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Brief descriptions of cognitive functions (a.k.a. Personality “traits”)

    The theory of personality type, the identification of four functions and differences in their expression due to introversion and extroversion were first defined by Carl Gustav Jung a Swiss Psychoanalyst and were published in German in 1921 in a book called, Psychological Types. The four functions as described by Jung are Thinking, Feeling, Sensing and iNutition. Jung identified that individuals were also often either Extroverted (gregarious) or Introverted (reflective). For descriptions of each of the four preferences you can click here.  For descriptions of all 16 personalities you can click here.

    Here are some descriptions of the four functions in each attitude, Sensing, Feeling, iNtuition, and Thinking. Each cognitive function can be expressed in either an Introverted or Extroverted “attitude”. (Se, Si, Fe, Fi, Ne, Ni, Te and Ti). One book I might recommend on the expression of functions is "Personality Type an Owners Manual" by Lenore Thomson.

Markku Jantunen's Definition of the 8 Functions
is perceiving abstract patterns and connections in response to stimuli (either in the external world or in the mind. ) Ne generates new information starting from something existing. Ne focuses on future possibilities.

Ni is the creation of mental imagery independent of outer stimuli. Ni generates abstract structural images of a given problem domain that a person can view from different points of view at will. Ni focuses on the structure of things from a timeless point of view.

Se is indiscriminant awareness of the physical environment. Se prefers to indulge in that which exists in the present moment.

Si is awareness of concrete forms and categories of sensory perception. Si interprets stimuli in terms of the past. Si stores and recalls facts, figures and past situations.

Te is structuring one's interactions with the external world in a systematic fashion, based on logical and impersonal hierarchies and categories.

Ti is judging the validity of perceptions logically. Ti as a mental process is a collection of threads of thought taking concepts or percepts apart or pulling them together based on rules and criteria.

Fe is adapting one's interactions with the external world to the moods and feelings of others. Fe is sensitive to events like changes in people's expressions or other such "soft," hard-to-quantify conditions in the environment.

Fi is judging perceptions emotionally, based on weight of evidence. Fi as a mental process is the flow of judgements on perceptions personal ideals or feeling of right and wrong. Fi strives for integrity and consistency in it's ideals. Fi is higher cognitive refinement personal emotion. Fi enables one to vividly re-experience past feelings.

    I stress that the “Feeling” function is generally poorly understood (as is iNtuition). This function is used for judging/reasoning. It is not the same as “emotions”.  Instead, it interprets and assigns qualities or values of perceptions on a subjective basis.  For example, if you are near an electrical power generation device that emits a large electromagnetic field and you subjectively experienced (feel) a “tingling” in your stomach, the skin and hair on your arms tingles, a light headedness in your brain and you attempted to interpret these sensations and convey them to someone is this “irrational”?  Is it an “emotion”?  Of course not, it’s simply difficult to describe to others using objective language. This function is used to discern variances in perceptions and to change your point of view. This function is appropriate for use in the area of ethics, musical and artistic expression as well as fictional literature.  Here is Katherine Benziger's clarification on the feeling function,

The Physiology of Jung’s Four Functions & Their Organization
By Katherine Benziger, Ph.D., © March 1998; September 1999
"The difference between the Feeling Function and Emotions can be understood more clearly. The Feeling Function is a cortical capacity to recognize the presence or absence of harmony – between colors, tones, or human beings. By contrast, emotions are a limbic capacity to experience delight, anger, fear, grief."

    For an explanation of the source of our most aggressive emotions (instinctive behaviors) you may wish to consider Dr. Paul MacLeans Triune Brain Theory.  I elaborate more on this theory here.

About: Paul D. MacLean, M.D.
“His Triune Brain Theory, based on an evolutionary model of the brain, proposes the idea that the human brain is really three brains in one. The R-Complex is similar to the brain of reptiles, in that it controls basic, instinctive survival thinking and behavior. The limbic system, which is similar to that of lower mammals, seems to be the source of emotions, some aspects of personal identity, and some critically important memory functions. The third and outer formation of the brain, called the neocortex, like the brain of higher mammals, is devoted to higher order thinking skills, reason, linguistic expression, and verbal memory.”

    Today most people understand personality types through a personality test developed by Isabel Briggs Myers. Ms. Myers and her mother used Jung’s theory of personality type and over decades working with psychologists, career counselors and others developed a testing system to identify the personality traits. The test is referred to as the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) and the organization, which refines, administers and trains people to administer the test, is the Association for Psychological Type at When these personality trait “preferences” are combined a dominant “personality type” can be identified. (FYI, I am not qualified to administer the test or to even take the test to become certified as I don’t have a bachelors degree.)


Discussion of Topic

Below is a portion of an exchange on the judging functions between myself and an individual who identifies themselves as a 'young INTP'.

"Hello Glen, I am a young INTP, and I found your site very useful with regards to self-development. ...For the most part, I have been trying to develop a theory of the differences of internal thought, and how (and which) ideas manifest themselves to different people."
- rillani, Thu, 31 Jul 2003

    For your theory may I suggest creating a model of the brain, distinguishing and associating thoughts and behaviors with the different regions of the brain. For the model I recommend incorporating not only Benziger, Jung and the Meyer-Briggs work but also the Triune Brain theory from Paul D. MacLean, and Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I find Maslow’s hierarchy fits perfectly with MacLean’s model. I cite various sources on my KnowYourself page. I think those references will give you a workable ‘big picture’ from there you could isolate and associate individual physiological structures and their functions, e.g. thalamus, Hippocampus, etc.

"I'm also interested in re-defining the functions. I do not think that Feeling is necessarily related to people, but rather it is useful for reading peoples' tone of voice, subtle facial expression, etc."
- rillani, Thu, 31 Jul 2003

    I certainly agree with you when you say, “the feeling function is not necessarily associated with people.” It is on it’s own a rational judging function which evaluates (organizes/qualifies/quantifies, etc.) perceptual data just as the thinking function does but using different rules and criteria. Because of the confusion inherent in the terms Thinking and Feeling, (after all, all four functions are parts of “thinking”) and Feeling is obviously too often confused with emotion, I prefer the terms objective and subjective reasoning. While even those terms could be seen as misleading, I think they’re an improvement.

"It has nothing at all to do with being nice to them, or knowing how to help them. I'm not very far yet, so I could change my ideas around again."
- rillani, Thu, 31 Jul 2003

    Well that depends on what you mean by “knowing how to help them”. You have to remember that humans are not purely rational logical constructs, we are also animals (limbic system and r-complex). If we were based solely on logic we would not be human and what it means to be human. We would not have the perspective or drive to discover our purpose that we do. Your comment reminds me of an example I use to distinguish T& F. This scenario happens all the time so it’s easy to find examples. Suppose you have a couple, one with dominant T and one with dominant F. The dominant F comes home stressed and upset after a difficult day at work. The T spouse sees the F slam their keys down and asks what’s wrong? The F proceeds to emotionally declare how horrible their boss is and the argument they got into. The T asks for details of the disagreement and then proceeds to calmly explain what the F did wrong that brought about their bosses involvement. The F is now shocked and really upset and asks T, “why are you siding with my boss?” F goes to the bedroom and slams the door. The T is confused and does not understand why the F got so upset when they were so close to solving the problem that caused the bosses involvement. Identifying this problem is obviously necessary so that the same or a similar problem can be avoided in the future. Of course the T is correct but they applied this strategy at a time when the F was in an entirely different state of mind. The F was in an agitated and emotional state. The limbic system was most likely fairly active, stress hormones were probably elevated, and it’s possible likely the individual knew they had made a mistake and were already internalizing the knowledge. The individual was clearly not in a state where they wanted to be told they screwed up. What they wanted/needed was reassurance and comfort not criticism, however constructive. Everyone needs external confirmation of their worth, some need more than others, and people need it most when they feel the most threatened. The T failed to fully comprehend the emotional state of F. There were of course signs the T may have seen but they applied little or no value to them. Another F dominant would have applied much higher value to these signals and because of their familiarity with the emotional state would have been able to empathize. T was cold and analytical when they should have been comforting, reassuring and supportive. Later when F was in a calmer, more rational state of mind, knowing they are indeed valuable and valued by others, would it be appropriate to discuss the objective issues.

    Both objective and subjective reasoning can be used in any arena from human interaction to cosmology. However, selective application of each, to problems best suited to the rules and criteria of each will result in the greatest efficiency and clarity. To try to simply describe differences between T and F, I often describe T as ‘thinking in probabilities’ and F as ‘thinking in degrees’. For an example of how they can both be used but one is more appropriate than the other I suggest describing your love for someone in terms of probabilities. Even the question seems absurd, as the answer would likely be either 0 or 100%. Instead if you think in terms of ‘degrees’ this seems to make perfect sense and you can likely recall poems which strive to describe this condition with more appropriate terminology, e.g.

Sonnets from the Portuguese: 43
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, -- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! -- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
- Elizabeth Barrett Browning

"I'm also interested in re-defining the functions. I do not think that Feeling is necessarily related to people, but rather it is useful for reading peoples' tone of voice, subtle facial expression, etc. It has nothing at all to do with being nice to them, or knowing how to help them. I'm not very far yet, so I could change my ideas around again."
- rillani, Thu, 31 Jul 2003

    To further elaborate on why the Feeling function is often confused with emotion I think it’s important to emphasize my prior comment about why in human interaction someone with dominant F would unconsciously assign more value to perceptual stimuli than someone with dominant T. I haven’t researched it but I think it’s likely the posterior quadrants (cortical convexity or sensory lobes) of the neo-cortex are more physically integrated with the structures of the limbic system then are the frontal lobes. I assume this because of my generalized view of brain evolution and what little I know of the differences between various species. Very simply, large frontal lobes are extremely rare but all mammals and most other species have the sensory lobes (as well as limbic structures and r-complex). And obviously the relative cortical efficiency plays a large role. So with these assumptions, it should not be difficult to see why someone with dominant (100% most efficient) F would place more value on identifying and associating perceptual evidence with particular emotional states. The T dominant may recognize some of these signals but they apply little value to them personally (subjectively). Even if a T dominant has a career where they study these states, they often apply objective values (scores) to the evidence and more rarely associate them subjectively. Additionally, in emotionally charged situations a T dominant will find it easier to disassociate (detach) the signals then someone with F dominance. It’s completely natural even automatic for an F dominant to unconsciously empathize with another’s emotional state. Because of this unconscious proclivity the F dominant must make a conscious effort to objectify the facts and issues involved if they wish to disassociate themselves.

    The Triune Brain theory is valuable in helping one distinguish between the products of the neo-cortex and those of the older brain structures. Prior to my enlightenment I hadn’t considered the theory itself but I did effectively reach the same conclusions by examining some of my own emotional (instinctual) response to several situations. I can recall two specific situations distinctly. One was when I posted several of my own personal observations on the INTJ open club and several of the observations were critically attacked. I had an instinctive response (a feeling) that I was personally being attacked. Since there was no reason I had to respond to the challenges right away I decided I would wait and consider the points being addressed. I thought (correctly) that by distancing myself from my initial reaction I could examine his points more objectively.

    Because I had a reasonably good understanding of the differences and qualities of INTJs and INTPs I realized that what the INTJ was doing was not attacking me but instead attacking what he saw as logical errors in my statements. He was targeting errors in reason and not trying to hurt me. I used this understanding to create a distinction between the ideas (my thoughts) I had proposed with who I was as a person. I then saw what he was compelled to do as an INTJ was a distinct skill I could use to help me understand my views from his perspective. Something similar might be asking someone to proofread something you wrote. You might not notice your writing is difficult to understand because you failed to explain something you unconsciously thought was obvious.

    In some of the points he was making I could see the differences in our perspectives were based more on semantics and differences in base assumptions. INTPs have a tendency to make claims that appear to be unsupported by the circumstances because we often base them on conclusions we had reached previously. However, because these unstated assumptions are not apparent to the other party subsequent claims appear unfounded. An INTP must remain cognizant of these differences when communicating with other types. (Of course other types do this as well but the claims INTPs make are often rather complex and controversial.)

    The other situation involved a bout with infatuation (a.k.a. falling in love). Because I recognized my behavior was completely irrational I looked at it as a form of ‘drug poisoning’. I did a little reading and discovered the isolated chemical responsible is phenylethylamine or PEA. After objectifying the condition I was able to overcome it’s affects which is fortunate as the feelings were not mutual. This experience gave me the insight necessary to understand how ‘nature’ regulates behavior in animals that do not have such a well-developed neo-cortex. I realized what we objectively describe as ‘instinctual behavior’ in other animals we subjective understand as ‘emotions’ when we experience it. Which means of course that animals have feelings.

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