Cognitive functions
In some forms of psychological testing
Psychological testing
Psychological testing is a field characterized by the use of samples of behavior in order to assess psychological construct, such as cognitive and emotional functioning, about a given individual. The technical term for the science behind psychological testing is psychometrics...

, particularly those related to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment is a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions...

, the cognitive functions (sometimes known as mental functions) are defined as different ways of perceiving and judging the world. They are defined as "thinking", "feeling", "sensing" and "intuition".


The model in which these four cognitive functions combine in different ways to form different people's personalities was initially conceived by Carl Jung
Carl Jung
Carl Gustav Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and the founder of Analytical Psychology. Jung is considered the first modern psychiatrist to view the human psyche as "by nature religious" and make it the focus of exploration. Jung is one of the best known researchers in the field of dream analysis and...

 in his pioneering work Psychological Types (1921, ISBN 0-691-09770-4). Jung also posited that the functions formed a hierarchy within a person's personality—the most important function is referred to as the "dominant", with the remaining three filling the roles as "auxiliary," "tertiary," and "inferior" functions. In addition, each mental function is seen as either introverted or extroverted (known as attitudes
Attitude (psychology)
An attitude is a hypothetical construct that represents an individual's degree of like or dislike for something. Attitudes are generally positive or negative views of a person, place, thing, or event— this is often referred to as the attitude object...

). This idea is interpreted in terms of whether the person finds it more rewarding when using the function in question to have an outward focus on people and things (extroversion) or an inward focus on thoughts and ideas (introversion). These models do not claim that people are only capable of applying the function in question in that attitude, but rather that operating in the opposite attitude requires the expenditure of "energy" (or rather, emotional resources, enthusiasm, and so on) whilst operating in the person's natural attitude replenishes that same energy.
Myers' Dichotomies
Extraversion Introversion
Sensing iNtuition
Thinking Feeling
Judging Perceiving
Bold letters are used as shorthand labels

Isabel Myers, an early pioneer of psychometric testing whose ideas remain controversial within psychology
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Its immediate goal is to understand individuals and groups by both establishing general principles and researching specific cases. For many, the ultimate goal of psychology is to benefit society...

, formalised these ideas and proposed that the mixture of types in an individual's personality could be measured through responses to a personality test she devised along with her mother, Katharine Cook Briggs, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. In this model, four "dichotomies" are defined, each labelled by two letters (one for each of the opposites in question), as shown by the emboldened letters in the table. Individuals' personalities fall into sixteen different categories depending on which side of each dichotomy they belong to, labelled by the four applicable letters (for example, an "ESFP" type is someone whose preferences are extraversion, sensing, feeling and perceiving).

Controversy over attitudes

Myers interpreted Jung as saying that the auxiliary, tertiary, and inferior functions are always in the opposite attitude of the dominant. In support of Myers' (and/or Briggs') interpretation, in one sentence Jung seems to state that the "three inferior" functions of an (extreme) extravert are introverted. The "most differentiated function is always employed in an extraverted way, whereas the inferior functions are introverted" (Jung, [1921] 1971:par. 575).

Many, however, have found Jung's writing to be ambiguous, and those who study and follow Jung's theories (Jungians) are typically adamant that Myers is incorrect. Jungians interpret Jung as explicitly stating that the tertiary function is actually in the same attitude as the dominant, providing balance. More recently, typologists such as John Beebe
John Beebe
John Beebe is a Jungian analyst in practice in San Francisco. He received degrees from Harvard College and the University of Chicago medical school. He is a past President of the C.G...

 and Linda Berens have introduced theoretical systems in which all people possess eight functions—equivalent to the four functions as defined by Jung and Myers but in each of the two possible attitudes—with the four in the opposite attitude to that measured known as the "shadow functions", residing largely in the unconscious.

There is controversy even within the Center for Applications of Psychological Type (CAPT), co-founded by Myers, regarding the attitude of the tertiary relative to the dominant. "The MBTI Qualifying Program", a binder given out during official training, puts the tertiary in the opposite attitude to the dominant on page 13; however, "The Manual", which gives official instructions on how to use the test, has the tertiary in the same attitude on page 31. Charles Martin, ex-vice president of research at CAPT, writes the following on page 22 of the binder, "In what attitude is the tertiary? Isabel Myers read Jung to say that the auxiliary, tertiary, and inferior are all in the same attitude and opposite the dominant. Others (Harold Grant) read: tertiary is in the same attitude as the dominant."

Different models

The tables below give different theorists' ideas about personality types in terms of "cognitive functions".

Carl Jung

Carl Jung developed the theory of cognitive processes in his work "Psychological Types". He used the terms dominant, auxiliary, and inferior.

There is a difference between Jung and the MBTI regarding the designation of "inferior" function. While the MBTI clearly designates only the fourth function as the inferior, Jung uses a more flexible definition. "As a consequence of this one-sided development, one or more functions are necessarily retarded. These functions may properly be called inferior ..." (Jung, [1921] 1971:Def. Inferior Function, par. 763).

Isabel Myers

Isabel Myers created the original type table. In her table, diametrically opposite personality types (that is, those with no traits in common among the dichotomies) are separated by one block along diagonals.

John Beebe

Though John Beebe
John Beebe
John Beebe is a Jungian analyst in practice in San Francisco. He received degrees from Harvard College and the University of Chicago medical school. He is a past President of the C.G...

 has not published a type table, the format that Isabel Myers devised can also be applied to his theory. Beebe describes the different cognitive functions' role in the overall personality in terms of various mythic archetypes. Just as in Myers's table, personality types whose primary four functions are completely opposite are separated by one block along diagonals. The same does not apply to the four "shadow" functions, however.
1st - Hero/Heroine Introverted Sensing Introverted Sensing Introverted Intuition Introverted Intuition
2nd - Good Parent Extraverted Thinking Extraverted Feeling Extraverted Feeling Extraverted Thinking
3rd - Puer/Puella Introverted Feeling Introverted Thinking Introverted Thinking Introverted Feeling
4th - Anima/Animus Extraverted Intuition Extraverted Intuition Extraverted Sensing Extraverted Sensing
5th - Opposing Personality Extraverted Sensing Extraverted Sensing Extraverted Intuition Extraverted Intuition
6th - Senex/Witch Introverted Thinking Introverted Feeling Introverted Feeling Introverted Thinking
7th - Trickster Extraverted Feeling Extraverted Thinking Extraverted Thinking Extraverted Feeling
8th - Daemon Introverted Intuition Introverted Intuition Introverted Sensing Introverted Sensing
1st - Hero/Heroine Introverted Thinking Introverted Feeling Introverted Feeling Introverted Thinking
2nd - Good Parent Extraverted Sensing Extraverted Sensing Extraverted Intuition Extraverted Intuition
3rd - Puer/Puella Introverted Intuition Introverted Intuition Introverted Sensing Introverted Sensing
4th - Anima/Animus Extraverted Feeling Extraverted Thinking Extraverted Thinking Extraverted Feeling
5th - Opposing Personality Extraverted Thinking Extraverted Feeling Extraverted Feeling Extraverted Thinking
6th - Senex/Witch Introverted Sensing Introverted Sensing Introverted Intuition Introverted Intuition
7th - Trickster Extraverted Intuition Extraverted Intuition Extraverted Sensing Extraverted Sensing
8th - Daemon Introverted Feeling Introverted Thinking Introverted Thinking Introverted Feeling
1st - Hero/Heroine Extraverted Sensing Extraverted Sensing Extraverted Intuition Extraverted Intuition
2nd - Good Parent Introverted Thinking Introverted Feeling Introverted Feeling Introverted Thinking
3rd - Puer/Puella Extraverted Feeling Extraverted Thinking Extraverted Thinking Extraverted Feeling
4th - Anima/Animus Introverted Intuition Introverted Intuition Introverted Sensing Introverted Sensing
5th - Opposing Personality Introverted Sensing Introverted Sensing Introverted Intuition Introverted Intuition
6th - Senex/Witch Extraverted Thinking Extraverted Feeling Extraverted Feeling Extraverted Thinking
7th - Trickster Introverted Feeling Introverted Thinking Introverted Thinking Introverted Feeling
8th - Daemon Extraverted Intuition Extraverted Intuition Extraverted Sensing Extraverted Sensing
1st - Hero/Heroine Extraverted Thinking Extraverted Feeling Extraverted Feeling Extraverted Thinking
2nd - Good Parent Introverted Sensing Introverted Sensing Introverted Intuition Introverted Intuition
3rd - Puer/Puella Extraverted Intuition Extraverted Intuition Extraverted Sensing Extraverted Sensing
4th - Anima/Animus Introverted Feeling Introverted Thinking Introverted Thinking Introverted Feeling
5th - Opposing Personality Introverted Thinking Introverted Feeling Introverted Feeling Introverted Thinking
6th - Senex/Witch Extraverted Sensing Extraverted Sensing Extraverted Intuition Extraverted Intuition
7th - Trickster Introverted Intuition Introverted Intuition Introverted Sensing Introverted Sensing
8th - Daemon Extraverted Feelings Extraverted Thinking Extraverted Thinking Extraverted Feeling

Linda Berens

The layout of Linda Berens's type table is unique and her terminology differs from that of Beebe; however, the ordering of cognitive processes in her and Beebe's models are the same.
1st - Leading/Dominant Extraverted Intuition Introverted Thinking Extraverted Thinking Introverted Intuition
2nd - Supporting/Overprotective Introverted Thinking Extraverted Intuition Introverted Intuition Extraverted Thinking
3rd - Relief/Unsettling Extraverted Feeling Introverted Sensing Extraverted Sensing Introverted Feeling
4th - Aspirational/Projective Introverted Sensing Extraverted Feeling Introverted Feeling Extraverted Sensing
5th - Opposing/Backup Introverted Intuition Extraverted Thinking Introverted Thinking Extraverted Intuition
6th - Critical/Discovery Extraverted Thinking Introverted Intuition Extraverted Intuition Introverted Thinking
7th - Deceiving/Comedic Introverted Feeling Extraverted Sensing Introverted Sensing Extraverted Feeling
8th - Devilish/Transformative Extraverted Sensing Introverted Feeling Extraverted Feeling Introverted Sensing
1st - Leading/Dominant Extraverted Intuition Introverted Feeling Extraverted Feeling Introverted Intuition
2nd - Supporting/Overprotective Introverted Feeling Extraverted Intuition Introverted Intuition Extraverted Feeling
3rd - Relief/Unsettling Extraverted Thinking Introverted Sensing Extraverted Sensing Introverted Thinking
4th - Aspirational/Projective Introverted Sensing Extraverted Thinking Introverted Thinking Extraverted Sensing
5th - Opposing/Backup Introverted Intuition Extraverted Feeling Introverted Feeling Extraverted Intuition
6th - Critical/Discovery Extraverted Feeling Introverted Intuition Extraverted Intuition Introverted Feeling
7th - Deceiving/Comedic Introverted Thinking Extraverted Sensing Introverted Sensing Extraverted Thinking
8th - Devilish/Transformative Extraverted Sensing Introverted Thinking Extraverted Thinking Introverted Sensing
1st - Leading/Dominant Extraverted Sensing Introverted Thinking Extraverted Thinking Introverted Sensing
2nd - Supporting/Overprotective Introverted Thinking Extraverted Sensing Introverted Sensing Extraverted Thinking
3rd - Relief/Unsettling Extraverted Feeling Introverted Intuition Extraverted Intuition Introverted Feeling
4th - Aspirational/Projective Introverted Intuition Extraverted Feeling Introverted Feeling Extraverted Intuition
5th - Opposing/Backup Introverted Sensing Extraverted Thinking Introverted Thinking Extraverted Sensing
6th - Critical/Discovery Extraverted Thinking Introverted Sensing Extraverted Sensing Introverted Thinking
7th - Deceiving/Comedic Introverted Feeling Extraverted Intuition Introverted Intuition Extraverted Feeling
8th - Devilish/Transformative Extraverted Intuition Introverted Feeling Extraverted Feeling Introverted Intuition
1st - Leading/Dominant Extraverted Sensing Introverted Feeling Extraverted Feeling Introverted Sensing
2nd - Supporting/Overprotective Introverted Feeling Extraverted Sensing Introverted Sensing Extraverted Feeling
3rd - Relief/Unsettling Extraverted Thinking Introverted Intuition Extraverted Intuition Introverted Thinking
4th - Aspirational/Projective Introverted Intuition Extraverted Thinking Introverted Thinking Extraverted Intuition
5th - Opposing/Backup Introverted Sensing Extraverted Feeling Introverted Feeling Extraverted Sensing
6th - Critical/Discovery Extraverted Feeling Introverted Sensing Extraverted Sensing Introverted Feeling
7th - Deceiving/Comedic Introverted Thinking Extraverted Intuition Introverted Intuition Extraverted Thinking
8th - Devilish/Transformative Extraverted Intuition Introverted Thinking Extraverted Thinking Introverted Intuition

Lenore Thomson

Lenore Thomson offers yet another model of the cognitive functions. In her book, Personality Type: An Owners Manual, Thomson advances a hypothesis of a modular relationship of the cognitive functions paralleling left-right brain lateralization
Lateralization of brain function
A longitudinal fissure separates the human brain into two distinct cerebral hemispheres, connected by the corpus callosum. The sides resemble each other and each hemisphere's structure is generally mirrored by the other side. Yet despite the strong anatomical similarities, the functions of each...

. In this approach the Judging functions are in the front-left and right-back brain and the Perception functions in the right-back and left-front brain. The extraverted functions are in the front of the brain, while the introverted functions are in the back of the brain. The order of the cognitive functions are then determined not by an archetypal hierarchy (as supposed by Beebe) but by an innate brain lateralization preference.
Brain Types by Lenore Thomson
Front of Left Brain Front of Right Brain
Extraverted Thinking
Extraverted Feeling
Extraverted Intuition
Extraverted Sensing
Introverted Sensation
Introverted Intuition
Introverted Feeling
Introverted Thinking
Back of Left Brain Back of Right Brain

Dominant Introverted Sensing Introverted Sensing Introverted Intuition Introverted Intuition
Secondary Extraverted Thinking Extraverted Feeling Extraverted Feeling Extraverted Thinking
Left-brain Introverted Intuition Introverted Intuition Introverted Sensing Introverted Sensing
  alternatives Extraverted Feeling Extraverted Thinking Extraverted Thinking Extraverted Feeling
Right-brain Introverted Thinking Introverted Feeling Introverted Feeling Introverted Thinking
  double agents Extraverted Sensing Extraverted Sensing Extraverted Intuition Extraverted Intuition
Tertiary Introverted Feeling Introverted Thinking Introverted Thinking Introverted Feeling
Inferior Extraverted Intuition Extraverted Intuition Extraverted Sensing Extraverted Sensing
Dominant Introverted Thinking Introverted Feeling Introverted Feeling Introverted Thinking
Secondary Extraverted Sensing Extraverted Sensing Extraverted Intuition Extraverted Intuition
Right-brain Introverted Feeling Introverted Thinking Introverted Thinking Introverted Feeling
  alternatives Extraverted Intuition Extraverted Intuition Extraverted Sensing Extraverted Sensing
Left-brain Introverted Sensing Introverted Sensing Introverted Intuition Introverted Intuition
  double agents Extraverted Thinking Extraverted Feeling Extraverted Feeling Extraverted Thinking
Tertiary Introverted Intuition Introverted Intuition Introverted Sensing Introverted Sensing
Inferior Extraverted Feeling Extraverted Thinking Extraverted Thinking Extraverted Feeling
Dominant Extraverted Sensing Extraverted Sensing Extraverted Intuition Extraverted Intuition
Secondary Introverted Thinking Introverted Feeling Introverted Feeling Introverted Thinking
Right-brain Extraverted Intuition Extraverted Intuition Extraverted Sensing Extraverted Sensing
  alternatives Introverted Feeling Introverted Thinking Introverted Thinking Introverted Feeling
Left-brain Extraverted Thinking Extraverted Feeling Extraverted Feeling Extraverted Thinking
  double agents Introverted Sensing Introverted Sensing Introverted Intuition Introverted Intuition
Tertiary Extraverted Feeling Extraverted Thinking Extraverted Thinking Extraverted Feeling
Inferior Introverted Intuition Introverted Intuition Introverted Sensing Introverted Sensing
Dominant Extraverted Thinking Extraverted Feeling Extraverted Feeling Extraverted Thinking
Secondary Introverted Sensing Introverted Sensing Introverted Intuition Introverted Intuition
Left-brain Extraverted Feeling Extraverted Thinking Extraverted Thinking Extraverted Feeling
  alternatives Introverted Intuition Introverted Intuition Introverted Sensing Introverted Sensing
Right-brain Extraverted Sensing Extraverted Sensing Extraverted Intuition Extraverted Intuition
  double agents Introverted Thinking Introverted Feeling Introverted Feeling Introverted Thinking
Tertiary Extraverted Intuition Extraverted Intuition Extraverted Sensing Extraverted Sensing
Inferior Introverted Feeling Introverted Thinking Introverted Thinking Introverted Feeling

Further reading

  • Jung, C.G. [1921] (1971). Psychological Types, Collected Works, Volume 6, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01813-8.
  • Myers, Isabel Myers [1980] (1995). Gifts Differing, Palo Alto, C.A.: Davies-Black Publishing. ISBN 0-89106-074-X.
  • Thomson, Lenore (1998). Personality Type: An Owners Manual, Boston & London: Shambhala Publications, Inc. ISBN 1-57062-987-0.

External links

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