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  1. #1
    somnium tenebris Powehi's Avatar
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    Default Categorical thinking and Jungian functions

    Human beings tend strongly towards categorical thinking whether in politics, sports, religion, music, personality analysis, etc. In our current "Age of Information" I can see the necessity of categories because computers require this approach to process and organize large amounts of information. On a personal level there are so many categories to which a person can belong. One can be a Baptist, Democrat, outdoorsman who loves country and rap, but really hates podiatrists, etc.

    Is it possible to think without any categories? Which MBTI/Jungian functions tend most towards organizing information in this manner? From what I understand Te has a strength in doing this and perhaps in conjunction with Si to maintain the current external categories? I'd be really curious to hear other ideas because my understanding of those functions might be limited and it may be possible for Ti and Fe to be contenders. Is it the judging functions? All or just certain ones? Could it include perceiving functions as well?

    I can respect the necessity of categorization and realize many benefits result from this, but for all the categories thrust upon each one of us throughout life, I find it to be completely at odds with how my brain works. I've moved away from most categories, but claim a couple in my profile for the practicality of interacting here, since typology is also based on that process. My brain fwiw works on continuums and perhaps clusters of concepts or concrete things that tend towards similarities much like moths clustering around a flame, but without any sense of actual boundary on those clusters. Drawing lines between concepts or people to specifically define and divide these is what I am understanding as category. Is it the Thinking functions?

    So the questions and discussion here are:
    1. Which functions think categorically?
    2. How do you personally think and relate to that style of cognition?

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  2. #2
    Member cameo's Avatar
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    Interesting topic. I don't think I'm well-versed enough in MBTI/Jungian typology to be able to describe how the interplay of the functions might lend some types to prefer categorical thinking over others, but I would say that I am a person who is inclined to use categories. As you touched on, I think the interplay of Si and Te (my dominant and auxiliary functions, respectively) is a big factor in my preference for categorical thinking. I would have a harder time articulating specifically how I use categories in my everyday thinking, though.

    I also think it's important to draw a distinction between ends and means here. That is to say I think that categories are more of an end and that structure is perhaps more of a means. So, ostensibly, one could think methodically or in a structured way and not necessarily conclude by placing things into hard and fast categories; alternatively, one could think in a more free-flowing or associative way and still end up placing things into categories, right? So I think that anyone's specific combination of means and ends (thought processes and conclusions) is probably influenced by type/function stack. But it is beyond my expertise to account for how. haha
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  3. #3
    somnium tenebris Powehi's Avatar
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    Excellent post, @cameo. I like the distinction you draw between using categories as the individual components for ideas which can be treated in a fluid or rigid manner and then the context of how those components are processed and interrelated.

    For the sake of discussion, I'll propose a theory people can reinforce or dispute.

    Perhaps it is the judging functions that work categorically with some preference towards the Thinking functions and towards the extroverted functions so that the order of functions most inclined to process information categorically would be: Te, Ti, Fe, and then Fi (which I have doubts about having a categorical nature)

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  4. #4
    Member cameo's Avatar
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    If I follow you, I think your theory probably has validity to it. I would agree in saying that judging functions are more prone to be categorical while the perceiving functions are less likely to be. Judging functions are what provide decision-making capabilities so it makes sense that they would, to varying degrees, depend on categories. I think your ranking of them makes sense as well because Fi still probably draws on categories to some extent to define what values are important and why, etc., though it is definitely less rigid than Te in that regard.
    So what if I don't have a lot to talk about?/
    I shut my mouth and keep it locked until it counts/
    And what if I don't ever want to leave my house?/
    Stay on the couch while all my friends are going out/
    I'll make the journey down the hall back to my room/
    And kill more time, and let it rot inside its tomb/
    See, I ain't one to climb some social ladder to/
    Some Shangri-La that all the cool kids will abuse/
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  5. #5
    Senior Member cascadeco's Avatar
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    I do agree that the judging functions are most tied to categorizing, though I am hesitant to say the external are more likely to categorize than the internal ones -- I think it's easy to most easily say Te and Fe are most categorical, simply because they are viewable and they ARE external -- so they are more action-oriented, and people can see them/their results directly. I'm not sure that means the internal ones are any less apt to categorize, though, or any less strong -- they just may not be as viewable, and their external counterparts are what brings them to life, so to speak. Maybe? Just a thought.

    I think I categorize all of the time (I mean, I for sure have personal likes and dislikes, quite subjective, also my own personal values and choices of what I want to do or not do); categories can provide a 'shorthand' for trends and probabilities. It doesn't mean a single data point will tie into any of them, though. Trends can be useful but I find it important not to rely on them too heavily. In a bind, though, like if I need to make a quick decision, it can be useful - kind of a best-guess scenario for reading a person or situation.

    Re thinking without categories, I'm sure it's possible, though it might mean one becomes fairly neutral in thought (which isn't a bad thing per se) and possibly lacking in action.
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  6. #6
    Member cameo's Avatar
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    I think that's a good point RE the extroverted functions simply being more visibly categorical. I also think it's probably pretty difficult to think coherently about a lot of things without the use of categories, but I'm obviously pretty biased in favor of categorical thinking because I do it. lol. Being less categorical is probably helpful in terms of trying to brainstorm or be innovative since that tends to be something I struggle with more. But mostly that's conjecture on my part.
    So what if I don't have a lot to talk about?/
    I shut my mouth and keep it locked until it counts/
    And what if I don't ever want to leave my house?/
    Stay on the couch while all my friends are going out/
    I'll make the journey down the hall back to my room/
    And kill more time, and let it rot inside its tomb/
    See, I ain't one to climb some social ladder to/
    Some Shangri-La that all the cool kids will abuse/
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  7. #7
    somnium tenebris Powehi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cascadeco View Post
    I do agree that the judging functions are most tied to categorizing, though I am hesitant to say the external are more likely to categorize than the internal ones -- I think it's easy to most easily say Te and Fe are most categorical, simply because they are viewable and they ARE external -- so they are more action-oriented, and people can see them/their results directly. I'm not sure that means the internal ones are any less apt to categorize, though, or any less strong -- they just may not be as viewable, and their external counterparts are what brings them to life, so to speak. Maybe? Just a thought.

    I think I categorize all of the time (I mean, I for sure have personal likes and dislikes, quite subjective, also my own personal values and choices of what I want to do or not do); categories can provide a 'shorthand' for trends and probabilities. It doesn't mean a single data point will tie into any of them, though. Trends can be useful but I find it important not to rely on them too heavily. In a bind, though, like if I need to make a quick decision, it can be useful - kind of a best-guess scenario for reading a person or situation.
    Excellent insight!

    Re thinking without categories, I'm sure it's possible, though it might mean one becomes fairly neutral in thought (which isn't a bad thing per se) and possibly lacking in action.
    That is how I would describe it largely for myself. I think in statistical probabilities, but can't identify with a political party, a religious orientation, musical trend, and even feel a relatively weak connection to identify as a particular MBTI type. Even back in graduate school I was labeled as being "uncomfortable talking about music", in part because I was shy, but also the intellectual systems were very concrete and categorical. For any given piece you would identify its stylistic category, the categories that influenced it, and the eventual categories it influenced. I observe and appreciate the necessity of category, but my own brain's tendency away from it can make me feel almost 'neuro-atypical'.

    It does help me be less judgmental overall, although I do have some core feelings and boundaries that when crossed do create clear boundaries of trust or distrust in others. Someone recently crossed an internal boundary and it surprised me how opinionated and certain my response was. It involved behaviors that I do classify as harmful, and even though the boundary crossing was not severe, it did fit a category that implies much more harmful results. That's the only thing that comes to my mind.

    I've also been wondering about the nature of Ni, and ironically enough, what my relationship is to the category I identify with as an INFJ. I can see Se and Ne tend to break down category by seeing connections between concepts or objects that others miss because they belong to different established categories. I can see the extroverted perceiving functions as a counterbalance to the judging functions as questioning connections and boundaries and finding new ones. If what you said about the introverted and extroverted functions being equivalent in terms of categorical thinking, then perhaps the introverted and extroverted perceiving functions could be equivalent? In that way could Ni and Si also break down categories just like Ne and Se do?

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  8. #8

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    It's quite difficult for me to not think in categories. I label everything. It keeps the world more organized and I can understand disparate things better.

    I think everyone uses categorical thinking. We need to. However, some need to less than others. I'd be surprised if there was a pattern to this in regards to the functions. I think it is more of a difference between the ways things are categorized.
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  9. #9
    somnium tenebris Powehi's Avatar
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    @Hard
    Human beings do all tend to create categories, but let me give you an example to show some issues with categorical boundaries instead of thinking with continuums.

    Most musical systems categorize pitches by separating, breaking up the continuum, and then labeling. Even though it is possible to find further relationships and categories between the pitches, it is an abstraction of reality. It overlays a constructed system onto nature. Pitch is a continuum. The same is true of color and the light spectrum. We have a concept of red and can place many things into the "red box", but the true concept of "red" is at a single point on the light spectrum and light rays to either side of that point approximate red to less and less a degree. Still, instead of seeing a color as 70% of the conceptual light wave "red", we take everything from 50% red on either side of that wavelength and define it wholly as "red". This is a lower resolution construct of reality and not actual reality.

    I believe that "categorical" definitions are actually conceptual points around which related data gathers to varying degrees, but that nothing perfectly fits any category. The more rigid the boundaries placed on the edge of the category, the more arbitrary and separate from reality the category becomes.

    Categorical thinking is not the only way to process information, and not everyone does it to equal degrees. You are a Judging dominant, so it fits with the expectations so far in this discussion that you would prefer categorical thinking over a N-dom or an S-dom. We do have a Si-dom who expressed a decided preference for it as well. I express a decided preference against it.

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  10. #10
    my floof is luxury Wind Up Rex's Avatar
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    As with most things, it comes down to what you're trying to accomplish with the information you're dealing with. Categories are just systems. I don't think anyone thinks in categories strictly for their own sake, even as Je doms. Categories are only useful to me as they pertain to something's functionality. If I'm trying to get X done, then it's useful to be able to discriminate between Y object that meets the necessary specifications needed to accomplish X vs Z object which might not.

    Absent that sense of direction, nuance becomes more meaningful. Interpersonal relationships illustrate this fairly well. People I care about have traits and qualities that put them in no other category but themselves. Or art that is particularly poignant, which is best just to be experienced rather than analyzed. Categories, like all models, are abstractions. They take you away from the reality of the thing in order to place them within the context of a larger system. Understanding how things can or might relate to other things just makes them easier to manipulate, but is obviously not that objects sole quality or value.
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