M-B #9: More About Cognitive Functions.

Acknowledging from the beginning I’m treading on thin ice, here’s what I’ve learned about cognitive functions.

First of all (if you want to) refer back to the typing children post (and maybe even the original processes post), because the four groups we divide children into are what we refer to as the cognitive functions.


With two worlds to notice/spend time in (the inner world and the outer world), each of the cognitive functions develops first in one of those two directions.

When a child is developing his or her Dominant function s/he will do so in his/her preferred world.

That is, as in introverted, dominant-intuitive, I didn’t follow my mother around all day telling her stories. I spent my story-creating time *alone* (or, when I was a bit older, with a single trusted friend).

In contrast my extraverted, dominant-intuitive daughter once shouted at her brother (who’d reached his limit), “But I can’t tell it if nobody’s listening!”

My N is introverted (Ni).  The stories are rich, but largely private. As a child I hid in the basement to tell my stories aloud.

Melody’s N is extraverted (Ne).  The story doesn’t exist if there’s not someone else participating.

(This is not an ultimate definition, but CFs are slippery things, and I’ve found examples the easiest way of getting a clearer view of them.)

I’ve already given an example of Fi vs. Fe.  Here’s a story about Fi vs. Te.

So far I think there’s a pretty good chance that Elisha is INTJ.  He’s almost 6, and definitely got the dominant-iNtution preference.

Earlier this year Melody came storming out of the bedroom all riled up.

“Elisha told me [RULE!] And I already *know* [RULE!]

Elisha trailed after her with this great NT look of dazed investigation.  There was nothing of the tattletale or lecturer in his aspect, and I had a moment of awareness.

“He’s not telling you because he thinks you don’t know, Melody.” [Can you see how this violated her Fi?  She thought he was challenging her grasp of her value system.] “He’s telling himself what he knows. Thinking out-loud.”

That is a developing Te: thinking externally, verifying through interaction with the world.

I don’t know if either of them got anything out of my revelation, but the issue hasn’t reached flashpoint since.

~ ~

This issue diffused so quickly it made me think about another (potentially sibling-type) conflict I didn’t respond to with as much awareness:


My girls are 17.5 months apart.  This means that in a lot of ways they are like twins, the younger entering a particular developmental stage before the older has left it.

This memory has me experimenting with the type I guessed for my oldest, and since ISFJ works with this story, that’s the type I’ll use for this illustration.

Ne vs. Si

When both girls were talking, but still in car seats (the toddler type), Melody used to harass her older sister, Natasha, by asserting, “The sky is orange!”

For reasons deeply mysterious to me, this would completely wig-out Natasha.  She would scream and holler that no the sky is blue and [tears streaming down her face] beg us to make Melody stop.

Yeah. Big fun in the car.  Can’t remember it happening any other time; she must have been bored.

Looking back with cognitive functions (CFs) and typing on the brain I can see an organic conflict.

Natasha was developing her introverted sensing.  She was in a modality of taking in detail and correlating it to her own experience, what she personally knew from life already.  Melody (I’m sure the first time it was completely innocent. Only the first time), with her extraverted intuition, was looking at possibilities or non-reality as a plaything.

These dominant functions collided.

Fe vs. Fi  redux

A couple years later, the tables inexplicably turned.  Now it was Natasha getting that I’m gonna start a fight twinkle in her eye and say (sometimes quiet enough that we in the front couldn’t hear), “Hey, Melody. The sky is orange.” Then sit back and revel in her power to invoke an explosion.

Fast-forward a few years, and each girl is now working on her auxiliary function.

Now Natasha is aware of her effect on others (Fe) and skillfully using it to press her sister’s buttons.  The particular button being pushed in this instance is Melody’s Fi. Her internal conviction of The Truth.

I was just mad.  I came up with that classic line that became a household staple: “Don’t. cause. problems.” And we eventually got past the deliberately-provoking stage.

For you skeptics out there, this really can work.  It’s the same principle as Don’t pick your nose and Say please. Sure you can’t *force* the behavior (or non-behavior) but you can normalize it, and largely that seems to work.

~ ~ ~

Looking at it the conflicts through the lens of type/CFs provided a level of rationale that I can really appreciate. It makes the falling-apart make sense.

As a writer, I *need* things to make sense.  We can’t always see motivation in real-life, but in fiction everyone is making their decisions for a reason (or several). This is one reason fiction is tidier than real life.

~ ~ ~

None of this CF stuff is set in stone, mind you, and really only needs to be used as much as it is useful to your understanding of yourself and others.  I find it useful because it adds meaning (however small) to the petty conflicts of my children.

You might say it defines the subtext.

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