Theory About Aphantasia and MBTI (Meyer-Briggs Type Indicator) Personality Test
I have a theory that aphantasia or lack thereof is very connected to MBTI theory, particularly functions. Let me explain.
MBTI is a personality test of 16 personality types. You may see people around social media putting in their bios or dating profiles 4 letter acronyms like INTJ (which I am, and this will be important). You can take one of the more popular versions of the test here: https://www.16personalities.com/
So in MBTI function theory, it goes beyond the test.
There are eight functions:
- introverted Thinking (Ti) and extraverted Thinking (Te)
- introverted Feeling (Fi) and extraverted Feeling (Fe)
- introverted Sensing (Si) and extraverted Sensing (Se)
- introverted iNtuition (Ni) and extraverted iNtuition (Ne)
Yes, N is capitalized like that, in order to differentiate from introversion which is an I.
All these have their more specific MBTI definitions than what is in the dictionary. They’re close to dictionary definitions in some senses, but still worth pointing out.
These are very simplified definitions:
- Introversion is “inside your head”. Extraversion is “outside your head”.
- Thinking is “object manipulation”. Feeling is “people/emotion manipulation”.
- Sensing is “visualization”. Intuition is “abstraction”. (Visualization, hint hint)
So, as an example, extraverted Thinking (or Te) would be “object manipulation outside your head”.
More detailed explanations (you can technically skip this and come back to it later):
Thinking being object manipulation is a unique MBTI take. Think of Thinking as a blueprint you plan, something you think through. If you think you know how objects work, you predict what objects will do. The math “object” 2 added to another math “object” 2 will result in math “object” 4. You can imagine 2 and 2 objects in your head making 4 objects you imagine. That is introverted Thinking.
Extraverted thinking then is using objects outside your head. Counting with your actual real hand two fingers and another two fingers making four fingers is extraverted Thinking. You used an outside object to think with. Other extraverted Thinking would be performing real life experiments rather than thought experiments.
Feeling in MBTI is the same way, but rather than objects, you manipulate emotions and people either inside or outside yourself. But the caveat is, introverted Feeling is being intimate with your own emotion and manipulating your own emotions and your own person. People with strong introverted Feeling is often seen as narcissist.
People with extraverted Feeling on the other hand, feel other people’s emotions before they feel their own, and thus can and will reflect other people’s emotions before theirs.
Visualization is overtly simplifying what Sensing is, because Sensing covers all the senses, not just visualization. But for the purposes of this post, that is more than enough. External visualization is seeing with your eyes, and thus extraverted Sensing. You see things outside your head.
And internal visualization is what we aphants lack, the ability to see things in our head to a vivid capacity, and thus this is introverted Sensing.
Intuition or abstraction is really hard to explain, but think of it as a gut feeling, or at least reasoning without visualization, it’s a feeling of something is missing, and you know what should go there to fill what is missing. For example, God is often a result of abstract reasoning, cause and effect is a thing, so what is the missing First Cause? People’s gut feeling fill that missing part as God, while others because they can’t visualize God will reject that gut feeling. (This is JUST AN EXAMPLE, DO NOT DEBATE THEOLOGY, I had to come up with something invisible in order to explain the concept).
If that was hard to explain, the difference between introverted and extraverted iNtuition/abstraction is even harder to explain. But I’ll take a stab. Introverted iNtuition, being non-visual and inside a head, tries to fill in complete darkness with what is missing. But most of the time, this often is filled with words, or the inner voice, saying the next fitting thing, a train of vocalized thoughts. If you ever have a rapid train of thought of just words, that’s one manifestation of it. Especially if you are a writer. It just comes to you. It fills in the missing gaps. Sometimes, it can be flashes, but that’s the weak visualization. Extraverted iNtuition is trying to fill in something missing in full visualization by connecting things. Think of Sherlock’s mind palace in the hit BBC show where he connects things and tries to find out what is missing among all the stuff he knows. Or think of a conspiracy cork board with thumb tacks, post it notes, and a web of thread.
If you want more detail, Google them. I probably butchered it a bit, but as long you get the gist.
The most important for this particular post are the last 4, the Sensing and iNtuition functions, but Thinking and Feeling will come into play later. As because Sensing is visualization.
Understanding which of these are opposites are crucial:
- Sensing and iNtuition are opposites.
- Feeling and Thinking are opposites.
- And Introversion and Extraversion are opposites.
Each personality type has a function stack. This is the order of how a personality type’s brain works. This is the advanced definition of a personality type that goes beyond the four letters. If H2O (water) is a personality type, the molecular structure of H2O you see in chemistry notebooks would be like the function stack.
An INTJ is the personality type. An INTJ has a basic function stack of NiTeFiSe. It is actually longer, NiTeFiSeSiFeTiNe is the full stack, but as you can see, halfway in the stack, it is just the opposite and reversed, so it is shortened to 4. In other words, everyone’s brains have all the cognitive functions, but the first four is how your brain works most of the time.
This is an explanation and list of function stacks for each type, do note I do disagree with how most approach the subject (most of descriptions are divorced from reality or impractical, I attempt to offer practicality): https://robinnemesszeghy.medium.com/basics-of-the-mbti-37aafa1acb19
NiTeFiSe, an INTJ first uses their introverted Intuition, then extraverted Thinking, then introverted Feeling, then extraverted Sensing.
Sometimes, it is just better to, ahem, VISUALIZE the stack as a vertical stack.
INTJ function stack:
- Ni = introverted Intuition = “abstraction inside your head”
- Te = extraverted Thinking = “object manipulation outside your head”
- Fi = introverted Feeling = “people/emotion manipulation inside your head”
- Se = extraverted Sensing =visualization outside your head”
In other words, an INTJ brain works in this order, first, he does abstraction in his head, THEN he manipulates objects outside his head, THEN he manipulates people/emotion inside his head, THEN he visualizes outside his head.
So each function stack (of 4) has one of each: one Intuition, one Sensing, one Thinking, one Feeling. There’s another rule if you notice. Intuition and Sensing, being opposites, are on the opposite ends of the stack. We see Ni and Se on opposite ends. Thinking and Feeling are also opposite each other. There is Te and Fi follows right after. And there’s another layer of opposites, introversion and extraversion parts are also opposite of each other. It isn’t only iNtuition vs Sensing, but introverted iNtuition vs extraverted Sensing.
This means that each function are always paired with each other. And that there are complete opposite functions.
- Ni and Se are practically the exact same thing. Or rather, they always come together and can never be totally separated. This is the NiSe pair.
- Ne and Si are the exact same thing. NeSi pair.
- Te and Fi, same thing. TeFi pair.
- Ti and Fe, same thing. TiFe pair.
So to put more in layman’s terms,
If you possess “visualization outside your head” (Se), you will always have “abstraction inside your head” (Ni). If you have the opposite, “visualization inside your head” (Si), you will always have “abstraction outside your head” (Ne).
Now for the clincher:
Aphantasia just means you have Se, extraverted Sensing, as your Sensing function, “visualization outside your head”. Those with stronger Si, introverted Sensing, “visualization inside your head”, are those that are not aphants.
That also means your abstract reasoning, introverted iNtuition, which is often called the “gut feeling”, is usually a lot stronger and smarter and more refined. A non-aphant extraverted iNtuition(Ne) has to be based on abstractly reasoning based on connected what they have seen. Aphants can connect things they haven’t seen (ie heard, or in word form, in contrast to images).
But that’s just a theory, a cognitive theory. Thanks for reading.