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.

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

FunctionsJung 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

Jung 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.
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.

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 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.”