Cognitive Functions: Or Why Noah Made Such a Splash

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What’s the deal with Noah? Is it heresy? Gnostic? Jewish? Christian? What messages does it teach? Is it good? Bad? Evil? Brilliant? Which believer is right in their opinion?

I have news for you: none of us are totally right, because none of us is truly objective. *

Everyone uses objective (free of bias) and subjective (biased) functions. Your objective functions keep you on track while your subjective functions have the potential to make you inaccurate or unrealistic.

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These are the objective functions:

These are facts-based functions and can be argued when differences of opinion arise, because none of them are personalized emotions or perceptions. These functions see what is actually there, which is why they are “accurate” in their assessment and predictions.

Te looks outward for its logic. It deals in proven realities in the form of textbook information citing sources or legitimate, provable, indisputable facts about the environment. Once a consensus of logic or agreement of truth is reached, Te adopts it as legitimate. It looks at a situation and sees the reality of its facts. Te seeks immediate solutions. Te needs external logical affirmation on its logic to feel comfortable – it needs agreement or it feels insecure, because it doesn’t trust internal logic and sees it as potentially illogical.

Fe looks outward for its morality. It deals in agreed upon ethics and moral values in the form of social norms and expectations. Once a consensus of morality is reached, Fe adopts it as a legitimate moral view. It looks at a moral situation and sees the reality of its impact. When Fe objects, it moralizes over the situation — is this ethical or socially acceptable? It will seek compromise to maintain harmony in a group. Fe seeks immediate harmony. Fe needs external affirmation on its feelings to feel comfortable – it needs agreement or it feels insecure, because it doesn’t trust independent emotions and sees them as selfish.

Se looks outward for its source of physical stimulation. It takes the tangible facts and details of its environment and uses them to implement immediate action. It sees what is actually there, without bias or judgment. Se seeks immediate action. Se needs external stimulation to prompt its action, because it cannot generate its own environment, and it hates being in a situation without exciting physical inspiration.

Ne looks outward for its source of mental stimulation. It takes the tangible facts and ideas of its environment and uses them to create new ideas. It sees what is actually there, without bias or judgment, and generates new possibilities while building connections between its ideas. Ne seeks immediate ideas. Ne needs external evidence to prompt its theories, because it cannot generate its own ideas, and it hates being in a situation without exciting mental inspiration.

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These are the subjective functions:

These are based on personalized perceptions, which means they can’t be argued with over differences of opinion, because they aren’t the facts. These functions interpret reality based on personal factors rather than what really happened or what is actually there. They have the potential to be totally irrational but are always paired with a reality-based function. So Ti-Ne may deny the credibility of the facts of a situation, but not the facts of the environment that generate ideas. Problems only arise when a subjective function overrules an objective function (ie, how you feel about something causes you to ignore the factual evidence or environment).

Ti looks inward for logic. It deals in what seems logical as opposed to external facts. It feels uncomfortable with a logical consensus among scientists, because agreement implies an absence of independent logic. It looks at a situation and seeks the meaning behind it, as opposed to the facts. It wants to understand.

Fi looks inward for its morality. It deals in personal ethics and moral values. It feels uncomfortable with shared outbursts of emotion, since it is self-contained and doesn’t need external support in what it is feeling. It looks at a situation and interprets how it feels about it, as opposed to the facts. It wants to attach personal feelings to it.

Si looks inward for experience. It deals in personalized knowledge. It takes in information and strongly compares itself to its own behavior and experiences. It looks at a situation and interprets it according to how it is internally impacted, as opposed to the facts.

Ni looks inward for ideas. It deals in personalized visions of the future. It creates new ideas and generates visions according to its own dreams and goals. It looks at a situation and interprets it according to how it is internally impacted, as opposed to the facts.

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Back to how people interpreted Noah, which led to their acceptance of it, their concerns with it, and their bias toward it. Here is how I suspect each type viewed the film.

Te compared the film to the agreed upon “facts” of its source material (the religions involved).

Fe saw the moral implications of the actions of the characters and was disturbed by them.

Se saw and appreciated the sensory details of the film, down to the smallest element.

Ne saw the symbolism that was evident, and drew connections that led to more symbolism.

Ti appreciated the independent logic and creativity of the process, based on its own independent logic.

Fi compared the moral values of the film to its own moral values, and determined how it felt about the film.

Si compared the film to previous knowledge and experiences with the story of Noah to see if it was compatible.

Ni sought to understand the meaning behind the concept, and focused on a specific interpretation.

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Here’s how I suspect different Christians reacted, based on their strongest functions:

STJs: found the film inaccurate to stored beliefs about Noah and its theological sources

SFJs: found the film inaccurate to stored beliefs about Noah and was disturbed by its selective morality

NTJs: chose a personal singular interpretation but disliked its theological inaccuracies

NFJs: chose a personal singular interpretation but was disturbed by its selective morality

NTPs: appreciated the creativity of the project and saw the underlining symbolism, good and bad

NFPs: measured the film according to personal feelings, and saw the underlining symbolism, good and bad

STPs: appreciated the creativity of the project and judged the film on its thrill factor

SFPs: measured the film according to personal feelings and judged the film on its thrill factor

So, who is right about Noah? No one, because our opinions are all subjective, filtered through objective functions looking to a different facet of what was actually on screen, and interpreting it through what wasn’t.

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* I realize this could create a HUGE argument over whether or not there is “one” universal truth for all believers in the comments, but the plain fact of the matter is this: you will never get someone who doesn’t use your functions to agree with you on scripture, and because you use both subjective and objective functions, you are not 100% right all the time, about everything. You have a bias, just like everyone else does.

Te users are going to take the Bible literally and use it as their external source of facts; Ti users are going to say that you can’t interpret the Bible literally, but that there has to be some room for independent thought.

Fe is going to focus on the salvation message (saving people) while struggling to deal with God’s wrath upon people, while trying to live according to His moral guidelines; Fi will judge scripture according to how it feels about it, and search for a deep, personalized relationship with God.

Ne users will gather inspiration from scripture to form new ideas and read between the lines, interpreting the symbolism that is already there; Ni will form new, deeply personal visions and ideas.

Se users will take an interest in the sensory details of scripture and its adventures; Si users will build up deeply personal knowledge base built around their connection to scripture and childhood memories.

To determine who’s right about Noah, we’d have to decide which person’s subjective function is the most valid. But its status as a subjective function makes that impossible.

20 Replies to “Cognitive Functions: Or Why Noah Made Such a Splash”

  1. I’m an ISFP and I loved the film. I love the artistry, the acting, the cast…it was all very interesting to me. The Watchers were *very* interesting. I also loved the idea of faith and God watching out for Noah and his family, and the fact that they weren’t completely alone because they had God and each other.

    There’s also something beautiful to me about the idea of God loving humans so much that he is willing to watch out for them like he did with Noah.

    I don’t care that they took liberties with the “biblical” story as I’m agnostic. However I’m not one of those agnostics that goes around bad mouthing religious folks. My take on religion is I want to believe in God, primarily the Judeo-Christian God but I’m not fully convinced that this God exists so I’m agnostic. I try to stay open minded maybe I will change my mind one day, maybe not.

    I don’t see this story as historical nor biblical truth. I regard it in the same way as I regard “300” however I am very impressed with the movie. A lot of biblical inspired movies these days aren’t good at all. In fact I avoid Christian movies made by Christians. A lot of times the acting isn’t good, the special effects are cheesy as they were in the “Left Behind” movie. Although I did see “Fireproof” and that was very well acted for the most part.

    In the Golden Age of Hollywood the biblical movies were usually pretty good. As an agnostic I love to watch Ben-Hur, The Ten Commandments, and The Robe. I think those movies had great acting, locations, sets, and beautiful stories, well paced plots. Also back then Hollywood wasn’t afraid to cater to a Christian audience like they are now. So Noah reminded me of the classic biblical movies. Otherwise I probably wouldn’t have seen it.

    I think it was a mistake to primarily market to Christians because on Amazon this movie has poor reviews. A lot of Christians have given it poor reviews. Many of them were expecting to see a literal story from the Judeo-Christian bible. They should have marketed the movie to everyone.

  2. I always found it fascinating how we interpret media based on our own personality types. I have not seen Noah, but I remember after seeing PotC 3, it was unfathomable to me why Elizabeth Swann chose Will. She had endless pirate adventures at her fingertips, and she chose a boring life on land for some guy she’d get to see every four years? Just a strange concept to me. I would have dumped him kept being pirate captain.

    I also watch procedurals out of order, whatever that says about me, lmao. I think it’s fun to have to put together the timeline on my own, given the general lack of elaborate character development, and self-contained plots in procedurals.

    Regardless, thanks for the blog (and tumblr)! They’re great! I’m still finding cognitive functions confusing, but, I’m researching a lot as I try to pinpoint my own type 🙂 It’s fascinating to see how different functions work together.

    1. She loved Will. She chose Will over adventure, which I think indicates she’s an SJ type and not the NP I first thought she was. And someone said that after the first ten years, if she remained faithful to him, he would be free from the curse — but I don’t know, that all seems sketchy to me. I didn’t like the end of their story for that reason — it’s sad!

  3. Well said. As an ISFJ, I’m not going to watch this movie because I don’t approve of the changes made or of the moral/religious stance of the director, i.e. he’s an Atheist. No atheist should be messing with scripture the way he’s doing. I’ve also never seen, will never see The Passion of the Christ because I think Mel Gibson’s nuts, as his immoral behavior in the last 10 years attests. I’m sure people will come to Christ through these films, and that proves the point that God can use and does use anything to reach people, but I can’t watch them because the motivations are screwed.

    You know, your thoughts on Fe’s stance on scripture are interesting. I’ve never felt that way. I’ve never struggled with God’s wrath or the “why do bad things happen to good people” argument a lot of people use as an excuse to not believe in God. God doesn’t have to prove anything to me or to anyone else. He is who He is, says what He says, and I’m not going to argue with Him. If there’s something about him that I don’t understand, I trust that I will understand it someday, probably when I’m standing at the pearly gates.

    Good post, and I’m relieved you know where I’m coming from when it comes to Noah. A part of me wishes my brain functioned differently. I’m objective about a lot of stuff, as you know. I watch Hannibal for goodness sake! But when it comes to modern scriptural interpretation, my objectivity goes right out the window. I guess it’s just who I am. And now I know why you like it, and that makes sense to me.

    1. He is a non-practicing Jew who is drawing much of his inspiration on Noah from Jewish mythology that is not included in the Christian Bible, so I don’t know that we can say he is wrong for “messing with scripture,” because he isn’t using scripture. That is, in part, why the movie upset people so much — the studio marketed it to Christian audiences, when in reality it’s Jewish mythology. It’s not supposed to be a literal interpretation.

      Mel Gibson is not nuts. He’s a fallen human being with his own story to tell, but we will never know what it is, because we have no personal relationship with him and cannot ask him for his side of the story.

      I share your opinions when it comes to scripture. What perplexes me is the great lengths people go to, to prove that God isn’t wrathful or violent and to make Him seem more… “moral” to outsiders. One blog I enjoy overall is going this route, trying to explain away the violence in the OT, when I don’t think it’s necessary to do so. God has wrath. God can be violent. You can’t excuse the violence in the OT and ignore the violent implications of the parables in the NT. Even if you can argue that the Israelites may have interpreted God through their own biases, Jesus’ parables about the talents and the servants trusted with money are pretty clear. Jesus was not just all love. He will also be wrathful.

      You and I view scripture differently, and that’s okay. It’s part of who we are.

      1. This is a really interesting blog, thanks for this post! And this is also a really interesting comment discussion (I’m a year late I know 😛 )
        I think I’m an Fi user and I do have issues with God’s wrath in the bible – OT and NT. But I also note that most people who aren’t believers are actually way more wrathful and vengeful than most Christians I know… people are very unmerciful. So my annoyance with people trying to deny God because of His wrath is actually that they are being hypocritical in doing so – because as much as people protest, no one actually wants a world without judgement. If anything, God is probably not vengeful enough to most standards – it’s just that He might be wrathful/bring judgement in a different way to what that person might want. Like on them, for example, rather than on the people THEY think deserve it 😛 I think it’s really that people don’t want to admit they’ve done anything wrong themselves, but they’re happy to point the finger at others.

        1. You’re right. In judging God, we are being unmerciful ourselves.

          On a different note, you might want to read some N.T. Wright. He’ll shed an entirely NEW light on the OT God for you, though he takes awhile to build his argument. 🙂

  4. Your insights on this movie made me think of what I learned British Lit. Even the people who interpreted the Bible interpreted it according to the biases of their time. I thought that was fascinating, and it goes along with what you’re saying here. I don’t know if I’ll watch this movie, but you’re right. Not everyone is going to agree with this movie, or see the symbolism someone else sees, or even enjoy it (or dislike it) for the same reasons.

    1. You want to open up a real can of worms?

      The people who wrote down the Biblical accounts were human, which means they all had personality types that influenced what they wrote, what they remembered, and what was significant to them. You can tell in the way the gospels differ from one another which way they lean — some are much more dramatic and descriptive, others more facts-oriented. Paul was an STJ if ever there was one!

      1. Definitely! I think it’s Mark who drives me crazy, though. He won’t stay in one tense! Sometimes in one sentence he’ll switch from past to present and then back to past tense.

      2. Paul seems very traditional but he is also really fiery and passionate. I think he’s an SFJ – his writing certainly has a lot of both ‘these are you moral obligations according to what society says is good’ (e.g. the offering for the poor, the whole letter to philemon) and also ‘here is my personal logical explanation of why this makes sense’ (e.g. Romans).

        1. I think Paul was an ESTJ. Not much Extroverted Feeling there, certainly not when dealing with Timothy (Fe using Barnabas steps in and brokers peace), but lots of SiNe. His hard-line black and white morality specifically hint at T-dominance.

          1. Those are good points – I’ll cede to your superior MBTI knowledge :D) and thanks for the NT Wright suggestion above – I will check him out).

  5. Its amazing how we all can view the same story/movie in different ways. I think I fall into that first category: TE. I’m very biased, however, if “Noah” draws people in and has them asking questions, searching the Bible for answers, I applaud it. As long as it furthers the Gospel.

    1. Isn’t it? And it’s not just Noah, either — we look at all life through our biases. Your interest in WWII is a deeply personalized, meaningful thing for you — to me, the same films and books would not be meaningful or inspiring, just tragic and depressing. Your Fi searches for meaning and inspiration through heroism amid the tragedy; my Fe becomes angry and upset over the mass cruelty.

      From what little I know about you, you seem to me like an INFP — which means you would judge the film according to how you feel about it (Fi), you would see its potential and appreciate its ability to reach others through its ideas (Ne), you would compare it to your stored knowledge about Noah (Si) and object to its deviations from the source material (Te).

  6. Wow! Yes! Fantastic! This is the post I’ve been waiting for–OK–I didn’t know it was going to be “this” post, with the exact subject and theme–but I’d been thinking so much lately about how it’s virtually impossible to be 100% objective. Yes, some people might be more objective than others, due to increased knowledge/experience, but nobody really has a bird’s eye (God’s eye?) view of things and can make a completely unbiased decision, or draw conclusions free from outside influence.

    I haven’t seen Noah yet unfortunately, but I want to! Reading over your descriptions of various reactions–depending on type or function is pretty interesting though, and reminds me of the respective reactions you can see unfolding when people discuss other controversial films, books or issues.

    Part of the problem I think–is not so much that one can’t admit to being personally wrong (thought that can be it) but that one feels that certain biases aren’t biases–they’re facts! After all, a large segment of the population agrees with their perspective right? They came to the same conclusions when faced with the same situation/information didn’t they?

    I think it’s really interesting how you gave certain examples above such as “Se users will take an interest in the sensory details of scripture and its adventures; Si users will build up deeply personal knowledge base built around their connection to scripture and childhood memories.”

    This probably explains why some people go on so much about how something like Sunday school helped form patterns “for life”. While you see others raving about how it was the “journey” of a certain Biblical figure that inspired them and turned their life around. 😀

    So…would you say that only God is truly objective? 😉

    1. You can argue objective facts with people all day long, but you can’t argue subjective ideas, information, or experiences! Like, if you asked five people to describe the same funeral, each would have a different answer based on their functions — the feelers would talk about the healing process of it, the Te would state the order of events, etc. Who is right? No one, because everyone saw something different.

      Our shortsightedness comes from the fact that to us, subjective information are legitimate facts, when they aren’t facts at all. They are impressions and opinions. I got into a discussion the other day where someone was asserting Biblical opinions as facts, but when I pointed out that information wasn’t in the Bible, they refused to admit that, and went on to continue to assert their opinions as the only accurate interpretation of scripture. Um, no, dude, it isn’t… if I can look at that same passage and have no idea where you got it from, it’s an opinion.

      I went to see Thor 2 with an ISTP. I quickly figured out Loki’s true motivations and anticipated his behavior (Ne, working off of external information); he got caught up in the “awesomeness” of the visual experience. An ISXJ would probably compare it to the first film and judge it based on whether it felt it was superior or inconsistent with the original. It was funny, because I asked him, “Did you know this part was a trick?” and he was like “… no, but that spaceship was AWESOME.” 😀

      Yes, I would say that only God is truly objective. He can see all sides at all times, both through sensing and visualization free of personalized biases, which we can’t even fathom.

      1. Yeah, some things are obviously objective truths, e.g. : “the earth is round”, “water is wet”, “cats are cute”. But so much is else is subjective–in fact I think under certain circumstances even those striving for objectivity can accept some forms of subjective “common knowledge” as truth, (“well EVERYONE knows that _____ “)

        Haha yeah, when I saw Thor 2, my immediate thought SPOILER ALERT after the epic battle was “OK…so they killed off the immensely profitable character of Loki? That just seems really unlikely I bet–aha–I knew it!” END OF SPOILER

        Darn it, boring real-world objective truths bleeding through into movies and interfering with my enjoyment. 😉 Honestly joking aside, I think this happens more often than I would like and affects my enjoyment of some books/TV/movies. It might not be “bad”, but midway I’ll be thinking “Oh c’mon, they are not going to let the main couple remain apart, the fans would never accept that….”

        1. *emerges from writing long enough to respond… and eat lunch*

          What constitutes “wet” though? Who decided that’s the word for what it is? 😉

          Loki is a perfect example of subjective reasoning. You think he’s betrayed Thor when he goes off on his tangent about how much he hates his brother and wants his crown, but then you find out it was all an illusion. First, I sincerely believe that’s the real Loki. Everything he said about Thor I think is the truth — that vision of Loki that shocks us so much is the reality, while we’re all indulging in our affection for the likable, egocentric fake Loki. He’s playing the audience in addition to Thor. That is my interpretation of the reality — my friends usually choose that as the fake Loki, since they prefer the other one. Which one is real? It depends on your interpretation.

          That being said, I couldn’t understand why anyone in the context of the film would believe Loki would sacrifice his life for Jane, particularly since it had been established a few seconds earlier that he is a master of illusion. I saw right through that one and couldn’t believe how stupid Thor was not to realize it. Gee, my brother is good at making people believe stuff that isn’t there. But, wow, man, he just died to save my girlfriend! What a guy! (On a related note, the six year old boy in the row behind me saw right through it too, and announced to the entire theater his disbelief that Thor would fall for that. I don’t know who that kid is, but I like him.)

          I carry my subjective beliefs into everything and judge everything accordingly, which often means that I don’t like movies I probably would if I bothered to look at them objectively. I’m fully aware of this, but it doesn’t stop me from enjoying hating certain things. 😉

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