Updated: Aug 5, 2020
We have 16 personalities that we've been introduced to as part of the Myers-Briggs system. You can be anywhere from an INTP to an ENFP, an ESFP, or an INFJ. Each of these types consist of 4 letters and there's a reason for that. These 4 letters are a code. Think of it like a combination to a lock, a treasure. And when we get the combination we unlock the cognitive functions, which is the more complex open world of our Personality. We each have 8 Cogntive Functions, 4 of which are prevalent into our consciousness with 2 of them being our main mode of thinking and flow. Cognitive Functions are what Carl Jung, famed Swedish psychologist, defined as the key areas of our archetypal personality. There are 8 cognitive functions, divided into 4 styles representing two main areas. The two main areas are learning, known as perception or perceiving, and decision-making or judging (not to be confused with the trait of "judgmental"). Perception is your learning style denoted by the N or the S, which references Sensing or iNtuition. This is how you take in new information. Each personality type has a main preference for learning but also uses the other as a support role. The Sensing learning style is about your immediate sensory experience. What you can see, smell, taste, hear, touch, etc. This includes a sense of time, balance and other senses we experience with our bodies. Sensors learn from reliable and verifiable "What's in front of them" types of information. Speculation is not typically a happy place for sensors but can be exciting in small doses. Intuitives focus on more big picture questions related to the patterns in what we experience. "What if" questions and speculation are fun and exciting for intuitives. While Sensors can be more past or present focused, intuitives tend be more future-oriented. Intuitives like to wonder about what's coming based on what's happening today. Intuition can be a bit more "mysterious" and "magical" as the brain conjures up these understandings in a way that is not as obvious as a sensor learning about their surroundings. Being in every day repetitive conversation isn't a happy place for intuitives, though it can be done in small doses. Decision-making or Judging styles are denoted by the T and F in your 4-letter code as Thinking and Feeling. This is the process by which you make decisions from what you've learned. As with perception, Thinking and Feeling are two sides of a coin but you use one as a main decision maker and the other is your support role. Thinking refers to objective or data-driven criteria for making your choices. This means favoring numbers, what makes sense, logic, research, studies, and "findings" when making choices. This means making a choice based on the data despite how it may affect your or someone else's emotions. "The numbers make sense so let's do it." is mostly what matters. Emotions tend to clog the data for thinkers, which can make them seem cold and heartless. And while it's true that thinkers are more likely to kick emotions aside, it's simply a matter of trusting their strengths to make a better choice for them. Emotions are not as important in going forward for Thinkers but healthy Thinkers will integrate some emotional consideration into their choices to consider ethical concerns, personal relationships, and how to serve others with their findings. Feelers are going to take more emotional criteria into account. How are we feeling about the situation? How is my body reacting? How are other people reacting? Ate people excited to be a part of this? Would this choice cause emotional harm to someone? While Thinkers may see emotions as irrational, Feelers see emotions as important to our connecting, focusing, and being. Considering emotional needs can often lead to better work, greater relationships, and overall fulfillment. Feelers won't find cold data to be very exciting but sometimes the information can support overall emotional well-being and shouldn't be completely ignored. So, N S T F, right? Intuition and Sensing are learning. Thinking and Feeling are decisions. It doesn't stop there because each of these now has an introvert or extrovert quality assigned to them. These are called "attitudes" and give each letter new life as a cognitive function. Introverted attitudes focus on the internal subjective personal experience. Extraverted attitudes focus on the external objective world. So, intuition now has an introvert or extravert attitude. Introverted Intuition or Extraverted Intuition. Sensing now has introvert or extravert attitude. Introverted Sensing or Extraverted Sensing. The same goes for thinking and feeling. Introverted Thinking and Extraverted Thinking. Introverted Feeling and Extraverted Feeling. Each of these attitudes is denoted by a lowercase i or e in shorthand. Ni Ne Si Se Ti Te Fi Fe How do you know which function belongs to which 4-letter code? As I mentioned at the top, your 4-letter code is just that, a code. The code unlocks your dominant and secondary cogntive functions. From there we can deduce our remaining functions. So let's decipher it. The J or P in your 4-letter code refers to how you show up to the world and is to key to it all. So, if you're a Judger then your main decision making function is T or F with an Extraverted attitude...extraverted thinking (Te) or feeling (Fe). If you're a Perceiver your main learning function is N or S with an Extraverted attitude...extraverted intuition (Ne) or Sensing (Se). If your first letter is E then you're an Extravert overall meaning how you show up to the world is your dominant function. An ENFP leads with Extraverted Intuition denoted by how they show up with P then how they learn with N. Being an E means they lead with that Extraversion, so Ne is their dominant function. ENTP will also lead with Ne. ESTP leads with Se. ENFJ leads with Fe. ESTJ leads with Te. What about the Introverts? Introverrs still use their extraverted function when they show up to the world but they don't show up as much as an extravert will, so it becomes second in their stack of 4 functions. Introverts will use the opposite of their J or P as their main function. For example, an INTP will show up with their second function of Ne but since they are introverts overall they will lead with a decision making function of the opposite attitude...either Fi or Ti. This is part of natural human cognitive balance. If we lead with perception internally then we balance with secondary judging externally. If we lead with judging internally then we balance with secondary perception externally. An INFJ will lead with Ni then Fe. An ISFP will lead with Fi then Se. Make sense? What are the two main functions of an ISFJ? Right, Si and Fe. Okay, so how do we know the remaining two functions? This is where it gets trickier. Remember how intuition and Sensing are opposite sides of the same coin? This is the balance they strike with each other within ourselves. These are called Polarities. This counts for the attitudes as well. Ni and Se are Polarities. Ne and Si are Polarities. Ti and Fe are Polarities. Fi and Te are Polarities. This goes in either direction. Se and Ni are Polarities. Si and Ne are Polarities. Fe and Ti are Polarities. Te and Fi are Polarities. So in the cogntivie function stack the Third function is the polarity opposite of the second function. The fourth function is the polarity opposite of the first function. For ISFJ that's Si Fe Ti Ne See how Si and Ne balance each other. See how Fe and Ti balance each other. For ESTJ that's Te Si Ne Fi See how Te and Fi balance each other. See how Si and Ne balance each other. Okay, so what does each position mean? You can think of functions in a line as 1 2 3 4 or think of your functions as passengers in a car (American car). This is called The Car Model, created by my friends at Personality Hacker. 1 - Driver 2 - Co-Pilot 4 - 3 yr old 3 - 10 yr old The front seats are your dominant functions or the "parents" and the back seats are the inferior functions or the "kids." The dominant function is the driver and uses the most of your brain power and attention. This is your most natural form of thinking. This is the function that has the hands on the wheel and determines direction. Your secondary function is less dominant and serves as a navigator to help give you balanced focus and direction. This co-pilot gives a variety of experience for the dominant function to work with. The tertiary function supports the secondary function by accounting for some of its missing pieces. It has the sophistication of a 10-year-old which mostly refers to amount of usage. Like a kid it's sometimes right but usually not but can be solid support. This area is focused on play, expression, love, ego, and humor. The inferior function provides support for the dominant function despite being the weakest, filling out some of the problem areas that the dominant function may have. Like a 3-year-old in the backseat you're not going to give in every time they cry but sometimes it's fun to stop and get ice cream. And like taking care of a 3-year-old, your long term goal is keep them safe and realize their vision. This area being someone's major weakness tends to create a great ambition on life related to this function. In future lessons on the DOPEamine Patreon page, where we support the learning of personality development for coaching and profiling sessions, we'll cover these functions in more detail in how they show up for each type. For now, that's been an overview of what cognitive functions are. If you'd like a breakdown of your type's cognitive functions you can pick up your personality type's explainer. Did you learn something new today? Let us know what stuck out to you as an a-ha moment in the comments.