Thank you to Christy Williams for contributing a question to kick off my inaugural content post! Christy writes:
“I would love to hear more about the connection between personality type & the ways information is processed (i.e. internally or externally). I use the term “information” because I don’t know if this is only applicable to emotion versus any processing of data.”
I’ll approach this question from a Myers Briggs and Jungian Cognitive function standpoint. (You may want to skip ahead past this foundational section if you are familiar with the Cognitive Function Model). In this model, we each operate with two main cognitive functions that I’ll focus on (many of you know it is more complicated than that, there being 4 functions in the traditional complete “stack”, but for the purposes of this discussion we only need to explore the first two for now). One of these functions is a learning (Perceiving) process, and one is an evaluating/deciding (Judging) process. Also one of these processes will be introverted, and one will be extraverted (we call this the “attitude”, or “orientation”).
When we talk about “information processing” which Christy brought up, this could mean a lot of different things in general, and particularly different things to different types. Since she mentions emotions vs. data, I’ll assume she is most concerned with the Judging functions which include Thinking and Feeling functions of either attitude. One could also think of how we take in information (the Perceiving functions which include iNtuition and Sensing of either attitude) as part of the system of “processing”. Perception is the first step of processing information, and also interwoven throughout the process as we can never truly isolate the Judging and Perceiving processes from one another. But I’ll leave deeper discussion of perception for another post or posts.
Ok, so what do the Judging functions and their attitude have to do with processing information, including emotion and data?
To put the jargon out there for reference:
People with a P in their type code best process information based on internal criteria. Their criteria is subjective (in relation to the “subject”, which is ourself). This is indicated by referring to their Judging function with a lowercase “i” (Fi or Ti).
People with a J in their type code best process information based on external criteria. Their criteria is objective (relative to their outer environment, referring to everything outside themselves as “object”). This is indicated by referring to their Judging function with a lowercase “e” (Fe or Te).
People with a T in their type code best use data-driven, impersonal criteria as their priority (Ti or Te).
People with an F in their type code best use values-driven, personal impact criteria as their top priority (Fi or Fe).
In reference to the original question, I want to clarify that the Judging functions (Thinking and Feeling) technically indicate the criteria used to evaluate information, not the information itself. However, when a certain type of criteria is your priority, it affects what you want to pay attention to and take in as information. That’s one reason why you can’t really completely separate Perceiving from Judging functions.
So let’s take the example of a person who identifies as INFJ. This person uses personal impact criteria to process/evaluate/prioritize information, and they do this on an external/”objective” basis. Thus they evaluate information and base decisions on the impact it will have on people in a collective sense. This can lead them to pay more attention to others’ emotions than their own, and be very attuned to social norms and expectations, because this is the criteria they want to use to make their decisions. Their decisions generally put the emotional well-being of the group they affiliate with as a whole above themselves or an individual or minority within the group.
In contrast, an INFP would be processing information based on personal impact criteria in a “subjective” sense, as it relates to their own individual values and experience. They would evaluate information and base decisions on how it aligns with their own convictions. They tend to pay more attention to the nuanced facets of emotion within themselves, which they use as their decision-making criteria. They are likely to feel for the outliers in a group, and have more willingness to go against the grain if others around them don’t share their personal values. They are often the ones to stand out as the social conscience, bringing groupthink to a grinding halt and encouraging others to take the uncomfortable step of examining their actions and motives, which can, at times, seem socially disruptive.
I’ll continue this next week and discuss how the Perceiving functions impact information processing, stay tuned! Christy, please let me know if I’m on track in answering your question or if there is something specific I’m not hitting for you.