What Do All These Letters Mean Anyway?

So, once upon a time, you stumbled upon a really cool website.  It had interesting pictures combining all your favorite characters in ways you weren’t sure made sense, but it was also pretty cool to read, even if the girl who wrote it liked to use lame phrases like “Rock-awesome,” used too many ellipses and was a little too fascinated by crossdressing.  Despite her obvious strangeness though, the things she had to say made pretty good sense and you found yourself pulled in by her unique approach to humanity, obvious geekishness and adorable stick figures 😉

But, whether you were completely new to this personality stuff and wondering what the heck she was talking about, throwing letters around willy-nilly, or if you’re an absolute pro who has been studying this stuff since you and Jung were eating bratwurst together, you need to know what I mean when I throw out a four variable combination, whether it’s ENTP or Unicorn-Daisy-Tomato-Orange.  Personality Typing means squat if you have an incomplete or inaccurate understanding of what the variables mean in the first place.

And so here, boys and girls, is where I define my terms… in no uncertain terms 😉

And because lately I spend *far* more time correcting type stereotypes that have *nothing* to do with the way a person cognates, I’m going to lay it out in gritty, intimate detail.  And none of this “too long; didn’t read” crap.  The human brain is complex and awesome and I’m not going to superficially oversimplify it because some people are uncomfortable with complexity and think that a Reader’s Digest version of psychology means they understand this stuff.  It has stick-people; how much more user-friendly can I make this?!

What Personality Typing *shouldn’t* be:
Before I go into what Personality Typing *is,* I have to cover what it is *not.*
Personality Types are not:

1)      A method of dividing people into middle school caste systems, like “Nerds,” “Jocks,” “Hall Monitors,” and “Class Clown.”
The healthy reason for quantifying people is to understand them, not to restrict them into something an insecure person can understand and is comfortable with.

2)      Horoscopes.
When your parents got-it-on without protection has nothing to do with the way you cognate.  Horoscopes are also not a separate, equally valid system; they purport to cover the same variables of character and so *cannot* be just different.  At least one of the two must be incorrect, and horoscopes aren’t repeatable, accurate patterns in practice.

3)      A way to feel superior to others or to justify being a horrible person.
There is no “Best Type.”  All the types have within their power the tools they need to make correct decisions, to be both meaningful and effective.  There are both villains and heroes of *every single type,* so, for good or for bad, it is entirely up to you what kind of person you want to be.  There is no saying “My Ti or my Se made me do it!” or “I have Fe or Ni so I can do no wrong.”  There are truly crappy people of every personality type, as well as amazing, triumphant heroes of every personality.  You are in control of the person you want to be, I’m just here to give you the tools to help you do it on purpose.

4)      Restrictions on Choices.
I’ve heard *way* too many people say things like “A Ti would never save a kitten; only people with Fi can do that!”  …Why?  We’re all human beings with unimaginable complexity and we can make any choice we want!  When people put restrictions on the choices one type or another can make, they end up building straw men of all the types.  No type is fated to be heartless, illogical, vapid, irresponsible, inapplicable or mundane.  And any type can make the best decision in any given scenario, if they use the cognitive tools in their belt correctly.  To imply a person has no control over their choices, simply because of their personality type, is to ignore the very thing that makes them human.

5)      Dungeons and Dragons Classes.
No skill or end goal is out of reach for any personality type, when used correctly.  Though methods of reaching an end goal may differ between types, no person is disqualified from any skill, positive trait or accomplishment because of their personality or cognition style.  Likewise, no one is fated to be good or bad at anything.  There are no rules that say that INTPs can’t be football players or that ESFJs can’t be astrophysicists.  So don’t let anyone tell you not to be passionate about whatever you want to be passionate about.

6)      Social Habits, Beliefs, Skills or Organizational Ability.

  • If a little girl grows up with people throwing tomatoes at her, it’s likely she might become antisocial… whether she’s an Introvert or an Extravert.  Your social habits are likely to change throughout your life, whereas your cognition patterns do not.
  • Environmental factors, such as culture, family, friends and social expectations, have a massive effect on the way a person acts and the choices they make.  But *none* of that is cognition or personality type.  A person’s cognitive process will always still be in there, even if it’s buried beneath what a person feels obligated to do.
  • Social environment is *the* main reason personality type cannot be looked at superficially.  Two different personalities might make the same decision for entirely different reasons.  A person’s desire to party, believe in the Crumple Horned Snorkack, learn to burp the alphabet, or to be really prompt about their taxes, may come from familial and cultural background and are not means by which to label a person’s psychological system.
What Personality Typing *should* be:
Personality Types are:

1)      A way to like who you are.
Personality Types are about loving all your favorite things about yourself, and understanding how to work with the stuff you’re not so fond of.  They are about loving the core of who you are, while becoming the best version of yourself you can possibly be!  The sixteen personality types are all both equal and unique; they are each lovable and special, and those of us who have glimpsed what they truly have to offer, understand that the world would be lost without any one of them.  Personality Typing can help you glimpse that lovable-ness within yourself and teach you that you are valid and can be loved for the way *you* think.

2)      A way to not feel alone.
Not only are there other people who understand and love the way you think, and understand where you’re coming from, there are other people who think just like you do!  Personality Typing can help you relate to others like you, both real and fictional, and help you learn from the choices people just like you have made.  Then, the next time you feel like no one wants or understands someone as O_o as you really are inside, remember there are other people just as lovably weird and wacky, with just as much complexity as you have.

3)      A way to understand your strengths and make the most of them.
Personality Types teach us that the world needs our unique strengths.  Every personality type is unique in what it brings to the table.  The things you’re naturally good at matter and you don’t have to have the same strengths as someone else to be important and valuable.  Personality Types give you permission to care about the things you love most, specialize in the things most important to you and be what you already want to be.  They show you that it’s good that you’re you; that the world desperately needs what you already have to offer.

4)      A way to understand your weaknesses and turn them into strengths.
One of the coolest things about the human brain is its ability to learn stuff, to say to itself, “Whelp.  That was stupid,” and to make course corrections based on observed mistakes.  But, of course, that means that things aren’t known until they’re learned.  These cool brains of ours have only so much energy, so of course we’re going to use them on the stuff we care about most… and some other areas may go by the wayside.  That’s natural and each personality type has its own associated weaknesses, but it also has built-in strengths specifically formulated to overcome those weaknesses.  Cool huh?!

5)      A way to understand where other people are coming from.
As you come to recognize personality types as you see them, whether in fiction or in real life, you’ll come to understand the reasons and motivations behind others’ choices.  Understanding *why* others do what they do can help you know how to work with their natural strengths and desires, and inspire them to overcome their weaknesses in a way that encourages rather than demeans them.  You never have to say, “Well, I just don’t get that guy.  What’s up with him anyway?” because you’ll understand where he’s coming from.

6)      A way to understand why the things you care about most not only matter, but are necessities that only someone like you can provide.
Each type has a unique specialization that it does better than any other type.  And, no, I’m not talking about “This type should be a mechanic,” “That type should be a lawyer,” that every single website seems to make it about.  I’m talking about what you already love, what already matters to you and where you spend your thoughts when you don’t have to be thinking about something else.  I’m talking about what excites *you* more than anything, and how the world needs someone like *you* to do that thing; so that nothing gets missed, no one gets forgotten, everyone works together and the world goes in a direction that matters.

7)      A way to become a hero.
Like I said, there are heroes and villains of every type.  The more you understand the way you think, and see who has come before you with the same exact mental tools you have, the more you will recognize that you can follow in the footsteps of the heroes, tread where the protagonists have trod, and stand as an exemplar for those who follow behind you.  You have as much potential for bravery, compassion, adventure and integrity as anyone before you.  The future of your story and the height of your potential are entirely up to you; who are you going to be?

What do the Letters Really Mean?


There are 16 personality types, each a unique combination of 4 variables.

Are you Introverted (I) or Extraverted (E)?
Are you iNtuitive (N) or Sensing (S)?
Are you Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)?
Are you Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)?

But language being what it is, the definitions of these titles may *not* be what your mind first jumps to.

As I said in The Cognition Process in Stick Figures, everyone thinks, but we don’t all do it in the same way or in the same order.  Personality Types are simply about the priority we place on different kinds of information and how those priorities affect our choices and the way we see the world at our fingertips.  Our entire personalities are the result of what we choose to care about.

The first and last letters (E/I, J/P) reflect your scope of focus and how you naturally act upon the world; they’re based on the order in which you process different types of information.

The middle letters (S/N, F/T) demonstrate how you take in and process the world and the purposes to which you put those different types of information; they’re based on the two functions you focus on the earliest and place the most importance on in your cognition process.

A “Function” is the tool by which our minds process information.  There are four functions; Sensing, iNtuition, Feeling and Thinking.

Everyone uses all four.  Let me say that again because it’s important and too often blatantly ignored:  *Everyone* uses all four.  We just use them in different orders and apply them to different types of information.

As a person goes through life, they do four things:
  • Gather Data in the form of thoughts or feelings, and come to Conclusions about that data.

  • Apply their Principles to understand Trends.

  • Decide on a course of Action to take based on the results of past actions.

  • Observe people to understand their own and others’ Motivations to understand if they can be trusted as sources of information.

But the interesting thing is, we don’t all do them in the same order or put the same emphasis on each one.

Since there are four types of information, we each cognate in four separate steps, one for each type of information.  On each step of the cognition process, our minds take one type of information and consider it using one function (Sensing, iNtuition, Thinking, or Feeling) and then take the resulting information on into the next step of the process.

Each of the four types of information gets its own function that gets used for that type of information alone, different for each personality type.  Each unique combination of steps and functions forms a personality type.

See?  1 Type of Information x 1 Function = 1 Cognition Step.  But all 16 types have different combinations of Cognition Steps.  That’s not too complicated, right?  The combination of a person’s Cognition Steps is called a “Cognition Pattern” and those cognition patterns are really what determines personality type.

You don’t have to memorize this or anything, but this shows how each unique combination of primary and secondary Types of Information and the functions used to process those types of information creates the 16 types 🙂  If you get this chart, great!  If not, it’s okay; it just a little flow-chart showing how special and spiffy each of the types are!  And I wanted to use my cute little pictures again ;D


Introversion and Extraversion

A common misconception about Introversion vs. Extraversion is that Extraverts are social, prefer parties and constant social interaction and love to be the center of attention, while Introverts are shy and prefer a good book to the company of others, preferring a quiet atmosphere.  While this may be the common definition of social Extraversion and Introversion in our culture, it is *not at all* the definition of a psychological Introvert or Extravert and *does not* match with Jung’s or Myers-Briggs’ definitions of I/E.

Introversion and Extraversion describe where you primarily turn for information and input. Do you, in Introversion, turn first inside yourself to understand the world, or do you, in Extraversion, turn first to the outside world and others to grasp the world and how it works?  Everyone does both, but your primary source of input, inside or outside, determines whether you are considered an Extravert (E) or an Introvert (I).

In truth, it’s as simple as that, though those differences affect all a person’s decisions and actions.  For example, Introverts being used to working inside their own heads, are naturally more confident making decisions without needing the input of others, while Extraverts naturally feel off-balance if they don’t get input from others–like running around with their eyes closed.  But since they are constantly interacting with the world for information, Extraverts are very aware of how people will affect and interact with their plans, while Introverts may not be as aware of the effects others will have.

Introversion and Extraversion are not functions, like the middle letters; they are instead directional tags that tell us which way a function is pointed, based on what type of information you are processing.  Data and Details, for example, are always introverted and Observing the Character and Motivations of others is always extraverted, but Principles and Actions’ directional tags depend, based on J/P.



“Introversion” means looking inside yourself for information, putting gathered information together inside your own head.  Introverts’ primary cognition is like a Heads-up Display, letting them sift through and understand information already in their database, constantly.


Though everyone introverts half of their functions, a person is considered an Introvert (I) when they look inward in the First Step of the Cognition Process.



“Extraversion” means looking outside yourself for informationwatching the choices of others as a reference point for understanding.  Extraverts’ primary cognition is like Sonar, sending out signals and watching what the signals bounce off of.


Though everyone extraverts half of their functions, a person is considered an Extravert (E) when they look outward in the First Step of the Cognition Process.


The Four Functions
Intuition and Sensing

Both Sensing and iNtuition functions are used to understand how things and people work universally, but Sensing forms a physical picture, based on previous experiences, and iNtuition forms a mental picture, based on underlying patterns.  What defines an “iNtuitive” individual versus a “Sensor” individual is if they naturally think in concepts early in their cognitive process or experiences early in their cognitive process, respectively.  Those are the only requirements of being an N or an S.



iNtuition is based on things conceptualized through noticed patterns mentally.  iNtuitives will talk in ‘webs’ or ‘word-nets’each piece of information connects to all the others and *has* to be viewed in context or things are missed.

Though everyone uses the iNtuition function, a person of iNtuitive preference (N) focuses on conceptual patterns in either their First or Second Step of the Cognition Process.



Sensing is based on patterns found in previous experiences.  Sensors think in puzzle pieces, where everything has a spot and snaps into place.  They don’t have to look at all the pieces at once because they can look at pieces in isolation, without them being attached to all the other pieces.  An S will pick up one ‘piece’ of information, and just evaluate that piece by itself to figure out where it goes.

Though everyone uses the Sensing function, a person of Sensor preference (S) focuses on thepatterns in experiences in either their First or Second Step of the Cognition Process.


Thinking and Feeling

Thinker vs. Feeler 
tends to be dangerous territory where one must tread with utmost care.  While “Thinker” and “Feeler” are accurate terms according to what Jung meant, in our modern culture (and maybe English has more of this connotation than German), these two terms do not come off as meaning equal things, while an essential point of Jung’s type theory was that the functions were equal.  These terms have come to imply that Feelers are illogical but nice, while Thinkers are logical and rational, but cold and unfeeling.  These implications are damaging, degrading and beyond that, simply untrue.

*We all use both* the Thinking function and the Feeling function, it’s just the order we prioritize them that makes us a Feeler or a Thinker.  Once again, differences in personality stem from those differences in cognition order.

This is an emotionally charged topic and I find one of the groups that gets the most emotional about it is Thinkers who are trying to declare that Feelers are illogical.  The irony astounds me.  While I do run into the occasional Feeler trying to claim moral superiority over us “heartless” Thinkers, they seem to be the minority of the problem.

It’s amazing to me how many Thinkers believe that their reasoning could never be influenced by emotion, because their emotions tend to demonstrate more through feelings like fear, anger, distaste, catastrophizing, and pessimism, which are moods and beliefs as much as giddiness, excitement, sensitivity, security and optimism.  *Every* human being is subject to emotion and while it may gall Thinkers to have them, we are often the most controlled by our emotions when we fail to realize their presence and strength.


Thinkers are defined by the way they focus early in their cognitive process on the use of things, whether it be information or people.  Thoughts teach us the usefulness of objects, situations, people and actions.  The Thinking function looks at information like the brushstrokes of a painting, as the dots necessary to make up the whole, the steps or information needed to systematically reach the end result.

Though everyone uses the Thinking function, a person of Thinking preference (T) focuses on the use and utility of information in either their First or Second Step of the Cognition Process.



Feelers are defined by the way they focus early in their cognitive process on the meaning of things, whether it be information or people.  Feelings bring meaning to objects, situations, people and actions.  The Feeling function looks at information like an entire painting, as the meaning of the whole and the desired end result.  Feelings show us the whole of what is important to us, at once, like a snapshot of our psyches’ overall understanding of the information we have.

Though everyone uses the Feeling function, a person of Feeling preference (F) focuses on the meaning of information in either their First or Second Step of the Cognition Process.

It’s important to note that while the other letter-analogies, like Sonar/HUD and Puzzle Pieces/Word-Net, are most useful when applied to individuals (“Sensors” rather than “Sensing”), with the specific-application nature of T/F, it’s the Thinking and Feeling *functions* that we’re talking about with this painting analogy, rather than individuals.  It’s dangerous to label individuals and narrow their importance into either use or meaning.

Every individual has within their cognition the ability to understand both the end desired result and the methods to get there.  Trying to ignore either the meaning of the end result and one’s own emotions, or not caring about the efficiency needed to reach that end result and pretending thoughts have to be heartless, are both dangerously unhealthy ways to live… and all too common in our culture.  The T/F war is perhaps the worst of the four letter-battles, whether people know about type-theory or not.  So many people are uncomfortable with the idea that a healthy person can do both, that an individual is capable of both tremendous depth of understanding and the means to carry out that understanding.

For example, I’m a T, but I’m pink and girly and I’m a big fan of emoticons 😀  I follow both ThinkGeek and Barbie and I *love* that about myself.  That’s part of the beautiful paradox that is me.  That, yes, I *love* the use of things, especially the use of myself (as is my specialty as an ENTP), but I care about what things mean.  I care about people.

So, yes, Fs will focus on the painting as a whole and Ts will focus on the brushstrokes used to make the painting, but in the end, as people, we all do both.  Again, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t be both useful and meaningful, because you have the power and ability within your psyche to be both.


Judgers and Perceivers

Judgers decide on a course of action in either their first cognition step (EJs) or second (IJs).  The Judging half of the Cognition Process includes both Specific Action and Universal Information—choosing Actions, understanding Consequences, understanding Principles and seeing Trends.  Judgers rely on their strengths of understanding Principles and Consequences in order to plan ahead and understand how the universe will respond to their specific action.  They tend to be more decisive and quicker to carry out their plans of action, but need to remember to slow down and explore all the options before going forward.

Perceivers take more time to explore possibilities before acting, with their Action step coming either third (IPs) or last (EPs).  The Perceiving half of the Cognition Process includes both Universal Action and Specific Information—understanding Motivations, making Character Judgments, making Conclusions about specific Situations based on Data and Details, and knowing when information is missing.  Perceivers rely on their strengths of understanding general categories of action which can be adapted to specific circumstances, in order to make decisions on-the-go and react to circumstances as they arise.  They tend to explore more of the options but need to recognize when to stop information-gathering in order to make a decision and act upon it.



“Judging” is the half of the Cognition Process that focuses on making decisions and choosing specific actions.  For Judgers, action is like a map, plotted points that lead to specific desired results.  If you take the right turns and understand where each path leads, you end up where you want to be.

Though everyone acts, a person is considered a Judger (J) when they focus on Action in either the First or Second Step of the Cognition Process.



“Perceiving” is the half of the Cognition Process that focuses on observing and exploring possibilities and adapting to circumstances.For Perceivers, action is like a toolbox, general know-how that can be applied to any circumstance as it comes up.  If you know how to use any materials or circumstances that may be at your disposal, then you’ll be ready to react to any situation you may find yourself in.

Though everyone observes possibilities, a person is considered a Perceiver (P) when they focus on Observation in either the First or Second Step of the Cognition Process.


Still not sure what personality type *you* are?  Well, stick around and read up; this barely scratches the surface of what personality types are and how they can help you understand yourself and everyone around you!  Where to start?  Check out Paradoxitypes for a look at the unexpected side of each personalty.  The Cognition Process in Stick Figures goes into detail into the unique way each type thinks… with more cute stick people, just like it says on the tin!  Type Heroes is an in-depth series that can show each type how to shine and be heroic in their own way, with plenty of fun fictional examples of each type!  I’ve just gotten started and there is plenty more content to come, so Like Us, subscribe, and check back often to see more!


On the aLBoP Guided Tour?  Your next stop is Type Specializations: What Makes *My* Type Special? 😀

1 Comment

  1. This is amazing, thanks for sharing! Love how your site really expresses how with the right mindset MBTI isn’t about boxing people in but can be used by people to its best potential. Carl Jung would be proud 🙂

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