The 8 Cognitive Processes
An extension of the 16 Personality Types
By Andy Pan
Cracking the code
Once you have ascertained your best-fit personality type according to the MBTI, the next step to learning more about yourself is by finding out your unique cognitive process. The 4-letter type code that describes your core personality is actually hiding your dominant and auxiliary mental processes within it. These are mental patterns by which you exercise most often everyday. However, in order to discover what your cognitive processes are, you will have to “crack the code”. Come, let me show you and we shall discover the unique “YOU”.
In any 4-letter type code, the middle 2 letters represent, what is known, as the functional pair. This pair of letters essentially describes how we prefer to take in information from the outer world and how we make our decisions based on whatever information we have received. For example, an ENTP’s functional pair would be NT. This means that this is a person who experiences hunches and may tend to read “between the lines” in another person’s words. An NT would then make decisions via an analytical, logical approach but with “intuitive” information that supports a decision. It is through these letters that we can derive our cognitive processes, where every letter in the functional pair has an extraverted and introverted nature.
Look at the last letter of your 4-letter type code. If it is J, then this means that the T or F in the code is used in the external world. If it is P, then this means that the S or N in the code is used in the external world. For example, if your type code is ISTJ, you would exhibit extraverted thinking as a cognitive function.
So since one of the letters in the functional pair has been labeled, naturally the other letter would exhibit its introverted nature. In the ISTJ example, introverted sensing would be displayed along with the above-mentioned extraverted thinking. You can label both cognitive processes as Si and Te.
So between the two processes, which is dominant and which is auxiliary? Simple. If your 4-letter type code starts with an E, then your dominant process is the one with an extraverted nature. If your type code starts with an I, then your dominant process is the one with an introverted nature. In the example of an ISTJ, this means that an ISTJ leads with introverted sensing as his dominant process and is supported by extraverted thinking as his auxiliary process.
The 8 Cognitive Processes Elaborated
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.