Cognitive Processes and Problem Solving*

*Adapted from Linda V. Berens, Dynamics of Personality Type: Understanding and Applying Jung's Cognitive Processes (Understanding yourself and others series) (Telos Publications, 2000) Used with permission.


Most of the time, our daily lives go along on autopilot. However, when things are not going well, we may stop and try to apply a formal problem-solving or decision-making process.

Our type code can give us clues as to which processes we are most likely to use in any given situation, but we do have the possibility of using any of them and most likely do use more than two.

The problem comes when we overuse some and under use others and get stuck. As we get more and more stressed, we are likely to do just that.

A Personal Example

On the last day of a stressful five-and-a-half-day workshop with a group of army officers, I drove into the parking lot. I went up to the door of the building and it was locked. I went back to the car and waited a long time and then finally went to investigate around the corner.

I then noticed that everyone had parked on the other side of the building. I realized that it was Saturday, so the building probably was not all opened up. Frustrated and angry, I went up the stairs, stormed into the meeting room, and complained, "It would have been nice if someone had told me the usual doors were locked!" The poor participants were upset at my being late and anxious about the exam they had to take. My outburst didn't set a good tone for the end of the workshop.

Analyzing the problem later, I realized I had "turned up the volume" on my preferred cognitive processes and ignored my less-preferred processes, or engaged them only in desperation and very poorly at that.

My type pattern reflects how much and how well I used the cognitive processes in approaching the problem:

As I drove up to the building, extraverted Sensing information was available to me, but I ignored it.

I was so involved in analyzing my week using introverted Thinking and seeking meaning and hypothesizing about it using extraverted iNtuiting that I didn't notice all the cars in front of the building.

I went around the building to my usual parking place, using introverted Sensing in the background and rather unconsciously. Then, instead of gathering new data via extraverted Sensing, I went back to the car and back to using my preferred processes!

When I finally got a sense of something not being right, I switched to a very inferior extraverted Feeling process and projected blame onto my "victims."

I had totally omitted any consideration of what was appropriate or what that group of usually-prompt people was like. But the story does have a decent ending. It was a workshop qualifying participants to purchase the MBTI, and we were later able to analyze the experience and understand what had happened. Now when I get in situations that aren't going the way I want, I am more likely to ask myself what process I am stuck in or what process I am ignoring.



Extraverted Sensing: Experiencing and noticing the physical world, scanning for visible reactions and relevant data

Being attracted to and/or distracted by changing external events. Adapting and changing your mind according to the situation. Focusing on facts. Asking lots of questions to get enough information to see the pattern. Going ahead and responding to raw data. Physical self-expression.


Introverted Sensing: Recalling past experiences, remembering detailed data and what it is linked to

Being heavily influenced by prior experiences. Distrusting new information that doesn't match. Assuming an understanding of a situation because it resembles a prior one. Focusing on facts and stored data. Giving lots of specific, sequential details about something. Rating and making comparison.


Extraverted iNtuiting: Inferring relationships, noticing threads of meaning, and scanning for what could be

Being attracted to new ideas and possible realities. Holding different and even conflicting ideas and values in mind at once without articulating them. Assuming a meaning of something. Focusing on inferences and hypotheses. Extemporaneously connecting ideas.


Introverted iNtuiting: Foreseeing implications, conceptualizing, and having images of the future or profound meaning

Being strongly influenced by a vision of what will be, which may involve an abstract, even vague understanding of complexities that are difficult to explain. Focusing on a preconceived outcome or goal. Perhaps not articulating or even aware of premises or assumptions behind envisioned implications. Describing implications and the final picture.




Extraverted Thinking: Organizing, segmenting, sorting, and applying logic and criteria

Expressing thoughts directly, readily critiquing and pointing out what has been left out or not done. Getting to the point efficiently and getting the task done. Taking decisive action, which may be misread as closed mindedness. Focusing on logic and criteria for setting up systems of organization.


Introverted Thinking: Analyzing, categorizing, and figuring out how something works

Defining principles, differences and distinctions. Pointing out inconsistencies and critiquing inaccuracies. Engaging in detached observation which can be misread as dislike or disapproval. Not expressing thoughts unless illogic and inaccuracy are overwhelming. Focusing on identifying, analyzing, naming, and categorizing.


Extraverted Feeling: Considering others and responding to them

Expressing positive and negative feelings openly. Disclosing personal details to establish rapport. Pointing out how to attend to needs of others and complaining when others are not considerate. Expressing of warmth, caring and concern and interest in others, which can be misread as suffocating or not attending to a task. Focusing on appropriateness and connectedness.


Introverted Feeling: Evaluating importance and maintaining congruence

Clarifying what is important. Pointing out contradictions and incongruities between actions and espoused values. Expressing quiet reserve, which is often misread as aloofness. Adamantly insisting on what is important, or what you want or like. Not expressing inner convictions unless important values are comprised.




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