4 Cognitive Functions: Use All to Strengthen Your Writing

Last week, I saw an interesting piece by K.M. Weiland about using all 4 cognitive functions to strengthen your writing.  First things first, I had to find out what they are.  Here is a bit on each and how to build them up.


As explained by Weiland, intution is an abstract quality.  Think instinct or hunch.  For me, it is all about making logical leaps and connections.

Develop intuition by learning by noodling over your work and looking for patterns.  Play off your hunches and pay attention when you have the feeling that something just is not working.


Sensing goes with intuition but stands in contrast to it.  Intuition is abstract.  Sensing is about the concrete.  What do you see, smell, hear, taste, and feel?

Develop this by practicing using your senses in a variety of situations.  It is tempting to rely on sight when we describe something so make a point of working the other senses into your story or description.


In spite of the term “thinking,” this isn’t all about thoughts.  It is about weighing, evaluating, and organizing information.

Develop this by writing.  Plot out that novel.  Learn to judge whether or not you’ve made logical leaps in your writing or if your claims are balanced and precise.


Feeling is often seen as “only” emotion.  Ironically, as Weiland points out, during times like we are experiencing in 2020, many people shy away from their feelings as simply too raw and weighty.  But we need a certain amount of emotion in our writing because it is something that readers connect with.

Develop feeling in your writing by looking for the emotional truth.  This doesn’t mean that you have to go for big, overdrawn emotion but readers can identify with a character that is unlike themselves in many ways through common emotion.

Do you rely on all four cognitive functions in your writing?  Most of us favor some at the expense of others.  Figure out which are your strengths so you know which ones you need to develop.


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