S/N - Sensor or Intuitive

How we take in Information
By Pamela Hollister


The second dimension of behavior in psychological type theory is how we prefer to take in Information.

Each behavior is on a continuum with a preference for one or the other, the degree of which falling somewhere along the continuum. A person could be a "strong" Sensor or Intuitive, meaning they would fall completely to the far left or right of the continuum, or a person could be more towards the middle, closer towards the fulcrum on the continuum. The research says that we are, however, one or the other, not both. Even though we use both preferences throughout our day in the Information dimension, we don't use each preference with equal ease. Our inborn preference is our natural strength.

Sensors take in information through their five senses - what they see, hear, touch, taste, or smell. Intuitives take in information through a "sixth sense" - not on what is, but what could be. Sensors prefer facts to support their decisions and live in the "here and now." Intuitives take in information by seeing the big picture, focusing on the relationships and connections between facts. They are especially attuned to seeing new possibilities. Sensors tend to think in a linear fashion, one thought following the next, and Intuitives frequently engage in leaps of thinking. Sensors are more down-to-earth and Intuitives are imaginative and creative. Sensors often demonstrate their creativity by finding a new application for something that has already been invented. This is because a Sensor tends to rely on his own or someone he trusts experience.

Sensors are terrific at being able to focus on the details. An example would be an airline pilot. There are a myriad of dials and information to keep track of in the cockpit of an Boeing 737, not to mention the actual landing and taking off ability. And, when it comes to an emergency, Sensors respond with the training they have experienced and solve the immediate problem. Sensors, with their natural abilities to focus on facts and the "here and now", make excellent pilots.

Intuitives are terrific at creating marketing direction because of their ability to look at patterns of information and determine a trend. In 1992, a book titled, "The Popcorn Report", authored by Faith Popcorn predicted the rise of "Cocooning" (the stay-at-home syndrome), and the phenomenon of "Cashing Out," where men and women leave the corporate rate race. Faith also foresaw the demand for fresh foods, home delivery, and four-wheel drives, among many other predictions. Faith is an example of an Intuitive at work on a grand scale. With her unusual name and outspoken style, Faith Popcorn has become one of America's most controversial and quoted market researchers. Her BrainReserve company has served a long list of major clients, including IBM, McDonald's, American Express, Eastman Kodak, Coca-Cola, Chevrolet, Campbell Soup and so forth.

The gathering of Information dimension represents the greatest potential for differences between people, since it applies to our worldview. For instance, I am an Intuitive and a couple of years ago did some marketing for a civil engineering company. Most civil engineers prefer Sensing to take in information and when giving information relate it in terms of specific facts, numerical order and systemization. When the engineers I worked with gave me information for a project, my brain literally froze and I couldn't think until I translated the information through my Intuitive frame of reference. I needed to know what we were trying to achieve and the purpose of the project. Once that was clear, I was able to understand what to do with the facts and what information the engineers needed from me. And, I'm sure that when I presented Information to the group of engineers I was working with, my tendency to describe the big picture without the facts leading up was just as confusing to them. Sensors see the individual trees and Intuitives see the forest. Sensors spend a lot of time describing detail and Intuitives can become impatient with this detail preferring the "bottom line" approach to giving and receiving Information.

When Sensors and Intuitives recognize what each other needs in the Information cycle, they can be powerful allies. As members of a team, they can work together on projects creating both the long-term plan and handling the details with ease. When we work in a field that allows us to use our "natural strengths" we can be stress-free. Intuitives are the creators of a new approach, and Sensors are the people who make the idea work.

Team composition of personality types is important and in general, diversity and balance in team member personality types is needed to produce successful team performance. A Sensing team leader may be more effective in keeping the team on task. Intra-team communication will be more natural for the Sensor than the Intuitive. Sensing types perceive the facts and can easily organize their thoughts for communication to the other team members. Intuitives are terrific at creating solutions to problems. The Intuitive's natural ability at coming up with creative possibilities, future planning and marketing direction is a great strength for a team.

Entrepreneurs would benefit from understanding personality type and in particular the Information cycle. Entrepreneurs tend to be Intuitives and it's very easy for them to see the positive end results of the company they are creating without establishing the necessary steps of getting there successfully. (Where are the sales, orders and the money?)

When you factor in a knowledge of personality type into your thinking and planning, it becomes clear that all of us need each other for the wealth of valuable contributions we offer in our business endeavors, family relationships and friendships. In fact, our differences just make us that much more valuable for the information, point of view, and experience we are able to provide one another.

There are four behavior dimensions in personality type: how our Energy is focused, how we gather Information, how we make Decisions, and how we take Action. Information is the second dimension and all four are equally important. Having knowledge and understanding of our preferences in each of the four dimensions of our associates and loved ones can profoundly affect the quality of our life and relationships.

Sensors represent approximately 65% and Intuitives about 35% of the American population.

Pamela Hollister
Author, The PEOPLE Process
May 24, 2006