The 8 MBTI Cognitive Functions: Perceiving & Judging Functions
by Lisa Sparrow
If you’re interested in personality typology, it’s safe to say you already know your personality type.
Nonetheless, there’s much more to it than the four letters that identify your type. In fact, to truly understand your personality type, you need to learn about the MBTI cognitive functions.
In essence, the MBTI cognitive functions shape your personality type. So, without having a good understanding of them, you’re barely scratching the surface of personality typology!
Read along to learn about the 8 MBTI cognitive functions and how to recognize them in yourself and other people!
What Are the MBTI Cognitive Functions?
The MBTI cognitive functions, also known as Jungian cognitive functions and psychological functions, are mental processes that define your personality type. As such, they also shape your behavior.
The Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung first described cognitive functions in his book "Psychological Types" (1921), where he introduced the following basic psychological functions:
- Thinking and feeling. These functions are also known as judging functions, as they help people make decisions.
- Sensing and intuition. Also known as perceiving functions, sensing and intuition define how people regard and understand the world.
All of these functions are further classified as either introverted or extraverted. According to Jung, introverted functions are concerned with the inner world, while extraverted functions are used to engage with the external world.
Every personality type uses some MBTI cognitive functions more than others. Based on their hierarchical order (or how often each cognitive function is used in contrast to others), every personality type has four primary functions and four shadow functions.
The primary functions refer to the combination of four cognitive functions that each personality type uses the most. This combination is also known as the "cognitive function stack."
The primary functions include:
- The dominant function. This is the first function that a personality type uses. It is the most developed, conscious, and frequently used function.
- The auxiliary function. This cognitive function is the second most developed function of each personality type. It is often used in tandem with the dominant function.
- The tertiary function. The third cognitive function typically supports the first two functions and can help you venture outside your comfort zone.
- The inferior function. The fourth function is typically less developed than the other primary functions. Although it can be challenging to master, developing it allows you to build a well-rounded personality.
The shadow functions are the four cognitive functions that a personality type has the least access to. These functions are completely unconscious and underdeveloped.
As such, they only show up when the primary functions shut down, which typically happens in stressful situations. For this reason, when people use their shadow functions, their behavior can appear out of character.
The shadow functions include the following:
- The opposing role. Although all shadow functions are used unconsciously, this one is the most advanced. It describes how you react when you feel threatened.
- The critical parent. The second shadow function is called the critical parent, reflecting the judgemental inner monologue that pops up when you can’t effectively cope with a problem. It can also define how you judge others.
- The trickster. The third cognitive function is known as the trickster because it deceives you into thinking that your ego is under attack. It can also distort your perception of others and cause misunderstandings.
- The demon. The fourth shadow function is the most suppressed of all the MBTI cognitive functions. Using it can lead to self-destruction, and it only shows up when your ego is at a high risk of disintegration.
The 4 Perceiving MBTI Cognitive Functions Explained
Now that you know what MBTI cognitive functions are, let’s take a closer look at the 4 perceiving functions that define how you perceive and engage with the world.
These are extraverted sensing, introverted sensing, extraverted intuition, and introverted intuition.
Extraverted Sensing (Se)
Extraverted sensing (Se) is a cognitive function that enables people to perceive the world primarily through their senses—touch, smell, taste, sight, and sound.
Having Se as your dominant or auxiliary MBTI cognitive function also makes you deeply grounded in the present moment. Se users are spontaneous and adventurous. They crave new experiences and sensations.
Se-dominant people live in the here and now instead of worrying about the future, which other people might regard as recklessness.
If Se is your inferior cognitive function or you often find yourself lost in thought, consider engaging with your five senses. Here are some ideas on how to do it:
- Try earthing, or walking barefoot in nature
- Expand your palate by trying out new meals
- Take up an artistic hobby such as painting, playing instruments, or dancing
- Be physically active: hike, bike, play sports, etc.
- Try meditating to calm your mind and reconnect with your body
How to Recognize Extraverted Sensing (Se)?
Here’s how you can spot an Se user:
- They prefer hands-on learning
- They are risk-takers and thrill-seekers
- They enjoy going on active dates and getting to know you over a cup of coffee
- They are practical, realistic, and attentive to detail
- They are always alert and rarely, if ever, space out
Introverted Sensing (Si)
Introverted sensing (Si) is a perceiving MBTI cognitive function that allows people to understand the present moment through their past experiences. In other words, Si users make sense of the current situation by comparing it with their memories.
Speaking of memories, Si users have a natural gift for recalling them in great detail. Their memories are vivid and can be easily triggered by smells, sounds, and other sensory data.
As a general rule, Si-dominant people are very observant. They can easily spot changes in their surroundings as they effortlessly recall what the environment looked like in the past.
Because they are so connected to the past, Si users often don’t deal well with sudden changes. They respect tradition, order, and rules and typically opt for tried-and-tested methods instead of experimenting.
So, how can you develop your Si? It’s not that hard—here’s what you need to do:
- Watch your favorite childhood movie
- Look through your photo album (or camera roll) and try to recall your memories in detail
- Make it a point to learn from your mistakes
- Keep your family traditions alive or create new traditions with your loved ones
- Create a daily routine and stick to it
How to Recognize Introverted Sensing (Si)?
Here are some ways you can recognize an Si user:
- They are the first to notice changes in their physical environment
- They often have traditional views and values
- They don’t repeat mistakes
- They are methodical and like following routines
- They get easily irritated when they’re hungry, tired, or otherwise uncomfortable
Extraverted Intuition (Ne)
Types with dominant extraverted intuition: ENTP, ENFP
Types with auxiliary extraverted intuition: INTP, INFP
Types with tertiary extraverted intuition: ESTJ, ESFJ
Types with inferior extraverted intuition: ISTJ, ISFJ
Extraverted intuition (Ne) is a cognitive function that enables people to perceive the world from many different perspectives. Because Ne users see multiple points of view, they tend to be open-minded.
The minds of Ne-dominant people are always bustling with plans and ideas, many of which never become a reality. And, since their intuition is extraverted, they love hearing other people’s stories and opinions as much as they enjoy sharing their own.
Ne users see many possibilities in all situations. They are big picture thinkers with active imaginations, which makes them excellent problem-solvers.
That said, Ne-dominant people often struggle to settle down. They see the world as a playground and want to take advantage of all opportunities. As such, Ne users can be a bit chaotic and erratic, and many tend to have a “grass is greener” mindset.
If you feel rigid, here’s what you can do to improve your Ne:
- Make a bucket list of exciting things you should experience in your life
- Question your own beliefs, opinions, and values
- Go on a solo trip to challenge yourself and learn about different people and cultures
- If you aren’t happy with some aspect of your life, change it
- Surround yourself with interesting, creative, and inspiring people
How to Recognize Extraverted Intuition (Ne)?
Here are some telltale signs of an Ne user:
In conversations, they quickly jump from one topic to another
- They can’t stand routine and prefer a variety of tasks
- They love traveling and exploring new cultures
- They are great at brainstorming and often propose creative solutions
- They get bored easily and crave new experiences
Introverted Intuition (Ni)
Types with dominant introverted intuition: INTJ, INFJ
Types with auxiliary introverted intuition: ENTJ, ENFJ
Types with tertiary introverted intuition: ESTJ, ESFJ
Types with inferior introverted intuition: ISTJ, ISFJ
Introverted intuition (Ni) enables people to see patterns and connections between different events. As such, Ni users perceive the world as a chain of causes and effects or a puzzle where all the pieces connect to create a big picture.
Ni-dominant types are future-oriented, and they can easily tell how a situation will play out later on. This ability often leads other people to believe that Ni users have a gift for telling the future. In reality, however, they’re just very perceptive and insightful individuals.
Because of their internal focus and their unique way of perceiving the world, Ni-dominant people often feel misunderstood and different from others. They often seem disconnected from reality, and for good reason—Ni-doms, or INFJs and INTJs, spend most of their time in their heads.
Looking to improve your Ni to gain intuitive insights? Here’s what you can do:
- Learn to be attentive to symbols and underlying meanings in music, movies, and art
- Listen to your gut feeling
- Contemplate what led you to your current situation, as well as where you’re headed and why
- When you need to make decisions, think about how your decision might influence the future
- Try analyzing and observing people to develop your intuition and discernment
How to Recognize Introverted Intuition (Ni)?
Out of all the MBTI cognitive functions, Ni is perhaps the most mysterious one. Still, you can learn to recognize it in yourself and others. Here are some typical signs of Ni users:
- They can accurately predict how a situation will unfold
- They love philosophical discussions and deep conversations
- They often ask ‘why?’, as they want to know the underlying reasons behind any situation
- They tend to use a lot of metaphors in their speech
- They try their best to avoid small talk
The 4 Judging MBTI Cognitive Functions Explained
As we’ve mentioned previously, the 4 judging functions guide your decision-making process.
These MBTI cognitive functions include extraverted thinking, introverted thinking, extraverted feeling, and introverted feeling.
Extraverted Thinking (Te)
Types with dominant extraverted thinking: ESTJ, ENTJ
Types with auxiliary extraverted thinking: ISTJ, INTJ
Types with tertiary extraverted thinking: ESFP, ENFP
Types with inferior extraverted thinking: ISFP, INFP
Extraverted thinking (Te) is a cognitive function used to make logic-based decisions. Because Te is directed outwards, Te-dominant people gather facts from the external world and analyze them to make rational and fair decisions.
Te users care about efficiency and fairness. They tend to have a calculated, systematic approach both in their personal and professional lives. Because of this, Te users excel at organizing and managing people and work.
However, Te-dominant people can appear cold and emotionless to others, and especially so to feeling types. When making decisions, Te users set aside their emotions and expect you to do the same. They don’t deal well with open displays of emotion and often believe that feelings can get in the way of logic.
If you want to develop your Te, consider these tips:
- Before making a decision, do your research and weigh all pros and cons
- Learn to be assertive and voice your opinions
- Look for ways to improve your efficiency at work
- Don’t make hasty decisions and consider what’s best for everyone involved
- Develop a step-by-step plan to bring one of your ideas to reality
How to Recognize Extraverted Thinking (Te)?
When you know what to look for, Te isn’t difficult to recognize. Here are some signs of Te users:
- They remain calm and collected under stress
- They like to make elaborate plans, to-do lists, pros and cons lists, and other structures to organize their lives
- They often give you advice on how to improve your work
- They often work in management
- They are responsible, assertive, and reliable bosses, colleagues, partners, and friends
Introverted Thinking (Ti)
Types with dominant introverted thinking: ISTP, INTP
Types with auxiliary introverted thinking: ESTP, ENTP
Types with tertiary introverted thinking: ISFJ, INFJ
Types with inferior introverted thinking: ESFJ, ENFJ
Introverted thinking (Ti) is a judging MBTI cognitive function that leads people to make decisions based on their internal sense of logic and order. Ti-driven personalities are very private and rarely disclose their decision-making process or their motives.
Generally speaking, Ti users have analytical minds and make excellent problem-solvers. Although their thinking function is directed inwards, Ti users aren’t biased because they avoid getting emotionally involved when making decisions.
Sometimes, Ti-driven types can appear harsh, as they don’t sugarcoat things and have little regard for other people’s opinions on them. They’re very independent and tend to think for themselves instead of following general rules, traditions, and such.
Most Ti users also value accuracy, which is why they carefully choose their words and can quickly spot factual inconsistencies. Not to mention, Ti users tend to have well-developed critical thinking skills.
Want to improve your Ti? Here’s what you need to do:
- Choose a topic and research it until you understand it through and through
- Organize a discussion or debate to engage your critical thinking
- Spend time playing complex board games, chess, and similar
- Try to keep your emotions at bay when you need to make decisions
- Meditate to bring your focus inwards
How to Recognize Introverted Thinking (Ti)?
Here are simple ways to recognize Ti users:
- They always want to know how things work
- They don’t adhere to social norms and tend to live their lives by their own set of rules
- They will quickly call you out if you bend the truth or forget an important detail
- Their communication style is impersonal, and they rarely share personal details
- They choose their words carefully and avoid generalization
Extraverted Feeling (Fe)
Types with dominant extraverted feeling: ESFJ, ENFJ
Types with auxiliary extraverted feeling: ISFJ, INFJ
Types with tertiary extraverted feeling: ESTP, ENTP
Types with inferior extraverted feeling: ISTP, INTP
Extraverted feeling (Fe) is a judging cognitive function that is mostly concerned with other people and humanity as a whole. Fe users base their decisions on morality, cultural values, and what’s best for others.
Because of this, Fe users are empathetic and sensitive to others. They care deeply about humanity and social issues as well as enjoy helping others. This heavy focus on people can make Fe-driven introverts such as INFJs and ISFJs appear extroverted.
That said, Fe users tend to sacrifice themselves to make others happy, and other people can easily take advantage of their kindness. Because of this, it’s crucial for Fe users to learn to draw personal boundaries and build healthy relationships.
If you want to develop your Fe, consider this:
- Before making decisions, ask others for their opinions
- Consider how your decisions influence your loved ones and the world/society in general
- Try volunteering, donating to charity, or engaging in other selfless activities
- Work on your active listening skills
- Show affection to your closest people through words, touch, and other love languages
How to Recognize Extraverted Feeling (Fe)?
Here are some sure-fire ways to spot Fe users:
- Before making decisions, Fe users often discuss them with other people
- They genuinely care about other people and their problems, which makes them great listeners
- They have a hard time expressing criticism
- They easily connect with people, even those they don’t know
- They quickly notice changes in other people’s moods and do their best to maintain harmony in their environment
Introverted Feeling (Fi)
Types with dominant introverted feeling: ISFP, INFP
Types with auxiliary introverted feeling: ESFP, ENFP
Types with tertiary introverted feeling: ISTJ, INTJ
Types with inferior introverted feeling: ESTJ, ENTJ
Introverted feeling (Fi) is an MBTI cognitive function focused on personal values. Unlike Fe users, Fi-driven personalities tend to make decisions based on their alignment with personal values, opinions, and emotions.
Because their feeling function is directed inwards, Fi users put a lot of emphasis on maintaining their independence and uniqueness. They refuse to accommodate other people’s needs and demands if that means they’ll have to go against their values.
As such, Fi-dominant types are very honest and authentic. They follow their own set of morals and ethics and thus aren’t afraid to break social norms. Still, as feelers, Fi users are concerned with keeping peace and harmony.
Here’s how you can develop your Fi:
- Write down your personal values in a notebook and make it a point to live in accordance with them
- Research different theories on ethics and morality, and see which one aligns with your views
- Make time to analyze your feelings and emotions
- Try to put less emphasis on social norms and expectations
- Embrace your individuality and express it, whether it concerns your art, communication, lifestyle, or appearance
How to Recognize Introverted Feeling (Fi)?
Fi users value authenticity and originality but still share the common characteristics listed below:
- They value freedom and self-expression, which makes them open-minded and tolerant
- They tend to be concerned with social justice and environmental issues
- They communicate sincerely and dislike small talk
- They tend to keep their emotions to themselves before they fully trust you
- They tend to have a unique sense of style
MBTI Function Stack Chart For All Personality Types
As you know by now, every personality type uses a unique combination of cognitive functions.
So, here’s an MBTI function stack chart that shows the primary MBTI cognitive functions of each personality type:
And that’s all! Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of the MBTI cognitive functions.
Most importantly, knowing about cognitive functions can help you understand yourself and those around you. They explain the differences between personality types and why people with a specific personality type act in a particular way.
Not to mention, if you tend to get mixed results on personality tests, identifying your primary cognitive functions can help you correctly type yourself!