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The Attitudinal Functions (Part 1)


New member
Jun 16, 2014
In a previous post, I wrote about how extroversion and introversion can serve as organizing principles for typology. This idea is lifted mostly as is from Michael Pierce’s work in Motes and Beams, with my main contribution being the decision to explicitly use the terms extroversion and introversion for everything, rather than Michael's terms for the dichotomies (denotative vs connotative) and the function axes (contextual vs universal).

The attitudinal functions, as I call them — Pi, Pe, Ji, Je — are not my original contributions to typology, but I do have a lot more original things to say about these functions. As a Pi dom myself, I have the most to say about the perception functions, but I will try to offer valuable insight for the EJ’s and IP’s.

Extroverted Perception
Between perception and judgement, perception is the more extroverted of the pair, focused on the observables of reality, the things that can only be found by way of experience, not deduction. Description, rather than prescription. It is about the bare bone facts of reality; e.g. the fact that the moon exists, fire is hot, and the atomic weight of Hydrogen is 1.00784 u. It is contextual where judgement is universal and within perception, extroverted perception is its most contextual form.

Pe represents the immersion of oneself in a specific, local context. Whether it's Se or Ne, Pe-doms feel most alive when they're in the moment, responding to a constantly shifting situation. As a result, they value swift responses to stimuli. Other types can often seem painfully slow to them when it comes to comprehending and reacting to new and emerging events. Of all the types, they are the most naturally skilled at improvisation — quickly and accurately surveying a situation in order to solve problems, exploit opportunities, and enjoy oneself with only the immediate materials at hand, whether they are physical in the case of Se or conceptual in Ne's case. They try their hardest to not allow preconceptions or apprehensions to stop them from exploring the big, wide-open world.

For all their skill at improvisation though, EP's preoccupation with the current context means that they can fail to account for the unforeseen consequences of their actions. In other words, Pe is prone to recklessness; it often struggles to reign in its impulses and actually stick to "the script" (i.e. introverted perception). Reality always seems to bait them with promising opportunities and treasures that the Pe type would be a fool to pass up. Because of this, they flit from tree to tree, gathering all the low-hanging fruit in sight, and leaving the “high-hanging” fruit for introverted perception.

Introverted Perception
Most of us have probably experienced the phenomenon where the unfamiliar interior of new workplace or school slowly becomes familiar. After months of walking the same halls, our impression of the place changes. Looking down that hallway feels different, even though nothing about it has actually changed, because now we know what's down there. Now we have a mental model of the building that filters and biases our experience of it. This is the motion from extroverted to introverted perception and for Pe types, it is their cue to move on to greener pastures. For the IJ's, though, this is when things are just getting started.

Pi represents the distillation of perceptions into denser and denser concentrates in order to focus on the aspects of these perceptions that hold across contexts. Pi perceptions are “taken out of context”, as it were, and this allows them to be called on to provide both foresight and insight. Pi types are like farmers, tending to a field of either Ni or Si. And like a farmer, they tend to develop a feel for how things usually go, allowing them to, from only the clouds in the sky, predict the weather a week from now. They have a keen eye for progressions, for scripts, tropes, or archetypes — in a sense, the genre conventions of reality.

Introverted perception is deliberating — engaging in careful consideration and reflection on all the variables at play and the potential consequences of any particular action. Pi waits for the dust to settle and studies the resulting patterns, whether they are abstract (Ni) or concrete (Si). They prefer to wait and see, rather than actively participate in a given context, because then they would disturb the delicate trace of the archetypes and cloud their surroundings into obscurity.

This is where they can get into conflict with the EP’s, whose reckless improvisation kicks up great clouds of Se and Ne dust that blind the Pi user. Recklessness is the cardinal sin for introverted perception — to heedlessly plunge into a situation without a plan, without forethought, without considering the consequences, is seen as childish at best and outright dangerous at worst.

Of course, extroverted perception could just as easily accuse Pi of failing to truly explore the world. There are things in this world that can only be understood by interacting with them. That word implies a reciprocal call and response, a back and forth between the involved parties, something that introverted perception is loath to participate in. IJ's often have a difficult time deviating from their scripts and truly improvising, either in the physical or conceptual sense. As a result, they are prone to stagnation, where insight becomes presumption, foresight prejudice. To extroverted perception, stagnation is the enemy and Pi types are its most frequent victims.

To put the ethos of these two perspectives into words, Pi says "If I've seen it once, I've seen it a thousand times. I know how these things go" and Pe counters "You can’t say that. You never know, this time might be different."

These poles represent the dynamic between novelty vs familiarity. The main distinguisher between the two is their perceptual framerate. Pe is constantly sampling concrete or conceptual reality and adjusting course in response, while Pi is much slower to respond to perceptual feedback, instead relying on a conceptual or concrete map. Extroverted perception gathers the raw data that introverted perception distills into insight, which then guides future extroverted perceptions.
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