INTRO TO MBTI STORIES I

You Probably Have the Wrong Idea About Myers-Briggs

The key lies in the function stacks, not in the eight letters

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

No matter where you first heard of it— whether you stumbled on a strange test after browsing psychology for hours on the internet, or whether your friend sent you a link out of the blue of that very same strange test that they had insisted you take (while claiming it to be “scarily accurate”), or whether your company forced you to take the test when you were hired for that job where you had to work with people — you have probably at some point been roped into taking the MBTI test online.

But if it’s just the test you took, you may want to rethink what you know about the true complexity of this theory.

Forget the letters, remember the functions

Basically, just forget those 8 letters:

  • I and E
  • N and S
  • T and F
  • P and J

And replace them with the 8 cognitive functions:

  • Ne and Ni
  • Se and Si
  • Te and Ti
  • Fe and Fi

You see, sites like 16 personalities only present the surface level of the theory. They present those 8 letters as a scale:

(E) Extrovert ← — — — — — —— — → Introvert (I)
(N) Intuitive ← — — — — — — — — → Sensing (S)
(T) Thinking ← — — — — — —— — → Feeling (F)
(J) Judging ← — — — — — — — — → Perceiving (P)

And you are then supposedly somewhere on this scale:

(E) Extrovert ← ——— — —X — — → Introvert (I)
(N) Intuitive ← — — X— — —— — — → Sensing (S)
(T) Thinking ← —X — — — — —— — → Feeling (F)
(J) Judging ← —— — —X — — — → Perceiving (P)

The surface level of the Myers-Briggs theory presents as a scale of the 4 characteristics, or 8 letters (screenshot taken from https://www.16personalities.com/infp-personality)

But when you dive deeper into the basic mechanics of the theory, you quickly realize it’s much more than just about whether you lean more toward being an introvert or an extrovert, or lean more towards intuiting or sensing, or thinking or feeling, or perceiving or judging.

Why?

Because it’s really about what functions you use and how those functions interact with each other.

The reason why I want you to forget those letters on their own is because people don’t work like that. People don’t operate on isolated letters that don’t interact. The truth is that everything is connected, as is behaviour. And that’s also reflected in the functions.

To view this in a different light, think about the grammatical form of a verb, an isolated infinitive verb such as ‘to like’, or even just ‘like’ (I know you’re probably wondering what grammar has to do with this, but just bear with me). The word like contains some information about the meaning or semantics, but since it is not conjugated, it doesn’t contain any information about its place in a sentence among other elements. Once you add endings or affixes to the verb, it gives you more information about how it interacts with the other elements of the sentence or phrase, like the subject or object; for example, ‘I liked her’, ‘she likes him’, etc. The verb is not an isolated element; it interacts with other words to form a sentence, and grammatical elements in the form of affixes are added to show this interaction.

This is the same for the 8 letters of the MBTI. The isolated letters give us some information about the meaning of the letter, but they are just like a verb’s infinitive form. The cognitive functions are like a conjugated verb. They hold information about interacting elements.

What information do the cognitive functions hold?

Let’s break it down:

  1. It starts with the 4 middle letters: N, S, T, and F. These letters are like the unconjugated infinitive verb of the theory, the bare bones base.
  2. These four letters can be split into 2 categories, which are the ones that make up the J and P part of each type: N and S are perceiving functions (P), while T and F are judging or decision-making functions (J).
  3. Finally, you add either a small (i) or a small (e) to indicate whether it’s an introverted (I) or an extroverted (E) function: Ne, Ni, Se, Si, Te, Ti, Fe, and Fi.

The result is the following:

The cognitive functions can be mapped out according to the information they hold (chart drawn by author)

The result is that each function has a judging/perceiving and introverted/extroverted element already built into it. Each function holds all the information you need to understand the true interacting elements.

Let’s look at what this information means for each of the types.

Determining introverted vs. extroverted types

Whether you are going to be labelled as introverted or extroverted depends on whether you have an introverted or extroverted function as your primary cognitive function in your function stack.

Introvert: types with either Ni/Si/Ti/Fi as their primary cognitive function
Extrovert: types with either Ne/Se/Te/Fe as their primary cognitive function

Introverts

If you are an introvert, your first function will be an introverted function:

INTJ — Ni>Te>Fi>Se → Ni is an introverted function → I
INTP — Ti>Ne>Si>Fe → Ti is an introverted function → I
INFJ — Ni>Fe>Ti>Se → Ni is an introverted function → I
INFP — Fi>Ne>Si>Te → Fi is an introverted function → I
ISTJ — Si>Te>Fi>Ne → Si is an introverted function → I
ISFJ — Si>Fe>Ti>Ne → Si is an introverted function → I
ISTP — Ti>Se>Ni>Fe → Ti is an introverted function → I
ISFP — Fi>Se>Ni>Te → Fi is an introverted function → I

Extroverts

If you are an extrovert, your first function will be an extroverted function:

ENTJ — Te>Ni>Se>Fi → Te is an extroverted function → E
ENTP — Ne>Ti>Fe>Si → Ne is an extroverted function → E
ENFJ — Fe>Ni>Se>Ti → Fe is an extroverted function → E
ENFP — Ne>Fi>Te>Si → Ne is an extroverted function → E
ESTJ — Te>Si>Ne>Fi → Te is an extroverted function → E
ESFJ — Fe>Si>Ne>Ti → Fe is an extroverted function → E
ESTP — Se>Ti>Fe>Ni → Se is an extroverted function → E
ESFP — Se>Fi>Te>Ni → Se is an extroverted function → E

Determining judging vs. perceiving types

Determining the judgers vs. the perceivers is a little trickier. Judgers and perceivers are determined in relation to how they interact with the external world. So whether you are a J or a P is determined by your first extroverted function.

Judger: types whose first extroverted cognitive function is Te/Fe
Perceiver: types whose first extroverted cognitive function is Ne/Se

Extroverts — J vs. P

If you are an extrovert, your first extroverted function will be your first function in the stack:

ENTJ — Te>Ni>Se>Fi → Te is a judging function → J
ENTP — Ne>Ti>Fe>Si → Ne is a perceiving function → P
ENFJ — Fe>Ni>Se>Ti → Fe is a judging function → J
ENFP — Ne>Fi>Te>Si → Ne is a perceiving function → P
ESTJ — Te>Si>Ne>Fi → Te is a judging function → J
ESFJ — Fe>Si>Ne>Ti → Fe is a judging function → J
ESTP — Se>Ti>Fe>Ni → Se is a perceiving function → P
ESFP — Se>Fi>Te>Ni → Se is a perceiving function → P

And this first function then determines whether you are a J or a P.

Introverts — J vs. P

If you are an introvert, your first extroverted function will be your second function in the stack:

INTJ — Ni>Te>Fi>Se → Te is a judging function → J
INTP — Ti>Ne>Si>Fe → Ne is a perceiving function → P
INFJ — Ni>Fe>Ti>Se → Fe is a judging function → J
INFP — Fi>Ne>Si>Te → Ne is a perceiving function → P
ISTJ — Si>Te>Fi>Ne → Te is a judging function → J
ISFJ — Si>Fe>Ti>Ne → Fe is a judging function → J
ISTP — Ti>Se>Ni>Fe → Se is a perceiving function → P
ISFP —Fi>Se>Ni>Te → Se is a perceiving function → P

And this second function then determines whether you are a J or a P.

Okay, but what do the functions themselves mean?

I’ve shown how the functions contain a lot more information than the individual letters. And I’ve shown how each function contains information about how the functions interact with one another. But now you’re probably wondering what do the functions themselves actually mean?

If you are not yet familiar with each of the functions and what they mean, check out my post: Basics of the MBTI for a quick rundown of each function, how they stack to form each type, and how this allows the types to be grouped.

Intro to MBTI Stories Series

Basics of the MBTI

MBTI Stories Series

The Misleading Introverted Cognitive Functions of the MBTI

Little Red Bird, flitting around to deliver words to the page | Creative Thinker | Content Developer | Lifelong Learner

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