One of the most influential psychoanalysts of our time, Carl Jung, spent a great deal of his life trying to map out our unique cognitive functions and how they shape our personalities.
Carl Jung described cognitive functions as: “particular mental processes -or attitudes- within a person’s psyche that are present regardless of common circumstance.”
In other words, they are your a set of mental processes -or behaviors- that you dominantly act upon when making decisions.
You are probably asking yourself, “ok Mindvalley, that’s all good and dandy, but what do I do with this information?”
Well here’s the baseline of it all…
Why Are Cognitive Functions Important?: A Short Answer
The way you perceive the world around you on a day-to-day basis will influence how you internalize and process things, and essentially this behavior will dictate the eventual outcome.
It also gives you a framework for understanding yourself and other people too!
In this article, we’ll be covering Carl Jung’s Theory of Cognitive Functions, and the role each function plays in our perception of the world.
What Does Cognitive Functioning Mean?
Before we jump into any definitions, it’s important to note that in this context, we are talking about the psychological meaning of cognitive functions, as opposed to the cognitive functions of the brain, which crosses over to biology.
Now that we got that clear up, let’s discuss Carl Jung’s theory of cognitive functions in a little more detail…
What is Carl Jung’s theory of cognitive functions?
Cognitive functions, (aka psychological functions), is a concept theory developed by Carl Jung on personality type.
In his book, he notes four primary psychological functions: thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition.
Carl Jung further boiled down our cognitive processes into two main basic functions.
Each of the primary functions has an orientation more towards an internally focused (introverted) or externally focused (extraverted) tendency which he calls “attitudes“.
The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.— Carl Jung
“Extraverted” means happening external to your mind. An extraverted person is generally more oriented to the external world — all of the people, places, and experiences that happen in the real, physical world outside of themselves.
“Introverted” means happening inside your mind. An introverted person is generally much more oriented with their internal world — all of the feelings, thoughts, and ideas that transcend space and time within their minds.
What Are The 8 Cognitive Functions?
So now that we understand the basic premise on how one’s personality can lean towards an introverted or extraverted orientation, then the next question to ask is…
How many cognitive functions are there?
Collectively, there are 8 varying processes known as Carl Jung’s 8 Cognitive Functions.
You probably possess 2 of these characteristics that define your cognitive functions.
They come hand-in-hand with strengths that you tend to focus on, and weaknesses that you probably don’t even know you have until it’s pointed out to you.
Let’s break each of these cognitive functions down into extraverted and introverted orientations…
Extraverted sensing (SE)
This type of perception happens when you are using your 5 senses to take in information from the environment around you. The way somethings tastes or sounds is considered an example of an extraverted sensing function.
People that exhibit “SE” type characteristics get great enjoyment from novel experiences, material pleasures, and can be often impulsive. They also love feeding into their stimuli which tends to lead them into becoming adrenaline junkies!
Because this type to some degree is driven by stimulatory sensations of the moment, they may also exude a sense of arrogant self-confidence that they believe in.
It can serve to be a great driver in their personality making them sure of who they are and what they want.
They are highly attuned to the world around them through their senses. As extraverts, their behaviors and preferences adapt and change according to what is mainstream and trendy.
Introverted sensing (SI)
Introverted sensing happens when you remember and reflect on an experience of a sensation you’ve previously encountered as opposed to the very moment.
How the sun felt last week when you went swimming, or how good it was eating that breakfast in the morning.
In a sense, this characteristic type (SI) is the opposite of the SE. They are more lowkey and do not venture out seeking sensory stimulatory experiences.
They can be perceived as hermits and Instead prefer more of a routine lifestyle.
Because introverted sensing types naturally experience moments through reflection, they can be very detail-oriented in their way of thinking and observation.
They unconsciously take note of facts and feelings within a moments experience making them great memory banks.
Additionally, since “new adventures” all the time isn’t their forte, they also always prefer to gravitate to a tried and true method of getting things done.
However, this serves as a double edge sword, as being too dominantly this way doesn’t allow this type to experience and live in the moment.
They can also be very “past-oriented” making it hard for them to move on from negative past experiences.
Extraverted intuiting (NE)
Extraverted intuiting happens when you are able to quickly brainstorm and connect dots and patterns between various events and experiences in the real world.
They also have the ability to see a situation through multiple angles which unlike other personality types, can entertain two contradictory ideas simultaneously.
Extraverted Intuition types are usually very creative and love exploring various interests, ideas, and points of view.
They can also be future-oriented, as they can see dots connecting forward that most don’t even consider.
Because extraverted intuition types are curious explorers of “everything”, they tend to have trouble not knowing where to draw the line, making it difficult for them to reach a conclusive thought or decision.
This trait is usually observed within inventors, marketers, and entrepreneur type people.
Introverted intuiting (NI)
Introverted intuiting types more often than not think in images or abstract rather than words.
They process thoughts more on a subconscious level which is what gives them insights or gut feelings that come to fruition naturally.
Similarly to when you get those nice “eureka moments” or mind-blowing epiphanies when doing mindless tasks like taking a shower.
Introverted intuition types usually go through a process of abstract analysis of past and current experiences.
They like to get to the root cause of ideas or situations in order to understand how things fit together in the larger picture of things.
This type often needs time for processing things as they don’t have strong extraverted sensing.
This means that when they need to make swift decisions they can get into what people call “paralysis by analysis”.
Extraverted thinking (TE)
Extraverted thinking happens when you make decisions about the world through a more practical approach and apply objective factual knowledge.
They are also very results-oriented making them value productivity above all else.
Extraverted thinkers naturally lay out the foundation for accomplishing goals and are quick to make decisions. They also tend to prefer straightforwardness and decisive decision making.
This type can be a natural leader in professional environments as they know how to take charge and lead while exercising careful order to processes.
Because of this dominant approach to taking charge, they may be viewed as difficult to sway or deal with and they are very rigid in their ways.
As leaders, they are simply leading with what they believe to be the most efficient course of action for the collective.
However, this “black or white” approach to things doesn’t fit well when it comes to dealing or working with feelings or emotions.
Introverted thinking (TI)
Introverted thinking happens when your mind reflects on ideas, data, and theories to reach conclusions.
This type of thinking is much more subjective and involves information-gathering and deductive reasoning.
They are great at systems thinking, meaning they can view situations as a set of components all working together.
This, in turn, allows them to spot inconsistencies within “this systematic view”.
Introverted thinking types like to dissect things to look at the individual parts and see how things function separately.
They enjoy finding ‘short-cuts’ that increase efficiency within a given system.
Introverted thinkers are also very self-disciplined, and can independently manage their thoughts to cope with any situation.
This also leads them to be robotic and dominantly introverted as individuals.
Extraverted feeling (FE)
Extraverted feeling type happens when you make decisions based on a value system that is more connected to a community and consensus, rather than a personal one.
They are empathetic and pick up naturally on the emotions of others.
People that display extraverted feeling are highly empathetic to a fault and are reactive to the feelings of others.
They find happiness within social interactions or in the company of people they care about. However, they cannot fully enjoy themselves unless the people around them are also happy.
This type finds that being by themselves feels uncomfortable. Consequently if this behavior not addressed, this eventually leads to a lack of self-understanding.
Introverted feeling (FI)
Introverted feeling happens when you make decisions based on your own self-view and values. They also have a strong understanding of their emotional processes.
Because of their combined “introverted” and “feeling” trait, they can dissect emotions to such a deep level allowing them to get to the root of a feeling.
This gives them a more complete picture of themselves.
As a result, introverted feelers are very aware and in touch with their own emotions and develop strong personal systems of what is right and wrong, which they use to make decisions.
It’s because of this intense combination of analytical thinking and compassion, they often feel that no one can really understand their deep emotional human nature.
Which is why they are often known to express emotion outwardly in an attempt to be understood.
What personality type are you? Take the personality test and share your results with us in the comments below!