Personality Tests: MBTI (Myers-Briggs) – An Overview (Functions)

It might not be the best of ideas to introduce one of the more complicated personality tests in my second post, but I’ll try my best. Foreword: The MBTI, is in my opinion, the current most professional and sophisticated personality test, but also, the most easily misunderstood. This post will be rather technical, but I will attempt to add some personal dry humour to it.


What is it?

The MBTI test, or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, was designed primarily based on the extensive works of the psychoanalyst, Carl Jung. The categorisation utilised by the MBTI and its based theory is founded upon a branch of psychology known as ‘developmental psychology’. In simple terms, it aims to establish a person’s personality type through a study of his/her development from childhood to adolescence and into adulthood, and beyond.

The MBTI classifies people into 16 personalities, which can be further classified.


How is it better than other personality tests?

Founded on professional psychoanalysis research, the MBTI backs its assertions with concrete and logical evidence – or, as much as the field of social sciences can allow. It does not make the flawed assumption that a person’s personality is decided upon birth. That is a trait unique to developmental psychology.

In developmental psychology, the base idea is that a person’s personality is both nature and nurture, to differing extents. I will go into further details later, but in the MBTI, every individual has 8 different functions they develop in life. Depending on how these functions are developed – the order and the extent – the individual ends up with a ‘function stack’, which determines their MBTI. The 4 functions that are primarily developed form the letters of your type while the 4 ‘shadow’ functions are rarely developed/utilised.

For example, I am an INFJ, and accordingly, my function stack is as follows:

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Dominant function: Introverted Intuition (Ni)
Auxiliary function: Extroverted Feeling (Fe)
Tertiary function: Introverted Thinking (Ti)
Inferior function: Extroverted Sensing (Se)
Shadow functions: Extroverted Intuition (Ne), Introverted Feeling (Fi), Extroverted Thinking (Te), Introverted Sensing (Si)


For the convenience of those who want to figure out their own functions, here is the list of function stacks for every MBTI. I will simply the functions, so you may refer to the INFJ list should you be confused.

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Dominant function: Fe
Auxiliary function: Ni
Tertiary function: Se
Inferior function: Ti
Shadow functions: Ne, Fi, Te, Si

9e216ce3650c78f86ca8896a33488704 - Copy (4)
Dominant function: Ni
Auxiliary function: Te
Tertiary function: Fi
Inferior function: Se
Shadow functions: Ne, Fe, Ti, Si

9e216ce3650c78f86ca8896a33488704 - Copy (12)
Dominant function: Te
Auxiliary function: Ni
Tertiary function: Se
Inferior function: Fi
Shadow functions: Ne, Fe, Ti, Si

9e216ce3650c78f86ca8896a33488704 - Copy (5)
Dominant function: Ti
Auxiliary function: Ne
Tertiary function: Si
Inferior function: Fe
Shadow functions: Ni, Fi, Te, Se

9e216ce3650c78f86ca8896a33488704 - Copy (13).png
Dominant function: Ne
Auxiliary function: Ti
Tertiary function: Fe
Inferior function: Si
Shadow functions: Ni, Fi, Te, Se

9e216ce3650c78f86ca8896a33488704 - Copy (2)
Dominant function: Fi
Auxiliary function: Ne
Tertiary function: Si
Inferior function: Te
Shadow functions: Ni, Fe, Ti, Se

9e216ce3650c78f86ca8896a33488704 - Copy (11).png
Dominant function: Ne
Auxiliary function: Fi
Tertiary function: Te
Inferior function: Si
Shadow functions: Ni, Fe, Ti, Se

9e216ce3650c78f86ca8896a33488704 - Copy (6).png
Dominant function: Si
Auxiliary function: Fe
Tertiary function: Ti
Inferior function: Ne
Shadow functions: Ni, Fi, Te, Se

9e216ce3650c78f86ca8896a33488704 - Copy (14).png
Dominant function: Fe
Auxiliary function: Si
Tertiary function: Ne
Inferior function: Ti
Shadow functions: Ni, Fi, Te, Se

9e216ce3650c78f86ca8896a33488704 - Copy (8).png
Dominant function: Si
Auxiliary function: Te
Tertiary function: Fi
Inferior function: Ne
Shadow functions: Ni, Fe, Ti, Se

9e216ce3650c78f86ca8896a33488704 - Copy.png
Dominant function: Te
Auxiliary function: Si
Tertiary function: Ne
Inferior function: Fi
Shadow functions: Ni, Fe, Ti, Se

9e216ce3650c78f86ca8896a33488704 - Copy (9).png
Dominant function: Ti
Auxiliary function: Se
Tertiary function: Ni
Inferior function: Fe
Shadow functions: Ne, Fi, Te, Si

9e216ce3650c78f86ca8896a33488704
Dominant function: Se
Auxiliary function: Ti
Tertiary function: Fe
Inferior function: Ni
Shadow functions: Ne, Fi, Te, Si

9e216ce3650c78f86ca8896a33488704 - Copy (7)
Dominant function: Fi
Auxiliary function: Se
Tertiary function: Ni
Inferior function: Te
Shadow functions: Ne, Fe, Ti, Si

9e216ce3650c78f86ca8896a33488704 - Copy (15).png
Dominant function: Se
Auxiliary function: Fi
Tertiary function: Te
Inferior function: Ni
Shadow functions: Ne, Fe, Ti, Si


What is the ‘dichotomy system’?

One of the biggest mistakes made by people who simplify the MBTI for layman understanding is the issue of oversimplification – the function theory is completely discarded for a much simpler system. Instead, everything is based off dichotomies:

E-I dichotomy: You are either an extrovert or introvert.

Problem: Every individual is not singularly extroverted or introverted. They are only dominantly so. For example, why is it that an INFJ, like myself, often appears more comfortable and harmonises better in social situations than an ENTJ? Our E-I dichotomy should suggest otherwise. The answer is simple: functions. The INFJ’s auxiliary function is Fe, Extroverted Feeling, which is both the intense need and the active-seeking of harmony and peace with others. Fe is associated with selflessness and a caring nature. The foremost extroverted function of an ENTJ is Te, Extroverted Thinking, which is a logical and competitive function.

N-S dichotomy: Blue either makes you think of only the colour itself or reminds you of way too many seemingly unrelated things.

Problem: You assume that Sensing types are just dumb as a block of wood and that we, the Intuitive types, never get out heads out of the clouds. This is an issue of exaggeration. It also neglects the differences between Ni vs Ne and Si vs Se, which are polar opposites. A type that possesses Ni as 1 of the 4 primary functions will have Ne in their shadow functions – similar for Sensing functions.

T-F dichotomy: You either have the emotional capabilities of a robot, or you cry all the time.

Problem: Like E-I, there is a huge misconception here. Thinking types can get hit by pangs of emotions. This is indicated in their functions. Think about when INTJs are upset – they become self-critical in an unusually irrational manner. When INTPs are upset? They suddenly become overly sensitive to other’s criticisms. What about the Feeling types? Take us, INFJs, for example, we are known as the most logical of the Feeling types, because Ti, Introverted Thinking, tends to synchronise well with our dominant function, Ni, to create an obsession for theories and overthinking.

J-P dichotomy: Perhaps the biggest issue. J types are organised, P types are not.

Problem: While that might be observable, J and P mean much more than that. Being organised or not is simply a symptom, not the cause. J stands for judging and often leads to a type being much more decisive and close-minded. P stands for perceiving and indicates a type of person who may be fickle-minded, but also open to others. However, functions fall under J and P as well. N-S functions are Perceiving, T-F functions are Judging – one has to do with how to ‘perceive’ the world, and the other has to do with how you make ‘judgments’. Here, the dichotomy system is completely flawed. Take my type, INFJ, for example – Our dominant function is Ni, a Perceiving function, but we are Judging types.


So, what is the ‘function stack’ system?

The actual system proposed by Carl Jung, the ‘function stack’ system is as its name suggests, your functions ‘stack up’ to form your personality.

As shown before, each individual has 5 function types – dominant, auxiliary, tertiary, inferior and shadows.

The dominant function is the hardest to explain because it is most attributed to ‘nature’ over ‘nurture’. It is the function that develops first and can be observed in early infancy. Again, I will attempt to explain using personal examples. My sister, an ESFP, has the dominant function, Se, which is the exact opposite of my dominant function, Ni. As infants, barely out of the womb, she was already a much more hyperactive child. She enjoyed throwing things around, touching things, etc. As an infant, I was much quieter and it was as if I did things with a purpose – I would look at the range of toys, consider them, before picking one up, and I’ll stick to it.

This function is developed early in life.

The auxiliary function is a concept easily understood. It’s basic goal is to balance out your dominant function, and as a result, extroverted dominant functions are given introverted dominant functions, and vice versa. It’s not ‘given’ in the sense of fate or destiny, but out of the concept of ‘need’ – an extrovert needs to learn to internalise certain things; an introvert needs to learn to reach out. This is also where ‘brother types’ diverge. ‘Brother type’ is an Internet term used to describe 2 MBTI types that share the same dominant function, for me – the INTJ. We share the dominant function, Ni, which is, simply put, a function that silently observes and forms patterns. INFJs develop the auxiliary Fe, Extroverted Feeling, and our observation targets become other humans. INTJs, on the other hand, develop the auxiliary Te, Extroverted Thinking, which turns their interest towards objective observation – e.g. the study of sciences.

This function is developed around the age of 10, or when education formally begins at home or at school. Individuals become aware of the need to ‘balance’ their dominant inclinations.

The tertiary function accentuates your dominant function. In INFJs, we develop a tertiary Ti, Introverted Thinking, which roughly refers to an individual’s internal sense of logic. Unlike Te, which addresses theories that can be universally applied, Ti is much more personal. For example, most INFJs, like myself, have an internal system of how to approach different situations. Depending on the surroundings, the other person’s mood, what our relationship with the other person is, etc etc., we have an internal logical system to process the ‘best’ solution. This is an interaction of Ti with Ni, forming what, in MBTI, is revered as the famous Ni-Ti loop – i.e. the loop of overthinking and overplanning. If you take another type, e.g. ENFJs, their tertiary function, Se, allows their dominant Fe to reach a wider range of people through being more aware of their surroundings.

This function can develop in early teens to early adulthood, depending on the individual. Some types also tend to develop this quicker than other types. For example, I was pressured to ignore my emotions as a child, allowing my Ti to develop at a much younger age.

The inferior function is often known as a ‘stress’ function, or the function that becomes most pronounced when under high stress. ‘Brother’ functions share the same inferior functions – which is why both INTJs and INFJs have the tendency to overeat, overdrink and indulge in sexual pursuits when we are placed under stress. Our inferior function is Se, which is a function that focuses primarily on the present. When under stress, both INTJs and INFJs revert to their inferior functions, in order to remove pressure from the other 3 functions. By indulging in sanguinistic pleasures, we remove ourselves from the tendency to overthink. However, developed properly, the inferior function also works as a balance function. In the case of INTJs and INFJs, Se becomes a grounding functions, bringing out heads down from the clouds.

There are some who never fully develop this function, and that’s perfectly fine. However, what could result is an ‘unhealthy’ type (to be discussed in a later post).

The shadow functions are functions that are rarely developed, because the individual simply does not utilise them. This is because they are conflicting. In INFJs and INTJs, Ni is directly opposed to the shadow function Ne. Ni is focused on creating a single theory out of many observations; Ne is focused on creating many possibilities out of a single idea. They are naturally opposing and so preference for one would cause the other to deteriorate.


Explaining the 8 functions

The last part of this introduction post is to explain the 8 functions. This is important for every MBTI post that follows because it is the basis of the MBTI theory. It is important to understand what motivates each function and how they perceive/judge the world around us.

1. Introverted Intuition (Ni)
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Key Question: What will be?

Who better to explain this function than an INFJ? Ni is an often misrepresented function, especially in popular media. It is all fun and dandy for Tumblr to describe Ni, as well as INFJs and INTJs, as some sort of fortune-tellers – with the ability to see the future. That is true, from the perspective of the outsider. INFJs and INTJs do have the tendency to predict events before they occur, sometimes with an accuracy that scares themselves.

There was once I was in Starbucks and I snapped my head up a split second before the worker dropped the cups he was holding. My friend was surprised – How did I know they were going to drop before they did? Subtle cues. That is the basis of Ni.

Intuition is often described as ‘gut feeling’, but in actual fact, is simply the ability to observe minute details. INFJs and INTJs may come off as ‘creepy’ because of it. We watch, we remember, and we form patterns in our heads. It is the intense need for order and predictability. As an INFJ, a question that I often ask myself which exemplify this is – “If I said ___ while ___(person) in feeling ___ given she just went through ___, what is her most likely reaction?” This is different from INTJs, of course, because INFJs are much more people-oriented.

Ni is a prediction function that (1) seeks for the best solution among all possible ones through (2) predicting the consequences of every possible action through (3) patterns we have established through careful observation. The weakness of this function is that we always believe there is a sole best solution and we will not stop thinking about it until we can reach that solution.

Think of it this way: many possible ways/solutions/methods reduced down to a single best one
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2. Extroverted Intuition (Ne)
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Key Question: What can be?

As the exact opposite of the Ni function, the Ne function is focused on possibilities. Whereas Ni seeks to form patterns and concludes on the ‘best’ solution for every situation, Ne creates many possibilities from a single one. In a group project, this means that Ni and Ne are great partners – Ne brainstorms and Ni comes to a conclusion.

Ne is the function of creativity – not simply in the artistic sense. It is the function that is utilised when a scientist creates many possibilities for the use of his new invention/discovery. It is the function a musician uses when a new chord is created into many pieces. When given a goal, Ne generates a wealth of possibilities to an extent that can be mind-blowing. This is the reason why N types are often associated with ‘head in the clouds’ and ‘unrealistic. It’s not us, the Nis, it’s the Nes.

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3. Introverted Sensing (Si)
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Key Question: What has been?

People possessing Si as a dominant or auxiliary function tend to be stable – Why? Si is a function that looks to the past. It is also observation, but in a way that is much different from Ni. The primary goal of Ni is the future, while the primary goal of Si is the past. Ni seeks patterns and answers with a single-minded focus on the future while Si looks to the past for guidance.

The singular belief for Si is that – whatever has worked in the past will work now. Types that have this function as a dominant or auxiliary function are ISTJ, ISFJ, ESTJ and ESFJ – the ‘traditional’ types. Family-oriented, career-oriented, traditional in their pursuits – these types are ‘stable’ precisely because they believe that the past is an indicator for the future. Unhealthy symptoms of Si is probably the best way to identify this function. Ever heard a person say ‘Because __ has happened before, __ will definitely happen again”? That is Si showing itself. This manifests negatively in, say, INFJs, when we despair, but is surprisingly a guiding order for Si-dominant/auxiliary.

4. Extroverted Sensing (Se)
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Key Question: What is?

Existing as the inferior function for both INFJs and INTJs, Se is a function that is solely focused on the present. Unburdened by the past, fearless of the future – Se is utilised as a dominant/auxiliary function by people who are courageously living life for every second it is worth. Because it is my inferior function, I both admire and detest this function. I admire those who can use it well, for I am not a person who can shed her worry about the future. It seems absurd to me, with my dominant-Ni, that one can live without plans for the future. It seems absurd to me that anyone can be peaceful without being able to predict, even slightly, the future.

At the same time, if developed properly, Se is a saviour for INFJs and INTJs, because we are types that are likely to get swallowed up in our tendency to overthink. Se teaches us the ability to let go of worries about the future we cannot control. At the same time, I condemn Se-dominants because they tend to be those kind of friends who you need to be on the emergency line for at all times. They have a tendency to act before they think and to INFJs, it seems like acting against common sense.

5. Introverted Thinking (Ti)
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Reasoning: Because I need it to make logical sense.

Ti is an information-gathering function that seeks to form a framework for how the world works on a concrete, tangible level. It is adept at understanding systems and noticing inconsistencies in them. It seeks to deconstruct in order to understand how individual parts function as a whole.

Those who lead with Ti are logical, systematic and objective to a fault. They take a great deal of time to understand how things work before they are comfortable sharing or acting on their knowledge. As an INFJ with overdeveloped-Ti, I must say, I enjoy having it overdeveloped. Ti is a balance for Fe and helps Ni along. When faced with emotional turmoil, Ti is the voice that calls for order and a close, rational examination of all factors.

Ti is similar to Ni, but different in many ways. Ni is perceptive, intense and focused, but Ti is more logical and lacks the ‘

6. Extroverted Thinking (Te)
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Reasoning: Because it is the most efficient and logical way.

Te seeks to impose order on the external environment as efficiently and logically as possible. It values productivity above all else and is a results-based, action-oriented function. Te naturally implements concrete plans for accomplishing goals and is quick to make decisions, separating it from Ti.

People who lead with Te are frank, decisive and highly productive in every capacity. In the eyes of someone like me, an INFJ, they may be too merciless and harsh, although they are just trying to point out what they believe to be the most efficient course of action.

7. Introverted Feeling (Fi)
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Reasoning: Because I would feel this way.

Fi is the function of poets and writers. Fi shows empathy through the process of ‘mirroring’ – a person who leads with Fi digs within themselves to find a similar situation in order to ‘mirror’ the emotion that is being confided to them. In a way, it can be considered selfish, because the Fi-user isn’t exactly empathising with your situation.

However, you can’t exactly say that Fi is a less empathetic function than Fe, because its advantage lies in detachment from proximity. Fi allows the user to feel emotions in books and writing, and does not require being close to the other person.

Through trying to seek within themselves the same emotion, Fi can empathise with others. However, this limits them by experience – if an Fi-user has experienced little in life, they are less likely to empathise.

8. Extroverted Feeling (Fe)
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Reasoning: Because it makes others feel this way.

Lastly, we have my auxiliary function, Fe or Extroverted Feeling, the dominant function in ENFJs and ESFJs. Fe is self-sacrificing, and the function that turns an individual away from selfishness. Last post, I talked about my Caregiver Archetype, about how my greatest fear is becoming a selfish person. This is the result of Ni-Fe, Ni having identified my purpose in life, dictated by Fe.

Unlike Fi, Fe empathises through proximity and through ‘absorption’. We can sense how others are feeling and Fe-users form the majority of HSPs – Highly Sensitive Persons. If you have Fe in your dominant/auxiliary slot, have you ever been in a room and just instinctively knew that a certain person nearby was upset? It happens to me, a lot. In fact, after having acted on it, i.e. asking how the person was, it turns out that I am 99.9% accurate.

Fe allows you to sense, just by being near a person, what they might be feeling. However, what is it used for is to predict how your actions will make others feel. Whenever I do something and I think ‘What if I’m being too harsh?’ or whenever I have difficulty rejecting something – that’s Fe. Fe-users are also notorious for being unable to say ‘no’, or feeling terrible for a long time afterwards.

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