Intro to cognitive functions (Jungian / MBTI)

This is a brief introduction to personality functions in the vein of Jungian cognitive functions theory. These functions form the basis of Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator theory (MBTI), also known as the 16 Personalities. When used incorrectly, MBTI can be harmful by way of stereotyping or making generic assumptions about people. However, when used appropriately MBTI can be helpful in providing greater understanding of one’s self and others.

According to Carl Jung there are four basic cognitive functions: Feeling, Intuition, Sensing, and Thinking. Jung also came up with the concepts of Extroversion and Introversion, which impact the way people use the four functions. Thus there are both extroverted and introverted versions of each of the four functions, making for eight functions in total.

The eight functions are: Extroverted Feeling, Extroverted Intuition, Extroverted Sensing, Extroverted Thinking, Introverted Feeling, Introverted Intuition, Introverted Sensing, and Introverted Thinking.

According to MBTI, everyone can use all eight functions, but prefer (and are more skilled at) certain functions over others. The functions can be thought of as tools people use in life. Each tool serves a different purpose, and produces varying results. Everyone has access to all eight tools, but people prefer and are more skilled at wielding certain tools over others.

Generally, the extroverted versions of functions are outwardly focused, and tend to be wider, shallower, and faster to use than their introverted counterparts. Introverted versions of functions are inwardly focused, and tend to be narrower, deeper, and slower to use than their extroverted counterparts. Everyone uses both extroverted and introverted functions to varying degrees.


Sensing is the most commonly used function, and is the opposite of Intuition. Sensing is simply the use of the five senses (touch, taste, smell, hearing, sight). Examples of Sensing activities include: driving a car, exercising, dancing, or singing. Whereas Intuition is concerned with conceptualization and the imagination, Sensing is concerned with tangible things. While an Intuitive type will tend to read into things and imagine various possibilities, a heavy Sensor will tend to take the world around them at face value. According to MBTI Manual, more than 70% of the world prefers Sensing over Intuition.

Extroverted Sensing (often abbreviated as Se). Heavy Se users tend to prefer working or socializing in groups, and are often characterized as outgoing and sociable people. Extroverted Sensing tends to indulge in certain foods, drinks, or other substances. Heavy Se users tend to enjoy spontaneity, are eager to try new experiences, and engage in small talk. Extroverted Sensors are most likely to be drawn to the present moment.

Introverted Sensing (often abbreviated as Si) tends to prefer working or socializing in small groups, and often prefer to be alone. Whereas Se tends to be more spontaneous and eager to try new experiences, Si tends to have stronger preferences for what is appealing to them. Whereas an Se user might, for example, enjoy dancing with strangers in a nightclub, an Si user will tend to prefer dancing only in a situation that is comfortable to them, such as at a party with friends. Heavy Si users tend to avoid small talk, and may prefer only talking about subjects that interest them with select people.


Intuition is the use of the mind to conceptualize or organize information, as well as to imagine various possibilities or connect seemingly unrelated things. Intuition is the opposite of Sensing. Whereas Sensing is concerned with the physical world (the five senses), Intuition is more concerned with conceptual thought. Intuitive users are often imaginative in their work or personal life, and are able to see the possibilities in things that do not currently exist or are not readily apparent to Sensing types. Intuitive users can often see patterns in abstract things, allowing a mature Intuitive user to quickly conceptualize or learn complex subjects.

Extroverted Intuition (abbreviated as Ne) tends to focus on coming up with many different intuitive possibilities, even if they are unrealistic or not taken seriously by the individual themselves. Extroverted Intuition tends to focus on conceptually organizing the world around them, in contrast with Introverted Intuition, which tends to focus on conceptually organizing anything of interest to them, even if it is irrelevant to the task at hand. Extroverted Intuition tends to be faster and more shallow than Introverted Intuition. In contrast to Ni, a heavy Ne user will often enjoy small talk.

Introverted Intuition (Ni) is perhaps the rarest and most misunderstood function. It is similar to Extroverted Intuition, though instead of coming up with many different possibilities, it tends to focus more deeply on select possibilities of interest to the individual. Heavy Ni users often find themselves misunderstood, and tend to have difficulty explaining their complex thoughts until they gain mastery of an extroverted function (like Fe or Te). Heavy Ni users are the least likely to be interested in the present moment, and are often described by others as “having a head in the clouds” or “thinking too much.” However, they are also the best type at recognizing patterns and making “intuitive leaps,” connecting seemingly unrelated things. Thus, an Ni dominant user will tend to have more extreme shortcomings as well as strengths. A heavy Ni user will often shun small talk, though can be quite talkative about certain subjects that interest them, or with certain people they are drawn to. Introverted Intuition tends to be slower and deeper than Extroverted Intuition. Out of all the functions, Ni is generally the hardest and slowest to develop, though once matured, an Ni user can often use this function to quickly learn new things at a speed and quality faster than others.


Heavy Feeling users tend to make decisions based on emotions, in contrast with heavy Thinking users who tend to make decisions based on logic. However, whether someone prefers Extroverted or Introverted Feeling makes a notable difference.

Extroverted Feeling (Fe) tends to be very in tune with the feelings of the people or group around them, and will use this to influence their decision making process. Whether in a small or large group, heavy Fe users will tend to be concerned about the overall mood of the group and favor group harmony. Extroverted Feelers tend to make good hosts in social settings, and will often go out of their way to make people feel comfortable. A heavy Fe user will generally be closely tuned in to the feelings of others, though lack awareness of their own feelings, and are more prone to adapting their own feelings to the feelings of those around them (“social chameleon”).

Introverted Feeling (Fi) is concerned with one’s own inner feelings, values, and identity. Heavy Fi users tend to be selective with who they share their feelings with, and will often find creative outlets (i.e. art, writing, music) to express their feelings in ways that are comfortable for themselves. Heavy Fi users will tend to make decisions based on their own feelings, values, or identity. Contrary to the Fe user, an Introverted Feeler will not normally adapt the feelings of others, but instead will draw on their own feelings (past or present) to empathize with the feelings of others.


Thinking types tend to make decisions based on logic and rationality, rather than feelings.

Extroverted Thinking (Te) tends to lack concern about details, and prefers to focus on “the big picture.” Heavy Te users tend to lack deep technical knowledge or skill in a subject, but are motivated to learn if it is necessary for their big picture goals. Extroverted Thinking tends to prefer having shallower knowledge or skill in a wide variety of subjects, but can also gain mastery in subjects if they pursue it enough. Heavy Te users will tend to make decisions based on their big picture goals, and are often able to make quick decisions on virtually anything that comes their way.

Introverted Thinking (Ti) tends to be concerned about details, rather than “the big picture.” Heavy Ti users tend to have deep technical knowledge and skill in certain subjects that are of interest to them. Introverted Thinkers will often make decisions based on their technical understanding of the subject at hand, though if forced to make a decision on something they lack knowledge or interest in, can be very indecisive.