← Guides

Cognitive Functions

Have you ever wondered how your mind works? How you process information, make decisions, or view the world around you? Well, the answers lie within the realm of cognitive functions. Understanding these functions is like peering into the inner workings of your brain.

Let’s take a lighthearted stroll through the history of cognitive processes, illuminating their fascinating development and importance to our daily lives.

A Brief Walk Through History

The story of cognitive functions begins with the ancient Greek philosophers who pondered the nature of human thought. Thinkers like Aristotle explored the connection between the mind and the senses, laying the foundation for understanding how our cognitive abilities shape our perceptions.

Carl Jung

Fast forward to the late 19th and early 20th centuries when psychology emerged as a formal discipline. Renowned psychologists, such as Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, made significant contributions to the study of cognition. Freud delved into the subconscious mind and proposed the existence of an intricate interplay between conscious and unconscious mental processes. Meanwhile, Jung introduced the concept of psychological types and identified distinct cognitive functions that influence our individual personalities.

However, it was not until the pioneering work of Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget in the mid-20th century that cognitive functions gained broader recognition. Piaget's research focused on child development and revealed how cognitive abilities unfold over time. He described how children progress through stages of cognitive development, which laid the groundwork for understanding how cognitive functions evolve from infancy to adulthood.

Jean Piaget

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)

In more recent decades, advancements in neuroscience and cognitive science have revolutionized our understanding of cognitive functions. Sophisticated brain imaging techniques, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), have enabled researchers to observe the brain in action, linking specific regions to different cognitive processes. This multidisciplinary approach has provided us with a deeper understanding of how cognitive functions are localized within the brain.

So, what exactly are cognitive functions? At their core, they are mental processes that allow us to acquire knowledge, process information, and engage with the world. They encompass a range of activities such as perception, attention, memory, language, problem-solving, and decision-making.

Understanding Cognitive Functions

Cognitive functions can be broadly categorized into several domains, each with its unique characteristics. Let's take a closer look at four key cognitive functions:

Intuition (N)

Intuitive individuals rely on patterns, possibilities, and insights to navigate the world. They are comfortable with abstract concepts and tend to focus on the big picture.


  • seek connections and underlying meanings

  • trust gut instincts and insights

  • identify future possibilities and potential outcomes

  • appreciate imagination, symbolism, and metaphors

  • emphasize creative problem-solving.

Sensing (S)

Sensing individuals prefer to engage with concrete, sensory information from their immediate environment. They have a keen awareness of details and rely on facts and tangible evidence.


  • pay attention to present realities and tangible experiences

  • notice specific details and gather factual information

  • appreciate practicality and hands-on learning

  • utilize sensory information for decision-making

  • focus on step-by-step processes and practical solutions.

Feeling (F)

Feeling individuals place importance on values, emotions, and interpersonal harmony. They consider the impact of decisions on others and strive for empathetic connections.


  • evaluate decisions based on personal values and ethics

  • prioritize emotional impact and consider others' feelings

  • nurture and maintain harmonious relationships

  • value empathy, compassion, and understanding

  • make decisions that align with personal and social values

Thinking (T)

Thinking individuals approach situations with logic, analysis, and objectivity. They emphasize rationality, impartiality, and problem-solving based on logical frameworks.


  • analyze situations objectively and impartially

  • seek logical consistency and coherence in information

  • value critical thinking and evidence-based reasoning

  • make decisions based on rational analysis

  • appreciate precision and accuracy in problem-solving.

The 8 Cognitive Functions

Each of the four key or primary cognitive functions has both an extraverted and introverted version, amounting to a total of eight functions. Here's a brief explanation of each cognitive function:

1. Extraverted Thinking (Te)

This function focuses on organizing and analyzing information from the external world. People who use Te prefer to make decisions based on logical reasoning, objective data, and efficiency. They are often skilled at planning, problem-solving, and taking charge of situations.

2. Introverted Thinking (Ti)

Ti is an internal cognitive function that prioritizes understanding and analyzing concepts in depth. People who use Ti are critical thinkers who enjoy exploring ideas, seeking clarity, and creating coherent mental frameworks. They value precision and accuracy in their thought processes.

3. Extraverted Feeling (Fe)

Fe focuses on understanding and responding to others' emotions and social dynamics. People who use Fe are empathetic and attuned to the feelings and needs of those around them. They value harmony, often seeking to maintain positive relationships and a pleasant atmosphere in social settings.

4. Introverted Feeling (Fi)

Fi is an inward-focused function that emphasizes personal values, emotions, and authenticity. People who use Fi prioritize understanding their own emotions and staying true to their deeply-held beliefs. They value individuality and genuineness in their actions and relationships.

5. Extraverted Sensing (Se)

This function is attuned to the external environment, processing information through the five senses in real-time. People who use Se are often spontaneous, action-oriented, and keen observers of the present moment. They enjoy engaging in hands-on experiences and are responsive to immediate stimuli.

6. Introverted Sensing (Si)

Si is an internal cognitive function that focuses on recalling past experiences and sensory details. People who use Si have a strong memory for specific details, patterns, and routines. They often seek stability and enjoy traditions or familiar environments.

7. Extraverted Intuition (Ne)

Ne is future-oriented and open to exploring various possibilities and connections. People who use Ne are imaginative, creative, and enjoy brainstorming ideas. They are often quick thinkers who excel at seeing potential opportunities and making connections between disparate concepts.

8. Introverted Intuition (Ni)

Ni is an internal function that synthesizes information to form a deep understanding of patterns and underlying meanings. People who use Ni have a strong sense of vision and foresight, allowing them to anticipate future outcomes and make insightful decisions.

Each individual has a dominant, auxiliary, tertiary, and inferior function, forming their unique cognitive function stack, which influences how they perceive, process information, make decisions, and interact with the world.

Check out the dominant functions of the 16 personality types below!

Discovering the ins and outs of cognitive functions holds immense value for multiple reasons. It grants us a deeper understanding of how we perceive and interpret the world, empowering us to navigate experiences and interactions with clarity. Recognizing our cognitive strengths and areas for improvement allows us to optimize learning strategies and adapt swiftly to diverse situations, both in our personal and professional lives.

Moreover, the practical applications of cognitive functions extend across various fields. In education, tailoring teaching methods to accommodate different cognitive styles enhances learning outcomes. In healthcare, understanding cognitive functions aids in diagnosing and treating conditions like ADHD, Alzheimer's, and other cognitive impairments, leading to better patient care.

As our understanding of cognitive functions has evolved over the years, from ancient philosophical musings to modern-day neuroscience insights, we've unlocked a treasure trove of knowledge about these mental processes. This knowledge offers profound insights into our own minds, opening doors to personal growth, enhanced learning, and a profound connection with our fellow human beings. So, the next time you ponder your thought processes, remember that the key to unlocking the secrets of your mind lies within the world of cognitive functions.

Wanna learn more?
Connect with Type School's vibrant community!

Join Type School free
4 small dots in a row, in blue, yellow, green, and red. These represent the core Type School colors