I came across MBTI in 2010 when I was desperate for soul-mapping ( don’t google that, I totally made it up) and I went through the 16 different types and settled for the INTP personality type which I embodied up until last year. Yes, me, an INFJ, posed as an INTP. You see, I related to the parts that I knew at the time, which wasn’t much, and the more I discovered, the tighter the INTP-suit became. Though many are enthralled by the prestige associated with the INFJ type what with being the rarest of all types, this was the exact reason I was very skeptical to accepting it. Because I had no proper knowledge of the system, I was kinda fumbling in the dark. Anyhoo, long story short a friend of mine, INTJ no less :P, linked me to a detailed yet simple explanation of functions.
Our personal world is a complex network made up of countless elements. To make sense of it all, our mind forms a matrix which contains information that has reached our conscious awareness, and which it will use to give meaning to our perceptions. Our motivating force is to maintain the stability and coherence of this structure, and our personality represents the process through which this is achieved.
The matrix is made up of conceptual elements, i.e. physical objects, people, beliefs, etc., that I will simply call objects or events. Whenever it is enhanced, we feel pleasure; if it is damaged, we feel pain. The fundamental purpose of all our choices and actions is to maintain and enhance the stability and coherence of this structure.
The Perceiving Function
To understand the perceiving function, we need to divide objects into two components: physical and motion. The physical component is the object’s physical properties- shape, colour, texture, etc., while the motion component describes the dynamic processes associated with the object. Naturally, both exist within our experience, but the idea is that the matrix, the brain’s map of reality, is built primarily with just one of the components.
The Sensing reality structure is built with the physical component. For this reason, the Sensor is drawn to the concrete and pragmatic matters of life. He is in touch with the immediate sensory experience and has little interest in idea or theory. The Sensor is obviously aware of the motion component, but within the reality structure, this takes the form of fact, rather than process.
The Intuitive mind is sensitive to the motion component. Even static objects, when integrated into the matrix, must be associated with past experience, and therefore take the form of motion and process. Ideas, theory, and possibilities are then more appealing than facts and actualities. How something works, or what it does, is more important than the thing itself.
Surface appearance is not sufficient to enhance the Intuitive reality structure. The Intuitive must be aware or work out the processes associated with an object or event. Only then can it be connected with past experience and integrated into the matrix. This mental activity often provides intelligence and the ability to understand complex ideas and relationships. Furthermore, as facts per se do not provide security, the Intuitive function brings about an original mind that is always eager to further develop its understanding of reality.
Sensitivity to process means that only Intuition allows us to (i) understand something that we have never before encountered, and (ii) apply our acquired knowledge in an unfamiliar situation. The function is invaluable in the sciences, engineering, philosophy, and any other field that requires us to deal with the abstract or the unknown.
When raised to a human level, the motion component will encompass personality, growth and progress, which are therefore particularly important to the Intuitive. The present condition, individual or collective, depending on the function’s orientation, is then an obstacle, a ‘thing’ to be improved and developed. No wonder that most of history’s greatest social reformers and human rights activists have been Intuitives. The Sensor, in contrast, frowns upon unconventional behavior that could bring change to the status quo, preferring instead the security provided by the known and the familiar.
Naturally, extreme perception of either component is unhealthy, giving rise to a person who is closed-minded, materialistic and superficial, or who lives immersed in a world of fantasy and imagination. Also, such an imbalance builds a reality structure that is ‘blind’ to either one of the components and is therefore particularly vulnerable.
As shown above, the Sensing matrix is built with static objects and their physical properties. Intuition, on the other hand, is aware of motion and process. Sensing and Intuition act in some respects as two opposing forces – the former seeking stability; the latter, change. Thus, the perceiving function has a profound impact on the way we see, understand, and respond to the world.
Introversion / Extraversion
The perceiving function builds the content of the reality structure. The information, however, can be integrated through two distinct processes:
The Introvert will focus on particular aspects of the environment and connect perception with highly specific past knowledge. Experience is then integrated within a localized matrix area. Though precise and discriminating, objects are associated and understood within an immediate and limited context. For the Introverted Sensor, the matrix contains specific, detailed and factual information, while an Introverted Intuitive will strive to grasp the principles behind a particular situation.
Introversion is aware of the specific and the literal, but has poor perception of the overall environment. The relationships that are established between our perceptions and the matrix are such that, although we may be aware of their precise meaning, we cannot connect them with our knowledge of the world at large. To maintain a stable reality structure, the Introvert requires a safe environment that provides continuity, familiarity, habit and isolation.
Matrix enhancement through Introversion is a relatively slow analytical process, and the introvert often feels overwhelmed in highly stimulating environments.
Extraversion has global access to the reality structure. This means that it can establish relationships between the perceived information and multiple objects throughout the matrix. A downside to this cognitive process is that, although the perceived information is integrated onto a wide matrix area, it is only sensitive to overall, superficial properties. Extraverted Sensing maintains a matrix based on superficial sense impressions, and Extraverted Intuition is aware of process, pattern, and possibility.
Extraversion is an expansive force that is stimulated by the world at large. While Introversion will focus on specific external objects, only Extraversion can grasp significance within the ‘big picture.’ It is a fast process, and so the Extravert requires highly stimulating environments to maintain a stable reality structure.
Introverted perception and extraverted perception are located in the left and right brain hemispheres, respectively.
Sensory information is incorporated into a localized matrix area. The Introverted Sensor focuses on a specific aspect of an object and establishes highly localized connections to other objects within the matrix. This structure is perhaps the most dependent on a familiar and stable environment.
Overall sense impressions are integrated onto a wide matrix area. The Extraverted Sensor is acutely aware of the immediate physical environment and how it fits into the larger context. This type enjoys strong sensory stimuli and lives very much in the present.
Dynamic processes are integrated within a highly localized matrix area. Introverted Intuition is mainly interested in the abstract principles that underlie a given event, not in the event itself. For this reason, this function often provides insight and understanding.
The motion component is integrated onto a wide matrix area. The Extraverted Intuitive will conceptualize process and pattern within the overall picture, and is immediately aware of all the possibilities suggested by a particular situation. The focus is always on future possibilities, rather than the present moment.
The Judging Function
Connections within the matrix are established by the judging function.
The Feeling function ties together our perceptions in a wide, holistic manner, establishing connections between multiple objects throughout the matrix. Any decisions taken by the Feeler must maintain the integrity of these wide, interdependent connections, and not just the immediate structure pertaining to the given situation.
Possibly due to the type of associations that are established, Feeling is concerned with people rather than things, bringing about a moral conscience, a sense of loyalty and responsibility. Feelers give priority to personal values and consider the broader perspective before making any decisions.
Thinking types are critical, impersonal and objective. The Thinking function establishes linear connections based on specific properties. When making decisions, the Thinker only has to maintain the immediate matrix structure that may be affected by any ensuing action. For this reason, this type will disregard all that is not directly related to the decision at hand, and may often appear cold and impersonal. The connections established by this function are highly specific and often provide insight and understanding.
While Feeling is essentially a holistic process that perceives the world as an interconnected web, Thinking is linear, logical and analytical.
The ideas we have discussed above seem to suggest that the judging function has no orientation. There is no Extraverted or Introverted Feeling, just Feeling, period. The dominant and auxiliary functions form part of the same cognitive process, and the characteristics associated with each of the functions arise from their mutual interaction in the unconscious mind.
For example, Introverted Sensing will focus on the details and integrate the perceived information into highly specific and localized areas within the reality structure. Extraverted Thinking can then easily establish linear connections that only span an immediate matrix area, and which are based on concrete and specific facts. For this reason, the Extraverted Thinker is decisive and practical.
Extraverted Sensing, on the other hand, will focus on overall, surface properties, and integrate information onto a wide matrix area. Thinking must then tie together our perceptions of the overall environment, and the Introverted Thinker is then described as detached, introspective, or reflective.
Whether perception or judging is dominant is determined by the primary matrix aspect that maintains stability and coherence, i.e. content or connections, respectively.
This functions will establish holistic relationships spanning a wide matrix area. It gives deep meaning and significance to our perceptions and strives for a sense of harmony in the overall environment. Decisions are then based on personal values and ideals.
Extraverted Feeling builds a holistic web of connections within a localized matrix area. The function has strong awareness of social structure and may manifest as the drive to organize a family, community, school, etc. Extraverted Feelers are drawn to social institutions where they can bring order, harmony and cooperation.
Introverted Thinking establishes analytical and linear connections between our overall perceptions. It will build a web of specific and direct connections suggested by overall external elements. Introverted Thinkers are therefore not directly interested in the external situation, but rather on any understandings that it may provide.
Extraverted Thinking establishes linear connections within a localized matrix area. It brings order into specific aspects of life, and for this reason, an Extraverted Thinker will impose structure and order onto a particular organization or institution.
If the dominant and auxiliary form part of the same cognitive process, as is suggested here, then it is reasonable to suppose that they are located in the same brain hemisphere. This would give us the configuration shown below.
The Inferior Function
Each of the matrices has a psychological blind spot, i.e., experiences and thought patterns that cannot be processed through the structure. This is not only responsible for our fears and inferiorities, but creates a constant state of insecurity that most of us try to eliminate through all forms of destructive behavior.
Introverted Sensing types, for example, often have a strong fear of change. With a rudimentary awareness of the motion component, plus an inability to access the overall reality structure, this type can find it impossible to function in an unfamiliar environment. If they lose the routine to which they are accustomed, all sorts of dire possibilities come to mind. Consequently, SJs prefer a world that is cyclical and struggle to keep everything under their control.
Extraverted Sensing types thrive in a homogeneous and stable environment. Like the SJ, they fear losing the familiar, but the threat, for them, comes from the specific. Obsessive, irrational fears often haunt the mind of many SPs. Any localized manifestation of the motion component (i.e. progress, growth, etc.) can terrify the SP, and must be destroyed if an overall sense of stability is to be achieved.
In contrast, Intuitives, who prefer a dynamic environment, may attack authoritarianism (NPs), or people and values that curtail personal freedom, growth and individuality (NJs).
Threatening situations are those that would normally be processed by the person’s inferior function. To maintain a safe environment that can be adequately interpreted through the matrix, an individual will develop active defenses through which threatening external objects can be eliminated.
The MBTI types and associated matrices are given below.
Sensing and Feeling
Matrix | component | enhacement | connections
Si Fe …. Physical ……… Local ……….. Holistic
Se Fi …. Physical ……… Wide ……….. Holistic
Sensing and Thinking
Matrix | component | enhacement | connections
Si Te …. Physical ……… Local ……….. Linear
Se Ti …. Physical ……… Wide ……….. Linear
Intuition and Feeling
Matrix | component | enhacement | connections
Ni Fe …. Motion ……… Local ……….. Holistic
Ne Fi …. Motion ……… Wide ……….. Holistic
Intuition and Thinking
Matrix | component | enhacement | connections
Ni Te …. Motion ……… Local ……….. Linear
Ne Ti …. Motion ……… Wide ……….. Linear
Introverted Sensor They work on the specific and the detailed. Seek to be thoroughly aware of all facts before coming to decisions. Not open to new understandings, they are comfortable within tradition and the established. They enjoy being in control and well prepared for whatever life may bring.
Extraverted Sensor They are active and crave new experiences. In touch with the immediate physical reality, they enjoy a fast changing environment. Strongly materialistic, they require strong sensory experience.
Introverted Feeler Considerate, helpful and often introspective, they strive for a sense of harmony and well-being. With strong inner feelings, they are loyal and caring. They follow deep personal convictions rather than social values, making them appear somewhat original and unconventional.
Extraverted Feeler They expect cooperation and harmony within a particular institution. They follow well defined rules of conduct and respect the social hierarchy. They are loyal and may fight for a cause, but always within tradition and accepted norms.
Introverted Thinker Enjoy coming to new understandings, problem-solving and logic. Independent, skeptical and critical. Appear self-absorbed while they use step-by-step logic to discover the principles and connections that underlie the overall picture.
Extraverted Thinker They organize, dictate and control. Easily come to decisions as they set out logical plans of action, or impart rules and regulations. They may rise to a position of authority that allows them to maintain order and efficiency within a given organization.
Introverted Intuitive They are stimulated by problems and enjoy an intellectual challenge and coming to new understandings. They possess an abstract and analytical mind that helps them to discover the underlying principles behind a particular situation. Intensely individualistic, they can walk the road less travelled.
Extraverted Intuitive The most open-minded of the types, they are fascinated by the new. Impulsive, adventurous, and creative, their minds entertain future plans and new ideas. They do not live in the immediate physical reality, but in a world of relationships and possibilities. They abhor routine.
We do not experience reality directly. Instead, we interpret all incoming stimuli through a preexisting matrix which in turn generates our entire world view. Our personality is a set of traits necessary to maintain the integrity of this structure, and ultimately derives from the processes that form and elaborate our concept of reality.