Within Carl Jung’s theory of personality psychology, there are 8 cognitive functions. Each personality type uses all 8, but tend to naturally prefer their top 4.
Perceiving vs. Judging
Four cognitive functions are Perceiving functions: Ne, Ni, Se, and Si. Perceiving functions explain how the brain takes in information.
Four cognitive functions are Judging functions: Fe, Fi, Te, and Ti. Judging functions help us make decisions.
Each personality type is made up of 2 perceiving functions and 2 judging functions.
Extroverted vs. Introverted
Four cognitive functions are Extroverted functions: Ne, Se, Fe, and Te. Extroverted functions are focused on what is happening externally in the outside world.
Four cognitive functions are Introverted functions: Ni, Si, Fi, and Ti. Introverted functions are focused on what is happening internally in your mind — thoughts, feelings, ideas, memories, etc.
Every personality type is made up of 2 introverted functions and 2 extroverted functions. Introverted types will always lead with an introverted function and extroverted types will always have an extroverted dominant function.
How the Functions Work in INFJs
So what exactly are these 8 functions and how do they explain your personality type? Since I assume most people who read this blog are INFJs, I’ll explain by dissecting the INFJ personality by cognitive function.
The top 4 functions of INFJs are Ni, Fe, Ti, and Se, and the bottom 4 functions are Ne, Fi, Te, and Si.
Dominant function: Introverted Intuition (Ni)
Introverted Intuition is when you receive insights and ideas that seem to come from nowhere. Ni jumps from point A to Z without a logical explanation of how it got there. It is extremely future-oriented, abstract, and often sees patterns and symbolism.
Ni is the INFJs dominant, or strongest, function, meaning it is the function INFJs depend on the most to gather information.
Auxiliary function: Extroverted Feeling (Fe)
Extroverted feeling is concerned with the energy, moods, and feelings of other people. It is extremely empathetic. Fe-users often feel as if it is hard to distinguish between their own feelings and the feelings of those around them.
Fe is the INFJs auxiliary, or supportive, function, meaning it is the function that helps your 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 prefers to create its own systems and methods for doing things rather than follow pre-set guidelines or instructions.
Ti is the INFJs tertiary, or relief, function, meaning it is weaker and less developed than the top two functions, and therefore is most enjoyed when used in a stress-free or recreational environment (such as when playing computer games rather than at work).
Inferior function: Extroverted Sensing (Se)
Extroverted Sensing is focused on the here and now — what you are seeing, tasting, smelling, hearing, and touching. It most appreciates physically pleasing environments and situations.
Se is the INFJs inferior, or aspirational, function, meaning it is also weaker and most enjoyed in a stress-free environment. However, it can also be a source of great pleasure and creativity, especially if it is able to work with the top two functions.
Learn more: Psychological Types by C.G. Jung
Our shadow functions are the weakest 4 functions of our personality type. They are often the source of the negative and unhealthy aspects of our personality.
5th function: Extroverted Intuition
Extroverted Intuition is focused on seeing multiple possibilities and outcomes. It is the opposing function of the INFJ, meaning it is 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
Introverted Feeling makes decisions based on one’s own personal value system. It is more concerned with personal feelings rather than the feelings of others. For INFJs, Fi serves as the critical parent function. It is the voice in your head that often guides self-doubt and makes you critical of yourself and others.
7th function: Extroverted Thinking
Extroverted Thinking makes decisions based on objective facts and logic from the outside world. Te is the INFJs deceiving function, meaning it is often relied upon in extremely high stress/high-pressure situations and will distort reality, often making what you think you experience in these moments different from what you actually experienced.
8th function: Introverted Sensing
If Se is concerned with the here and now, Introverted Sensing is concerned with the past. It takes in current information and connects it with sensory memories. As the weakest of the INFJs 8 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 8 cognitive functions. You may be an INFJ with a well-developed Extroverted Thinking function because of life experience that required you to rely on that function more heavily than others.
However, even though functions can and do 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 3rd and 4th 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 8 cognitive functions a little better. If you have further questions, feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.