What Are INTJ Cognitive Functions? (A Comprehensive Guide)

So, you know you’re an INTJ.

You might know what those letters mean, but there’s more to your personality type than that.

You also have cognitive functions, which can be both internal and external.

As an INTJ myself, I enjoyed researching the subject for many hours. But if you’re new to the subject, it may be all Greek to you!

In this article, I gave you my most concise but extensive explanation of all INTJ cognitive functions.

So let’s get straight to the point.

What Are the Cognitive Functions of INTJ Personality?

The whole four-letter structure of the MBTI test is based on eight cognitive functions. Each of those functions shows the way your mind works. Depending on your personality type, some of them might be dominant, while others are inferior. 

Let’s assess each of the cognitive functions of the INTJ personality type individually.

Primary Functions of an INTJ

First, let’s start with primary functions, which are the ones INTJs use the most.

Introverted Intuition (Ni)

According to Brittanica, intuition is “something that is known or understood without proof or evidence.” It’s what we also call a sixth sense or gut feeling

Now, introverted intuition is a dominant function for an INTJ. 

But they don’t actually have some kind of superpower that allows them to predict the future.

Instead, their unique way of thinking allows them to picture different ways a specific situation can wind out.

I’m not even exaggerating when I say that an INTJ brain works like a computer. There are around ten programs working in the background, analyzing and looking for patterns. 

This method allows INTJs to “see the bigger picture,” which makes it easier for them to stay focused on the task. Other personality types might choose the pleasure of the moment rather than success in the future, but not INTJ. 

So, does that mean that INTJs don’t know how to live in the moment?


But the constant progress towards something is a price on its own, as it allows them to indulge in envisioning possibilities.

Now, why introverted intuition?

You see, an INTJ’s brain might work like a machine, but it’s no robot. There’s no button that pools out information. The thinking process of an INTJ definitely has a certain pace, during which the INTJ might lose contact with the outside world.

Yes, I’m talking about the so-called zoning out. INTJs are no strangers to staring blindly at a spot while living in a whole other world inside their heads.

But that dissociation from the things around them actually helps INTJs reach that “eureka” moment when they get to the conclusion. That’s something many other personality types would have a hard time playing it out in our heads.

Extraverted Thinking (Te)

If their introverted intuition is the brain behind the action, extraverted thinking is the force.

While Ni allows INTJs to see what they want to achieve, Te is what makes that happen. And it does that in the most practical, economical way.

These two functions are a pretty powerful force when combined. 

Long-term goals often require time and resources, but Te helps an INTJ utilize them in the best possible way. 

That’s why INTJs are very methodical and strategic when dealing with a certain situation.

Having a well-thought-out plan for a long-term goal sounds like a recipe for success, right?

Well, there’s a catch.

You see, an INTJ doesn’t just need to have a clear vision of the plan in order to go along with the plan. They also need the will to do it.

And sometimes, their introverted personality might choose to ignore the Te for the sake of remaining in their comfort zone.

For example, if achieving the goal requires spending too much time at social gatherings making small talk. Sounds like a horrible experience to an INTJ, right?

Introverted Feeling (Fi)

pensive man

Now, let’s add emotions to the table.

The third cognitive function, introverted feeling, helps INTJ access their emotions and beliefs. This gives their action some kind of purpose. 

As you probably know, INTJs often have very strong opinions and feelings toward different topics that interest them. 

But while the emotions are there, you won’t typically see them expressed during communication.

That’s because INTJs don’t believe that the strength of the feeling needs to be enthusiastically expressed to be real. 

In other words, they don’t need to be constantly smiling just because they’re happy. Emotions are personal and need no visible signs as they do them no justice. In fact, INTJs believe that external expression kills some of the genuineness. 

Extraverted Sensing (Se)

Extraverted sensing is the least developed cognitive function of an INTJ personality type.

Remember how I said that INTJs can easily get lost inside their heads?

Well, they can get so caught up in their thoughts they lose focus on things happening around them.

That happens not just because their Ni is strong, but their Se is low as well.

Extraverted sensing is basically an anchor that keeps an INTJ down to Earth.

Being so focused on the long-term goal, INTJs tend to forget that it’s also important to “live in the moment.” After all, it’s not just the achievement that’s worth it, but the road to it as well.

When balanced, these two functions keep the INTJ grounded, allowing them to go with what’s happening at a time.

INTJ’s Shadow Functions

thoughtful man

Shadow functions, on the other hand, are those that INTJs don’t typically use because they’re somewhat unconscious. While some of them might be helpful, some can even be considered as the dark side of an INTJ personality type.

Extraverted Intuition (Ne)

Extraverted intuition is the polar opposite of what truly defines an INTJ person.

Ni helps an INTJ stay on track, which is not always a good thing. Sure, it gets things done, but maybe there was a better way they still haven’t thought through. 

Well, Ne is here to save the day.

Extraverted intuition generates countless options and possibilities. But you know what? That drives an INTJ insane. As someone that has firm opinions and principles, an INTJ doesn’t need a million different options. They already know which direction to go.

But that’s not to say that Ne is necessarily bad. It can definitely be used for a better purpose – creating balance. Extraverted intuition can make INTJs more open-minded and interested in other people’s views and beliefs.

Introverted Thinking (Ti)

INTJs like questioning things. They don’t trust blindly but ask for proof and facts before accepting it as real.

Now, criticism is generally great because new perspectives help us improve.

But when introverted thinking overpowers extroverted thinking, an INTJ can become too critical.

Instead of focusing on planning and executing the plan, an INTJ will spend too much time shaking up the underlying principles. So by analyzing their reasoning on such a deep level, an INTJ can become too self-critical.

And as we all can assume – dissatisfaction with the plan often causes a halt on it. So, in this case, too much self-criticism isn’t healthy.

Of course, with good balance, there’s no reason why a bit of introverted thinking couldn’t work. It can help an INTJ remain focused on the core elements of the plan.

Extraverted Feeling (Fe)

This shadow function basically allows an INTJ to see and consider other people’s feelings and needs. 

As you probably know, this is definitely not typical for an INTJ.

People with this personality type don’t show much emotion in casual conversation. 

You may like that, or you may not. The thing is – an INTJ doesn’t care.

They believe that showing emotions is people-pleasing, which is something they don’t see any practical point in doing. If nothing else, it would be against their principles.

Furthermore, they might perceive people who diligently express feelings in communication as manipulators.

But this is where Fe can actually come in handy.

It might not make INTJ more emotionally expressive, but it can make them more understanding of those who are.

Introverted Sensing (Si)

What keeps an INTJ going forward is future success. But for that same reason, they’re not the ones to easily look back on past actions. 

In a way, that’s because they’re such thorough planners. So if something has gone wrong in the past, that’s not the time they like thinking back on.

What happens, in this case, is counterfactual thinking. In other words, their minds are thinking about possible alternatives to past events. If they had made different choices in the past, some things wouldn’t be the same now.

When this cognitive function is engaged, an INTJ might feel judged and attacked if their past actions are brought up.

That’s quite unfortunate, really. Because when balanced, Se and Si can make an INTJ adaptable to changing situations. The ability to apply past experience to new circumstances gives a whole other perspective. And that can help them achieve their goals easier.

INTJ Sarcastic Cognitive Functions

sarcastic girl

If you’re just getting into the INTJ personality traits and their cognitive functions, all of this can be somewhat hard to get a grasp of. Too many words and concepts to explain the abstractness of how certain people think.

So to make them a bit clearer, I’ve broken each cognitive function down into simplified versions. These are called INTJ sarcastic functions, with the purpose of explaining cognitive functions in an amusing way.

Introverted intuition – INTJ’s success lies in planning. One part of the plan focuses on self-improving, while the other focuses on avoiding those that hinder that improvement.

Extraverted thinking – if you want something done, do it yourself. This is definitely a motto an INTJ goes by. Not everyone has great strategic skills like an INTJ, so it’s best to leave the most important things for the most capable ones.

Introverted feeling – hopelessness in emotional cues. Don’t expect an INTJ to pick up on your mysterious flirting style. While your signs might be obvious to everyone else, an INTJ won’t have a clue.

Extraverted sensing – Blue toe? Not a surprise for an INTJ. They can get so caught up in their head, disconnecting from their surroundings. That includes the furniture, on which they tend to stub their toe while daydreaming.

The Effect of Cognitive Functions on Personality Development

As you know, our personalities develop throughout our lives. And if we were to look at it as a whole, we can see three different stages of INTJ personality development.

First Phase

The first cognitive function that an INTJ develops is the dominant cognitive function – introverted intuition.

This function develops during early childhood. This is the point in life when babies are just learning about their surroundings, soaking in information like sponges.

INTJ kids are especially observant and analytical with a rich imagination. However, they’ll mostly keep their complex thought to themselves. 

Second Phase

The second phase starts with the adolescent age. This is when INTJs develop extraverted sensing. 

As you know, this function is not their forte. But when utilized, it helps an INTJ “live in the moment” and make decisions they otherwise wouldn’t consider.

That sounds about right for teenage years, right?

As you can see, INTJs are also guilty of doing wild things during their adolescent life.

Third Phase

By the time we’re 30, we can all say we’re pretty developed persons by then, right?

Well, no. Even studies have shown that personality traits can change even more after we hit our 30s.

At this point in our life, our two previously mentioned functions ideally should be at a healthy balance.

That opens up room for developing the other two – extraverted thinking and introverted feeling.

Together, they create a different dimension and perspective on every goal, thus giving it purpose. This is when INTJs solidify who they truly are as people.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to perceiving functions, INTJs have a dominant introverted intuition. And on the other end, inferior extraverted sensing lies. This makes it easy for them to get lost in one’s thoughts and disconnected from the real world. 

As for the judging functions, INTJs have extraverted thinking and introverted feeling. When making a choice, INTJs follow logic, not their heart.

However, at times they might express cognitive functions that aren’t actually a part of who they are. Shadow functions represent a person’s dark side, the complete opposite of their personality that comes out during hard times.

Do INTJs sound weird to you? Here are the reasons why people with this personality type appear odd.

Click here to view the Web story of this article.