Cognitive Functions

Cognitive functions Part 2: Perceiving Functions

People who book consultations with me are usually complex, fascinating people who are very self-aware and curious at so many levels – it is hard not to run with these experiences and share what I discover about Types through these interactions! This is one reason I’ve been doing a lot of articles based on the nuances of Type I discover in people or that are brought up in the Typology enthusiast communities I frequent. It is time, though, to get back to the foundation of the Jungian/Briggs-Myers typology model. Here I’ll present a long-overdue second part in response to a great question from Christy Williams which set the stage for elaboration on the fundamentals of all the 8 cognitive functions. If you’d like to propose a question as a starter for an article or conversation topic please don’t hesitate to do so here:

Perceiving Functions

Christy’s original question is as follows: “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.”

Since she asked specifically about emotion vs. data, I tackled this first with respect to the Judging (Thinking and Feeling) functions here: But one could also think of the Perceiving functions (which include iNtuition and Sensing in introverted and extraverted versions) as “ways information is processed internally and externally”. Perception is the first step of processing information, and also interwoven throughout all aspects of cognition so we can never truly isolate the Judging and Perceiving processes from one another. Let’s delve into how we understand Perceiving internally and externally in terms of Jungian cognitive function and how that gets us to a four letter Myers-Briggs code.

First off, we need to start with the framework of having two top cognitive functions which are the primary ways our brains participate in life as humans (there are 2 others that make up our “function stack” but for the purposes of this article we focus on the top two). These two functions respectively account for how we take in information (a Sensing or Intuiting Perceiving function; note that you’ll see iNtuition abbreviated as ‘N’ since ‘I’ was taken in the code for Introvert) and the criteria we use to evaluate or make decisions about that information (a Thinking or Feeling Judging function). These two functions also separately describe a way we reflect internally (a function with an introverted attitude), and a way for us to engage with our external environment (a function with an extraverted attitude). The Perceiving function may thus be Sensing or iNtuiting and may be either introverted or extraverted in attitude. These two sets of two options give us 4 different possibilities for how an individual might be taking in information through a Perceiving function:

Si = introverted sensing
Se = extraverted sensing
Ni = introverted intuition
Ne = extraverted intuition

People with N in their four-letter type code trust information that is concept- and pattern-based (Ni or Ne). They read between the lines and don’t necessarily trust what the physical senses tell them, don’t really understand things to be only what they appear to be. Things are a lot more interesting and trustworthy to them that aren’t actual physical attributes of the world.

People with S in their four-letter type code trust information that is verifiable with their 5 senses, past or present. They take things for what they are and how they can be observed to actually work rather than reading between the lines or speculating.

People with a P at the end of their type code best perceive information outside of themselves (an extraverted attitude to their Perceiving function). This is indicated by adding a lowercase “e” (Se or Ne).

People with a J at the end of their type code best perceive information internally (an introverted attitude to their Perceiving function). This is indicated by adding a lowercase “i” (Si or Ni).

In the world of typology, it is almost never the case that 2+2 equals plain old 4. Meaning that the combination of S vs. N + i vs. e attitude adds up to something a bit more complex than what those few lines above can lay out. So, let me give a more specific description of how each of these four functions work out.

Si = Internally Perceiving reliable information based on how things have been known to exist or behave in the world. It works kind of like taking a mental snap shot of one’s experiences and comparing new things to this mental snap shot of what they’ve experienced before, or what trusted sources have communicated to them. Here is an awesome example of how Si loves honoring past experience which protects the legacy of our cultural memory:

Se = Using the body and its senses as an instrument to engage with the external environment in the present. It accomplishes feats of physical observation as well as tangible dynamic skill in the here and now. An xSxP client (Se user) once said, when I asked her about her relationship to the future, that she has to think of “what the ‘here and now’ would be like ‘there and then’”. Here is an example of using the body as an instrument and loving every moment (by instrument I don’t mean the fact that she’s playing an instrument, but that she’s using her body in the moment with such extraordinary fluid precision being a finely tuned instrument herself):

Ni = Internally perceiving patterns within patterns of thought and concepts. It takes its time, percolates things through the internal garden of the mind until a beanstalk bursts through carrying an idea about a fundamental principle up into the conscious mind. This is demonstrated in Carl Jung’s own work on archetypes, and the collective unconscious. In his Red Book he delved into describing the deepest, darkest parts of his own subconscious (and by extension the collective unconscious) through facilitating and describing his own hallucinations or altered mental states. This clip describes Ni as a tool uncovering these archetypal perceptions:

Ne = Perceiving conceptual patterns outside of the self. In other words, Ne likes to push buttons in the environment and try to get something unexpected to happen moment to moment. Something more than a Rube Goldberg machine in which button X causes lever Y to hit ball Z which tips over the kettle to pour your tea… No, it uses the environment and people in it to play with concepts, breaking out of the predictable frames of reference we rely on day-to-day. They can be great at prediction, whether it is movie plot twists or the future of technology, but love to find something that they didn’t predict! Here is a pre-meditated social experiment to see what will happen when people are put in a very strange situation, but keep in mind Ne people are constantly pushing the world’s buttons to explore ideas big and small whether on the spot or in grand schemes:

People are complicated and these things aren’t all that easy to pin down in day-to-day experiences. If you aren’t sure which functions you’re using, discover that knowledge and how it can make a difference in how you get energized in life, schedule a one-on-one consultation with me by clicking “Book Now” at the top of the page!

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