Guide to self-typing: the basics
Why online tests are not enough to figure out which type you really are
Part 2: Sensing vs iNtuition: common misconceptions
The whole MBTI community is divided between “sensors” and “intuitives”: not just personality types sharing similarities and differences, but two separate and incompatible worlds, depicted as monoliths.
Think about this:
- trusts direct experience
- traditional and conventional, relies on tried-and-true methods
- concerned with data, detail, facts and figures
- down-to-earth language, poor imagination
- stuck in the present or dwelling in the past
- deals with abstractions
- innovative and unconventional, challenges estabilished methods
- concerned with patterns, concepts, and theories
- speaks in metaphors, prone to daydreaming
- future-oriented, sees possibilities
While this is commonly accepted – in most cases – as true, it is also a big generalization that leads to mistypes and misconceptions.
Let’s start from the beginning: some tricky questions taken from popular online tests, fueling these stereotypes.
- You are definitely not an artistic type of person.
- You become bored or lose interest when the discussion gets highly theoretical.
- You rarely contemplate the reasons for human existence or the meaning of life.
- You believe that pondering abstract philosophical questions is a waste of time.
Of course, it’s quite easy to guess where the compass will lead. If your answer to most questions is “no”, you’re more likely to type as “intuitive”.
- You often ponder the root cause of phenomena and things
- You easily see the general principle behind specific occurrences
- You easily understand new theoretical principles
- You easily perceive various ways in which events could develop
Yes? Intuition. No? Sensing. Clear as thin air.
Apart from the simplicistic stereotypes, please note that these questions don’t focus on how your brain works – they are asking how you perceive yourself. And well… perception is subjective.
In our previous post, we already talked about the why and how online tests and stereotypes are misleading; now we will debunk some stereotypes tied to sensing and intuition and make an overview of these functions according to MBTI theory and our personal experience and reflections.
Well, forget about all these generalizations. Both sensors and intuitives are capable of abstractions, future planning, theoretical knowledge, deep understanding, and imagining things. Also both are capable of being pragmatic, practical and down-to-earth; even traditional. Many people are influenced by the environment they’re living in, the rules they’re taught, and their interests or personal preferences too.
Yes, there are tendencies: statistically, intuitives are more inclined to thrive in intellectual realms, while sensors – being the largest majority of the population, around 70% – are more comfortable with concrete matters. But statistics are not the whole thing, and “intuitives” are not smarter than “sensors”.
It’s a fact that a lot of sensors mistype as intuitives because of this kind of bias, but the reverse is also possible: many xNTJs strongly identify with practicality, efficiency, and factual knowledge as a means of achieving or improving something – thus perceiving themselves as “realists” (xSTPs, xSTJs?) – while xSFJs are more inclined to perceive themselves as “idealists” (xNFJs) because of their “heart over matter”, less materialistic approach to life.
As for xSTJs, a lot of them mistype as xNTJs because Si+Te is actually very comfortable accumulating and sorting out knowledge, improving systems and – alongside with Ne – creating efficient alternatives to established methods.
ISxPs are often mistyped as INxPs due to the creative potential of Se+Ni – or viceversa, when the INxP gets stuck in a loop with Si – and ESFPs can mistype as ENFPs because they don’t fit into the shallow stereotypes attached to them.
Now, to explain the cause of these mistypes, let’s take some examples from Sakinorva cognitive functions test.
- You are drawn toward the abstract and often obsess over meanings. - Ni
- You often use analogies and similes to communicate new ideas. - Ni / Ne
- You relate present experiences back to past experiences. - Si
- You cannot help but get hung up on small details. - Si
- You are described as "stuck in your ways." - Si
- You see the big picture in a sea of details. - Ni / Ne
- You imagine things that aren't directly connected to the real world. - Ni / Ne
- You are drawn to the new, novel, and original. - Ni / Ne
- You are unnerved by uncertainty and the unknown. - Si
- You follow a consistent routine. - Si
So, these definitions are slightly more accurate than the previous ones, but they’re still relying too much on approximations and perception of the self. We both know many Si-users that got high Ni (and Ne) scores, still mistyping themselves as intuitives – or doubting their type – because of these stereotypes.
Noticing hidden meanings and reading between the lines.
Both Ni and Si can do that, but in different ways. To put it simple, Ni grasps the “overall meaning” and the subtext without putting too much effort on analyzing the situation – but being able to explain these “hunches” only after some backwards reflection – while Si is good at noticing little details and inconsistencies that lead the user to a different conclusion in a more sequential and linear way, making connections through Ne.
Spotting trends and patterns, predicting outcomes.
Again, the difference lies in the process. Si does this step by step, thoroughly – and consciously – examining each element before drawing any conclusion, be it a prediction, the solution to a problem or the answer to an unsolved question. Ni, instead, will be quicker to “get the gist” of the whole matter and jump to a conclusion – they will “realize” the answer without much reasoning, because the process is unconscious – but will consciously make some additional effort to reconstruct the path that led them there, the why and the how.
Details vs big picture.
It’s not actually what you perceive, but what you perceive first. Intuition – be it Ni or Ne – has a big picture view, in both abstract and concrete settings, while sensing deals with measurable details, or data. So, the Ni-user will perceive the whole context first, then zoom in, through the eyes of Se, to see the evidence. The Si-user will notice the details first, then zoom out with Ne to see the whole perspective. As a general rule, intuition goes from the general to the particular, and sensing does the reverse: from the particular to the general. Neither of them are mutually exclusive: sensors can overlook some important details as well as some intuitives can be nitpicky.
Past, present and future.
Actually, this has little to do with cognitive functions.
Se collects sensory impressions in the present, often forgetting them, while Ni absorbs them unconsciously and re-elaborates them in the background (drawing conclusions “out of nowhere”, predicting future outcomes). Si picks some clues, stores them in memory and, combined with Ne, generates possibilities in the present and/or in the future.
Both can be past, present, or future-oriented: there are a lot of SJs who plan their future years in advance, and a lot of Ni-users who don’t make detailed plans for the future, because they are very conscious that things can change over time.
Inductive vs deductive reasoning.
Ni+Se = inductive reasoning.
From the end to the beginning. Ni’s conclusion will often come first, giving a direction to follow, then a reverse process illustrates the intermediate steps, double-checks and searches for evidence. Evidence confirms the theory or Ni generates a new one if the data are incompatible.
Si+Ne = deductive reasoning.
The process is linear, sequential: beginning – intermediate steps (research, hypothesis) – end. A leads to B, which leads to C, and so on.
Ne sees possibilities, picking the most likely ones, evidence leads to a certain conclusion.
Si+Ne / Se+Ni = from the known to the unknown.
Si’s knowledge and experience will help Ne generating new, unexplored possibilities and/or connections.
Se’s symbols become archetypal and gain new meaning through Ni.
Ni+Se / Ne+Si = from the unknown to the known.
Ni’s insights and visions are given “concrete” shape by Se’s symbols.
Ne’s endless possibilities gain meaning through Si’s subjective experience.
Ni works in patterns, so that most memories are impressionistic and tied to certain “moods”, “atmospheres” or connections rather than dealing with concrete details. Some of them emerge from time to time, focusing on the pattern, but they are often isolated or vague.
Si is often very detailed, and capable to recall past episodes with a considerable precision.
Not all Ni-users have short-term memories and not all Si-users remember everything – and both can place great importance on some memories – the difference lies in how their memory works.
What is true – in pills
- values accumulated experience
- learns by doing, by researching or by studying
- thoroughly analyzes things
- likes to figure out things on their own
- often formulates theories before searching for data to support them
- learns by “instinct”, absorbing informations unconsciously
- values kinesthetic learning
- collects sensory impressions “in the present”
- direct experience > theoretical knowledge
- generates multiple possibilities starting from a single point
- values breadth of knowledge, e.g. multiple interests
- learns by brainstorming and exploring different perspectives