Cognitive Functions Explained

Before I really dived into cognitive functions, I really wasn’t sure what to think about them. I didn’t know if they were “real” or if there was any proof behind them. After really digging deep and exploring them, I realized how true they were, and they resonated deep with me.

Now, I’m not saying ditch the whole typology of I, N, F, and P and switch to cognitive functions. The letters of INFP are a gateway to cognitive functions, and vise-versa. Once you know your personality type, there is much to be explored, cognitive functions being one thing. Cognitive functions will help in understanding personality typology on a bigger scale.

Unless you haven’t already looked up your cognitive functions yet, you may be asking many questions concerning cognitive functions. As an example, INFP’s cognitive “stack” is “Fi”, “Ne”, “Si”, and “Te”. A cognitive stack is just the order functions come in, that will be explained later in the post.

The first question you may be wondering is: “If I’m introverted, how do I have Extroverted Sensing?” or “If I have Intuition, how do I have Sensing?”.

Okay, lets debunk a few misconceptions.

  1. Every individual is introverted and extroverted, intuitive and sensing, feeling and thinking, and judging and perceiving. Every individual, however, only prefers one side of a personality over another. You are not perfectly and completely introverted, or one personality type over another. Your mind is unique enough and is “built” in a manner that causes it to prefer one state of mind. An INFP can be extroverted, sensing, thinking, and judging. An INFP will not prefer those components however.
  2. Extroverted and Introverted are just two labels, but there are many labels added onto those two than just “Outgoing” “Social” or “Likes being Home Alone” “Quiet”. Extroverted, in “cognitive function” terms usually means the external world and is more objective (dealing with the world one-on-one as a human being existing in the world). Introverted usually means the internal world (mind, body) and is more subjective (interpreting the world rather than dealing with the world).

Perceiving vs Judging

You may be asking, “Why is there no Introverted Judging or Extroverted Perceiving?”

Perceiving in “cognitive function” terms is when the brain takes in information. Judging is when the brain makes decisions.

Intuition and Sensing are both Perceiving components, because they both take in information (Patterns in the world vs Concrete Details of the world). So “Ne”, “Ni”, “Se”, and “Si” are Perceiving functions.

Feeling and Thinking are both Judging components, because they both aid in making decisions (Morals, Feelings vs Rational-Logical Thinking). “Fe”, “Fi”, “Te”, and “Ti” are Judging functions.

Order of Functions

So why are the cognitive functions in such an order?

There are two reasons. One reason is because as an individual develops, different forms of cognition appear in the mind. As the individual gets older, older functions will become “mature” over constant use, and newer functions will be rather “immature” over little use.

For instance, INFPs first develop “Fi” at an early age. As teens, they begin to develop “Ne”. As adults, “Si” arrives into the cognition. Finally, “Te” appears.

The other reason is just this is how personality typology has set it up.

For types with EJ and EP, the ordering is very simple. The functions for EJs go: J – P – P – J. (Judging function, Perceiving, Perceiving, etc). For those with EP, it goes: P – J – J – P.

However, it changes up a bit with introverts. Because introverts are more subjective, IPs get grouped with EJs and IJs with EPs.

Its basically the opposite. If you are a Perceiving Introvert, your dominant, first function is a Judging one. If you are a Judging Introvert, your dominant, first functions is a Perceiving one.

IP: J – P – P – J

IJ: P – J – J – P

All right, lets try figuring out the cognitive “stack” for ESTP.

As an EP, the order is P – J – J – P.

ESTP’s dominant Perceiving component is Sensing. The ESTP’s dominant Energy component is Extroversion. Thus, the first P is Extroverted Sensing.

The rule of thumb for proceeding functions is that if the first function is extroverted, the second will be introverted, the third will be extroverted, and the fourth is introverted. Its always the opposite of the one before.

So the first function is “Se”. The second is Introverted-blank. The dominant Judging function in ESTP is Thinking. So the order is “Se”, “Ti”, so far.

The third function is the inferior component of the one before. The dominant Judging function is Thinking, so the inferior is Feeling. Now we have “Se”, “Ti”, and “Fe”.

The fourth function is the inferior component of the first function, which is Intuition in ESTP’s case. So now we have the cognitive “stack” complete: “Se”, “Ti”, “Fe”, and “Ni”.

Now, whatever order the functions are in will add specific roles to the functions, and those roles will be explained in another post.

The functions themselves still have yet to be explained, and I will explain them later. For now, an understanding of how they work and in what order they go in will build the foundation for understanding cognitive functions in general.

The order of the Shadow functions will also be explained later. (If you’re wondering what the Shadow functions are, they’re basically all of the cognitive functions that aren’t in your cognitive “stack”. You still use them, just differently from the regular four functions)

List of cognitive functions for each personality type:


“My True Type” by Dr. A. J. Drenth


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