Jungian Psychology: The Eight Attitudinal Functions

In the last post we talked about the four colors approach to personality, and how these four colors relate to eight personality types. Today we’re going to dig into the work of Carl Jung to learn more about the eight personality types and the cognitive functions that they are based on.

The Types of Cognitive Function

Psychoanalyst Carl Jung worked on the topic of psychological types back in the 1920s, and much of the field of personality types today is still based on his work. He looked at the essential cognitive functions, and proposed that there were two diametrically opposed pairs: rational, judging functions of thinking and feeling, and irrational, perceiving functions of sensation and intuition. The idea behind this distinction is that the judging functions are matters of assessment that require decision making, while the perceiving functions are related to gathering information from the world.

The Four Cognitive Functions

Jung went on to define in depth the four cognitive functions – two judging functions and two perceiving functions. The essential characteristics of the four functions are as follows:

  • Sensation – This is what you probably imagine when you think of the word ‘sensation.’ It refers to perception through our senses, such as us absorbing information about the world through touch, taste, sight, etc.
  • Intuition – This refers to background processes of our mind that we may not be aware of, such as unconscious drives or intuitions about the beliefs, desires, and motivations of other people.  It is a “knowing” of information
  • Thinking – This refers to the rational analysis of data and the applying of logic to questions in order to draw meaningful conclusions. It is related to intellectual cognition, meaning the use of logical analysis.
  • Feeling – This is not the experiencing of emotion that you might expect, but rather refers to subjective estimations and the making of decisions about value. The function is still considered rational in that it is a form of assessment, but the object of that assessment is a subjective state. It is making decisions based on feelings, and relationships.

Introversion and Extraversion

Another key aspect of Jung’s model was the distinction between introversion and extraversion (sometimes spelled as ‘extroversion’). Jung believed that these two attitudes represented the ‘direction’ in which each of the four cognitive functions could be turned.

An introverted function is one that is turned inward, meaning that it operates within the interior world of thoughts and reflection. An extroverted function is one that is turned outward, meaning that it operates in the realm of the exterior world of behavior, actions, things, and other people. People who tend towards introversion gain energy from time spent alone, are thought oriented, and like to contemplate first and act later. People who tend towards extraversion gain energy from being around others, are action oriented, and are more likely to act first and reflect later.

Eight Psychological Types

The concept of eight psychological types comes from combining the four cognitive functions with the two attitudes. Each function can be expressed in an extraverted or introverted form, and people will be led by one function and one attitude to form their dominant personality type. This gives us a total of eight psychological types:

  • Extraverted Sensation – Someone who lives in the moment, taking information from the world and acting on concrete data. They pay attention to opportunities to act and they value new experiences. They tend to notice details and work with what is available to them.
  • Introverted Sensation – A person who takes information from the world but compares it to past experiences before acting. They rely on the past to guide them and look for links between past and present experiences. They tend to have good memories and store information for later use.
  • Extraverted Intuition – Someone who isn’t constrained by the current way of doing things – they look for how the world could be instead of accepting how it is. They value meaning and look for flashes of insight that tie together ideas from different contexts, and they see connections in the external world.
  • Introverted Intuition – This person will follow their own internal framework and fit ideas and thoughts into this framework in a consistent way, though their thoughts may be hard for someone else to follow. They think about how the future will unfold and use intuition to plot future outcomes from current situations.
  • Extraverted Thinking – A highly logical person who likes structure and seeks consistency from others and the world. This person follows the rules and sets boundaries, and they use guidelines to assess whether something is working or not. They organize efficiently and according to parameters.
  • Introverted Thinking – This person is also logical and seeks consistency, but they are far more concerned with adhering to their internal framework than with external rules. They analyze and categorize, identifying inconsistencies and they achieve precision through careful definitions of terms.
  • Extraverted Feeling – A person who values harmony and connection with others, who likes acting as part of a group, and who values social ties and promotes the comfort of others. They care about maintaining the values of groups and organizations and are willing to adjust in order to accommodate the needs of others. When they make decisions they take into mind what is acceptable and appropriate.
  • Introverted Feeling – Someone who cares deeply about values and who strives to act only in ways that are in line with their personal values. They review and evaluate actions and thoughts based on their underlying truths and are willing to stand up for truth and accuracy.

Naturally, all of us have the potential to use all these different attitudes depending on the context and our training and background. But Jung believed that each person has a dominant function which they prefer to use when thinking and acting. To find out more about how these attitudes are used in practice in personality testing, come back soon as our next post will compare two popular personality assessment tools.  And you can always learn more at www.discoveryourself.com, or www.scottstedtalk.com