Cognitive Processes and Type Dynamics


The following is adapted from Linda V. Berens and Dario Nardi, Understanding Yourself and Others®: An Introduction to the Personality Type Code (Telos Publications, 2004) *Used with permission.




The Roles of the Processes

In each of the sixteen types, each of the eight processes plays a different "role" in the personality. The type code lets you know what role each process plays for each type. This is called "type dynamics." It is also referred to as the "hierarchy of functions": Dominant, Auxiliary, Tertiary, and Inferior. The roles are explained below to help you better understand the patterns. In most of what we do we rely on two of the processes-a preferred way of accessing information and a preferred way of organizing and evaluating that information. As we look more closely we can see that one process takes a leading role and the other takes a supporting role.*

In truth, we have access to all eight cognitive processes-the other six are often in the background, playing other kinds of roles. Each has a positive and a negative way of expressing itself. Each bears a different energy cost when we use it.



The Primary Processes

The primary processes are those used in the first four roles. Each process tends to emerge and develop at different times in our lives. During these times we are drawn to activities that use these processes. Then, learning the content and the skills that engage these processes is often nearly effortless. We find our interest is drawn to them and our interest is pulled away from things we were drawn to before.

The Leading Role (Dominant) (sometimes referred to as the 1st function)

The process that plays the leading role is the one that usually develops early in childhood. We tend to engage in this process first, trusting it to solve our problems and help us be successful. Being the most trusted and most used, it usually has an adult, mature quality to it. While we are likely to engage in it rather automatically and effortlessly, we have much more conscious control over it. The energy cost for using it is very low. Much like in the movies, the leading role has a heroic quality as using it can get us out of difficult situations. However, we can sometimes "turn up the volume" on this process and become overbearing and domineering. Then it takes on a negative dominating quality.

The Supporting Role (Auxiliary) (sometimes referred to as the 2nd function)

The supporting role is how we are helpful to others as well as supportive of ourselves. Once we have developed some facility with our leading role process, we are more likely to feel comfortable engaging in our supporting role process. In its most positive form, this can be quite like a nurturing parent. In its more negative aspect, it can be overprotective and stunting rather than helpful. When the leading role process is an extraverted one, the supporting role process is introverted. When the leading role process is an introverted one, the supporting role process is extraverted and may be quite active and visible as it provides a way of dealing with the outer world.

The Relief Role (Tertiary) (sometimes referred to as the 3rd function)

The relief role gives us a way to energize and recharge ourselves. It serves as a backup to the supporting role and often works in tandem with it. When we are younger, we might not engage in the process that plays this role very much unless our life circumstances require it or make it hard to use the supporting role process. Usually, in young adulthood we are attracted to activities that draw upon this process. The relief role often is how we express our creativity. It is how we are playful and childlike. In its most negative expression, this is how we become childish. Then it has an unsettling quality, and we can use this process to distract ourselves and others, getting us off target.

The Aspirational Role (Inferior) (sometimes referred to as the 4th function)

The aspirational role usually doesn't develop until around midlife. We often experience it first in its negative aspect of projecting our "shoulds," fears, and negativities onto others. The qualities of these fears reflect the process that plays this role, and we are more likely to look immature when we engage in the process that plays this role. There is often a fairly high energy cost for using it-even when we acquire the skill to do so. As we learn to trust it and develop it, the aspirational role process provides a bridge to balance in our lives. Often our sense of purpose, inspiration, and ideals have the qualities of the process that plays this role.

The Shadow Processes

The other four cognitive processes operate more on the boundaries of our awareness. It is as if they are in the shadows and only come forward under certain circumstances. We usually experience these processes in a negative way, yet when we are open to them, they can be quite positive.

The Opposing Role (sometimes referred to as the 5th function)

The opposing role is often how we get stubborn and argumentative-refusing to "play" and join in whatever is going on at the time. It might be easy for us to develop skill in the process that plays this role, but we are likely to be more narrow in our application of this skill, and it will likely take more energy to use it extensively. In its positive aspect, it provides a shadow or depth to our leading role process, backing it up and enabling us to be more persistent in pursuit of our goals.

The Critical Parent Role (sometimes referred to as the 6th function)

The critical parent role is how we find weak spots and can immobilize and demoralize others. We can also feel this way when others use the process that plays this role. It is often used sporadically and emerges more often under stressful conditions when something important is at risk. When we engage it, we can go on and on. To access its positive side of discovery, we must learn to appreciate and be open to it. Then it has an almost magical quality and can provide a profound sense of wisdom.

The Deceiving Role (sometimes referred to as the 7th function)

The deceiving role fools us into thinking something is important to do or pay attention to. The process that fills this role is often not trusted or seen as worthy of attention, for when we do engage it, we may make mistakes in perception or in decision making. Then we feel double bound-trapped between two bad options. Yet this role can have a positive side as it provides comic relief. Then we can laugh at ourselves. It can be refreshing and join with the relief role as we recharge ourselves through play.

The Devilish Role (sometimes referred to as the 8th function)

The devilish role can be quite negative. Using the process that plays this role, we might become destructive of ourselves or others. Actions (or inactions) taken when we engage in the process that plays this role are often regretted later. Usually, we are unaware of how to use the process that fills this role and feel like it just erupts and imposes itself rather unconsciously. Yet when we are open to the process that plays the devilish role, it becomes transformative. It gives us the impetus to create something new-to make lemonade out of lemons, rather than lament their sourness.

The Developed Self

Remember, we can use all the processes and we can become skilled in that use. Skill comes through practice. As we go through life, we seem to be drawn to activities that develop our primary processes. Sometimes the environment doesn't allow or foster that development or it can heighten it. Thus, while the personality pattern will be the same for each type, there will be considerable variation among individuals of the same type due to their varying development.

We are more likely to identify and claim those processes we are aware of, rather than those we are unaware of. If we are competent in using a process yet unaware of it, we will take it for granted. If we are incompetent and unaware, we are likely to project the negative aspects of this process onto others and even deny that it can have any value anywhere.

The Pattern

The pattern of the processes can be represented by a stick figure. At the head is the process we lead with, commonly called the Dominant. At the right hand is the process we use in a supportive way, commonly called the Auxiliary. At the left hand is the process we use in a relief-giving way, commonly called the Tertiary. And at the feet is what we aspire to, commonly called the Inferior. Since this process is what we aspire to be doing well, it is often what "makes our feet go" even when we are unaware of wanting to go in that direction.

Think of the shadow processes as being situated just behind the stick figure to show that they are in the background. Just like a shadow, they are always there, but we are most often not actively using them.


The following is adapted from Linda V. Berens and Dario Nardi, Understanding Yourself and Others®: An Introduction to the Personality Type Code (Telos Publications, 2004) *Used with permission.


ESTP - Promoter Executor Se Ti Fe Ni Si Te Fi Ne
ESFP - Motivator Presenter Se Fi Te Ni Si Fe Ti Ne
ISTJ - Planner Inspector Si Te Fi Ne Se Ti Fe Ni
ISFJ- Protector Supporter Si Fe Ti Ne Se Fi Te Ni
ENTP - Explorer Inventor Ne Ti Fe Si Ni Te Fi Se
ENFP - Discoverer Advocate Ne Fi Te Si Ni Fe Ti Se
INTJ- Conceptualizer Director Ni Te Fi Se Ne Ti Fe Si
INFJ- Foreseer Developer Ni Fe Ti Se Ne Fi Te Si
ESTJ - Implementor Supervisor Te Si Ne Fi Ti Se Ni Fe
ENTJ- Strategist Mobilizer Te Ni Se Fi Ti Ne Si Fe
ISTP - Analyzer Operator Ti Se Ni Fe Te Si Ne Fi
INTP - Designer Theorizer Ti Ne Si Fe Te Ni Se Fi
ESFJ - Facilitator Caretaker Fe Si Ne Ti Fi Se Ni Te
ENFJ - Envisioner Mentor Fe Ni Se Ti Fi Ne Si Te
ISFP - Composer Producer Fi Se Ni Te Fe Si Ne Ti
INFP - Harmonizer Clarifier Fi Ne Si Te Fe Ni Se Ti

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