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Thread: What is the role of functions?

  1. #1
    Senior Member Array
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    Aug 2007

    Default What is the role of functions?

    What is the role of the cognitive processes or functions in the MBTI theory? What do you personally think? There was a debate concerning this in another thread. Someone said that Ts can't be ethical and caring without developping their F functions and, obviously correspondingly, Fs can't be logical without developping their T functions.

    Hmm. I was an F already as a child but still I have had to develop my empathetic, ethical side. I think it's a human responsibility, not a task made for especially Ts. I have never felt that thinking logically is any more "uncomfortable" or "unnatural" for me than caring for others, searching for my values, etc. I think I have always felt that I need balance.

    The same thing with introversion vs extraversion-- I do think that I'm an introvert because I am more introverted than most people seem to be, but it doesn't mean that spending time with other people is somehow "unnatural" or "uncomfortable" for me. No, I'm very social and I need other people. I just don't need social settings the same way as extroverts seem to need them. But it doesn't mean that I have to go to an "uncomfortable" zone when interacting with people. I, as a human being, need interaction! I even get energised from interaction if I've been alone for too long! But then, when I spend too much time with people, I lose balance again and need time alone. And then I get energised by being alone.

    So, I've never really even understood the introvert/extrovert thing, because it totally depends on the balance wether I feel drained or energised by people. If I've spent too days all by myself, I'm energised by interaction, but if I've spent two days with people, I feel drained by interaction.

    And in the same way I need both intuition and sensing, both thinking and feeling, both judging and perception.

    What bothers me about the MBTI theory, the way I have understood it, is that it is often said that the functions that are not our dominant functions are somehow "uncomfortable" or "unnatural" for us and that we need to "develop" especially those functions. I think it would be uncomfortable to live with just one or two functions! Balance and variety is what's natural and comfortable. And secondly, even if my dominant function is Fi, I don't feel that I don't have to develop my feeling side at all! I want and need to develop that function, too, even if it's my most dominant function. I need to develop my sense of what is good and how to feel what other people feel etc. There's a danger that I think I'm so "good" at it that I don't have to develop it just because it's my dominant function.

    I guess what I'm saying is that some over-simplifying expressions in the MBTI world bother me.

    Any thoughts?

  2. #2
    Supreme High Commander Array Andy's Avatar
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    Nov 2009


    The order in which the functions appear isn't so much an order of prefference of use so much as it is an order of concious use. The primary and auxilary functions are the ones we use most when deliberately making a decision, but all of them are present and operating to some degree in everyone. To start with, the inferior is bearly concious at all.

    As we get older, we become more aware of the tertiary and inferior functions, and utilise their ways of thinking more deliberately, providing new insights.

    I'll give an example from my own life totry and illustrate what I mean. As an INTJ I have tertiary Fi. I have always been more interested in why people do things, rather than just what they do. That is, I wanted to see inside their heads and understand the emotions and thoughts going on in there. There outwards social behaviours were of less concern to me. Fi showed itself in other ways too. My moral ideas (when I bothered to think about such things) were my own. Fi was also the function that helped be decide what I wanted to do with my life, even if it was Ni and Te that told me what I could do with myself.

    However, as a young man, none of these were things that I thought about much - it was just the way I behaved. When considering my options, I'd draw up a list of options using Ni, strike off the impossible or impracticle with Te, then pick one. And in that final choice it was Fi calling the shots, telling me which I liked the best, which would make me happiest - though it almost felt like an after thought at the time.

    As I got older, Fi became more prominent in my thinking. Sometimes my thoughts would start of as "I want..." before Ni and Te kicked in to find a way to sat isfy that want. Does this make any sense to you?

  3. #3


    The functions act as little more than arbitrary containers describing generalised personality traits. Rather than tools that have to be used, think of them as perspectives; they're ways of perceiving and reasoning with the world. Depending on which type you are, you "shift" between them depending on what circumstance is dictating.

    The Dominant Function is described as the ego - it's the foundation for how you think, perceive and behave. Because you're so used to it, you might not even notice the compulsions it drives you toward, or you might even assume that everyone thinks the same way. For example, INTPs have Dominant Introverted Thinking, which causes them to approach life as a puzzle waiting to be solved and understood (even if they don't realise it!).

    The Inferior Function is the opposite - it stands against the ego, and as a result you either "aspire" to it or you demonize it. It doesn't come naturally, but the drive to "experience" it is definately there. For example, INTPs have Inferior Extraverted Feeling; they might think they don't need to involve themselves with the lives of others (or may hesitate from doing so), while paradoxically having a deep-seeded desire to do just that. Because it stands against the ego, it's the toughest function to embrace.

    The Auxillary Function acts as a counter-balance to the dominant function's orientation. It's a way for extraverts to cultivate a sense of personal identity, and a way for introverts to negotiate and deal with the outer world. For example, INTPs have Auxillary Extraverted Intuition, which allows them to spot interesting or unseen connections through context.

    The Tertiary Function acts as an ego-placater, and as a "home-base" that stands against the Auxillary Function. It feels natural, but because it acts as an "excuse" to ignore the Auxillary Function, it can seem childish and self-centered. For example, INTPs have Tertiary Introverted Sensing, which often results in nostalgic memories and hoarding otherwise useless objects that remind the INTP of past memories. INTPs can get "locked" into their Tertiary Function, which causes them to relive the past over and over without ever moving forward in the world.

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