# Thread: Function theory

1. ## Function theory

Hello friends, colleges and complete strangers

I've been working on essay that describes how I understand function theory and I've decided to post it here to find out what other people think. Quite possibly you'll think it's incomprehinsible codswhollop - for one thing, it's a little different to what you'll read else where. Still, I hope enough people find it interesting or useful to justify the effort I've put into writing it.

It's fairly long, and will take up more than one post here. If anyone wants a continuous document containing this information, send me a private message with an email address and I'll send you one.

Finally, I'd like to thank Highlander for his assistance in editing the first draft. His comments helped me iron out some of the more arcane paragraphs. So without further rambling, here it is...

Urge Theory.

Introduction.

Jung’s work on cognitive functions has spawned many children - MBTI, socionics, and the broad range of ideas sometimes called function theory. It doesn’t seem to be a very happy family, though. While these theories often use similar terms, they can have different and sometimes contradictory meanings which leads to confusion for those new to the field. The internet exasperates this problem, presenting the reader with a huge number of information sources, some of them incomplete, many dubious and all of them pulling in their own direction.

Jung’s original work on the subject is perhaps responsible for a large amount of this befuddlement. The man himself seems to have never got his ideas straight enough to put down a consistent description - his book on the subject isn‘t exactly easy reading. The many offspring are various peoples attempts to fill in the gaps and round off the edges.

So what is “urge theory”? It’s one more attempt to finish what Jung started, of course. I could have just called this document “Function Theory”, but after some debating with myself, I decided to group my ideas under a single, unique heading rather than dumping them into the choppy seas of generic function theory. I did this for two reasons. First, while my ideas are drawn from function theory, they have diverged a long way from most of what I’ve seen written elsewhere and I feel they are now complete and self consistent enough to warrant a proper name. Second, it’s a way of separating what I’m about to write from the aforementioned internet sea of misunderstood tripe. With luck, the reader will digest the information here without too much ill chosen seasoning from outside sources. Of course, if you do find or invent some tasty ideas, feel free to sprinkle them on top and see what comes out. I just rather you finished digesting the ideas as presented before you start to turn them inside out.

2. Urge axes

Urge theory centres on motivations and how they interact and conflict with each other. Urge theory supposes the existence of two urge axis. These axis represent the “urge” to behave or think in a particular way. Whether this urge is conscious or unconscious doesn’t matter to this theory. It states only that the urge exists in some form. The two urge axis are the perceiving axis and the judging axis. Each of these axis has two extremes, one introverted, the other extroverted. Each axis forms a sliding scales. The more time a persons thoughts spend at one end of the scale, the less there can be at the other.

Sliding scale.jpg

The perceiving axis is to do with planning, exploring, experiencing and considering. At the extreme introverted perceiving end (often abbreviated to Pi) every action is planned out in advance, every experience or nugget of information analysed and assessed in exhausting details. Many things will be contemplated, but few will be deemed worthy of action.

Those at the extreme extroverted perceiving end (abbreviated to Pe) live in a world of immediate action. They live to experiment and explore as many options as possible, leading to a great deal of spontaneity. Many things will be experienced but most will be swift forgotten.

It is easy to see how these two urges conflict with each other. It is impossible to be both spontaneous and pre-planned at the same time, even if a skilled actor can create an illusion of impulsiveness on the stage. It’s just as difficult to throw oneself head first into life while simultaneously sitting on your ass in reflective thought. While it is possible to have a mix in some percentage, there can never be lots of both within the same person.

The judging axis concerns itself with priorities. Introverted judgment (Ji) is the urge to form opinions based upon ideas of worth and value, while extroverted judgement (Je) leans towards ideas of utilitarian need or practical opportunities. Like Pe, Je promotes action. In this case it is towards either fixing the observed problems or exploiting the opportunities available. Ji on the other hand is more restrained, with as much focus on what shouldn’t be done as what ought to be. Again, it can be seen how these two urges conflict with each other. It is hard to be absolutely pragmatic while seeking higher ideals.

Any given individual will stand somewhere on these two sliding scales, but what do the precise positions mean for their personality?

3. Urge order

In order to create a balanced mind, it advantageous to have one axis tilted towards the extroverted end and the other to favour introversion. Why? First, let us consider an individual who stands balanced upon both axes. What would such a person look like? Well, a bit confused, because they have no preferences, which makes any decision hard to make. Not only don’t they know what they want, they aren’t sure what they don’t wish for either.

Having a preferences makes gaining a sense of direction in life much simpler. At some point in their existence the vast majority of people, perhaps even everyone, will choose one. This is the dominant axis and the favoured end the dominant urge.

The other axis is called the secondary axis. Now, what would happen if the dominant and secondary axes shared the same introversion/extroversion preference? Well, lets consider a double extroversion. This produces a huge urge towards action, but very little time for thinking. Such an individual can bear a certain resembles to an insect butting it’s head against a window because they never pause to consider what they are doing or why it’s so important.

So what about a double introversion? That gives the opposite problem - all thought, no movement, leaving them unable to cope with what the world throws at them. They won’t self-destruct as readily as the double extroversion, but they will be unable to stop their world rotting around them.

Neither state is very desirable. Whether the dominant urge is introverted or extroverted a secondary urge is needed to counterbalance it. This can only be provided the secondary axis, as the unfavoured end of the dominant axis is suppressed by the dominant urge.

This need for counterbalance makes having the secondary urge in balance unfavourable as well, as being balanced means it has no overall introversion/extroversion direction to counteract that of the primary urge.

These considerations lead to something called the urge order:

Dominant urge

Secondary urge

Tertiary urge

Inferior urge

The alternating italics indicate the alternating introversion/extroversion direction, whichever way round the dominant function may be. The tertiary urge is the unfavoured end of the secondary axis, while the inferior is the opposite end urge to the dominant urge.

There are a few important things to note about the urges and urge order. First, the urges are about desires, not just results. A strong Pe creates the urge to explore even if circumstances mean the person cannot follow up on them. It’s still the dominant urge. Second, the urge order is more to do with what creates stability than what is seen within an individual. Double introversions/extroversions do exist, but we’ll cover that more later.

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Urge Expression

The Urges manifest themselves through expressions. In essence, an express is a way of satisfying a urge and helps differentiates one individual with a dominant urge from all the other people with the same dominant urge.

For example, supporting the building of a new road because you believe that it will bring in new business is an express of Je. Opposing it because you think it will take business away from somewhere else is also Je. The fact that these two thoughts lead to opposing opinions doesn’t change the fact that both are valid expressions of Je.

Perhaps the most important thing to understand about urge theory is its limitations. Knowing a persons urge order is not enough in and of itself to be able to predict how those urges will be expressed. All urge theory can do on its own is predict the general type of things that might be of interest. If you want to fill in that gap then the only way to do it is to know something about the persons broader personality. Please, don’t try to use urge theory as a tool for social prejudice.

If a large scale survey was undertaken, the results would show that people with certain dominant urges are more likely to show some opinions than others - a reflection of social trends and cultural beliefs. However, the results are still just statistics, not absolutes. If monitored for long enough, they would shift and change with the passing of generations and major world events as cultural norms evolve over time. For example, the majority opinion amongst dominant Ji types today may be that public execution is disgusting and immoral. Back in the days of the Roman empire, they might have said the gladiatorial arena gave the condemned one last chance to redeem themselves by dying with courage before they meet the gods. Even at a single instant in time, different populations around the world will show different beliefs associated with the various functions.

4. Urge interaction

Aside from considering the introversion/extroversion balance, we have so far looked at the urges in isolation. That is an artifice to make approaching the theory easier. In reality an urge never acts alone. For example, the extroverted urges are always guided by the introverted ones to some degree.

This has to be the case. Dominant Pe gives the urge to explore and experiment, but with what? Pure perceiving makes no value judgements, so all things are equal until you add a little squirt from judgement. The two combine and help determine the actual expression. Indeed, most expression involve multiple urges.

Urge interactions provides a second way of seeing how the urge order is formed. Pe is supported by Ji because this is the judging urge which mixes with it the easiest. The drives of Pe are not created by any pragmatic need and therefore are difficult to judge in that Je context. How can an action be said to have succeeded or failed when there was no well defined objective point to it to begin with? Instead, it is much easier to assess it from a Ji stand point - did the experience have any subjective worth to it? Was it pleasurable or perhaps admirable? Does the person feel like they have grown as a result? Ji provides the urge to consider such questions.

Pi underlies Je because it provides the urge to stop and consider how things work and fit together. Without that, how does a person determine what is of pragmatic importance?

5. Cognitive functions

The urges provide a good overview of the theory, but each of the axes can be subdivided to provide more insight. The Pe axis can be split into extroverted sensing (Se), extroverted intuition (Ne), introverted sensing (Si) and introverted intuition (Ni). These subdivisions are called cognitive functions (or just functions for short) and the above notes on urge expressions applies in full to function expressions as well.

Urge splitting.jpg

The two variants at the extroverted end indicate whether the persons Pe urge is based more in physical reality (Se) or representation (Ne). For a Ne types the Pe urge to explore and experiment is inspired more by what associations a potential idea conjures up than the action itself. This can often express itself as patriotism, historical links, a social movement, or the physical expression of some idea.

Se types are much more influenced by what is fundamentally there. This can mean anything from the thrill of proving ones mettle against adversity, the joy of creating a piece of art, or the pleasure of making a new friend. It is a common mistake to assume that because this function is known as extroverted sensing it must deal with direct sensory experience, but this isn’t necessarily the case. While a new taste can be interesting to an Se type, the word sensing is used more to imply concrete or fundamental. What is directly there to experience, rather than its associations. Another misconception about Se is that it is simplistic. This can be true, especially for those with low order Pe, but it also has the potential for a sort of purity of purpose, unsullied by delusions or pompous ideas.

At the other end of the perceiving urge we have Ni and Si which reflect different aspects of Pi. Introverted sensing concerns itself more with certainty, both when considering what is understood and when planning ahead. An idea or fact may be known, but how reliable is it? Many things may be possible, but which is most probable? A dozen courses of action may be open, but which is most likely to succeed? This is preference can often make strong Si types somewhat cautious, potentially both in actions and what they take for granted.

It is often stated that strong Si types are unimaginative. This isn’t necessarily so - functions do not dictate abilities. A primary Si doesn’t restrict a person flights of fancy, but it does shape their decisions. If it strikes them that an obscure, Machiavellian scheme others the best chance of success, they will go with it. In most situations though, the slow and steady path will be favoured.

Introverted intuition focuses more on possibilities/potentiality. This can be assessing what might happened or what could be done. This may result in the person having an idea of which outcome is most likely, but certainty is less important to Ni types than the Si dominated. This makes them more willing to take risks when they can see something to be gained.

This interest in potentiality extends to ideas and facts as well. An idea that is wrong can still be interesting if it sparks off other ideas or if it can be altered to become useful.

6. Just as not every combination of urges produces balance, only certain arrangements of functions are stable. If Ne is selected as the primary urge than Si is always the inferior, not Ni. This is because it is easier to mix Ne and Si than Ne and Ni. Ne is fuelled by concepts and ideas, but so is Ni. This puts the two functions in competition with each other as one is part of the Pe urge and the other Pi. A stimulus may lead to a person adopting either an Ne desires or an Ni desires, but not both at the same time. If Ne is primary than being presented with a fresh idea will trigger an Ne response much more readily than an Ni one because the attraction of the primary urge is always strongest. This makes maintaining an Ni mindset difficult as the natural flow of the persons mind is away from it.

Exculsion.jpg

The solid realities and certainties that Si is drawn to do not trigger Ne, allowing Si to work underneath Ne much more effectively.

Inclusion.jpg

Similarly, when Si is the lead function, the fundamentals that interest Se trigger an Si response, leading the persons thoughts back into the circle of the primary function. Ne doesn’t suffer from this problem.

Arguments like this can be constructed for all the arrangements of the perceiving functions. The resulting function pairs can be summarised as follows:

Se-Ni or Ni-Se
Si-Ne or Ne-Si

The judging axis can also be split into four separate parts - extroverted thinking (Te), extroverted feeling (Fe), introverted thinking (Ti) and introverted feeling (Fi). All of these functions deal with deciding what is important, but do so in different ways.

Urge splitting 2.jpg

Extroverted thinking is the urge to decide what maters in technical, logistical and practical term. This can be expressed as concern for monetary issues, the provision of food, the application of engineering principals and so on.

Extroverted feeling is the urge to decide what maters in terms of social, moral or emotional necessity. Common expressions include concern for education, social welfare, the moral foundations of a stable society, and provision of care for the elderly.

Introverted thinking is the urge to form opinions based around ideas of technical worth. This can mean scientific and philosophical interest, the perfect round house kick or a flawless game of golf. While Ti and Te can sometimes lead to the same subject, they remain distinct. Te is looking for practical application, while a strong Ti type will happily study something for it’s own sake because they feel the subject has qualities that make it worth while.

Introverted feeling is the urge to form opinions based around ideas of social, moral or emotional worth. This can be expressed as a deep belief in what is right or wrong, an interest in artistic expression, or even an ear for gossip.

Music and art is an area were Ti and Fi can often overlap, as it has both technical and emotional aspects. A dominant Ti or Fi type may appreciate both aspects, but will ultimately tend to lean more towards the appropriate side.

As with the perceiving functions, the judging functions form pairs as follows

Fe-Ti or Ti-Fe
Te-Fi or Fi-Te

The reasons for this are fundamentally the same as for the perceiving functions - functions too similar to the primary throw the person back into the thought patterns of the primary.

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As discussed in the previous section, acceptance of some functions cause other to become incompatible. These incompatible functions are called shadow functions, while the others are the selected functions. Just as the selected function have a higherarchy, so do the shadow functions.

The exclusion of the shadow functions is usually necessary for mental balance - they get in the way of the selected functions that balance the various desires. How thoroughly they are rejected depends upon how developed a particular urge is. For example, a person with primary Se is most comfortable with their Pe urge, thus it is easiest for them to separate their Se and Ne from each other. As you travel down the urge order, the person becomes less familiar with their own desires. In the inferior urge of Pi; Si and Ni are less distinct from each other.

This confusion between the selected and shadow function in the lower urges can send a person down what amounts to a psychological dead-end. Their similarity to the selected function of a higher urge can make them feel more attractive, but that same similarity makes them unsustainable. Because the shadow function eventually throws the person back into the higher urges it makes it harder for a person to explore their own lower urges. This is unfortunate because sooner or later all the urges are expressed in some manner. The less familiar a person is with an urge, the more likely that urge is to be expressed in an ugly or otherwise unfortunate way.

7. The cognitive types

The rules that govern function selection allow for 16 different patterns. The pattern that a given person possess is often called their type. There already exists short hand codes for each of the types, such as the 4 letter types used in MBTI and (sometimes) socionic. I’m going to use a four letter code as well, but a slightly different one. I promise I’m not doing it just to contrary - there is a reason.

Most of the people reading this will probably be familiar with the 4 letter codes I mentioned for MBTI. They always end with either a P or a J to indicate whether the first extroverted function is perceiving or judging. Unfortunately, they also carry a lot of other interpretations that have no place in urge theory. I’d rather just drop them and save a lot of confusion.

Instead, my four letter code is just the primary and secondary functions, such as TiSe, or FeNi. Arranged by dominant urge, the 16 types are:

Ji: FiSe, FiNe, TiSe, TiNe
Je: FeSi, FeNi, TeSi, TeNe
Pi: SiFe, SiTe, NiFe, NiTe
Pe: SeFi, SeTi, NeFi, NeTi

Function preference and common patterns

Once the first two functions have been selected they determine the role required by all the others to achieve balance. However, this doesn’t mean that all the mental tumblers immediately and fall into place without effort. Which is a pity. Life would be a lot easier if it did.

Function preference is how often a function is expressed, regardless of what form it takes. It can vary substantially from one member of a type to the next and once again urge theory on its own cannot predict the function preference of an individual just by knowing their type.

That said, there are some patterns that are common enough to deserve special mention. One of these is called the tertiary temptation (an idea created by Lenore Thompson), where the tertiary function is expressed in preference to the secondary function. This creates a double introversion/extroversion with all the associated problem that were discussed earlier.

Why does this happen? Good question… One idea is that the tertiary function takes less mental effort than the secondary function because it allows a person to maintain their preferred introversion/extroversion direction. It rolls with the primaries momentum (or inertia for a introverted function) rather than forcing a change of mental gears. If so, than the tertiary temptation could be seen as a form of mental laziness, weak self-control, impatiens, or perhaps a lack of willpower, courage or conviction. The tertiary temptation can also be linked to depression. In extroverts the constant action wards of unwelcome though, while a double introversion leaves the sufferer trapped inside their own heads, unable to find anything that seems worth while.

In the tertiary temptation, it tends to be the weaker tertiary function that is at the heart of a poor expression. For example, a TiNe may be forced into paralysis by an Si driven doubt as to whether they can ever know enough to be certain. Another expression may be an inability to accept that there is no good answer to a given situation, causing them to analyse it over and over again looking for a satisfactory solution that doesn’t exist. This second example has a more even stress on both functions.

Another frequent pattern is called inferior backlash and it is caused by suppression of the inferior function. All the urges have to be expressed at some point, but because the inferior is under the thumb of the dominant function it doesn’t get out much. Imprisoned, the urge grows over time until it finds an escape route and when it does it is often as a sudden and strong expression. This gives the inferior a jerky, all or nothing character that can be surprising or even alarming to view. When the inferior is extroverted this often gives sporadic, uncontrolled activities. When it is introverted, it is most often seen as a strongly held view that is never questioned.

While strong, the expression of the inferior backlash tends to be basic and rather one dimensional. Viewed from the outside, it can seem simplistic, childish or even stiflingly restrictive.

Inferior backlash probably stems from a lack of self-awareness, or a persons inability to accept themselves for what they are.

An individual who suppresses the inferior urge often justifies it to themselves using other low order functions. For example, introverted perceivers can sometime adopt a rather puritanical outlook by rationalising their rejection of Pe through Fi, casting most Pe activities as immoral.

8. And so it ends…
Traditionally, this sort of essay ends with a big long list of type descriptions, but I have decided not to. It would run counter to one of the most important things I’ve been trying to say - knowing a persons type isn’t enough to predict their function expressions. While it is possible to list variations, no one type description can contain all the myriad ways the functions can mingle to produce expressions - some of which I‘ve never seen or even thought of. Besides, while it is possible to spoon feed knowledge that way, it’s not a very effective method of teaching understanding and I feel that’s a very important thing. Typology without understanding has an unfortunate tendency to degenerate into an excuse for social prejudice and elitism based upon the most ethereal of foundations. So instead, I’m going to end it here and hope that I’ve written this clearly enough that you can start to work out the rest for yourselves. That’s the fun bit anyway.

------

And that's the end of that. Fire away. Hopefully, I'll be back soon to see what people have to say...

9. Originally Posted by Andy
Urge order

In order to create a balanced mind, it advantageous to have one axis tilted towards the extroverted end and the other to favour introversion. Why? First, let us consider an individual who stands balanced upon both axes. What would such a person look like? Well, a bit confused, because they have no preferences, which makes any decision hard to make. Not only don’t they know what they want, they aren’t sure what they don’t wish for either.

Having a preferences makes gaining a sense of direction in life much simpler. At some point in their existence the vast majority of people, perhaps even everyone, will choose one. This is the dominant axis and the favoured end the dominant urge.

The other axis is called the secondary axis. Now, what would happen if the dominant and secondary axes shared the same introversion/extroversion preference? Well, lets consider a double extroversion. This produces a huge urge towards action, but very little time for thinking. Such an individual can bear a certain resembles to an insect butting it’s head against a window because they never pause to consider what they are doing or why it’s so important.

So what about a double introversion? That gives the opposite problem - all thought, no movement, leaving them unable to cope with what the world throws at them. They won’t self-destruct as readily as the double extroversion, but they will be unable to stop their world rotting around them.

Neither state is very desirable. Whether the dominant urge is introverted or extroverted a secondary urge is needed to counterbalance it. This can only be provided the secondary axis, as the unfavoured end of the dominant axis is suppressed by the dominant urge.

This need for counterbalance makes having the secondary urge in balance unfavourable as well, as being balanced means it has no overall introversion/extroversion direction to counteract that of the primary urge.

These considerations lead to something called the urge order:

Dominant urge

Secondary urge

Tertiary urge

Inferior urge

The alternating italics indicate the alternating introversion/extroversion direction, whichever way round the dominant function may be. The tertiary urge is the unfavoured end of the secondary axis, while the inferior is the opposite end urge to the dominant urge.

There are a few important things to note about the urges and urge order. First, the urges are about desires, not just results. A strong Pe creates the urge to explore even if circumstances mean the person cannot follow up on them. It’s still the dominant urge. Second, the urge order is more to do with what creates stability than what is seen within an individual. Double introversions/extroversions do exist, but we’ll cover that more later.

- - - Updated - - -

Urge Expression

The Urges manifest themselves through expressions. In essence, an express is a way of satisfying a urge and helps differentiates one individual with a dominant urge from all the other people with the same dominant urge.

For example, supporting the building of a new road because you believe that it will bring in new business is an express of Je. Opposing it because you think it will take business away from somewhere else is also Je. The fact that these two thoughts lead to opposing opinions doesn’t change the fact that both are valid expressions of Je.

Perhaps the most important thing to understand about urge theory is its limitations. Knowing a persons urge order is not enough in and of itself to be able to predict how those urges will be expressed. All urge theory can do on its own is predict the general type of things that might be of interest. If you want to fill in that gap then the only way to do it is to know something about the persons broader personality. Please, don’t try to use urge theory as a tool for social prejudice.

If a large scale survey was undertaken, the results would show that people with certain dominant urges are more likely to show some opinions than others - a reflection of social trends and cultural beliefs. However, the results are still just statistics, not absolutes. If monitored for long enough, they would shift and change with the passing of generations and major world events as cultural norms evolve over time. For example, the majority opinion amongst dominant Ji types today may be that public execution is disgusting and immoral. Back in the days of the Roman empire, they might have said the gladiatorial arena gave the condemned one last chance to redeem themselves by dying with courage before they meet the gods. Even at a single instant in time, different populations around the world will show different beliefs associated with the various functions.
I think that the extraverted function is the layer of information that we most pay attention to and internalize. Once internalized, it is interpreted thru our introverted function and then something else is expressed thru the extraverted function into the external environment based on the internal interpretation.

I also think that our perceiving functions regardless of direction served as autopilot programming while we were infants and compelled us to interact with the external world so as to learn about it and mentally grow in the process, forming our personality.

Edit: I think they helped us to develop and grow in size our judging functions, and also developed themselves in the process.

10. Originally Posted by yeghor
I think that the extraverted function is the layer of information that we most pay attention to and internalize. Once internalized, it is interpreted thru our introverted function and then something else is expressed thru the extraverted function into the external environment based on the internal interpretation.

I also think that our perceiving functions regardless of direction served as autopilot programming while we were infants and compelled us to interact with the external world so as to learn about it and mentally grow in the process, forming our personality.

Edit: I think they helped us to develop and grow in size our judging functions, and also developed themselves in the process.
I've never tried to explain at what point in life a persons type becomes set - I'm not sure for one thing! What you are describing isn't really compatibly with my ideas because it doesn't match up with the fundamental way I defined the functions... However, that doesn't mean they're necessarily wrong. Within your idea, how does this internalisation process produce type and function order - assuming you believe in such things!

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