Carl Jung & Psychological Types

Carl Jung
Carl Jung

The Core Idea

The essence of Jung’s theory of psychological types is simple; when our minds are active and we are awake, we are alternating between taking in information and making decisions in our internal and external worlds. Jung identified eight different patterns for how we carry out these mental activities commonly referred to as the function- attitudes, functions- in-attitude or the eight mental processes.  He created these patterns through combining his opposite pairs of attitudes and functions. Jung described these eight different patterns in his book entitled Psychological Types through characterizations of people who habitually prefer one pattern over another – his “eight types.” Jung’s eight types are the roots of the well known 16 MBTI® types.

“Psychological type is a theory of personality developed by Swiss psychiatrist Carl G. Jung to explain the normal differences between healthy people. Based on his observations, Jung concluded that differences in behavior result from individuals’ inborn tendencies to use their minds in different ways. As people act on these tendencies, they develop predictable patterns of behavior. Jung’s psychological type theory defines eight different patterns, or types, and gives an explanation of how type develops.”Isabel Briggs Myers, Introduction to Type

The Attitudes and Functions

The Attitudes – Extraversion and Introversion

The first pair of opposites that Jung identified was the two opposite ways in which we adapt to, or orient ourselves to, the world.

These are Jung’s attitudes of Extraversion and Introversion:

  • Extraversion – Our energy moves toward the outer world of people, places and things; the world outside of us
  • Introversion – Our energy moves toward the inner world of thoughts and ideas; the world inside of us

Jung believed that our orientation to the world was a foundational aspect of our personality. Our preferred energy attitude is such an elemental part of one’s personality that the two ways of being become obvious, even to the layman, when pointed out. We alternate between these two energy attitudes every day, back and forth, as needs arise and our environment dictates. Yet, Jung believed that we are at home, or feel most comfortable, in one of these worlds over the other.

The Functions – Perceiving and Judging

“The four functions are somewhat like the four points of the compass; they are just as arbitrary and just as indispensable. Nothing prevents our shifting the cardinal points as many degrees as we like in one direction or the other, or giving them different names…but the one thing I must confess: I would not for anything dispense with this compass on my psychological voyages of discovery.”C.G. Jung, Psychological Types

Jung observed that one’s preference for Extraversion or Introversion could not alone account for the many behavioral differences he observed between people.

For this reason, he identified two opposite mental functions that we use to take in information or Perceive – the Perceiving functions of Sensing and Intuition:

  • Sensing Perception – The process of collecting concrete data through using our five senses
  • iNtuitive Perception (iNtuition) – The process by which we make connections and infer meanings beyond sensory data

FunctionsJung also coined two opposite mental functions that we use to evaluate information or make decisions; ways to Judge, or the Judging functions of Thinking and Feeling:

  • Thinking Judgment – The process we use for evaluating information by applying objective and logical criteria
  • Feeling Judgment – The process we use for evaluating information by considering what is important to me and you

As is the case with the energy attitudes, Jung determined that we have an innate pre-disposition to habitually use – or prefer – one of the four functions over the others. We either prefer, or have energy to devote to, using one of our Perceiving functions of Sensing or Intuition over our Judging functions; or we have more energy and are more comfortable using one of our Judging functions of Thinking or Feeling over our Perceiving functions.

The Eight Mental Functions-in-Attitude

Jung observed that the attitudes of Extraversion and Introversion were always used in conjunction with either a Perceiving function or a Judging function.

The four functions (Sensing, Intuition, Thinking, and Feeling) with the two attitudes (Extraversion and Introversion) combine to create the eight mental Functions-in-Attitude attitude, which Jung called his “eight types.” These eight mental functions in their particular attitude form the core of Jung’s theory of psychological types; these are the eight functions that we call upon to adapt to the world.

“Strictly speaking, there are no Introverts and Extraverts pure and simple, but only Introverted and Extraverted function-types.”C.G. Jung, Psychological Types

We can understand the mental function-in-attitudes that we use the most through knowing our own  Type Dynamics  or our type code hierarchy.

Each Perceiving and Judging function has a qualitatively different “flavor” when used in the outer and inner worlds:

Function-Attitude Definition
Extraverted Sensing Outward and active focus on the objective world and on gathering factual data and sensory experiences.
Introverted Sensing Inward and reflective focus on subjective sensory experiences and on the storing of factual historical data.
Extraverted Intuition Outward and active focus on the new, the possibilities and meanings/ patterns in the objective world.
Introverted Intuition Inward and reflective focus on the subjective world of symbols, meanings, insight and patterns that come up from the unconscious.
Extraverted Thinking Outward and active focus on applying logical order to the objective world through building structure, organization and making decisions.
Introverted Thinking Inward and reflective focus on the subjective world of reason that seeks understanding through finding the logical principles behind phenomena.
Extraverted Feeling Outward and active focus on bringing order to the objective world through building and seeking harmony with others and alignment with openly expressed values.
Introverted Feeling Inward and reflective focus on the subjective world of deeply felt values that seeks harmony through alignment of personal behavior with those values and evaluation of phenomena in light of those values.
Thomas J. Golatz. Used with permission of the Center for Applications of Psychological Type,

In Jungian terms, we define our type by our dominant function, which is our most preferred mental function. For example, if we like to use Extraverted Sensing more than any of the other seven mental functions, Extraverted Sensing is our dominant function and we are an Extraverted Sensing Type.

“Jung noted that it is not possible to use the attitudes of Extraversion and Introversion and the Judging and Perceiving functions independently of each other. People who prefer Extraversion will most like to focus their Perception and Judgment in the outer world while people preferring the Introverted attitude, when circumstances permit, will concentrate Perception and Judgment on ideas.”Isabel Briggs Myers, Gifts Differing

Jung stated that we can experience energy depletion and fatigue when we use our other mental functions for too long. Jung went so far as to say that it could be psychologically detrimental to our well being when our environment does not support us in the use of our dominant function; he called this “falsification of type.”

The Theory in Practice

It takes some reading and practice to understand the eight function-attitudes and the manner in which they operate within your type.  However, the more you read and practice, the more familiar you will become with the core of Jung’s psychological type theory. It is through our understanding of Jung’s core theory and the eight mental functions-in-attitude, that we find the real richness and depth of type.

An Example of Using the Function-Attitudes

Here is an example of how you might use all of the mental functions in their attitudes at the grocery store for a dinner party you are planning :

As you drive to the store, you have formed an internal image of how the party will look (Introverted iNtuition). You get to the store and you see that the tomatoes do not look ripe (Extraverted Sensing). You determine you will forgo the tomato salad since you want your friends to feel good (Extraverted Feeling). You immediately start to brainstorm other options as you move through the produce isle (Extraverted iNtuition) while examining the other vegetables (Extraverted Sensing). You pass the blueberries and recall the documentary you just saw on child labor in blueberry fields (Introverted Sensing). That treatment of children is inexcusable, so you decide not to purchase the blueberries to make the blueberry tart you had thought about (Introverted Feeling). You pass the bakery and see a carrot cake (Extraverted Sensing) that takes you back to the birthday dinner your mom made for you last year (Introverted Sensing). You look at your watch and determine that you had better move a bit faster as you have only a couple of hours left to prepare (Extraverted Thinking). You turn your attention to your thoughts to internally structure the rest of your day (Introverted Thinking).

Exercises for Accessing the Functions-Attitudes:

You might want to figure out how to access the mental functions to see how you are using them; this is a set of exercises that type practitioners have developed to help people understand how comfortable they are with the various mental functions. For these exercises, you need to pick an object which could be anything: a pen, an apple, an orange, a piece of candy, etc.

Function- Attitude Exercise
Extraverted Sensing Explore the object with your five senses as you are experiencing the object right now; look at the object, taste it (if edible!), smell it, crunch it to hear the sound, smell its aroma.
Introverted Sensing Hold the object and think of an experience you have had with an object that is similar; recall the sensory detail of the experience that you had with the object; what it was, what it looked like, what you did with it, who was there, what you were wearing, when it was
Extraverted Intuition With someone else, talk about everything you could do with the object that you have not done before.
Introverted Intuition Close your eyes and identify what the object symbolizes or means to you.
Extraverted Thinking Take several disparate objects and organize those using objective criteria; ask someone else to identify the criteria that you used.
Introverted Thinking Think of all the different kinds of objects that you have and categorize them in your mind into mutually exclusive groupings; write those categories down to determine if there are any overlapping categories.
Extraverted Feeling Do something for someone with the object that will make them feel good.
Introverted Feeling Close your eyes and see if the object reflects anything that is really important to you – reflect on those deeply held values.