Myers Briggs Type Discussion: The Four Functions

This post is continued from the previous article,
Myers Briggs Type Discussion: The Four Attitudes.
If you haven’t read that yet, you should also give it a look.

The Functions

There are two kinds of functions in Myers Briggs theory: ones that help you perceive the world around you (the perceiving functions: Intuition or Sensation) and ones that help you make decisions based on the info you have perceived (the judging functions: Thinking or Feeling).

The Perceiving Functions: Intuition vs. Sensation

Intuits and Sensors

The people that have a Perceptive attitude towards life (also called P-types: ISTP, ESFP, INTP, ENFP, etc.) use one of these two functions as extroverted (Ne or Se): this is the way they prefer to deal with their external environment. Extroverted P-types (ExxP) use it as their primary function, and Introverted P-types (IxxP) use it as secondary.

The Judging types (J-types: ESTJ, ENTJ, INFJ, ISFJ, etc.) will use one of these functions for dealing with their own inner world, as an introverted function (Ni or Si). Extroverted J-types (ExxJ) will use it as secondary and Introverted J-type (IxxJ) will use it as primary.

Your preferred perceiving function indicates how you tend to take in new data and what sort of information you naturally focus on.

Intuitive people are focused on meaning and relationships between elements, rather than the elements themselves. Their thinking is more abstract and they tend to know things without being able to explain how they came to know them: they connect information non-linearly, and take leaps with their imagination.

Intuits are anticipating: they take in all the available data in a global way and instantaneously find the pattern and follow it to its next step. They know what will come, based on what it currently is – and this is what makes them so talented at predicting trends, outcomes and the future in general.

The Intuitive people are imaginative, playful and insightful. They are attracted to possibilities, alternatives and have a strong fascination with the unknown and unseen. For this reason, some people (Sensors) might consider them odd or bizzare – and this is partially true: Intuits are in love with the bizzare, the hidden and everything that’s out of common and that can only be accessed through the imagination.

Overly focused on the general, the global and their own hunches about what’s really going on behind what they physically perceive, Intuits can lose sight of the details and miss the trees for the forrest. Their original views, creative analogies and unexpected insights can lead them to innovative discoveries but can also make them more absent and impractical.

They can encounter difficulties in managing everyday matters such as money, jobs, bills and food – physical realities and routine bore them tremendously so they find it hard to stick with such commitments. Their attention is always caught by whatever is new and exciting so they might find it hard to entertain a steady long-term interest in something or someone (this happens more with Extroverts than with Introverts). Responsibility and perseverance are tough challenges for them.

Sensation types are completely different: they’re practical, realistic and very down-to-earth. The function of Sensation focuses on reality as we perceive it through our 5 senses, in the here-and-now - what we hear, see, smell, touch and taste – and so these people are far more aware of their physical bodies and the pleasure they can obtain through them: they are more sensual people, and thus seek sensual stimulation and input such as good food, relaxing massages or manual work. They love to consume and possess material things: money, food, housing – everything that’s palpable and durable is of great interest and importance to them.

Sensors are also detail-oriented and strikingly observant. Intuits might get lost in their mental worlds and constructs but this rarely happens to Sensation types: they’re grounded, real and vigilant. Their thinking is linear, sequential and factual – they rarely miss logical order in favour of more fancy approaches. Pragmatic and precise, they have a knack for dealing with details and skillfully using their hands and bodies.

Sensation types are also literal people, who mean what they say and rarely make use of metaphors and between-the-lines messages (that they sometimes also miss in casual conversations). They prefer particulars to generals and rely on past experience to deal with their current problems – they tend not to trust theories and alternatives that have not been proved or that seem too abstract (and therefore unreliable).

Their concrete, empirical approach provides them with stability and objective clarity, but can also give them trouble with grasping abstract theories and notions which they cannot apply to their own experience. Also, the focus on precise data and factual specifics can make them miss the forrest for the trees and lose sight of the bigger picture, the wider context around them: they find it hard to see things in perspective or see them from a different point of view. This can make them more conventional, limited and solely concerned with material values (to Intuits).

By deciding whether you are an Intuit (N) or a Sensor (S), you will also figure the second letter in you Myers Briggs type: S or N.

The Judging Functions: Thinking vs. Feeling

Thinking and Feeling

The preferred Judging function reveals the way we use the information available to make judgements, take decisions and put our life in order so as to obtain more control over it.

Judging types rely on one of these functions in their dealings with the outside world – it is therefore used as Extroverted (Te or Fe, according to choice). It will serve as the primary function for Extraverted J-types (ESxJ and ENxJ) or as the secondary function for Introverted J-types (ISxJ and INxJ).

Perceiving types use their Judging function to deal with their inner worlds (as Introverted: Ti or Fi). It will be the main function for Introverted P-types (ISxP and INxP) or the secondary function for Extroverted P-types (ESxP and ENxP).

Thinking types are inclined to make decisions impersonally, by use of logic, principles and general laws. They extensively work with definitions and categorize situations, people and ideas by objective criteria that has little to do with personal preference or ideals. This way, Thinking types detach themselves from what they are observing and analysing, relying on general rules and logical order (such as hyerarchy, numerical sequence and cause/effect) to help them with their decision process.

Because of this, Thinking people appear to be colder and emotionally reserved. They focus on efficiency and are able to assess people and situations objectively and realistically, according to their goals. Because they have a strong interest in how things work, they’re usually able to figure out the underlying principles on which things (and people) are based and employ them skillfully to obtain a specific effect: they make great engineers, psychologists, mathematicians and scientists in general.

Thinking types are attracted to systems and categories and use them in order to create a sort of mental blueprint of their environment and their own thoughts as well. These frameworks offer them a reliable tool for predicting and tackling complex and difficult problems: they can break them down to their basic structure and solve them elegantly.

These types analyze information in terms of cause and effect and are generally extremely intellectual. Although they have feelings and personal preferences, they do not include them in their decisions. The values they hold are also impartial: fair-play, justice, intellectual freedom and individual rights are strong principles that they ascribe to.

Thinking people are easy to spot by their interest in structure, order, categories, logical consistency and systems and by their analytical coolness. They are sometimes intellectually arrogant, tend to dismiss their feelings and the feelings of others and hide their emotions from the world. The impersonal way in which they apply their principles and judgements can sometimes appear dispassionate and even cruel to a more emotional type (Feeling). They apparent coldness and cynicism can raise difficult issues in their personal and intimate relationships.

Feeling types are just the opposite: instead of logical order and principles, they focus on human needs and social relationships. They are warm, empathetic persons who prefer to make decisions based on personal values such as harmony, love, kindness, people’s feelings and mercy.

Feeling people are interested in other people’s emotional needs and can anticipate and fulfill these with amazing accuracy. They succesfully employ body language and vocal intonation in order to align themsevles with other people’s feelings and moods - this is why they can also become poweful manipulators who know how to obtain strong emotional reactions from their audience.

They are obviously people-oriented types, empathetic and compassionate towards others and usually in search of social consensus and shared values. They strive for harmony, and because their dislike for conflict is quite considerable, they are willing to compromise in order to obtain it. They abhor fights and arguments and are usually the first to push for reconciling after a conflict.

Their decision process is mostly based on how they feel about a situation, and how other people would feel if a certain option were to be chosen. They are afraid to hurt others so they will try to please everyone or as many people as they can. This doesn’t mean that Feeling types cannot be very logical and intellectual on many occasions – it simply means that as long as the logical way contravenes with their inner values and ethics, it will not be used by them, even if they will acknowledge its potentially higher efficiency.

They also tend to categorize the world in terms of ‘good and bad’, ‘nice and ugly’ according to how much they like or dislike a certain aspect. Whoever they meet and whatever they discover – they will relate it to themselves in a personal manner (either by accepting or rejecting it) and their feelings will usually show. They find it hard to keep neutral and detached.

Feeling types are idealistic, merciful and sensitive towards others. They have rich emotional and spiritual experiences and are not afraid to explore their feelings and share them with the world. Sometimes the care they have for others can lead them to judgement errors and exaggerated social displays. They can have trouble putting their foot down and taking the unpopular decision, even when it is the case: they’re painfully aware of how they could let loved ones down. Feeling type can at times appear too sentimental and illogical (especially to Thinking types).

By choosing your judging function between Thinking and Feeling, you'll also discover the third letter of your Myers Briggs type: T or F.

Next, read about the Cognitive Functions in Myers Briggs Types (soon)


Andrew said…
Great post.. I have not even attempted do an Enneagram yet, so congratulations.

I really like Myers Briggs for many things, but perhaps the best typing practical typing that I have come across at least for real life use in business and in sales is "Personality Language" by the Woodsmall's.

Have you ever done it? I think that is will end up being the defacto typing for business use for sure.

You can find more info about it by going to to see what I am talking about.

Would be interested to see what you have to say,

Andrew Anderson
INTP said…
Andrew, the "Personality Language" thing sounds interesting. From what I have gathered from their website, it seems to be a way more practical approach to personality typing than Myers Briggs or the Enneagram (business-oriented as you indicated).

I suppose I need to buy their book in order to find more about the actual theory and types. I think it would have been a good idea if they provided some more easily accessible info on these issues (that is, without having to subscribe or pay or buy etc).

I have however subscribed to the newsletter so I'm waiting to see what they send me.

Where did you take their test? I couldn't find it on their website but maybe I missed it.
Andrew said…
I ended up having it given to me by one of them after I ran into them at a conference on marketing. The thing I liked best about it is that it had practical applications that I was able to implement right away.

I had heard that they will be putting more informaiton on the site pretty soon.

I know I would like to be able to have my clients take the test when I start working with them. It would make my life so much easier for sure...not to mention a lot more profitable.


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