The Eight Functions (Typology 201)

By Dr. A.J. Drenth

In Typology 101, we provided an overview of the eight Myers-Briggs preferences (E, I, S, N, T, F, J, P). While the preferences can be helpful for determining your personality type and gaining a basic understanding of the ingredients that make up the types, they do not give us the whole story. Among other things, we also need to explore the eight functions. In this post, we will do just that, providing an introduction and overview of the eight functions.

According to Jung, Sensing, Intuition, Thinking, and Feeling can be directed inwardly (i.e., “introverted”) or outwardly (i.e., “extraverted”). When introverted, these functions are largely concealed and unobservable by others. When extraverted, they are more easily observed from without. Here is a list of the eight functions:

Introverted Sensing (Si)
Introverted Intuition (Ni)
Introverted Thinking (Ti)
Introverted Feeling (Fi)

Extraverted Sensing (Se)
Extraverted Intuition (Ne)
Extraverted Thinking (Te)
Extraverted Feeling (Fe)

Introverted (Si, Ni, Ti, Fi) & Extraverted Functions (Se, Ne, Te, Fe)

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Just as all the extraverted personality types have certain traits in common, so too with the extraverted functions. Their first and most obvious commonality is their outward direction. They are also characteristically broad in their scope compared to the introverted functions (just as extraverts are more outgoing and expansive in their dealings than introverts). The introverted functions, by contrast, are narrower in scope (just as introverts are apt to have narrower or more focused interests or activities than extraverts). Whatever the introverted functions may lack in extensiveness, however, they make up for in depth.

Extraverted Functions

  • Directed outwardly (observable by others)
  • Broad in scope; extensive

Introverted Functions

  • Directed inwardly (concealed from others)
  • Narrow in scope; deep and intensive

While we soon explore each of the eight functions in greater depth, here is a quick look at how this E-I difference manifests in the various functions:

Extraverted 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.

Extraverted 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. INJs may feel less compelled to read extensively, since their source of N material is inwardly derived and divined.

Extraverted 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.

Extraverted 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, largely independent of others.

The Judging (Ti, Te, Fi, Fe) & Perceiving Functions (Si, Se, Ni, Ne)

We can also divide the eight functions according to whether they are Judging or Perceiving functions. Namely, the Thinking (Ti, Te) and Feeling (Fi, Fe) functions are Judging functions, while the Sensing (Si, Se) and Intuition (Ni, Ne) functions are considered Perceiving functions.

The Perceiving functions are responsible for taking in or retrieving information. Observing birds, smelling flowers, reading novels, and recalling something from memory are examples of Perceiving activities. Unlike the Judging functions, the Perceiving functions are not concerned with actively shaping or controlling, but with absorbing life and information.

Perceiving functions

The Judging functions allow us to make decisions and draw conclusions based on received information. They are related to a desire to control, predict, order, or otherwise actively shape the course of things. When using our Judging process, we often close ourselves off to new information (i.e., we shut down Perceiving) in our desire to move toward an answer, decision, or objective.

Judging functions

Having considered some important background information on the functions, I will now provide an overview of each of the eight functions (I also have written individual posts on each function, available through the links below, as well as our Functions Page). We will begin with a look at the four Perceiving functions and end with the four Judging functions.

Extraverted Intuition (Ne)

NP types use Extraverted Intuition (Ne) as their dominant or auxiliary function. The verbal expression of Ne amounts to something like “brainstorming aloud.” When orating, NPs may not always seem to “have a point” as they haphazardly move from one idea to the next. Ne is more divergent and expansive in nature than its introverted cousin, Ni. NPs feel compelled to outwardly explore all the options and possibilities, making it difficult for them to draw firm conclusions or make confident decisions. The divergent nature of Ne explains why NPs often seem random, distractible, quirky, or flighty. Ne types use their Si to recall what has been and then use their Ne to envision what could be. This orientation toward future possibilities gives Ne types a good nose for inventing, marketing, entrepreneurship, politics, journalism, etc.

Introverted Intuition (Ni)

NJ types use Introverted Intuition (Ni) as their dominant or auxiliary function. Unlike Ne, which expands the number of options or possibilities, Ni tends to work more convergently, producing a more singular and comprehensive vision or solution. The convergent capacities of Ni provides NJs a greater sense of confidence and conviction in moving forward, contributing to their effectiveness as theorists, leaders, problem solvers, and advisers. INJs often think by way of images rather than words. Their intuitions may manifest as gut feelings, hunches, symbols, dreams, or imagery. Because Ni does much of its work subconsciously, it is sometimes perceived as having a certain magical or prophetic quality. But Ni need not be considered in any way magical or mystical. Ni intuitions are generated from information provided by NJs’ other functions, particularly their Se, which gathers concrete data from the immediate environment that serves as raw material for their Ni. Like working a puzzle, Ni synthesizes Se pieces of information and generates an intuitive impression or interpretation of what is happening, as well as a sense of what might happen next. For more on Ne-Ni differences, see this post.

Extraverted Sensing (Se)

SPs types use Extraverted Sensing (Se) as either their dominant or auxiliary function. SPs are sensual, instinctual, and appetitive. They relish stimulation of their five senses—new sights, sounds, tastes, scents, movements, textures, etc. They are “sensation-seekers,” relishing novel experiences, material pleasures, and the thrill of action. ESPs are highly observant and attuned to the details of the world around them, especially in areas that interest them. As Extraverts, their preferences often change according to what is popular or trendy.

Introverted Sensing (Si)

SJ types use Introverted Sensing (Si) as either their dominant or auxiliary function. Despite their shared status as Sensors, SJs are quite different from SPs. SJs do not venture out seeking novel sensations, experiences, or material goods. Instead, they prefer a more routinized and predictable lifestyle, functioning more as “homebodies.” ISJs may also fail to notice external details to the degree exhibited among ESPs. Unlike SPs, who are oriented to the present moment and the current trends, SJs rely on information from the past to inform the present. They grow attached to past ways of doing things, compelling them to conserve and protect traditions or conventions. Because of their concern for the remembered past, Si might be considered more abstract and less concrete than Se is.

Extraverted Thinking (Te)

TJ types use Extraverted Thinking (Te) as their dominant or auxiliary function. Te involves the outward expression of rational judgments and opinions; TJs literally think (i.e., make judgments, conclusions, and decisions) aloud. Te is more fact-oriented than Ti is. STJs, in particular, see the world as composed of discrete, black-and-white parts. This allows them to institute clear definitions, objective standards, and measurable goals. While Ti is forever backtracking to question and clarify underlying ideas and assumptions, Te is more positivistic and forward-moving, working to improve definitions, plans, policies, classifications, procedures, etc. It carefully spells out how to get from here to there, using as many maps, labels, and instructions as necessary. The modern world, characterized by a snowballing of laws and bureaucracy, might be viewed as stemming from an unchecked Te.

Introverted Thinking (Ti)

TP types use Introverted Thinking (Ti) as their dominant or auxiliary function. Since Ti is introverted, TPs are reluctant to express their rational judgments outwardly. Ti is used to bring structure and order to TPs’ inner world. This inner structuring grants them a strong sense of inner control. Inwardly, TPs are highly self-disciplined, working to independently manage their thoughts in a way that allows them to better cope with life. TPs (especially NTPs) are less interested in working with facts than with ideas. Jung writes of the ITP: “His ideas have their origin not in objective data but in his subjective foundation.” ITPs are constantly digging into the background of their own thoughts in order to better understand their origins and to ensure their thinking is founded on clear and logical ideas. They see it pointless to try to build a system of thought on a dubious conceptual platform, making them slower than Te types to rush into experiments in order to discover more “facts.” This is especially true of NTPs, who find it easier to identify inconsistencies or logical shortcomings—to assert what is not true—than to identify and confidently assert what is true. While their skepticism is often broad and liberal, their positivism is minimal and conservative.

Extraverted Feeling (Fe)

FJ types use Extraverted Feeling (Fe) as their dominant or auxiliary function. FJs, especially EFJs, are quick to outwardly express their feelings, opinions, and grievances. Fe plays a prominent role in attuning to and empathizing with others’ emotions. It allows FJs to recreate another’s emotion state within themselves, allowing them to literally feel what the other person is feeling. FJs also work to meet others’ needs and to maintain harmony in the external environment. They ensure that everyone is getting along and is well cared for. At the same time, since Fe is an Extraverted Judging function, there are times when FJs are compelled to sacrifice external harmony for the sake of asserting their judgments. FJs also enjoy giving counsel and advice, especially with regard to people-related matters.

Introverted Feeling (Fi)

All FP types use Introverted Feeling (Fi) as their dominant or auxiliary function. Fi is directed inwardly, navigating and managing personal feelings and values on a largely independent basis. While Fe turns to others for emotional support and kinship, Fi deals with emotions more independently. When IFPs do opt to outwardly express their feelings and values, they often do so indirectly—through active (S), creative (N), or rational (Te) means. In contrast to Fe, Fi is less concerned with cultivating “good feelings” in the environment. Rather than focusing on general morale or interpersonal harmony, Fi is inspired to help specific individuals in need. FPs can commonly be found helping the sick, the needy, children, and animals. They love to rescue those in need, such as by adopting pets from animal shelters. They also take up “niche” causes that have personally affected them, such as rallying for research for a rare disease. They differ from Fe types in this regard, whose Feeling tends to be more broadly distributed. Fi also works to shape its own worldview—a  personalized system of values—that can serve as a platform for self-understanding and decision-making. In this sense, it is similar to Ti, which also involves a process of building or modifying an inner structure. This Fi structuring process was nicely illustrated by one of my INFP blog contributors: “My inner values and feelings (Fi) are like a building, a structure of affections that inform my worldview. This involves an inner love for certain things, and an inner repulsion for other things.” As is the case with TPs, this inner structuring grants FPs a strong sense of inner control. While FPs (especially IFPs) may feel they have little control over other people, they feel the one thing they can control and regulate is their own inner world—their feelings, values, and worldview.

To learn more about the eight functions, be sure to check out our eBook, My True Type: Clarifying Your Personality Type, Preferences & Functions:

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Typology 101: The Preferences

Typology 301: The Functional Stack

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