INFJ Cognitive Functions: Mental Characteristics of the Rarest Personality Type


Although every individual is unique in their own way, there are certain personality traits and characteristics they can share or set them apartOften, these traits dictate how someone perceives the world and reacts in various situations. One source that demonstrates this is the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator, an introspective self-report questionnaire that groups individuals into one of 16 personalities that fall into one of 4 personality types.  

INFJ is one of the Diplomat personalities, comprised of the Introverted,” “Intuitive,” “Feeling, and Judging personality traits. This is deemed the rarest personalitin existenceTheir cognitive functions include introverted intuition, extraverted feeling, introverted thinking, and extraverted sensing.  

Read on to learn more about INFJ functions and what it means to have this personality. Youll also learn some of the best careers and hobbies for these individuals in addition to some famous INFJs you might know.  

What is an INFJ?

An INFJ, also known as the “Protector” personality, is one of four Diplomat personality types and deemed to be the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Test’s rarest personality. These are complicated individuals that might seem inherently contradictory, but overall, an INFJ is an incredibly insightful and people-oriented individual who is extremely driven and guided by deep personal values.  

To fully understand an INFJ, well need to detail what their personality type as a Diplomat means, in addition to what traits and characteristics make them unique as a personality. 

Understanding the Diplomat Personality Type  

It can be extremely difficult to sumup a personality type briefly, but since this article is focused on the functions of INFJs, not every detail of their personality, well do our best to cover the essentials before moving on. 

The Diplomat personality type is one of four possible personality types and consists of the following four personalities: 

As you can see by the lettering within each personality type, they all share two personality scale styles, N and F.  

The N stands for “Intuitive,” which indicates the personality prefers to imagine the potential and past and future events and leave room for interpretation rather than taking a straightforward approach. The F stand for Feeling, which means the personality ultimately values emotions over rationality.  

As demonstrated by these two scales, Diplomats are extremely motivated and focused on emotion, particularly the emotions of others. They prioritize kindness, generosity and are exceptionally compassionate and empathetic with others. This drives them to endeavor to understand themselves and those around them, predominantly to lead positive lives and sway others to do the same. 

Diplomats would prefer to cooperate and please those around them than compete for pride or status. They also possess a deep belief in humanistic ideals (e.g. altruism, compassion, and understanding), supplemented with a strong value of justice. Diplomats detest the mistreatment of others and use these ideas to better the world with the expectation others will do the same. 

With such strong views, some Diplomats can become self-righteous or single-minded, particularly since these individuals often feel as if they are led by a higher purpose to serve the greater good. 

Ultimately, Diplomats trust individuals who prefer principles over practicality and strongly value authenticity and connection with others. They strive to create meaningful bonds and rarely enjoy being alone. This fear of loneliness pushes them to strive to fit in and belong even though it conflicts with their desire to be authentic.  

Diplomats are highly optimistic and choose to focus on the beauty in the world, which is why they go to such extensive lengths to protect and enhance it whenever they can. This mentality can also be damaging as it leaves many diplomats feeling unfulfilled as they often set unachievable high standards for themselves.  

Since these goals are so lofty, many Diplomats have difficulty getting started on things since they are prone to overthinking and inhibiting themselves by comparing themselves to others. However, Diplomats are highly intuitive individuals and can achieve success by following their gut feeling in situations that steer them the right way.

Qualities and Characteristics of an INFJ 

Now that weve discussed the overarching personality type of an INFJ for a brief look into what they may or may not value, we can detail what sets an INFJ apart from the three other personalities within the Diplomat type. It is important to detail these characteristics and qualities before moving on to the more advanced topic of INFJ functions. 

INFJ as The Protector

Known as the Protector personality and revered as the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator’s rarest personality, the INFJ is a fascinating personality predominantly driven by being deeply thoughtful and imaginative as much as their personal values and humanistic ideologies.  

The traits that make up the INFJ personality are Introversion, Intuition, Feeling, and Judgment. Although these individuals highly value others’ well-being and fair treatment, they often need alone-time to relax and rejuvenate. 

Innovative and Empathetic

As already demonstrated in the Diplomat type, INFJs are highly intuitive to the point that they can often make predictions or conclusions about an individual based on observation and their attuned sense of emotion through empathy and compassion. As a result of their introverted but caring personality, INFJs are often very calm and gentle, and yet, they are extremely steadfast when it comes to their values.  

Ambitious Goals Driven by Humanism

One of the fascinating elements of the INFJ personality is that they are extremely optimistic people that have grandiose dreams to improve the world, but they dont dwell on them as merely dreams. On the contrary, they make significant strides to make them a reality and ensuring their actions making a difference that will last the test of time.  

The greatest fulfillment an INFJ can find is changing a persons life for the better. Although they are introverted and typically calm individuals, INFJs form incredibly strong bonds with people and prioritize their well-being often over their own. In their pursuit of assisting others, these individuals often forget to care for themselves.  

Luckily, because they push themselves to achieve their goals to help others and eliminate injustice, INFJs are incredibly optimistic and typically selfless individuals who are pleased with their results, although they can also feel like their work is never done.  

What are the Functions of an INFJ?

Cognitive functions have a profound effect on the decisionmaking process and how individuals choose to live their lives.  Each personality type has its own functions. For an INFJ, the relevant functions are Introverted Intuition, Extraverted Feeling, Introverted Thinking, and Extraverted Sensing.

What does this mean? Well, in addition to their unique personality type and traits, each personality also has its own cognitive functions that they rely on more than others. These functions are the basis of the personality and what makes it unique from others. We will detail each cognitive function separately to demonstrate how they are essential to the INFJ personality and attribute to its overall uniqueness.  

We will also briefly discuss the shadow functions of INFJs, which are the polar opposite cognitive functions of the primary four listed above. This will help demonstrate how the primary functions affect INFJ as opposed to how they could behave if they relied on their shadow functions instead.  

Introverted Intuition 

The first cognitive function that INFJs tend to express is introverted intuition. Weve already discussed how INFJs demonstrate both of these traits individually, but as a cognitive function, this means that the individual tends to be highly focused on internal insights. In the case of INFJs, this is their primary cognitive function that strongly influences how they conduct their lives and make decisions.

They accomplish this by being single-minded in their focus in order to make conclusions. Rather than looking at the big pictures as a whole, they will insightfully connect events individually. This differs from extroverted intuition (prominent in ENFPs and ENTPs) in the sense that introverted intuition is the function of using your intuition as a tool to make observations and conclusions, whereas extroverted intuition uses their intuition more subconsciously.  

After they have completed this process, their insightful conclusion is typically held very close to them, and they will stick to it passionately. This differs from their counterpart; someone with extroverted intuition will see all the alternatives of a situation and change their mind with new information, rendering them more open-minded, while individuals with introverted intuition, like INFJs, are more prone to stubbornness. 

However, introverted intuition allows an individual to come to a clear conclusion they hold vehemently, whereas the changeable nature of extraverted intuition often leads individuals to constantly change their minds and never settle on a firm conclusion.  

Extraverted Feeling 

INFJs can attribute their strong sense of empathy and concern to others’ cognitive function of extraverted feeling. This means that the individual uses their intuition to help them ascertain how others feelAs a result, they are highly aware and sensitive to others’ emotions to such a degree that they are often neglectful of their own emotions. 

While they often push their own emotions aside, extraverted feeling in an INFJ causes them to go to extreme lengths to please people and maintain harmony in a situation, even if it is against their best interests. They tend to struggle with saying “no” to people due to their strong desire to belong in addition to their intuition and extraverted feeling, making them highly empathetic and sensitive to others’ emotions. 

INFJs are often fearful of disappointing others or damaging them emotionally, so they strive to keep the peace in most situations unless a strong value of theirs, such as humanism, is in question.  

As a result of being so attuned to other people’s emotions, INFJs with extraverted feelings tend to struggle with their own emotions. They are either incapable of pinpointing how they feel or prefer to stay out of the emotional spotlight and insist that focusing on their own emotions makes them selfish. 

These individuals tend to be such peoplepleasers that they will ask what others think or feel about a situation rather than stating their own thoughts or emotions outright. As a result, they are prone to being indecisive and often alter their thoughts or emotions to conform to those around them. 

INFJs often go to great lengths to avoid conflict.

Introverted Thinking 

INFJs express introverted thinking in their decisionmaking, where they base their decisions on ideas and theories they have discovered or concluded through personal insights rather than external influences. Comparatively, someone driven by extraverted thinking makes decisions based more on objective facts and logic they learned from the outside world rather than internal revelations.  

Introverted thinking plays a significant hand in the decisionmaking of an INFJ and their introverted intuition. Others’ emotions might drive these individuals, but in situations where this is not a factor, they turn to themselves and their own insights for guidance. 

This differs from an extroverted thinker who will make decisions based on the pros and cons of the situation, not on the emotions of others. In a social setting, an INFJ will be more driven by their Extraverted Feeling than their Introverted Thinking, but when they are alone, they will rely on their intuition over their emotions unless they are in highstakes and overly emotional situations 

Extraverted Sensing 

The final cognitive function of the INFJ is extraverted sensing, which is sometimes referred to as the inferior cognitive function for these people because it is less developed and largely performed unconsciously. This function impacts an INFJs overall personality to a lesser degree than the previous three functions, but it is one of their functions nonetheless. 

Extraverted sensing allows INFJs to be aware of their surroundings and is strongly driven by the five senses as opposed to introverted sensing that focuses on bodily sensations (ex. pain, hunger, muscle tension). This cognitive function is why most INFJs prefer to live in the present rather than reflecting on the past or idly dreaming about the future.

Although they certainly use the past when they use their intuition to make decisions based on tried-and-true methods, they dont spend their time reflecting on past events. Conversely, INFJs are highly creative and have profound dreams, but they use these dreams to make real change in the present rather than pointlessly envisioning their fulfillment. 

One way extraverted sensing affects the everyday life of an INFJ is that the drive to live in the moment often leads them to partake in physical activities for hobbies, particularly outdoors and in nature.  

Best Hobbies for an INFJ

Now that weve detailed what an INFJ is in terms of personality type, traits, and functions, lets discuss how these individuals live their everyday lives. One of the best ways to do this is to list the most prevalent hobbies of INFJs. Here are the top 12 hobbies of an INFJ that bring them daily joy and fulfillment. 

Any form of artistic expression

  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Photography
  • Digital art 
  • Design
  • Crafting

Literature related hobbies

  • Writing
  • Journaling 
  • Reading 

Outdoor activities 

  • Gardening 
  • Walks in the park or on the beach 
  • Hiking 
  • Outdoor sports 

Musical exploration 

  • Learning a new instrument 
  • Practicing a known instrument 
  • Creating new music 
  • Listening to music 
  • Singing

Games 

  • Board games 
  • Video games/online gaming 
  • RPG (Role-playing games, e.g. Dungeons and Dragons) 

Cooking 

  • Baking 
  • Home cooking 
  • Gourmet cooking 

Other promising pastimes for INFJs include research, deep conversation, dancing, volunteer work, yoga and meditation, and cultural events. 

Who Are Some Famous INFJ People? 

INFP might be the rarest personality in existence, but there are still some highly memorable names in the 1-3% who can claim this personality as their own. One could argue this is partially due to these individuals having grandiose humanistic goals that they are highly motivated to achieve. 

Here are some of the most famous and recognizable individuals in history who are proven or suspected INFPs. After reading about the characteristics of this personality, most probably wont come as much of a surprise while others might shock you.  

  • Martin Luther King Jr.- African American Baptist minister, activist, spokesperson, and leader in the Civil Rights Movement (also speculated ENFJ) 
  • Nelson Mandela– Former President of South Africa, anti-apartheid revolutionary 
  • Mother Teresa– Albanian-Indian Roman Catholic nun, saint, and missionary (also speculated ISFJ) 
  • Marie Kondo-Japanese consultant, show host, author 
  • Lady Gaga– American singer-songwriter 
  • Morgan Freeman– American actor 
  • Oprah Winfrey– American show host and actress 
  • Shirley Temple– American actress and singer 
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe– German poet, playwright, novelist, scientist 
  • Aristophanes– comic playwright of ancient Athens 
  • Martin Van Buren– 8th President of the United States of America 
  • Nicole Kidman-American-Australian actress 

Best Careers for an INFJ 

INFJs can contribute to problem-solving in many careers, employing their rare and valuable perspective.

The previous list identifying some of the most famous INFJs might give away some of the content this next list. Youll also notice a great deal of overlap with these careers and the best hobbies of an INFJ. Those of you rare few INFJ individuals unsure of what career path is best for you, here is a list of the top 10 careers suited to your personality.

Career  How it suits INFJs  Top INFJ jobs in this career 
Counselor and Social Worker  This career path is particularly suitable to INFJs because they require a significant amount of compassion and empathy, which these individuals are prone to have in addition to profound intuition. Counseling and social work can be performed in some of the harshest settings with the most traumatized and struggling individuals. INTJs find significant satisfaction in changing people’s lives for the better, and there are few careers where this is as impactful as counseling and social work. 
  • School counselor 
  • Substance abuse counselor 
  • Grief counselor 
  • Mental health and clinical social work 
  • Forensic social work 
  • Speech pathologist 
Psychologist  Similar to counseling and social work, INTJs typically find success and fulfillment in the field of psychology. These individuals are good listeners and are often interested in human behavior as much as they are impacted by the emotions of others. Their empathy not only allows them to create strong, trusting bonds with their clients, but it is supported by their intuition and insightfulness that allows them to make quality observations to help others improve. 
  • Clinical psychologist 
  • Therapeutic psychologist 
  • School psychologist 
  • Psychotherapist 
Scientist  If they are put into the proper setting and field for science, this career path is fantastic for many INFJs. These individuals typically prefer sciences that pertain to the natural world, but their love for reading and research lends itself well to this career. Scientists are also often placed in peaceful and collaborative work settings, which INFJs prefer over bustling, competitive settings. 
  • Social scientist 
  • Genealogist 
  • Food scientist  
  • Conservation scientist 
  • Environmental scientist 
Health Care  A career in health care allows INFJs to find fulfillment in helping others while also being able to use their intuition and vast intelligence to support their career and decisions. There is a wide range of jobs within health care that would suit an INFJ since they essentially revolve around helping others to improve their quality of life. Some of these careers can also be pretty heavy in the sciences so that the INFJ can explore the world of research and literature as well. 
  • Physical or massage therapist 
  • Occupational therapist 
  • Family physician 
  • Psychiatrist 
  • Nutritionist 
  • Medical researcher 
Human Resources  Apart from the common traits of empathy and intuition mentioned in INFJs, these individuals will often find their way towards the human resources department, where they can demonstrate their intelligence and organizational skills. A lot of human resources positions require a great deal of planning and management that INFJs enjoy, particularly in a manner that benefits others. 
  • Employment specialist 
  • Human resources coordinator/specialist/assistant 
  • Employee relations manager 
  • Director of employee experience 
Language  Moving away from some of the more science-related careers, many INFJs enjoy careers that are related to language, particularly those that allow for expression. INFJs are extremely creative and innovative individuals, and although they are not often in-tune with their own emotions, they enjoy expression through language as an alternative.  

These careers also lend themselves well to INFJs because they prefer to live in the moment and have the ability to concentrate and laborious creative tasks, such as writing, when other personalities prefer to ponder their ideas but struggle to put them down on paper. These careers also provide environments where INFJs can be introverted and alone or work in a quiet space. 

  • Librarian 
  • Translator 
  • Editor 
  • Technical Writer 
  • Writer 
Arts  In addition to literary expression, INFJs also enjoy artistic expression found in many designer careers. They particularly enjoy artistic careers that involve different forms of media and are used to tailor a specific goal to an audience’s preferences to please them and yield results. INFJ individuals also have a strong love for games, making them the perfect individual to combine their love for art and attention to detail in game design careers. 
  • Animator 
  • Graphic designer 
  • Interior designer 
  • Game design 
Professor/Teacher  Going along with their love for improving the lives of others, INFJs also love using their intellect and skills to make topics more understandable to others for quality communication. Many enjoy a teacher or professor’s career because it provides the sense of fulfillment that they are making a difference while combining their love for research, deep conversation, and human connection. 
  • Elementary teacher 
  • Special education teacher 
  • Collegiate professor 
  • Public health educator 
Non-Profit or Advocacy  When glancing at the list of famous INFJs, you might notice many set aside their personal lives in pursuit of a higher cause, like civil rights or other humanitarian issues. It is easy for an INFJ to get lost in a cause they feel strongly about, particularly if a human’s rights and quality of life are being inhibited unjustly.   
  • Clergy 
  • Human Resources
  • Health Care
Business, Law, and Government  The strong desire for justice and humanism shines for INFJs who choose the path of business and law. Rather than observe the world’s injustice and ponder its effect, an INFJ will enter careers on this path in an active attempt to change these issues at their core. Many will also choose a career as a lawyer or attorney to protect an individual’s justice and change or protect one life at a time. 
  • HR Manager 
  • Environmental lawyer 
  • Corporate Trainer 
  • Legal Mediator 
  • Family lawyer 
  • Legislative member 

Final Thoughts 

INFJs are incredibly rare but highly influential members of society. These individuals are extremely driven by selfless goals that aim to help individuals or society as a whole rather than pursuing self-centered careers that thrive on competition and pride. Their primary cognitive functions render them highly intuitive and driven by the emotion of others, and therefore, they are some of the most compassionate and influential people you will ever meet.

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