ESTP Cognitive Functions: the Primary and Shadow Functions of this Personality Type

An ESTP is one of the 16 personalities established by the Myers-Briggs model. Often known as entrepreneurs, explorers, persuaders, or promoters, the ESTP is the archetypal Doer. An ESTP identifies as confident, practical, wise, and social. That’s not a surprise to you. But then again, do you know the functions of the ESTP personality?

In this post, we will quickly review what an ESTP personality is in terms of its functions and a short description of each of its four primary tasks. After that, we will look at the four main parts of an ESTP personality. We will look at an ESTP’s shadow functions and how an ETSP’s details typically appear in the workplace.

Breaking Down the ESTP Personality: What are an ESTP’s Functions?

An ESTP has four primary functions: extraverted sensing, introverted thinking, extraverted feeling, and introverted intuition. Extraverted sensing and introverted thinking are their most dominant functions. ESTPs also have four shadow functions, the opposites of their primary functions, representing the unconscious part of their personality.

Based on MBTI test results, the Myers-Briggs ESTP personality represents approximately 4% of the general population. The letters in ESTP correlate to Extraverted, Sensing, Thinking, and Perceiving, representing the four major personality dimensions.

The following list is to recap what each of these designations means quickly:

  • Extraverted – ESTPs enjoy meeting and talking to new people. They are very social butterflies and draw energy from people. ESTPs rarely need alone time to rejuvenate and often have a charismatic and fun exterior. 
  • Sensing – An ESTP is mainly focused on the present situation. They are hands-on workers that strive to get tasks done.  
  • Thinking – ESTPs are logical and unbiased, especially when making decisions. They are problem solvers and rely heavily on knowledge to find solutions or answers.  
  • Perceiving – ESTPs are flexible and spontaneous. These are the optimistic types with creativity and productivity at their core.

The ESTP personality type is based on the Myers-Briggs theory of personality. While these four dimensions shape an ESTP’s character, they do not explain how they function.

Carl Jung’s cognitive function theory influences the basis used to define these personalities. Thus, using Jung’s thesis and the Myers-Briggs personality type, you can also elicit the primary and shadow functions from an ESTP.

The Primary ESTP Functions

In addition to examining the different aspects of an ESTP individually, each personality type has four primary cognitive functions. These functions explain how individuals live and communicate with others daily. The first is the most dominant of the four direct parts, and the fourth is much more reserved.

The following are the different types of primary functions as they relate to the ESTP: 

  • Dominant or hero function  Focuses on how an ESTP is seen in the world, by themselves and others. Since they have an extraverted chief position, they are mainly concerned with other people’s perceptions of them. 
  • Auxiliary or parent function – Focused on order, rules, and how an ESTP acts in the world  
  • Tertiary or eternal child function  This function harnesses the inner child and draws on how we respond to others. It can often be a childish response. As it is sitting in the tertiary position, it is pretty underdeveloped compared to the different functions.   
  • Inferior or anima or animus function is the least developed primary process. It focuses on how we relate to people who are different from us.

Depending on the personality, the functions in each category above may vary. For example, an ESTP’s dominant function is extraverted sensing, but an INFP’s chief function is introverted feeling.

The ESTP functions are as follows:

  • Se  Extraverted Sensing. This primary, dominant function relates to how the ESTP learns. They have strong senses that help them understand information. Sensory experiences attract ESTPs.  
  • Ti  Introverted Thinking. This auxiliary function relates to how the ESTP interacts with their world, seeks knowledge, and aims for understanding. Here ESTPs use hands-on skills or analyze information. ESTPs organize the information they sense and perceive into a logical framework.  
  • Fe  Extraverted Feeling. This third function relates to how the ESTP processes emotions and interacts with others. ESTPs love to enjoy other people’s company. ESTPs tend to strive to help others and show affection by doing things.  
  • Ni  Introverted IntuitionThe weakest of the four functions of an ESTP is intuition. It is often tricky for ESTPs to harness because it is pretty draining. An introverted intuition allows ESTPs to use the information stored in their brain to predict outcomes and search for or recognize patterns.

Depending on the personality, the functions in each category above may vary. For example, an ESTP’s dominant function is extraverted sensing, but an INFP’s chief function is introverted feeling.

The Impact of Each Function on an ESTP’s World

Each of these functions plays an integral role in how an ESTP is perceived in the world and how they perceive themselves. Below we will discuss how each of the primary functions influences an ESTP’s internal or external world. And we will let you know what that means for interactions with an ESTP.

These four functions play either core or supporting roles for an ESTP’s internal and external worlds. The following chart summarizes each of these roles:

Type of Function Position in an ESTP’s Personality
Extraverted Sensing The core part of the external world
Introverted Thinking The core part of the internal world
Extraverted Feeling The supporting role of the external world
Introverted Intuition The supportive role of the inner world

As you may have noticed, introverted functions are how you act in your internal world or mind. In comparison, extraverted functions exemplify your role in the external world through interactions with others. Keep reading to see how these four functions influence an ESTP personality’s actions, demeanor, and beliefs out in the world.

How Does An ESTP Function In Their Internal World?

Because ESTPs have thinking and intuition at the core of their internal world, they tend to function using nurturing balanced with logic and abstract thinkingTheir inner world is ruled by a need for organization and searching for meaning.

The following is a list of functions that help an ESTP excel in their internal world: 

  • Adventurous 
  • Always in analysis mode 
  • Balance logic and instinct to make decisions 
  • Can combine abstract and concrete thinking 
  • Crave new challenges 
  • Goal-oriented 
  • Great problem solvers 
  • Great under pressure 
  • Risk takers 
  • Subconsciously planning five steps ahead

An ESTP’s internal and external functions influence how they operate in the world overall. And it is worth noting that just as their introverted functions impact their inner world, an ESTP’s extraverted functions affect their external world.

How Does An ESTP Function In The External World?

An ESTP’s external world is ruled by extraverted sensing and feeling. This means ESTPs function as lively, good with people, and task-oriented. Their focus is on influencing the emotions of those around them. ESTPs can be impulsive yet easily adaptable.

The following is a list of functions that help an ESTP excel in their external world:

  • Always aiming to utilize all five senses to their full potential 
  • Always moving 
  • Create an active lifestyle 
  • Dislike drama 
  • Flexible 
  • Great at analysis 
  • Love new tasks 
  • Motivated by results 
  • Sympathetic of others 
  • Think on their feet 
  • Thinks with the group in mind

One thing that can be a significant weakness for an ESTP is their need to be hands-on with all their work—ESTPs like to make decisions while working through a problem without necessarily stopping to readjust their approach.

ESTP: The Analyzer 

The Ti function has been studied in-depth, and the ESTP personality falls into a category of people who can do multiple analyses simultaneously. There are three main types of research that an ESTP can use when making decisions or developing solutions.

The following are the three types of analysis used by an ESTP: 

  1. Deductive Analysis – This is the most utilized of the three studies. This area uses verbal or symbolic reasoning to create solutions from linear information. For example, since A equals B and B equals C, A must equal C.  
  2. Expert Classifying  This is the second most utilized type of analysis. Classifying uses logic and reasoning to categorize concepts, ideas, and things.  
  3. Odds Assessing  The final type of analysis used weighs the risks associated with any situation. This represents the pros and cons list that an ESTP keeps on a tally in their mind.

This is all to say an ESTP can be in a ready state for dealing with high-risk problems, and they can tackle a crisis with ease.

ESTPs can handle a situation through both abstract and emotional intelligence.

The Shadow Functions of An ESTP Personality 

In addition to the primary functions of an ESTP, there are also shadow functions. This is a more detailed look at the positions. These functions can also be called the unconscious or hidden parts of your personality.

Often people overlook the shadow functions, but they can be very revealing.

Shadow functions are the non-dominant parts of an ESTP’s personality. When an ESTP’s shadow functions are in full view, they can be perceived as critical, deceptive, manipulative, or oppositionalUsually, shadow functions appear when we are tired, annoyed, or in a situation that causes tension.

There are four shadow functions to a Myers-Briggs personality, and they fall into these categories: 

  • Opposing – This is the first of the shadow functions, and it acts as your primary defense mechanism when you are met with a challengeFor ESTPs, this is Si. It focuses on comparing past and present experiences. This function helps keep the Se function in check.  
  • Critical Parent – The critical parent functions as the voice in your head, which means they become incredibly focused on creating an order for an ESTP. This means they can become critical of others and see them as incompetent. Competition and confrontation may be highlighted for ESTPs when Te is experienced.  
  • Deceiving or Trickster – This shadow function calls on you to make quick and harsh judgments to protect yourself. For an ESTP, that means when FI is experienced, the disorder is created. They often use deception when they feel attacked or aim their sights at other people’s emotional shortcomings.   
  • Devilish and Destructive or Transformative – This shadow function is the weakest link in all your cognitive functions. It shows up for an ESTP when they feel their ego is threatened. This function can make an ESTP feel frustrated and lost, as they do not tend to draw on abstract thinking. An ESTP will exhibit confusion and become scatterbrained when experiencing Ne.

These shadow functions are the opposite of all the primary cognitive functions of an ESTP. So, an ESTP who is an extroverted sensing person has the opposing shadow function of introverted sensing. To display this more clearly, the following chart shows the parts of an ESTP personality:

Main Processes Primary Functions Shadow Functions
Sensing Extraverted Introverted
Thinking Introverted Extraverted
Feeling Extraverted Introverted
Intuition Introverted Extraverted

Shadow functions appear at the worst times, usually when we are stressed and can easily say or do something hurtfulDuring these times when their shadow functions are expressed, expect to see actions uncharacteristic of an ESTP. For example, an ESTP who is usually focused and logical may become passive-aggressive and scattered when they face unexpected challenges.

The following is how the shadow functions of an ESTP show up in comparison to their dominant roles:

Type of Function Description of Primary Function Description of Shadow Function
  • Focused on the present task
  • Stop caring about the details
  • It can seem rushed when making a decision
  • Likely to compare experiences in the present to the past
  • Not one for surprises
  • Trusted thought processes
  • Need for stability and continuity
  • Rely on logic
  • Analytical
  • Stay objective and unbiased
  • Focused on inner organization
  • Focus on rationale
  • Looking to create order in every situation
  • Strong need to control
  • Competitive
  • Critical
  • Concerned with other people’s impressions and opinions of them
  • Caring
  • Sympathetic
  • Calls out other people for their lack of emotional awareness
  • Reactive
  • Disregards rules
  • Uses humor to distract others from problems
  • On a straight path and not looking for other opportunities
  • Focused on one task at a time
  • Aim to get the job done as quickly as possible
  • Draws conclusions using strict logic
  • Always searching for a new opportunity
  • Looking for solutions and alternatives
  • Seeing abstract connections
  • Struggle to understand others
  • Loss of pragmatism
  • Insightful

As you can see, some of these shadow functions can be extremely harsh. Some instances may draw out a particularly mean side of an ESTP compared to their nature when experiencing their primary functions.

An ESTP’s Career Success Based On Their Functions 

ESTP will do well in careers that are unpredictable and fast-paced. This is where the dominant ESTP function, Se, and the secondary function, Ti, come into play. Extraverted sensing (Se), Introverted Thinking (Ti) individuals will look for a career that allows them to move from task to task in a detail-oriented environment.

The following chart highlights the traits that make an ESTP employee excellent based on their functions:

Type of Function Strengths in the Workplace Weaknesses in the Workplace The Best Jobs for ESTP Personalities
Extraverted Sensing
  • See the big picture
  • Adapt to change quickly
  • React well to surprises
  • Attentive
  • Present and engaged
  • Strong dexterity
  • Passive-aggressive attitude
  • Critical
  • Not as interested in reaching long-term goals
  • Surgeon
  • Detective
  • Performer
  • Firefighter
Introverted Thinking
  • Strong sense of truth
  • A natural leader
  • Encouraging of others
  • Organized
  • Analytical
  • Caring
  • Will ignore rules and norms if illogical
  • The absolute need for logical consistency
  • Race Car Driver
  • Athlete
  • Boxer
Extraverted Feeling
  • Great at identifying patterns
  • Take other people’s needs and values into account
  • Over-analytical of emotions and feelings
  • Too direct at times
  • Tactless
  • Pilot
  • Marketing and Advertising
  • Emergency Medicine
Introverted Intuition
  • Looks at the abstract
  • Tries to identify what will happen in the future
  • Can distrust their intuition in favor of logic
  • Maybe insensitive to others
  • Tradesperson
  • Business

Based on the overview above, an ESTP’s functions enhance any workplace. They thrive in environments that call for high levels of alertness. They enjoy a job that is different in its day-to-day activities.

ESTPs can boast many attractive qualities for a professional setting.

Recap: An ESTP’s Four Primary & Shadow Functions 

In conclusion, an ESTP personality’s functions are extraverted sensing, introverted thinking, extraverted feeling, and introverted intuition. The most dominant of the functions extra, vested sensing, affects an ESTP’s impulsive and surprise-loving attitude.

On the other hand, the least dominant of the primary functions is introverted intuition which impacts an ESTP’s abstract thinking and ability to make unconscious connections.

These primary functions and their opposing shadow functions help shape an ESTP. Hopefully, you better understand the role each of the eight parts plays in personality type. ESTPs are unique, logical, attentive, and experienced, but they can be crabby, quick to criticize, and over-analytical when their shadows come out.