Sensing vs. Intuitive

Sensing and Intuition, exploring the differences

The S-N dichotomy is our ‘input’ scale - ie how we each take in and process information. As Jung suggests:

Sensation and Intuition…are perceptive functions, they make us aware of what is happening, but do not interpret or evaluate it.

The interpretation and evaluation are the purpose of the Judging functions: Thinking and Feeling.

Sensing types prefer the known, the factual, the actual, the concrete. They are present-oriented and prefer a grounded approach taking in information that has practical application and may see concepts and theoretical models as a bit airy-fairy. Intuitive types prefer seeing possibilities, shapes and patterns. They like to ‘see around corners’ and will prefer information that has general principles and scope for change. They are future-oriented and like juggling possibilities and see factual material as a little dry.

Jung saw this scale as the process involved in becoming aware of something, ie how we take information in, process and access it and identified two kinds of perception: Sensation and Intuition. Sensing is a taking in information in a tangible, concrete way, focusing, according to Jung:

...on the perception of actualities...These are the fact-minded men, in whom intellectual judgement, feeling, and intuition are driven into the background by the paramount importance of actual facts.

Intuiting is a process of taking in information in concepts and visually, around future possibilities and where, according to Jung:

...actual reality counts only in so far as it seems to harbour possibilities which then become the supreme motivating force, regardless of the way things actually are in the present.

Sensing and Intuiting can both be carried out in either the outer, extraverted world or in the inner, introverted world depending upon our own orientation on the E-I scale.

Sensing types Intuitive types
Detail-driven, see and sense things Prefers broad brush, big picture
Lives in the reality of here and now Is mostly future oriented
Breaks it down to practical steps and tasks Interested in the new and unusual
Likes factual, actual, the concrete Likes ideas and concepts
Practical and realistic       Does not like routine or practicalities
Dislike anything perceived as woolly Prefers the theoretical to the practical

So we can see that Sensing types are, as Jung called them, “facts based,” ie they take in information in a sensory, factual, practical, linear way. If you are a Sensing type you will tend to be more grounded in your approach and you will need to understand the facts and focus on the actions. You will have a store of knowledge in you head, great at remembering names and faces and will want to use this knowledge in a practical way.

Anything that seems fanciful or ethereal will not really compute and you will want to translate concepts and ideas into practical working solutions. You will need to know the facts before proceeding and will be seen as practical and experience will be more important to you than the new or novel. You will solve problems by working through them factually and systematically using knowledge, experience and what is real and known, rather than what might be.

Intuitive types on the other hand like to see the bigger picture, the wider context for things and will be far more conceptual, future oriented and interested in seeing around corners, as opposed to thinking in straight lines. If you are an Intuitive type you will focus more on gut feel and impressions, seeing patterns and shapes in things and looking at the meaning behind, and relationship between things. Unlike the Sensory who will take in facts and details, you are more likely to jump around, looking at future possibilities and abstract theories brining together lots of disparate ideas without initially knowing how they might fit together.

You will prefer the new, the novel to the detail and will far prefer coming up with new ways of solving problems to using experience or the ways it was done before. The facts and detail will be slotted in once you have an overall impression of the big picture and so in that sense you prefer to build top down, seeing the overall shape or pattern and using the facts to support this. Detail to you will be ‘impressionistic,’ ie you prefer seeing the connections and reading between the lines and you can get bored with purely factual information.

How Sensors and Intuitives might experience each other

Sensors may see Intuitives as Intuitives may see Sensors as
Woolly, up in the clouds Lacking imagination
Unrealistic and impractical Uncreative, focused on experience
Overly complicated Overly factual, resistant to change
Too theoretical and ethereal Lacking vision and big picture focus
Difficult to pin down Jumping immediately to the task
Too many pictures not enough facts Too many facts not enough pictures

Engaging with and managing a Sensor, if you are an Intuitive

  • State the topic clearly and factually, don’t jump around and use concrete actual terms rather than analogies or allusions
  • Prepare facts and examples as Sensors prefer to take in information step by step using concrete experience
  • Present information step-by-step and sequentially rather than in abstract     
  • Stress practical applications over theoretical considerations, stick with the known
  • Finish your sentences, as a Sensor does not like anything they would see as uncompleted or moving on before the present subject has been fully covered
  • Draw on past concrete experiences rather than focusing on anything new or theoretical
  • Focus on the here and now, the actual rather than the future as a Sensor will have to build step by step        

Engaging with and managing an Intuitive, if you are a Sensor

  • Talk about implications and bigger picture outcomes rather than the here and now
  • Talk about possibilities, don’t get them bogged down in detail as the Intuitive will switch off if there are no possibilities
  • Use analogies and metaphors rather than facts, figures and details as the Intuitive will want to see the whole before slotting detail in afterwards
  • Brainstorm options and possibilities to keep the conversation moving forward and interesting for the Intuitive
  • Engage their imaginations rather than bombard them with facts, as the Intuitive will prefer to look broadly
  • Don’t overwhelm them with details try and skim over especially initially so that they ‘get’ the overarching picture rather than focus on the details
  • Make the conversation big picture and future-oriented so that the Intuitive gets excited and not bogged down


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