Jung was the first psychologist to think in terms of psychological types. He came to believe that there were certain habitual ways of seeing, or making decisions in the world that people tended to adopt. Of these (and there were many), he thought that six were particularly important.
First, the two basic attitudes (as he called them) of introversion and extraversion.
Jung was the first psychologist to use these terms in relation to personality and they have become generally known and accepted.
Second, two pairs of functions (his term, again)
- sensing and intuition – two ways of taking in information from the world, via facts/data or through intuition/helicopter perspective.These are called the perceiving functions.
- thinking and feeling – two ways of making decisions,via logic or values. These are called the judging functions.
While he conceded that personality varied from time to time and situation to situation, he did believe that most people prefer one of each of the pairs above most of the time (see also below). From this, a person could often be characterised as a particular personality type – someone choosing a particular combination of attitudes and functions: a sensing, thinking introvert, say, or an intuitive, feeling extravert and so on.
Origins of the theory
The Jung-Freud relationship lasted from 1906 to 1914. It was a very close relationship and the break was traumatic for both men. Jung, in particular, experienced a psychological crisis and withdrew into himself for several years. During this period, he developed the basis for many of his most important theories that had been repressed, or not fully developed during the ‘Freud years’.
His theory of psychological types was one of these and the theory was, in part at
least, an attempt to understand how personality differences had led to the break with
Freud (and also Alfred Adler) – to do justice to their theories, as he put it.
Jung decided that while he was an introvert, Freud was an extravert, and that this
division in personality was of great importance. Note that Jung was the first
psychologist to use the terms introvert and extravert, although concepts very close to
this had been formulated by philosophers, psychiatrists, writers and many others for
quite some time.
For more detail, a short list of further readings is provided at the end of this post. Jung’s writing on the subject is very detailed; although it does give an extensive history of his theoretical predecessors, the fours essays at the end of Volume 6 of his Collected Works is perhaps the easiest of his writings to follow.
Extraverts: What You See is What You Get
An extravert is someone who believes that the real world is the outer one – of other
people and things. He or she is focused usually on the external world and is at their best in it – they get energy from it and revel in it. An extraverted teacher, for example, can
often stand in front of a class before teaching, just feeding on the energy coming
from their students. If you are a teacher and an introvert try doing this! You will
probably feel drained of energy – even threatened by other peoples’ energy – and it
is likely to take you years of practice before you learn to utilise it. Good actors, of
course, can get themselves charged up in much the same way and can energise the
audience in turn – one of the advantages of theatre as compared to film or DVD.
Extraverts will tend to dominate meetings and social events. They tend to hop from topic to topic in conversations and seem (but are not necessarily really) more friendly than introverts. They may have trouble being alone. I remember reading the brochure of a Californian Psychology Centre some years ago – clearly run by extraverts. One of their courses was a 5 day hike across the High Sierras. Clothing was optional and full and frank sharing of experiences and feelings around the camp fire each evening was expected. Introverts’ hell. At the end of the hike, those of the company who were psychologically ‘strong enough’ were to be permitted to spend 24 hours alone in a Buddhist meditation retreat. Obviously, a real problem for the extraverts. But an introvert would say ‘why do the embarrassing hike at all – can’t I just spend all the time in solitary meditation?’
As one would expect, extraverts are easier to get to know than introverts – their
visible personality is their most-used and most comfortable one. Their hidden
depths are absent or less than those seen in introverts.
Note that one of the ways in which Jung was able to identify Freud as an extravert was by looking at his theories. To Freud, development, neuroses and even the structure of the unconscious mind, are all created by environmental forces – experiences with parents, with potty training and so on. Personality is an introject, to use a Freudian term.
Introverts: What You get is What they Show You
We all have to deal with the outer world, but dealing with the outer world doesn’t
necessarily, or always, mean the same thing as being extraverted. There are plenty
of us introverts around who can deal with the outer world without being really much in
it at all, or considering it too important! Introverts are quite certain that the real world
is the one inside the psyche. That is where everything important happens and
where the decisions are made.
Introverts tend to do their best work on their own and to work with the door shut and focus deeper and longer on fewer projects. They will be less aware of what is going on around them, only dimly noticing that the building is on fire perhaps! They tend to have something of an indifference to talking about their work, their beliefs or their accomplishments and can be overlooked as a result. Where an extravert gains energy from being with people, an introvert may find company wearing and gain energy when able to be alone. Of course, if you can learn to use both introverted and extraverted modes you should be able to function, overall, more effectively.
Sensing and Intuition
Sensing and intuition are the two basic ways of perceiving, or taking in, the world,
whether this is the outer or the inner world. These functions determine how we view
the nature of the world and what it is that we find important about it. Sensing types are those of us who see the world as being made up of data, or facts, of component pieces, and lots of them.
Extraverted sensing types, in particular, see the world as being composed of all the different sense impressions that come in through their sense organs. This is what the world is made of and, for some sensing types, this is all the world is made of. If you are trying to explain an idea to someone, and they interrupt with words like “that’s all very interesting, but it’s a bit airy-fairy, so why don’t you just give me the plain facts of the matter” they are likely to be a sensing type. This is the “typical” blunt, common sense oriented executive, of the police chief in countless films.
Sensing types are, of course, very good at using facts and incoming sense-data.
They can remember details like who was at a party five years ago, who they were
with and what they wore, and they know that the laminex coating on their kitchen
bench is 4.4mm thick polyethelyne plastic, with an oil-resistant vinocarbonyl finish. If
you are ever involved in a court case, and the case depends upon eyewitness testimony, make sure that all your witnesses are extraverted sensing types.
Sensing types also tend to like and be able to use tools – computers, machines and
other things that require manual dexterity and the ability to concentrate upon details
for a prolonged period. They are difficult to argue against, as they will remember all
the facts that you have overlooked and forgotten and, irritatingly, they will think that
remembering all the facts wins the argument!
Intuitive types (or just intuitives), by contrast, regard facts, or detail, or data as being
mere stepping stones, or ways of demonstrating the proof of, ideas. Ideas are all-
important. As a consequence, intuitives tend to be relatively uninterested in “mere”
facts or (boring) detail: they prefer ideas, overview, a helicopter perspective and
possibilities. They therefore are also much better at perceiving and using ideas,
than they are with sense data.
Where a sensing type, shown a forest, will count the trees and know what species they are (and possibly their commercial value), but may fail to perceive that the trees constitute a ‘forest’, the intuitive will immediately grasp that he/she is seeing a mighty forest and what sort of a forest it is, but may fail entirely to really notice (let alone count) the individual trees that make it up. When asked about the forest later, they are likely to be entirely unable to say what sort of trees were present, how high they were, and so on. Sensing types can’t ‘see the wood for the trees’: intuitive types ‘can’t see the trees for the wood’.
To a sensing type, very often, the intuitive has their head in the clouds and little
ability to comprehend or work with the “real” world of hard data. To an intuitive, the
sensing type is a mere hewer of wood or fetcher of water: OK for unimportant, boring
or trivial tasks, but empty of ideas (and therefore essentially uninteresting) and
unable to grasp ideas or the relationships between ideas. In a word, uninspired – the
sort of person who would talk about the relative merits of different brands of lawn
mower (and know what all their names are). It can be almost unbearable for an
intuitive to have to listen to a sensing type’s description of some recent event: all
those constant diversions into detail, all those unnecessary details, why don’t they
just cut to the chase before I die of boredom!
The clash between the intuitive and the sensing approach to reality can actually be a
very serious matter. I believe it can cause more serious differences that any other
‘type clash’. The two types differ at a most fundamental level: that of what is
fundamental to the makeup of the world, and, therefore, what the most important
things are that you need to know about the world. Sometimes an intuitive and a
sensing type won’t even be able to watch the news together, when one is seeing
facts and the other ignores these to see only the ‘ideas behind the news’.
How to determine one’s perceiving function
There are a number of ways of telling if someone is a sensing type or an intuitive.
You can look at their garden, for example. If this is an interesting and ever-changing
mass of hidden pathways, littered with discarded implements, bonfire makings and
bags of fertiliser, you are dealing with an intuitive. If the paths are straight, the trees
and bushes symmetrical (with four main branches each, one pointing to each
direction of the compass) and the tools are polished, oiled and stored away after
each use, the garden is run by a sensing type.
Or watch how the person copes with an assignment, let’s say writing a chapter of a
book. Let’s imagine that they have 20 days to write 40 pages. The sensing author
will sit down in their tidy, well-ordered study and look at the ranks of annotated data.
Taking down their wall calendar (colour-coded coffee-brown to match the carpet),
they mark off 20 days and decide to write two pages every day. They do this without
stress or panic. Actually, they write four pages per day. The chapter is returned
eventually with the comment ‘all very worthy, but could you please cut by half: we
don’t think readers will want to read so many details.’
The intuitive author, by contrast, goes into the slum that they call a study and perches on the edge of the desk, while trying to find a chair that isn’t full of still- unclassified material for future books. They clear a space on the desk and start hunting for the wall calendar. They uncover seven half-full coffee cups and while washing these up in the kitchen make another cup of coffee. While doing this, they notice that the fridge needs cleaning out… A couple of hours later, they give up the hunt for the calendar and make up a timetable on a piece of scrap paper (which they lose, almost immediately). They decide, like the sensing author, to write two pages a day, beginning the next day. The next morning, however, they just don’t feel like writing. The very thought makes them lethargic and full of ennui, even depressed.
So they muse a little about the chapter, do a little light gardening, drink some coffee and start re-reading the novels of C.P.Snow. The same sequence of events (more or less) happens again on the mornings of the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth days. On the morning of either the nineteenth or the twentieth day (depending on the author’s writing speed), the chapter will be ready in the author’s head. They find that they just have time to write it out, in a single, 12- 36 hour dash, before the deadline. When it is submitted, it is likely to suffer one of two fates: acceptance and acclaim, or a return, together with a terse note pointing out that the author has completed the wrong chapter. Most intuitives will have recognised the second description above.
At times it seems that life can be easier for sensing types. They tend to be able to organise their time and their material fairly well and work to a consciously-planned schedule.
The intuitive process, by contrast, is a largely unconscious process of creation,
where ideas and data are assembled into an overall pattern that can often only be
consciously recognised by its creator when the process is complete. Up until this
point, the intuitive is likely to be aware only of a confusing, ever-changing, mass of
half-formed ideas and suggestions. Until the intuitive has become used to their
processing, and able to trust it, they tend to feel increasingly stressed by their
inability to “start work” (as the sensing type would say) until their inner processing
They may even feel guilty because they are “doing nothing” while waiting for
inspiration. And, finally, they will be,at times, embarrassed when their intuitive
processes go wrong. When they produce the wrong chapter, or find that their
chapter has “taken on a life of its own” and become something very different from
what was planned: and that the new form has irreversibly replaced the old, agreed
idea, and that the latter now seems lifeless and worthless. It is all just a part of the
nature of the intuitive, creative process that its owner must get used to.
Thinking and Feeling
We have looked at our preferences for living in the (outer or inner) world and our
choice of ways of perceiving that world. Extraversion, introversion, sensing and
intuition tell us most of the basic things about how an individual’s typological
preferences about how they take the world in – and which world. But, just perceiving
the world is not enough. We have to make decisions in and about the world. We have to
structure it.There are lots of ways of doing this, of course, but two ways in particular that seemed to Jung to be the most used and the easiest to make sense of: feeling and thinking.
To find out if another person has a thinking or a feeling preference, you can begin by
listening carefully to their language. Thinkers say that they ‘think’, feelers that they
‘feel’, quite literally.
Thinking, or the thinking function, refers to our ability to be logical – to be objective
and also to be fair. Thinking types use logic or a rational approach to making
decisions, to ordering the world and, in general, to create a life-structure.
An introverted thinker will create a logical, internal mental structure that they will regard
with love and awe. That structure will be where they really are.
An extraverted thinker will rather use their thinking in the world and they may be
unpopular as a result! (E)T stands for bossybooTs. Extraverted thinkers tend to be
decisive and to give orders, orders that, while logical and fair are often given without
softeners. To quote a female extraverted thinking type with whom I worked for some
years. “When I give an order I just give it. I don’t expect my staff to need
persuading to do something they’re paid for.” If you have just nodded in agreement
with that statement, you probably are a thinking type. If you are a feeling type, you
will probably have recoiled in horror at such lack of empathy. But it’s all just a matter
Feeling is a very different matter. Those with a preference for the feeling function will
create a world based upon values and human feelings. They often will make
decisions (and create a world) based on people’s needs and wishes, rather than logic
or the ‘bottom line’. Out of several hundred middle and higher level production
managers to whom I have given appropriate personality tests, over 90% proved to be
thinking types. But, where business is filled with thinking managers, the helping
professions, like nursing and human resources are usually staffed by a majority of
Extraverted feeling is characterised by warmth and friendliness towards others. It
is concerned with, and takes its values from, the outer world. Its measure is
therefore often the approval of, or pleasure given to others. Extraverted feeling
types thrive on giving and receiving pleasure to and from other people. They tend to
be the nicest and most popular of people – except with some (especially introverted)
thinking types who find them rather overwhelming.
Introverted feeling is a different (organic, wholesome and nutritious) kettle of fish.
Those with a strong, introverted feeling function tend to work with value systems that
are their own justification. They don’t need to refer to the values of other people, or
of the world in general. Their value systems are created by internal (and, actually,
often unconscious) processes. They may seem ‘sensible’ to a thinking type or not.
So much for Jung
The three preference choices that I have described were all those that Jung included
in his theory. When he was asked, in an interview with the BBC towards the end of
his life, if he had given much thought to his own typology, he said (among other
things and approximately)
‘Well, you see I always thought, and I had much intuition too. And I had a certain
difficulty with feelings. And my relationship with the world was not very good – I was
often at variance with the reality of things. So you see, from this you can make a
Jung is saying that he had preferences for introversion, intuition and thinking. Note
that he begins with thinking. While we all have a preferred perceiving function and
a preferred judging function most (some say all) of us will make use of one of these
preferences more than the other. In the case of Jung, it is reasonable to guess that
his most-of-all preferred function is thinking; that, above all, he was an introverted
thinking type. Introversion would therefore be termed his dominant attitude, thinking (probably) his dominant function. His secondary intuition preferences would be called his
auxiliary function. And the opposite of his most-preferred thinking function (i.e. feeling) would be called his inferior function. The third function is rather neglected in the literature.
It is generally accepted by Jungians that one operates most efficiently, intelligently
and consciously when using one’s dominant attitude and function, quite well when
using one’s auxiliary function and less well when using the non-preferred functions.
The inferior function is said to operate largely unconsciously, and to have a powerful
emotional charge as a result. It may overwhelm ego consciousness and the
preferred functions when one is stressed or otherwise vulnerable. This has positive
and negative aspects. The inferior function is often discussed as the door to the
unconscious and sometimes to psychological development: but it may also have
catastrophic results when the individual cannot work through inferior function
Finally, it is accepted by most, although not all Jungians that, while the dominant
function is generally used with the dominant attitude, the auxiliary function is
generally used when one is using one’s less-preferred attitude. In Jung’s case,
introversion and thinking would go together, supported by extraverted intuition. This
shouldn’t be taken as true in every case, but it seems to be true for most people, in
my experience and in the literature. The third function choice would then, be
(occasionally) used with the dominant attitude and the inferior function would be used
with the inferior (less-preferred) attitude – in Jung’s case, introverted sensing
followed by extraverted feeling in Jung’s case. Hence, Jung’s ‘difficulty with feeling’.
The personality ‘pecking order’ for Jung would therefore be: 1=introverted thinking:
2=extraverted intuition: 3=introverted sensing: 4=extraverted feeling.
The Judging-Perceiving Axis
Most followers of Jung today think that there is another important dimension of
personality – the judging-perceiving axis which divides people who like to make
decisions (Js) and those who like to keep bringing up possibilities (Ps). Jung, who
never made a decision when he could think about a subject for another decade,
would have been a perceiving type, making his overall typology INTP. The
characteristics of the INTP and all the other preference combinations are briefly
outlined in The Sixteen Personality Types.
The P-J axis was not one of Jung’s ideas and it is a little difficult to understand and to
integrate with the other aspects of personality typology. It tells you something about
what you do with your perceiving function preference (sensing or intuition) and with
your judging function preference (thinking or feeling). But, unlike the other axes of
personality, it doesn’t measure which of two ways of being you prefer. It doesn’t
say whether you prefer your perceiving choice or your judging choice. It’s more
complicated than that.
The P-J axis is actually a measure of behaviour in the outer world; whether, in
practice, you make decisions, or try to keep things open in the outer world. In other
words, do you use your preferred judging function (thinking or feeling) or your
preferred perceiving function (sensing or intuition) when you have to deal with the
outer world? A J uses their preferred judging function in the outer world; a P uses
their preferred perceiving function. For extraverts and introverts, this means
Most introverts, of course, use their dominant function when being introverted
(dominant function with dominant attitude again). And they will generally use their
auxiliary function choice in the world (auxiliary function with inferior attitude). So, if
someone is an IP, for example, they will be an introvert who uses their perceiving
function in the outer world. So, they will seem to the observer to be a sensing or
intuitive type as they deal with the outer world with one of these functions; but the
outer world is secondary to them. At heart, they will very probably be using Feeling
or Thinking: they are really an (internal) thinker or feeler.
The PJ scale says that they use their perceiving function in the world, but it doesn’t say that that is the dominant function. An IJ, in contrast is an introvert who uses their judging function when dealing with the outer world. They will seem to be a judging type (feeling or
thinking), but they will be using a (dominant) perceiving function inside. They are
really an internal sensing or intuitive person. Jung, for example, was almost
certainly an INTP, often using his perceiving intuitivepreference in the outer world,
but at heart an introverted thinking type.
Extraverts are different, of course. They will generally make use of their dominant
function in the outer world. So, for example, if someone is an EJ, they are an
extravert who uses their preferred judging function in the outer world. This function
(whether thinking or feeling) is very likely to be their dominant function: dominant
function with dominant attitude; however, the extraverted judger, like everyone, has
two function preferences: they will have a perceiving function choice as well. But, in
this case, it isn’t apparent in the outer world. So where is it? It’s inside. In the
great majority of cases, it has been shown that extraverts make use of their second
(auxiliary) function choice when introverting: auxiliary function with inferior attitude.
It’s a rule of thumb again, but it does seem to be true for most people.
An EP, by comparison, is an extravert who uses their preferred perceiving function in the outer world. This function (sensing or intuition) is likely to be their dominant function. In
most cases, they will be using their judging function when introverting. So, what
you see is what you get with extraverts, with bells on. The EJ seems like a judger
and they are: the EP seems like, and is, a perceiver.
So, the P-J axis, however measured, does not tell you which attitudes or functions
you prefer. But it has a special usefulness. It tells you, in a limited way, how you
are likely to behave in the world. And in practice, ‘judgers’ and ‘perceivers’
(whatever their precise attitude and function choices) can be two quite distinct groups
Putting it all together
We have now looked at all the personality choices that Jung and his successors
envisaged – the (extraverted or introverted) worlds that we live in, our preferences for
understanding the world (sensing or intuition) and for decision-making (feeling or
thinking) and whether we prefer to use our decision making preference in the outer
world (judging) or prefer to remain open – and suspend judgment – in the outer world
In understanding your own personality type, once you have done a personality test and have your ‘4 letters’, you may not find all your letters equally as useful or even useful at all. Jung himself didn’t go beyond the first three preferences. He was an INT, in other words and that was all that he needed or wanted to know.
There are a few people in whom only a single preference is detectable. Famous
recluses (like J.Paul Getty Junior) and less famous recluses like many Australian
bush ‘swaggies’ can be so withdrawn from the social world that one can’t say
anything about them in terms of personality, except to say that they are introverts.
Or, if you prefer, that introversion is their cardinal preference.
Another example might be Elizabeth David, the intuitives’ intuitive of food writers,
forever describing the ambience, or the memory of sights and sounds connected with
her dishes, taking a helicopter perspective about the meaning of a dish, or an
approach to cooking. This is what strikes me most of all about her books. She
seems to be far less concerned with such issues as the values of food vs the logic or
efficiency of its production, or cooking for company vs cooking for oneself.
Going a little further, you might find that you gain most help from discovering just
your dominant attitude and your dominant function – your two ‘most-preferred’, your
central type preferences, if you like.
Jung, for example, is often described as an introverted thinking type, while Bill
Clinton might be called an extraverted intuitive. This sort of description often gives a
rather two-dimensional description of the individual and, if it is the only description
that can be given, suggests that the person has not clearly developed all their
attitude and function preferences, that they are what many type watchers call an
‘undeveloped’ personality. Others would say that they are just specialists in what
they do best! In my experience, finding their dominant attitudes and functions is as
far as about one-third need – or wish – to go.
One advantage of being able to describe a person only in terms of their dominant
function and attitude is that it is easy to understand and easy to pick out a person’s
inferior (least-preferred) function and, as we have already seen, their psychological
Achilles heel. For an introverted thinking type like Jung, this would be his feeling
function – extraverted feeling (least-preferred function with non-preferred attitude).
In the case of an extraverted intuitive like, perhaps, Bill Clinton, type theory would
state that his probable inferior function will be (introverted) sensing – his capacity to
take in, store and correctly and effectively use data, and to remember, without the
use of external reminders, exactly what happened when, where and to (or with)
Getting More Complex: Three Letters
Some type experts are most comfortable with the concept of a dominant function and
a dominant attitude, modified by the presence of the less strongly-preferred (or
auxiliary) function. Using this approach Jung, for example, becomes an introverted
thinking type with auxiliary intuition: type theory, as discussed earlier (and below),
then suggests that his thinking would be used introvertedly, his intuition when being
In other words, Jung would seem like an intuitive type at first meeting
and his all-important introverted thinking might actually be less easy to see at first.
To follow the logic of our earlier descriptions, our Bill Clinton now becomes an
extraverted intuitive with auxiliary (either) thinking or feeling: surely feeling, in such a
warm and loving personality. But, if so, the feeling function would be introverted. It
would be an inner set of values of some importance, but not designed for public
discussion. Readers will have to make up their own minds whether type theory falls
down here and fails to convey the essentials of an individual’s personality. Don’t
forget what we said earlier, that type descriptions are theoretical constructs that are
useful, always fun and often very revealing: but that they don’t work in every case or
every situation and are only, at best, a description of personality viewed from the outside.
Many other factors come into play in complex people and in complex situations.
You may also personally find that knowing your secondary functional preference is a help. If you are an extraverted sensing type, for example, it can be useful to know that being and EST is different from being and ESF; that either your feeling or
thinking will act as a moderator of your use of your dominant sensing; that facts may
be used logically, or in relation to other peoples’ needs.
Conventional wisdom, as already discussed, suggests that the most-preferred
(dominant) function choice is normally used with the dominant attitude and that the
secondary function choice is normally used (less frequently) when the non-preferred
attitude has to be used. Our extraverted sensing type above would use secondary
feeling or thinking when being introverted. Carl Jung, as discussed above, was an
introverted thinker, who was known to use intuition when forced to be extraverted.
Another point comes out of this, however.
The second function choice is often less clear than the first. Also, many people are able to make a fair use of both the secondary function choice and (upon occasion and when they really have to), its opposite. Thus, while our extraverted sensing type won’t normally be able to make much effective use of intuition (the inferior function), he or she may well be able to use both thinking and feeling to some degree. Jung was disastrously at sea
with feelings (the opposite of his dominant thinking) but could use both his secondary
preference of intuition and its opposite (sensing) to at least some degree. All of which is fine as far as it goes, but must not be taken as being always the case.
Many people have a typology that doesn’t conform to ‘conventional wisdom’. They
may, for example, have a dominant function that is used predominantly when both
extraverting or introverting: intuitives are particularly liable to do this, in my
experience. Or they may have no real choice for a second function. Most books on
personality typology suggest that there is something wrong with these and other
‘non-conforming’ arrangements and that every effort should be made to conform to a
conventional preference pattern. But, in my opinion, rules like this can’t be applied
to everyone. Quite a few psychologically well-developed people don’t conform and
can happily go along with their psychological ‘biases’, just as they are able to accept
that their personalities vary across situations.
The three letter model is as far as Jung wanted to go in relation to personality types,
but most modern typologists go further, with the addition of the P-J dimension.
The most complex approach to personality is to try to view the totality of one’s
preferences holistically and to think in terms of an overall ‘psychological type’: one of
the sixteen possible personality combinations.
- Jung, C.G. Collected Works. Volume 6. XI. Four essays on psychological typology.
- Spoto, A. Jung’s Typology in Perspective. Chiron.
- Wilmer, H.A. Understandable Jung. Chiron.
- Remembering Jung: Conversations about C.G. Jung and His Work. 24. Joe Wheelwright. Bosustow Video.