Figuring out your type: Jung's 8 cognitive functions

Note: This is part two of a multi-part series on Myers-Briggs Theory. This article will discuss the eight functions, which explain the thought processes behind the sixteen personality types. You can read the first post in the series here.

Now that you know about Myers-Briggs theory, you probably want to figure out which of the personality types fits you most closely. The easiest way is to take a test. Some of them are available online for free: the most accurate ones are John's Personality Test and the MBTI and Cognitive Functions Test.If you just want a quick way of finding your type, try taking these tests and seeing if there’s overlap or agreement! If you want to learn the rationale behind the tests, read on...

Why are they more accurate than other online tests? Simply put, they try to figure out which of Jung's Eight Cognitive Functions you rely on most heavily. One of the other--sometimes more accurate--ways you can determine your type is by reading through the eight functions and determining which two you rely most heavily on.

What do the functions mean?To put it very simply, Jung believed that there are eight ways of interpreting the world--these are functions. Everyone utilizes each function in different ways, but there are generally two which we use more than the others: the primary function and secondary function. They’re the most important two for the purposes of finding which personality type you are, but if you want to know more about what the other functions do, there are plenty of sources online!

Tips for finding your primary and secondary functions:

  •  One of your primary functions will always start with “introverted,” and one will always start with “extraverted.” Try not to think about what “introvert” and “extravert” mean in the colloquial sense – they mean something different here. For the purposes of Jung’s theories, “extravert” means “external”, and “introvert” means “internal.” For example, a person who likes to argue might process the world primarily through the function called Extraverted Thinking (or Te in shorthand - “thinking, extraverted”). It doesn’t mean that person is an extravert, but that they prefer to use logic as it relates to the outside world around them.

  • By the same token, one of your primary functions will involve feeling or thinking. The other will involve sensing or judging. In other words, your primary and secondary function couldn’t both involve thinking and feeling - it’s one or the other. (More on these terms later. For now, try to focus on which functions you can relate to the most.)

What are the eight functions? Here is a brief overview of the eight functions.

Intuitive vs. Sensing:

  • Introverted Intuition (shorthand: Ni). A person who has strong amounts of Ni is very likely to have “aha!” moments, or intuition out of nowhere. They tend to like puzzles, whether in the verbal sense such as riddles, or the mathematical sense such as sudoku. If this sounds like you, you might be a Ni user.

  • Extraverted Intuition (shorthand: Ne). A person who has strong amounts of Ne is likely someone who sees many possible outcomes for a given situation. For example, you might be a good brainstormer, or have a tendency of focusing on what “could” be, rather than what is. Consequently, they tend to have a hard time with stasis - they always want something new.

  • Introverted Sensing (shorthand: Si). These people are very detail-oriented. Unlike people who are more intuitive, they are less inclined to act on instinct. Rather, they believe in tradition, facts, and concrete plans. If you think that history repeats itself, you’re probably a Si user.

  • Extraverted Sensing (shorthand: Se). Se users are highly concerned with the now--forget hypotheticals! They tend to be athletic, and are incredibly observant when it comes to their surroundings. They have a tendency of seeing what they want, and immediately taking action.

Thinking vs. Feeling:

  • Introverted Thinking (shorthand: Ti). Ever know someone who seems to get an ‘A’ on the test no matter how hard they study? Yeah, they might be a Ti user. Introverted thinkers are excellent at processing knowledge, especially concrete knowledge. (They tend to be less interested in “what if” scenarios with no definite answer, although it depends on the individual.)

  • Extraverted Thinking (shorthand: Te). Imagine all the logic and efficiency of “Ti”, with an added desire to play devil’s advocate. These people are great managers, as they’re good at making logical decisions quickly; however, they have a tendency to like to argue.

  • Introverted Feeling (shorthand: Fi). Introverted feelers are some of the most introspective people you’re likely to meet. They are also heavily concerned with ethics. Their skillset involves empathy and emotional intelligence: they’re most likely to know how to articulate what they’re feeling...yet least likely to actually share this with anyone, as they’re not keen on sharing their feelings with others.

  • Extraverted Feeling (shorthand: Fe). Have you ever met someone who spends a party constantly offering to get people drinks, or someone who never takes a side in an argument? Of course, any personality type can be a good host; however, extraverted feelers are especially good at keeping the people around them happy and harmonious. Consequently, they tend to be conflict-averse.

Once you understand what each function means, you can better determine what your Myers-Briggs personality type is. In the next post, we'll talk about how you an put it all together.