Sensing vs Intuitive

Sensing and Intuition, exploring the differences

The S-N dichotomy is our ‘input’ scale - ie how we each take in and process information. As Jung suggests:

The Sensation and Intuition…are perceptive functions, they make us aware of what is happening, but do not interpret or evaluate it.

interpretation and evaluation are the purpose of the Judging functions: Thinking and Feeling.

Sensing types prefer the known, the factual, the actual, the concrete. They are present-oriented and prefer a grounded approach taking in information that has practical application and may see concepts and theoretical models as a bit airy-fairy. Intuitive types prefer seeing possibilities, shapes and patterns. They like to ‘see around corners’ and will prefer information that has general principles and scope for change. They are future-oriented and like juggling possibilities and see factual material as a little dry.

Jung saw this scale as the process involved in becoming aware of something, ie how we take information in, process and access it and identified two kinds of perception: Sensation and Intuition. Sensing is a taking in information in a tangible, concrete way, focusing, according to Jung:

...on the perception of actualities...These are the fact-minded men, in whom intellectual judgement, feeling, and intuition are driven into the background by the paramount importance of actual facts.

Intuiting is a process of taking in information in concepts and visually, around future possibilities and where, according to Jung:

...actual reality counts only in so far as it seems to harbour possibilities which then become the supreme motivating force, regardless of the way things actually are in the present.

Sensing and Intuiting can both be carried out in either the outer, extraverted world or in the inner, introverted world depending upon our own orientation on the E-I scale.

Sensing types

  • Detail-driven, see and sense things
  • Lives in the reality of here and now
  • Breaks it down to practical steps and tasks
  • Likes factual, actual, the concrete
  • Practical and realistic
  • Dislike anything perceived as woolly

Intuitive types

  • Prefers broad brush, big picture
  • Is mostly future oriented
  • Interested in the new and unusual
  • Likes ideas and concepts
  • Does not like routine or practicalities
  • Prefers the theoretical to the practical

So we can see that Sensing types are, as Jung called them, “facts based,” ie they take in information in a sensory, factual, practical, linear way. If you are a Sensing type you will tend to be more grounded in your approach and you will need to understand the facts and focus on the actions. You will have a store of knowledge in you head, great at remembering names and faces and will want to use this knowledge in a practical way.

Anything that seems fanciful or ethereal will not really compute and you will want to translate concepts and ideas into practical working solutions. You will need to know the facts before proceeding and will be seen as practical and experience will be more important to you than the new or novel. You will solve problems by working through them factually and systematically using knowledge, experience and what is real and known, rather than what might be.

Intuitive types on the other hand like to see the bigger picture, the wider context for things and will be far more conceptual, future oriented and interested in seeing around corners, as opposed to thinking in straight lines. If you are an Intuitive type you will focus more on gut feel and impressions, seeing patterns and shapes in things and looking at the meaning behind, and relationship between things. Unlike the Sensory who will take in facts and details, you are more likely to jump around, looking at future possibilities and abstract theories bringing together lots of disparate ideas without initially knowing how they might fit together.

You will prefer the new, the novel to the detail and will far prefer coming up with new ways of solving problems to using experience or the ways it was done before. The facts and detail will be slotted in once you have an overall impression of the big picture and so in that sense you prefer to build top down, seeing the overall shape or pattern and using the facts to support this. Detail to you will be ‘impressionistic,’ ie you prefer seeing the connections and reading between the lines and you can get bored with purely factual information.

Sensors may see Intuitives as

  • Woolly, up in the clouds
  • Unrealistic and impractical
  • Overly complicated
  • Too theoretical and ethereal
  • Difficult to pin down
  • Too many pictures not enough facts

Intuitives may see Sensors as

  • Lacking imagination
  • Uncreative, focused on experience
  • Overly factual, resistant to change
  • Lacking vision and big picture focus
  • Jumping immediately to the task
  • Too many facts not enough pictures


If you are a Sensing type this determines the way you tend to take in and process information. You will prefer experience, concrete facts and will absorb data in a literal, more concrete way. As Jung describes:

The concrete sensation of a flower…conveys a perception not only of the flower as such, but also of the stem, leaves, habitat and so on.


So Sensing types take in and process information in a more linear, tangible way and you will tend to see anything more abstract as woolly which needs to be broken down into constituent parts and understood in a sequence, rather than in relation to each other. You will ‘sense’ the physical qualities of information, situations, etc and you will tend to process what you see in a linear way which allows you to separate it out and put it into a plan of action. You will tend to value experience and a more traditional ways of doing things, rather be attracted to the new and unusual

You will be more grounded in the here and now and the day-to-day physical realities, rather than the conceptual or abstract and you will probably be known for ‘keeping it real,’ dealing with people, situations and tasks with an focus on the facts an detail which is how you remember people, names, situations, by the specifics rather than the generalities, your recall mechanisms tends to be factual rather than impressionistic. You are essentially practical, preferring practical applications of knowledge and experience, and will tend to learn best by doing, immersing yourself in the detail, rather than by allusions or allegories. You will tend to prefer working ‘bottom up,’ ie grasping and understanding all of the facts before building it into the whole picture.


The "Intuitive" preference generates abstract possibilities from information that is absorbed. If you are an Intuitive type you will tend to prefer future possibilities, the abstract and the unknown. As Jung suggests:

Intuitives [do not] concern with the reality of things, but surrender themselves wholly to the lure of possibilities and abandon every situation in which no further possibilities can be scented.


So whilst the Sensing types take in and process information factually and in sequential detail, if you are an Intuitive type your preference will be to explore possibilities, the new, the untried, the untested and the novel. You will tend to build ‘top down,’ ie you will focus on the overall shape and patterns which are emerging and finally fit the facts around these. Your memory will tend to be more impressionistic, ie you will recall the impressions of people, situations and issues rather than the specifics. You will tend to be drawn towards the generalities and then move to the more specific later and your understanding of situations tends to be via a holistic insight rather than concrete experience. You like to understand the underpinning principles and general sense before becoming immersed in the facts and detail.

Your orientation will be more future focused and you will tend to get energised by new possibilities and new ways of approaching problems or tasks than using the tried and tested methodology. You like the essence of things rather than the component parts, which will only come much later when they are fitted into the total pattern to support it. You will prefer to join the dots for yourself, rather than being presented with the facts and your preference will be to be able to jump around in your own way when you learn or consider or take in information, rather than work steadily and systematically. You are far better at seeing the nuances and reading between the lines than following a script.

Engaging with and managing a Sensor, if you are an Intuitive

State the topic clearly and factually, don’t jump around and use concrete actual terms rather than analogies or allusions
Prepare facts and examples as Sensors prefer to take in information step by step using concrete experience
Present information step-by-step and sequentially rather than in abstract
Stress practical applications over theoretical considerations, stick with the known
Finish your sentences, as a Sensor does not like anything they would see as uncompleted or moving on before the present subject has been fully covered
Draw on past concrete experiences rather than focusing on anything new or theoretical
Focus on the here and now, the actual rather than the future as a Sensor will have to build step by step

Engaging with and managing an Intuitive, if you are a Sensor

Talk about implications and bigger picture outcomes rather than the here and now
Talk about possibilities, don’t get them bogged down in detail as the Intuitive will switch off if there are no possibilities
Use analogies and metaphors rather than facts, figures and details as the Intuitive will want to see the whole before slotting detail in afterwards
Brainstorm options and possibilities to keep the conversation moving forward and interesting for the Intuitive
Engage their imaginations rather than bombard them with facts, as the Intuitive will prefer to look broadly
Don’t overwhelm them with details try and skim over especially initially so that they ‘get’ the overarching picture rather than focus on the details
Make the conversation big picture and future-oriented so that the Intuitive gets excited and not bogged down