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Supplemental Essay: Psychological Functions


This supplemental essay is provided as background for the material in the main essay. You can skip this supplemental essay if you're familiar with the psychological functions or simply not interested in the details.

Carl Jung suggested that humans have a total of four psychological functions:

  • Intuition

  • Sensing

  • Feeling

  • Thinking


These four psychological functions can be further subdivided into two attitudes (extraversion versus introversion), resulting in a total of eight personality types.

The Four Psychological Functions

Psychologists talk about personality traits. For example, they contrast people who are overly logical in their general approach to life versus people who are overly emotional in their general approach to life. 


Carl Jung suggested that there are 4 basic psychological functions. He also said that people tend to have a dominant psychological function as their primary lens through which they view life, in other words, for routine and automated interpretation of the world around us.

  • Intuition (traditionally abbreviated as N so as not to confuse it with Introversion); I'll use "N-Dom" or "Intuitive" to describe a person whose dominant function is Intuition;

  • Sensing (abbreviated as S); I'll use "S-Dom" or "Sensor" to describe a person whose dominant function is Sensing;

  • Feeling (abbreviated as F); I'll use "F-Dom" or "Feeler" to describe a person whose dominant function is Feeling;

  • Thinking (abbreviated as T); I'll use "T-Dom" or "Thinker" to describe a person whose dominant function is Thinking.

To spell out the 4 psychological functions in more detail:

Intuition (traditionally abbreviated as N so as not to confuse it with Introversion) interprets the world by drawing up associations from inside, that is, from the unconscious. It's as though the N-Dom perceives the outer world and the inner world as a single whole. Thus stimuli in the world around the N-Dom trigger unconscious associations and lead the N-Dom to juxtapose and brainstorm new ideas. Thus the N-Dom's focus is on his inner world and the process of free-associating ideas that bubble up from inside in order to synthesize new ideas and concepts for application in the outside world.

Sensing (abbreviated as S) is effectively the opposite of Intuition. The S-Dom perceives the outer world as the focus of attention and emphasizes immediacy, sensation, organization, and procedure. The S-Dom emphasizes differentiation: Slicing, dicing, and analyzing data collected from the world around him. From this the S-Dom derives narratives and rules: "Cause A leads to event B, which leads to event C, which results in conclusion D."


Feeling (abbreviated as F) focuses on empathy. In evaluating the world around him, the primary judgment the F-Dom makes is: "How do I relate to this; do I like it? does it make me feel comfortable?" But because Feeling is such a subjective measure, the adult F-Dom will often justify his personal values to others via appeals to community and morality.

Thinking (abbreviated as T) is effectively the opposite of Feeling. The T-Dom focuses on logical analysis of facts. Appeals to empathy and morality feel too slippery and subjective to the T-Dom, so the T-Dom looks beyond the community and tries to justify his judgments based on larger systems: Philosophy, law, and science for example. Thus an emphasis on logic.

By adulthood people have the ability to use all four psychological functions. People have gone through all the developmental stages and as a result have access to the full panoply of psychological functions. People regularly use multiple functions throughout the day. The emotional Feeler can call upon logic, and the logical Thinker can interpret emotions. But most people have a preference for one function over the other three out of comfort, ease, familiarity, or because it's a good tool for the pursuits they love.

The Two Attitudes

Secondarily, any of the four functions can appear in one of two attitudes: Extraverted versus introverted.


Extraverts tend to focus on things that are important to THE WORLD, whereas introverts tend to focus on things that are important to THEMSELVES. In other words, extraverts focus on the "object" (the outer world and its values), whereas introverts focus on the "subject" (their own inner world and their own values).


Neither approach is intrinsically better or worse than the other. Introverts tend to be the "deep thinkers" who introspect and come up with new ideas and philosophies. Whereas extraverts tend to be the "doers" who go out and accomplish things in the world (conquer, explore, build corporations, etc.) 


Of course, strength in one area tends to result in weakness in the other:

  • The outgoing extravert focuses on interaction with the outer world and development of a large social circle, and he may neglect to develop his ability to introspect and develop an inner life.

  • The shy introvert focuses on thinking deeply in solitude, and he may neglect to develop his social skills.


For more on the subject, see the Wikipedia article entitled "Extraversion and introversion."

The Eight Personality Types

The two attitudes (extraversion versus introversion) apply to the four psychological functions (N, S, F, and T) insofar as an extraverted function tends to be directed toward interaction with the outer world; whereas an introverted function tends to be applied in contemplative thought.

Thus, if you put the two attitudes and the four psychological functions together you get a total of eight personality types:

  • Extraverted Intuition (abbreviated Ne)

  • Introverted Intuition (abbreviated Ni)

  • Extraverted Sensing (abbreviated Se)

  • Introverted Sensing (abbreviated Si)

  • Extraverted Feeling (abbreviated Fe)

  • Introverted Feeling (abbreviated Fi)

  • Extraverted Thinking (abbreviated Te)

  • Introverted Thinking (abbreviated Ti)


Thus, I'll refer to an individual as:

  • an Ne-Dom or extraverted Intuitive, meaning a person whose personality type is extraverted Intuition (Ne);

  • an Ni-Dom or introverted Intuitive, meaning a person whose personality type is introverted Intuition (Ni);

  • and so on down the list of the eight personality types.


I won't go into descriptions of the eight personality types here; I will go into that subject in detail within the individual essays on the separate function levels.

Outside resources

The website provides a good overview of the subject for beginners. Once you get there, see the short description of all of the functions at the bottom of the page; or you can click on links at the top of that page to see longer descriptions.

For more background on the psychological functions, see the Wikipedia articles entitled "Personality type" and "Jungian cognitive functions."

Link: Return to Preface: The Jungian Psychological Functions as Developmental "Function Levels"

~Posted October 19, 2023

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