INTJ (NiTe) Cognitive Functions Explained

Knowing the meaning of the four letters in the “ INTJ” acronym isn’t enough to understand the complexity of this personality type.

To delve into its depths and interpret the INTJ character right, you must learn how each of the INTJ cognitive functions determines its development.

The guide we prepared will help you learn what parts the INTJ function stack consists of and how they affect the nature of this personality type. After reading it, you’ll know everything about:

  • The 4 Primary INTJ Cognitive Functions
  • The 4 Shadow INTJ Cognitive Functions
  • What Are INTJ Sarcastic Cognitive Functions?
  • How Do INTJ Cognitive Functions Affect Personality Development?

And even more!

Shall we get started?

What Are Cognitive Functions?

Cognitive functions are mental mechanisms that offer you a framework for understanding your personality type better. They define your behavior and determine how you see the world, process external information, react to intense situations, and much more.

By studying each cognitive function of your personality type, you become aware of your strengths and weaknesses. As such, exploring your function stack thoroughly can help you realize what parts of your character need improvement. It also allows you to understand others better and learn how to approach them more easily, especially those “tough” ones.

There are eight cognitive functions, and we can categorize them as follows:

  • Judging functions. These represent thinking and feeling functions that determine what you base your decision-making process on—emotions or logic.
  • Perceiving functions. These are sensing and intuition functions. They show how you process the information you get—through your senses or by searching for underlying meanings of events and situations.

Each judging or perceiving function can be introverted or extraverted. Introverted functions are connected with your inner world, while extraverted ones are directed towards the outer world.

Depending on how much you use each of your eight cognitive functions, we can divide them into primary and shadow functions. The table below lists all cognitive function names, from the most developed function (dominant) to the most suppressed function (demon):

Function type


Primary cognitive functions (the ones you use the most)

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

Shadow cognitive functions (the ones you use the least)

  • Opposing role
  • Critical parent
  • Trickster
  • Demon

The 4 Primary INTJ Cognitive Functions

Now that you know why cognitive functions are important, it’s time to decipher the INTJ cognitive stack.

INTJ Cognitive Functions

Let’s start with the primary INTJ cognitive functions. These would be:

  • Introverted Intuition (Ni)
  • Extraverted Thinking (Te)
  • Introverted Feeling (Fi)
  • Extraverted Sensing (Se)

Introverted Intuition (Ni)

Introverted Intuition (Ni) is the dominant and most influential cognitive function of INTJs. It’s the best indicator of how this personality type perceives the world around them and receives information. So, if you’ve wondered what makes this personality type so sharp, intuitive, and perceptive, it’s their Ni function.

This mental process is responsible for INTJs’ ability to read between the lines and see through people. INTJs just know things, even if they don’t have any tangible proof, and their gut feeling is usually infallible. They know how to use this power to understand what most other personality types can’t.

INTJ people are aware of this “power,” which makes them rather confident and firm in anything they do. They are usually sure that their ideas are right and will always strive to make other people notice and accept their visions.

This gift is a perfect way for INTJs to solve problems that would otherwise be difficult to tackle with just cold logic and rationality. Many people consider it a superpower, but it’s actually just their natural talent for analyzing and assessing people and situations.

Extraverted Thinking (Te)

Extraverted Thinking (Te)

Extraverted Thinking (Te) is the auxiliary INTJ cognitive function, and it helps them concentrate on objective, logical criteria. While Ni enables INTJs to make smart decisions, Te allows them to back these up with rational thinking skills.

If an INTJ has a vision for a new project, for example, they won’t just brag about their new idea as Fe-dominant people would. Instead, they will quietly analyze its strengths and weaknesses and decide on the best way to implement it.

On top of that, Extraverted Thinking makes INTJs quite methodical and adept at approaching diverse issues. It also brings them a sense of order and control, as they love living in a well-structured and organized world. Their main goal is to act efficiently in every sphere of their lives, be it career, friendships, or romantic relationships.

Introverted Feeling (Fi)

Introverted Feeling (Fi) is a cognitive function that sorts out how people observe values and emotions. This means that INTJs usually stick to their individual values and beliefs and are extremely skeptical about other widely accepted constructs, including social norms.

Still, since Fi is the tertiary INTJ cognitive function, they don’t use it as often as Ni or Te. As a result, people with the INTJ personality type may feel particularly vulnerable about the objectivity of their opinions. Due to the fragility of this function, they may not be aware of their tendency to be biased, and over time, they can become rather self-righteous.

Yet, if INTJs develop this function well, they will learn to integrate their values and emotions into their decision-making process. This will also make them want to stick with people whose moral values are similar to theirs.

Extraverted Sensing (Se)

Extraverted Sensing (Se)

Extraverted Sensing (Se) is the inferior cognitive function of INTJs and, therefore, the weakest one. If this part of their cognitive stack is underdeveloped, an INTJ will often feel rather detached from the real world and struggle with staying present.

This happens because they rely on intuitive powers rather than their senses. Even though their Ni allows them to make sense of the world through their instincts, inferior Se prevents them from noticing important details in their surroundings. For this reason, they might seem insensitive and indifferent toward what’s happening around them.

However, if an INTJ is willing to develop this function further, they will get a better understanding of the outer world and learn to enjoy it. They can also become more aware that they are living in the present—not in the future—which can make them more energetic.

The 4 Shadow INTJ Cognitive Functions

INTJ Cognitive Functions

Apart from primary INTJ cognitive functions, INTJs also have a set of four shadow functions:

  • Extraverted Intuition (Ne)
  • Introverted Thinking (Ti)
  • Extraverted Feeling (Fe)
  • Introverted Sensing (Si)

These cognitive functions represent the unconscious part of INTJs’ personalities and usually come into focus in extreme situations, such as under chronic stress.

Let’s explain how they affect INTJs.

Extraverted Intuition (Ne)

Extraverted Intuition (Ne) is the first INTJ shadow function and the antithesis of their natural Ni.

While Ni helps an INTJ keep a singular focus on something, Ne works in the background and offers them multiple perspectives and possibilities.

Since this process isn’t a part of an INTJ’s regular nature, it often annoys them. They feel like their personal views are being obstructed, which is why they may refuse to accept other people’s perspectives. The reason lies in their conviction that, by doing so, they will betray themselves and their own moral principles.

Luckily, if an INTJ recognizes this as a temptation and works on overcoming it, this function can improve their personal growth. They can become more open-minded and interested in what others have to say, realizing that great ideas can also come from someone else’s suggestions.

Introverted Thinking (Ti)

INTJ Personality type

Introverted Thinking (Ti) is the direct opposite of INTJs’ auxiliary function, Te. Unlike Extraverted Thinking, which yearns for structure and order in everything, this function makes an INTJ too critical.

Since Te is INTJs’ way of creating a better, more secure world for themselves and others, its opposite makes them doubt themselves. They start analyzing their logical approach on a deeper level and wonder whether their way of achieving order is right.

Besides that, INTJ people can even start thinking that nothing they do is correct, which can cause them insecurity and stress.

Luckily, each INTJ has a chance to keep this function under control by working on themselves. The best way to achieve this is by making the effort to be less skeptical about new knowledge and backing up your preferences with logical reasoning.

Extraverted Feeling (Fe)

The role of the trickster in the INTJ function stack belongs to Extraverted Feeling (Fe). This is a mental process that allows a person to consider and focus on other people’s needs and views.

As Fe is one of the shadow functions, it usually irritates INTJs. They aren’t too considerate by nature and think that following the opinions of others to avoid problems is a sign of weakness.

INTJs simply can’t respect such an indulgent attitude, as it is too people-pleasing for them and doesn’t align with their principles. This is why they have trouble respecting someone else’s needs or perspectives and tend to regard more sensitive and thoughtful people as doormats.

Even though this sounds like bad news, it doesn’t need to affect their personality in a negative way. During life, INTJs may realize that caring about other people’s opinions isn’t as deceiving and manipulative as they believe. Once this happens, they’ll embrace Fe as a part of their being and let it help them grow.

Introverted Sensing (Si)

Introverted Sensing (Si)

Introverted Sensing (Si) is the darkest shadow function of INTJs, also known as their “demon.” This means that it’s the most suppressed mental process in their personality that makes them feel uncomfortable and uneasy when active.

Si encourages people to look back at the past and compare it with the present. This helps them improve and learn from their mistakes and usually has only positive effects.

However, when their “devilish” Si strikes, INTJs tend to get disgusted by their past experiences. Instead of using them to learn how to make better decisions, they grow resentful toward their past selves. In some cases, INTJ people may overanalyze their previous failures and even feel attacked if someone brings them up.

Still, like other shadow cognitive functions, this one can also have a positive impact on an INTJ’s life. Learning to engage Si in a healthy way can help INTJs accept themselves. In such cases, they will become more aware of the importance of their past experiences and learn how to use them wisely without being ashamed of them.

Note: We covered INTJ in this article, but if you're interested in seeing other personality type cognitive functions, we suggest going for ISFJ cognitive functions or INTP cognitive functions or ESTP cognitive functions!

What Are INTJ Sarcastic Cognitive Functions?

INTJ cognitive functions can be difficult to grasp, especially if you don’t delve deep into the way they work.

For this reason, there are simplified (and funny) descriptions of each primary cognitive function of this personality type, also known as “INTJ sarcastic functions.” Their purpose is to help people understand these mental processes and summarize their meaning in an entertaining way.

So, let’s see what the primary INTJ cognitive functions would look like if they were people:

  • Introverted Intuition (Ni) is characterized as an intelligent individual that makes strategies for avoiding people they consider incompetent. This perfectly sums up the INTJs’ tendency to look down on people who (they believe) lack intellectual capacity.
  • Extraverted Thinking (Te) would be a person in charge of an important project that always takes on someone else’s responsibilities. Even though they’re the brains of every operation and (theoretically) don’t need to do other people’s work, INTJs always end up doing it.
  • Introverted Feeling (Fi) is an idealistic person that is hopelessly unaware of any romantic feelings others may have for them. They seem so oblivious that it’s almost impossible for them to pick up on not-so-subtle signs indicating that someone is into them.
  • Extraverted Sensing (Se) is similar to a spoiled child that doesn’t consider the consequences of their financial decisions until they make them. INTJs don’t mind spending a small fortune in a breeze and without thinking twice, which is explained by their impulsive nature.

How Do INTJ Cognitive Functions Affect Personality Development?

Now that you know how INTJ cognitive functions work, let’s see how and why they are important for personality type development.

INTJ type development consists of three phases:

  • First Phase (from birth to the end of childhood)
  • Second Phase (from adolescence to 30s)
  • Third Phase (30s and later)

So, let’s take a look at the timeline that shows how INTJ cognitive functions develop in each stage.

First Personality Development Phase

Personality Development Phase

The first function that develops in an INTJ’s personality is Introverted Intuition, as the dominant one. It starts evolving while INTJs are still babies.

Childhood is an exciting era full of new information that needs to be absorbed. So, INTJs learn about the world around them by using and developing Ni from the earliest days.

The amount of information they can store in their minds as children is mind-blowing, and it only increases during life. The fact that they’re young doesn’t mean they don’t notice small things—Ni helps them see the slightest differences made in their environment.

This function also helps INTJ children boost their skills and effortlessly obtain new knowledge by reading books, watching movies, or talking to their parents. For this reason, they’ll show a higher intelligence level than their peers. Still, if this process doesn’t develop right, it may lead to stubbornness or narrow-mindedness.

Second Personality Development Phase

In adolescence, INTJs start developing their Extraverted Sensing. Since Se is their inferior function, it affects the dominant function and its impact on their personality. This mental process is something that INTJs perceive as mystical and exciting, which means it’ll bring “a whole new world” to their feet.

During this period, they are tempted to try some things that aren’t typical for them. In other words, their Ni gets affected by the power of their Se, often leading them to unusual decisions and experiences.

These actions often don’t match the ones INTJs would make if they relied solely on their intuition. As a result, they might make unexpected love or career choices.

While such decisions can seem quite stimulating for this personality type, they can also bring trouble if they go too far. For this reason, INTJs need an occasional reality check that’ll remind them to stick to their Ni.

Third Personality Development Phase

By the time INTJs reach their 30s, most of them will have already gone through the temptations their inferior function brings. Hopefully, they’ll have also learned how to overcome them successfully and use this experience to thrive in the future.

Once all that happens, it’s time to develop the remaining two primary functions (Extraverted Thinking and Introverted Feeling) by relying on their Ni.

This phase also brings INTJs into a so-called “ flow state,” which helps them dedicate themselves to achieving meaningful goals. This solidifies their determined and goal-oriented nature and makes them who they truly are.

Also, check out our guide on INTJ male & INTJ female to see and distinguish the cognitive functions between them!

Key Takeaways

And that’s it!

We hope this guide helps you get a better understanding of INTJ cognitive functions and their role in an INTJ’s personality development.

Besides learning what cognitive functions are, you now know how primary and shadow functions determine your personality and what INTJ sarcastic functions are about. Congratulations—now you’re ready for a deeper analysis that’ll help you discover more fascinating facts about INTJs and understand yourself better!

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