Overview of Carl Jung's Functions
November 10, 2017 | By Auburn

Carl Jung

Carl Gustav Jung was one of the most influential psychoanalysts of the early 1900's who, among many other things, pioneered the study of types. In his work Psychological Types published in the 1920's, Jung first noted that despite the many differences individuals have which may be owed to environmental factors and tradition, certain qualities insisted in manifesting even from early childhood with no evidence suggesting a tie with child-rearing. As any parent will know, different children have different temperaments and these qualities follow them throughout their lives.

Jung considered the foremost of these distinctions between people to be that of introversion and extroversion; terms he first coined which have now become part of our daily vocabulary. But he also identified four more functions which he called "thinking vs feeling" and "sensation vs intuition", with each person also having a preference for one facet in each pair. Jung described these opposites at a variety of levels from the cognitive to the behavioral, cultural and societal. What follows are brief summaries of these mental functions from the cognitive and behavioral standpoints.


At the cognitive level, Jung defined introversion as a habitual mental orientation toward the subject and a devaluation of the object. It gives the subject a higher value and reality than the exterior, while the objective world is seen as "an outward token of a subjective content." For the introvert, the subjective idea is the real thing, while the externality is almost irrelevant. The introvert moves away from the object and towards his own psychological processes. He is "always intent on withdrawing libido from the object, as though he had to prevent the object from gaining power over him."

At the onset of an event or situation the introvert hesitates before the object in a very definite way. They will "at first draw back a little, as if with an unvoiced 'No' and only after that are able to react." They are - as a general rule -  reactive rather than active, and resist the force that the world threatens to have over them. And the world constellates itself in the mind of the introvert not as it may exist in reality, but through the individual's subjective disposition.


Alongside this technical description, Jung noted that a "style of behavior" followed from it which is where any meaning is given to this otherwise meaningless differentiation. The introvert, he said "can be well aware of external conditions, but is not motivated by them... In a large gathering he feels lonely and lost. The more crowded it is, the greater becomes his resistance. He is not in the least 'with it' and has no love of enthusiastic get-togethers. He is not a good mixer. What he does, he does in his own way, barricading himself against influences from outside."

"Everyone knows those reserved, inscrutable, rather shy people who form the strongest possible contrast to the open, sociable, jovial, or at least friendly and approachable characters who are on good terms with everyone, or quarrel with everybody, but always relate to them in some way and in turn are affected by them." The introvert interfaces little with people or physical objects/situations directly, but instead withholds himself from these things and formulates his opinions of them at a mental distance. He evaluates reality from a self-made reference frame, and so his ideas are often cryptic and far away from translation into the minds of others. He finds it difficult to communicate what he sees or believes, and when he tries his reasons will seem so unconscious and unfounded so as to invite all manner of suspicion and incredulity.

His own opinions, which are not dependent on the objective domain, are always given superiority in his mind. Rather than measure matters directly and extract from them their truth, his thoughts are formed retrospectively by how the objective realm resounds with him personally. He relies on what can be gleaned about the underlying reality sensed about these things, but which the objects only serve as outer shells or symbols of. Should the introvert ever produce translatable and longstanding works of any sort, it is only after years of painstaking revision and in the words of Jung: "his work goes slowly and with great difficulty."


The extroverted attitude is the opposite; associating itself with the object and affiliating thoughts, opinions and actions to what is outwardly apparent. As Jung noted: "just as it seems incomprehensible to the introvert that the object should always be the decisive factor, it remains an enigma to the extrovert how a subjective standpoint can be superior to the objective situation." His thoughts on the matter directly relate to the nature of what is happening here and now, or what is part of the larger world.

At the cognitive level, there exists in the extrovert a magnetic attraction to the objective which exerts a powerful influence over him and causes him to become divorced from himself. Compared to the introvert who hesitates before the object, when faced with a situation the extrovert will "come out with an immediate reaction, apparently quite confident that their behavior is self-evidently right." Extroversion is marked by an active, rather than reactive or passive disposition.


From a behavioral standpoint, the extrovert is able to exist in an engaged state with the situation. He is engrossed in his work, religion, family and social affairs - wherein happen all the important things for him, and where he finds sufficient play. He is gregarious, jovial, enthusiastic, productive, easily excited or easily irritated but always in some relationship to other things and people. "His interest and attention are directed to objective happenings, particularly those in his immediate environment. Not only people, but things rivet his attention. Accordingly, they also determine his actions, which are fully explicable on those grounds." His rationality and ethics are contingent on the visible conditions, thus the morality of the times will tend to become his morality as it "coincides with the demands of society." When the extrovert adjusts his opinion, it is always from a reconsideration of the changes that have taken place in reality.

But as Jung cautioned "it by no means follows that the objective situation is in all circumstances a normal one. It can quite well be temporarily or locally abnormal. An individual who adjusts himself to it is admittedly conforming to the style of his environment but together with his whole surroundings he is in an abnormal situation with respect to the universally valid laws of life. He may indeed thrive in such surroundings, but only up to the point where he and his milieu meet with disaster for transgressing these laws." The introvert, who resists the opinions of the times and formulates his own concepts independent of the reference frame,  is always prone to self-delusion. However, the extrovert is prone to be swept away by the current of the environment into incorrect views/acts by virtue of his adaptation.


Jung then introduced two other attitudes: the feeling attitude and the thinking attitude. Both of these he considered rational in nature, as they operate by judging the situation against formulations and principles; discriminating with reason and consistency. The feeling attitude judges based upon how a person is emotionally stricken by something - with affect being its primary criteria and means of decision. The feeling type is concerned with the assignment of value onto things and the protection of that value.

She will be guided by a moral code and direct her attention to such things as the love of one's neighbor, the salvation of mankind and towards the tending of the injured. She allows the emotional impact of situations to weigh over her and guide her inklings rather than relying on a purely heady analysis of a situation. This is not to suggest the feeling type never thinks, but her thoughts are never separated from their sentiments and instead arise out of a need to resolve sentimental dilemmas. For this individual, everything that fits with values "is good, and is loved, and everything else seems to her to exist in a world apart."


In terms of behavioral styles, the man who gives himself to feeling is prone to the highest compassion, tenderness and care. As Jung noted: "the positive support of social, philanthropic, and other such cultural institutions" owe their existence to feeling. If the man is also extroverted, his feeling is in harmony with all cultural values. Likewise, his sense of fashion/beauty is one shared by those around him and he enjoys and participates in social events - such as theatres, concerts and church - because he feels compelled into it by the shared collective sentiment. This man will seek to "create a pleasant feeling atmosphere, for which purpose everything must be felt as agreeable." He will withhold criticism for fear of offending, and will often be self-bound to "traditional and generally accepted standards."

When the subject is instead introverted, her "outward demeanor is harmonious, inconspicuous, giving an impression of pleasing repose" but she will be secretive and prone to melancholy. "Still waters run deep" is an apt description of such individuals. While prone to be affected intensely by things, she remains inaccessible and hard to understand. She will be sympathetic to others and listen but with "no desire to affect others, to impress, influence or change them in any way." In the worst scenario she may become moody and sullen; festering in her own feelings. And if she is extroverted, she is prone to aggression, accusation and hysteria.


The direct application of the thinking attitude is what Jung called the intellect. The thinking attitude is rational and is focused on objective facts, concepts and ideas - or equally towards a world of subjective ideas which nonetheless hold a personal consistency and mental rigor. Thinking's relationship to feeling is so antagonistic that it "totally shuts out feeling if ever it wants to reach any kind of pure results, for nothing is more liable to prejudice and falsify thinking than feeling values."

The thinking attitude excludes personal sentiment from the equation and, being a rational function, judges ideas based on a sort of intellectual sensibility. It is easiest to describe thinking when paired with extroversion, which together have given rise to much scientific and philosophical thought. As Jung made note: "Science is in all circumstances an affair of the intellect" and elsewhere that "all sciences have excluded the standpoint of both feeling and fantasy, and indeed it was absolutely necessary for them to do so."


The thinking type is generally seeking some intellectual formula to describe reality. And when he finds such a conceptualization, he may come to elevate the intellect so much that everything "that agrees with this formula is right, everything that contradicts it is wrong, and anything that passes by it indifferently is merely incidental." If he is extroverted, he will rely solely on the external facts or generally accepted ideas to judge the world with, seeing anything else as being beside the point. If he is not careful to intertwine his formula with a healthy sense of doubt, he may become intolerant of other opinions which depend on different reasoning - feeling that because of it's self-evident nature, his formula is the one we must obey.

If he is introverted he spends a great deal of time in his mind, following his ideas inward with great intensity. If he arrives through this at some principle or law, he struggles to articulate it to the world in a fashion which can be gracefully received by others. He is generally clumsy and inattentive to the social environment or its movements. By neglecting the feeling dimension of himself, he remains infantile and naive at heart. He thus opens himself up to exploitation and often does not register "when he is being plundered behind his back." But for all the ignorance he carries toward matters of feeling, the man of intellect nonetheless "never shrinks from thinking a thought because it might prove to be dangerous, subversive, heretical, or wounding to other people's feelings." He speaks what he believes to be true, given the facts or the conceptual framework that he has formulated in his mind.


Finally, Jung distinguished two last functions: sensation and intuition. Both of these refer to different methods of perception; the manner in which we incidentally absorb information about the world. Before thinking and feeling can make a distinction or judgment about a situation, information is presented to them which is provided by a perception function.

Sensation perceives the situation in its actuality through our sensory organs, while intuition perceives “in an unconscious way” what is not immediately present. Intuition sees not the actual but peers around and beyond it - tending to "read into" the situation with a sense of expectancy; with vision and penetration.

Intuition seeks to "discover what possibilities the objective situation holds in store." Or in different words it is "not concerned with the present but is rather a sixth's sense for hidden possibilities, and therefore should not allow itself to be unduly influenced by existing reality."


The intuitive type sees the relations between things, and is quick to draw associations between datasets that others may see as far divorced from each other. He has a keen nose for noticing emerging trends or anything new, and will generally feel suffocated by stable and unchanging conditions. Life, for the intuitive, must follow a vision and the pursuit of this sensed vision becomes a sort of morality for this type.

The intuitive attitude is in a constant dialogue with the potentiality of things, as mediated by the unconscious through the use of images. "These images have the value of specific insights which have a decisive influence on action whenever intuition is given priority." The intuitive is often particularly attuned to symbolism, metaphor, poetry and "mythological images." He may gravitate to interests that allow a channeling of that pregnant potential for insight - such as Tarot, the I-Ching, Astrology,  Alchemy and all manner of psychic realities.

When the intuitive is also introverted, they will be drawn to the "subjective images of things which, though not to be met with in the outside world, constitute the contents of the unconscious, and of the collective unconscious in particular." For such a man his intuition will not "concern itself with external possibilities but with what the external object has released within him." The literal sensations are only briefly noticed, then quickly discarded as he "peers behind the scenes, quickly perceiving the inner image that gave rise to this particular form of expression."

But whether his images are at all representing truths of our existence or just personal delusions is unknown. What seems for them to be monumental insights may just as well be unfounded superstitions and false or misguided visions. Thus the intuitive man often becomes either the "mystical dreamer and seer on the one hand, and the crank on the other."


Sensation is opposite to intuition, gathering information directly from the sensory organs rather than from the unconscious. Instead of looking behind or around reality, sensation looks directly at it. "Sensation rules out any simultaneous intuitive activity." It need not speculate about what is, as it need only to turn its attention towards it to perceive the state of things as they so happen to be. Sensation is non-extrapolative, as the "essential function of sensation is to establish that something exists."

While the intensity of sensation in people is varied according to the prominence of their sensory function, for sensation in the strictest sense "everything is seen or heard to the physiological limit." Even so, not all details are necessarily striking enough to register vividly in mind, but surely the most apparent of them are inescapably noticed and impossible to ignore or circumnavigate by the sensory person.


Sensation is attuned to objects, particularly as they excite stimulations and visceral influences in the subject. Like the other attitudes, the attitude of sensation will be affected by whether the individual is introverted or extroverted. If the person is fully extroverted "no element of objective sensation is excluded and nothing is repressed" and he is deeply guided by the power they have over his experience. To him sensation is "a concrete expression of life" and his overall aim is concrete enjoyment. But this is not to say his sensuality is over-indulgent or unrefined, for he may "differentiate his sensation to the finest pitch of aesthetic purity." He will often have good taste and a refined aesthete.

If the person is introverted, a subjective disposition is attached to the stimuli so that - for example - an array of introverted and sensing artists may observe the same landscape but paint it differently not merely due to differences in skill but in differences in the selection or highlighting of details and moods. In the words of Jung, this sensation type "apprehends the background of the physical world rather than its surface." What he extracts from the objects in the present is his own unique sense perception,  which may differ from that of others viewing the same object but which dominates his inner experience. Nonetheless the characteristic of these internal notions retain the quality of sensation; marked by a registration of stimuli and an evocation of the tactile faculties associated to it. The internal image brought to mind will be understood not as an intuitive vision but as a personal sensory impression evoked by the object.

Similarities & Differences Between Jung and CT

It's important to appreciate that for Jung the primary dichotomy between people was introversion and extroversion. A person either was or wasn't one of these two, and according to which they were, all aspects of their life carried the imprint of this innate disposition. The feeling/thinking/sensing/intuition functions therefore were bifurcations from that primary dichotomy. While in CT we have come to talk about "Fi" and "Te" as distinct structures of cognition, with specific metabolic pathways, Jung's concept of them was more rooted in the attitudes. When Jung spoke of "the introverted feeling type" he spoke of an individual who was both introverted and feeling; with the two attitudes compounding each other and creating the introverted feeling function. However, Fi was not a standalone function to Jung nor did he intend to make much of his typology beyond the identification of extremes in people for the purpose of correcting imbalances.

As was touched upon in this article, a function like Ni possess qualities (Episodic, Aphoristic, Thematic, Karmic) that are only explicable through an understanding of it from a metabolic origin, not as a compound simply of iNtuition going Inward or towards the Subject. It is for this exact purpose that Jung's concept of his own type was "introverted intuitive thinker" and is why he said - after outlining his preferences for I+N+T within each of the three dichotomies in a BBC interview - "there you have all the necessary information for diagnosis." We may trouble over why he did not specify if his thinking was introverted or his intuition; was he NiTe or TiNe? Such questions matter to us. But Jung did not think from this paradigm. He was an I+N+T who depreciated E+S+F, and that was the root of his psychology. If asked, he would tell you he had introverted intuition (IN) and introverted thinking (IT) because to him the Extroverted-Introverted axis was the primary one, with N/S and T/F being appendages to this primary orientation. So Jung viewed his type as: I(NT) - wherein introversion applies to both intuition and thinking.

In reality, Jung was NiFe (NiFe-Ti) which is indeed correct as far as him having introverted intuition and introverted thinking, but he was not NiTe nor TiNe. However, as far as the general attitudes are concerned, they remain a cornerstone of cognitive type's definitions and he described them sufficiently well in Psychological Types - where he also admitted he was struggling to give intelligible form to these still very young concepts.

How does Jung compare to CT?

Jung's interpretation is similar to that of the Big Five in that it characterizes people by the most compelling, general and apparent dichotomies we see. Indeed, the methodological strength of the Big Five rests in how common language has embedded these five aspects into our cultures as they are most apparent to people. Extroversion (E/I), Openness (N/S) and Agreeableness (F/T) are the categories Jung identified - as well as their compound attitudes.

Jung's observation and his typology is doubtlessly real, just as the Big Five's observations are real. However, he was essentially describing temperament and his typology can be sufficiently addressed via this dimension alone. Jung - being an incredibly nuanced thinker and brilliant analyst of many subjects - selected not to pursue the question of type further, as he sought not to create a labeling system or to highlight these differences in any way beyond how an extreme orientation to any one side of a spectrum might negatively affect a couple or a household.

And so quite different from Jung, Cognitive Type divulges into the question of type from the perspective of a cognitive science - with the aim of understanding the construction of thought at the second-by-second level. The subject matter is not strictly typological but also algorithmic and computational; describing the rhythm of information metabolism which creates sentience through its rapid and redundant oscillation.

Was Jung's interpretation more correct?

It was a lower level of resolution, which is also real but not the most granular level possible. For example Jung's introverted feeling type is, in CT terms, an "IF" temperament individual but this attitude can come from the metabolism of an NiTe-Fi, an NiFe-Ni, or a TiNe-Fe to name a few. For Jung, all three of these individuals would have likely been considered introverted intuitive feeling types in his practice, with no more granular attempts taken to discriminate the very real psychological and metabolic differences they have. And it is entirely forgivable to leave the resolution at that level, for as soon as one begins to speculate on the orientations of functions which cannot be objectively isolated, one enters the disturbing world of confirmation bias that has also saturated the JCF online community. It is only with a concrete quantifier (i.e. vultology) that we can appropriately distinguish what metabolic channels are creating these auroras; these end effects and temperaments.

Before the introduction of such an instrument, the orientation of one's lower functions was so terribly subject to fallacious identification that - as experience has taught me - the vast majority of people have been unable to discern for themselves how they construct their thoughts. Indeed, as neuroscience informs us, we have a very limited window of awareness into how we process our own thoughts and we are by no means the best equipped to judge its operations.

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