In the 1920s, Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung identified four essential mental functions—today known as cognitive processes.

We focus our attention and gather information using Sensing (S) and iNtuiting (N), and we organize our experiences and make decisions using Thinking (T) and Feeling (F). These are technical terms. For example, “feeling” in this context does not mean emotion. It refers to decisions based in values.

Dr. Jung also described how each of these four processes plays out in a person’s “internal world” (I) of thoughts, feelings, memories and imagination; and in the “external world” (E) of actions, people, tools, and organizations. Thus, eight cognitive processes (Se, Si, Ne, Ni, Te, Ti, Fe, Fi).

Sources: The theory descriptions below are adapted from Linda V. Berens and Dario Nardi, Understanding Yourself and Others®: An Introduction to the Personality Type Code (Telos Publications, 2004) and used with permission.

Basic and Developed Use

Each cognitive process can be engaged in a basic, unsophisticated way reflecting our natural human capabilities. Almost everyone can engage each process in some basic way. Beyond this, you will engage some cognitive processes in a more sophisticated, developed way. This is usually the result of innate preference plus lifelong growth and practice, which equals development.

Perceiving—how we focus our attention and gather information

Cognitive Process Basic (Passive) Use Developed (Active) Use
extraverted Sensing (Se) Notice sensory data in the environment. Trust your instincts and take action relevant to the moment and current context.
introverted Sensing (Si) Recall tangible data and experiences. Stabilize a situation by comparing it to what is expected, known and reliable.
extraverted Intuiting (Ne) Notice abstract patterns as they emerge. Shift a situation's dynamics and explore imaginative potential possibilities.
introverted Intuiting (Ni) Receive "ah-ha" insights and realizations. Persue a greater level of awareness to transform who you are and how you think.

Judging—how we organize our experiences and make decisions

Cognitive Process Basic (Passive) Use Developed (Active) Use
extraverted Thinking (Te) Follow steps, points and time tables. Create structure, reason by measures and evidence, and implement complex plans.
introverted Thinking (Ti) Adhere to definitions and impersonal principles. Analyze a problem using a framework, and find an angle or leverage by which to solve it.
extraverted Feeling (Fe) Honor others' needs and preferences. Connect with people by sharing values and taking on their needs as yours.
introverted Feeling (Fi) Adhere to personal beliefs about what's important. Evalute situations and choose what you believe is congruent with your personal identity.

According to Jung, development is more than basic or developed use of processes in isolation. Excellent use of a cognitive process involves both basic and advanced use as appropriate, and ability to deploy other processes in its service. Average to good use usually means we can use the process in limited situations or use it well but only with the aid of other processes. Poor use means basic use at most. Finally, we may get ourselves into trouble when we don't use a process at all. Jung advocated that we can engage in activities that may help us develop; ultimately, however, development is driven by unconscious processes, the sum of which Jung referred to as a 9th cognitive process called the transcendant function.

Sixteen Thematic Patterns

Jung observed that everyone has potential access to all eight cognitive processes but that we each prefer one as dominant — playing a lead role — with a second process playing a support role. Your two preferred cognitive processes allow you to do information gathering and decision making, introverting and extraverting. Maybe you prefer introverted Intuiting in a lead role with extraverted Feeling in a support role (coded as Ni • Fe), or maybe you prefer extraverted Sensing in a lead role with introverted Thinking in a support role (coded as Se • Ti). Or maybe you prefer some other pairing. These pairings tap into sixteen possible thematic patterns that are often represented using a 4-letter code (such as "INFJ" or "ESTP". Here are the sixteen type patterns and the preferred cognitive processes associated with each.

Themes of the 16 Type Patterns


INFJ — Ni • Fe


INFP — Fi • Ne


ISTJ — Si • Te


ISFJ — Si • Fe

Personal growth. Sustain the vision. Honoring the gifts of others. Taking a creative approach to life. Talent for foreseeing. Exploring issues. Bridge differences and connect people. Practical problem solving. Live with a sense of purpose. Living an idealistic life often presents them with a great deal of stress and a need to withdraw.

Going with the flow. Knowing what is behind what is said. Uncovering mysteries. Exploring moral questions. Talent for facilitative listening. Relate through stories and metaphors. Balancing opposites. Getting reacquainted with themselves. Have a way of knowing what is believable. Struggling with structure and getting their lives in order.

Drawing up plans and being prepared. Take responsibility. Get work done first. Being active in the community. Loyalty to their roles. Cultivating good qualities. Doing the right thing. Bear life’s burdens and overcome adversity. Talented at planning, sequencing, and noticing what’s missing. Having to learn so much in hindsight is painful at times.

Noticing what’s needed and valuable. Talent for careful and supportive organization. Know the ins and outs. Enjoy traditions. Work to protect the future. Listening and remembering. Being nice and agreeable. Unselfish willingness to volunteer. Feeling a sense of accomplishment. Exasperated when people ignore rules and don’t get along.


ENFJ — Fe • Ni


ENFP — Ne • Fi


ESTJ — Te • Si


ESFJ — Fe • Si

Communicate and share values. Succeeding at relationships. Realizing dreams—their own and others. Seek opportunities to grow together. Heeding the call to a life work or mission. Enjoy the creative process. Intuitive intellect. Reconcile the past and the future. Talent for seeing potential in others. Often find living in the present difficult.

Inspiring and facilitating others. Exploring perceptions. Talent for seeing what’s not being said and voicing unspoken meanings. Seek to have ideal relationships. Recognize happiness. Living out stories. Want to authentically live with themselves. Respond to insights in the creative process. Finding the magical situation. Restless hunger for discovering their direction.

Talent for bringing order to chaotic situations. Educating themselves. Industrious, work-hard attitude. Balance work with play. Having a philosophy of life. Having the steps to success. Keeping up traditions. Being well balanced. Connecting their wealth of life experiences. Often disappointed when perfectionistic standards for economy and quality are not met.

Accepting and helping others. Managing people. Hearing people out. Voicing concerns and accommodating needs. Admire the success of others. Remember what’s important. Talented at providing others with what they need. Keep things pleasant. Maintaining a sense of continuity. Accounting for the costs. Often disappointed by entrepreneurial projects.


INTJ — Ni • Te


INTP — Ti • Ne


ISTP — Ti • Se


ISFP — Fi • Se

Maximizing achievements. Drive for self-mastery. Build a vision. Very long-range strategizing. Realizing progress toward goals. Systems thinking. Talent for seeing the reasons behind things. Being on the leading edge. Maintaining independence. Find it difficult to let go in interacting with others.

Becoming an expert. Seeing new patterns and elegant connections. Talent for design and redesign. Crossing the artificial boundaries of thought. Activate the imagination. Clarifying and defining. Making discoveries. Reflect on the process of thinking itself. Detach to analyze. Struggle with attending to the physical world.

Actively solving problems. Observing how things work. Talent for using tools for the best approach. Need to be independent. Act on their hunches or intuitions. Understanding a situation. Taking things apart. Making discoveries. Sharing those discoveries. Unsettled by powerful emotional experiences.

Taking advantage of opportunities. Stick with what’s important. Talent for pulling together what is just right. Creative problem solving. Building relationships. Attracting the loyalties of others. Being their own true self. Have their own personal style. Play against expectations. Struggle with nurturing their own self esteem.


ENTJ — Te • Ni


ENTP — Ne • Ti


ESTP — Se • Ti


ESFP — Se • Fi

Being a leader. Maximize talents. Marshal resources toward progress. Intuitive explorations. Forging partnerships. Mentoring and empowering. Talent for coordinating multiple projects. Balance peace and conflict. Predictive creativity. Often overwhelmed by managing all the details of time and resources.

Being inventive. Talented at building prototypes and getting projects launched. Lifelong learning. Enjoy the creative process. Share their insights about life’s possibilities. Strategically formulate success. An inviting host. Like the drama of the give and take. Trying to be diplomatic. Surprised when their strategizing of relationships becomes problematic.

Taking charge of situations. Tactical prioritizing. Talent for negotiating. Want a measure of their success. Keep their options open. Enjoy acting as a consultant. Winning people over. Caring for family and friends. Enjoy exhilaration at the edge. Disappointed when others don’t show respect.

Stimulating action. Have a sense of style. Talent for presenting things in a useful way. Natural actors—engaging others. Opening up people to possibilities. Respect for freedom. Taking risks. A love of learning, especially about people. Genuine caring. Sometimes misperceive others’ intentions.

Exploring the Eight Processes

You will find below in depth descriptions of the eight cognitive processes.

Se - Extroverted Sensing
Extraverted Sensing occurs when we become aware of what is in the physical world in rich detail. We may be drawn to act on what we experience to get an immediate result. We notice relevant facts and occurrences in a sea of data and experiences, learning all the facts we can about the immediate context or area of focus and what goes on in that context. An active seeking of more and more input to get the whole picture may occur until all sources of input have been exhausted or something else captures our attention. Extraverted Sensing is operating when we freely follow exciting physical impulses or instincts as they come up and enjoy the thrill of action in the present moment. A oneness with the physical world and a total absorption may exist as we move, touch, and sense what is around us. The process involves instantly reading cues to see how far we can go in a situation and still get the impact we want or respond to the situation with presence.

Si - Introverted Sensing
Introverted Sensing often involves storing data and information, then comparing and contrasting the current situation with similar ones. The immediate experience or words are instantly linked with the prior experiences, and we register a similarity or a difference—for example, noticing that some food doesn’t taste the same or is saltier than it usually is. Introverted Sensing is also operating when we see someone who reminds us of someone else. Sometimes a feeling associated with the recalled image comes into our awareness along with the information itself. Then the image can be so strong, our body responds as if reliving the experience. The process also involves reviewing the past to draw on the lessons of history, hindsight, and experience. With introverted Sensing, there is often great attention to detail and getting a clear picture of goals and objectives and what is to happen. There can be a oneness with ageless customs that help sustain civilization and culture and protect what is known and long-lasting, even while what is reliable changes.

Ne - Extroverted Intuiting
Extraverted iNtuiting involves noticing hidden meanings and interpreting them, often entertaining a wealth of possible interpretations from just one idea or interpreting what someone’s behavior really means. It also involves seeing things “as if,” with various possible representations of reality. Using this process, we can juggle many different ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and meanings in our mind at once with the possibility that they are all true. This is like weaving themes and threads together. We don’t know the weave until a thought thread appears or is drawn out in the interaction of thoughts, often brought in from other contexts. Thus a strategy or concept often emerges from the here-and-now interactions, not appearing as a whole beforehand. Using this process we can really appreciate brainstorming and trust what emerges, enjoying imaginative play with scenarios and combining possibilities, using a kind of cross-contextual thinking. Extraverted iNtuiting also can involve catalyzing people and extemporaneously shaping situations, spreading an atmosphere of change through emergent leadership.

Ni - Introverted Intuiting
Introverted iNtuiting involves synthesizing the seemingly paradoxical or contradictory, which takes understanding to a new level. Using this process, we can have moments when completely new, unimagined realizations come to us. A disengagement from interactions in the room occurs, followed by a sudden “Aha!” or “That’s it!” The sense of the future and the realizations that come from introverted iNtuiting have a sureness and an imperative quality that seem to demand action and help us stay focused on fulfilling our vision or dream of how things will be in the future. Using this process, we might rely on a focal device or symbolic action to predict, enlighten, or transform. We could find ourselves laying out how the future will unfold based on unseen trends and telling signs. This process can involve working out complex concepts or systems of thinking or conceiving of symbolic or novel ways to understand things that are universal. It can lead to creating transcendent experiences or solutions.

Te - Extroverted Thinking
Contingency planning, scheduling, and quantifying utilize the process of extraverted Thinking. Extraverted Thinking helps us organize our environment and ideas through charts, tables, graphs, flow charts, outlines, and so on. At its most sophisticated, this process is about organizing and monitoring people and things to work efficiently and productively. Empirical thinking is at the core of extraverted Thinking when we challenge someone’s ideas based on the logic of the facts in front of us or lay out reasonable explanations for decisions or conclusions made, often trying to establish order in someone else’s thought process. In written or verbal communication, extraverted Thinking helps us easily follow someone else’s logic, sequence, or organization. It also helps us notice when something is missing, like when someone says he or she is going to talk about four topics and talks about only three. In general, it allows us to compartmentalize many aspects of our lives so we can do what is necessary to accomplish our objectives.

Ti - Introverted Thinking
Introverted Thinking often involves finding just the right word to clearly express an idea concisely, crisply, and to the point. Using introverted Thinking is like having an internal sense of the essential qualities of something, noticing the fine distinctions that make it what it is and then naming it. It also involves an internal reasoning process of deriving subcategories of classes and sub-principles of general principles. These can then be used in problem solving, analysis, and refining of a product or an idea. This process is evidenced in behaviors like taking things or ideas apart to figure out how they work. The analysis involves looking at different sides of an issue and seeing where there is inconsistency. In so doing, we search for a “leverage point” that will fix problems with the least amount of effort or damage to the system. We engage in this process when we notice logical inconsistencies between statements and frameworks, using a model to evaluate the likely accuracy of what’s observed.

Fe - Extroverted Feeling
The process of extraverted Feeling often involves a desire to connect with (or disconnect from) others and is often evidenced by expressions of warmth (or displeasure) and self-disclosure. The “social graces,” such as being polite, being nice, being friendly, being considerate, and being appropriate, often revolve around the process of extraverted 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. Using this process, we respond according to expressed or even unexpressed wants and needs of others. We may ask people what they want or need or self-disclose to prompt them to talk more about themselves. This often sparks conversation and lets us know more about them so we can better adjust our behavior to them. Often with this process, we feel pulled to be responsible and take care of others’ feelings, sometimes to the point of not separating our feelings from theirs. We may recognize and adhere to shared values, feelings, and social norms to get along.

Fi - Introverted Feeling
It is often hard to assign words to the values used to make introverted Feeling judgments since they are often associated with images, feeling tones, and gut reactions more than words. As a cognitive process, it often serves as a filter for information that matches what is valued, wanted, or worth believing in. There can be a continual weighing of the situational worth or importance of everything and a patient balancing of the core issues of peace and conflict in life’s situations. We engage in the process of introverted Feeling when a value is compromised and we think, “Sometimes, some things just have to be said.” On the other hand, most of the time this process works “in private” and is expressed through actions. It helps us know when people are being fake or insincere or if they are basically good. It is like having an internal sense of the “essence” of a person or a project and reading fine distinctions among feeling tones.


Copyright Dario Nardi, 2007. Please contact dnardi [@] to use material on this site.