ENFP (NeFi) 8 Cognitive Functions Explained
by Lisa Sparrow
There’s no denying that ENFPs have a bold personality. If you’ve ever met one, chances are it didn’t take long to recognize that you’re looking at an ENFP.
They’re communicative, enthusiastic, and always full of ideas. But have you ever wondered why ENFPs have such magnetic personalities?
This is exactly where ENFP cognitive functions come into play, and in this article, we’ll cover everything about them, including:
- What Are Cognitive Functions?
- The 4 Primary ENFP Cognitive Functions
- The 4 Shadow ENFP Cognitive Function
- How Do ENFP Cognitive Functions Affect Personality Development?
And even more!
What Are Cognitive Functions?
Simply put, cognitive functions are the internal processes that define the way you make decisions, perceive the world, act under stress, and engage in other behaviors.
Cognitive functions are also the components that make up each personality type. As such, they can explain in great detail why, for example, ENFPs are different from INFPs (and no, the difference between the types doesn’t simply boil down to extroversion and introversion!).
In total, there are eight cognitive functions which can be either extraverted (relating to the external world) or introverted (relating to your inner world).
The four cognitive functions you use most often are your primary functions. Meanwhile, the four least used functions are your shadow functions, as they largely remain unconscious. Your cognitive function stack defines the order in which you use each of these functions.
Moreover, cognitive functions can fall into one of the following two types:
- Perceiving functions—intuition and sensing. These functions define how you perceive the world—through your intuitive insights or five senses.
- Judging functions—feeling and thinking. These functions define whether your decision-making process is primarily based on emotion or logic.
All clear? Great, it’s time to decode the ENFP function stack!
The 4 Primary ENFP Cognitive Functions
The ENFP function stack consists of:
- Dominant function - extraverted intuition (Ne)
- Auxiliary function - introverted feeling (Fi)
- Tertiary function - extraverted thinking (Te)
- Inferior function - introverted sensing (Si)
Now, let's explore these functions in greater depth.
Extraverted Intuition (Ne)
Extraverted intuition (Ne) is the dominant ENFP cognitive function and has the most influence on this personality type.
As the core ENFP function, extraverted intuition determines that ENFPs favor abstract thinking over concrete thinking. It also makes them focus more on the future than the present moment.
Thanks to their Ne, ENFPs see the world as a place filled with boundless opportunities. Besides making them curious and energetic, Ne also pushes ENFPs to explore things outside of their comfort zones. As such, unlike most personality types, they easily embrace change and would rather delve into the unknown than stand still.
Moreover, having Ne as their dominant cognitive function makes ENFPs excellent brainstormers and natural-born idea generators. They take great pleasure in bouncing off ideas, daydreaming, and discussing theoretical concepts, even if they have no real-world application.
This ability to think creatively also makes ENFPs open-minded and non-judgmental, as they’re able to see multiple points of view at once. They also naturally see the ways in which everything in life is interconnected.
Needless to say, ENFPs aren’t just fun to be around—they’re also supportive and empathetic. Yet, their empathy stems from a different source than that of Fe users such as ENFJs or INFJs. Instead of intuitively feeling other people’s emotions, ENFPs tend to show cognitive empathy. They take time to hear others out and see things from their perspective.
Introverted Feeling (Fi)
Although ENFPs see multiple perspectives, this is not to say that they don’t have their own opinions and morals. Quite the contrary! Thanks to the auxiliary ENFP function, introverted feeling (Fi), they are authentic people with strong moral values.
Fi is the main decision-making function of ENFPs, and because of this, ENFPs tend to trust their feelings and follow their moral beliefs when making decisions. Fi makes ENFPs highly individualistic, and with each decision they make, their goal remains the same—staying true to themselves.
Fi goes hand in hand with Ne, allowing ENFPs to refine their opinions and make thought-out decisions after exploring all the possibilities. As such, ENFPs are anything but pushovers: they simply take time to make informed judgments.
Not to mention, Fi leads ENFPs to have a non-conformist attitude. They prefer marching to the beat of their own drums instead of acting based on their family’s expectations or social norms. Because of their tolerance and focus on authenticity, ENFPs are true free spirits who avoid putting themselves (and others!) in boxes.
Extraverted Thinking (Te)
Extraverted thinking (Te) is the tertiary ENFP cognitive function, meaning that ENFPs don’t have access to it until they mature, whether by aging or through self-development.
To understand the role that Te plays in the ENFP function stack, we need to go back to their primary function. Through Ne, ENFPs gain dozens of insights and ideas every day. Because of this, ENFPs are often inspired to try something new, whether it’s a dish, a business project, or a musical instrument.
Yet, there’s one issue that many ENFPs will relate to: no matter how driven they are, their plans and dreams don’t always become a reality. In fact, even when they have the resources, some ENFPs leave their ideas unrealized.
The answer is simple: their minds are always bustling with ideas, and ENFPs are prone to quickly abandoning their plans for something new.
It is for this reason that Te, which focuses on organization, structure, and efficiency,is crucial for ENFPs. As ENFPs develop their Te, they finally learn to follow through with their plans, leading them to a much happier, more fulfilling life.
Introverted Sensing (Si)
ENFPs are abstract thinkers with a visionary mindset—they don’t see the world for what it is but instead see what it could be. Unsurprisingly, introverted sensing (Si), the function mostly associated with the past and recalling details, is the inferior ENFP cognitive function.
Although Si is often regarded as their weakest function, ENFPs do use it. However, it primarily works in the background, which makes it difficult to spot this cognitive function in ENFPs.
Simply put, Si limits the possibilities that Ne generates. Essentially, Si helps ENFPs realize which options are worth pursuing and which aren’t by allowing them to tap into their past experiences.
Moreover, while ENFPs are big-picture thinkers, Si enables them to focus on details, giving them a perfectionist streak. This is especially prominent when they’re learning something new or working on a project.
Nonetheless, it’s also important to note that Si can make ENFPs oblivious to their human needs—hunger, thirst, sleep, etc. It’s not uncommon for ENFPs to become so consumed by certain activities that they forget to take proper care of themselves.
The 4 Shadow ENFP Cognitive Functions
Now, let’s explore the hidden partof the ENFP personality type that only comes out under immense stress—their shadow functions. These include:
- Introverted intuition (Ni)
- Extraverted feeling (Fe)
- Introverted thinking (Ti)
- Extraverted sensing (Se)
Introverted Intuition (Ni)
Introverted intuition (Ni) is the first ENFP shadow cognitive function, which takes over their primary function, Ne, under extreme stress.
Normally, ENFPs are open-minded, easy-going individuals. However, when their shadow kicks in, ENFPs can become rather close-minded, skeptical, and judgmental.
ENFPs aren’t used to following their intuition, as they typically trust their feelings and morals. However, in their shadow, ENFPs make false connections between events and get hunches that aren’t always correct. In such states, many ENFPs struggle with the feeling that something bad is going to happen, which makes them lose their optimistic attitude.
When they operate from their shadow Ni, ENFPs often become distrustful of other people. They can also become quite self-righteous, as they trust their intuition blindly and disregard other people’s opinions.
In fact, ENFPs with an activated shadow often behave similarly to unhealthy INFJs. That’s because their shadow functions are the same as the primary INFJ cognitive functions, leading them to display many of the unhealthy traits seen in INFJs.
Extraverted Feeling (Fe)
As we mentioned above, ENFPs are independent thinkers who trust their own judgments. However, their second shadow function, extraverted feeling (Fe), can make them doubt themselves and turn to others for validation.
To put it simply, Fe makes ENFPs insecure about their ability to make decisions. This leads them to adopt a mob mentality. This isn’t comfortable for ENFPs, who are naturally used to going against the flow.
As a result, ENFPs lose confidence in themselves and become self-critical. Although they’re caring individuals, Fe can also make them too concerned with other people’s feelings. Because of this, they might make decisions based on other people’s needs and expectations.
Needless to say, catering to other people and seeking their approval creates an inner conflict in ENFPs. They can’t stand being inauthentic, yet their shadow Fe pushes them to please others. Ultimately, this can lead them to become disappointed in themselves.
Introverted Thinking (Ti)
When ENFPs are in their shadow, they use introverted thinking (Ti) instead of their inherent Te.
Besides helping ENFPs turn their dreams into reality, Te also helps them organize their thoughts and ideas. To do so, they share them with other people or otherwise express them, as Te is an extraverted function.
That said, when ENFPs use their shadow Ti, they tend to withdraw from other people. Instead, they turn inwards in an attempt to organize their thoughts. This often leads them to sink into self-isolation and become overly focused on facts.
In this state, ENFPs may also act completely out of character with those around them. They can become cold, calculated, and reserved. What’s more, they can become much harsher in their communication. ENFPs who are deep in their Ti can even insult other people and justify this by claiming that they’re just “spitting facts.”
In reality, however, they likely don’t mean anything bad. Ti simply tricks ENFPs into believing that they can only pull through by being rational, logical, and factual—the third shadow function is called “the trickster” for a reason!
Extraverted Sensing (Se)
By nature, ENFPs are somewhat absent-minded. Most of the time, they’re in their heads, brainstorming new ideas or dreaming of traveling the world.
This isn’t just because Ne is their primary function. Extraverted sensing (Se), which is responsible for being in tune with the external world, is their least developed function. Because of this, ENFPs tend to not be very grounded in reality.
However, when they’re going through too much stress, ENFPs can dive into extreme expressions of Se. This can lead them to seek thrills and adventure at any cost—naturally, this can be dangerous for ENFPs and those around them.
Unlike some other personality types with inferior or underdeveloped Se, ENFPs don’t typically indulge in overeating or laziness. Instead, they can become reckless, make hasty decisions, and participate in dangerous activities, such as reckless driving, just to get their blood pumping.
How Do ENFP Cognitive Functions Affect Personality Development?
Are ENFPs born or made?
While there’s no definite answer, one thing is for certain: their cognitive functions develop over the course of their lives, shaping their behavior, XNXP personality traits, and more.
Let’s see how this happens by taking a look at the three ENFP personality development phases!
First Personality Development Phase
The first ENFP personality development phase starts in childhood and lasts until adolescence and even up to late 20s. In this phase, the primary ENFP cognitive function—extraverted intuition—begins to develop.
As children and teenagers, ENFPs use Ne to navigate the world, making them very curious and spontaneous. They tend to ask lots of questions (some of which can make their parents and other adults uncomfortable) and enjoy trying out new activities and exploring their surroundings.
Since childhood, ENFPs don’t respond well to authority, micro-management, and strict parenting. For this reason, it’s especially important that adults establish healthy, equal, and trust-based relationships with ENFP children.
While rules and boundaries are important, it’s equally as important to ensure that young people with this personality type don’t feel controlled. If they’re shamed for their curiosity or not allowed to explore the world the way they wish, ENFPs can lose their zest for life or become rebellious.
However, when they’re allowed to be their authentic selves, they tend to keep a positive, even child-like attitude and a sense of wonder throughout their entire lives.
Second Personality Development Phase
Once Ne is strong enough, the inferior and auxiliary ENFP functions—introverted sensing (Si) and introverted feeling (Fi)—begin developing. This marks the start of the second personality development phase, which typically lasts throughout the 30s.
Since both of these cognitive functions are introverted, it’s no surprise that during this time, ENFPs may also become more introverted and private. Essentially, they’re in the process of finding themselves.
Instead of being easily distracted by possibilities, ENFPs begin to question who they are, what their values are, and how to make decisions that enable them to live in accordance with their values.
As they begin to understand themselves better through both experimentation (Ne) and introspection (Fi and Si), ENFPs become more grounded in reality. Because of this, these free spirits also start focusing more on finding a fulfilling career path.
Not to mention, ENFPs often become pickier in their friendships during this time. Once their Si and Fi become more developed, ENFPs want to meet people they’re truly compatible with rather than be friends with just anyone.
Third Personality Development Phase
Although being Ne-dominant can be very rewarding, one of the main struggles most ENFPs face throughout their lives is difficulty finishing tasks. Many ENFPs, for example, jump from one hobby to another or have a hard time completing projects and hitting deadlines.
While such actions might seem irresponsible, it isn’t hard to understand why. ENFPs tend to have a carpe diem attitude toward life. They’re aware of the fact that although life has endless possibilities, they have only so much time to explore them.
Although not all ENFPs reach and successfully complete the third personality development phase, it’s crucial to their quality of life. During this phase, they develop their tertiary function, extraverted thinking (Te), and integrate it along with the inferior Si into their function stack.
Te and Si teach ENFPs to make efficient decisions, organize their activities, and manage their time. As a result, they stop shifting between different hobbies, projects, ideas, etc. and learn to prioritize the ones that align with their values. Ultimately, this allows ENFPs to make the most of their lives.
Personality Traits of a Healthy ENFP
Now that you know about the ENFP cognitive functions and their impact on personality development, let’s take a look at the most predominant features of this personality type.
The signature ENFP personality traits include:
- Open-mindedness. ENFPs are anything but judgemental. They embrace differences between people and are open to hearing different opinions.
- Creativity. ENFPs have very active and creative minds. Their heads are full of original ideas, and they tend to think outside of the box.
- Talkativeness. ENFPs are very communicative and find inspiration in meeting new people and exchanging ideas.
- Future-oriented mindset. ENFPs are dreamers—they enjoy fantasizing about the future. It’s simply not in the ENFP’s nature to dwell on the past.
- Spontaneous attitude. Instead of planning, ENFPs prefer to just let things happen.
That said, these personality traits are typically present in healthy ENFPs. Although it doesn’t happen often, ENFPs can become unhealthy, which might affect their personalities.
Tips for Interacting with ENFPs
Getting along with ENFPs isn’t hard—after all, they’re one of the most easy-going personality types! And yet, even the happy-go-lucky ENFPs have their own quirks that you should know about.
So, whether you’re a friend, child, or partner of an ENFP, let’s see how you can strengthen your bond with them!
ENFPs as Friends
If you’re looking to build a long-lasting friendship with an ENFP, here’s exactly how to do it:
- Openly share your ideas and ideas—ENFPs love dreaming with their friends.
- Introduce them to your hobbies, interests, and passions.
- Try to maintain a balance between light-hearted and deep, meaningful conversations.
- Take care of their needs, as ENFPs are very generous but can become upset if their generosity isn’t reciprocated.
ENFPs as Parents
Growing up with an ENFP parent (or two)? Here’s how to maintain a strong child-parent bond regardless of your age:
- Be open with them—instead of judging you for your actions or decisions, they’ll appreciate your honesty.
- If you need more consistency, boundaries, or a more structured routine, ask for it.
- Spend time doing something creative or discussing ideas to create a stronger bond.
- Show initiative to share your day-to-day life experiences—while ENFP parents value your independence, they still want to be involved in your life.
Tip: Check out our guide on ENFP males, to see how this personality type differs from others regarding parenting!
ENFPs in Relationships
If an ENFP has caught your interest, here’s how to make a relationship with them work:
- Give them space, as ENFPs need freedom and can’t stand being controlled
- Keep your relationship fresh by planning exciting dates rather than staying in every weekend.
- Help them deal with daily responsibilities such as paying bills, doing laundry, etc. instead of expecting them to be more practical.
- Include them in your future plans and let them contribute with their ideas.
And that’s a wrap!
Hopefully, by now you have a better understanding of why ENFPs are the spontaneous, carefree dreamers that they are.
Even more, with the help of ENFP cognitive functions, we can learn to understand and accept all parts of this personality type. And yes, this means coming to terms with the fact that sometimes ENFPs may get too distracted to finish what they started!
Although learning cognitive functions can seem difficult at first, it’s definitely worth the time. And especially so if you want to get to know all the quirks of this personality type!