How Do Thinkers Think?

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on June 09, 2019

Thinking is the function based on how you make decisions, found in the four-function stacking of your 16-personality type. It comes in two distinct flavors: Introverted Thinking (Ti) and Extraverted Thinking (Te).

Thinkers (those with ‘T’ in the third letter of their type) give more weight to facts and objectives (pros and cons), whereas Feelers place value on personal emotions and values (Introverted Feeling: Fi), or how others will feel about a decision (Extraverted Feeling: Fe).

To squash a common stereotype: the great Thinking and Feeling divide isn’t merely a ‘cold’ versus ‘warm’ kind of energy. Thinkers can come across as inviting and passionate at first glance, whereas Feelers may seem distant and aloof. (Again, remember: every individual uses Thinking somewhere in their function stack.)

A Quick Cognitive Functions Recap

There’s a total of eight cognitive functions in your personal stack, with the main four used consciously (and the latter four nestled deep in your subconscious — but that’s for another article).

From the most to least prominent in order of strength, starting from the top, these are: dominant (1st), auxiliary (2nd), tertiary (3rd), and inferior (4th), at the bottom.

The four possible functions (which totals to 16 possible arrangements for the 16 types) are Thinking (T-), Intuition (I-), Sensing (S-), and Feeling (F-). A function can be exerted inwardly (-i), making it introverted, or outwardly (-e), making it extraverted.

If you’re an Introvert, your dominant (1st) and tertiary (3rd) functions are introverted (face your inner world, private to yourself), whereas your auxiliary (2nd) and inferior (4th) functions are extraverted (face the outer world, what others see directly). The arrangement flips completely for Extraverts.

In order of ‘Thinking’ position (dominant > auxiliary > tertiary > inferior):

Types that use Introverted Thinking (Ti):


Types that use Extraverted Thinking (Te):


We’ll explore the major focal points of Introverted Thinking (Ti) and Extraverted Thinking (Te), and dive right into how to spot and differentiate between these two different decision-making processes. (Thinking about thinking — now that’s when things get really interesting!)

So, how do Thinkers think?

Introverted Thinking (Ti)

Ti can be thought of as an internal crystalline framework of knowledge that consciously shape-shifts and rearranges itself whenever new information arrives. It constantly questions the validity and reliability of new information, so one faulty observation can send the intense processing to an abrupt halt.

Common sense can be considered to be an antithesis to Ti. However, even the seemingly irrational is taken into consideration, dissected, and finally selectively chosen to reflect on the internal, shape-shifting lattice of ideas. Ti-users essentially seek to understand and really dig into the core of a subject matter.

As natural skeptics, Ti-users are constantly in their heads, questioning and analyzing (and let’s face it: overthinking). With each new piece of information, certain points of their complex structures light up after hitting logical consistency, whereas others reshape connections and rework the lattice. As a result, it’s able to make connections between seemingly unrelated disciplines.

This long-winded process requires a ton of experimentation: finding out what’s consistent within the framework, and what’s not. It can sometimes show up as an “extremely odd way of efficiency”, which may (read: definitely will) be misconstrued as laziness by others. Ti takes pride in forming these wacky methods to their madness and will gleefully adjust them as necessary.

The main question introverted Thinkers will ask is:

What makes sense to me?

What lies behind the enigmatic, unconventional nature of Ti? A line of rejection of expected ideologies after hours (...days, months, years even) of processing. However, it’s starkly different from striving to be deliberately ‘different’ or ‘authentic’ (that points to classic Introverted Feeling: Fi). Ti can be thought of as the quiet rebel who never realized they were breaking the rules.

The knowledge and data Ti takes in is filtered, analyzed, then boiled right down to its bare essentials. Ti-users are drawn to investigation and critical analysis, being the 5-year old who constantly (and shamelessly) asks “Why?” to everything. They process, refine, and then refine some more. Rinse and repeat.

The Ti community particularly enjoys unschooling themselves from the grips of academia, as Ti works best by figuring principles out alone, without any rules or restrictions. It’s common for Ti-users to have self-taught a significant chunk of skills — whether that’s woodworking, coding, juggling, or yodeling (anything, really).

Extraverted Thinking (Te)

Te focuses on external execution, following a step-by-step process — the ‘doing’ aspect of Thinking: measurable results, productivity, and actually getting things done. Organization, lists, and schedules are all one big, resounding yes. Te is prepared, responsible, and sky-high in conscientiousness .

Got a problem ? Te-users can naturally come up with a feasible plan to solve it, and make calculated decisions along the way. Methodological and hardworking, Te-users pride themselves in staying objective and level-headed in situations. Pros and cons list? Check. 30 realistic backup plans? Double check.

Hint: If you know someone who’s actually spent money on a productivity or calendar app, you can definitely bet they’ve got Te somewhere in their function stack. The stationery section of a bookstore stocked with planners? They’ll get high off the smell alone. And if they’ve got individually labelled and categorized checklists, then say no more.

Which brings us to the core concern of Te:

Does this process or procedure make sense and work?

Tangible or intangible, Te focuses on making an impact in the external world. Whether that’s a product, team, or community, it serves to watch plans unfold, and minimize ambiguity each step along the way. When things *actually* happen (cue fanfare music).

Te can take a project and run with it, breaking down steps into manageable chunks and forming well-thought out plans to devise and carry out. Talk about anything strategy, and you’ll definitely receive some keen looks from Te-users. (Not to mention: they’re often crazy good at board games.)

Healthy competition and the ‘Type A’ mentality tends to reside deeply within Te-users, the dedicated, responsible go-getters. They’re goal-driven, ambitious, and hold incredibly high standards for themselves. You’ve guessed it — working in management is of second nature to them.

Introverted Te-users may gravitate towards research and the sciences to use their practical knowledge in experiments and work intensively with empirical data. Finding clear solutions to tricky problems? Bring it on. Other fits career-wise could be in teaching, law, or medicine. Think highly structured environments and controlled procedures with adequate room for continuous learning.

The Takeaway

In a nutshell, Ti thinks up a storm of concepts and principles, and Te takes this information and makes it happen. They complement each other, which is why a balance is key to powerful teamwork. There’s enormous value in both research and execution, as we make positive strides for the future.

Thinking has shaped the world for the better. It has inspired mind-bending inventions, and uncovered sophisticated mathematical laws and formulas. Anything that once existed as an untouched concept in the void could be grasped and transformed — followed by a flash of creative brilliance.

Are you a Thinker yourself? Have you spent countless hours figuring out which type of Thinking (Ti or Te) you prefer? Has someone ever said something that made you realize they’re probably a Thinker?

Let’s hear it in the comments!

Lily Yuan

Lily Yuan is a personality psychology writer who tests as INTP and constantly questions her type. Learn more at . Explore her blog at .

More from this author...
About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.


Todd32 (not verified) says...

Definitely a Te user, thanks for this!

INTJme (not verified) says...

Yes I'm a Te too.  I find feelers hard work, as if today they feel the sky is blue..... then it is....despite it being grey and pouring down with rain.  I find that this can change too quite frustrating and imprecise. Perception is everything as they say!

INTP77 (not verified) says...

I’m a Ti for sure and find the Agile framework a very natural way to work. When I read this passage, I realised this is essentially Agile!

“The knowledge and data Ti takes in is filtered, analyzed, then boiled right down to its bare essentials. Ti-users are drawn to investigation and critical analysis, being the 5-year old who constantly (and shamelessly) asks “Why?” to everything. They process, refine, and then refine some more. Rinse and repeat.”

PS: I was definitely that 5 year old!

Conor C (not verified) says...

I was also that 5 year old, and 12 year old, and 32 year old.  My family called me "the Man with a Million Questions."

Sometimes the question was "Why (does)?", but sometimes it was "What if...?"  I don't remember the answers, but I remember the questions...

norwayman787 says...

Wow, this makes so much sense to me. I am a Ti and typically the one to invent new unorthodox processes or ideas but I don't always have the strict organizational chops to implement those ideas into the real world. Sounds like I need to find a good Te to compliment my skills and maybe ground my ideas.

PIERRE HENRI (not verified) says...





Seqular Seattle (not verified) says...

This nicely explains some of the differences between me (an INTJ) and my INTP partner. He is a walking Wikipedia and designs extremely complicated electronic systems for a living, but I am the one who plans and executes our big music jams. From cleaning the deck weeks ahead to coordinating the colors of the plates/napkins/tablecloths to having wonderful hot food and munchies ready (plus a buffet of beverages) as 40 people arrive, I make sure every detail is in place for a great party. For all his brilliance, he serioulsy could not begin to pull that off.  He would be scrounging frantically for crackers in the cupboard and trying to find our supply of toilet paper (which of course I keep stocked) as guests were showing up. But although we both have high IQs, he knows so much more about so many subjects than I do. I'm glad I was wise enough to realize early on that we make a great team. We totally "get" each other and have a very fun, interesting, dynamic relationship.  

Embla (not verified) says...

Oh, this is so fascinating, as it was my understanding that INTJs, and high Ni users in general, struggle greatly with the use of details, and that it's high Si people, like ISTJs, who are good at taking care of material details and needs. Any type can be high IQ and Te does have more common sense, but INTJs often barely seem to know what plates, napkins, or toilet paper are, and is pretty typical for intuitives. 

Lydia Glenn (not verified) says...

I'm the 'lazy' lost-in-thought INTP married to the get-her-done INTJ. It's funny, to say the least. He wants to know the game plan and I couldn't care less. I just make the game happen when I'm done thinking. 

Judy Ann Bolayo (not verified) says...

I used to be a Te back in the days *coughs* but then I seem to see myself waning (or waxing) towards Ti . Mostly, I get so curious that when I'm completely satisfied (rarely though) with the answers I came up with, I stopped thinking about it even if it's already halfway in the execution or "making the idea a reality". Sometimes, the Te reappears and does its job. So everybody's happy. :)

Kathy Lambert (not verified) says...

INTJ and now a Te! It is amazing (and a bit creepy) how accurate this is. Who told?

Angeline Marx (not verified) says...

How do walkers walk?


Kristin Roehl (not verified) says...

How does fire fire?

Yodeller (not verified) says...

So, Ti users are original quick thinkers, while Te users are disciplined and organized?

tanstaafl28 says...

I am totally a Ne-Ti (ENTP). It helps me quickly put duct tape on problems, but I also realize that Te users may take more time, but their solutions tend to be better in the long run. 

Yellow Box (not verified) says...

In other words, Te is insecure(hence the excessive preparation, due to weak and thus vulnerable Fi ), and Ti is not(hence the improvisation and remodelling, due to weaker Fe which, despite its lower status than Ti and hence its vulnerability, is less vulnerable than the Fi of NTJs, compare the inferior Se of INTJs with the inferior Si of ENTPs). Knowing you could turn on the charm at any time(lower Fe ) would make you more confident than the one who knows they could be hurt at any time(lower Fi ), put another way . 

Heather INFJ (not verified) says...

After about the fourth paragraph while continuously nodding my head in every sentence and really chuckling at the sheer brilliance and humor I realized I had full body goosebumps from this amazing writer!  Excuse the lack of sentence structure and punctuation ? 

Lucy Su (not verified) says...

Definetly a Ti user.

Madhana Bhavani (not verified) says...

People tell me I'm an INFP, so I'm definitely Te right?

So why do i relate to Ti so much? (Not just here, anywhere i read about Ti, it's like it describes how my mind works 24x7)

Yet when i tell people I'm a Ti user, they start telling me how dumb i am to be a Ti user and how I'm definitely very low Te. 

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