Understanding the MBTI test * – the Mental Processes of Myers Briggs Personality Types

  • Which Mental Process do you best relate to?
  • What is the center of your Mental Universe?
  • What is your “Super Power?”

There are four mental processes as a cornerstone of Myers theme of “Gifts Differing” as the pattern of relative influence of each of these factors in one’s personality makeup are to a large degree what differentiates the personality types. Understanding the nature of these mental functions or process that underlie the Myers Briggs code letters of S,N,T & F can help you verify the accuracy of your MBTI ®.

One of these mental processes is dominant, at the center of your mental universe, around which everything else revolves. Every perception you have and every decision you make involves this process in some fashion. A second process supports this prime “super power” and is an important ingredient to functioning at your peak level.

Each of the descriptions of the four prime mental functions is sub-divided into how it is expressed in the outer world (a person’s extraverted nature) and in the inner world (a person’s introverted nature). Typically a person will be more proficient or comfortable using a favorite mental process in one of these two dimensions. For example, an ENTJ type is typically most effective using his or her logical Thinking out-loud or in an extraverted fashion vs. quietly cogitating inside his or her head.


Read the following descriptions to see which of them appear to ring most true for you. Which is your dominant process, your strong suit in your hand? Which is your main second-in-command?


How does Thinking work; how is it experienced?

Thinking is about order and organization, being objective, detached, able to discriminate, and using logic. Thinking preference people naturally seek to understand cause and effect – using an orderly chain of reasoning to establish the relationships. The Thinking mind seeks the truth, getting to the heart of the matter in an objective way. We experience being in our Thinking function when we are being dispassionate, able to make decisions at arms-length from whatever emotional turmoil may surround a situation. Thinking is about principles and well organized foundations for beliefs. It is the engine that devises strategies and creates organized, conceptual structures.

Te – How is Thinking expressed when it is turned outward?
Extraverted Thinking’s
focus is order. It is organizing and ordering the outside world; organizing both people and things to achieve a purpose. It is using logic and reasoning in dialogue with others. It is directing action, calling plays, and making decisions. It is purposeful sorting out; discriminating among alternatives. Extraverted Thinking asks questions, collects information in an orderly way, and solves problems in a systematic manner.
Extraverted Thinking (Te) is dominant in ESTJ & ENTJ and supportive in ISTJ & INTJ personality types.

Ti – How is Thinking experienced when it is turned inward?
The Introverted Thinking
mind presumes logical order rules the Universe; illogic is dismissed as just so much mental clutter that needs to be swept out of the mind. Beliefs, understandings, and information is taken in and logically organized in clusters of thought, with principles at the foundation. It strives to fit new pieces of information into clusters of thought where it most logically fits. It sorts out and discriminates that which makes logical sense from that which does not. Like a detective, the Introverted Thinking mind is drawn to mysteries – seeking clues and root causes – to solve a problem or a riddle.
Introverted Thinking (Ti) is dominant in ISTP & INTP and supportive in ESTP and ENTP personality types.


How does Feeling work; how is it experienced?

Feeling is about values, beliefs, moral foundations, and the human condition. It is about being open to emotions, sensations, needs, and thoughts. It is about being subjective, valuing the conclusions that arise from within. The Feeling mind desires harmony, values being attached rather than being detached, and is sensitive to one’s inner self as well as sensitive to others and their needs. This attachment to people, ideas, and moral foundations direct action and decisions. The Feeling function is an internalized moral and spiritual compass that provides direction and guidance – without the need to consciously analyze or understand why.

Fe – How is Feeling expressed when it is turned outward?
Extraverted Feeling reaches out to attach and interact with other living things . . . nurturing relationships. It is about validating and valuing others, encouraging, coaching, educating and motivating. It is protecting, helping, and caretaking. The Extraverted Feeling mind organizes action consistent with values, beliefs, spiritual foundations, and sense of humanity – how people (and other living things) ought to be treated. Extraverted Feeling promotes collaboration, a shared sense of community, and harmony in interpersonal relationships.
Extraverted Feeling (Fe) is dominant in ESFJ & ENFJ and supportive in ISFJ & INFJ personality types.

Fi – How is Feeling experienced when it is turned inward?
Introverted Feeling is being aware of and cherishing one’s own mental framework of values, beliefs and sense of self. It is being open to emotions and inner sensations. It is also being sensitive to others in an empathetic way. It is knowing what is right and wrong according to one’s personal moral and spiritual compass. It is being authentic. As a gatekeeper of the mind; it admits what is consistent with one’s value and belief framework and rejects what is repulsive or draining. Introverted Feeling seeks harmony with others and harmony within.
Introverted Feeling (Fi) is dominant in ISFP & INFP and supportive in ESFP & ENFP personality types.


How does Sensing work; how is it experienced?

Sensing is about experiencing the world as it “is” – through using the five senses. It is about attending to the here and now, being aware of the tangible sensory impressions of the moment. It is about trusting most one’s direct experiences as a guideline for future action. Sensing is about being literal, concrete and practical, noticing “what is” as opposed to what “could be.” It is about remembering, cataloging and recalling, often with great detail, a wide variety of experiences and information.

Se – How is Sensing experienced when it is turned outward?
Extraverted Sensing is about seizing the moment, becoming immersed in the here and now, pleasurably and spontaneously interacting with people, things, and situations of interest. It is being aware of, fully tuned into, and energized by the options and impulses of the moment. It is making “work” into play, learning by doing, and enjoying the creative process. It is being attuned to the variety, quality, and esthetic appeal of sensory experiences. Extraverted Sensing notices tangible realities and relates to them in a pragmatic fashion.
Extraverted Sensing (Se) is dominant in ESTP & ESFP and supportive in ISTP & ISFP personality types.

Si – How is Sensing experienced when it is turned inward?
The Introverted Sensing mind attends to, enjoys acquiring, and relying upon an internal library of detailed personal knowledge, facts, feelings, sensations, and information gleaned from experiences. Information and impressions from present experiences are archived in an orderly way into memory – which is typically a vast internal storehouse of data, details and impressions. The Introverted Sensing mind seeks rhythm, reliability, and order in its internal library and in its relationships with people and the outside world.
Introverted Sensing (Si) is dominant in ISFJ & ISTJ and supportive in ESFJ & ESTJ personality types.


How does Intuition work; how is it experienced?

Intuition is about understanding, exploring, creating patterns, noticing relationships, and imagining new possibilities. It is a sixth sense that involves an unconscious awareness of facts, events, happenings, and the whole of experience to produce insights about complex relationships, concepts, future possibilities, and trends. The Intuitive mind automatically links the past and present to forecast the future, speculates about possibilities, looks at the “big picture,” and seeks to grasp the general context of an idea, concept, or a situation. It learns to trust its hunches.

Ne – How is Intuition experienced when it is turned outward?
Extraverted Intuition scans the external world to explore new ideas, new people, and emergent possibilities. The Extraverted Intuitive mind is imaginative, inventive, and innovative – seeing and describing ways things can be reshaped, altered, or improved. It naturally energizes people and engages action towards a vision of what could be . . . of future possibilities.
Extraverted Intuition (Ne) is dominant in ENFP & ENTP and supportive in INFP & INTP personality types.

Ni – How is Intuition experienced when it is turned inward?
Introverted Intuition reflects on patterns, relationships, symbols, meanings, and perspectives on matters from complex phenomena to magical connections to practical problems. The Introverted Intuitive mind typically creates a unique vision and arrives at unique insights about things, phenomena, or people. It strives to discover the essence of things and fill in the missing pieces of a puzzle. Introverted Intuitive types frequently will have complex visions or perspectives that they are unable to explain with clarity to others.
Introverted Intuition (Ni) is dominant in INFJ & INTJ and supportive in ENFJ & ENTJ personality types.

Superpower Descriptions

The above descriptions most accurately describe the four mental processes (and how they differ in the two attitudes of Introversion and Extraversion) when that process is a person’s dominant or core mental process. The descriptions of the characteristics may be slightly less accurate when the process is the auxiliary or supportive function of an individual’s Personality Type. And when the function is further down a Personality Type’s hierarchy of mental processes or functions the operation of the function in a person can be substantially muted from what is described here.

Click on the image to the left to see the typical hierarchy of mental processes for each of the 16 mbti personality types.

I’ll use my own case as an example. As an INTJ Myers Type, my most favored mental process (my “Super Power”) is Introverted Intuition. Its polar opposite process is Introverted Sensing (in the pictured hierarchy you’ll see it is listed 8th). My Introverted Sensing process is so hidden in my unconscious I can barely tell you what it is like. So the above description for Introverted Sensing is something I can only “imagine” has some resemblance to how that operates in me. The curtin covering that process as it operates in me is almost opaque. And that is also why I know quite confidently that I am an INTJ vs being an ISTJ (which some personality assessments have actually typed me as).

More on why your most favored Mental Processes Make a Difference

While your “Super Power”, the mental process that is the centerpiece of your personality constellation, is vital to you doing your “best” this strength can also be the source of potential communication and relationship problems.

What you perceive or understand relying on your strength may conflict with another person whose mental process strength is the polar opposite of yours. Neither of you “get it” because you are looking through different somewhat hard coded lenses.

For example, the Introverted Intuitive’s mind is filled with patterns, relationships, ideas, etc. and often future-oriented while the Introverted Sensing person’s mind is filled with an extensive library of facts, impressions, truths, etc. gleaned from his or her past experience. Heads can butt over issues that may not be clearly expressed because of these internal foundational differences.

As difficult as this may be, a starting point is to recognize that these differences are not one of which personality type is better or right or more effective . . . but understanding that for each most favored process or power there is an opposite side of the coin. For one person “heads up” is the normal and comfortable style and is for them an effective part of their success. For another “tails up” is most natural and comfortable and key to their own success. Conversely to the flip the coin over and perform confidentally drawing on what is one’s least comfortable and natural “powers” is indeed a difficult challenge. But with practice and an appreciation that using these undeveloped processes is worthwhile, skill can grow.

Links – Learn More About Personality Type & Myers-Briggs

*While sometimes referred to as the Myers-Briggs Personality Test, the Briggs Myers personality test, Myers Briggs Test or the MBTI test, the MBTI ® is not a personality test but a personality inventory or instrument in which there are no right or wrong answers.

The Center for Applications of Psychological Type (CAPT) is a non-profit educational organization founded by Myers and psychologist Mary McCaulley to promote continued research into psychological type and application of psychological type to foster enhanced personal development, increased human understanding, and improved management of human conflict.

The mission of the Myers & Briggs Foundation is to continue the pioneering work of Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers in the field of psychological type, especially the ethical and accurate use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® instrument.