If you were like me in the past, you probably have suffered from MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) mystification. What is MBTI mystification? It is the temporary confusion that one believes that they are either two or more personality types in the MBTI due to inaccurate personality tests on the internet.

It creates a mental illusion in one’s mind that they may be either (ENTP or ENFP), (ISTJ or INTJ), or my personal favorite (INFJ or INFP). As the widespread confusion continues on the internet, there are a couple of websites that are willing to shed light on the people who are trying to type themselves, friends and family members.

The cure for MBTI mystification is cognitive functions. According to CareerPlanner.com, an article titled, Cognitive Functions Explained In Simple Terms, “Understanding a bit about cognitive functions and personality type will give you a framework for understanding yourself and other people”. The article also says, “The best way to learn about personality type is to start with the cognitive functions…” While the cognitive functions are the starting point for the individual, introspection and self-awareness will help out the individual immensely.

The Eight Cognitive Functions

There are eight cognitive functions for the MBTI. The functions are the following: Extroverted Intuition (Ne), Introverted Intuition (Ni), Extroverted Sensing (Se), Introverted Sensing (Si), Extroverted Thinking (Te), Introverted Thinking (Ti), Extroverted Feeling (Fe), Introverted Feeling (Fi). According to Keys2Cognition.com, Dr. Jung also described how each of these four processes plays out in a person’s “internal world” (I) of thoughts, feelings, memories, and imagination; and in the “external world” (E) of actions, people, tools, and organizations. Thus, eight cognitive processes (Se, Si, Ne, Ni, Te, Ti, Fe, Fi).

When it comes to cognitive functions of the MBTI, one thing that an individual should understand the functions itself, everybody has a thinking, feeling, intuition, and sensing functions. In other words, everyone thinks, feels, intuits, and senses because we are all human beings. We just have a preference on how we function with the outer world and inner world. Humans have two faces for the world; they have a public face and a private face. There are some things that people keep to themselves and other things are being shared with the public.

For example, there may be an individual that may be expressive and open to their ideas and theories (extroverted intuition) and may be private about their close-held personal feelings, reserve their values, and they value inner harmony (introverted feeling). This individual personality type is known as an ENFP because they are primary or they lead in extroverted intuition and they are auxiliary or secondary in introverted feeling. Whereas another individual may be reserved with their vision and close held theories (introverted intuition) and they are expressive with their feelings, share social values, and value group harmony (extroverted feeling). This individual is known as an INFJ because they lead in introverted intuition and they are secondary in extroverted feeling.

General Description of Cognitive Functions

Every human being has judging and perceiving functions within them. According to Keys2Cognition.com,

Perceiving—how we focus our attention and gather information

Cognitive Process Basic (Passive) Use Developed (Active) Use
extraverted Sensing (Se) Notice sensory data in the environment. Trust your instincts and take action relevant to the moment and current context.
introverted Sensing (Si) Recall tangible data and experiences. Stabilize a situation by comparing it to what is expected, known and reliable.
extraverted Intuiting (Ne) Notice abstract patterns as they emerge. Shift a situation’s dynamics and explore imaginative potential possibilities.
introverted Intuiting (Ni) Receive “ah-ha” insights and realizations. Persue a greater level of awareness to transform who you are and how you think.

Judging—how we organize our experiences and make decisions

Cognitive Process Basic (Passive) Use Developed (Active) Use
extraverted Thinking (Te) Follow steps, points and time tables. Create structure, reason by measures and evidence, and implement complex plans.
introverted Thinking (Ti) Adhere to definitions and impersonal principles. Analyze a problem using a framework, and find an angle or leverage by which to solve it.
extraverted Feeling (Fe) Honor others’ needs and preferences. Connect with people by sharing values and taking on their needs as yours.
introverted Feeling (Fi) Adhere to personal beliefs about what’s important. Evalute situations and choose what you believe is congruent with your personal identity.

Functional Stack

Another thing to consider when it comes to cognitive functions is where do the functions stack for one’s personality type. Before that, a quick reminder to everyone that every person can do all eight functions because we are human beings, the functional stack is nothing more than how strong our awareness is for individuals use for their daily lives. One may be an ENFP which their aware and dominant function is extroverted intuition, however they may encounter some situations where they have to use extroverted sensing for their own survival.

With that being said, let’s identify the functional stack within the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. There are four functions within a functional stack for every personality type within the MBTI system. The four functions are the dominant or primary function, auxiliary function, tertiary function, and inferior function.  Here is an example of an INTJ functional stack.

Image result for cognitive function stacks

The functions that are above show how the INTJ is set up through their introverted and extroverted functions. If the function is extroverted, that is the function that will be expressed publicly from the individual. However, if the function is introverted, then the function will be reserved and private from the public. For example, as shown above, the INTJ will express what they are thinking but will usually hide what they feel. Also, the intuition is introverted and it is dominant. Therefore, the INTJ’s idealistic vision and potentialities are introverted, but they can communicate their vision through extroverted thinking by keeping their values behind their vision to their selves. The inferior function is the function where the user is not aware of for the most part. Extroverted sensing for the INTJ is inferior while an ESFP will be dominant.

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