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The Difference Between Thinking and Feeling

Are you a thinker or a feeler? What is the difference between thinking and feeling?

If you’ve taken the MBTI or the free online test you probably have an idea.  You also might have an opinion of what it means to have a dominant thinking or feeling factor to your personality.  The word “feeler” may bring up a picture of someone who is compassionate, tender-hearted and empathic.  The word “thinker” may cause images of someone who is intellectual, well-read and enjoys problem solving.

The truth is that all thinkers and feelers can be compassionate, intellectual, tender-hearted, well-read, empathic and problem solvers.  Today let’s examine what it really means to be a Thinker or a Feeler in Myers-Briggs terms.

What Does the MBTI Manual Say About Thinking and Feeling?

So far we’ve discussed the attitude functions of Introversion and Extraversion and the perceiving functions of Intuition and Sensing.  Today I will explain the judging functions of Thinking and Feeling.  According to the 3rd Edition of the MBTI manual:

Judgment means all the ways of coming to conclusions about what has been perceived.  It includes evaluations, choice, decision making, and the selection of a response after perceiving a stimulus.

In contrast to the irrational functions of Intuition and Sensing, Jung called Thinking and Feeling rational functions.  The MBTI manual defines rational functions as “functions that can be personally directed and are in accord with the laws of reason.”   Thinking and Feeling work to restrain the flux of sensations and intuition.

How Thinkers Make Decisions and Solve Problems

Thinking types come to conclusions using objective data and analysis of situations.  Thinkers tend to remain neutral and detached from the subject about which they are thinking.  People employing the thinking function may have a linear view of time and make connections from the past to the present or future.

How Feelers Make Decisions and Solve Problems

Those employing the Feeling function may use more subjectivity when coming to conclusions about a particular subject.  More important to them are the values held by themselves or their group.  Feelers may also be more in tune with what others around them are feeling about the presented situation or data.

Thinking and Feeling are Two Sides of the Same Coin

It is not unusual for Thinkers to reason that Feelers are actually irrational in their way of coming to conclusions, but Jung’s thoughts on that subject are:  “Feeling, like thinking, is a rational function, since values in general are assigned according to the laws of reason.” (Jung, 1921/1971, p. 435)

Examples of Thinking and Feeling in Decision Making

For an example of how a Thinking type and a Feeling type make decisions, let’s use the process of deciding which new car to buy.

A person who uses the Feeling function may decide to choose a car based on how it fits with his or her values.  For instance, knowing that the car manufacturer shares the same beliefs about a particular topic or that the car is better for the environment might be in the top reasons a feeler would have for purchasing a particular vehicle.  If two more vehicles were appealing for the same reasons, then a Feeling person might employ the Thinking function to rank other attributes of each car and pick one by using  a more objective choice-making process.

 When faced with possible cars from which to choose, the Thinker might create a list of features that are essential to any car he or she would drive.  Each car would then be rated on how well it met the non-negotiable criteria.  If two or more vehicles met all of the Thinker’s requirements, then the person might use the Feeling function to consider other features of the car that might not have been as important.

It is a common view, yet entirely wrong, that thinking people are cold and detached while feeling people can’t be logical.  Both thinkers and feelers are capable of logic and empathy.  Thinking and Feeling refers to what you do with information that you gain through sensing or intuiting.  It has little to do with your capacity for rational thought or your ability to empathize with others.

The Difference Between Thinking and Feeling MBTI