In my post on MBTI-Enneagram correlations, I explore how the Myers-Briggs preferences and types tend to overlap with those of the Enneagram taxonomy. One thing I failed to address, however, was the relationship between the eight cognitive functions and the Enneagram. So here I thought it might be interesting to take some time to explore those intersections.
In their book, Personality Types, Don Riso and Russ Hudson pair each of the Enneagram types with one of the eight cognitive functions. Unfortunately, I don’t think their approach works in many cases, as it’s hard to make 1:1 correlations between the functions and the Enneagram types.
In this post, we’ll take a more nuanced approach, recognizing how each function can manifest in multiple Enneagram types. Although there are some functions that could feasibly play a role in four or more Enneagram types, for the sake of parsimony, we’ll limit our discussion to no more than three types per function, meaning that some areas of potential overlap may be left unexplored.
Introverted Sensing (Si)
Enneagram Types: 1, 6
In my post, The 8 Functions: Roles, Images & Characteristics, I describe Introverted Sensing (Si) as the “Stabilizing” function. Si types (i.e., SJs) value safety and security, which they find by turning to the familiar past—to established routines, traditions, and conventions. As defenders of the “tried and true,” they often resist change (especially sweeping change) in favor of preserving familiar practices and traditions.
The Enneagram 1 is sometimes called “The Reformer.” Considering that reformers are change agents, it may seem strange to associate Si with this Enneagram type. But as I discuss in my Enneagram 1 profile, Ones are well viewed as “mission-oriented,” which is perfectly compatible with Si, not to mention Judging (J) types in general. The mission of Si might involve defending traditions or convincing those who’ve “strayed” to return to their roots. Reform, for Si, has a retrospective orientation, perhaps best conceived in terms of “restoration.”
The second Si-relevant type is the Enneagram 6 “Loyalist.” In my Enneagram 6 profile, I describe how Si types tend to be extremely loyal and dutiful. Not only are they reliable spouses, friends, and co-workers, but they’re steadfast in maintaining the beliefs and traditions they hold dear.
Extraverted Sensing (Se)
Enneagram Types: 2, 3, 7
Extraverted Sensing (Se) is the function of “Experiencing.” Se types (i.e., SPs) enjoy “losing themselves” in action and delight in the pleasures of the five senses. They excel in activities requiring quick responses to sensory input—be it as chefs, bartenders, athletes, pilots, flight attendants, emergency responders, etc. Especially when Se is the dominant function, it inspires an “eat, drink, and be merry” mentality. While other types are reflecting on the past or future, Se types live in and for the present moment.
By far, the most conducive type for Se is the Enneagram 7 “Enthusiast.” Like Se, Sevens are explorative, adaptable, and novelty-oriented. They’re always sniffing out new challenges and life experiences.
Unfortunately for Se types, merely experiencing life doesn’t put food on the table. And in order to secure access to the full scope of material pleasures—good food, new cars, a nice home, etc.—money has to be made. This, in combination with status, which is also important to many Se types, beckons them to partake in the proverbial “rat race.” Consequently, it’s not unusual for status or achievement-minded SPs to identify as Enneagram Threes (“The Achiever”). Those who are Feelers (F) often enjoy children and take up work in helping or service professions, thus exhibiting Enneagram Two (“The Helper”) characteristics.
Introverted Intuition (Ni)
Enneagram Types: 1, 4, 5
Introverted Intuition is the function of “Knowing,” or what might also be called “Insight.” This conjures associations with the Enneagram 5, commonly known as “The Investigator.” Fives dive deep into whatever stimulates them mentally and find great satisfaction in clarifying their understanding of things. Given enough time and investment, their investigations invariably beget insights—“aha” moments—for which Ni is renowned.
That said, research suggests that only one Ni type—the INTJ—routinely identifies as type 5. The other Ni-dominant type—the INFJ—may sport a 5 wing, but more commonly identifies elsewhere, in particular, with the Enneagram 4. This may be due to the fact that, in addition to Intuition, Fours rely more on Feeling (F) and Fives on Thinking (T).
The Enneagram 4 is nicknamed “The Artist” or “Individualist.” Based on this alone, the role of Ni insight in the Four’s personality is not immediately evident. It appears that the INJ Four’s artistic bent stems from their desire to unite their dominant and inferior functions toward a common end, namely, combining Ni inner imagery with tangible expression by way of their inferior Se. See my post, 3 Roles of the INFJ, for more on this.
INJs with stronger development of their auxiliary Judging function (Fe or Te) may feel less comfortable identifying solely as artists. The combination of Ni knowing with extraverted Judging may inspire a mission-like, Enneagram 1 mentality in INJs. Unlike Si, however, Ni missions are typically not a matter of defending or restoring long-held traditions. Instead, Ni zeal derives from its own realization of something of profound importance which is worth championing. In many cases, this involves something original or unfamiliar to the masses—a new theory, critique, or prognostication.
Extraverted Intuition (Ne)
Enneagram Types: 4, 5, 7
Extraverted Intuition (Ne) is the function of “Ideation.” It’s a prolific explorer and progenitor of new ideas and possibilities. Like Se, it has a taste for the new and novel, which is why both Se and Ne dominants commonly identify as Sevens. And while both Se and Ne types enjoy getting out and experiencing new things, Ne has a more pronounced ideational and creative bent. Se relishes sensory experiences for their own sake, whereas Ne uses them as catalysts or springboards for new ideas and possibilities.
Because Fours and Fives tend to be Introverted, many utilize Ne as their auxiliary function. This is the case for INTPs, who typically identify as Fives, as well as INFPs, who are often Fours. Insofar as art is more divergent than scientific or intellectual matters, one could make the case that Ne fits more squarely with the Enneagram Four than the Five. When partnered with Fi, Ne is indeed a creative force to be reckoned with. When paired with Ti, it may present as more philosophical or innovative in a scientific or technical sense. Ne dominant types—ENFP and ENTP—may feel torn between the playful escapades of Seven-hood and the desire to make a name for themselves as Artists or Investigators.
Extraverted Thinking (Te)
Enneagram Types: 1, 3, 8
Extraverted Thinking (Te) is the function of “Structuring.” It systematically analyzes and organizes things, data, and systems. As implied in its nomenclature, Te’s structuring efforts are Extraverted in orientation, compelling Te types (i.e., TJs) to function as educators, managers, executives, attorneys, politicians, etc. Of all types, Te is most readily linked with the Enneagram 8, sometimes called “The Challenger” or “The Leader.” Organizations, systems, and processes are the natural playground for Te types, allowing them to leverage their structuring proclivities to maximize efficiency and effectiveness. While their people skills may lag beyond their operational acumen, many find their way into some sort of managerial role.
Like Se types, TJs are also drawn to status and achievement. Hence, it’s by no means a stretch to associate Te with the Enneagram 3 “Achiever” type. TJs typically enjoy competition and aren’t afraid to leverage their shrewd, logical minds to their advantage.
Especially when fueled by a moral imperative, TJs might also identify as Enneagram Ones. Such individuals may wield their powers of articulation and leadership to effect meaningful change and reform.
Introverted Thinking (Ti)
Enneagram Types: 3, 5, 6
Introverted Thinking (Ti) is the function of “Reasoning.” Drawing equally on both sides of the brain, it’s a more fluid or free-form style of thinking than Te. Hence, Ti types (i.e., TPs) often prefer to operate as independent agents, allowing them to eschew cumbersome organizational constraints. Autonomy is a preeminent value for Ti types, especially INTPs. Considering its penchant for autonomy and reasoning, it’s easy to see why Ti would map onto the Enneagram Five. Fives with a Four wing (5w4), in particular, are your quintessential philosophers or “freethinkers,” often with a creative streak. Unlike scientists, who are more apt to have a 6 wing, 5w4s are independent investigators, drawing on Thinking and Intuition in similar measure.
In addition to its “Loyalist” side, the Enneagram 6 can also be quite skeptical, leading some to nickname it the “Loyalist-Skeptic.” From what I can tell, many skeptical Sixes are ISTPs, as depicted, for instance, in the Star Wars character Han Solo. Han is unapologetically autonomous and skeptical, with a predominantly self-concerned orientation (especially initially). He’s not a reflective Five, however. Despite his moral ambivalence, he prefers to be a man of action. He’s also rather loyal, even if largely for expedience sake.
Like Te, Ti can also be used in the service of Enneagram Three’s quest for achievement. But again, TPs aim to steer clear of organizational fetters whenever possible, preferring instead to strike out on their own. However, considering the responsibilities of entrepreneurship or small-business ownership, some may (reluctantly) opt to work for someone else, freeing up time for outside pursuits.
Extraverted Feeling (Fe)
Enneagram Types: 1, 2, 8
Extraverted Feeling (Fe) is the function of “Connecting.” Fe types (i.e., FJs) are characteristically interpersonal, often putting the needs of others ahead of their own. For this reason, Fe fits beautifully with the Enneagram 2 “Helper” type. Such individuals make great teachers, counselors, religious leaders, and the like. In this light, it’s also easy to see how Fe types might identify as Enneagram Ones, channeling their helping mentality into a cause they believe in. And due to their powers of oration and persuasion, many FJs make highly effective reformers.
FJs with a more masculine bent may be more inclined to identity as Eights. Like ETJs, EFJs can be effective leaders and visionaries. However, owing to their people-orientation, they typically focus more on the human side of things—employee development, sales and marketing, etc.—than technical operations or logistics.
Introverted Feeling (Fi)
Enneagram Types: 1, 4, 9
Fi is well viewed as the function of “Valuing.” Fi types (i.e., FPs) have a strong concern for “knowing themselves”—discerning their core values and interests—and living in accordance with that self-understanding.
IFP Nines and Fours seem to occur in similar numbers, although INFPs are more apt to be Fours than ISFPs. In many respects, the Four’s “search for self” fits well with Fi’s concern for values clarification. Indeed, for many artists, finding themselves and discerning their creative preferences go hand-in-hand. Both are subjective processes that rely on introspectively hearing and heeding one’s own voice.
While most IFPs dabble in art at some point, not all are called to be artists. Many are compelled to embrace a cause or mission of some sort, be it religious, environmental, or humanitarian. Some may join the Peace Corps, others may become missionaries, and some may even pursue politics (e.g., Elizabeth Warren). Such IFPs may identify as Enneagram Ones.
Interestingly, the only Enneagram type we’ve yet to discuss is the Enneagram Nine “Peacemaker.” This is suggestive of significant conceptual overlap with Fi. Both Nines and Fi types tend to be conflict-avoidant, which allows them to maintain a state of inner peace, at least temporarily. As highlighted in my Enneagram 9 profile, Fi Nines (most of whom are Introverts), typically aren’t interested in orchestrating or negotiating outer peace in the way that an Fe type might be. What they do want, however, is to minimize stress and feel happy; hence, their propensity for circumnavigating external conflict.
For a closer look at the 8 functions, or to clarify your preferred functions, be sure to explore our eBooks, which are now on sale: