An Alternative Introduction to the Four Dimensions: Thinking (T) / Feeling (F)

The third letter details whether one tends to base one’s decisions chiefly on logic or chiefly upon one’s personal values; whether one decides with the head or with the heart. People who prefer to use Feeling will often adopt an appreciative and accommodating attitude when interacting with others, which is why some researchers also refer to Thinking/Feeling as skeptical/agreeable.

People who have a strong preference for Feeling generally take pride in seeing themselves as empathetic, considerate, friendly, generous, and helpful. Some Feelers even experience such a strong sense of concern and involvement with regards to the problems of others that they can feel compelled to drop what they are doing and offer their aid to the other. Conversely, people who prefer Thinking more often take pride in being critical, logical, insightful and truthful. Taking a darker, less optimistic view of human nature than their Feeling counterparts, they are also less prone to spontaneously help people who are not their close friends or where they do not see a ‘rational’ reason to do so.

Some of the most widely-known descriptions of Feeling tend to depict Feelers as unanimously goodnatured ‘happy puppies’ (this is true of Keirsey‘s book in particular). Many Feelers take issue with these portrayals, feeling that such descriptions portray them as overly gullible and one-sided. Consequently, many authors have attempted to portray ‘the dark side of Feeling’ as an ‘ability to socially manipulate people’ and an ‘egocentricity beyond what is reasonable’. These may very well be true of a given Feeler, but they are most likely NOT traits that are specifically pertinent to Feeling. Rather, what appears to be the true ‘dark side of Feeling’ is a propensity to internalize conflict and make it personal beyond what most Thinkers would do. One could perhaps say that as Feelers tend to take generosity and consideration as their starting point, they do not expect conflict, nor do they feel that it is reasonable that conflict be brought upon them.

T / Thinking

Logic over sentiment
Critical, then supportive
Decides with head
Truth before tact
Sees conflict as natural
Good at being critical
At ease with the impersonal
Seeks to ignore emotion
Interested in things-then-people
Often prefer non-fiction

More men than women are Thinking

F / Feeling

Sentiment over logic
Supportive, then critical
Decides with heart
Tact before truth
Takes conflict personally
Good at being appreciative
At ease with the personal
Attach to emotion
Interested in people-then-things
Often prefer fiction

More women than men are Feeling

It is a striking fact that while all of the other dimensions explained here are gender-neutral, Thinking and Feeling are unevenly distributed amongst the sexes so that most men are Thinking and most women are Feeling. Precise figures are unreliable, but a generally accepted guideline is that 65% of males are Thinking while 65% of females are Feeling. This tendency is observed in all cultures and is backed up by every other system of personality out there.

Philosophers like Judith Butler and Simone de Beauvoir have traditionally blamed culturally defined gender roles for this occurrence: “A woman is not born, she is made.” However, in recent years, scientists have turned the problem upside-down, speculating instead that over the generations women have been sexually selected for sweetness and caring, causing more critical and strong-willed women to hit an evolutionary dead end. Similarly, scientists have speculated that since women have traditionally been entrusted with childcare, they may have developed Feeling traits as these are speculated to be helpful in nurturing a child.

While Thinking women may experience some difficulty relating to groups of women that are exclusively defined by Feeling, particularly in adolescence, Thinking women are generally accepted, and even cherished, in today’s liberated and knowledge-based society.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said where Feeling males are concerned: Society viciously expects men to be tough-minded, logical, and in control of their emotions (save perhaps rage and anger). Some Feeling males, particularly of the ESFJ type, simply just ‘get it’ and have little trouble fitting in. (Sometimes they may overcompensate and become ‘macho’.) Such males frequently do well with the police or in the military.

Other Feeling men, however, are not as lucky: They tend to take an interest in aesthetics and interpersonal relationships that is not shared by other men. Throughout life, Feeling men may have a hard time relating to other men, and while they may have an easier time forming friendships with women, there is always the danger that women think of them as ‘friend material’ and not ‘date material’ if they are conditioned by social norms. Rather than try to reform their personalities, such males need to have confidence in themselves and in that it is okay to be different. If friends and acquaintances prove intolerant, a change in friends and social scene may be the only cure, though it may seem like an excessively drastic step, given the Feeler’s propensity to sympathize with those whom he knows.

When Jung first defined Feeling around 1915, he referred to it as ‘rational’. Unfortunately, this has caused a great deal of confusion for both newcomers and seasoned typologists alike. By ‘rational’, Jung meant that the output of Feeling is ‘internally consistent’, which appears to be untrue. In terms of internal consistency, Feelers are generally more likely to hold contradictory views, often on the same topic. A negative view of this tendency may be found in the work of psychologist Drew Westen (himself a Feeler) who posits that our Feeling faculties stem from an earlier evolutionary stage than does our Thinking. Conversely, a more positive view of the same matter may be that the only ways we have in which to measure contradictions all rely heavily on formal logic, which is naturally attuned to Thinking rather than Feeling. It may well be that our current ways of measuring contradictions are simply too formalistic to encompass the subtleties of Feeling. As the poet Walt Whitman said: “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”

To make matters worse, Jung also referred to certain kinds of Feeling as ‘objective’, by which he meant ‘oriented towards the external reality’, which again is not really an appropriate descriptor of the trait. In fact, neither Thinking or Feeling are especially ‘objective’ in themselves. The deciding factor with regards to objectiveness, as Jung defined it, is extroversion, which orients itself by what is objectively present.

8 Comments

  1. Not all Feeling types are tactful, or incapable of being critical. Feeling users can be quite sentimental and emotionally sensitive, true, but their values can potentially lead to conflict with others. Take John Lennon, for example, and INFP who had an acerbic, deadpan personality. Or Andrew Garfield, who in the interview shared with Carey Mulligan had been very outspoken about injustice towards the overlooked student in schools. In fact, some Feeling users even enjoy debating!

    I suppose this is more true for Fi users, due to internal values vs. the world, but my point stands.

    Feeling-types can also be quite critical as well. What about those Feeling users who reject religion on the basis of not just the perceived injustice, but also due to lack of logical evidence? Feeling users can also be sharp critics, such as Oscar Wilde’s commentary on Charles Dicken’s The Old Curiosity Shop with “You’d have to have a heart of stone not to laugh at the death of Little Nell”, or Roger Ebert, who could be an Feeling user. His principles are quite apparent in many reviews.

    And as for Feeling-typed men having bad luck with the ladies, that’s more of a generalisation. Many Feeling types listed have been casa-novas, and some Thinking-types can’t even get the time of day.

    Thanks for your time. I could be wrong about some arguments, and if so I stand corrected. For the sake of posterity, I’m an INFP (maybe; the Fi/Te and Ne/Si seem accurate).

  2. Well, yes. Good points, all of them.
    If you read the first blog in this series, it’s an “as if” break down of the four letters. Those will be very generalizing and always of a -all else being equal- nature. So of course, Feeling types can be critical, “do science” etc. – we hope that this is obvious from our main site, where plenty of F types are both scientists and good with the ladies :)

  3. Uhm, why is this mostly about feeling, the about men and women and then mostly about the (dating)problems of feeling men? The part about Jung is more informative in my opinion. I really like a lot of information on this site, but this article is kinda disappointing.
    (About the whole dating thing btw: I see that feeling men aren’t always accepted in society, because feeling is seen as a female trait, and apparently that’s bad. But actually I’ve seen a lot a sympathising feeling men get girlfriends because they often have the abilities to be friends with women, because they see that women are, you know, people too + friendship is actually pretty awesome. People who think being “just being friends” is sad, kinda less awesome.)
    (And about the selecting for women to be more sweet and caring, read the Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine (or read this http://jezebel.com/5627598/5-myths-about-the-female-brain article about it: It’s shorter) Also, can I see your sources?)

  4. “When Jung first defined Feeling around 1915, he referred to it as ‘rational’. Unfortunately, this has caused a great deal of confusion for both newcomers and seasoned typologists alike. By ‘rational’, Jung meant that the output of Feeling is ‘internally consistent’, which appears to be untrue. In terms of internal consistency, Feelers are generally more likely to hold contradictory views, often on the same topic. ”

    The notion of feeling as a rational function is confusing indeed to both seasoned and newcomers. The analysis I can garner from this is that you guys have not learnt to understand “Feeling” judgement as opperating implcitly being more akin to intuition (as abstract perception is to sensing). “Feeling” rational being implicit is interested in “abstract facts” which at as its form of reasoning for rationalizing its points of view. The “abstract facts” are in the form of what Jung describes as values being divorced from explicit referencing.

    The “internal consistency” that feeling judgement has is abstract and has to be understood as such. It operates on its own logical terms, which it remains consistent to. Your critique of its feeling judgement’s “internal consistency” comes from your mistake applying the rules of “thinking’s” own internal consistency principles which are explicit in nature requiring the facts to align a concrete principles.

    The reason why feelers can hold contradictory views is based on the implicit nature of the functions. They don’t care about how closely they align with reality, being abstract. Feeling rational is not explicitly referenced like thinking which is more sensitive to contradiction which reality.

    The Feeler you gave as an example was demonstrating “implicit consistency” and not explicit consistency. With you as “explicit consistency” types (INTJ & ENTP respectively), you detected the violations with your own consistency standard. And in turn feelers criticize thinkers for not meeting their own “internal consistency” standard.

    In fact the same critique to feeling’s consistency is applicable to intuition which relies also on abstract references to reality. Intuition is seen by sensors as jumpy and wrong (being critiqued by sensing) because all its references are implicit, abstract, and that irritates explicitly referenced sensing which requires all its points of view to be ground.

  5. Well, that’s certainly an original view.

    We agree so far that Feeling hampers intuition less than Thinking does. This seems to be in agreement with your overall point.

    We also agree, quite rightly, that intuition and feeling are similar when seen from a Thinking standpoint in so far as they draw on multiple and varied, indeed often self-contradictory references.

    We are aware of Jung’s view that Feeling should be considered a rational function, which is why we put that in the post to begin with. We agree with Jung that Feeling is _more_ consistent that either S or N, but as to whether it’s _as_ consistent as Thinking, (as Jung would insist) we remain skeptical.

  6. Thanks, my dyslexic typing always irritates me in retrospect

    Otherwise, I agree that formal logic is more akin to thinking and intrinsically incompatible with ‘feeling judgement’. I’m guessing by consistency you strongly imply ‘formal logic’, and if it’s that I agree absolutely.
    _______________________________
    Sentiment over logic
    //Supportive, then critical
    //Decides with heart
    //Tact before truth
    //Takes conflict personally
    //Good at being appreciative
    *At ease with the personal
    //Attach to emotion
    *Interested in people-then-things
    *Often prefer fiction
    _____________________________

    Another note I’d like to add was that ‘feelings’ and ‘feeling judgement’ aren’t the same. Feelings are simply felt but ‘feeling judgement’ is reasoned in its own prism of “logic”. I’ve seen plenty of feelers that are not ‘feelery’, they are people that don’t lead with logic once you analyze their ‘reasoning’ in conversations.

    In continuing the argument suggested above about the ‘goodness’ of feelers. From what I’ve analyzed feelers reasoning can be vicious attacking whatever thing it perceives to be of inferior value, reasoning, or badly ‘justified’ (and the weird thing is they can ignore sound reasoning, ‘thinking’, when it violates their own ‘value consistency’).

    Also I’d add the critique that concluding d-bag thinkers like Simon Cowell as T types would be wrong as feelers are equally as capable of such behaviour when they’ve reasoned the value in it. I’d actually say that the difference between a feeler and thinker Simon Cowell would be objective apathy against hidden values (which they won’t reveal when they see greater value in not doing so). Personally I’ve seen D-bag feelers that are critical for no reason and the difference from thinkers is they don’t give an impersonal reason, stumbling when asked to have one.

  7. Certainly von Franz took great pains to separate Feeling from actual Feelings. She would stress how it is rather an artful adaption to, and working with, sentiment. We have a third opinion on the matter, to be published soon :-)

  8. I like this discussion here; I agree fully with the idea that there seems to be some connection between feeling as the function Jung was seeing but having trouble describing, and a kind of “intuition” (not exactly what Jung meant).

    In fact (as I characteristically suspect often), I tend to think Jung had the raw material right without sorting it fully. I think in noting a strong relation between the intuitive type and artistic tendencies, and the feeling function also with artistic tendencies, he was seeing one of their similarities.
    Perhaps one could say the feeling function reacts more to the harmony/disharmony than “consistency” — although, as Jung described, since it works with what he calls “feeling-ideas” (which I interpret as meaning the arrangement of feeling tones is in accordance with some kind of conceptual underpinning), this kind of harmony/disharmony implicitly relates to the logicality of a related idea, at least when the feeling-judgment admits some level of translation into logic.
    It ultimately differs because the rule by which feeling tones arrange around the logical structure of an idea cannot be reduced to a formulaic assignment based on said structure.

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