on thinking clearly - cognitive functions

07.21.22

reflecting above valencia st. post walk and talk with an incoming activate student looking for advice


reflecting on the conversation

"how can i better think for myself?"

this question led to disussing jungian cognitive functions as one path for self awareness. we talked about the influence certain kinds of information has and individual ways of making decisions from that information.

in jung's model of the mind, there's one main way to grow: complement the driver with the co-pilot cognitive functions.

before jumping in, one misconception is that most people understand the mbti like a pre-built lego system. being categorized as an infj, is like getting a pre-built, lego znap car: if you clicked the link, it's kind of clunky. if that's what is accepted for the total offering of legos, then it's an underwhelming prebuilt kit.

the part i find most interesting in the framework is not the personality categories, but the cognitive functions for jung's theory on personality. it's like the most interesting part of lego pieces is you can have different kinds of pieces to build different things. in this case, rather than building different versions of cars, it's about building different layers of self awareness for how the brain perceives and makes judgement on information.

jung highlighted four cognitive functions:

  1. thinking - using concepts to connect information
  2. feeling - a judgement in relationship to acceptance or rejection
  3. sensation - perceiving from the five senses
  4. intuition - unconscious and abstract pattern making for vision setting

these functions are then either introverted, relating to the subject (inner world), or extroverted, relating to the object (outer world). each category of personality determines how those functions stack, like 🥞, to make a cognitive function stack.

the personality hacker model, refers to them as passengers in a car. each person has a role in driving the car. they cover 4/8 as they are the part of the conscious function stack:

one main thing to know is that the driver and the co-pilot are an important pairing that can help overcome certain individual biases and is an unlock for better thinking.

as an infj, my cognitive function stack looks like:

the number one difference for me to pair those two together for me has been working with a high performance coach. by working with a coach who helps champion my priorities, i get data points and feedback to feed my inner model (Ni) but it's also clearly through the perspective of someone who has a generalist or specialist understanding and framework from which they hold as an individual (Fe). i understand myself often through the perspective of others.

one big insight was learning how to implement tiered habits rather than sprint every commitment and priority. more on that in another blog post soon. hearing and seeing it from my coach's perspective helped me integrate it more deeply, than individually thinking about it.

to pair that with some other examples on how these two functions pair well together:

so one way to think more clearly is to understand personal jungian personality type (can take 16 personalities test here) and immediately understand the driver and co-founder function. personality hacker has great blogs and articles on each type.

ps. writing is also something we talked about as a way to build the ability to think more clearly as it relates to new ideas:

One of the most surprising ingredients in having new ideas is writing ability. There's a class of new ideas that are best discovered by writing essays and books. And that "by" is deliberate: you don't think of the ideas first, and then merely write them down. There is a kind of thinking that one does by writing, and if you're clumsy at writing, or don't enjoy doing it, that will get in your way if you try to do this kind of thinking.

paul graham talks about its super powers in beyond smart →.


h/t @will for the first inspiration into cognitive functions, and @hayley for accountability in the personality hacker 1 year course deep dive.

if you liked this, have feedback, or more resources to share, send me a note on twitter.


made with 🖤 in sf.