Introduction To Cognitive Functions: The Decision-Making Processes

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If you’ve been hanging around Myers-Briggs enthusiasts for a while, you’ve probably heard about the Jungian cognitive functions. They are key to understanding Myers-Briggs theory, but they can also be very confusing. Basically, the four letters in a Myers-Briggs type tells you what type of mental processes you use most effectively in making judgements and decisions (Thinking or Feeling) and 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 well developed, and while we have access to them they are not used as effectively. You can look up your type’s cognitive functions on several websites, including PersonalityJunkie.

Last week’s post focused on the four perceiving/learning functions, so this week we’ll cover the judging or decision-making functions. Everyone has an introverted or extroverted form of Thinking or Feeling in their function stack. We use one or the other most effectively when making decisions and thinking about what the world “should” be like. 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.

Thinking

Thinking types prefer to make decisions using an impersonal, logical approach. They value truth more than tact, prize accuracy, and want to make fair decisions.

Accuracy/Introverted Thinking (Ti)

Accuracy is mostly concerned with whether or not data, ideas, and observations make sense to the individual. Types with this function are less concerned with drawing conclusions from data, and more concerned with creating theories, questions, and insights that line up with their internal fact-checking system. Types who use Accuracy rely more on their own power of observation and thoughts on a given subject than on outside sources when making decisions.

This is the perceiving process used most effectively by ISTPs, INTPs, ESTPs, and ENTPs. The introverts use it as their primary function, the extroverts use it as a co-pilot to support their dominant learning function.

Effectiveness/Extroverted Thinking (Te)

As an outward-focused Thinking function, Effectiveness relies on facts and data gathered from outside sources when making decisions. These types want to experiment to find out what works and what doesn’t, and how they can be most efficient. It’s a practical function focused on finding solutions, discovering and classifying facts, and setting goals.

This is the perceiving process used most effectively by ESTJs, ENTJs, ISTJs, and INTJs. The extroverts use it as their primary functions, the introverts use it as a co-pilot to support their dominant function.

Feeling

Feeling types prefer to make decisions based on their personal values and how the decisions will affect other people. They want to maintain interpersonal harmony, and may soften truth in an effort to be tactful.

Authenticity/Introverted Feeling (Fi)

As an Introverted Feeling function, Authenticity wants to understand the self. These types make decisions based on what feels right, as influenced by abstract ideals. It is a focused, deep sort of way to experience emotion that many Authenticity types find hard to express to other people.

This is the perceiving process used most effectively by ISFPs, INFPs, ESFPs, and ENFPs. The introverts use it as their primary function, the extroverts use it as a co-pilot to support their dominant function.

Harmony/Extroverted Feeling (Fe)

When feeling is turned outward, Harmony focuses on getting everyone else’s needs met when making decisions. These types adapt themselves to given situations trying to fit in, and value the ideals and customs of their community. Harmony seeks true peace and understanding between people, and is adept at sharing feelings to create sympathy.

This is the perceiving process used most effectively by ESFJs, ENFJs, ISFJs, and INFJs. The extroverts use it as their primary functions, the introverts use it as a co-pilot to support their dominant function.

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Introduction To Cognitive Functions: The Learning Processes

Introduction To Cognitive Functions: The Learning Processes | marissabaker.wordpress.com
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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

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.

Intuition

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.

 

 

 

“Thinking” Women and “Feeling” Men

One of the ways we relate Myers-Briggs type to culture is by saying most Feeling types are women and most Thinking types are men. This seems to work quite nicely as a partial explanation for gender stereotypes in Western culture. In spite of social pushes to break-down gender distinctions, Feeling-type attributes (emotionally expressive, nurturing, relational, etc.) are typically considered “female” and Thinking attributes (impersonal, fact-oriented, business-like, etc.) are considered more “male.”

If we fit this generalization, we probably haven’t even noticed it. If you’re a woman with traditionally feminine traits or a man with traditionally masculine traits, there’s little pressure to change (though there are exceptions, of course). But if you’re a woman whose mind naturally makes decisions in an impersonal way or a man who prefers harmony to competition chances are someone has told you at some point that there’s something wrong with you.

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Type Distribution

As with many generalizations, there’s a whole slew of problems related to this observation. According to the Center for Applications of Psychological Type, about 57 to 84 percent of women are Feeling types and about 47 to 72 percent of men are Thinking types. It’s hard to get exact numbers on type distribution, but even these broad estimates show that, while the generalization holds true, there are also quite a few Feeling men and Thinking women.

Thinking Women and Feeling Men | marissabaker.wordpress.comJust in my family of 5, there are three good examples of exceptions to the general rule that most men are Thinkers and most women are Feelers. My dad (ISFJ) and brother (ENFJ) are both Feeling types, and my sister (INTJ) is a thinking type. My mother has asked me not to type her, but as an INFJ I might be the only one in my family who fits the “women are Feeling types” generalization.

Thinking vs. Feeling

Lest these generalizations lead you to conclude Thinking people don’t have emotions or that Feeling people can’t be intelligent, let’s take a quick look at what Thinking and Feeling refer to when we’re talking about Myers-Briggs types. Both Thinking and Feeling are Judging functions, meaning they describe how you like to make decisions. Read more

What Is A “Shadow” In Myers-Briggs Theory?

When you’re browsing the internet reading about Myers-Briggs types, you’ll probably see people talking about “shadow functions.” This is a confusing concept, because people use the term “shadow” to refer to several different things related to personality types.

What Is A
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Inferior Function

Every type in the Myers-Briggs system has what we call a “function stack,” which describes how they interact with the outer world, process information, and make judgements. There are 8 possible functions (extroverted and introverted versions of Sensing, Intuition, Feeling, and Thinking), and each types uses four functions:

  1. Primary Function
  2. Auxiliary Function
  3. Tertiary Function
  4. Inferior Function

The primary and auxiliary functions are the ones we use most comfortably, the tertiary function develops as we mature, and the inferior function is largely outside our conscious control. Much of what makes one type distinct from another has to do with how we use our particular combination of four functions. I have a blog post explaining exactly how the four-letter type relates to function stacks. I won’t take the time to repeat that information here, but here are a couple examples:

  • INFJ function stack: 1) Introverted Intuition, 2) Extroverted Feeling, 3) Introverted Thinking, 4) Extroverted Sensing.
  • ESFP function stack: 1) Extroverted Sensing, 2) Introverted Feeling, 3) Extroverted Thinking, 4) Introverted Intuition.

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Often when you’re reading about functions, the “shadow” is treated as just another name for the “inferior function.” I’ve done that myself in several posts. This is also what Isabel Briggs Meyers implies in her book Gifts Differing.* She describes the shadow as “the product of the least-developed part, which a person rejects and disowns. The shadow uses relatively childish and primitive kinds of judgements and perceptions, not intentionally in the service of conscious aims” (Meyers, 1995, p.84). She doesn’t spend much time talking about the shadow, but I get the sense reading her description that she thinks it can include both the tertiary and the inferior function if they are not well developed.

The Jungian Shadow

The best resource I’ve found for explaining the role of inferior functions is the book Was That Really Me? by Naomi L. Quenk. In her introductory chapters, she addresses the concept of the inferior function and the shadow.

Many people confuse the inferior function with the concept of the shadow and use the terms interchangeably (Quenk, 1982). In Jung’s system, the shadow is an archetype, one of our innate modes of responding to important universal psychological realities. The shadow includes those things people are unable or unwilling to acknowledge about themselves, such as undesirable character traits, weaknesses, fears, and lapses in morality, or desirable qualities such as intelligence, attractiveness, and leadership skills. The shadow is a key component of a person’s personal unconscious, a layer of the psyche that is more accessible than its much larger counterpart, the collective unconscious. (Quenk, 2002, Was That Really Me?* p.49)

Quenk draws a distinction between the inferior function as a sort of “doorway” to our unconscious, and the shadow. Our shadow informs our inferior functions, but is not the inferior function itself. Together, our inferior function and the shadow make up our personal unconscious (Jung, 1970, Mysterium coniunctionis).  This is made more confusing by the fact that Jung himself referred to the shadow as an “‘inferior’ personality.” He still draws a distinction between the fourth function and the shadow, though.

The individuation process is invariably started off by the patient’s becoming conscious of the shadow, a personality component usually with a negative sign. This ‘inferior’ personality is made up of everything that will not fit in with, and adapt to, the laws and regulations of conscious life. … Closer investigation shows that there is at least one function in it which ought to collaborate in orienting consciousness. Or rather, this function does collaborate, not for the benefit of conscious, purposive intentions, but in the interests of unconscious tendencies pursuing a different goal. It is this fourth, ‘inferior’ function which acts autonomously towards consciousness and cannot be harnessed to the latter’s intentions. (Jung, 1969, Psychology and Religion: West and East*

So, in Jungian psychology the shadow isn’t composed of any of our four functions. It is outside our conscious control, and shows up through our inferior function, which most of us don’t understand well or use effectively. It’s not necessarily bad but it often shows up as our “dark side,” the part of us that appears when we’re under stress. The shadow and inferior function are very much connected, but they are still different (even though we may use them interchangeably).

Four “Shadows”

One other explanation of shadow functions that you’ll occasionally see is a claim that each type uses all 8 functions. This theory describes the four functions that we just discussed as the “dominant processes” and the other 4 as the “shadow processes.” Using the same examples from before, it looks like this:

  • INFJ
    • dominant processes: 1) Introverted Intuition, 2) Extroverted Feeling, 3) Introverted Thinking, 4) Extroverted Sensing.
    • Shadow processes: 1) Extroverted Intuition, 2) Introverted Feeling, 3) Extroverted Thinking, 4) Introverted Sensing.
  • ESFP
    • dominant processes: 1) Extroverted Sensing, 2) Introverted Feeling, 3) Extroverted Thinking, 4) Introverted Intuition.
    • shadow processes: 1) Introverted Sensing, 2) Extroverted Feeling, 3) Introverted Thinking, 4) Extroverted Intuition.

It’s basically a way to quantify our unconscious and describe how it manifests through our inferior function. However, I don’t think Jung assigned “functions” within the shadow or thought the unconscious could be understood in that way, and I haven’t read support for this theory of 8 functions from psychologists discussing the MBTI.

Probably the best way to understand the idea of a “shadow” is to say that it is the part of our personal unconscious that we have the most limited access to. We experience our shadow through our inferior function, which is a part of the unconscious that we can access more easily because it is still on our function stack. Usually it shows up in a negative way under stress, but there’s also a good side to explore as well.

But the shadow is merely somewhat inferior, primitive, unadapted, and awkward; not wholly bad. It even contains childish or primitive qualities which would in a way vitalize and embellish human existence, but — convention forbids! (Jung, 1969, Psychology and Religion: West and East)

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So That’s What All Those Letters Mean — An Introduction to the MBTI

After many years of being intrigued by personality types, and Myers-Briggs in particular, I am finally reading Isabel Briggs Myers’ book, Gifts Differing. I wish I’d read it sooner — aspects of the theory that it took me years to learn about through casual reading are all explained in chapter 1. I wish I’d stumbled across an article talking about what all those letters actually mean earlier, or that I’d thought to read the book.

Since the best way to really learn something is to teach it, and in order to write the article I wish I’d read years ago, here is my own version of an introduction to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

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Note: All quotations are from the 1995 reprint of Gifts Differing.*

Judging and Perceiving.

As Isabel Myers explains it, the principle behind typology is to understand how and why other people’s minds work differently from our own. In chapter one, she says, “the theory is that much seemingly chance variation in human behavior is not due to chance; it in in fact the logical result of a few basic, observable differences in mental functioning.”

Myers-Briggs typology, and Jungian psychology, say that people have two main psychological “functions” which they develop and use to understand the world and interact with other people. The perceiving function includes “the process of becoming aware of things, people, occurrences, and ideas.” Intuition (N) and sensing (S) are two different ways of perceiving. The judging function “includes the process of coming to conclusions about what has been perceived.” Thinking (T) and feeling (F) are two different ways of judging.

So That's What All Those Letters Mean -- An Introduction to the MBTI by marissabaker.wordpress.com

As children grow, they start to use one way of perceiving (sensing or intuition) and one way of judging (thinking or feeling) more than the other. They become comfortable with the preferred perceiving and judging functions, and learn to use them much more effectively than the neglected function. This results in four possible combinations: sensing plus thinking (ST), sensing plus feeling (SF), intuition plus feeling (NF), and intuition plus thinking (NT).

Finding Dominant Functions

Isabel Myers says that in Jungian psychology, introversion (I) and extroversion (E) refers to whether people orient their lives around the inner world of concepts and ideas or the outer world of people and things. Every healthy person uses both introversion and extroversion, but there will be one with which they are most comfortable. This relates to the Sensing-Intuition and Thinking-Feeling functions by dictating whether a person’s dominant function is introverted or extroverted (more on that in a moment).

So That's What All Those Letters Mean -- An Introduction to the MBTI by marissabaker.wordpress.com

The last letter in a Myers-Briggs type refers to whether a person uses a perceptive (P) or a judging (J) “attitude as a way of life, a method of dealing with the world around us.” People use both a perceiving and a judging function; one extroverted and one introverted. If a person is a perceptive type, then their perceiving preference (S or N) will be extroverted. If a person is a judging type, their judging preference (T or F) will be extroverted.

Since the Judging-Perceiving preference only refers to outer behavior, it most easily observed in Extraverts. For example, an ENFJ will extrovert their judging function and use extroverted feeling (Fe) to interact with the outer world. Because they are an extrovert, this also makes Fe their dominant function. It is supported by an auxiliary perceiving function: introverted intuition (Ni). Dominant and auxiliary functions are a bit more complicated for introverts. An ISTP type will extrovert their perceiving function and use extroverted sensing (Se). However, since they are an introverted type, their dominant function is introverted thinking (Ti) and Se is their auxiliary function . The function they use the most is a judging one, but when they interact with the outer world they use perception.

Putting The Letters Together

It is far too simplistic to take each individual letter in a Myers-Briggs type separately. To say an INFJ is an introvert/intuitive/feeler/judger misses what the MBTI can tell us about how they look at the world with Ni and how they formulate judgements with Fe, and which of those they do most easily. It also passes over the fact that introverts sometimes use extroversion and that extraverts sometimes use introversion. That’s why the short Myers-Briggs style tests you might find online that line-up descriptions of Extravert-Introvert, Sensing-Intuition, Thinking-Feeling, and Judging-Perceiving and then have people choose which one is most “like them” can be an incorrect assessment of a person’s type.

One other thing to add about Myers-Briggs types is that Isabel Briggs Myers never intended for these types to be used to make people feel “boxed in” to their personality type or to infringe on a person’s right to self-determination. An ENTP, for example has “already exercised this right by preferring E and N and T and P.” Myers-Briggs type is a tool for better understanding who we have already chosen to be, and for learning to relate to and better understand people who think differently than us.

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Introduction To Cognitive Functions: The Learning Processes

Introduction To Cognitive Functions: The Decision-Making Processes

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Fictional MBTI — Neal Caffrey (ESTP)

Season 4 of White Collar is now on DVD, which means it’s on Netflix, which means I’m finally catching up on episodes. White Collar is probably my favorite crime drama (the only other candidates are NCIS: LA and Castle, and I haven’t liked them as well lately), and I’m fascinated by the characters.

When I first read David Keirsey’s Please Understand Me II chapter on Artisans, I was thinking of Neal Caffrey from White Collar even before Keirsey mentioned that most con-men were extroverted SP types (though of course most SP types [about 30-35% of the population] are not con-men). A hunch like that isn’t enough to type a fictional character, but it’s a good place to start.

Why SP?

Like Loki, typing Neal is complicated by his criminal behavior and possible psychopathy. I have not seen his Myers-Briggs type discussed often, and most of the ones I have seen type him an ENTJ or an ENFP. Since my decision to place him as a sensor instead of intuitive is apparently unpopular, I’d like to address why. While he does go with his “gut feeling” sometimes and rely on intuition, he does not display classic NF qualities like valuing personal authenticity, a focus on lasting emotional connections, and preoccupation with personal journeys. I could almost see him as an NT, but his problem solving abilities seem more focused on real-world results (a Sensing attribute) than on the abstract ideas behind the problems (an Intuitive trait).

The core characteristics Keirsey uses to describe Artisans are these (quoted from his website):

  • Artisans tend to be fun-loving, optimistic, realistic, and focused on the here and now.
  • Artisans pride themselves on being unconventional, bold, and spontaneous.
  • Artisans make playful mates, creative parents, and troubleshooting leaders.
  • Artisans are excitable, trust their impulses, want to make a splash, seek stimulation, prize freedom, and dream of mastering action skills.

Extroverted Sensing

Fictional MBTI: Neal Caffrey -- marissabaker.wordpress.comNow that I’ve narrowed Neal down to one of four types (ESFP, ISFP, ESTP, or ISTP), I want to switch from Keirsey’s approach to cognitive functions (which is too elaborate a subject to go into here. If you want background info, see this article).  I’ve settled on ESTP for Neal, which gives him this function stack:

  • Dominant: Extraverted Sensing (Se)
  • Auxiliary: Introverted Thinking (Ti)
  • Tertiary: Extraverted Feeling (Fe)
  • Inferior: Introverted Intuition (Ni)

Note: For the remainder of this post, I rely heavily on Keirsey’s Portrait of The Promoter, and Dr. A.J. Drenth’s ESTP Personality Profile.

Extroverted Sensing types (ESxPs) are life-of-the-party people. They enjoy presenting themselves well (for example, Neal’s expensive taste in clothing), and are generally seen as charming (that Neal fits this description goes without saying if you’ve watched the show). Se types are easily bored by routine, and actively seek out new sensory experiences (such as fine dining, romance, and [in Neal’s case] running a con). They like to take action, accomplish tasks, and experience the world. Keirsey describes them as a risk-taking type.

Introverted Thinking

Fictional MBTI: Neal Caffrey -- marissabaker.wordpress.comI’ve settled on Introverted Thinking instead of Feeling for Neal’s auxiliary function because of his gift for planning and how serious he becomes when he has to stop and think instead of just being free to act. It is one reason he is such a successful criminal, and why he is so valuable to the FBI. Dr. Drenth phrases it this way:

The fluid nature of their Ti, combined with the keen observational powers of their Se, contributes to ESTPs’ acumen as practical problem solvers. ESTPs can analyze a situation, diagnose the problem, and then determine how to fix it.

You can see examples of Neal’s thinking function in most episodes, as he responds to problems that arise by thinking and planning. Primarily, he approaches problem-solving from a perspective of getting things done efficiently (as opposed to worrying about how each option will affect people involved).

Relationships

Farther down the function stack, and less conciously available, is Extroverted Feeling. The typical ESTP does not like to share their judgments or true feelings. Keirsey says, “While they live in the moment and lend excitement – and unpredictability – to all their relationships, they rarely let anyone get really close to them.” Even when Neal does open up to people and form bonds with them (like his friendship with Peter), he is still able to run off to a tropical island and smoothly settle into a new life (though it only lasted for one episode in the fourth season).

So, what do you think? Does Neal fit the profile of an ESTP? Is there another type you think fits him better (maybe you have an argument for him as an iNtuitive)?