Are you a Sensor or an Intuitive? How to Find Out

One thing I’ve noticed over the years of studying Myers-Briggs® personality theory is that a lot of sensors are getting mistyped as intuitives. This is kind of sad because knowing about personality type really can’t help you if you’re looking at the wrong information. Tests ask questions like “Do you focus on all the details or the big picture?”, or “Are you fascinated by possibilities?”. These poorly-worded questions are meant to determine if you have a sensing or intuitive bent, but any sensor or intuitive could answer yes to these questions because they all focus on details, some just focus on concrete details, some focus on conceptual details. Some focus on immediate possibilities, others focus on abstract possibilities. We need a better way of determining what types we are. Also, keep in mind that every single person uses intuition and sensing. We just want to figure out what someone’s first preference is.

Think of it this way. You have two hands. You favor one over the other, but you still use the other hand! In the same way, we all use Sensing and Intuition. One is more natural and more comfortable for us to use, and the other is more uncomfortable but we still use it daily. So which preference do you prefer? Sensing or Intuition? Let’s find out!

Not sure whether you have an S or N preference in MBTI®? Discover the real differences between sensors and intuitives! #MBTI #Personality

Not sure what your personality type is? Take our new personality questionnaire here. Or you can take the official MBTI® here.

What’s the difference between a sensor and an intuitive anyway?N and S in the MBTI: The Differences #MBTI #Personality

Sensing and intuition are both perceiving functions. These functions determine how you take in the information around you.

A sensor relies on his five senses the most. They think about what is happening in their immediate environment; what they can see, smell, taste, and hear. Sensors tend to be very practical, and they like everything they talk about and do to have a real-world application. They are realistic and grounded; more likely to accept things as they appear.  Because of their sensing nature, they are very aware of their environment, and what’s going on around them. When sensors speak, they prefer to speak in a concrete, literal way as opposed to using a lot of metaphors.

There are many varieties of sensors; some will be more logic-oriented (the thinker types) or values-oriented (the feeler types). Some will be more concerned with plans and closure (the J types) or an open-ended schedule and spontaneity (the P types). There are also two different types of sensing; Introverted and Extraverted Sensing. You can find out more about that here.

Intuitive types perceive the world less through their five senses and more through patterns and impressions. They are less aware of the “here and now” and more concerned with future possibilities and meanings. Intuitives are less concerned with what things are than what they could mean. They read between the lines and are abstract thinkers. They tend to be more conceptual than practical, and easily get bored with anything that lacks room for imagination. When an intuitive is speaking, you will likely hear lots of metaphor and comparisons and symbolic word usage. When processing information, the intuitive is less concerned with facts than possibilities. What’s around the corner? What does that mean? What is the relationship between this event and that event?

There are many different types of intuitives; the rational NT types, or the idealistic NF types. They can be more prone to being spontaneous and laid-back (NP types) or more fond of planning and closure (NJ types). There are also two different styles of intuition; Extraverted and Introverted Intuition. To find out more about these two different types of intuition, click here.

Some easy ways to identify a sensor or an intuitive:

Sensing and Intuition

  • Sensors tend to be practical and down-to-earth.
  • Intuitives tend to be imaginative and innovative
  • Sensors focus more on the present (today, this week) or the past than the future.
  • Intuitives focus more on the future than the present or the past.
  • Sensors prefer to talk about what is happening or what has happened. They are more concerned with the details and will have more descriptive or literal details in their conversation.
  • Intuitives prefer to talk about what things “mean” or symbolize. They are more concerned with the overall big picture and can gloss over a lot of the sensory details.
  • Sensors prefer to speak literally
  • Intuitives prefer to speak metaphorically.
  • Sensors will get bored more quickly talking about theoretical or abstract concepts.
  • Intuitives will get bored more quickly talking about day-to-day, practical topics.
  • Sensors tend to think, speak, and do things in a linear fashion. A leads to B which leads to C.
  • Intuitives like to start a story or project with the “big picture” in mind and then fill in with details as necessary.

As far as how these two types get along, sensors may really enjoy intuitives and vice versa. We can all get along and appreciate each other, but there usually is a tendency for us to see each other in a light that is clouded by our own preferences.

Negative Perceptions Sensors May Have of Intuitives

  • “Head in the clouds”, not practical enough
  • Unrealistic in their goals or visions
  • Too theoretical and ethereal
  • Difficult to pin down
  • Too many pictures or ideas and not enough facts
  • Unaware of their surroundings

Negative Perceptions Intuitives May Have of Sensors

  • Lacking imagination
  • Uncreative. Too focused on surface details
  • Constrained by the present
  • Lacking vision and big-picture focus
  • Too many facts and not enough pictures or meanings
  • “Armchair philosophers”

Are Intuitives Better Than Sensors? Or Vice Versa?

In a lot of typology forums and groups, you will hear or read biases. A lot of people ask, “Is it better to be a sensor or an intuitive?” But the truth is, neither are superior. Intuitives may think they are the superior types; deeper, and more intellectual. Sensors may think they are superior; more practical and focused on what’s really important right now. No preference is better than another. We need both intuitives and sensors to have a world that functions and progresses in a healthy way. Both types have their strengths and weaknesses. The intuitive can appreciate the physical awareness and detail-oriented nature of the sensor. They can appreciate their down-to-earth demeanor and rich memory of past experiences. Sensors can appreciate what intuitives bring to the table; a rich imagination, endless possibilities for the future, and deep intellectual insights. The sensor can help the intuitive to access their least preferred functions and have a balanced approach to life; and the intuitive can do the same for the sensor. Relationships and friendships between both types can be extremely beneficial.

Other Articles You Might Enjoy!


A Beginner’s Guide to Identifying Someone’s Myers-Briggs® Personality Type

How You Use Your Brain, Based On Your Myers-Briggs® Personality Type

How to Communicate Effectively with Every Myers-Briggs® Personality Type

What Are Your Thoughts?

Did you enjoy this article? Do you have any thoughts or insights to share? Let us know in the comments!

Find out more about your personality type in our eBooks, The INTJ – Understanding the Strategist, Discovering You: Unlocking the Power of Personality Type,  The INFJ – Understanding the Mystic, and The INFP – Understanding the Dreamer. You can also connect with me via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!

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  1. “Think of it this way. You have two hands. You favor one over the other, but you still use the other hand! In the same way, we all use Sensing and Intuition. ” This is a pretty important reminder.

  2. This was a great read! I’m an INTJ in a relationship with a ENTJ and it’s interesting because I fall more in line with Intuitive and he comes off very Sensory. This makes me want to retake the test, analyze and reevaluate.

  3. This is really impressive. But; perhaps i enjoy both Sensing and Intuition. Because i can’t figure which one is my dominant trait

  4. The dominance is an extremely important clarification, it’s a spectrum not a dichotomy. I like the analogy of handedness, from anecdotal evidence, like handedness the intentional use, although awkward and feels wrong, of the non dominant perceiving type can lead to an incredible betterment with the proficiency of the recessive type.
    For example, creative writing for sensory types especially in a fictional genre will increase their imagination, and for the intuitive, meditation or like being in the moment in a sport or manual activity (pool can be good training because in order to have a good shot you must concentrate on the present posture) both will lead to the intentional shift in type.

  5. It’s an ISFP and I get a lot confused over this topic ( lack of self awareness I guess) . But …… I guess I’m a Sensor after all

    1. Hi anonymous, I am also an ISFP with a strong intuitive side, I have mistyped as an INFJ and I love using symbolism in my artwork and metaphors and analogies when teaching Sunday School at church.

      If you look at the ISFP cognitive function stack you’ll see that introverted intuition is our third-strongest function, almost equal in strength to our extroverted sensing. So ironically, it’s probably your HIGH degree of self-awareness that led to your confusion on the matter! 😉 Hope this helps!

      1. Your comment is helpful! I’ve always typed as an INFJ but I’ve wondered if I’m an ISFP. It’s always been VERY difficult for me to decipher if I’m dominantly sensory or intuitive. I think maybe I was more sensory when I was younger, but have become more intuitive as an adult. It’s just confusing because I’m down to earth and very present-oriented, but I’m always looking for meaning and reading between the lines. I’m artistic but I’m not the best with details, but I’m not great at always seeing the big picture either. I speak in metaphor sometimes and love to find meanings in movies and literature and talk about them, but I also like to get to the point and be direct in a lot of my communication. I really feel like I’m equally both. The only letters I’m certain of is that I’m an I and an F. Not sure about the S/N or P/J. I just wish with these things (are you N or S dominant) they would give real-life examples to I could figure it out.

  6. I’m an intuitive and I definitely don’t have the the patience for facts and figures when I’m seeing a big picture. My sister is sensing and she grounds me with the parts of the whole and reality.

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