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Is Sensing and iNtuiting a “how” or a “what” when it comes to making decisions?

November 25, 2013| By

In personality typing and the MBTI®, there are four pairs of preference alternatives.  We tend to favor one preference within the category over another.  The MBTI® is an assessment tool to uncover what those favored preferences are.  After you’ve taken the MBTI®, you will be provided with a 4-letter type name, with one letter coming from each pair.  My type happens to be ENFJ.


Extraversion (“E”) and Introversion (“I)
Sensing (“S”) and iNtuiting (“N”)
Thinking (“T”) and Feeling (“F”)
Judging (“J”) and Perceiving (“P”)

To get a deeper understanding of type, check out the slideshow “About Personality Typing”.  Most experts in type accept that:

E and I describe “the way people prefer to interact with the world”.
S and N describe “the way people prefer to gather data”.
T and F describe “the way people prefer to make decisions”.
J and P describe “the way people prefer to orient their lives”

These are just a simple description of the categories as a way of discussing them.  And each preference has many characteristics, only a few of which I’ll touch on here.  Extraverts are energized by people and those things outside of themselves, whereas Introverts find their energy and stimulation of thoughts from within.  Sensors are interested in the here-and-now, collecting facts and data.  iNtuitives are interested in what-might-be, ideas, and possibilities.  Thinkers make decisions using logic and analysis whereas Feelers make decisions, looking for harmony and the effect on people.  Judgers are structured and organized, whereas Perceivers are flexible and spontaneous.  Judgers want to make the decision and move on.  Perceivers don’t mind staying in the process of collecting the data rather than making a final decision.

I’ve struggled with Sensing and iNtuiting being referred to as “how people gather information” even though that is part of it.  Sensors literally gather facts through the five senses, but also through memories and traditions.  iNtuitives collect information more based on the possibilities that are elicited by either what they see or what they think about.

But the purpose of Sensing and iNtuiting is to provide information to the Thinking and Feeling preferences so they can make a decision.  As I share in my new book, “To Eat or Not to Eat, That Is the Question”, the root of all our behaviors is the making of decisions.  They can range from the simple (“What am I going to have for breakfast this morning?”) to the complex (“Should I take that job offer?”).  With that in mind, it’s less important “how” Sensing and iNtuiting gather information than “what” information they gather.

And the fact that iNtuiting often must get ideas stimulated from the surrounding environment, which does require the use of one’s senses, I question this category being referred to as “how they gather information”.  Thinking and Feeling, the decision-making preferences, don’t care how the information was collected and derived, only that they have something to work with in making the decision.  It’s really the “what” that’s important.

I’d love to hear from others in the type community as to whether you’ve wrestled with this thought before and what you’ve come up with.

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