The Four Functions in Carl Jung’s Personality Typology



Where does personality lead you?

Paired Opposites

And now we continue the personality series. This will be a general discussion of what Jung called the functions. Later we will focus on each in more detail.

Jung posited two pairs of functions composed of opposites. They are thinking- feeling and intuition-sensation. He spoke of thinking-feeling as being judgmental and intuition-sensation as being perceptual. When you begin to explore these pairs the meaning of the designation becomes apparent. At first it seems subtle but the distinction inevitably grows on us.

Judgement: Thinking-Feeling

Our feeling response, whether it is to a person or an environment is, in fact, judgmental. When we state what we are feeling, we are stating our response or judgement. And these people, in their focus on feeling, may be the people who welcome us and bring us together in the most warm environment.

When it comes to thinking we can understand its meaning immediately, especially if we encountered a hard nosed teacher or professor. But judgement need not mean harsh. That darling person welcoming us is making a judgement but for positive engagement. And the critical thinking type may really be making a judgement or definition in our behalf. As you begin to explore these judgements it becomes apparent that there are huge benefits and it does not necessarily imply criticism although it might.

Perception: Intuition-Sensation

The perception pair brings up another world entirely. We can understand why intuition is called perceptual. Intuitive types are interested in possibilities. That truly is a matter of perception. One person’s possibility may be a matter of disinterest to someone else. So it is a matter of how a person sees things.

When it comes to sensation, we open one of the most fascinating functions. By sensation Jung is talking about all manner of experiences. It may be a matter of being a foodie, a designer or simply someone who deals in, well, sensations of various sorts. Or the clarity of their perceptions may lead them to be very conventional. This type takes some study. And, in fact, Jung struggled with it because it is the function which, for him, was most deeply buried in his unconscious.

Clarifying Our World

When we look in detail at the typology it opens a rich world. We can see the subtle reactions and interactions which are possible. And then the degree within each function begins to come into play. Our understanding of people’s roles and endeavors is enriched.

In Fiction

One of the things I find intriguing is that in reading a work of fiction I often can see the type being played out in the characters and in their interactions. It often explains a lot to me. Granted, when we are reading fiction we don’t necessarily have to do an analysis. If you are a feeling type you will have one reaction, a thinking type may throw the book down in disgust and an intuitive type may be turning events round and round in an analysis. Sensation types may have a variable set of reactions. And, in fact, we may be able to perceive the personality type of the author.

I have found the typology more than just a matter of interest. In writing the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy I ended up writing down the description of the personality types of the characters. I couldn’t resist and uncovered the reasons for linkages and actions I created in writing. And I put together a book showing how the typology can be used in fiction writing. Creating Characters and Plots is available on Amazon.

In Depth

Should it be of interest to you, Jung wrote a very detailed book about his typology. It is dense, deep and long but you might find it worth exploring. Psychological Types by C. G. Jung is available on Amazon.

In coming posts I will be offering detailed discussions of the functions.
Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

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