traits of dominant Fi in parenthesis):

  • Hypersensitivity to inner states (Inner harmony)
  • Outbursts of emotion (Economy of emotional expression)
  • Fear of feeling (Acceptance of feeling as nonlogical)

ISTPs and INTPs also lead with a thinking function, in this case Introverted Thinking. This makes Extroverted Feeling their stress function, and it looks different than the Feeling used by ENFJ and ESFJ types. Here are the traits Quenk associates with inferior Extroverted Feeling (and their counterparts in Fe-dominant types).

  • Logic emphasized to an extreme (Comfortable inattention to logic)
  • Hypersensitivity to relationships (Sensitivity to other’s wellfare)
  • Emotionalism (Sharing of emotions)

Stress Reactions

When stressed out, both introverted and extroverted types which use inferior Feeling are hypersensitive to anything having to do with understanding their own or other people’s emotions. They often misinterpret other people’s intentions, seeing them as overly critical and judgmental. They might become distressed, anxious and annoyed, but this won’t be readily apparent from the outside (Quenk p. 130).

Because Thinking types are often uncomfortable expressing their feelings, they still struggle to maintain an appearance of control when stressed-out. To make up for being unsure how to express what they’re struggling with, stressed Thinkers may excessively focus on logic to counteract feelings of uncertainty and being overwhelmed. From the outside, they start to look short tempered and unreasonable.

When pushed far enough (either by an external stressor or something going on inside their minds), Thinkers may blurt out their own feelings in a way that seems totally out of character. ESTJs and ENTJs, especially women, often say that losing control and crying in public or lashing out in anger is typical of their “grip experiences” (Quenk p. 84). For some INTPs and ISTPs, an “intense expression of emotion” can actually help them deal with stress and be the push they need to back to normal (p. 140).

Getting Out of Stress

Both the introverted and extroverted thinkers need plenty of alone time to process their feelings when dealing with stress. This is particularly important for ISTPs, INTPs and ENTJs (one of the most “introverted extroverts”). Whether or not they want to talk about it with a friend varies from person to person. One thing that’s consistent, though, is that they don’t want someone trying to fix things for them or pressure them to open up. Other people are most helpful if they can act as a low-pressure sounding board.

Naomi Quent reports that ESTJs and ENTJs experience “very few or quite minor eruptions of their inferior function” compared to other types (p.92). Often, finding a distraction through entertainment or a change of scenery is enough to bring them out of their stress function. Physical activity, a change of scenery, and “light problem solving … such as reading a mystery novel” can also help INTPs and ISTPs (p.140).

Learning From the Inferior

For many people, the side of their personality that’s related to their inferior function stays a mystery throughout their lives. Type theorists say that most people who successfully incorporate their inferior function typically do so around middle age. However, Isabel Meyer suggested that every type exercise all their functions on a regular basis when making decisions. Dominant Thinking excels at impersonal analysis, predicting cause and effect, and considering the cost involved in any decision. Incorporating Feeling adds a people-oriented level that checks decisions against your personal values and take into consideration the good other people (Meyers, Gifts Differing*, 197).

According to Naomi Quenk, ESTJs and ENTJs who successfully use their Introverted Feeling learn to value relationships highly. They (occasionally) loosen their high standards and cut themselves and others a little slack (p. 94-95). Much the same thing can happen for INTPs and ISTPs, who become increasingly sensitive “to the nuances of important relationships” and learn to express and accept their emotions more readily (p. 141-142).

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