Type Dynamics: Overview

Personality type is more complex and far richer than most people know. MBTI® type is more than just the sum of four preferences; it is a dynamic, interrelated system of personality.

Myers' creation of the 16 MBTI personality types is ingenious. Within the four-letter MBTI type exists a code, a formula that is a shorthand way of telling you about the interaction of your four preferences.

This dynamic interaction between the preferences within a personality type is what makes the MBTI framework unique and an important part of understanding your MBTI results.

What are type dynamics?

The interaction among the four preferences of a personality type, and how that interaction influences behavior, is called type dynamics. Learning type dynamics is complicated but necessary for understanding the dynamic nature of human personality.

When learning about personality type, it is natural to first focus on the characteristics of each preference, independent of one another. While this is a great place to start, since it helps people understand, recognize, and appreciate differences, there is more to learn from type.

Understanding type dynamics will lead to a greater comprehension of each of the 16 MBTI types.

Terminology of Type Dynamics

Before moving into more complex theory on type, here is an overview of type terms and basic descriptions of the preference pairs, as orientations and mental processes. To move on, one must have a good grasp of these foundational concepts.

Terminology in typology can be confusing at first because different terms have been used over the years for the same things and are often used interchangeably. Here is a guide for the different terms you will see here and in other publications on type:

  • Orientation (Attitude)
  • Process (Function)
  • Dominant Process (First Process, Favorite Process, Dominant Function)
  • Auxiliary Process (Second Process, Second Favorite Process, Auxiliary Function)
  • Tertiary Process (Third Process, Tertiary Function)
  • Inferior Process (Fourth Process, Least Favorite Process, Inferior Function)
  • Eight Dominant Processes (Favorite Processes, Cognitive Functions)


The first and last letters in your type are called orientations because they have to do with how you interact with the world. In type language, orientations reflect the ways in which you are psychologically energized or where you prefer to focus, or orient, your attention (Extraversion or Introversion) and how you structure or live your life (Judging or Perceiving).

Extraversion and Introversion are complementary orientations of energy.

  • Those who prefer Extraversion (E), direct energy outwardly and are energized by the outside world.
  • Those who prefer Introversion (I), direct energy inwardly and are energized by reflecting on their inner world.

The other two orientations, Judging and Perceiving, while implied in Jung's work, were a novel contribution by Myers to further refine the applications of psychological type.

  • People who prefer Judging (J) are likely to come to conclusions quickly and enjoy structure, schedules, and making plans.
  • People who prefer Perceiving (P) are likely to take more time to gather information before comfortably coming to closure and enjoy being flexible and open-ended.

Mental Processes

The two middle letters in your type are called your mental processes because they form the basis of how your mind works—how you take in information and how you make decisions.

There are four mental processes: Sensing, Intuition, Thinking, and Feeling. Everyone has and uses all four processes, even though only two of them are part of your four-letter type. For example, for a person whose MBTI type is ESTP, they use the Feeling process and the Judging process, though F and J are not in their type code. In fact, you couldn't get through the day without using all of them to some degree!

Two of the mental processes, Sensing and Intuition, are for gathering information, that is, they are used for perception and are therefore more accurately called perceiving mental processes:

  • People who prefer Sensing (S) pay attention to details and current realities.
  • People who prefer Intuition (N) pay attention to meanings, patterns, and future possibilities.

Two of the mental processes, Thinking and Feeling, are for organizing information and for making decisions, that is, they are used for judgment and are therefore more accurately called judging mental processes:

  • People who prefer Thinking (T) make decisions based on principles and logical consequences.
  • People who prefer Feeling (F) make decisions based on values and consequences for people.

Although everyone has access to and uses all four mental processes, each type tends to use them in a specific order. With type awareness, however, we can change this order if a situation or circumstance calls for it.

We can use our preferred process (feels most natural and comfortable) represented by the letters in our type code, or we can choose to use a nonpreferred process (may feel unnatural and uncomfortable) not represented in our type code. The first is considered a personality strength, whereas the latter may be a personality stretch and may take more focus and effort to use.

Process Pairs

Preferences do not act independently of one another. There are powerful combinations found within each personality type that provide a deeper, richer understanding of type. The combination of two preferences gives a two-dimensional view of type and another lens in which to know ourselves and others better.

One such pairing comes from the combination of our perceiving mental process (Sensing or Intuition) with our judging mental process (Thinking or Feeling)—the two middle letters of our type code. Together, they are called a process pair. There are four process pairs (for detailed information go to end of page):

  • ST - Sensing and Thinking
  • SF - Sensing and Feeling
  • NF - Intuition and Feeling
  • NT - Intuition and Thinking

The process pairs, how we take in information and how we make decisions, give us insight into communication styles, career interests, learning approach, decision-making, and our motivations.

Now that you have a good grasp of terminology and foundational type concepts, the following section on type dynamics should be easier to understand.

Dynamic Interaction of Whole Type

Type dynamics is a three-dimensional view of personality type that takes an in-depth look at the dynamic interaction of all four preferences within one type and provides insight into a type's four mental processes (Sensing, Intuition, Thinking, and Feeling).

Through type dynamics, we can identify a type's:

  • dominant (first) process and whether it is extraverted or introverted (direction of energy)
  • auxiliary (second) process, the one that brings balance between perception and judgment, and extraverting and introverting
  • communication style—the part of the personality that is shown to the outside world (extraverted) and the part we typically don't see (introverted)
  • hierarchy of processes—the order in which each process is accessed or used
  • stress reactions—overuse of dominant process or when under extreme stress being "in the grip" of the inferior process
  • likely pathway of type development over the lifespan

This knowledge is revealed through the four-letter MBTI type code itself.

Order of the Mental Processes

Type dynamics shows the order in which each type accesses and typically develops their mental processes (Sensing, Intuition, Thinking, and Feeling). Here is an overview of type dynamics—deciphered by the four-letter personality type code:

  • Dominant Process (first process)—the process we rely on the most, typically the most conscious and developed
  • Auxiliary Process (second process)—the process we rely on next, serves to support and balance the first process

The first and second mental processes are the two middle letters in your type code. They are your preferred mental processes, the ones that feel most natural and comfortable.

  • Tertiary Process (third process)—usually less developed and conscious, opposite the second process
  • Inferior Process or (fourth process)—receives the least amount of energy, is less conscious and developed, opposite the first process

The third and fourth mental processes do not show up in your type code. They are your nonpreferred mental processes—opposite of your two middle letters; you have access to them, but they are typically less developed and more challenging to use.

Type dynamics focuses on the mental processes (Sensing, Intuition, Thinking, and Feeling), how we use our minds, but the order in which we typically use them and their natural development is determined by the first (Extraversion-Introversion) and last (Judging-Perceiving) letters of our type code, the orientations.

Type Dynamics for Each MBTI Type

How to decipher type dynamics can be complicated, so we have provided a type table that does the work for you. Hover over each type in the table below to see the type dynamics for that personality type. (NOTE: The tertiary can be expressed as either an extraverted or introverted process.)

















Process Pairs Descriptions

When preferences are combined, we get a dynamic view of type. In the case of process pairs, we get a two-dimensional view where a perceiving mental process (take in information through Sensing or Intuition preferences) is paired with a judging mental process (make decisions through Thinking or Feeling preferences).

The process pairs play a big role in career interests and choices, communication, learning, and decision-making.

Sensing plus Thinking (ST): "Bottom-line"

People who prefer ST are fact oriented and logical. When working with others they want to cut to the chase and get to the bottom line. They tend to approach both life and work in an objective, analytical manner and like to focus on realities and practical applications. As natural rule makers, they get annoyed if rules are broken. These types are practical, straightforward, and want to get it right.

When learning, doing hands-on activities is helpful, along with step-by-step directions with logical explanations. Unclear instructions can be stressful. With decision-making, they may not consider possibilities, new innovative ideas, or the impact of decisions on others.

They are often found in careers that require a technical approach to objects, facts, or people. Those with ST preferences are often found in business, management, banking, applied sciences, construction, production, police, and the military.

Sensing plus Feeling (SF): "Customer Service"

People who prefer SF are fact oriented and like to support others in practical ways. They tend to approach both life and work in a warm, friendly, people-oriented manner and like to focus on realities in the here and now. These types are sympathetic, friendly and need to provide service to people. Too many people needing help at one time can be stressful.

When learning, they like doing hands-on activities with others, having step-by-step instructions, along with friendly interactions and positive feedback. With decision-making, they may not consider possibilities, new innovative ideas, or objectively analyze the decisions.

They are often found in human services and in careers that require a sympathetic approach to people, such as customer service. Those with SF preferences are often found in the clergy, teaching, health care, childcare, sales and office work, and personal services.

Intuition plus Feeling (NF): "Possibilities for People"

People who prefer NF use insights to help others to be their best. They tend to approach both life and work in a warm, enthusiastic manner, are insightful and encouraging, and like to focus on ideas and possibilities, particularly "possibilities for people." These types are enthusiastic, insightful, and need to empower. Being asked to be someone they are not (inauthentic) can be stressful.

When learning, they need to use their imagination, create with others, have freedom to do it their own way in an environment filled with warmth and enthusiasm. With decision-making, they may miss details, lack common sense, disregard experience, or neglect critically analyzing decisions.

They are often found in careers that require communication skills, a focus on the abstract, and an understanding of others. Those with an NF preference are often found in the arts, the clergy, counseling and psychology, writing, education, teaching, research, and health care.

Intuition plus Thinking (NT): "Possibilities for Systems"

People who prefer NT use insights for strategizing and creative problem-solving. They tend to approach both life and work in a logical and objective manner and like to make use of their ingenuity to focus on possibilities, particularly "possibilities for systems" that have a technical or theoretical application. These types are logical, ingenious, and need to understand everything. Not knowing the 'why' of something can be stressful.

When learning, opportunities to analyze, apply logic, and categorize aid in their understanding of new theories, and they welcome an intellectual challenge. With decision-making, they may miss details, lack common sense, disregard experience, or neglect the impact of decisions on others.

They are often found in careers that require an impersonal and analytical approach to ideas, information, and people. Those with NT preferences are often found in the sciences, law, computers, the arts, engineering, management, and technical work.