Skip to main content

Breaking Down Myers Briggs: What Is Sensing Vs. Intuition?

Andrea has a background in Myers-Briggs and Western astrology. She mostly writes about relationships.

Sensing types gather information through their five senses. Intuitive types gather information through patterns and concepts. People will have both sensing and intuitive qualities.

Sensing types gather information through their five senses. Intuitive types gather information through patterns and concepts. People will have both sensing and intuitive qualities.

Quick Introduction to Myers-Briggs

Myers-Briggs is a personality test assessment. It focuses on people's preferences on four different spectrums:

  • Introversion to Extroversion
  • Sensing to Intuition
  • Feeling to Thinking
  • Perceiving to Judging

People tend to gravitate toward one end or the other on each spectrum. Occasionally, people will have preferences that land more toward the middle, such as someone who would prefer to be called an ambivert than an extrovert or introvert. There are usually reasons behind why someone scores more toward the middle. In most cases, it means that a particular spectrum doesn't dominate your overall personality.

For instance, someone may score 96% on intuition, showing they have a really strong preference for it as compared to sensing. On the other hand, they could have a 51% score on thinking, showing they don't really have a strong preference for thinking or feeling. Your highest percentages from the MBTI test are indicative of your dominant function. Every person has four functions based on the final score they receive from taking the test.

People are either dominated by their sensing to intuition spectrum or their feeling to thinking spectrum. The way someone utilizes their dominant function is based on whether they're introverted or extroverted. Everyone has four functions, and every function has an introverted or extroverted persuasion.

For instance, INFJ is a personality that's dominated by intuition. Their top function would be introverted intuition followed by an auxiliary function of extraverted feeling.

Let's try another example. ESTJ is a personality that's dominated by thinking. Their top function would be extraverted thinking followed by an auxiliary function of introverted sensing.

Don't Let the Terms Confuse You

I know a lot of these terms can be confusing. It takes time to read up on them and to make sense of it all, and some of the terms MBTI uses are misleading. For instance, feeling doesn't mean you're not smart. It means you like the input of others before making a decision. You're concerned about social data whereas someone who is more into thinking prefers to look at cold hard data and with less social input.

Sensing types like to live in the present. Intuitive types are seeking the future or a dream world.

Sensing types like to live in the present. Intuitive types are seeking the future or a dream world.

Learning About Sensing and Intuition

What do the terms sensing and intuition mean? The spectrum has to do with how people gather information. The feeling and thinking spectrum has to do with how you express information.

Sensing

A personality with a preference for sensing is someone who likes to gather information that is tangible. You perceive the world through what you can see, hear, taste, touch, and smell.

People with a preference for sensing and judging tend to be practical, present-minded, grounded, and predictable.

Sensing personalities with a preference for judging and thinking tend to focus on money, making sure their needs are met, and logistics. They like for things to be simple and concise. They're organized, attracted to manager roles, and they're straightforward. ESTJ is considered the CEO personality; they have a talent for earning large sums of money and getting into positions with a great deal of responsibility.

Sensing personalities with a preference for feeling tend to be hospitable. They care about the needs of others. They want to make sure that people are happy and have what they need. Sensing personalities with a preference for feeling and/or perceiving tend to be more laid back and creative compared to sensing personalities with a preference for thinking and/or judging.

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Owlcation

Sensing personalities make up the majority of the population in the real world. Those with a preference for sensing account for 70-75% of all personalities. This means the world is a lot more in tune with the needs of sensing types.

Sensing Temperaments

Sensing personalities are split up into two temperaments: guardians (SJ) and artisans (SP).

Guardians (SJ)

Guardians crave normalcy, structure, routine, stability, and simplicity. They're motivated by traditional goals: having a car, obtaining a stable job, owning a house, and having a family. Guardians don't like things that rock norms. They like to manage and make things happen.

The good thing about SJ types is that they bring stability into a world that's chaotic. Guardians are tidy, they give clear instructions, and they have a knack for success.

  • ISTJ wants to be seen as reliable and practical. They work hard, they're consistent, and they're loyal. They're often serious and quiet. They want a traditional lifestyle with a good job and a normal family life. They have a serious relationship with money. They tend to save money extremely well. They often live minimalist lives.
  • ISFJ is hospitable. They want to make sure their family is well provided for. They're nurturing. They focus on making sure people's practical needs are met. They're elegant people who are very likable.
  • ESTJ has a profound knack for money, responsibility, and telling others what to do. This type can come off somewhat cold and calculated, but they know how to get jobs done. They're very smart and know what trails to follow. They have good instincts, which are grounded in reality.
  • ESFJ is warm and friendly to all. They want everyone to feel included and appreciated. They can be somewhat gossipy. Where ISFJ is more like a counselor, ESFJ is more like a teacher. Both ISFJ and ESFJ make for natural parents. ESFJ's love manifests in the tangible; ENFJ's love manifests in the hypothetical. ESFJ can be manipulative.

Artisans (SP)

Artisans like the pleasures of their senses. They're looking for gratifying experiences.

  • ISFP wants to capture and feel beauty. ISFP has a strong desire to understand emotions and to express them in tangible ways. This is the artist personality.
  • ESFP wants to fill up her life with as much experience as possible; she's on a quest to have fun.
  • ESTP wants to set trends, and they want to explore social experiences in a tangible way. They like to impress with money, looks, and fame.
  • ISTP is considered the mechanic. They want to create objects and understand how they work. They want to pursue a path of craftsmanship.

Intuition

An intuitive personality is someone who gathers information by patterns and concepts. They like to read between the lines. They're analytical by nature. They're often questioning the reality of things around them. People with a preference for intuition like to think about the future and past. They're focused on trends.

Intuitive personalities are rarer. They make up about 25% of the population, so the world isn't exactly in tune with their needs. Intuitive types often feel like they don't fit in.

Those who have a talent for intuition can come up with answers as if pulling them out of thin air. They're constantly trying to read reality and comparing and contrasting different ideas and principles. They want to look at what's beyond an object rather than what's right before them. They want to see how deep things can go, and in a way, this makes them detectives of reality. They like following clues and hunches.

Intuitive personalities tend to have a higher preference for metaphors and symbols in communication. They're seeking meaning, not their base needs. Intuitive types often buck trends. They often rebel against traditions. They're very perceptive.

Intuitive Temperaments

Intuitive types fall into one of two temperament groups: idealists (NF) or rationals (NT). Whereas the sensing personalities are split up by their preference for judging or perceiving, the intuitive personalities are split up by their preference for feeling or thinking.

Idealists (NF)

The idealists are empathetic visionaries. They're in tune with their emotions. The group is made up of caring people who wish to make the world a better place. The NF personalities are likable. Problems can arise when they ignore their less developed thinking and sensing traits. They have to work harder to be grounded and realistic. Sometimes they're too generous, to the point of depleting their funds.

  • ENFP is considered the champion of people. They're good at being a cheerleader for others. They want people to feel included. They're great at boosting confidence. They're also open-minded and pretty weird. They'll try different things to see what happens.
  • INFJ is the counselor. They want to help people grow. They're idealistic, dependable, insightful, gentle, and compassionate. They seek harmony and enjoy intellectual stimulation. INFJ is a visionary who often seeks work in the arts because they want to express their creative ideas. INFJ types often rely on their writing skills.
  • INFP is the martyr. They have beautiful and compassionate ideas. They are the most introverted of the NF types, and they can feel conflicted about whether they should socialize more or seek solitude. This type cares about others' feelings, and they take pride in kindness. They can also be really weird and make incredibly strange decisions. They're a blend of procrastination and friendliness.
  • ENFJ is the advocate. They have huge hearts that can move a room. They challenge themselves to be friendly to all people. They're incredibly warm-hearted and generous. They can make for overbearing parents. Seriously though, everyone thinks they're the best friend of an ENFJ.

Rationals (NT)

The rationals are strategists and masterminds. They're incredible at reading and picking up on new concepts. NF types are also great at picking up on new material, but NT does so with noticeable veracity. The rationals lack the warmth of their idealist counterparts; instead, they build their lives around finding answers. They love exploring ideas. They can go overboard and create a whole vision or strategy to take over the world.

  • INTJ is fascinating because they absorb information first and then start working toward solutions to their problems. They're excellent people to have on just about any team. There are a lot of jokes about how they'd be happier on their own island away from people. They think people often get in the way. INTJ can struggle with what I call "object burden." They don't do well when lots of objects are malfunctioning or cluttering up their space.
  • ENTJ has an incredible knack for getting people in line. They know how to communicate rules and get through rudimentary tasks. They're excellent project managers.
  • ENTP is what I'd call the lawyer type. They love to talk through ideas. They're really good at arguing, and they often don't mean anything personal by their arguments. They just have a deep love for verbal sparring. This type tends to be successful, and they won't get caught up in social occasions that they deem unnecessary or uncool.
  • INTP is considered the smartest MBTI personality of all. It's easy for them to understand a variety of concepts. This personality is incredible and tends to have an amazing vocabulary. They would be considered the professor type. They often struggle with romantic love.

Understanding Your Preferences

Some people are dominated by their sensing or intuition preference; this makes them more introspective and observant. They're motivated by either their feeling or thinking preference.

Other people are dominated by their feeling or thinking preference, making them more expressive and actant. They're motivated by their sensing or intuition preference.

Personalities that have a dominant function of sensing or intuition are considered perceiving personalities overall. They focus on gathering information first. They're sponges for information.

Personalities that have a dominant function of feeling or thinking are considered judging personalities overall. They make their feelings and thoughts known. Feelers express their innermost emotions. Thinkers talk ideas out.

There are 16 personalities in MBTI; eight have a dominant preference for sensing or intuition and eight have a dominant preference for feeling or thinking.

This can get muddy, so I need to explain something. A personality is considered overall perceiving or judging regardless of its preference for the perceiving to judging spectrum.

I know it's confusing; I wish MBTI had different terms for what it means for a personality being overall perceiving or judging vs. one's preference for the perceiving to judging spectrum. The overall perceiving or judging aspect has to do with your dominant function, and that is determined by whether your top function has to do with sensing, intuition, feeling, or thinking.

Dominant Functions

Below I've listed where personalities are either perceiving overall or judging overall:

Perceiving Personalities:

  • INFJ (introverted intuition)
  • ENFP (extraverted intuition)
  • INTJ (introverted intuition)
  • ENTP (extraverted intuition)
  • ISTJ (introverted sensing)
  • ESTP (extraverted sensing)
  • ISFJ (introverted sensing)
  • ESFP (extraverted sensing)

Judging Personalities:

  • INFP (introverted feeling)
  • ENFJ (extraverted feeling)
  • INTP (introverted thinking)
  • ENTJ (extraverted thinking)
  • ISTP (introverted thinking)
  • ESTJ (extraverted thinking)
  • ISFP (introverted feeling)
  • ESFJ (extraverted feeling)
In order to figure out your MBTI personality, you may have to look at other spectrums to figure out what is most dominant and then work from there.

In order to figure out your MBTI personality, you may have to look at other spectrums to figure out what is most dominant and then work from there.

How Can I Tell Whether My Preference Is for Sensing of Intuition?

Often people who have a preference for sensing don't really understand those who have a preference for intuition and vice versa. They talk in different ways and have really different motivations.

SJ types seek out traditional and safe jobs; they're looking in the world for what's obtainable and regular. SP types seek out worthwhile experiences that gratify their senses; they desire pleasure.

Intuitive types are often drawn to jobs that require higher education. Keep in mind: Sensing types aren't stupid, they're practical about jobs and education. They cut out the frills and look for what's really going to matter in their lives: money or experience. Intuitive types often get involved in endeavors that aren't about money but are about a cause.

  • Sensing types either want for there to be normalcy, traditions, and structure, or they want the means to gratify their senses.
  • Intuitive types either want the world to become more compassionate, ideal, and peaceful, or they want solutions, strategies, and ideas to process.
  • SJ wants to be seen as responsible.
  • SP wants to be seen as interesting.
  • NF wants to be seen as kind.
  • NT wants to be seen as smart.

Consider how you use your brain throughout the week. Do you focus a lot on what you see, hear, taste, touch, and smell? Do you try to be present-minded and think about what kind of experiences you want in your life? If so, there is a good chance you lean toward sensing.

If you love daydreaming, thinking about ideas, trying to find patterns, and have a quick insight into trends and how they all work together. . . there is a good chance that you have a preference for intuition.

If you're really unsure, there is a good chance that you're a judging type of personality overall. Your top function likely has something to do with either feeling or thinking.

Further Reading

  1. Jung, Carl Gustav (1965). Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Vintage Books: New York, 1965. p. 207
  2. Jung, C. G. (1971). Psychological types (Collected works of C. G. Jung, volume 6). (3rd ed.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. First appeared in German in 1921. ISBN 0-691-09770-4
  3. Keirsey, David (1998). Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence. Del Mar, CA: Prometheus Nemesis Book Company. ISBN 978-1-885705-02-0.
  4. Krauskopf, Charles J. and Saunders, David R. (1994) Personality and Ability: The Personality Assessment System. Maryland: University Press of America.
  5. Montgomery, Stephen (2002). People Patterns: A Modern Guide to the Four Temperaments (1st ed.). Archer Publications. p. 20. ISBN 1-885705-03-4.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Andrea Lawrence

Related Articles