Cognitive Type, Functions, & Eye Movements: Ni, Ne, Fi, Ti, Se, Si, Fe, Te

By Dr. A.J. Drenth

Cognitive Type is a website that takes a new and intriguing approach to personality typing. Like our approach here at Personality Junkie, those at Cognitive Type focus primarily on the eight Jungian / cognitive functions (e.g., Ni, Ne, Fi…) rather than the preferences (N, S, F…). To reflect their focus on the Jungian functions, their nomenclature for the 16 types diverges from the Myers-Briggs tradition, but in many ways comes closer to Jung.

Their practice is to name each type according to its dominant and auxiliary functions (i.e., INFJ = NiFe, ENFJ = FeNi, ISFJ = SiFe, ESFJ = FeSi, INTJ = NiTe, ENTJ = TeNi, ISTJ = SiTe, ESTJ = TeSi, INTP = TiNe, ENTP = NeTi, ISTP = TiSe, ESTP = SeTi, INFP = FiNe, ENFP = NeFi, ISFP = FiSe, ESFP = SeFi).

Eye Movements, Expressions, & Cognitive Types / Functions

Nomenclature aside, what really differentiates Cognitive Type (CT) from other sites is their focus on exploring the correlations between the cognitive types/ functions and facial expressions, especially the appearance and movements of the eyes. Namely, CT suggests that eye movements clue us into which of the eight functions an individual is using at a given moment in time. In a sense, the eyes may serve as a sort of window to the psyche. CT provides extensive video footage and real-time diagnoses of the functions as evidenced through patterns of facial expression, eye movements, and hand gestures.

While you should really visit CT’s site for a thorough exposure to their visual readings, I will provide a quick overview of some of their observations, interspersed with some of my own thoughts:

Extraverted Sensing (Se) & Extraverted Intuition (Ne)

The primary purpose of the eyes is extraverted perception. Hence, it does not seem unreasonable to predict the eyes to be most active—darting, toggling, and looking around—when an individual is using an extraverted Perceiving function (Se or Ne).

As discussed in my e-book, The 16 Personality Types, Se attunes to actualities and concrete details of the immediate environment. It is quick to notice sensory changes or physical movements, which is why SPs often excel in activities like team sports or emergency medicine. The eyes of SP types often appear wide and alert. Since Se is not a verbal function (especially not a “explorative” verbal function like Ne) and its primary focus in a one-to-one conversation is the interlocutor’s physical expressions and responses, ESPs are less likely to appear distracted when conversing than ENPs are (assuming the ESP isn’t terribly bored or restless). This likely ties into what CT describes as the Se “lock in,” in which the Se user locks their gaze onto the person they are speaking with.

Unlike Se, Ne is unconcerned with the concrete details or happenings of the immediate environment. Rather, it is interested in scanning for new ideas, connections, and possibilities. Despite the fact that much of this scanning is mental (N) rather than sensory in nature, when Ne is engaged, the eyes can often be seen darting broadly from side-to-side, as if they were looking around for something. This alone may contribute to ENPs’ reputation for appearing distracted, flighty, and scattered, which is only bolstered by the random, disjointed, and scattered musings of NP types.

Introverted Sensing (Si) & Introverted Intuition (Ni)

CT describes the role of Introverted Sensing (Si) and Introverted Intuition (Ni) as one of perceiving and referencing a preexisting internal worldview. Since all the introverted functions are more intensive and focused, Si and Ni do not involve the broad and sweeping eye movements characteristic of Ne or Se. Instead of looking around, Si and Ni might be described as “looking through their existing inner worldview” (CT).

In my experience, Ni seems somewhat easier to visually identify than Si. When Ni is engaged, the eyes tend to drift a bit to one side and fix their gaze slightly downward. Once the desired perception is retrieved, the individual switches back to the Se lock in (or moves into Fe or Te) and eye contact is restored.

Introverted Feeling (Fi) & Introverted Thinking (Ti)

Introverted Feeling (Fi) and Introverted Thinking (Ti) are introverted Judging functions. Since the eyes are instruments of Perceiving rather than Judging, when Fi or Ti is engaged, the eyes as well as the individual’s facial expressions can appear flat, flaccid, and expressionless (especially with Ti).  According to CT, during the process of introverted Judging, the “body freezes” and the eyes appear disconnected and irrelevant.

When Ti is engaged, the face loses all its expression and the eyes fall downward and disengage. While Fi can also appear flat, once a particular emotion begins to build and gain momentum, it may (despite the best effort of the Fi type to contain it) eventually spill over into the eyes and face.

Extraverted Feeling (Fe) & Extraverted Thinking (Te)

Fe and Te are also Judging functions. But since they deliver judgments and convictions outwardly (i.e., extravert them), the eyes, face, and hands are more active and engaged than is seen with Fi and Ti. Namely, Fe and Te judgments are expressed through accentuated and decisive linear movements of the face, head, and hands. Common among politicians and preachers, such movements convey an attitude of confidence and certainty. They are employed for the sake of persuading, influencing or directing others, as well as for unambiguous self-expression.

Like its blunt and succinct articulations, Te head nods and gestures tend to be quick, precise, and to the point. Its movements are short and sharp, exuding little as far as warmth or empathy.

Fe head movements to be more fluid and elongated, while the individual’s words and face are infused with emotion. When Fe is engaged, the face is animated and full of expression, as it seeks to connect with and influence others on an emotional level. But since Fe users also use Ti, they may alternate between appearing highly expressive (Fe) and showing no expression at all (Ti).

Final Thoughts: Concrete Clues for Reading Type

Historically, it has been relatively easy to dismiss typology as mere pseudoscience. But if it can be shown that a) the cognitive functions can be empirically measured and verified (see Dario Nardi’s book, Neuroscience of Personality, for evidence of this) and b) there is an observable correlation among the various types/ functions, eye movements, and facial expressions, then the scientific tenability of typology would be greatly enhanced. Visual readings could also take some of the guesswork out of the process of type and function identification, allowing self-reports and intuitive diagnoses to be confirmed (or rejected) with detailed visual analyses.

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Cognitive Type Website

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