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Thinking and feeling

Two rational ways to make decisions

The thinking/feeling scale on the MBTI™ is fairly easy to grasp as it is about how we make decisions. It is about how we evaluate information coming from our sensing or intuition It concerns how we choose between different courses of action as well as how we evaluate the pros and cons of anything or  conclude that something is right or wrong.

In Psychological Types, Jung emphasises that both thinking and feeling are rational decision making processes. The difference is that thinking is a rational decision making process based on logic whereas feeling is based on personal values.

Ojectivity versus subjectivity

In making decisions or evaluating, thinkers step back and take themselves out of the equation. Then  they apply  tried and tested rules of logic (if … then reasoning) to come to a conclusion about what should be done or the merits of a particular case.

Feelers, on the other hand, do not try to be impersonal. In fact, they put themselves at the heart of the problem and ask themselves what they would like to happen. In the place of logic, feelers are adept at involving their personal values. They decide subjectively whether something is right or wrong or what the best course of action seems to be. The personal value which most, but by no means all, feelers use in making decisions is harmony. Feelers will often decide something on the basis of whether it will maximise harmony for themselves and the other people affected by the decision.

Two powerful processes

Both thinking and feeling are undoubtedly important ways of making decisions and the world would be unrecognisable without them. There are lots of tasks where thinking is the most appropriate process as an objective method of evaluation is required. In other words, there are many occasions when it is essential to know that any other logical person would also come to the same conclusion. 

But it could be argued, (by any logical person!) that there are other decisions in life where it is bizarre to try to step back and remove the human, feeling element. These are the decisions which affect us personally or which have an impact on the lives of others. In those occasions, using feeling judgment may be more appropriate.

Thinking types in everyday life

Thinkers tend to see their own and others’ feelings as something that get in the way of good decision making. In fact, thinkers devote a fair amount of energy trying to get the world to obey logical laws and to minimise the effect of emotions.

Thinkers often believe they are capable of judging the effectiveness of what they say and do and do not see themselves as needing the views of others. This makes thinkers very independent minded. As they are not overly affected by conflict or by other people’s opinions, it is common for thinkers, particularly male thinkers, to come across as “tough”.

Thinkers’ concern with finding logical flaws, can lead them to become life’s critics. In fact, thinkers are much more programmed to see what they don’t like about something, than to see and appreciate what they do like.

Thinkers’ critical, impersonal and logical approach to the world can sometimes come across as uncaring. Thinkers can and often do care very deeply about others. In work, they often show this concern by pursuing issues of principle. Fairness and justice are usually important principles for thinkers.

Feeling types in everyday life

Feelers are concerned about the impact of decisions on their own and other people’s lives. Regardless of whether they are introverts or extraverts, feelers are, by definition, people-oriented. Feelers also prefer to concentrate on what they like and value about something rather than focusing on what they don’t like. In short, they prefer to appreciate than criticise.

Feeling types are much less motivated than thinkers by objective principles such as justice.  They are more concerned with the plight of individual people and like to treat people uniquely. Instead of making general pronouncements about how people should or should not be treated at work for example, they are more likely to be concerned about how Irene or John is getting on. Feelers usually make an effort to remember people’s names and find out personal information about them. 

Feelers commonly value harmony and this means they will often avoid conflict at all costs. They also have a personal need to feel appreciated and a feeler’s self-confidence can be dented if they do not get enough positive feedback from other people.


© Carol Craig

MBTI, Myers-Briggs, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator are registered trademarks or trademarks of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Trust in the United States and other countries; OPP Ltd. has exclusive rights to these trademarks in the U.K.

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