Cognition – The Super Simple Series! | Part 3: Cognition Steps and the Anatomy of the Cognition Process

 Yay!  We’ve made it to what might be my favorite part of all cognition: the anatomy of the cognition process itself!  Well, my favorite until we get into what makes every cognition special, and the inner hidden sides of ourselves and… okay I have a lot of favorite parts of cognition.  But this post really centers on the core of it all: demonstrating that the paths our minds take make sense, how no thought just appears out of thin air, and how perfectly and elegantly balanced each and every type of thought process is, no matter how diverse.  It gives me happy tingles!  😀

I’ve explained the ins and outs of cognition order in a much more complicated way in the past, but today I really want to break it down into simple reasons *why* cognition does what it does.  Because the mind doesn’t do anything without a reason.

So at this point (assuming you’re not starting here, because this is Part 3 and that’d be silly), we’ve covered the Four Types of Information that our minds acquire and process in Part 1, and the Functions which are the means by which our minds compile and filter that information in Part 2.  In this post we’re going to start putting it all together and see how our minds go about prioritizing that information, based on what matters to us the most.


As we talked about in the first post, our minds prioritize information according to what’s the most important to us, the information we love the most.  Likewise, our minds process that information with the functions that best fit for our underlying objectives for that Type of Information.

Okay, so we have Four Types of Information and we have four functions.  Coincidence?  I think not!  Partially, it’s because of dichotomies and stuff, but also it’s because we’re going to pair them off!  Play cognitive matchmaker. 😉


As you see in this picture, Cognition Steps are each made up of one Type of Information and one function, and each cognitive type is a unique combination and order of four of those steps.  Each of the sixteen cognitive types has its very own thought process, prioritizing different information and objectives than all the others.

Cognition steps flow one into the next, with each step being derived from the step before it, and adding more onto it.  And all our cognition steps contribute back to our first, most beloved step, when we start the cognition process over again.  And over and over and over and… you get the idea. 

While we all use all the Types of Information and functions, the way in which we use them, and the order we use them in, makes an enormous difference in how we think.

Remember how we talked in Part 1 about the Perceiving and Judging halves of the cognition process?  Well this is where that comes in.  If the Four Types of Information are what we’re thinking about, and the Functions are how we’re taking in and using that information, Judging and Perceiving are when we prioritize each Type of Information.

Remember, we learned that the Perceiving half of the cognition process is made up of Data & Details, and Observation & Motivations.  We also learned that Perceivers (P) use this half of the cognition process first.

Since Perceiving focuses on possibilities and how individuals and situations *interact,* Observation & Motivations and Data & Details are BFFs; they always go together to form half of the cognition process.


So Perceivers (Ps) use Data & Details and Observation & Motivations as steps One and Two of their cognition process; though that doesn’t tell us which of those two comes first, Data & Details or Observation & Motivations.

But let’s map this as we go.  If we use a toolbox to represent Perceiving, for reasons I’ll explain in a little while, then we can map out the beginning of Perceivers’ cognition process as toolbox, toolbox, or P, P:

The little arrows represent that we derive one Type of Information from the one before, so for Perceivers that’s getting Step Two Perceiving information from Step One Perceiving information.

But what about the other half of the cognition process?  And what is the alternative to starting with Perceiving?

Not-so-spoiler alert, it’s the Judging half of the cognition process.

In Part 1 we learned that the Judging half of the cognition process is made up of Principles & Trends, and Action & Consequences.  We also learned that Judgers (J) use this half of the cognition process first.

Judging focuses on plans of action and how the world and consequences *interact,* and not to be outdone, is just as inseparable as the Perceiving half of the cognition process, with Principles & Trends and Action & Consequences always working together.


Same deal; Judgers (Js) use Action & Consequences and Principles & Trends as steps One and Two of their cognition process; though that doesn’t tell us which of those two comes first, Principles & Trends or Action & Consequences.

Back to our little graphical representation, if we use a map to represent Judging, for those same reasons I’ll explain later (which means I guess I can’t refer to these pictures as a map or that’ll get super confusing), then we can chart out the beginning of Judgers’ cognition process as map, map, or J,  J:

But since ½ +½ = 1 whole, last time I checked, this means we can deduce what steps Three and Four will be for everyone.

Once Perceivers are done with Perceiving what’s up with situations and individuals, they Judge how the world and consequences are working.  Once Judgers are done working out their Judgments of what’s going on with the world and consequences, they Perceive situations and individuals.  So Perceivers’ thought process goes P, P, J, J, while Judgers’ thought process goes J, J, P, P.

That’s just algebraic and not super useful yet, but it does already show us how Judgers/Js are more focused on Action and plans, prioritizing it in either their First or Second cognition steps.  And it shows us how Perceivers/Ps are more focused on possibilities, focusing on Observing those possibilities in either their First or Second cognition steps.

I hope that doesn’t seem complicated if this is your first time hearing the cognition process, but seriously that prioritization is what *creates* P/J and defines it.  Does a person use the Perceiving half of the cognition process first or the Judging half?  Perdy simple when you get down to it.

Okay, but now what order do our Ps and Js go in?  To find the answer to that question, we need to turn to the two parts of our double-dichotomy.  Need a refresher on what a double-dichotomy is?  That can be arranged.

A dichotomy is made of two opposite variables that have no overlap.  A double-dichotomy is a pair of independent but related dichotomies that can be used together to cover all the options.  Remember?  Got it?  Okay, moving on.

Now, by definition, Perceiver vs. Judger is a dichotomy too; they do opposite halves of the cognition process first and second, with no overlap.  So why do we need two more variables?  Why can’t we just cross it with one of the other dichotomies and call it a day?

Well, because both Judging and Perceiving contain *one of each* of the other two dichotomies, Information/Action and Specific/Universal.   Judging contains one Information Type of Information… okay that’s super confusing. -_- Linguistics.  This is why we usually refer to the Four Types of Information as the 4Toi (the i is little so it doesn’t look like an L).  Let’s do that now.

*Ahem*  Judging contains one Information Toi and one Action Toi.  It also includes one Specific Toi, and one Universal Toi. (See how much faster that is?)  Perceiving too; one Information, one Action, one Specific, one Universal.

This is also why on the pictures, the Judging Toi are diagonal from each other, as are Perceiving, because the columns are Specific vs. Universal, while the rows are Information vs. Action.  Because J/P have one of each, they have a jig-jog thing going:

This is the beginning of the cognition process not behaving as obviously as we might expect, but in a good way, like your best friend who never stops surprising you. 😉  There’s more of that to come, but there are always simple reasons behind the complexity, so no worries, k?  Just stick by me.

Okay, so let’s start with Information vs. Action first because it provides us with something super useful: Introversion and Extraversion.  Remember in Part 1 we talked about how psychological Introversion and Extraversion are not the same as social introversion and extroversion?  Social introversion and extroversion don’t even get to be capitalized. 😉

The 4Toi are what information we’re thinking about, the Functions are how we’re taking in and using that information, and J/P are when we’re thinking about each Type of Information.   Now we’re adding where we’re gathering that information in the form of Introversion and Extraversion.

“Intro” is a Latin prefix meaning “inwardly,” or “within,” while “Extra” is a Latin prefix meaning “outside,” or “beyond.”  “Vert” comes from a Latin root meaning “to turn.”


And it’s as simple as that:  Where do you turn for information?  Inwardly/within or outside/beyond?  And the answer is that we each do half-and-half! 🙂

The thing about the cognition process is that it’s full of checks and balances so that, when used correctly, it’s always cross-checking to be sure its information is accurate.  Not only is a healthy mind grounded in valuing all four Types of Information, but it relies on the truth it discovers both by watching the world outside itself, and by reflecting and aligning information with the internal knowledge it has.  Everybody does both.

So, while a person is defined as a psychological Introvert (I) or Extravert (E) by where they turn *first* for information, all of our minds are constantly going in-and-out, back-and-forth, cross-checking our internal information with our external information.

Long story short, Extraversion and Introversion are just directional tags indicating whether a function is pointing outside the mind, watching, or inside the mind, considering.

Okay, so the mind always alternates looking inside and outside.  Introverts start inside, then look outside, then inside, then outside.  Extraverts start outside, then turn inside, then outside, then in again.  Pretty simple right?  It’s how we keep cross-checking our information to be sure it’s accurate.

Introversion looks first inside the mind to understand the way things are (Information), and Extraversion looks first outside at what people do (Action).

So just from that, we can see everyone’s first two steps:

The Perceivers perceive first.  Introverted Perceivers use the Information side of Perceiving first; Data & Details, which is Specific Information.  Extraverted Perceivers use the Action side of Perceiving first; Observation & Motivations, which is Universal Action.  Then, each uses the other side of Perceiving.

IP – Data -> Observation -> J -> J

EP – Observation -> Data -> J -> J

The Judgers use their judgment first.  Introverted Judgers use the Information side of Judging first; Principles & Trends, which is Universal Information.  Extraverted Judgers use the Action side of Judging first; Action & Consequences, which is Specific Action.  Then, same deal, each uses the other side of Judging.

IJ – Principles -> Action -> P -> P

EJ – Action -> Principles -> P -> P

Yay!  And that’s not all, folks!  There’s one more thing we can learn from the I/E dichotomy.

Because Extraversion and Introversion are about your primary source of information, outside or inside, it’s inextricably linked to the way the mind perceives individuals and situations.  In other words, Extraversion and Introversion determine the order of the Perceiving half of the cognition process.


Extraverts draw their perception from Observing individuals first, then use that information to notice Data and make conclusions about what’s going on in the situation at hand.

Introverts draw their perception from contemplating on the Data at their disposal, and then use that information to Observe how individuals work.

We can see this was already at work in our Perceivers’ perception:

IP – Data -> Observation ->J -> J

EP – Observation -> Data -> J -> J

See how the Extraverted one Observes first and the Introverted one focuses on Data first?

Let’s add it to our Judgers’ Perceiving:

IJ – Principles -> Action -> Data -> Observation

EJ – Action -> Principles -> Observation -> Data

:O Holy guacamole!  Did we just determine *half* of the cognition orders?!  4/4, that’s all the Judgers’ cognition steps!  (Well, besides Functions, but we’ll get into that in Part 4 ;D)

What about the Perceivers?!  With the Judgers it looks like Information and Introversion always coincide, and so do Action and Extraversion.  So can we extrapolate how Perceivers judge from that?

Ah ah ah, let’s not be hasty!  Though it might be natural to assume that the pattern continues, this is where our main little twist comes into play.  But the reasons, while cool and with complex results, aren’t hard to understand.

Because, let’s not forget the other half of our double-dichotomy: Specific vs. Universal!

Specific vs. Universal. The colors have no deeper meaning, I just needed two colors lol

Specific cognitions focus first on understanding the Specific applications of information for a more zoomed-in perspective in the form of either Specific Information (Data & Details) or Specific Action (Action & Consequences).

Universal cognitions focus first on understanding the Universal Patterns of information for a more zoomed-out perspective in the form of either Universal Information (Principles & Trends) or Universal Action (Observation & Motivations).

Like with Introversion and Extraversion, everyone does both Specific and Universal, of course, and we dance back and forth, checking and balancing, but we each have one our minds prioritize first.

Now, because Functions play a big role in Specific/Universal, I’ll be able to go into more about how this really works in practice in the next post.  But we’ve already seen this in action in all the cognition processes, right?


But Specific/Universal has another awesome ramification.  Whether our primary focus is on the zoomed-in applications of information or the zoomed-out patterns in information, is inextricably linked to how we see the world and its interplay with consequences.  In other words, Specific vs. Universal has everything to do with the order of the Judging half of the cognition process!


“Specifics” draw their judgments from a study of people’s Actions to make decisions, and use the resulting Consequences of those actions to then form Principles of how the world works and predict world Trends.

“Universals” draw their judgments from looking at Principles of how the world consistently works, to spot Trends of how the world will respond to people’s Actions to produce Consequences, and from that, make decisions about what to do.

So, let’s look back at our cognition patterns.  Does that match with what we already know of Judgers?

IJ – Principles -> Action -> Data -> Observation

EJ – Action -> Principles -> Observation -> Data

Yup!  IJs look at Principles first, and decide what Action to take from those Principles.  EJs decide what Action to do first, and then apply the Consequences to understand how Principles work.

Now we can see with our Judgers that they have Universal or Specific sandwiches.

IJ – Principles (U) -> Action (S) -> Data (S) -> Observation (U)

EJ – Action (S) -> Principles (U) -> Observation (U) -> Data (S)

See how IJ has Universal Tois on the ends, with Specific Tois in the middle?  And EJ has Specific Tois on the ends, with Universal Tois sandwiched in the middle?  This is because when our minds convert information from J to P and vice versa, the transaction seems to require it remaining in the same kind of universal or specific currency.

For example, when EJs switch from Judging to Perceiving, they use zoomed-out Principles (Universal Judging) to help them Observe (Universal Perceiving) how individuals work in a zoomed-out way.  And when they go to repeat the cognition process, they use zoomed-in situational Data (Specific Perceiving) to help them make zoomed-in Action (Specific Judging) decisions.

But now, let’s apply our Action/Principles order to the Perceivers and see what happens! /excited!

IP – Data -> Observation -> Action -> Principles

EP – Observation -> Data -> Principles -> Action

Yaaaay!  Four distinct cognition orders!!

But… but…?!  Perceivers’ cognition process isn’t doing it right!  If that was a sandwich you’d get peanut butter all over your hand!!

IP – Data (S) -> Observation (U) -> Action (S) -> Principles (U)

EP – Observation (U) -> Data (S) -> Principles (U) -> Action (S)

Okay, so this is where all our weird exceptions and wrenches-in-the-works come together, and where I finally get to explain why J is a map while P is a toolbox.

See, the thing is, Judgers and Perceivers think of Action very differently.  Not only do Judgers Act and find Principles earlier than Perceivers, when Perceivers *do* get to Judging, they do so quite differently from Judgers.

When Judgers focus on Action, it’s applied to specific circumstances.

Like a map, there are goals and destinations and each choice is a path that will either lead closer to one’s intended destination or not.  Principles are constant and universal patterns of existence that Action will have to follow in order to reach where you’re trying to go.

You’re never going to get to Toronto by driving toward Mexico City… er unless you’re driving from farther North in Canada, I guess… um… Anyway, Action is like a map for Js: each path leads somewhere and if you want to get where you’re going, you have to pick the right one.  A healthy Judger will be able to lay a course with scalpel-like finesse, able to hone in on exactly where they’re going and exactly how to get there.

In contrast, when Perceivers focus on Action, it’s by finding universal patterns of how Action always works.  Now, it’s still the same Type of Information; Actions & Consequences and making decisions, but it’s all about compiling which Actions universally and consistently work.

Perceivers understand Action like a vast toolbox of options, constantly being stocked with every type of choice, material, and resource that can be pulled out of the arsenal whenever the need arises.

And for Perceivers, Principles are applied, specific circumstances; the world is always a new situation with new problems to solve and new things to fix with your toolbox-arsenal of options.  Whatever need may arise, it’s the job of the Perceiver Action-toolbox to be at the ready with a band-aid, guacamole, or a rubber chicken; whatever tool the current situation calls for.  Each action is a resource with a time and season it’s used for.  The more options you have, the more vastly different specific situations you’re ready for.  A healthy Perceiver will never find a dead-end with their toolbox at their side, knowing there are always more options and new ways to adapt to anything.

So which one’s *better*?  Well, since the Four Types of Information are equal, based on equal variables forming balanced dichotomies, and since we all do all of them anyway, just in different orders, the resulting cognition processes are all equal too.  But we also need people who focus on each of them, since as individuals we just don’t have enough energy to focus on all Four Types of Information equally.  Over and over again that’ll be the theme you hear here:  We need healthy people of all types because the world is a complex place and we can’t do it all ourselves.

Okay, recap!  We have four unique cognition processes; let’s cross-check all our requirements.

IP – Data -> Observation -> Action -> Principles

EP – Observation -> Data -> Principles -> Action

IJ – Principles -> Action -> Data -> Observation

EJ – Action -> Principles -> Observation -> Data


  1. Perceivers use Perceiving first, then Judging.  Judgers use Judging first, then Perceiving.
  2. Introverts use an Information Toi first.  Extraverts use an Action Toi first.
  3. Introverts use Data before Observation.  Extraverts use Observation before Data.
  4. “Specifics” use a Specific Toi first.  “Universals” use a Universal Toi first.
  5. “Specifics” use Action before Principles.  “Universals” use Principles before Action.

Yay, they all match all the criteria!  /Party!!  (FYI, we’ll go more into how Introversion/Extraversion and Universal/Specific work in practice in the next post, which is very cool and exciting to me.)

But, isn’t it awesome that these requirements, which we saw are just natural results of the definitions themselves, mean that there are no other possible options!  For example, you couldn’t have a type whose cognition order went Data, Action, Observation, Principles because Perceiving Tois always stick together and Judging Toi always stick together.  You couldn’t have a type that cognated in a Principles, Action, Observation, Data pattern because as soon as they use an Information Toi first, they’re an Introvert and use Data before Observation.  As soon as you have Four Types of Information, you have four possibilities for First cognition steps, and as soon as you have a First cognition step, all the rest of the steps follow.  Four cognition options.  Period.  Is that rock-awesome or what?!

I love that, as hard as I’m working to give you a simple explanation, in so many ways cognition *isn’t* simple.  It’s beautiful and fractal and complex in a lovely, grown-up sort of way that isn’t what you’d expect at first glance.  It’s straightforward, with an elegant physics and reasons behind *every* thing, no matter how small, but it also keeps surprising you, no matter how well you think you know it.  It’s my very favorite song, a fascinating symphony of humanity and life.  And I can’t tell you how much I <3 it.

Wow!  You made it through the most complicated post of the Super Simple Series so far!  See, this was one of the hardest ones and you’re doing great!

Now I’m going to post Part 4 at very soon, so when you’re ready you can go on and read about how Functions fit into our handy dandy Cognition Steps!  But now is the perfect time to take a brief intermission.  Stretch your legs, use the restroom, listen to some music, visit our concession stand, look far away for 30 seconds.  And then before you know it, we’ll meet again at Part 4: Function-Combinations.  Oh yes.

On the aLBoP Guided Tour?  Cognition – The Super Simple Series | Part 4: Function-Combinations is up next!


  1. Just re-reading this again because of the great shout-outs about it in the podcasts. It’s like I’m reading it for the first time and everything is making so much more sense now. I even saw the Universal/Specific sandwich pattern when you first outlined the Judging half step order and it made the order make more sense why it would go that way. And then you went into explaining it right after that and I thought it was cool I noticed it before it was explained. The first time I read it, it was hard to understand everything even after it was explained and even after I re-read it multiple times. This time it was like I saw where it was going ahead of time. Anyway, just wanted to pat myself on the back, but I wouldn’t be able to do that if these posts weren’t so great.

  2. It is so cool how everything comes together! 😀 I love the Perceiver Toolbox and the Judger Map… they really help me to visualize how it all works.

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