That “Thinking is superior to Feeling” is a myth. First let me give some textbook information and then I will get to some opinion.

MBTI Theory
Thinking and Feeling are both rational functions used for judgment. Both follow the laws of reason and function to evaluate the constant flow of perceptions – the sensations and intuitions of the Perceiving functions.

Both Thinking and Feeling are functions used in decision-making.

The Thinking function makes logical connections between ideas and is oriented towards cause and effect, objectivity and the impersonal application of reason. Impartiality and neutrality are applied equally to both the people who may be affected by the decision and on a personal level.

The Feeling function looks at the values and relative merit of the issues. In order to make this kind of comparative analysis Feeling relies on having an understanding of the values of all involved. Whereas Thinking is more objective, Feeling is more subjective. The MBTI Manual (Myers, McCauley, Quenk and Hammer) quotes Jung “Feeling, like Thinking, is a rational function, since values in general are assigned according to the laws of reason.”

Thinking people have feelings and those with a preference for Feeling can follow a logical argument. However, since Feeling is a subjective, it is not as easy to see as the logical, linear process of the Thinking process. To me this may be the crux of this myth – for a person with a preference for Feeling may not have immediate access to explain their decisions from a perspective of logic alone and this is precisely what the person with a preference for Thinking is seeking to hear.

Statistically there is a preponderance of individuals with Thinking/Judging in executive positions. Both Thinking and Feeling functions play a role as much in business as in other realms and those with a preference for Feeling can be equally as effective in leadership positions. In general, decisions that benefit from the input of both functions are more well-rounded decisions.

Personal Musings and Wonderings
I admit to some “Thinking envy”. I was interviewing a woman (ENTJ) for an Insight Portrait that I was going to paint for her. She was so clear and decisive – I described it as if she was the prow of an icebreaker – she cut through everything – no mess – no confusion – no internal debate. She saw, she analyzed, she decided, she moved forward. In contrast my decision making is often more time consuming and convoluted as I compare and contrast the value of each option.

Thinking can be looked at through the five facets of logical, reasoning, questioning, critical and tough contrasted with the five on the Feeling side of the pairs – empathetic, compassionate, accommodating, accepting, tender. At times when I am in conversation with someone with clear preferences for either the questioning or critical facets, I can feel my confidence fade. Being in a position of needing to justify my decisions is not comfortable in the moment. I typically think of my witty, clever comments in the car on the way home.

I can understand the power of the Thinking preference when difficult decisions have to made on a timeline and defended to stakeholders.

However, I don’t agree that Feeling is a lesser function. If the decision is the right decision for the circumstances both Thinking and Feeling preferences will hopefully lead to the same place. Thinking may get there faster and don’t we worship “faster” in our society? In terms of execution Feeling may have the upper hand for they will have already explored how the decision engages the people involved.

Category: MBTI Facts
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One Response to “MBTI Myth Busting – Thinking is not Superior to Feeling”

Martin Fisher July 1, 2009

Thinking can seem better than Feeling because the sort of decision where F is fully at home can never be proved right in the way that T-based decisions can. For example: Is killing another person ever justified? Abortion? Is Mozart a greater composer than Beethoven? Was Jimmy Hendrix better than Eric Clapton? Is capitalism evil? Is communism evil? Would those curtains look better in turquoise? Should Fred and Jane split up?

Contrast with: Do 2 and 2 make 4? Is the world flat? Does eating omega-3 oils alter our risk of a heart attack? Is time-travel theoretically possible?

For a T question, get enough facts and logic and the answer is clear, and arguing with it is difficult. Contrast F decisions, where the ancients said ‘There is no arguing about tastes’, an odd thing to say when this is precisely what we DO argue about, incessantly and inconclusively :-) Perhaps what they meant was ‘There’s no POINT arguing about taste’, for this very reason: nobody ever wins the argument!

Bur oops, once we get onto real-life practical problems (like maybe Fred and Jane splitting up), the issues tend to become a mixture of T and F issues. This is why BOTH are vital for fully-rounded decision making. And also, I guess, why most of us can make a reasonable shot at ‘purely F’ and ‘purely T’ decisions, so that the task of unravelling which one is our true preference is usually the most difficult thing in an MBTI ‘typing’ session. It’s also the hardest function-pair for which to develop valid (statistically significant) questions on MBTI questionnaires.