I have covered Myers-Briggs typing before. I will assume that most are familiar with it. In short, it breaks human behaviors into four groupings of dichotomous traits. These traits are Extraversion or Introversion (E or I), Sensing or intuition (S or N), Thinking or Feeling (T or F), and Perceiving or Judging (P or J). Adding your preference letters together reveals your type (e.g., ESTJ).
Myers and Briggs based their work on the ideas of Carl Jung. While their typing made his work easier to understand, it also hid some of the subtleties. In this post, I will attempt to explain the deeper meanings behind the letters and perhaps help resolve some typing confusion.
Eight Cognitive Processes.
Jung’s original work described various cognitive processes. As with Myers-Briggs these divided between Perceiving (observing or gathering information) and Judging (making decisions or bringing order). He too named these processes Sensing/intuition and Thinking/Feeling. Where he differed is that he also described a choice attitude (Introverted or Extraverted) for each process. There was not just thinking, but extraverted thinking and introverted Thinking; there was not just intuition, but extraverted intuition and introverted intuition. The result was four different functions, each with 2 attitudinal choices, giving eight cognitive processes. It was the preference order of these processes that led to type.
The Eight Cognitive Processes.
Extraverted Sensing (Se) [First or second choice of xSxP]
This is about experiencing the moment. It concerns itself fully with the immediate environment. It notices concrete sensory data in the form of textures, colors, sounds, tastes, and smells. It is driven to act in the now responding to immediate simulation. Its basic need is to experience.
Introverted Sensing (Si) [First or second choice of xSxJ]
This is about recalling previously remembered things. It concerns itself with factual and concrete experience of the past. It is about comparing present experience to past remembrance. It is about using past experience to make current choices.
Extraverted Intuition (Ne) [First or second choice of xNxP]
This is about seeing possibilities. It concerns itself with what-if questions. It focuses on the future. It seeks to link different ideas and concepts together to make something new. It wants to brainstorm free of limitations of existing structure. Its basic need is to imagine.
Introverted Intuition (Ni) [First or second choice of xNxJ]
This is about internals vision. It seeks to tie seeming paradox into a coherent and unified whole. It is about generating Aha! moments of deep understanding.
Extraverted Thinking (Te) [First or second choice of xxTJ]
This is about organizing and structuring the world. It wants to bring order and efficiency to the world. It seeks objective data. Its basic need is to organize.
Introverted Thinking (Ti) [First or second choice of xxTP]
This is about finding clarity. It is about placing things and concepts into categories. It wants to find general principals from which to understand the world. Its basic need is to understand or clarify.
Extraverted Feeling (Fe) [First or second choice of xxFJ]
This is about recognizing the needs of others, either as individuals or a group. It is about finding ways to connect with others. It wants to bring cheer and good feelings. It is concerned with the social graces. Its basic need is to find harmony.
Introverted Feeling (Fi) [First or second choice of xxFP]
This is about recognizing our own internal values. It concerns itself with right or wrong, as judged by our own internal compass. Its basic need is to find authenticity.
As you can see one of the problems is that these descriptions are less clear than the simpler Myersian ones. In trying to describe such processes, we cannot help but bring or own experience of them. I provide a link to other sites with descriptions but they may not help either. The fact that is that describing such internal processes will always be difficult.
Myers versus Jung.
Most people when talking of M-B type take the letters from left to right, adding them together. For example: an INTJ would be an Introvert that preferred intuition and Thinking and operated more in Judging mode. In reality, the last letter merely means that they prefer using their Judging function in an extraverted manner. By theory, that means they use their perceiving function in an introverted manner. If the function they use in an introverted manner (in this case intuition – Ni) is their most favored, then they are considered introverted. Had extraverted thinking (Te) been their most preferred function than they would be considered extravert. In this case it is the function preference that defines I or E. The I or E is derived from the function preference, it does not drive it. I hope I can make it clearer with an example (using an INTJ).
Most preferred function is introverted intuition (Ni), so second letter is N.
Supporting (second) function is extraverted thinking (Te), so third letter is T.
Their judging function (Te) is used in an extraverted manner, so forth letter is J.
Their preferred function is used in introverted form, so first letter is I.
This is where some people may feel their given type is not them. While a person may prefer using an introverted function, it does not mean they live their life as an introvert. For instance, my own preference probably matches closer to ENTP. I favor extraverted intuition (Ne), strongly supported with introverted thinking (Ti). However, by classical definition, I am most certainly an introvert.
Another vital point is that while we favor certain processes, we by necessity use all of them. It is just that we are less comfortable using those lower on our preference. There are type theories on the subsequent order of preference. Simply put: the third function tends to be undeveloped but may appear more consciously in latter (mid) life. The fourth function is very undeveloped, barely conscious, and may be the source of pain or growth. Some theories (John Beebe) place the anima/animus in this fourth, or inferior, function. The fifth and below are considered the shadow. They are likely to be mostly unconscious. As with the inferior, they may be the source of great anguish or personal growth.
In Game or Romance?
A point to consider is the aforementioned placing of the anima/animus in the fourth function. This fourth function is one where we indulge in most projection to/from. If it also held the anima/animus it might explain the idealization (or not) of the opposite sex. Under this theory, we would project onto the opposite sex the best hopes and worst fears of this (to us) hidden function. In other words those who favor your fourth function, may be those you have strongest feelings (good or bad) towards.
I also suspect that third function plays a strong role shaping your tastes in those that attract and repel you. That is you may admire or despise those whose stronger functions (1 or 2) match your weaker ones (3 or 4).
The 16 type patterns: Describes the functions according to their position. It also lists the preference order for each type (scroll down). You can also find details for each individual type, and descriptions of each process.
Personality Pathways also describes types and their preferences.
You can try a test of your cognitive preference order and see if it matches your accepted type. This is different from other tests in that it seeks to see which processes you use instead of what behavior you partake in. As such, it may be a more direct measure of type compared to the what-would-you-do type. The questions may seem strange or confusing, that is (they say) by design. The idea is that certain phrasing will be better understood by those using certain functions, so those that readily agree with some statements will be using the related function more fully.