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The Dynamic Basis for Type
By Charles Martin, Ph.D.
Looking at Type™: The Fundamentals
Published and copyrighted by CAPT in 1997

Type is more than simply the four basic preferences; it is in fact a dynamic and complex interrelated system of personality. The different components of a person's psychological type work in an interrelated way to establish balance and effectiveness. Type is a lifelong developmental process, and many factors can affect the direction of type development.

The Mental Functions

In type language, you have four mental functions: Sensing, Intuition, Thinking and Feeling. The four mental functions are the basis for much of your mental activity.

  • Two are for gathering information-that is, they are used for perceiving:

Perceiving Sensing (S) perception of details and current realities functions Intuition (N) perception of patterns and future possibilities

  • Two are for organizing information and for making decisions-that is, they are used for judging:

Judging Thinking (T) decisions based on principles and logical consequences functions Feeling (F) decisions based on values and consequences for people

Knowing how the four functions relate to each other, and in what order you prefer them, can tell you a great deal about yourself: for example, how you prefer to communicate, what you consider to be important, and the kinds of activities and careers you find motivating or stressful.

Everyone has and uses the four functions, Sensing, Intuition, Thinking and Feeling, but the order in which they are used, preferred, and developed varies from person to person. For example, some people find logical closure (T) to be the most important thing, and secondarily attend to the facts and details (S). They give less weight to the possibilities (N), and the least weight to the people-impact of decisions (F). For someone else the order might be just the reverse, or some other order entirely.

In type theory, the order in which we prefer these processes is inborn. The four-letter type formula is a shorthand way of telling us about the order in which a person prefers to use the four mental functions.


We develop one of these four mental functions to a greater degree than any of the other three. This first and favorite function is like the captain of a ship, having the most important role in guiding us, and it becomes the type core of our conscious personality. This mental function is called the dominant function. During the first part of your life, you come to rely on your favorite function, and you tend to develop the most skills with it.

Some people, for example, give the most weight to their Intuition. They trust that function the most and they are the most energized when they use it. As children, they probably tended to focus on Intuition (assuming their family supported it), and they probably became involved in activities where they could use their imagination and focus on possibilities.

Functions develop by being used consciously and purposefully for things that matter. As the dominant is used, it becomes strengthened and differentiated from the other functions. We tend to have the most skills and conscious use of this function, and we tend to trust it the most.

Extraverts by definition prefer to live in the outer world. Therefore they use their dominant function in the outer world. They put their best foot forward.

Introverts by definition prefer to live in their inner world. Therefore they use their dominant function in their inner world, and their development of that function is less visible.


If individuals used only their dominant function all of the time, they would be too one-sided. Their second favorite function is called the auxiliary, because it helps give balance to the dominant function. The auxiliary function is very important in your life but always ranks second in importance to your dominant function. Your auxiliary function is the other of the two middle letters of your four-letter type pattern.

There are two ways your auxiliary gives balance to your dominant function. The auxiliary provides balance for the individual's dominant in two ways: (1) it provides needed judgment (T or F ) for dominant perceiving types (S or N dominant), and needed perception for dominant judging types, and (2) it provides needed introversion for extraverts, and needed extraversion for introverts. For extraverts the auxiliary function is introverted, and for introverts it is extraverted.

The dominant and auxiliary are the two middle letters (ST, SF, NF, NT) of your four-letter type.


Your third-preferred function is called your tertiary, and your fourth-preferred function is called your least-preferred or inferior function.

Though you use all four mental functions, your third and fourth-preferred functions tend to be less interesting and less well-developed than your dominant and auxiliary functions. You tend to use them less consciously. As you grow and develop, you learn that there is a time and place to use your third and fourth functions as well. Your development of these functions tends to occur later in life, and you may experience great satisfaction in their development.

For example, if Intuition and Feeling are your two most favored functions, you will probably be more inclined to focus on the future, the abstract, harmony and especially "possibilities for people." Subsequently, you may have some difficulty developing interests or skills in using your Sensing and Thinking, because these are the opposites of your natural preferences.

The inferior, or least well developed function, is the opposite from the dominant function. This function can provide clues about which areas of your life you tend to avoid and involves skills you tend to have the hardest time developing. For example, if Thinking were your dominant function, Feeling would be your least-preferred function. You would probably have significantly less interest in and fewer skills with the Feeling function (e.g., attending to harmony in relationships, giving weight to the personal aspects of decision making).

Extended use of your inferior function, and your tertiary to some degree, tends to require a great deal of energy, and ongoing use of them may leave you Feeling stressed or tired.

Lifelong Development

It is not a hard and fast rule, but people generally tend to develop the four functions throughout their lives in the order in which they prefer them. As you grow and move through life, the way you see the world and how you behave tends to change and broaden. This is due not only to your gaining experience but also to your development of the four functions. As you spend time later in life developing your tertiary and least-preferred functions, the range of behaviors available to you and the career and lifestyle options you consider may open up.

However, remember that you can rely on the dominant and auxiliary functions as the core functions of your conscious personality and the basis for much of your self-esteem.

Discovering Your True Type and Type Falsification

Again, people tend to develop the functions in the order in which they are preferred. If type development follows its natural path, individuals will come to use and trust most their dominant function, then their auxiliary function. Your true type is the type that represents your natural preferences.

Sometimes family, school and culture do not allow individuals to develop along their natural paths. For example, a child who tries to make logical and objective decisions using Thinking may be made to feel guilty for not attending enough to family harmony and other Feeling values. In this manner, an individual may be discouraged from developing his or her naturally preferred dominant and/or auxiliary functions, and instead be pushed to develop another less-preferred function first. This is called type falsification, and can negatively impact a person's ability to trust his or her decision-making process or to differentiate and attend to important information in his or her life.

Everyone is an individual with his or her own life history, and clearly there is much more to people than type. Discovering your true type is only a part of the larger lifelong endeavor of getting to know who you are. Remember, in your exploration of type theory, you are the one who ultimately decides which type description fits you best, and which type is your true type.


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