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Sensing types and intuitives

Paying attention

The sensing-intuition preference scale is usually described as the perceiving function as it is about how we take in information. Sometimes it is easier to see this as the kind of things we pay attention to.

Sensing types uses their five senses to really pay attention to what is going on about them. And when we say “really” that is what we mean. They notice details, pick up facts, pay attention to the concrete things in their world, which are of interest to them. 

Intuitives, by contrast, don’t tend to pay attention to the real world. They prefer to use information picked up from their senses as a jumping off point for a venture of a different kind They look behind what is presented on the surface and ask themselves questions about what it really means. Intuitives also look and, instead of seeing what is there, begin a journey of association. “What does this remind me of?” they’ll ask themselves.

MBTI™ expert Gordon Lawerence explains the difference in this way. Sensing types let “their eyes tell their mind”. Intuitives let “their mind tell their eyes.”

Experience versus 'the hunch'

As sensing types trust information gathered from their senses, they value the concrete and the tangible. more than  any abstract concept or vision. In other words, sensing types value personal experience more than theories or ideas.

Intuitives, on the other hand, do not need to rely on personal experience to be convinced of something. They rely on their intuition – a “hunch” that something is going on.

Two different types of intelligence

In essence, sensing and intuition can be likened to two qualitatively different types of intelligence. Sensing intelligence likes information which is concrete and linked sequentially. Sensing types are uncomfortable if, what they consider to be, important facts or pieces of information are absent.

Intuitives, by contrast, are comfortable theorising about things even if they can’t see the full picture, and can’t refer to concrete facts. It is as if the intuitive’s unconscious mind picks up information rapidly and all he or she gets is the strong hunch that certain things are going on now, or will happen in the future.

Sensing types in everyday life

Sensing types’ love of facts and experience makes them practical, feet on the ground people who inhabit the real world. As they are continually drawn to experiencing their world through their five senses they prefer to live in the present, with some occasional forays into the lessons of past experience.

This orientation to the here and now leads sensing types to value what they know before any uncertain and, to them, abstract and theoretical future.  This approach can often lead sensing types to be quite conservative. Some sensing types can be drawn to innovation, but generally speaking sensing types prefer to keep to what they know rather than risk “throwing the baby out with the bath water”.

Sensing types’ frequent use of their five senses and their orientation to the present, means they like to enjoy themselves.  This is particularly true of sensing types with a preference for extraversion. They enjoy socialising, good food and anything else that heightens life’s pleasures.

At work sensing types usually prefer to approach tasks in a step by step fashion. They also prefer to use established skills than learn new ones.

Intuitive types in everyday life

Intuitives are people who are much more interested in possibilities than in current reality. They are motivated more by vision and the need to innovate than they are by pragmatism or practicality. Unlike sensing types, they have little respect for the status quo.  If you say to a new intuitive employee, “this is how we’ve always done this round here,” privately they may be thinking “we’ll soon see about that”.

Intuitives love scanning the world about them so they can theorise about what is going on. This is one of the reasons why intuitives get bored easily and hate routine - they have a constant need for a flow of new stimulus material for their intuition to work on.  They can even become bored by their own ideas before they have even had a chance to implement them.

Intuitives are classic “big picture” people. They need to know how things relate and join up and when learning they prefer an overview before they start. Many entrepreneurs, scientists and inventors have a preference for intuition. They say their intuition gives them a flash of inspiration, an idea forms and then they have to work back to make sense of it.


© Carol Craig

MBTI, Myers-Briggs, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator are registered trademarks or trademarks of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Trust in the United States and other countries; OPP Ltd. has exclusive rights to these trademarks in the U.K.

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