MBTI® Personality Typing Pt 2 — Intuition & Sensation: A New Way to Understand Yourself

by Dr. Daniel J. Heller April 29, 2014

In Part 1 , we introduced the Myers–Briggs Personality Indicator® and the first pair of characteristics, Introversion and Extroversion. Here we explore the second pair, Intuition and Sensation. Remember that everyone has, to varying degrees, both of the characteristics described in each of the pairs of attributes. The descriptions here are of extremes that rarely apply to real individuals, but rather indicate tendencies we all can recognize in ourselves and in others.

The second pair: INtuition versus Sensation

The second letter designation in MBTI is N, which stands for iNtuition, or S, which stands for Sensation. This can be one of the more difficult distinctions to understand, but there is a relatively simple way to understand it.

Sensors gather information from the world around them on the basis of their five senses. Thus, the S type is generally one who is very grounded in the real world, and who basically thinks things are more or less (or exactly) as they appear, sound, feel, smell, taste. S types are eminently practical. Their tendency is not to spend a great deal of time pondering hypotheticals or wondering about the deeper meaning of things. Why would they? To a sensor type, things are what they seem, and they may well believe it is a waste of time to dwell in introspection or pondering “what ifs.” An S type is more likely to regard these activities as “contemplating your navel.”

It is something of a mystery why Carl Jung called this other quality iNtuition, because the word’s other meanings confuse this subject. A simple yet accurate way to think of an iNtuitive’s take on the world is that they don’t think things are necessarily as they seem. It’s not that they don’t gather information through their senses, but that they are more likely to look for underlying or “invisible” meaning than to rely solely on their eyes, ears, fingertips, and so on. It’s possible that Jung chose the word intuition to point to the fact that when Ns look beyond their senses for additional information about the world, they are most likely to look to their own thoughts and feelings.

This may sound as though Ns are deeper thinkers and more profound people than S’s, but this is not the case. These are just different ways of processing information, and relating to the world. What it does mean is that an N’s view of the world is likely to be more idiosyncratic, iconoclastic—in other words, unique, because to an N things are not necessarily as they seem. An S’s worldview, on the other hand, is grounded in perceptions that are much more likely to be shared (at least within the same culture). The catchphrase “think outside the box” could have been invented by an N, and thinking outside the box is much more of an N than an S quality.

Sensors are a much more common type than iNtuitives, and conflict can arise from an S’s impatience with, and lack of understanding an N’s mode of information gathering and processing. Sometimes it boils down to S’s thinking that Ns are impractical, which they might be. In fact, as a society we need the gifts and qualities of both types, and in any individual it is fortunate when there is a nice balance of the two tendencies—because, simply put, sometimes things are as they seem, and sometimes they are not.

Learn More

Visit the website of the Myers–Briggs Foundation »

Of the many excellent books and articles that explore MBTI to varying degree, What Type Am I? Discover Who You Really Are does a great job of simplifying the Myers-Briggs tool, making it easy to understand and apply to your own life »


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Dr. Daniel Heller is the primary author of this blog, the developer of our PMS Natural Relief Programs, and the founder of www.pmscomfort.com. He is a holistic naturopathic doctor in Northern California with over 16 years experience helping thousands of women recover from PMS, PMDD, as well as helping women, children, and families find natural answers to all manner of health challenges.


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