MBTI Personality Types – decoding your true cognitive functions

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” – Carl Jung

I’m at a crossroad in my life right now and I’d say I’m having a bit of an existential crisis. In my quest to explore my own feelings and thoughts, I have fallen into the rabbit hole of Youtube and articles on decoding personality types and the works of Psychologists such as Carl Jung. And I think what I’ve learnt about MBTI personality types are pretty interesting and are far more helpful than the surface level test results itself.

If you are a nerd like I am, in some kind of existential crisis too or just curious, read onnnn. We’ll address the following key points:

  • What are cognitive functions and its categorisation
  • Stacking of cognitive functions and why it’s important
  • Examples

Most people will loosely use the term ‘MBTI Type’, essentially MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator)is based on Carl Jung’s cognitive functions theory. It’s just that Myers & Briggs used that theory and turned it into a personality test, grouping it into 16 personalities.

Cognitive Functions are the way in which our brain take in new information and process them for decision making.

We have 2 groups of basic cognitive functions :

  1. Judging (how we make ‘judge’ a situation/make decisions): Thinking or Feeling
  2. Perception (how we take in new information): Intuition vs Sensation.

    Our preference on where we source our thoughts/feelings/intuition/sensation is either internally or externally (ie. Introversion vs Extroversion).

So, altogether there are actually 8 different types of cognitive functions. Here’s a visual summary of my understanding:

Short description of the 8 cognitive functions – extracted from Personality Junkies. For more detailed descriptions, check out Personality Junkies.

  • Extroverted Thinking (Te) -seeks to make external operations more rational and efficient. Its “standardized” methods can be broadly applied to make nearly any organization or enterprise more rational.
  • Introverted Thinking (Ti) – is concerned with inner rationality and personal effectiveness. Its methods are more individualized and therefore less broadly applicable than those of Te.
  • Extroverted Feeling (Fe) –  surveys a breadth of human feeling. Its goal is to cultivate interpersonal harmony among people.
  • Introverted Feeling (Fi) -is concerned with inner harmony. Whereas Fe focuses on interpersonal matters, Fi is intrapersonal. Its focus is on personal values, preferences, and feelings.
  • Extroverted Intuition (Ne) – explores new ideas, patterns, and possibilities in the outside world. Since Ne springboards off existing ideas and theories, Ne types often read extensively in order to acquire a broad or diverse understanding.
  • Introverted Intuition (Ni) – apprehends ideas, patterns, and perspectives that emerge within. May feel less compelled to read extensively, since their source of N material is inwardly derived and divined.
  • Extroverted Sensing (Se) – seeks extensive outward stimulation—new sights, sounds, tastes, experiences, etc.
  • Introverted Sensing (Si) – draws on past personal experience, the “tried and true,” making it unnecessary to constantly seek new or broad experiences.

One thing that is not obvious from the MBTI test is the stacking of our cognitive functions. Ie. The order of which cognitive functions are strongest to weakest for us. Out of the 8 cognitive functions, which four do we rely most heavily on.

There are 4 key tiers of the cognitive functions.
The top 2 are our most developed functions, followed by the remaining 2 less developed/subconscious functions.

  1. Dominant – this is our strongest function – our defining characteristic
  2. Auxiliary – this is like the sidekick.
  3. Tertiary – undifferentiated trait
  4. Inferior – this is the most unnatural to us. It’s our weakness.

Each of the 16 MBTI types have their own unique functions stacking order and this is fixed.

But why should we care about it?

  • We are complex beings – all these functions serve to balance each other out – hence to be the best versions of ourselves we need to understand what are our strongest traits and weakest, and seek to develop them.
  • By understanding the order of our cognitive stacking, we can understand why we do what we do because sometimes the test results can feel a bit generic like ‘wut why did they say I’m detailed – I’m so not’. Maybe it’s a more undeveloped trait of yours.

Breakdown of stacking of cognitive functions by 16 personalities:

Order : Dominant –> Auxillary –> Tertiary –> Inferior

So let’s use ENFP vs ENFJ as an example. Comparing the personality types ENFP and ENFJ, you may think ‘Hey, our personalities are pretty close! We’re off by one cognitive function’. When in actual fact, there are more subtle differences. Let’s break it down:

  1. Difference in the source of cognitive functions. Although both Personality Types are deemed as ‘Extroverts’ – which cognitive functions that they draw externally from, differs.
Cognitive FunctionENFPENFJ
Intuition (N)External (Ne)Internal (Ni)
Sensation (S)Internal (Si)External (Se)
Thinking (T)External (Te)Internal (Ti)
Feeling (F)Internal (Fi)External (Fe)
Differences between ENFP vs ENFJ

They are practically different for every category!

  • Intuition (N) : When it comes to using their intuition, ENFPs (Ne) are big picture thinkers tend to be more easily stimulated by external and new ideas and possibilities, jumping from one idea to another vs ENFJs (Ni) who are more focused who can work internally to converge on more singular and comprehensive vision
  • Sensation (S) : When met with new sensations, ENFPs(Si) uses past information to inform the present hence prefers routines vs ENFJs (Se) who are sensation seekers through novel sensations and highly attuned to things around them.
  • Thinking (T): When addressing their thoughts, ENFPs (Te) tend to want to create greater structure around them vs ENFJs (Ti) tend to use structure in their inner world making them more discipline.
  • Feeling (F): When it comes to their feelings, ENFPs (Fi) tends to look inwardly at their feelings against their morals and values vs ENFJs (Fe) who tends to look outwardly to the group for kinship and support.

Maybe you are thinking how can ENFPs have Si when they are usually so adventurous?? The thing is, our characters are a lot more complex than we think. We have all of these traits but how developed it is, is a different question (we’ll address in point no2). Point no1 seeks to address that when a personality type uses that cognitive function, what are his/her tendencies – is it to look outward or inward.

2. Difference in their preferences

(The Campaigner)
(The Protaganist)
Differences between Cognitive Stacking : ENFP vs ENFJ

Because ENFPs dominant trait is their Ne which Fi as their auxillary – they are big on ideas but views the world through a values stand point . Take a look at the summary description about ENFPs from 16 personalities.

 These people tend to embrace big ideas and actions that reflect their sense of hope and goodwill toward others…shaped by their Intuitive (N) quality, allowing them to read between the lines with curiosity and energy. They tend to see life as a big, complex puzzle where everything is connected…Campaigners see it through a prism of emotion, compassion and mysticism, and are always looking for a deeper meaning.

Contrast this with ENFJs – who leads with Fe and supports this with Ni. They are often more people centric, and use their intuitive trait to come up with solutions for the greater community. Summary description from 16 personalities.

Protagonists radiate authenticity, concern and altruism, unafraid to stand up and speak when they feel something needs to be said. They find it natural and easy to communicate with others, especially in person (Fe), and their Intuitive (N) trait helps them to reach every mind, be it through facts and logic or raw emotion. 

However, both being Intuitive Feelers (Dominant N and Auxiliary F) – they are both future oriented – in tune with possibilities that the world has to offer, lead/supported by their emotions.

Hope this has helped you understand the descriptions on 16personalities a little better!

This is clearly a heavy loaded topic (feel big brain-ed yet? LOL). Some blogs dedicate their entire content to the understanding of these personality types. Maybe I’ll do a part 2 soon exploring the duality of the cognitive functions and how these traits balance each other out – making us into the complex personalities that we are.

But one thing’s for sure – with so many different personalities and various different lenses to interpret the world with – it’s no wonder sometimes something seems so obvious to us but not so to the other party. Miscommunications are rooted in these differences.

I have been reflecting a lot lately on how I process certain information or express my thoughts, and how that may come off differently as intended. I have been really in over my head and I somehow find comfort in understanding how each of us view the world, so I can continue to improve myself and I hope you do too.

If you are interested to know more, I’ll link some youtube videos/articles I’ve checked out recently which has pretty good analysis on personality types, and even explain on how the stacking is derived if you’re into that too.

See you in the next blog post!


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