Home » Psychology » 12 INFP Functions Explained – Cognitive, Shadow and Sarcastic

12 INFP Functions Explained – Cognitive, Shadow and Sarcastic

The MBTI system describes the personalities of individuals using the main cognitive and shadow functions. While cognitive functions are present in our day-to-day thinking, shadow functions are harder to understand and only operate in the subconscious, balancing our psyches and preventing us from focusing on one function overall.

Let’s dive into the cognitive functions, shadow functions, and a humorous, sarcastic take on the primary drivers for the INFP.

Cognitive Functions

The cognitive functions of a personality type are the main drivers of a person’s actions and way of thinking. Cognitive actions that are more important or more in control are called dominant and appear first.

Fi – Introverted Feeling
The first and most important function for the INFP is introverted feeling. This isn’t exactly internal emotions (since all feelings are internal), but is instead best described as the moral values or judgments derived from inner understanding. Indeed, INFPs are often obsessed with their own emotional values and decisions; they tend to fixate on their gut instinct. However, since this is a feeling function, many INFPs are also quite considerate of the emotions of others. They often spend lots of time mulling over their feelings to make sure that they don’t hurt the emotions of other people.

This function has the side effect of inspiring the INFP to value authenticity especially highly. As a result, INFPs are particularly repulsed by anything that seems like a lie or fabrication.

Ne – Extraverted Intuition
INFPs practice extroverted intuition as they take in information. In a nutshell, they use this function to locate and connect various patterns among data points are people. They look at things in a broad way and can often see symbols or patterns where others can’t. As a result, INFPs are much more extending and concepts and big ideas than surface-level or concrete data. Ne being extroverted also means that the INFP will most often be focused on outside things rather than using their intuition on their inner world.

Si – Introverted Sensing
The third function for the INFP is introverted sensing. This helps INFPs ground their ideas and feelings in the real world based on tactile information or sensations. It also helps the INFP feel like many of their moral values are grounded; they seem to have a real-world sense of right or wrong even if they can’t touch it with their hands.

Because this sensing function is introverted, most of this perception comes from personal experience or memories. Real-world events can impact an INFP for a long time after the event has concluded, and INFPs rarely forget people are things that affected them emotionally.

Te – Extraverted Thinking
The fourth and least developed cognitive function for INFPs is extroverted thinking. This inferior function is normally very logic-oriented, and it helps INFPs occasionally find efficient ways to complete their goals or refine their work so far. However, INFPs naturally only use this function when all other avenues are exhausted. They also find thinking this way constantly to be very tiring or annoying, as it can feel robotic and inauthentic compared to their rich inner emotional lives.

Shadow Functions

An individual’s shadow functions are not necessarily bad, but they do represent the opposites of the main for cognitive functions. They operate largely in the unconscious, working to balance one’s personality and prevent it from becoming too dependent on the main functions.

Fe – Extraverted Feeling
The INFP’s most dominant shadow function is an extroverted version of their prime cognitive driver. This is focused on emotions relative to the outside world. It helps INFPs understand the emotions of others, but can also be expressed when the INFPs lashes out. As such, when triggered, INFPs can be particularly harsh critics and attack people “where it hurts most”.

Additionally, INFPs normally don’t trust the expression of this function in other people. As it’s focused on understanding the emotions of others, INFPs can easily see it as inauthentic or fake. At worst, they may describe it as manipulative.

Ni – Introverted Intuition
This second shadow function lies in opposition to the extroverted intuition the INFP relies on more often. This inner function isn’t very well-developed in INFPs, so they often use it in a relatively confused manner. It manifests as patterns that aren’t really there or gut feelings that are incorrect once investigated. This can then lead the INFP to doubt their gut feelings altogether, which drives them into a spiral of bad feelings and self-nagging.

Ni also often manifests as a voice inside the INFP’s head, telling them about how dumb their ideas or goals are and criticizing their decisions.

Se – Extraverted Sensing
INFPs’ third shadow function is extroverted sensing. This function is mostly used in relation to the outside world and is always based in the present moment. INFPs use this underdeveloped function when they aren’t very well aware of their surroundings or when they forget details. INFPs are famously forgetful, particularly when given tasks that could become boring to the rich inner world they would much rather spend their time in. It can also manifest as an INFP for treating into their mind for hours or days on end.

Ti – Introverted Thinking
This shadow function is the least developed for the INFP, so it’s the one they have the least control over even if all shadow functions operate in the subconscious. Ti, in this case, manifests as INFPs becoming obsessed with making things cold or overly logical. They may try to define or redefine various terms, particularly relative to their own goals for authentic selves. They will often seek perfection when in the grip of Ti, becoming increasingly self-critical and berating themselves ceaselessly over their failures.

INFPs often engage Ti by accident when triggered by severe emotional pain. As their emotional core retreats, Ti comes out to protect the psyche at large.

Sarcastic Functions

You can also look at the functions of the INFP in a joking or “sarcastic” way. Understanding the four main cognitive functions in this manner may help you understand them, as they’re depicted with common day-to-day examples. It’s easy to see whether you or another person you know is an INFP using these descriptions.

Fi – INFPs will normally be very picky with what they do or eat. Despite their constant dislikes, they also have ironic difficulty picking something they do like. Think of a kid who can’t decide what to eat.

Ne – INFPs described in this sarcastic way are overly imaginative and dreary. They spend lots of time thinking of haunted forests and castles and never pay attention to anything.

Si – This INFP is overly sentimental and hordes childhood artifacts and mementos. Their room is obviously a huge mess and they can never be convinced to throw anything out.

Te – INFPs in this way are intensely critical and always talk about cleaning the room or getting their life together, but always end up spending time vegging on the couch thinking “Deep Thoughts” instead.


Ultimately, the INFP is a rich and layered personality type with a lot to like. They’re also one of the most easily caricaturable types despite their reserved natures. Understanding all of their cognitive functions and how to describe them is key to determining whether you’re an INFP yourself or you know one in person.

About The Author
Although millions of people visit Brandon's blog each month, his path to success was not easy. Go here to read his incredible story, "From Disabled and $500k in Debt to a Pro Blogger with 5 Million Monthly Visitors." If you want to send Brandon a quick message, then visit his contact page here.