The four Functions of the Mind according to Jung

By sight most people might not recognize the name Carl Jung, but upon hearing it pronounced it may become slightly more familiar, but only slightly. Jung was a contemporary of Sigmund Freud, a man who usually needs no introduction. Both of these men were pioneers in the fields of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, the foundations for modern-day psychiatry and clinical psychology. Jung’s work has made its way into the mainstream of today’s culture, although people might not realize it. Introversion and extroversion were terms coined by Jung, which are widely understood and frequently used in personality testing, such as with the Myers-Briggs assessment. The basis for all of this is found in the four functions of the mind, according to Jung. These functions serve as the method for which information is obtained and processed in the mind; they are: thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition.

Each day people encounter events and environments from which they gain knowledge. The knowledge gained builds upon what a person already is and shapes them. While each of these four functions is necessary and commonly used, Jung believed that certain functions would be favored by an individual, perhaps one above all else. He expected this to be the case, but suggested that an equal balance of use between the functions was ideal. Each function gathers knowledge and interprets it in a different manner, so all are necessary to obtain the complete picture. He believed that these four functions were the basic level and there were no more or less than these.

Thinking, according to Jung, uses reason and rationality to reach conclusions based on different bits of information and evidence. Feeling applied subjective meaning to information; by incorporating previously held knowledge, new events and ideas could be interpreted personally with associated feelings. Using the sensory organs of the body to perceive information is what constitutes sensation. Along with Freud, Jung was a student of the unconscious mind theory. Jung believed that the unconscious held the thoughts and motivations that were unique to a person. The process of intuition is a process of learning from what is known in the unconscious, but is not known yet by the conscious mind.

Jung believed that the way these functions were embraced, along with the tendency towards introversion or extroversion, identified an individual’s personality type. According to Jung, introverted people draw energy from within, not necessarily that they are shy or avoid social situations, but that they feel more energized when alone or in small, intimate groups. Extroverted people are basically the opposite, drawing energy from interaction with other people, but again, not necessarily defined as loud and overly social, as the term is commonly used today. Jung’s concept of personality combined the preference a person has for the four functions of the mind along with where that person gathers energy, from within or without.

Jung’s theories and research contributed a lot to the modern understanding of personality and cognitive psychology. Though not as popular as Freud by name, Jung’s theories may be just as incorporated, or even more so than Freud’s, in modern life.