INFP (FiNe) 8 Cognitive Functions Explained

by Lisa Sparrow

As an INFP, you have a complex personality—so much so that you can likely relate to descriptions of different personality types.

So, how can you know that you’re really an INFP?

It’s simple—by learning about the INFP cognitive functions and seeing whether they resonate with you!

This in-depth guide to INFP cognitive functions covers everything you need to know to understand how personality type works, including:

  • What Are Cognitive Functions?
  • The 4 Primary INFP Cognitive Functions
  • The 4 Shadow INFP Cognitive Functions
  • How Do INFP Cognitive Functions Affect Personality Development?
  • 12 Tips for Developing INFP Cognitive Functions
  • Tips for Interacting with INFPs

What Are Cognitive Functions?

Cognitive functions are internal processes that make up each personality type, shaping their personality traits, behaviors, decision-making processes, and more.

In total, there are eight cognitive functions: four introverted and four extraverted. Introverted functions are directed inward and are often difficult to notice, whereas extraverted functions are focused outward and shine when you’re interacting with people or your environment.

These eight cognitive functions are further divided into two groups:

  • Perceiving functions (sensing and intuition), which dictate how you take in and process information—through your physical senses or intuition
  • Judging functions (feeling and thinking), which determine whether you base your decisions on logic and rationality or values and feelings

Primary Functions

Now, each personality type has a preference for using some cognitive functions over others. Your preferred functions (or the ones you use most often) are known as your primary cognitive functions. Starting with your most developed cognitive function, they’re classified as follows:

  • Dominant function
  • Auxiliary function
  • Tertiary function
  • Inferior function

Shadow Functions

What about the other four functions, you ask?

Well, the functions that you use the least are known as shadow functions. They tend to be rather underdeveloped, unconscious, and sometimes destructive. Mostly, they only manifest under severe stress. Shadow functions are classified as such:

  • The opposing role
  • The critical parent
  • The trickster
  • The demon

As you might expect, the demon is your least developed cognitive function, which makes the opposing role function your most developed—yet still unconscious—shadow function.

The 4 Primary INFP Cognitive Functions

Now that you’re aware of what cognitive functions are, let’s analyze the INFP cognitive function stack starting with their primary cognitive functions.

Introverted Feeling (Fi)

Introverted feeling (Fi) is the dominant INFP cognitive function, which means that people with the INFP personality type rely on it the most. Needless to say, it also plays a major role in shaping their personalities.

Although introverted feeling is a feeling function, you may be surprised to find out that it’s more concerned with personal values than emotions. In fact, INFPs tend to keep their feelings to themselves and can appear self-contained and aloof. They experience emotions deeply but only share them with their closest people.

That said, being driven by introverted feeling means that INFPs have a strong sense of self. Highly aware of their values, tastes, and preferences, INFPs make it a point to live in harmony with them. Because of this, they’re very individualistic—they’d rather choose an unpopular option that resonates with them than follow the crowd just to fit in.

Extraverted Intuition (Ne)

As the auxiliary INFP cognitive function, extraverted intuition (Ne) supports their dominant Fi. Given that it’s their first extraverted function, it enables INFPs to navigate and process the world around them. While introverted feeling makes them focused on preserving their identity, extraverted intuition is the cognitive function that helps them develop this solid sense of self.

Thanks to Ne, people with the INFP personality type can easily detect opportunities for personal growth in their external reality. For example, many INFPs enjoy traveling not only because it introduces them to different cultures but also because it helps them learn about themselves.

Since Ne is an extraverted function, it becomes especially apparent when INFPs interact with their environment. Similarly to ENFPs, INFPs love discussing abstract concepts and naturally make associations between ideas, which can make them jump from one topic to another. And, because they aren’t very grounded, their environment can be rather disorganized.

Introverted Sensing (Si)

Have you ever noticed that people with an INFP personality type are prone to nostalgia? More often than not, their sentimental nature comes from their tertiary function, introverted sensing (Si).

While INFPs are generally future-oriented, introverted sensing makes them hold on to things from the past. They often enjoy recalling past experiences and have a fondness for objects that remind them of childhood. INFPs usually find comfort in familiar things, which is why they turn to their favorite meals, TV shows, music, and similar things in times of stress.

Thanks to Si, INFPs have vivid, emotionally loaded memories. For this reason, remembering a specific event can induce an emotional response in them. Alternatively, they may associate their past experiences with particular scents, sounds, and other sensory data. In turn, such sensory data can trigger specific memories, leading them to relive the past as if it was happening now.

Extraverted Thinking (Te)

Extraverted intuition isn’t the only cognitive function that causes INFPs to be disorganized. Given that extraverted thinking (Te), which is concerned with external organization and efficiency, is the inferior INFP cognitive function, it shouldn’t be surprising that INFPs often struggle to keep their environment structured and orderly.

Moreover, although Te is their least developed primary function, it can manifest in rather unusual ways. INFPs are often considered artistic and creative, yet sometimes they choose careers in engineering or science. Inferior Te unconsciously draws INFPs to scientific activities, especially if they empower them to improve the world in any way.

It’s also important to note that INFPs typically become more organized later in their lives, once they begin developing their Te. This also enables them to effectively make unbiased decisions. As they become more comfortable with using Te, INFPs learn to weigh their options based not only on their values and opinions but also on objective facts and logic.

The 4 Shadow INFP Cognitive Functions

Now, let’s take a look at the other side of the INFP cognitive function stack—their shadow functions, which typically lie deep in their unconscious minds.

Extraverted Feeling (Fe)

Since extraverted feeling (Fe) is the first shadow INFP cognitive function, they aren’t comfortable with it.

They prefer to lead with Fi, which means they prioritize authenticity and originality. Since Fe is concerned with social and collective values rather than personal ones, INFPs are generally skeptical toward it, believing that Fe users aren’t genuine and thus can’t be trusted.

When INFPs feel pressured to conform to social norms, group values, and similar, they may tap into their Fe to come up with arguments that appeal to other people to defend their values. This way, Fe can actually help INFPs preserve their individuality.

However, most often, Fe shows up when INFPs are put under extreme pressure. In this case, it may cause them to abandon their personal values and go with the crowd. Since they strive to live in alignment with their beliefs, such self-betrayal can negatively affect their self-esteem and self-perception.

Introverted Intuition (Ni)

As the critical parent function, introverted intuition (Ni) can confuse INFPs and prevent them from going after their goals.

To understand how Ni affects INFPs, it’s first essential to learn how it works. In short, Ni seeks to identify patterns in situations to accurately predict future events. All of this happens subconsciously: dominant Ni users—INFJs and INTJs—don’t put any conscious effort into this process. They simply get a hunch about what will likely happen in the future.

However, Ni is one of the least developed INFP cognitive functions, and as such, it works a bit differently. When INFPs feel stressed out or lack self-confidence, their Ni might step in, sending them false signals that something will definitely go wrong. Most often, this happens when INFPs want to try something new but aren’t sure of their abilities.

Extraverted Sensing (Se)

Since extraverted sensing (Se) is the third shadow function in the INFP cognitive function stack, it’s only natural that INFPs are sort of detached from their surroundings. After all, Se grounds people in the present moment and makes them aware of all the sensory data—smells, textures, sounds, etc.—in it. Needless to say, this is one of the main INFP blindspots.

Because of this, INFPs often appear clumsy or awkward. While they’re highly in touch with their inner worlds, navigating the external world isn’t so easy for them. At times, they can be so out of touch with the physical reality that they bump into things or trip over themselves!

INFPs may also feel like their movements aren’t natural—for example, they might be unsure of where to put their hands during a presentation or feel awkward dancing in front of people. That said, developing Se can make them more comfortable with the physical world, which can boost their self-confidence!

Introverted Thinking (Ti)

The last function in the INFP cognitive function stack is introverted thinking (Ti). Although this function is underdeveloped and completely unconscious, it carries a lot of meaning for INFPs. That’s because it bears their deepest fears and insecurities.

Although they may not like to admit it, most INFPs are insecure about coming across as less intelligent than they are. Needless to say, it doesn't help that most people perceive them as absent-minded or overly emotional. Still, contrary to popular belief, most INFPs are highly intelligent. When needed, they can suppress their emotions and let rationality take the wheel.

Introverted thinking, the demon INFP cognitive function, typically comes out when people underestimate INFPs’ intelligence. To prove them wrong, INFPs might unconsciously tap into their Ti and thus become focused on cold facts and logic.

However, if they don’t keep it under control, they may begin pointing out flaws and inconsistencies where there are none. Unfortunately, this can have the opposite effect and make people believe that INFPs are overcompensating for their lack of logic and rationality.

How Do INFP Cognitive Functions Affect Personality Development?

Like all people, INFPs aren’t born with a fully developed cognitive function stack. INFP cognitive functions evolve with time, shaping their personalities and behaviors. So, let’s see how exactly this happens!

First Personality Development Phase I - Childhood

Since the dominant INFP cognitive function is introverted, INFPs begin developing their two first primary functions—introverted feeling and extraverted intuitionaround the same time.

In childhood, INFPs are usually sensitive, emotional, and introverted. No matter how much they enjoy spending time with others, they still prefer solitary activities such as reading or hanging out with their favorite friend.

Once they begin developing Ne, INFPs typically become very curious. They’ll ask their parents endless questions, some of which aren’t based on reality. Since this is their way of exploring the outside world, it’s very important that parents, teachers, and other adults patiently answer their questions. Otherwise, they might become insecure or reclusive.

Also, at this phase, INFPs are especially sensitive to conflict. If their external world isn’t calm and peaceful, they’ll escape into their imagination for comfort.

Second Personality Development Phase II - Adolescence

The second INFP personality development phase is marked by intense self-exploration. As they further develop their auxiliary Ne and begin developing inferior Te, INFPs seek to find out who they truly are.

During this phase, INFPs are typically open to experimenting. As teenagers, many INFPs become interested in alternative fashion, which helps them develop a unique fashion sense. They might also use every opportunity to travel and explore the world. If they come from a specific religious background, they may also start questioning their beliefs.

As their Te becomes more apparent, INFPs may feel pressured to grow up. While some of them continue their self-discovery, others choose to settle down. Although the latter might seem like a safer option, it can eventually lead to an existential or identity crisis.

Third Personality Development Phase III - Adulthood

The third personality development phase is the most complex, as this is where the INFP cognitive function stack becomes fully integrated. In other words, INFPs develop all primary functions and master their balanced use. Needless to say, this isn’t easy to achieve.

That said, since INFPs tend to be interested in personal development, they have a higher chance of completing the last personality development phase compared to most other personality types. Still, it requires a lot of time, effort, and radical honesty with yourself.

If INFPs successfully develop their Ne, Si, and Te functions, they not only become more well-rounded but also crystallize their values and core beliefs. As such, they finally learn to live completely in line with them, no longer questioning whether they’ve chosen the right path or not.

12 Tips for Developing INFP Cognitive Functions

Looking to fully integrate your cognitive function stack but not sure where to start? No worries—we’ve prepared some tips to help you develop every primary INFP cognitive function!

For starters, here’s how to master your dominant Fi:

  1. Develop emotional literacy to improve your emotional control.
  2. Track your mood daily with a mood journal or a mood-tracking app.
  3. Prioritize your values when making decisions.

And here’s how you can strengthen your auxiliary Ne:

  1. Be spontaneous (within limits!) and try out new things, even if they scare you.
  2. If you have the opportunity, travel to another country or continent (bonus points for solo travel!) and immerse yourself in different cultures.
  3. Share your worldview with other people and be open to hearing theirs.

Take these steps to improve your tertiary Si:

  1. Determine if you’ve been neglecting your health in any way and try to get back on track.
  2. Create a feasible daily routine and stick to it for as long as possible.
  3. Make a list of things (preferably from the past or your childhood) that bring you comfort, and refer to it whenever you feel stressed out.

Finally, here’s what you can do to develop your inferior Te:

  1. If you have a dilemma or a decision to make, discuss it aloud with someone else to organize your thoughts.
  2. Improve your leadership skills by gathering people to support a cause you believe in.
  3. Openly express your thoughts and opinions instead of keeping them to yourself.

Tips for Interacting with INFPs

After learning about the INFP cognitive functions, you’ve probably noticed how unique people with this personality type are. While this makes them very interesting, it also means that there are certain things you should know to build a strong relationship with them.

Whether you have an INFP friend, parent, or partner, here are some tips that can help you maintain harmony and make the most out of your relationship with an INFP:

INFPs as Friends

Want to make a friendship with an INFP last for ages? Here’s what you can do:

  • Listen to them as attentively as they listen to you.
  • Encourage their creative expression and support their artistic pursuits.
  • Show initiative to see them even if they haven’t reached out to you for weeks.
  • Give them plenty of alone time.
  • Respect their values, whether they align with yours or not.

INFPs as Parents

Here’s what you can do to ensure a close child-parent connection with an INFP mother, an INFP father, or both:

  • Find a creative hobby that you can enjoy together.
  • Share your feelings with them to create a strong emotional connection.
  • Express your needs, as they may not be aware of them (especially if it concerns their weaknesses, such as a lack of organization).
  • Flip through old photo albums to relive happy memories.
  • Ask them about their parents, childhood, etc. to learn more about them.

INFPs in Relationships

Whether you’ve fallen for a female or male INFP , here’s how you can keep your relationship strong and healthy:

  • Create a safe space for them to share their feelings—especially negative ones that they’ll likely try to avoid talking about.
  • When expressing criticism, choose your words carefully so they take them the right way instead of feeling personally attacked or hurt.
  • Ask them for advice to show them you value their opinion and take them seriously.
  • Respect their need for personal space, independence, and “me time.”
  • Be transparent with them no matter what to earn their trust.

Key Takeaways

And there you have it—now you know all there is to know about INFP cognitive functions!

If you’re new to cognitive functions, learning about them can be rather overwhelming (yet very rewarding!). So, here’s a short recap of the most important points we covered:

  • Cognitive functions are mental processes that determine your personality type, typical behavior, decision-making preferences, and other characteristics.
  • The primary INFP cognitive functions are introverted feeling, extraverted intuition, introverted sensing, and extraverted thinking.
  • Extraverted feeling, introverted intuition, extraverted sensing, and introverted thinking are the shadow INFP cognitive functions.
  • To develop INFP cognitive functions, focus on each and practice using it through daily exercises such as keeping a mood journal (Fi), being open to new experiences (Ne), following a daily routine (Si), and assertively voicing your opinions (Te).

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