According to the theory of cognitive functions, which the Myers Briggs Type Indicator is based on, every person’s thought processes are comprised of all 8 pairs of cognitive functions. Everyone has Introverted and Extroverted forms of Intuition, Sensing, Feeling, and Thinking.
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The Myers Briggs Type Indicator is a self assessment evaluation designed to indicate which of these pairs are a person’s preferred pairs. The MBTI is mostly accurate, but there is a lot of room for error especially if a person has nearly balanced functions. Some people may have to dig a little deeper to find their ‘true’ type, but can eventually do so once they determine their two dominant cognitive functions. Once this is established, the rest of the pairs fall into a logical order. For example, INFJs have the following order – Ni, Fe, then Ti, Se, then Ne, Fi, Te, and finally Si.
This means that when an INFJ applies their cognitive thought process to anything, they always begin with Introverted Intuition. If Ni does not provide a solution, the INFJ may accept the in ability to resolve the thought process, or the INFJ’s cognitive process moves to Extraverted Feeling. If Fe does not provide a solution, the INFJ may accept the in ability to resolve the thought process, or the INFJ’s cognitive process moves to Introverted Thinking. If Ti does not provide a solution, the INFJ may accept the in ability to resolve the thought process, or the INFJ’s cognitive process moves to Extraverted Sensing… and so on until either the INFJ finds a solution, accepts the inability to resolve the process, or exhausts their cognitive function pairs.
The implication here is that people will develop their cognitive functions in proportion to how much they are used, and if people always start with one process and move in the same order from there, then each cognitive process will get less and less use, and therefore less and less development than the previous. This is why an INFJ’s Ni is generally more developed than their Fe, which is generally more developed than their Ti, which is generally more developed than their Se, etc.
As children, we begin to develop our cognitive processes at a very early age. We go with what works best for us, and the rest of the processes fall into place behind them. The more we use them, the more our cognitive functions develop into a sloping pattern, like this.
These clear preferences are the basis for personality types, as they indicate disposition and temperament.
However, when a person becomes stressed, the cognitive function pairs do something interesting. They compensate out of necessity. When a function proves itself to be inapplicable often enough in a situation, the mind subconsciously disregards it to a lower place in the order of functions. In the case of INFJs, if Ni proves to be of no use, then it is temporarily placed second, and Fe is promoted to first. While in this state, Fe gets a lot more development than it would normally. Cognitive function hierarchy restructuring will continue if needed. This usually involves greater and greater degrees of stress, unlike the normal method of simply needing a specific cognitive function to reach a solution. If Fe proves to be of no use, then it is temporarily placed second, and Ti is promoted to first. While in this state, Ti gets a lot more development than it would normally… and so on. However, in order to do this, all of the pairs have to restructure their order.
This is why people act like different types when stressed. In the case of INFJs, each stress level causes the following: