Extraverted Intuition: Not what you think it is


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Erik Thor

Neojungian at Neojungian Academy
I am an INFJ and I want to combat the stereotypes and help promote personality psychology that doesn't limit or mistype you.
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Did you know that extraverted intuition has been highly misunderstood in the modern theories? And did you know that there are more functions than the eight Carl Jung initially speculated to exist? Allow us to transform your idea about extroverted intuition and allow us to show you that INFPs and INTPs are more intuitive than we have previously thought.

Intuition is a deductive process that works best when filling in the blanks, finding hidden items, seeing possible associations, filling empty spaces, exploring dark or unknown areas, or trying to make assessments of abstract or complex information. It’s highly logical in its nature, and depends on pattern recognition, synthesis, and speculation. Jung distinguished an extraverted intuitive type from an introverted intuitive type, and it appears from first glance that extraverted intuition has an objective priority, with its basis in the real world:

Jungian definition:

Because extraverted intuition is orientated by the object, a decided dependence upon external situations is discernible, but it has an altogether different character from the dependence of the sensational type. The intuitive is never to be found among the generally recognized reality values, but he is always present where possibilities exist. He has a keen nose for things in the bud pregnant with future promise. He can never exist in stable, long-established conditions of generally acknowledged though limited value: because his eye is constantly ranging for new possibilities, stable conditions have an air of impending suffocation.

However, we all look at extraverted intuition from different angles and tend to read different things into the concept. How the modern typology community interprets Jung’s concept is vastly different from how he saw it – in fact it seems that the MBTI community has seriously distorted Carl Jung’s works on extraverted intuition. For instance, cognitiveprocesses.com emphasise extraverted intuition as something related to brainstorming, association, and juggling:

Modern definition:

Extraverted iNtuiting involves noticing hidden meanings and interpreting them, often entertaining a wealth of possible interpretations from just one idea or interpreting what someone’s behavior really means.

It also involves seeing things “as if,” with various possible representations of reality.

Cognitiveprocesses.com

What has happened here and how does it affect how intuition is understood? Let me answer in this article that will show you that INTPs and INFPs are far more intuitive than you have previously thought.

The Intuitive Perceiver

In the MBTI, the intuitive perceiving types (NP) are the ones with extraverted intuition (generally labelled Ne). Anyone that has an N and a P in their four letter code has extraverted intuition as their dominant function (ENTP and ENFP) or auxiliary function (INTP and INFP). (Those with an S and a J have extraverted intuition as their third function (ESTJ and ESFJ) or fourth function (ISTJ and ISFJs).)

The preference for intuitive perceiving (NP) is what creates a significant or fairly significant relationship to this form of intuition. (If you don’t have any of these letters, most would argue that your extraverted intuition shouldn’t be that strong, though some argue that the letters have nothing to do with the functions at all, and others argue that development can change this.) However, this system creates a hierarchy between those with Ne as their dominant function (ENxP) and those who are said to have it as an auxiliary function (INxP), subordinated to either feeling (Fi) or thinking (Ti) as their dominant function.

Do all INFPs and INTPs therefore have a weaker extraverted intuition (Ne) than ENFPs and ENTPs?

Introverted intuitive perceivers

extraverted intuition

Neojungian Academy has found that INFPs and INTPs have just as strong an intuitive perceiving function (which we refer to as NP), and a similar strength in finding connections and associations between information. But their intuition is less visible and more withdrawn, as their introverted tendency gives them a signal to be more cautious in their thinking process.

Often, an INFP or INTP has a creative theoretical form of intuition (IN). This means they are more philosophical in their nature, compared to the ENFP or ENTP, and that they are less likely to test their ideas and deductions in the immediate world around them. Their intuition is fundamentally more cautious in its nature, similar to INFJs and INTJs.

This is what often causes INTPs and INFPs to relate less to extroverted intuition. However, as they have a similar capacity for juggling multiple possible associations and deductions to the ENFP and ENTP, their intuition is half-and-half. Theoretically, the way we all tend to think about it, INFPs and INTPs have a half-baked extroverted intuition. They use it to a moderately high extent, but it’s not their dominant process, and it’s not as utilized as it is by ENFPs and ENTPs.

There needs to be a real discussion about INTPs and INFPs and their unique form(s) of intuition. INFPs and INTPs deserve recognition for their unique and grand form of intuiting. And we need to talk about how confusing it is to describe Extraverted Intuition as an extroverted process. Really, we are mislabelling something that is Perceiving in its nature as Extroverted.

I’m not saying that the Myers Briggs definition of extroverted intuition (the ability to juggle different options and to think of alternatives) isn’t meaningful, just that it’s different. Modern extroverted intuition is less extroverted in it’s nature and more perceiving in it’s nature. Perceiving is the function that drives brainstorming options, extroversion is the process that gathers and makes information objective.

An extroverted intuition is about making ideas real and testing conclusions in the real world. A perceiving intuition is about juggling different ideas and possibilities. And it makes sense that INFPs and INTPs relate strongly to having the latter. They don’t have an extroverted intuition (EN), they have a perceiving intuition (NP)

INTPs and INFPs vs INFJs and INTJs

The primary similarity between the four INxx types is their tendency towards theory, philosophy, scenario and envisioning. It’s a fundamentally more cautious and slow form of intuition. But the similarities between NPs and NJs stop there.

INFPs and INTPs take the lead in the race when it comes to juggling multiple possible deductions. On the other hand, INTJs and INFJs generally only recognize one solution: The solution. Where Intuitive Judging types narrow down options and look for the most likely explanation, INFPs and INTPs can be more open minded to less-likely ideas that still have potential.

INFJs and INTJs have a fundamentally more sceptical nature than INTPs and INFPs, less open to new perspectives. The INTJs and INFJs have a more speculative nature. They look at trends and evaluate the likelihood of success. They strategize which opportunity is the most possible. And they initially discuss new opportunities, where INFPs and INTPs gladly entertain them.

An INFP or INTP gladly entertains a new possibility and loves juggling different hypothetical scenarios. This can help them be more open-minded to new ideas initially. INFJs and INTJs are more likely to call bullshit when they see it. But they will also miss interesting opportunities because they may have been too closed-minded. You’ll see INTPs and INFPs discussing new possibilities endlessly, and INFJs and INTJs saying “Let’s get to the point already”.

Neojungian definition

We distinguish Intuitive Extroversion (ENxx) from Intuitive Perceiving (xNxP).

Intuitive Extroversion (EN) is the ability to quickly scan through and make deductions about things in your environment. It is making abstractions about things around you. It is filling in the blanks and spotting trends and patterns in the outer world.

Intuitive Perceiving (NP) is the ability to juggle different possibilities and patterns. It is to see different alternative answers or ways to fill in a box. It is to see different possible trends and explore alternative scenarios and ideas. Can you see how ideas are connected and tie into one another and how one idea brings up another?

“But there are only eight cognitive functions”

What would it mean to believe that the human mind can be divided into eight set regions? The more I’ve studied around in neuroscience, the more I’ve learnt about the flexibility, the diversity, and the complexity of the human mind.

To then hold on to a 1920s theory without developing it to fit with modern research? To think that Carl Jung’s eight functions “are it” and that there is nothing more, nothing deeper? Jung only brushed upon the topic of organizing millions of neurons and brain cells. And Jung freely admitted that a larger number of functions could be theorized (Psychological Types, p. 477). There is much more for those who are curious enough to keep looking.

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About Erik Thor

I am an INFJ and I want to combat the stereotypes and help promote personality psychology that doesn't limit or mistype you.