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The 5 Levels of the 4 Jungian Functions -

© John Fudjack & Patricia Dinkelaker - November, 1995

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section one

In the following we put forward a theory articulating five levels of development for each of the four Jungian 'mental functions' - Thinking, Feeling, iNtuition, and Sensing. We explain the need for the theory, discuss its intended use, and point out features and consequences of the theory that may not be obvious at first glance. We focus, in particular, on the ramifications of such a theory for the MBTI and Jungian typology in general.

We have chosen to single out one of the more neglected functions in our culture - feeling - for a more detailed treatment. A review of the literature that has been generated on this topic in the fields of psychology and philosophy of mind over the course of the past hundred years demonstrates that theories of emotion can be grouped into five classes corresponding to the five levels of development of the feeling function. This interesting fact has two consequences: first, it means that the existing literature provides convincing indirect evidence for the levels of development that we discern in the feeling function. Second, the 5 levels of development that we have articulated bring sense and order to what otherwise might look like a hodge-podge of seemingly contradictory conclusions about what feeling is.

Although we have conducted similar surveys of the literature regarding the other functions, this information is not presented in detail here, and awaits later publication.

The topics covered in this part of the paper are:

The pivotal role that the '4 function theory' plays in the MBTI; using the 'inferior' function for recognizing type; identifying a function as 'inferior' by virtue of its underDEVELOPED state; the rudimentary 'developmental' theories of Von Franz and Quenk; proposal for an expanded, 5-level theory; the benefits that can be expected to accompany such a theory; some precedents for sophisticated developmental theories about 'mental functions'; the limitations inherent in current developmental theories; benefits of a developmental approach that treat the four functions separately; locating supporting evidence for the specific levels discerned;

Section One: the Need for a Developmental Theory
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1. The pivotal role that 'the four function theory' plays in MBTI typology and the central importance of establishing 'order of preference amongst functions' in identifying type.

The MBTI distinguishes 16 personality types. It relies on a psychological theory - Jung's - that discerns four mental 'functions'. The four are considered exclusive (no one function can be reduced to any other, or combination of others) and exhaustive (beside the four, there are no additional functions). As we know, the four functions are: thinking, sensing, feeling, and intuition.

For each of the 16 personality types one of the four functions is identified as that type's 'primary' (or 'dominant') function, meaning that it is the function which individuals of that type prefer to use. A second function is identified as the type's 'auxiliary' function, meaning that it is ranked second in preference. Yet a third function is identified as the type's 'tertiary' function. The remaining function is taken as that type's so-called 'inferior'function, least preferred by the individual.

There would be twenty four [4*3*2*1] possible ways of ordering the four functions, if it weren't for the fact that sixteen of these possibilities are excluded by virtue of an additional principle which states that each function has a special relationship to one of the remaining functions - as it polar opposite. When a function is dominant, its polar opposite CANNOT be the 'auxiliary' or 'tertiary' function, and must be the 'inferior' function. Hence there are actually only eight [4*2*1*1] possible preference orderings.

Assuming a convention in which the order of preference for each type could be specified by a string of letters separated by dashes (such as 'T-N-S-F') with the MOST prefered function furthest to the left, the eight possibilities are (in no special order):

1. T-N-S-F (the ordering which occurs in the ENTJ and INTP types)
2. T-S-N-F (the ordering which occurs in the ESTJ and ISTP types)
3. F-N-S-T (the ordering which occurs in the ENFJ and INFP types)
4. F-S-N-T (the ordering which occurs in the ESFJ and ISFP types)
5. N-T-F-S (the ordering which occurs in the ENTP and INTJ types)
6. N-F-T-S (the ordering which occurs in the ENFP and INFJ types)
7. S-T-F-N (the ordering which occurs in the ESTP and ISTJ types)
8. S-F-T-N (the ordering which occurs in the ESFP and ISFJ types)

A specific preference order is thus, by definition, associated with each type. Although the type name does not wear its preference order 'on its sleeve', as it were, as part of its nomenclature, the preference order is definitively set by the type name. For example, the lable 'ENTJ' necessarily implies a T-N-S-F ordering of preferences: with T the most prefered function, and F the least prefered]. One cannot have a different preference order and remain an 'ENTJ'.

As soon as we know which of the four functions an individual prefers to use, we have narrowed down the number of possible types he/she can be. By knowing, for example, that an individual prefers thinking, we establish the fact that the primary (or 'dominant') function of the individual is 'T'. And we thereby also know that he/she has either a T-N-S-F ordering of preferences or a T-S-N-F ordering of preferences and therefore must be one of FOUR types: ENTJ, INTP, ESTJ, or ISTP.

Conversely, if we know which function is the individual's least preferred (or INFERIOR) function, we have likewise determined which amongst a set of four types he or she must be. For example, if we know that the individual's inferior function is 'F', we know that he or she has one of two preference patterns (T-N-S-F or T-S-N-F), and must be one of the same four types listed above (ENTJ, INTP, ESTJ, or ISTP).

In other words, we can identify the individual as being within this group of four types either by knowing that he or she has 'T' as a dominant function or by knowing that he or she has 'F' as an inferior function. This should be no suprise - since F and T are considered polar opposites in this system, and once we know that an individual has 'T' as her dominant function we automatically know that she has 'F' as her inferior function, or vice versa.

The capacity to TYPE an individual depends ultimately on our ability to distinguish WHICH functions (in which order) the individual prefers. Establishing the order of preference that the individual displays for the functions is an activity of CENTRAL singular importance in establishing that individual's type. This holds true whether one uses a formal instrument, the MBTI say, or types individuals using informal observations (as some Jungian analysts continue to do).

Once one knows the individual's order of preference for the mental functions AND his 'orientation' (extraverted or introverted), one can specify his MBTI type. For instance, if we know that an individual's preference for functions follows the 'T-N-S-F' ordering pattern, AND we know that the individual is an extravert (E), we can deduce that the individual is an ENTJ. [See the chart above, to confirm that this is true].

2. How being able to identify the individual's inferior function helps in establishing his/her type.

Once one has identified the individual's dominant function, all that one needs to do to arrive at his MBTI type is to establish what his auxiliary function is AND his prefered 'attitude' (E or I). But how does one determine which function is an individual's dominant one?

Jungian analyst Marie-Louise Von Franz typed people without the use of a formal instrument. She found that it was easier to do this by attempting to identify the individual's inferior function. According to Von Franz, it is more difficult to discern which of the four functions is the individual's dominant function, since it is often the case that at least two functions in the individual are more or less equally developed. The individual's INFERIOR function, on the other hand, is the one that is least developed. As a result, it is likely to be the one that is particularly problematic for the individual, and hence more easily distinguished from the others.

3. One can determine which function is the INFERIOR one by identifying which function is least developed and tends to manifest in an 'inferior' manner.

What does underdeveloped feeling look like, or inferior thinking? As an analyst, Von Franz has observed how each of the four functions operates when it is in the 'inferior' position in the individual's preference order, that is - when it is underused and underdeveloped, least under the deliberate control of the conscious mind of the individual, and more apt to be, for that individual, a mechanism for the expression of the UNCONSCIOUS and thus part of any 'neurosis' that the individual may have.

Not only can Von Franz be credited with having been the first to recognize the importance of identifying the inferior function in typing the individual, she also was the first to provide us with insight as to the difference in the way each function manifests AS the inferior (and underdeveloped) function (as opposed to how it manifests as a dominant or developed function). She has been using these principles for the purpose of identification of type for decades, and can be credited with formulating the first 'developmental' theory of the functions, albeit only a two-level, and hence rudimentary, theory.

It is only relatively recently that MBTI theorists have also formally recognized the importance of distinguishing between inferior and superior development of each function, and how such information can be used to assist in typing the individual. Naomi Quenk's recent book is an attempt by an MBTI practitioner at a systematic investigation of the nature of each function in its INFERIOR capacity.

Until this relatively recent innovation in Myers-Briggs theory by Quenk there was very little indication of an awareness for the need to describe what an UNDERDEVELOPED function looks like as compared to a developed function. There was no attempt, in the writing of Isabel Myers, to distinguish between superior and inferior manifestations of the functions or to characterize types by whether specific functions manifested in them in superior or inferior ways. Indeed her statement that an individual's PREFERENCE for a function does not ensure proficiency in its use seems to reject any overall correlation between type (and its associated preferences) and proficiency in the use of specific functions. Her remarks could, for instance, be construed as a denial that ENFPs on the whole have a more developed feeling function than ENTPs.

Despite Quenk's latest innovations in MBTI theory, which utilize a rudimentary binary distinction between 'inferior' and 'superior' manifestations of functions, we find no suggestion in her work (or in Von Franz's, for that matter) that each function might permit description in terms of more elaborately distinguished developmental LEVELS.

We, however, would like to make just such a proposal: Each function can (and moreover OUGHT to) be viewed in terms of levels of development. We wish also to specificy five levels of development for each function. In this paper we will focus primarily on the feeling and intuitive functions, as these are comparatively underutilized (and hence underdeveloped). They are, as a result, also most apt to be misunderstood and misrepresented. Although clarifying the nature of feeling and intuition may therefore be more difficult an enterprise, there is the promise of greater overall benefits in doing so.

We will argue that whereas the (T-based) cognitive and (S-based) perceptual sciences are relatively accepted and advanced areas of inquiry, it has not been considered legitimate (until relatively recently) to subject intuition or feeling to serious study. Furthermore, when these functions ARE studied it is often with the use of 'cognitive' (T-based) or perceptual (S-based) frames of reference.

These meta-level (ie, 'theoretical') biases result in a situation in which the definitions of 'thinking' and 'sensing' hat are in general usage reflect a comparatively higher level understanding, whereas what is normally meant by the words 'feeling' and 'intuition' refer to comparatively lower levels of accomplishment with respect to those functions.

To put this simply and vividly: although we (as a society) are most likely, for example, to think of logic or philosophical reasoning (higher level examples of thinking) as 'exemplary' activities associated with the thinking function, we are more likely to think of 'hunches' and/or 'premonitions' as exemplary of intuition, although these activities are relatively lower level activities on the continuum associated with that function. Similarly, with the feeling function - we, as a culture, are most likely to think of EMOTIONALITY (which actually requires a comparative low level of development of the feeling function) as paradigmatic of the feeling function.

4. The importance of expanding the rudimentary distinction between inferior and superior manifestations of a function to a fullblown theory of developmental LEVELS.

When we say that each function CAN be conceived of in terms of levels of development, we mean that there is evidence, from various quarters, that each function can be 'developed', 'educated,' or 'trained' - resulting in distinct levels of accomplishment with respect to each function. Even so, the METHODS required for the education of the feeling (F) and intuitive (N) functions in particular are THEMSELVES associated with relatively undervalued fields of human endeavor, which rational-empirical (ST) science has time and again sought to discredit. We are talking here about marginalized fields of endeavor such as non-behaviorist and non-psychopharmalogical psychologies (the socalled 'humanistic' psychologies and psychotherapies), and about mysticism, meditation, and other forms of 'spiritual' practice.

In this work we shall cite evidence for the five levels that we discern. For the feeling function, this evidence is to be found mainly in the (non-positivist and non-behaviorist) scientific literature regarding feeling and emotion and in various theories associated with psychological therapies. Theories of emotion can be classified into five groups, each repectively associated with one of the levels of feeling. For the intuitive function, the evidence we speak of is to be found not only in (psychological) research from some of the same fields of inquiry, but also (and primarily) in the metaphysical assumptions associated with introverted-intuitive spiritual systems.

When we say that we 'ought' to try to more specifically elaborate LEVELS of each function, we have in mind the belief that this would provide us with:

(1) a greater understanding of each personality type and the extent to which members of differing types rely on VARYING degrees of development of, and appreciation for, each function. It is unlikely, for instance, that types who have feeling as their least prefered (eg 'inferior';) function will develop their capacity to feel at level three or four, and may consequently conceive of level 'two' as comprising the upper limit of the capacity of the function. A theory delineating levels might assist in pointing out how the feeling function extends beyond these arbitrary limits associated with type. It has been our experience with some individuals who are thinking types, for example, that the five level theory has helped them to entertain the possibility that there are levels of feeling that are comparable in sophistication to the levels of thinking that they have developed.

(2) a more equitable way of comparing types. We have elsewhere suggested that current societal biases (toward ST types) are extreme and deleterious. These lead to unfortunate mistakes when it comes to cross-functional comparisons - a tendency to compare apples and oranges: higher levels of development of the thinking function with lower levels of development of the feeling function, and higher levels of development of sensing with lower levels of development of intuition - to the detriment (and continued undervaluation) of the currently undervalued minority types. For example, a capacity for critical reason (level three 'thinking') is often pitted in our society against EMOTIONALITY (level one 'feeling'). The deck is stacked, and a false conclusion is drawn - that 'thinking' is more valuable a function than 'feeling'.

(3) encouragement for minority types to further develop those functions that are 'prefered' by them but currently culturally undervalued. Even amongst members of the under-represented types, the intuitive and feeling functions may not be as fully developed as the thinking and sensing functions of the more populated types. Thinking and sensing are generally valued and encouraged in WHATEVER type they may occur; conversely, feeling and intuition are undervalued and likewise discouraged.

(4) the groundwork on which a study of the comparative uses of certain functions by certain types can be initiated. According to currently accepted Myers-Briggs theory, which does not distinguish level, in utilizing one function (feeling, for instance) it is just as likely that an individual will exhibit any or all of the characteristics typically associated with that function. In contrast, we contend that although the Myers-Briggs system has effectively identified MOST of the characteristics associated with each function, it has not clearly been seen that all of the characteristic aspects of the function may not show up equally at each level of proficiency with the function. To utilize the function is not always to utilize it fully.

In the course of using the MBTI in our organizational development work we have heard thinking types protest thinking types protest that they do have feelings, intense ones, and that they OFTENfeel. 'So does this not show a high degree of respect for the feeling function, a willingness to USE it, and an adequate enough familiarity with it to be able to judge it, as I do, as something which is innately INFERIOR to thinking?' To this we are prepared (with the five-level-theory) to argue that what characterizes their use of the feeling function as 'inferior' is not so much the fact that they do not feel, not that they do not feel intensely or less frequently, but HOW they feel. What is of importance in this regard, in other words, is TO WHAT USE they put the function, and this is intimately connected to the extent to which they have developed their capacity to feel (as measured using the continuum defined by the five levels theory).

So, basically, we are assuming that there is an overall QUALITATIVE difference (which is not mentioned in traditional MBTI theory) between how those who use feelings as the 'dominant' function experience it, as compared to those who use it as their 'inferior' function. This is not to say, however, that all of those who score as predominantly feeling types will have developed their feeling functions fully - only that it will be statistically more likely that a feeling type will have developed further along the feeling function continuum than a thinking type. As Jungian therapist James Hillman once put it, "The difficulty we have in recognizing the feeling-type can partly be blamed on the fact that all that passes for feeling is not an expression of the feeling function". 1

Although Von Franz and Quenk have paved the way for a developmental theory of the functions, such a theory has not been adequately in either the Jungian camp or by MBTI practitioners. A kind of binary, all or nothing, approach is currently used, in which each function is conceived as manifesting either in a superior OR inferior manner. We hope, in the following, to provide a framework through the use of which additional levels of development can be discriminated.

5. Precedents for treating the functions developmentally

Outside of the MBTI and associated Jungian approaches, ther have been some attempts to conceive of one or more of the functions as progressing along a continuum of development. Piaget's work offers some evidence that thinking and sensing, at least, and possibly feeling (or at least a 'moral sense' associated with feeling) DO develop according to incremental stages. In addition, other theorists have proposed theories about how certain capacities that are related to feeling develop at various developmental stages of the individual. But their emphasis has been, like Piaget's, on discerning overall stages of development the the individual as a whole passes through. The progress that the individual makes in function-related capacities are then mapped onto the continuum as described.

Others (Dabrowski and Piechowski, for instance) have discerned non-piagetian developmental stages on which the progress of specific functions ('emotion', 'perception' or 'thinking' could be located; but the emphasis, again, is on the use of a continuum describing the overall development of the individual as a whole.

6. Limitations of such theories.

How does the approach which seeks to describe phases of the individual's overall development limit the nature of the inquiry into the functions? Such generalist theories typically fail to treat the functions equitably. They employ 'reductionist' strategies in which:

  • one of the four functions is selected as providing the fundamental explanatory 'frame' according to which the development of the individual is mapped (and studied);
  • the explanatory frames associated with each of the functions are 'nested', one within the other - determining, in effect, which functions have wider scope.
  • the terms used in the wider, more 'basic' frames are considered 'more fundamental' in nature - bottom line, as it were, and less likely to be 'translated' into the vocabulary associated with rival frames.
For instance, why does Piaget speak so little of 'intuition' as a separate function, or fail to locate hallmarks in its development on his developmental continuum? The reason is that his developmental theory is basically a 'T-friendly' model which does not theoretically treat intuition as a truly separate function, or one 'equally valued' (in the theoretical sense). The theory is cast in a cognitive frame. The critical junctures in the individual's development are thus the COGNITIVE ones. Within the theoretical bias thus established, and against the backdrop of the individual's cognitive development, other events important to individuals (such as the capacity for 'moral judgment' ) are studied and appraised.

In such a system, biased toward the 'cognitive' sciences, feeing will inevitably be seen as primarily a 'thinking-like' phenomenon. Feeling may well be understand, as Piaget does, primarily in terms of the individual's capacity to make moral 'judments'. And in the same way that to someone who prefers chicken, tofu is just a poor chicken substitute, feeling is likely to be conceived as a poor subsitute for thinking.

The tofu afficiando can, of course, argue that it is not a chicken substitute at all, and when cooked according to vegetarian principles is MORE tasty, and nutritious as well. And if such an argument were to be made, what we would have would be more akin to a genuine PARADIGM shift, in the strict sense of the word - in which 'paradigms' operate as exclusive frames that exhibit 'incommensurability' with respect to each other. Each rival paradigm has its own language, sets of theories and beliefs, issues, tools, exemplary activities, and so on - so that from the perspective offered by one paradigm, conclusions arrived at in another are hard to measure. Indeed, the entities relevated in one frame may tend to become nearly INVISIBLE in competing frames! And this is just what happens in 'over-all' theories that include a tacit bias toward one specific function.

7. Benefits of an approach that conceives of each function as capable of independent development (more or less) and accordingly articulates function-specific developmental levels.

And so, what we have set out to do is conceive of four exclusive mental paradigms based on what Jung presumed to be four exclusive functions. Within each of the four we discern five levels of development. While in the frame associated with 'feeling' we discern five levels of development of the feeling function, in the frame associated with 'intuition' we discern five separate levels of development of the intuitive function - and so forth. In this way we truly HONOR the differences inherent in the four functions as prefered mental styles. Each function is DEFINED in a manner that is consistent with how people who prise it tend to describe and use it.

8. Locating supporting evidence for the levels of development that we discern in each function.

People who one function as their dominant function will gravitate toward certain specific areas of inquiry and activity and it is in these worlds of endeavor that we should seek the most profound explication of the nature of that function. In what disciplines and worlds of discourse does the thinking type hang out? It is in these places we must look if we are to find the most profound explanation of what it is to think. Similarly, we honor INTUITION (and study it with precision and appreciation) by intentionally entering into those frameworks that come NATURALLY to the intuitives. It is in the meditational and metaphysical systems where we will find intuition defined in precise and subtle ways that are sophisticated and profound (even if those definitions are not sanctioned in the systems - the 'empirical sciences' - that comprise rival frames).

This journey will generate definitions of feeling and intuition that may, at first, appear well outside of the realm of acceptible discourse ABOUT feeling and intuition for the thinking or sensing types. Intuition, according to the five-level theory is intimately associated with symbol formation (in the Jungian sense) and with the (advanced) meditational experience of 'pure consciousness' in Hindu systems - but the connection between these and what the thinking type means by 'intuition' (eg, intuition as 'inspiration') or the sensory type (for whom intuition, as mere 'hunch' or 'suspicion' is distinctly 'inferior')may not be so clear. '

One of our tasks, then, in elaborating the five levels of intuition, is to make it more clear how experiences that go by exotic labels ('pure consciousness' or 'mahamudra', for instance) are actually advanced stages of what is refered to in our culture as intuition. We will be mindful of the fact that although these unusual states of consciousness are often connected, in the psychogical and/or meditational parent systems which foster them, to a demonstrated increase in the frequency and accuracy of extra-sensory perception, these phenomena are not the PRIMARY objectives of these states, and should not be construed as their raison d'etre. The 'purpose' of intuition, if it can be said that there is one, is much more subtle, as we hope to show.

9. How we shall proceed in the following pages

Now we turn our attention to desribing the five levels of the feeling function in such a manner that the reader might

1) understand how individuals at each level of development would experience 'feeling' at that level, and

2) gain insight into how one level develops into the next.

Then we will go through the five levels of the feeling function again, this time shedding further light on each level by associating it to respective groups of theories that have attempted to explain the feeling function in a manner commensurate with that level. In other words, we will discuss level one feeling via an exploration of theories about feeling which come out of a level-one understanding of what feeling is, and so forth, through all five levels.

Then we will turn our attention an investigation of the five levels of the intuitive function using the same, albeit somewhat abbreviated, format.

We are proceding in this way in the hope of providing, on the one hand, a phenomenological description of the five levels - something someone can relate to personally. But also because we are interested in beginning to offer detailed evidence for the levels as we have identified them. Although most of the theorists themselves surely did not conceive of their theories being limited to a single 'level' of understanding of the phenomenon in question, it is our hunch that most of the theories that they propounded were the product of the relative extent to which the function in question was developed by the theoretician.

We postpone a discussion of our reason for choosing FIVE levels, and an exploration of the 'meaning' of each level (there is a similarity at commensurate levels across all of the four functions) to subsequent sections of this chapter. Charts comparing functions at SIMILAR levels (thinking and feeling at level three, for instance), and charts that explore how more advanced stages of any particular function tend to be seen by individuals at inferior levels of development of that function, are also presented.

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1. James Hillman in Lectures on Jung's Typology, James Hillman and Marie-Louise Von Franz, 1971, Spring Publications Inc, Dallas, Texas, p. 136
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2. Naomi L. Quenk, Beside Ourselves: Our Hidden Personality in Everyday Life, 1993, Consulting Psychologists Press, Palo Alto, California

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