I enjoy theories of different personality types, one of the most popular being the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The standard type indicator test asks you to chose between 2 of each of the following:
- Extroverted or Introverted
- Sensing or iNtuition
- Thinking or Feeling
- Judging or Percieving
My type is INTP (introverted, intuition, thinking, percieving). However, I’ve never found it that satisfying for describing myself. The main tension is needing to chose between thinking and feeling. Whenever I read descriptions of the types, INTP is quite extreme in the “thinking” end of the scale, like an emotionless robot, while INFP is always described as exceptionally touchy-feely, which isn’t me either.
A better way of thinking about the MBTI types is to use the 8 cognitive functions. There’s a good description of them here. It bunks the idea that we only use 4 of the possible 8 descriptors listed above. In the cognitive functions model, all the functions get used in different ways. We have a primary function, which is the strongest and the one we use easily and without effort. The second function is next strongest, the third is the “relief” function – it’s not as strong as the first two but it is often the way that we express creativity and use for fun and recreation. The fourth function is the inferior function – the weakest.
For an INTP, the four functions are:
- Introverted Thinking
- Extroverted Intuition
- Introverted Sensing
- Extroverted Feeling
Here’s a description of how the cognitive functions interact with the types. What interested me about this is the inferior function. I am not a robot, like the INTP is often described. That’s because I have extroverted feeling.
“Social graces,” such as being polite, being nice, being friendly, being considerate, and being appropriate, often revolve around the process of extroverted Feeling. Keeping in touch, laughing at jokes when others laugh, and trying to get people to act kindly to each other also involve extraverted feeling. (quote)
The interesting thing about the 4th function is that is our “aspirational” function. It does not come naturally to us, but we aspire to be good at it, and value it very highly. There is also the most potential for personal growth by strengthening our 4th function, which is something I have found to be very true over the last few years. Because I am an introvert, using my extroverted feeling takes energy, but it is worth it.