infj cognitive functions
INFJ Personality, MBTI

The 8 Cognitive Functions and How INFJs Use Them

When getting to know your personality type, it’s important to have an accurate understanding of the cognitive functions. These functions go so much deeper than a single page analysis of personality. They help us understand how our brains take in information and make decisions.

There are eight Jungian cognitive functions that make up the 16 Myers-Briggs personality types. Each personality type uses all eight functions but has a preference for the top four. 

(Want more information about your personality type? We recommend the TypeFinder Personality Test.)

Perceiving and Judging Functions

Four cognitive functions are perceiving functions. Perceiving functions explain how the brain takes in information. These are Extraverted iNtuition (Ne), Introverted iNtuition (Ni), Extraverted Sensing (Se), and Introverted Sensing (Si).

Four cognitive functions are Judging functions. Judging functions help us make decisions. These are Extraverted Feeling (Fe), Introverted Feeling (Fi), Extraverted Thinking (Te), and Introverted Thinking (Ti).

Each personality types function stack is made up of two perceiving functions and two judging functions. In the INFJ personality type, these are shown in the table below.

Dominant Auxiliary Tertiary Inferior
INFJ Ni Fe Ti Se

Extraverted and Introverted Functions

Four cognitive functions are extraverted. Extraverted functions are focused on what is happening externally in the outside world. These functions are Ne, Se, Fe, and Te.

Four cognitive functions are introverted. Introverted functions are focused on what is happening internally in your mind. This includes thoughts, feelings, ideas, memories, etc. These functions are Ni, Si, Fi, and Ti.

Every personality type is made up of two introverted functions and two extraverted functions. Introverts will always lead with an introverted function. Extroverts will always have an extraverted dominant function.

The Cognitive Functions in INFJs

So what exactly are these eight functions and how do they explain your personality type? I’ll explain by dissecting the INFJ personality by cognitive function.

The top four functions of INFJs are Ni, Fe, Ti, and Se. The bottom four functions are Ne, Fi, Te, and Si.

Dominant Function: Introverted iNtuition (Ni)

Introverted Intuition receives insights and ideas that seem to come from nowhere. Data and information are perceived through the unconscious. Ni jumps from point A to Z without a sensible explanation of how it got there. It’s extremely future-oriented, abstract, and often sees patterns and symbols.

Ni is the INFJs dominant, or strongest, function. This means it’s the function INFJs depend on the most to gather information.

Auxiliary Function: Extraverted Feeling (Fe)

Extraverted feeling is concerned with the energy, moods, and feelings of other people. It is extremely empathetic. Fe makes decisions based on how people will be impacted or how the decision will make other people feel. Fe-users find it difficult to distinguish between their own feelings and the feelings of those around them.

Fe is the INFJs auxiliary, or supportive, function. This means it’s the function that helps the dominant function use the information it’s gathered to make decisions.

Tertiary Function: Introverted Thinking (Ti)

Introverted thinking makes decisions based on theories and data processed internally. Ti develops systems and models to explain and understand how things work. Ti-users prefer to create their own methods rather than follow pre-set guidelines or instructions.

Ti is the INFJs tertiary, or relief, function. It’s weaker and less developed than the top two functions. Therefore, it’s enjoyed most when used in a stress-free or recreational environment, such as playing video games or solving puzzles.

Inferior Function: Extraverted Sensing (Se)

Extraverted Sensing is focused on the here and now. Se is observant, quick, and practical. Se-users are skilled at adapting to their external environments and noticing details in their surroundings. Se has a strong taste for developing and maintaining aesthetically pleasing environments.

Extraverted Sensing is the INFJs inferior, or aspirational, function. Like the tertiary function, it’s also weaker and enjoyed most in stress-free environments. It can also be a source of pleasure and creativity, especially if its endeavors are supported by the dominant and auxiliary functions.

Learn more: Psychological Types by C.G. Jung 

INFJ Shadow Functions

The bottom four functions are commonly called the shadow functions. In the INFJ, these are Extraverted iNtuition, Introverted Feeling, Extraverted Thinking, and Introverted Thinking. (You can read more about INFJ shadow functions here.) Our shadow functions are the weakest four functions of our personality type. They are often the source of the negative and unhealthy aspects of our personality.

5th Function: Extraverted Intuition (Ne)

Extraverted Intuition is focused on seeing multiple possibilities and outcomes. Ne-users are abstract thinkers who are skilled at discovering meaning and ideas. It’s the opposing function of the INFJ. This means it’s most likely in use when INFJs are acting defensive, stubborn, or uncooperative. Ne as an opposing function may explain why INFJs are easily angered by people who aren’t able to understand multiple perspectives.

6th Function: Introverted Feeling (Fe)

Introverted Feeling makes decisions based on one’s own personal value system. Fi makes decisions based on how the Fi-user feels in a given situation. For INFJs, Fi serves as the critical parent function. It’s the voice in your head that often guides self-doubt and makes you critical of yourself and others.

7th Function: Extraverted Thinking (Te)

Extraverted Thinking makes decisions based on objective fact and logic. Te prefers to follow systems already in place, rather than create its own. Te is the INFJs deceiving function. This means it’s relied upon in extremely high-stress situations. It distorts the INFJs reality, often making what you think you experience in these moments different from what you actually experienced.

8th Function: Introverted Sensing (Si) 

Introverted Sensing takes in information and connects it with sensory memories. Si-users are skilled at recalling previously learned details and information. As the weakest of the INFJs functions, Si is known as the destructive function. It describes how you take in information when you are at your worst.

What if I’m an INFJ, but my functions don’t exactly match up?

Situations, experience, education, family, and a variety of other factors can influence how we use our cognitive functions. For example, you may be an INFJ with developed Extraverted Thinking because of life experience that required you to rely on that function more heavily than others.

Even though functions develop over time, your top two functions will almost always be your go-to functions when it comes to gathering information and making decisions.

Think of your top two functions as a house and the third and fourth functions as the decorations in and outside of the house. The house can stand alone on its own, but the decorations make it feel nicer and homier. Imagine the shadow functions as the people who live in the house. They have the potential to destroy the house, but can also maintain it nicely if they learn how to properly care for it.

Hopefully, this helped explain the cognitive functions. If you have further questions, feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.

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Megan is an introvert and INFJ personality type who enjoys reading, researching, and writing about personality psychology and human behavior. As the founder of this blog, Megan wants to help other INFJs better understand their personality to improve their personal and professional lives.

15 Comments

  1. Well-written. Everything is clear.
    Thank you for this.

  2. Thanks. I agree with ravenstag – well written and clear.
    it amused me that you used an illustration at the end – rather typical of how our (infj) thinking works and how we understand things … well, the way i do that anyway 🙂

  3. Very well written. I’m glad that I finally have a name for that inner critic in my head (i.e., Introverted Feeling).

    1. Fi is such a jerk for an INFJ, isn’t it?

  4. You’ve explained things very clearly. I’ve been wanting to find out more about the different functions, and this was perfect! Your illustrations and examples really help in understanding how things work.

  5. agathapangestuti

    This is such a good article. Thank you for this.

  6. The Functional Development of an INFJ | Antonia Writes

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  7. I have a question. Say a friend is acting weird and I’m unsure what is going on and it’s making me anxious.

    Suddenly, I remember another friend that acted similarly over a decade ago, and they “broke up” with me shortly after.

    At this point alarm bells start ringing and I am pretty sure now that this current friend is going to follow suit.

    Is this NI – my intuition thinking in the background and seeing a pattern of similar things that happened before and alerting me that this same thing is about to happen again….

    Or is it SI – where in my unhealthy and anxious state, I took in information (my friends current behavior) and related it directly to memories of another friend who did this to me in the past?

    Thanks for helping me understand!

  8. cornflowerblue58

    Very helpful – thank you. I continue to have difficulty understanding Si. Could you give examples of how it shows up in real time and it’s destructive quality for INFJ’s?
    Thanks.

  9. Are you sure about what you are saying about Si? INFJs don’t use Si “at their worst”. There is a reason those are called shadow functions and that is that the types do not use them almost at all.

  10. No I guess I wasn’t sure as I now see that I’m INFP not INFJ. I’m recognizing the Fi Si loop which makes much more sense being an INFP.

  11. Fairy Tales - Page 4067

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  12. This is really interesting. I wish there was a similar article for INTJs. I noticed that INFJs related articles are always better written and more exhaustive.

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