Imagining Function Axes: Si/Ne

Mary Arrington is a contributing guest writer for CelebrityTypes. As always with guest writers on the site, Arrington’s piece represents her own insights and assessments and not necessarily those of the site. In this piece, Arrington attempts a more informal and colloquial exposition of function axes theory than is usually seen. 

By Mary Arrington

Function axes are an interesting idea, but many of the descriptions are murky or overly theoretical. In this piece, I’m going to try and present the ideas of the “Determining Function Axes”-series more informally, in a way that is easier to understand and that people can relate to real life. Is it possible? We’ll soon see!

The Si/Ne Axis

Think of a library full of books, books on all kinds of subjects. At one end of the library, the librarian is carefully girlreadingcelebrityplacing returned books back on their correct shelves and in their proper alphabetical positions, so that they are easy to find. At the other end of the library, a young curious child is running around the library, picking up books on all kinds of subjects and putting them all on the floor in a big mess. He flicks between books quickly, looking for interesting bits.

The librarian is similar to Si. It’s about building a careful library of information, and keeping each piece of that information in its proper place. “The information on planets looks interesting next to the information on music? Stop messing around and put them back!”

The child making a mess is similar to Ne. It’s about looking through the big library of information and finding interesting connections between things. “Nobody’s noticed that this bit of information on hippos is similar to this piece of information on nuclear power? Seriously? But it’s awesome! And speaking of awesome, here’s another thing…”

To put it in a different way, Si is focused on retaining the information in the same context that it had when it was experienced. By itself, it isn’t about looking for connections or new possibilities outside of what’s already known. It takes in the information, studies it intensely, and then fits it into its internal library. In spite of the metaphor, this need not be book knowledge, but also impressions they have experienced, like how to make the perfect cup of tea, or what their grandpa’s house smelled like when they were little, and so on. Whether these impressions are absolutely realistic or not is not what’s important here – it’s that they have a deep effect on the Si type.

Ne, on the other hand, is focused on changing the information it gathers into something new. It has little interest in sticking to what’s already known. Boring! Instead, it’s constantly looking for interesting connections and surprising new ideas. “What would be the most amazing pet to have? Well, it would have the head of a tiger, no, the head of an owl, no, a tiger with the head of an owl…! What if an asteroid were heading towards the earth right now – what would everyone do? And what would be the most interesting pet to have if one were on that asteroid?” They are in short, crazy people, like racecars with no brakes.

All NP and SJ types have this axis as an element of their psyches. While ISJs and ENPs are at the most extreme ends of this axis, even in their cases one can still see the axis at play: Si types often take pains to have a plan in place in case of unexpected and surprising things that may happen, such as the water pipes bursting or the stock market crashing. And Ne types tend to unwittingly throw a lot of references around as to where the information was first encountered, even when “mixing and matching” off the bat.


Image in the article commissioned for this publication from artist Francesca Elettra.


  1. Great descriptions of the functions, but I seem to be missing the actual “axis” part, that is, the interplay between the two functions that give the axis its identity

  2. @Dom

    You have to “imagine” the axis, obviously. Read the title. You clearly have the imagination of an out-of-date raisin. :D

  3. I’m not very impressed by the article — it sounds like it was probably written by a schoolgirl. But the artwork is pretty cool. :)

  4. “The imagination of an out-of-date raisin.” Now that was an an awesome image from you awesomeEllefant–a FRESH idea about a STALE object, sounds like Ne in action! On the subject at hand though, I assume the function axis concept is easier to comprehend when thinking about one’s auxiliary and tertiary functions. Even though the auxiliary is less prominent than the dominate, it’s still fully conscious, and the tertiary is at least partly conscious. For the Si/Ne axis then, I would assume that ESTJ,ESFJ,INTP,and INFP types are more likely to notice both poles of this axis and make conscious use of them. I definitely notice both of these in myself (I type myself as INTP.) An ISTJ or an ISFJ is going to notice their dominant Si, but maybe not the inferior Ne, while an ENTP or an ENFP will notice the dominant Ne, but will not clearly see their inferior Si. At least that is what I would assume.

  5. Further comment, I also would assume that awesomeEllefant is not Fe dominant sensitivity focused! Of course this article up front says that it is intended to be at an introductory level, and I personally thought it accomplished the author’s intention in that regard. Some things should always be available for the newcomers to typology.

  6. Wow, are you psychic? I’m actually NOT an EFJ type! :) You’re good. Really good! :D

    Could you write me a horoscope for next week?

    Though I don’t normally associate with witches.

  7. Oh yes, you can have a horoscope next week. I first have to find a whole carton of stale raisins, the psychic content is exceptional! Especially when those green mold flecks start to appear. :)

  8. @danrwinslow
    “I personally thought it accomplished the author’s intention in that regard”

    I disagree. It seems like wasted potential. I’m a huge fan of Michael Perice and I loved his “imaginings” of the axes, say how he describes Te/ Fi as

    “The struggle of a lone individual against the freezing wilderness, employing whatever means necessary to survive…”

    But alas despite presenting it self as an article on the axes it ended up being yet another function description article.

    Whilst there is nothing wrong with that, it isn’t exactly new or original. For one, it seems to draw heavily from Michael Pierce (description of Si), and two, you can type “Cognitive function” into google or Youtube and be met with dozens of videos and articles on the topic. This isn’t 2011-2012 anymore, the topic of cognitive functions has been done to death.

    Unlike the individual functions, there is a lot of room for original thought on the topic of the axes. I hope the next article focuses more on that.

  9. I agree with Dom. This “axis” article is a waste of time and should be taken off the site and burned. To a crispy black crisp. Keep the artwork though. :)

  10. While people can criticize the writings of the site admins as much as they want, I think the criticism aimed at guest writers should take care to be extra fair. This piece says twice at its start that it’s a beginner’s article, so I don’t think the “not new or original” criticism is appropriate here. On the other hand, I agree that the axial perspective is mostly explored in the last paragraph. /Ryan

  11. @DomMMK

    I think comparing this to those Michael Pierce pieces is really missing the point. This is intentionally down-to-earth, engaging and unpretentious, while Pierce is abstract, head-in-the-clouds, vague and often imprecise, and uses more poetic language. :) They’re two different approaches really, and it’s interesting to see both.

    The originality is in the style and approach — there doesn’t seem to be anything quite like it elsewhere on the site (to my knowledge) — and I’m interested in seeing what this new writer brings to the table in the future. A very promising first article. :)

    I’d say that the library itself is the metaphor she’s using to describe the whole NeSi axis, and I think it works well. The child and the librarian are simply showing the difference between how Ne and Si types use their “inner libraries”.

  12. I agree with hannah on this. This article is quite evocative to me, making me wish for one for the Se-Ni axis. I wonder if it is possible to take the library metaphor along those lines as well… I’ll have to give it some thought. I personally find this illustration a bit more apt than Pierce’s. Although, I do find his understandable, I sometimes think they fall a bit short, but living with my INTP wife for a number of years, I can easily see the adult librarian out of control of her child-like Ne. I find the image quite compelling, and will be sharing it with her. If you need the axes, I would say that the stronger the Si, the more control the librarian has over the child’s “excess”, and the stronger the Ne, the more the child re-arranges the library to their current suiting. The axis is that tension between the librarian and child, and who “wins” (and I suppose that is my Se dropping into that competitive langauge?)

    And yeah, I also look forward to more articles from this author. Thanks. And thanks, hannah, for your comment.

  13. I don’t understand why we can’t have articles that appeal to different levels of understanding of typology–or for that matter for different style preferences. Continuing with the librarian illustration, would you walk into an actual library and throw a fit about the children’s section because YOU are above that level, so what a waste of space? Come on! Well maybe the site should cluster certain articles into an introductory section, so ahem…the sophisticates will not have to weary themselves with…ugh (eyes smugly rolling upward)…lower level material.

  14. @HouseOfGlass

    Yes, that’s the kind of NeSi conflict I imagined when reading the article too. :)


    I agree that the site should have articles catering for different levels of understanding and different tastes in style. In fact, I think the site has been doing the “different levels of understanding” quite well for a while now. But this is definitely a big change towards a more concrete, non-intellectualized style of explanation, something I’ve seen people asking for in these comments sections for a few years now.

    I find it odd that people are saying Michael Pierce’s function axis descriptions are at a higher knowledge level than this article. Don’t confuse a simple writing style with a simplistic understanding! :) I’d actually say that Mary’s article is much deeper and illustrates more complicated ideas than Pierce’s version on NeSi, but makes them seem simple — so Mary’s article would be classed as a much more advanced difficulty level than Pierce, even though Pierce’s is less easy to understand because of the unclear writing.

    Judge for yourselves… :)

    Mary did a really great job. :)

  15. I think this article summed up Si and Ne more efficiently and clearly than any other I’ve read. A simple analogy gives more clearity than the usual confused jumble of philosophical rambling that is so prevelant here and elsewhere on the net. Best I’ve read since the “another look at” articles.

  16. reading this text realized i’m not Ne / Si…

    ps: michael pierce left me traumatized, i move away from his texts…

  17. Woderful article. I love the library metaphor.
    And I also really enjoy and benefit from the multiple and original insights, perspectives, tonalities and styles that live in this site peacefully :)

  18. “For the Si/Ne axis then, I would assume that ESTJ,ESFJ,INTP,and INFP types are more likely to notice both poles of this axis and make conscious use of them.” Interesting point, danrwinslow.

    I come here for the articles, but I stay for the comments!

  19. Mary — I liked your article, for whatever that’s worth. Great ‘clarity to depth’ ratio. It was insightful for me; thank you!
    — Michael Pierce

  20. Ok, fellow Jungian admirers. I’d like to pick your collective brain (since I’m so conflicted about my type), if I may, to see which function you think was operating in the following scenario.

    Many months ago, my husband and I saw a pictured ad for a new, promising home to rent. Everything about it seemed pretty good: brick construction, great neighborhood, doable cost, etc. So, we drove by this place one afternoon to get a better look and were still impressed. We followed up our interest by making an appointment for the next day to tour the inside. And yet, I had this vague, tepid unease about the place. I decided to ignore it, however, and reserved judgment until after our appointment with the landlord.

    However, the night before our appointment I had a dream in which my husband and I were visiting this place again; only this time, we were seeing it at night, and Eureka! I discovered what gave me misgivings: Access to the garage is via an alley, which, although benign-looking enough by day with the sparse, low rise buildings on either side of the asphalt, would still mean entering at night in the cloak of isolation and limited lighting.

    The next morning, I told my husband I didn’t even want to consider the place for the very revelation my dream had provided. To this day, I don’t regret it.

    But I can’t decide: Was introverted intuition operating here, or Ne?

  21. Gee,

    I don’t think asking what function a person “uses” at any given time is a very useful way of typing people. Instead, I think it’s more helpful to try to get a feeling for someone’s natural thought processes and philosophy about life and the world, because these tend to follow similar patterns throughout a person’s life. :)

    However, to answer your question, what you’re talking about here is definitely not Ne. Or Se. :) It sounds like an introverted perception function to me (Ni or Si), and I’m more convinced it is Si on account of it being very practical and focused on a negative possibility in their future external experience which gets taken completely out of proportion (inferior Ne). :) Dominant Si types I know seem to get feelings like this pretty often. Ni can do something pretty similar too though, so I wouldn’t rule it out.

    If you get these kinds of hunches often, you might want to look into the possibility of being an ISJ type. :) On the other hand, it might just be a one off and have little to do with your type at all.

  22. All I can really say as an INJ is it doesn’t sound like dominant or secondary Ni, I’ve never in my life had my dreams give me something so concretely clear and practical. I would imagine that if something was bothering me about something like this I would either figure it out quickly or just let my hunch guide my actions without any kind of concrete justification. I’m perfectly fine just saying “nah, dont like it, dunno why, dont care” and move on. As Hannah said it seems like an Si thing and her analysis seems quite convincing.

  23. Thanks a ton, hannah_s and Scratch. You know, after I typed my rambling post, I thought, “maybe it could actually be Si.”:-) My dreams are rarely ever so clear and insightful, so, yeah, I’m probably putting way too much stock in this one occurrence with regard to type.

  24. But then again, I think about Ni and how it is often defined as working to synthesize the dichotomous to come up with a new concept/idea/image, etc., and how nighttime and daytime are seen as opposites but are really two sides of the same coin … oh well. It’s fun to speculate.

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