Skip to main content

Cognitive Personality Theory: An Appreciation

A science graduate who loves history and biographies. Sometimes I end up reading more science history than science.

MBTI has been a popular thing on the internet for a while. There is no shortage for YouTube channels and blogs explaining personality types. Some people compare it with zodiac signs and dismiss it completely, while the other section of people believe the personality type descriptions to be the dogma that shall define their lives. Both are extreme claims and the truth lies somewhere in between.

The world of personality systems

The concept of psychological types was pioneered by the famous psychologist Carl C Jung. He introduced the term cognitive functions, the bedrock of all modern typing systems. Taking inspiration from his studies, many personality type systems have evolved over time. If you are someone who is fond of online personality quizzes, you sure would have come across the 16personalities website where you do a 20 minutes quiz and come out with a 5 letter label. The 16personalities website has become so popular that people unknowingly equate it with MBTI typing which has a different system of testing and methodologies. In reality, the 16personalities website neither measures your MBTI nor your cognitive functions. The actual theory it uses is called the Big 5 or OCEAN, which is something totally different altogether.

Like many other people on the internet I also did the personality quiz and got my own 4 letter stamping. I was happy with it at first as the descriptions resonated with me during that particular phase of my life. As life sailed on I started feeling some incompatibility with the typing system. And then there was Reddit where people fought over being the one and only true type. But, hey, it was just an online quiz. I shouldn't be really bothered about it, right? But, no, my bored and curious mind couldn’t stop “researching” and hence I fell into the rabbit hole of psychological typing, modern typing systems and reading Carl Jung.

Psychological Types, Carl Jung

Psychological Types, Carl Jung

Cognitive Personality Theory

At this point I realised that not every typing guru follows what Carl Jung originally theorised. Everyone seems to be in a hurry stereotyping behaviours and finding the best type. It’s amidst these chaos that I found this YouTube channel called Cognitive Personality Theory by Harry Murrell. It felt like a breath of fresh air. Finally, I found a system that has proper, non-contradicting definitions, that gave equal respect to all 16 types, believed in fluidity of types and most of all, underlined the fact that every individual has access to all eight cognitive functions.

Scroll to Continue

While 16personalities and MBTI systems focussed on dichotomies (asking binary questions like, are you an introvert or extrovert, intuitive or sensing, thinking or feeling, or judging or perceiving), Cognitive Personality Theory (here onwards abbreviated as CPT) is very particular about avoiding behavioural stereotypes and cognitive hierarchies. According to CPT, there are only four functions - Thinking, Feeling, Sensing and Intuition - each with two orientations. Among them, the most consciously intensive one is called the Dominant Function. One of the major differences of CPT from other systems is that the Auxiliary Function in CPT stands for the function that has the same orientation as the dominant function (that is, the tertiary function), and not to the second function in the stack. The direct opposite of one’s dominant is called Oppositional Function. The dominant function along with its auxiliary together are called Convergent Functions. The other pair is called Divergent.

How it differs from other systems

Most of the personality systems go with the concept of function hierarchy where you rank the cognitive functions according to preferences. But, CPT dispels the assumption of the existence of a linear descending list of preferences. CPT also does not demonise the oppositional function, moreover it argues that many people actually achieve healthy relationships with their opposing functions. It also argues that no function is ever entirely introverted or extroverted, but occupies a space in between. It also proposes a fluid version of subtypes where a single person is allowed to move across subtypes throughout their lifetime. CPT also dispels the behavioural stereotypes - the ENFP analyst and ENTP empath videos are some examples.


This article is in no way a claim to paint other systems to be inferior or false. It is important for each individual to stick with the system that works for them. And, under no circumstances one should mix all these systems together, as each of them is build upon its own set of definitions and rules. As Harry himself writes in the conclusion of his book, CPT must be taken as an alternative outlook that may complement those with a more extraverted, observational approach. Whatever personality system you may follow, your ultimate objectives should be self-development, peace with oneself and balance, and not aspiring to achieve the personality type for oneself.

Get the Cognitive Personality Theory e-book here.

Link to the CPT YouTube channel: CognitivePersonalityTheory.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Related Articles