The Cognitive Functions
ognitive functions were originally theorized by Carl Jung and written about in greater detail by Isabel Briggs Myers. The “Functions” refer to specific methods of processing information and making decisions, based on your specific personality type. Each type uses four—out of a possible eight—
cognitive functions on a regular basis, in a specific order.
The eight cognitive functions are:
Introverted Intuition (Ni) Extroverted Intuition (Ne) Introverted Sensing (Si) Extroverted Sensing (Se) Introverted Feeling (Fi) Extroverted Feeling (Fe) Introverted Thinking (Ti) Extroverted Thinking (Te)
Whether the function is extroverted or introverted refers to whether it is oriented outward—toward the world of action, or inward, toward the world of introspection. Regardless of whether we are introverts or extroverts, we each use two introverted functions and two extroverted functions. We also each use one intuitive function, one sensing function, one feeling function and one thinking function.
We refer to our intuitive and sensing functions as our perceptive functions, since we use them to perceive the world around us. We refer to our thinking and feeling functions as our judging—or decision-making—functions, as we use them to make decisions.
We all prefer using one of our perceptive functions over the other. The same goes for our judging function. In the case of INFPs, you use the following functions in the following order:
- Introverted Feeling (or Fi)
- Extroverted Intuition (or Ne)
- Introverted Sensing (or Si)
- Extroverted Thinking (or Te)
To recap, your judging functions are introverted feeling and extroverted thinking. Your perceptive functions are extroverted intuition and introverted sensing.
INFPs are classified as feelers in their four-letter acronym because they process decisions based on how they emotionally resonate with the situation at hand (Using Fi) before they consider how to implement their decision logically (Using Te). In the same vein, they are classified as intuitives because they prefer to examine new thoughts and experiences from various unique angles (using Ne) before comparing those thoughts or experiences to what they’ve found to be true in the past (Using Si).
INFPs are considered introverts because they prefer using their main introspective function (Fi) over their main outward-oriented function (Ne). They are considered perceivers because their main perceptive function (Ne) is oriented outward, into the world of action.
The fact that you have a mix of introverted and extroverted functions—as well as a mix of feeling, thinking, intuitive and sensing functions—explains why you often feel introverted when you’re processing your emotions or forming an opinion, but extroverted when you’re brainstorming ideas or making plans with friends. It explains why you can back up your beliefs with indisputable logic and hard facts, but you form them from a compassionate, humanitarian standpoint.
Before delving too far into what it means to use your cognitive functions, let’s take a look at exactly what each of them involves.
Introverted Feeling (Fi)
The INFP’s Dominant (Or Primary) Function
Introverted feeling is both a highly emotional and a highly analytical function. It intuitively picks up on emotional nuances in its environment and internally deciphers those nuances—seeking to uncover the deeper meaning or emotional truth behind any given situation.
Fi poses the question “How do I feel about the situation or concept at hand,” in relation to every new experience the INFP takes in. The answer to this question then serves as the INFP’s basis for further exploration of the topic or situation.
To the INFP, every strong feeling they experience is a clue that leads to a greater ‘truth’ or understanding about humanity. The INFP is constantly piecing together these truths to form a deeply intuitive worldview—one that ultimately serves as their basis for distinguishing right from wrong.
Above all else, introverted feeling seeks truth and authenticity. Because Fi serves as its own moral compass—evaluating situations through an internal, intuitive analysis of right and wrong—it does not mind going against the grain when it comes to what it knows to be right. Fi users must be true to themselves and what they believe in above absolutely everything else.
Let’s look at Fi in practice.
Fi is the reason why you search for the deeper universal meaning behind everything that happens to you.
Fi is the reason why you experience intense emotional highs and lows, which sometimes feel out of your control.
Fi is the reason why you spend so much time daydreaming about an ideal version of yourself or your life.
Fi is the reason why you feel the strong need to advocate for your values and beliefs when someone says something that contradicts or offends them.
Fi is the reason why your life sometimes feels more like a story than an actual real-world experience.
Fi is the reason why you intuitively pick up on the unspoken desires and motivations of others.
Fi is the reason why the emotional experiences of others can affect you on a strong, pervasive and extremely personal level.
Fi is the reason why you feel such intense passion and devotion toward the people and things that you love.
Fi is the reason why you can find beauty and exceptionality within the most ordinary of situations.
Fi is the reason why you’ve probably felt misunderstood for the majority of your life.
Extroverted Intuition (Ne)
The INFP’s Auxiliary (Or Secondary) Function
Extroverted intuition (Or Ne) is the INFP’s exploration function. It dwells primarily in the future and gains energy through connecting ideas and exploring new possibilities. The INFP enjoys using this function to imagine various different versions of their future and consider how they might feel in each one.
Ne possesses the unique ability to consider multiple opposing views simultaneously and it does not like to decide firmly upon ideas. Instead, it formulates new possibilities in a seemingly endless manner—which the INFP eventually turns to Si to narrow down. It is indubitably Ne’s quick ability to shift perspective that makes the INFP so adept at putting themselves in other’s shoes.
Because Ne is an extroverted function, it gains the most energy when it is interacting with its external environment. The INFP may enjoy brainstorming or daydreaming alone, but their auxiliary function thrives when they actually indulge their fantasies—by booking the trip they’ve been dreaming of or talking to the crush they’ve been fantasizing about. The more action the INFP takes on their desires, the more input they give Ne to expand upon and their Fi to analyze.
Let’s look at Ne in practice.
Ne is the reason why you have to examine a situation from absolutely every possible angle before you can form a decisive opinion on it.
Ne is the reason why you gain a surprising amount of energy through discussing big picture ideas with other intuitive types.
Ne is the reason why you experience intense bursts of creative energy when you decide to take on a new project.
Ne is the reason why you speculate about the future in a far-out, fanciful fashion.
Ne is the reason why you are able to look at things from just about anyone’s point of view, whether you agree with their viewpoint or not.
Ne is the reason why you are attracted to intense, unusual and provocative ideas or people.
Ne is the reason why you enjoy rising to new challenges and proving others wrong about their perception of you.
Ne is the reason why you crave novelty and variety in your life.
Ne is the tiny thrum of madness in the back of your mind that keeps your thoughts constantly reeling and moving.
Introverted Sensing (Si)
The INFP’s Tertiary (Or Third) Function
Introverted sensing is a memory-based function that compares new environmental stimuli or ideas to past experiences and known facts. It is detail-oriented and is skilled at remembering specific facts or pieces of information that are relevant for its user. Si places a high level of trust in authority, institutions and societal norms, craving to understand what has worked in the past, and is therefore likely to work again in the future.
Si is the INFP’s secondary perceptive function. Once extroverted intuition has formulated the various possibilities that exist in the INFP’s environment, introverted sensing measures each possibility against the INFP’s past experiences—pinpointing which similar situations have worked out well for the INFP and which have not. Si is also responsible for the INFP’s strong sentimental streak, as it enjoys replaying past experiences and reflecting on ‘better times.’
Si aims to create a sense of structure for its user, by creating routines based around what they enjoy. It stores past memories and draws upon them to help its user plan for the future based on what has worked well in the past.
Let’s look at Si in practice:
Si is the reason why you enjoy reflecting on your past experiences and comparing them to your present circumstances.
Si is the reason why you don’t fully trust a situation until you’ve been in it and witnessed it working out successfully.
Si is the reason why you’re good at remembering small facts and subtle details about the people you love and the things you’re passionate about.
Si is the reason why you function best within a structured routine, even though you inherently crave variety.
Si is the reason why you are able to quickly recall relevant facts that will support the opinions or ideas you’re trying to convey.
Si is the reason why you can be uncharacteristically detail-oriented or perfectionistic about the projects you really care about.
Si is the reason why you are keenly in tune with social norms and societal rules, even if you don’t always choose to follow them.
Si is the reason why you have a tendency to be hopelessly sentimental about where you’ve been, no matter how excited you are about where you’re going.
Extroverted Thinking (Te)
The INFP’s Inferior (Or Last) Function
Extroverted thinking is the last function in the INFP’s stacking—also known as their inferior function. It is important to note that Te doesn’t fully develop in the INFP until approximately middle age, so traditional definitions of the function may not apply to the average INFP for the majority of his or her life.
Extroverted thinking—as an isolated function—focuses on imposing order on its external environment. It looks at everything through a results-based lens and is efficient—sometimes to the point of ruthlessness—at executing plans that yield tangible, beneficial results. It also constructs logical arguments in a straightforward, indisputable manner.
Prior to maturation, Te often manifests for the INFP as a point of insecurity. This feeling-oriented type often fears that others perceive them to be incompetent and they may take extensive measures to appear intelligent and
rational at all costs. They will essentially become their own worst critics in order to avoid criticism from others.
Let’s look at Te as it manifests for the INFP.
Underdeveloped Te is the reason why you can be harshly critical of your own creative work when you are attempting to determine how others may view it.
Underdeveloped Te is the reason why you secretly fear that others will perceive you as incompetent, and you take extreme measures to ensure you are coming across as well read and intelligent in conversation.
Underdeveloped Te is the reason why you occasionally apply black- and-white thinking to your judgments of people who display immoral or ignorant characteristics.
Underdeveloped Te is the reason why you have a tendency to convince yourself that you’ve failed to live up to other people’s standards and beat yourself up over it (even if those standards were never expressed by the other people in question).
Underdeveloped Te is the reason why you are quick to pick up on small errors others make in spelling or logical reasoning and deem them incompetent as a result –because you take extreme care to avoid such errors yourself.
Healthy Te is the reason why you are able to follow through on the projects and plans that you have committed to.
Healthy Te is the reason why you can form persuasive arguments around the topics that you believe in.
Healthy Te is the reason why you welcome constructive criticism from external sources.
Healthy Te is the reason why you can brush off other people’s opinions of you—because you are secure with the life that you’ve chosen, no matter what others may think of it.