For several years, I was annoyed that I couldn’t detect the pattern behind Myers-Briggs type function stacks. How did others have an internal grasp of every type’s stack? Did they simply memorize them all? Some of them seemed to understand the patterns behind the stacks, but I had never encountered a clear explanation as to how to identify or remember all those patterns.
There are lots of charts online which list the function stacks (dominant/primary, auxiliary/secondary, tertiary, and inferior) for each type, but most don’t explain how they arrive at those function stacks for each type, or the patterns behind the stack orders. That’s why I created this graphic and post. Hopefully you find them helpful!
There are probably several other methods and patterns I haven’t identified here, but this is one reliable approach for identifying a function stack for any type.
As a refresher, the following eight possible stack functions are abbreviated as follows:
Extroverted Intuition – Ne
Introverted Intuition – Ni
Extroverted Sensing – Se
Introverted Sensing – Si
Extroverted Feeling – Fe
Introverted Feeling – Fi
Extroverted Thinking – Te
Introverted Thinking – Ti
(Note: if you find the font size in this graphic difficult to read, the text below contains roughly the same – and more – content. Feel free to pin this on Pinterest though for a quick glance at determining function stacks!)
Pattern #1: The first two functions will always correspond with the middle two letters.
For example, an INTJ will have intuitive and thinking functions at the top.
Pattern #2: If the type is a judging type (such as INTJ), their top (dominant or auxiliary) judging function (thinking or feeling) will be extroverted.
If the type is a perceiving type (such as INTP), their top perceiving function (sensing or intuition) will be extroverted.
For example, the INFJ is a judging type. We already know that their top two functions will involve intuition and feeling (since they’re an NF). Because of the J, their top judging function (feeling) will be extroverted.
Pattern #3: Functions always alternate between extroverted and introverted.
If the INFJ has intuition and feeling functions at the top of their stack, and the feeling is extroverted, then the intuition function must be introverted (since it comes directly before or after Fe).
Now, which one’s the primary function? Fe (extroverted feeling) or Ni (introverted intuition)?
Pattern #4: An introvert will always lead with an introverted function, and an extrovert will always lead with an extroverted function.
Therefore, the INFJ’s primary (top) function is introverted intuition (Ni). Their secondary function is extroverted feeling (Fe).
Pattern #5: Every type has an introverted and extroverted judging function, and an introverted and extroverted perceiving function.
Therefore, the INFJ, with introverted intuition, will have extroverted sensing. And since their feeling is extroverted, their thinking function will be introverted. We now have their last two functions (Se and Ti), but in what order?
We already have Ni and Fe (in that order) for the INFJ. Since functions always alternate between E and I, the remaining order will be Ti then Se.
INFJ: Ni, Fe, Ti, Se.
Let’s try this a couple more times!
We’ll pick the ESFP.
So we start by looking at the middle two letters, S and F. We know sensing and feeling will be at the top.
ESFP is a perceiving type. What does this mean? Their highest perceiving function (S) will be extroverted.
Therefore, they have extroverted sensing (Se).
Since function stacks alternate between E and I, we then know that feeling (their other top function) must be introverted.
Since extroverts lead with an extroverted function, this means their extroverted sensing will be at the top, followed by their introverted feeling.
From there, it’s a piece of cake.
Extroverted sensing means introverted intuition.
Introverted feeling means extroverted thinking.
Since we have Se, followed by Fi, an extroverted function will follow. This could only be Te. Therefore, Ni (introverted intuition) is left as the inferior function.
ESFP: Se, Fi, Te, Ni.
Now let’s do the ENTP.
Intuition and thinking are at the top.
P means intuition (their top perceiving function) is extroverted.
Therefore, thinking (their other top function) is introverted.
Extroverts lead with an extroverted function. So the ENTP will lead with their extroverted intuition.
Introverted thinking then follows as auxiliary.
Extroverted intuition, introverted thinking … means introverted sensing and extroverted feeling.
Ne, Ti, Si, Fe
Wait a sec…does something look funny?
Extroverted and introverted functions always alternate, so this means Fe will be tertiary and Si will be inferior.
ENTP: Ne, Ti, Fe, Si
Guess what? The INTP has the same functions as the ENTP, just with a slight introverted swap. They lead with an introverted function.
INTP: Ti, Ne, Si, Fe
Try it yourself, and check your results against the following graphic:
Questions? Other patterns you’ve discovered? Let me know in the comments! 🙂