strawberry theses

on cognitive functions, august 20, 2017

There's a horrible misconception running rampant throughout the online typology community that Jung's eight psychological types are fastened to Isabel's eight proposed psychological preferences, even though her work is merely derivative of his studies and isn't meant to be scoped in from a necessarily Jungian perspective despite obvious ties between them which would suggest so -- but I'd have to be drunk to look at their two theories and imagine they're directly connected so far as being swappable while keeping each other intact within itself.

I think it's perfectly fair to look at Jung's eight types and type them according to Isabel's four letter theory, but I would consider it unfair to look at them and propose that they're interchangeable: if Jung's Ne type leans ENFP in Isabel's system, then ENFP in Isabel's system necessarily must always be Jung's Ne type. A better example to highlight the ludicrousness of making such a connection is to use his Fe type, which while leans ESFJ by letters does not mean the type ESFJ would absolutely relate to his description considering its "T" leanings (he is suitable not so much because he fully accords with the fundamental character of the woman -- as a rule she is quite uninformed about this -- but because he meticulously corresponds in standing, age, capacity, height, and family respectability with every reasonable requirement"). Jung's types do not absolutely translate over to Isabel's types, but imagine how messy these correlations become when you apply them to "function stacks," a vague system that has been interpreted and used in a countless number of ways to apply back toward Isabel's types.

But wouldn't you think it strange that if the correlation between Jung types and Isabel's preferences is already sullied by minor inconsistencies preventing their uniformity, function stacks involving more than one of Jung's types would connect directly to Isabel's 16 possible types such that they're actually defined by them? I wouldn't consider anything like that impossible if Jung's types purely moved in a single direction along Isabel's eight preferences and layered on top of each other to correspond to her types through a logically justifiable "mixing" of functions, so that you could say the preferences INFP would align itself perfectly with a supposed function stack Fi - Ne - Si - Te.

The problem is they don't seem to make sense in that way and it's why I find it really strange why most of the online typing world revolves around using these functions to figure out what preferences people use. There's a strange allusion to "belief" many people who type this way question with me, often even taking an extra step and asking whether or not I "believe" in letters or functions, but I don't think the idea of belief is necessarily even applicable with how I view these personality indicators; I see only theories people have made about how they've discerned to effectively categorize people and I use them in hopes to understand the most defining characteristics in people -- who really explains why I am the way I am?

But I've digressed; why don't Isabel's eight preferences align themselves to "cognitive function stacks"?

I think ambiguity is a huge factor, regardless of whether it works in the stacks' factor (but validity, I'd say no, popular appeal, I'd say yes). In example stack Fi - Ne - Si - Te, how strong is each individual function? How do aspects of the four Jungian psychological types actually manifest themselves in this stack? Do they work separately? In congruence? What signifies "development"? Are the other four functions used by any means? I wish there were clear cut answers to these questions, because you'll notice everyone seems to have a slightly or vastly different opinion on how and why it works, and frankly, I never see much of a connection made between them and Isabel's preferences.

You'll actually hear a lot of dissent from within cognitive function theory itself but rarely does it regard poor Isabel's theory; because there's just a dogmatic acceptance for INFP to mean Fi - Ne - Si - Te, you'll hear things like "ESTPs look like they have Te because they're using Ti-Se, which acts a lot like Te!" You'd think they're discussing something immensely immersive and complex, but they'd really lost their footing on square one and dug themselves down a cognitive function hole by accepting that a type necessarily correlates to a cognitive function stack.

I think a big plague permeating the typology world is the idea of humans being wholly dichotomous in their thinking: it's this way or that way, black or white, good or bad, morally convicted or socially harmonizing, Ne-Si or Ni-Se. It's hardly reasonable to say people are always one way or another way and that they'll consistently act according to that because if such a thing were so, we would be far less complex as a species and personality models would potentially explain everything there is to be said about human personalities -- something *no* personality model today or possibly ever could do. But what about Isabel's nasty and evil dichotomies? Don't you have to choose between thinking or feeling? And extraverted or introverted? Judging or perceiving?

Interestingly enough, I don't think Isabel even meant for her "dichotomies" to be strictly four sets of dichotomies:

"Although people must of course use both perception and judgment, both cannot be used at the same moment. So people shift back and forth between the perceptive and judging attitudes, sometimes quite abruptly, as when a parent with a high tolerance for children's noise suddenly decides that enough is enough.

There is a time to perceive and a time to judge, and many times when either attitude might be appropriate. Most people find one attitude more comfortable than the other, feel more at home in it, and use it as often as possible in dealing with the outer world. For example, some readers are still following this explanation with an open mind; they are, at least for the moment, using perception. Other readers have decided by now that they agree or disagree; they are using judgment."

I think she left enough room in her theory to make a type not dichotomous but scalar: "I may have a strong preference for perceiving over judging, but I may use judging every now then" compared to "I have a mild preference for perceiving over judging, and while I feel I'm more of a perceiver, I use judging fairly regularly" would indicate someone is more or less perceiving than someone else; I think categorizing with a scalar model utilizing Isabel's letters would be the most optimal way of highlighting how often people would use a certain set of preferences. A qualitative assessment is less useful with personality because I think we've established that we describe each other better than any personality test result could, but psychometrics are fascinating because they deal with the art of comparison, numerics, and data.

But I feel like I've distracted myself from the actual point again -- how does it connect (or rather, not connect) to the function stacks?

Since INFP supposedly means Fi - Ne - Si - Te, these preferences should correlate to INFP always regardless of the level of development, and 100% correlate to them; without these conditions, we would have problems with translating one to the other considering (I'm assuming with the common belief in mind that function development progresses with age) a child at the age 17 with Fi fully developed and Ne being explored must be as 100% INFP as they would when they're 36 years old with Fi, Ne and traces of Si fully developed.

With dichotomies in mind, this falls apart because Fi correlates to INFJ considering absolutes: "She begins consciously to feel "what other people think." Naturally, other people are thinking all sorts of mean things, scheming evil, contriving plots, secret intrigues, etc. In order to forestall them, she herself is obliged to start counter-intrigues, to suspect others and sound them out, and weave counterplots. Beset by rumours, she must make frantic efforts to get her own back and be top dog." This attitude would be judging in Isabel's mind since it "uses a judging attitude for dealing with the outer world." There aren't any other quotes in Jung's description of Fi that I could attribute to either perceiving or judging, so I would finally type his Fi as J in MBTI. So why is INFP dominant in it?

Looking at it with scales in mind makes it seem just a little bit more intuitive, but it falls apart yet again when you try applying letters to the Jungian types: Fi is strong I, moderate N, strong F, and very weak J. You could be an INFP and relate most to Jungian Fi for whatever particular reasons that would lean you strongest I, N and F and weakest J, but doesn't that make Fi a poor descriptor for what INFP should be dominant in? A child who is INFP with whatever preferences for their letters would not relate absolutely to Fi by itself, but would they as an adult with developed Ne and Si?

Unfortunately, Ne relates to strong E, strong N, weak F and moderate to strong P and being "auxiliary" in it with whatever connotations that would imply means INFPs always become more extraverted and perceiving with age. It might not be a very far-fetched claim (even though I'm fairly sure testing for this would not work in that theory's favor) but accounting for a tertiary Si function would mean an INFP's natural development into their thirties would lean towards further introversion, (weak) sensing, weak feeling and more perceiving and all of a sudden take a turn and become extraverted, weak sensing, strong thinking, and strong judging. A "developed" INFP wouldn't be INFP by the end but more of an xxxx if everything balances out -- what happens to those preferences? I can't score a theoretical 100% INFP score if my Te is developed, can I? The functions refer to internal decisions that would most definitely affect my scoring or strength of preferences on a theoretical test that would type me either thinking or feeling.

You'll notice some people take note of these shortcomings and "loosen up" their perception of function stacks and how they relate to people but maintain some arbitrary rigid connections, like how "Ne - Fe - Ti - Fi" is still ENTP despite having two feeling functions in its stack with a(n extraverted) feeling function before a(n introverted) thinking one. It's easy to notice flaws and adjust accordingly, but critically thinking about the connection of the theories at hand to the point where you may begin to question whether Jung and his "offspring" should be involved in deciding how Isabel's preferences should slant often doesn't come so naturally.

Yet despite their best efforts at looking at things from a pro-function-stack point of view while still maintaining realistic reliability, it just won't add up no matter how you try to put it: what makes Fi - Ne "perceiving" but Ni - Fe "judging"? Ni correlates closest to INFP, so is it fair to say a function stack that begins with Ni leans that way respective of its strength in preferences? Why would the letter J flip all my functions around? How would it work if I "occasionally judge and occasionally perceive"?

You may dodge the argument altogether by referring to cognitive functions as literal cognitive processes and talking about them like they're innate, but...are they really? Jung postulated all this based on what he'd observed and I think while his thoughts were *very* detailed and thoughtful for his time, they were only his external observations (lots of clever educated guessing for his irrational functions, so guess why they all vaguely sound like introverted intuitive types) and unless you wish to brand yourself a "Jungian" and spiritually connect the eight types to a fully internalized, stagnant personality, it isn't really fair to say that these functions are connected to Isabel's letters.

You could make function stack archetypes and call them whatever you'd like but you aren't typing people's preferences then, are you? I could type someone Ni - Fe and call them INFJ but is that really how their preferences would lean? It's archetypal once again to type that way, and a decent model that's been made for this sort of typing is Socionics (but only so far as functions go!). It's unfortunately also impossible to connect their types back to Isabel's types as shown by this lovely graph:, and I wouldn't call it far fetched to say a similar looking table of weak correlations could exist between the Grant-Brownsword function stacks and her types.

But that's just what's also so darn confusing about cognitive functions -- no one really knows what the correct definitions are so you'll hear something different from everyone and how they relate to types. ISTJ isn't traditional because of the letters S and J, but because of tumblr's edition of Si, which strangely enough differs a lot from Jung's Si and Socionics' Si. When there are no real core definitions of these functions that describe Isabel's types, I couldn't imagine using such a system to describe something else unrelated to it.

Isabel deals a lot more with the external and leaves most of Jung's guesswork out of her own model, which helps when actually typing people -- it's no longer an archetypal system but something that's been bent enough to account for scalar models like MBTI Step II with its many different facets of each letter function. She took a step forward, but the typology world heavily insists on taking a step backward without actually explaining why. Jungian cognitive function stacks don't make much sense and trying to make sense of it won't get you anywhere no matter how hard you try.

lily ives gossamer