Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)?

Jeff Thoren, DVM, ACC

How Do You Prefer to Take in Information?

The second pair of psychological preferences is Sensing and Intuition. Do you pay more attention to information that comes in through your five senses (Sensing), or do you pay more attention to the patterns and possibilities that you see in the information you receive (Intuition)?

Order the MBTI Assessment

The Sensing/Intuition dichotomy of the MBTI addresses the following questions

  • What do you become aware of?
  • What kind of information do you seek?
  • What kind of information is important to you?
  • What kinds of things do you tend to notice, or not notice?

What Do Sensing and Intuition Look Like?

Take a minute and ask yourself which of the following descriptions seems more natural, effortless, and comfortable for you?

Sensing (S)

“Just the facts, please.”

  • You favor clear, tangible data and information that fit in well with your direct here-and-now experience.
  • You tend to have a mastery of the facts and a knowledge of what materials and resources are available.
  • You have an appreciation of knowing and doing what works.

Intuition (N)

“I can see it all now.”

  • You are drawn to information that is more abstract, conceptual, big-picture, and represents imaginative possibilities for the future.
  • You pay attention to insights and meanings and have a grasp of what is possible and what the trends are.
  • You have an appreciation of doing what hasn’t been tried before.

General Characteristics

Let’s take a look at some of the characteristics of people who prefer Sensing and Intuition.

People who prefer Sensing (S)

  • Focus on details & specifics
  • Admire practical solutions
  • Are pragmatic--see what is
  • Value utility: approaches that are useful and based on established principles
  • Live in the now, attending to present opportunities
  • Take things literally, at face value
  • Have a memory recall that is rich in detail of facts and past events
  • Like step-by-step instructions
  • Work at a steady pace
  • Prefer to perfect established skills
  • Like clear and concrete information; dislike guessing when facts are "fuzzy"
  • Prefer to stay with the valuable, tried, and true when considering change
  • Tend to follow instructions
  • Apply experience to problems
  • Need to be convinced

People who prefer Intuition (N)

  • Focus on the big picture and possibilities
  • Admire creative ideas
  • Are inventive--see what could be
  • Value novelty: approaches that stimulate the imagination
  • Live in the future, attending to future possibilities
  • Take things figuratively, looking for a deeper meaning
  • Have a memory recall that emphasizes patterns, contexts, and connections
  • Like to figure things out for themselves
  • Work in bursts of energy
  • Prefer to learn new skills
  • Are comfortable with ambiguous, fuzzy data, and with guessing its meaning
  • Are excited by future possibilities when considering change
  • May create their own instructions
  • Apply ingenuity to problems
  • Need to be inspired

Sensing and Intuition in a Veterinary Practice

Building on our previous example, while they differ in their preferences for Extraversion (E) and Introversion (I), both Katharine and Isabel share a common preference for Sensing (S). However, the practice owner, Dr. Jung prefers Intuition (N).

Katharine and Isabel prefer Sensing

Katharine and Isabel excel at using tried and true methods that use their existing skill sets and generally resist changes that don’t seem necessary. They would rather get their work done then participate in strategic planning meetings and their motto is “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

The technicians prefer to receive case management instructions in clear, stepwise fashion. They get frustrated when Dr. Jung supplies instructions in what they perceive to be vague, haphazard ways that lack specific detail and direction.

Dr. Jung prefers Intuition

Dr. Jung loves to envision the future of the practice and make constant improvements in processes and procedures. He can easily predict outcomes and see how changes will positively affect the big picture and the bottom line. His motto is, “If it ain’t broke, then break it.”

Dr. Jung is comfortable creating his own way of doing things without having to always rely on a standard protocol. So he doesn’t understand why Katharine and Isabel need what he thinks is so much unnecessary detail and why they want things laid out in concrete.

The Result

Conflict results when Dr. Jung fails to recognize all the specific details involved in making changes to the practice work flow and Katharine and Isabel fail to understand the big picture and long-term benefits of proposed improvements. The technicians feel that Dr. Jung spends too much time on “pie in the sky” ideas instead of concentrating on the issues at hand. Dr. Jung resents the technicians for their apparent disinterest in the practice vision and getting mired in unimportant practicalities.

Their differing preferences for Sensing and Intuition are causing difficulties and breakdowns in communication as one preference sees “the forest” while the other sees “the trees.”

Both the details and the big picture must be considered for the best possible outcomes in this practice. Once Katharine, Isabel and Dr. Jung understand personality type, these differences can become useful.

Self-Assessment: Do You Prefer Sensing or Intuition?

Based on your understanding of Sensing and Intuition, which preference do you think more accurately describes you?

The Sensing side of our brain notices the sights, sounds, smells, and all the sensory details of the present. It categorizes, organizes, records and stores the specifics from the here and now. It is reality based, dealing with “what is.” It also provides the specific details of memory and recollections from past events.

The Intuitive side of our brain seeks to understand, interpret and form overall patterns of all the information that is collected and records these patterns and relationships. It speculates on possibilities, including looking into and forecasting the future. It is imaginative and conceptual

Remember, you can and do use both preferences at different times and in different situations, but which one of these kinds of perceiving do you instinctively tend to favor?

Sensing (S)

People who prefer Sensing tend to notice and trust facts, details, and present realities. They like to take in information through the five senses.

Intuition (N)

People who prefer Intuition tend to pay attention to and trust interrelationships, theories, and future possibilities. They are drawn to the big picture.

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