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ISTP Cognitive Functions Explained

The primary cognitive functions, according to the Myers-Briggs personality type system, determine how you interact with the world and how you see things. For some types, this is easy to understand; for others, not so much. Let’s do a deep dive into the ISTP type and see what makes them tick.

Cognitive Functions

Ti – Introverted Thinking
As the name suggests, the dominant function of the ISTP is focused on internal thinking. Another good way to look at it is a logical analysis done over things or ideas found in the ISTP’s own head, rather than logic focus on external stimuli or facts. This often results in the ISTP mulling over things for a long time, but it also helps the ISTP understand themselves very well. Because they’re a T-type, ISTPs are very good at performing logical analysis, particularly when it comes to their own concerns or goals.

In addition, this variation of thinking lends itself quite well to overanalyzing certain facts or figures. Basically, the ISTP can absorb information and find connections or answers to questions that may have stumped other people. They tend to be excellent problem solvers when given enough time to think about the issue at hand. This is opposed to extroverted thinkers that can more quickly make executive decisions. The ISTP’s deeper understanding of the problem may lead up to the right answer without making a mistake.

As the dominant function of the ISTP, this function overrides all the others most of the time and is the primary lens through which the individual interacts with the world.

Se – Extraverted Sensing
The secondary or auxiliary function of the ISTP is extroverted sensing. This describes how these people take in information. In a nutshell, they turned their senses outward and pay attention to what they can see, smell, taste, touch, or otherwise detect. This naturally lends itself to a very present mindset and ensures that ISTPs notice a lot about what goes on around them. Not much gets by the attentive ISTP.

It also has a tendency to override the introverted thinking that is the ISTP’s actual dominant function. Many people will see an ISTP interacting with the world and physically touching or experiencing things and consider them to be a quiet extrovert. This auxiliary function can also make ISTPs seem like people of action, even if they haven’t fully committed to the course of action in their heads quite yet.
ISTPs also get a lot of joy from physical experiences or interactions as a result of this function’s high placement in their cognitive list.

Ni – Introverted Intuition
ISTPs’ third major function is introverted intuition. As an inward-focused function, this causes the ISTP to concentrate their pattern or symbol analysis on their internal thoughts and feelings. When combined with their introverted thinking, ISTPs can make surprisingly elegant and accurate leaps of logic that nonetheless turn out to be correct. It also grants them apparently predictive abilities as they notice patterns or connections between facts or people that others may have missed.

However, the ISTP may not fully understand how this function works. As it’s intuitive and the opposite of their more dominant sensing function, the logical leaps made during this process can appear to come out of nowhere. ISTPs may have difficulty explaining how they reach certain conclusions, especially if those conclusions turn out to be correct.

Well-adjusted ISTPs may eventually start calling this their hunch or gut feeling and learn to trust it from time to time.

Fe – Extraverted Feeling
The fourth and inferior function of the ISTP is extraverted feeling. It’s not nearly as strong as the other functions but still plays a vital role in day-to-day life and in protecting the ISTP’s complete psyche.

Boiled down, extroverted feeling helps the ISTP understand other people and may inspire humanitarian or moral action. It can drive the ISTP to apply their powerful logical and intuitive centers toward “getting” the feelings of other people or seeing connections in the social sphere. However, as the inferior function, this extroverted feeling is often not developed until the ISTP is well into adulthood.

This can result in an ISTP feeling a bit left out of social circles or conversations or feel like they are missing some key part of being in a group. This contributes to the typical isolation that many ISTPs experience at one time or another.
As an extroverted function, it also doesn’t lend itself very well to understanding the ISTP’s own feelings. As a result, they may have difficulty

explaining to others how they feel or relating to another person in an intimate conversation. When they find a romantic partner, chances are good that they pair up with someone who knows how to parse emotional “data” and can help the ISTP, in turn, understand themselves.

How the ISTP’s Functions Display Themselves

Because of the dominance of the introverted thinking function, many ISTPs approach practically every encounter or problem in their world with a logical and problem-solving viewpoint. Even when meeting other people, ISTPs may try to determine how best to converse with a person for maximum gain or to limit harm rather than facilitating a genuine emotional connection.

Additionally, the ISTP is often quite hungry for new knowledge. Being a P-type, ISTPs are inherently interested in possibilities and open-ended knowledge. They’re more comfortable with things being unsettled rather than settled, so they appreciate mysteries and opportunities to learn new things regardless of field. They’re especially interested when the topic at hand is something they are already interested in.

However, ISTPs aren’t necessarily very risky or spontaneous. Being heavy introverts, ISTPs appreciate having lots of time to mull over their thoughts and feelings and decide the best course of action before committing to a plan. Thus, they’re less likely to take a random vacation without any warning but are likely to take a new vacation every year, preferably after plenty of research.

Physically, ISTPs tend to be high when it comes to spatial navigation and logical analysis. This may make them good at various physical activities or sports, particularly if they have time to practice before showcasing their skills. Being problem solvers by nature, ISTPs may spend plenty of time perfecting their techniques before coming to conclusions about their abilities or whether they like an activity.

Novel problems and situations are great for ISTPs, so they’ll likely find careers that allow them to bring their considerable intellects to bear on fresh problems all the time. They enjoy coming up with innovative approaches to problems and are some of the most creative people you can meet.

In romantic attachments, ISTPs are likely to be drawn to those complementary rather than opposite of their natures. They’ll probably have a better time conversing with another S-type, but their strong N function means they can also get along quite well with other intuitive types. Their strong introversion means they’ll probably pair with another introvert rather than a complementary extrovert, although they can make a good partner for a more structured J-type thanks to their love of “thinking time”.


All in all, ISTPs are a fantastic personality type and one of the most interesting to learn about on a deeper level. As they’re so quiet and focused, there’s often more than meets the eye with these men and women. Use the above function descriptions to determine whether you are an ISTP or if you know one in your life!

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