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The 4 ESTJ Cognitive Functions Explained

When ESTJs are healthy, they are practical, organized, common sense types that do well in leadership positions. ESTJs have a robust belief system that centers on morals and ethics, and they are willing to fight for their traditions and values. ESTJs are intelligent, logical people that enjoy paying attention to the facts behind situations. They also tend to set high expectations for both themselves and other people. ESTJs are big on self-improvement, and they continuously seek to better themselves. They’ll often push to make those around them better people, too, and their leadership skills can go a long way toward motivating others.

ESTJs value their traditions, and they tend to take rules very seriously. They are a personality type that seeks to conform to the status quo. That, combined with their strong leadership skills, often means they become involved in the community or governmental pursuits. However, ESTJs can be so rigid in their traditional views that some people find them stubborn and challenging to handle. Since most ESTJs try to take charge and act as the leader, some people are put off by their strong personalities.

However, ESTJs have a lot of self-confidence in their leadership skills, and they do a great job of executing plans. Still, they can be overly critical when working with others, especially when they feel somebody isn’t meeting their very high set of expectations. ESTJs can be stable and predictable, and they are also very blunt and honest when people ask them for their opinions. Some people may not be expecting the overly direct nature of the ESTJ and can take that straightforward honesty as harsh criticism.

The ESTJ’s Cognitive Functions

According to the MBTI, each distinct personality type has several cognitive functions (feeling, intuition, thinking, and sensing) that either work with the outside world and are extraverted, or turn inward, using introversion. A personality type’s dominant function is the most robust feature of that personality type, and the auxiliary cognitive function also influences the person a great deal. The tertiary and inferior functions are used less often by the personality type, but they still influence the personality type’s characteristics. We’ll break down the ESTJ’s cognitive functions in more detail below.

#1 ESTJ’s Dominant Cognitive Function: Extraverted Thinking
ESTJs are very logical, objective people. They tend to use common sense when they are trying to make a decision, and they don’t typically rely on their feelings. Instead, they thrive when decisions are impersonal to them, and that’s when they can spring into action and lead the back. ESTJs are excellent critical thinkers and are very good at making objective decisions. They are very good at leaving their feelings out of choices, using facts instead to do what seems rational.

ESTJs are also practical people that have a love of learning. They enjoy finding out about things that work in the real world, and they tend to get lost or bored when ideas are based on theory. So, most ESTJs prefer cold, hard facts and not speculations and concepts that are abstract.

ESTJs also do well making fast choices under pressure, but sometimes they skip some of the facts and rush to make a decision. However, their decisive capabilities do contribute to their strong leadership skills as well.

#2 The ESTJ’s Auxiliary Cognitive Function: Introverted Sensing

ESTJs are excellent with detail, and their memories typically serve them well. They can recall things that occurred in the distant past with vivid imagery, and they tend to use things that have happened to them in the past to judge present events. Since they use their sensing functions internally, ESTJs are usually not as concerned with novelty and more interested in familiar things. They are routine-oriented people that can also display some quirky habits. However, this also makes them stable, although they can also be overly stubborn on occasion.

#3 The ESTJ’s Tertiary Cognitive Function: Extraverted Intuition

ESTJs enjoy looking for new ideas, and when they feel like exploring their creativity, they are using their tertiary cognitive function. ESTJs enjoy learning new things about themselves and the world. As they learn new things about the world, ESTJs will continuously search for patterns or connections, trying to map things out in their brains. They also use their incredible critical thinking skills as they understand that there is more than one outcome in most situations.

#4 The ESTJ’s Inferior Cognitive Function: Introverted Feeling

When ESTJs use this function, they start to use their feelings more than their common sense to make their decisions. When they are doing that, they may talk about “gut feelings” as they apply in some situations. ESTJs don’t use this function often, but sometimes this inferior function will emerge when the ESTJ’s feelings outweigh their logic. Most of the time, ESTJs don’t rely on their emotions often, so this function exists mostly in their unconscious.

Shadow Functions: When ESTJs are Unhealthy

When ESTJs are unhealthy, then their shadow functions begin to emerge. When that happens, their Extraverted Thinking function becomes completely imbalanced. When that happens, the ESTJ will start acting domineering, controlling, and over-aggressive. ESTJs like to be the leaders that run the show, but when they are operating in their shadow functions, they become strict, difficult micro-managers, feeling that it’s only “right” if you do things the way you do things.

Unhealthy ESTJs don’t see any grey context in the world; instead, things are very black or white to them. They’ll jump to conclusions and lack sensitivity toward others when they are unhealthy. While they are usually blunt, honest people and they feel their honesty should always be admired. Sometimes their reliability comes across as harsh criticism that could have been rephrased to something less severe and more appropriate.

One of the reasons why ESTJs act so off-balances when they are in their shadows comes from the repression of their Introverted Feeling function, or Fi. Usually, when an ESTJ is healthy, its Fi has a secure value system along with a strong understanding of right and wrong. However, ESTJs that are in shadow tend to repress this, and then they start looking like hypocrites. They’ll begin performing actions that go against their value system, and once they start doing this, they can be very challenging to handle.

ESTJs that repress their value system under stress didn’t experience the best childhood, so they don’t have a complete understanding of their cognitive functions and how they treat others when they feel overwhelmed. ESTJs that were neglected or abused when they were young engage in ego-defensive games to keep themselves going. When they get stressed out or overwhelmed, they can easily fall back into this somewhat destructive childhood pattern.

When ESTJs are in shadow, their auxiliary function, Introverted Sensing, or Si, can also become warped. When ESTJs are unhealthy, they’ll become obsessed with going with what they know, and they become less objective in their viewpoints. Change can become difficult for them to handle, and that can make them overly critical of others. They may start shutting down other people’s points of view and have difficulty with their critical thinking skills.

When ESTJs are healthy, their Si pays attention, not facts, other people’s perspectives, and allows the ESTJ to use some excellent critical thinking skills. However, when an ESTJ gets unhealthy, he or she can become annoyingly subjective, losing their usual objectivity.

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