How to tell iNtuiting from extraverted Sensing
by Judy Robb, Linda Berens


Over the last four years, in the MBTI® Qualifying Programs, advanced programs and elsewhere, we found a disproportionate number of people who had reported preferences for the iNtuiting process while their behaviors seemed to resemble the Improviserâ„¢-SP temperament pattern.

This raised some questions such as: What is the relationship between temperament and Jung's typology? Can someone have one type and a different temperament? If not, what is going on here?

In exploring type dynamics and type development with these individuals, we discovered that indeed, most of them had preferences for extraverted Sensing. Thus the match between the Improviserâ„¢ temperament and Sensing and Perceiving preferences still held. While research is still being done on this topic, we want to put forth some definitions and some hypotheses.


The perceiving processes are ways of becoming aware. There are basically two kinds of information one can become aware of: concrete, sensory information or abstract, connections and meanings. Based on our readings of Jung and observations of behavior, we formulated the following matrix:


Perceiving Processes - Ways of Becoming Aware
What? Where and When?
Extraverted World
Here and Now
Introverted World
Past, Future or Universal
Sensory Content
Extraverted Sensing

What is

Experience the experience

Introverted Sensing

What is evokes what was

Images from past experience
or universal shared history
Connections and Meaning
Extraverted iNtuiting

What it means

Conceive from the experience

Introverted iNtuiting

What will be

Images of the future
or universal symbols


Both kinds of information are available at any one point in time. Those with a Sensing preference usually become aware of the concrete, sensory information - the content of the pattern - first. Those with a preference for iNtuiting become aware of the abstract information - the patterns of connections and meaning - first.

(Note: We chose to refer to the mental process of intuiting instead of referring to intuition, focusing on the mental processes, not types.)

Jung described each of the mental processes in terms of their attitudes. It wasn't just Sensing, it was Sensing in the extraverted attitude or in the introverted attitude. Functions used in the extraverted attitude have a here and now quality to them. Thus both extraverted Sensing and extraverted iNtuiting are in-the-moment perceptions. When we engage in either of them, our energy goes to either seeking more sensory input (Se) or to interacting to develop more ideas (Ne). In both processes, the focus is on the possibilities and opportunities. With extraverted Sensing(Se), the focus is on the immediate, sensory possibilities and options for action. With extraverted iNtuiting(Ne), it is on the envisioned possibilities, new ideas and meanings.

Functions used in the introverted attitude have a past, future or universal quality to them. Introverted Sensing has a past and sometimes universal sense with the focus on the evoked impression, usually of something perceived beforehand, or as Jung said, " would also see what was before their becoming and will be after their passing ..." (Psychological Types, p.395) Introverted iNtuiting is a process of becoming aware of what will be that hasn't yet been. Vision, foresight, and profoundly impactful symbols are often a result of this process.

How to tell the forest from the trees!
Extraverted Sensing - Notices the rich detail in the whole forest - the trees, their color and texture, their sounds, their smells, the pattern of light and dark...

Introverted Sensing - Notes that this forest has always been here and recalls being in a forest from childhood, smelling that smell and the fun of playing hide and seek behind the trees...

Extraverted iNtuiting - Thinks of the fractal patterns, the wide range of possibilities in the forest, how this forest is part of the ecosystem and is affected by polllution from the city...

Introverted iNtuiting - Recognizes that the forest is deeply symbolic of all of life in its interconnectedness and constant recycling and growth and foresees that this forest will soon be torn down for a housing development...


Sources of Confusion

Several descriptors used for iNtuiting misled these individuals to self-report on the MBTI® or self-select a preference for "N."

Big Picture - Many Artisans-SPs are interested in the big picture. They say they want all the detail, the whole story. One ESFP selected "spire" over "foundation," saying he saw himself on top of the spire seeing the whole picture.

Pattern - Likewise, most of these Artisans-SPs also indicate they look for patterns. Looking for patterns is different than perceiving the pattern first. The differentiating point is the starting place, not the ending place.

Extraverted Sensing and extraverted iNtuiting are holistic, analogic perceptual modes. In extraverted Sensing, the individual elements, like the trees in the forest, are seen in rich detail, all at once. Thus concrete patterns are quite likely to be perceived along with the discrete sensory information. This pattern is different from the abstract extraverted iNtuiting perception of the relationships and connections of the trees to the rest of the environment. Both pattern and big picture can be on a continuum from concrete to abstract.

Possibilities - These Artisans-SPs frequently respond to "possibilities" as an accurate descriptor. When we probed deeper, they described seeking opportunities for action, usually what to do next and what will work to solve a problem. They like brainstorming and coming up with variations on a theme, until the process goes on and on and on and gets too far away from reality. Those who prefer extraverted iNtuiting are increasingly excited by the ideas sparked in the process regardless of how far abstracted from reality. Both extraverted iNtuiting and extraverted Sensing focus in the here and now and on possibilities and opportunities. The differentiating factor is abstraction or concreteness.


Type Pattern vs. Mental Process - To understand extraverted Sensing, we consult those who have S and P in their four letter code, asking them what they would do, listening to their words and observing their behaviors. We frequently fail to remember that in the _S_P type pattern (hierarchy of functions), there is also iNtuiting. For example, someone with ESTP as preferences, also has introverted iNtuiting. Even though it is in fourth place, it is there. Those with ISTP have introverted iNtuiting as tertiary (following Grant's model) and as adults, probably have had much opportunity to develop and use it. The functions do not operate in isolation, but in dynamic interaction. Could it be what looks like extraverted iNtuiting is really extraverted Sensing, with an introverted iNtuiting perception of the near future? Could this be the attraction to "big picture," "pattern" and "possibilities"?

MBTI® Results are not equal to "True Type" - Since these Artisans-SPs have resonated to some of the descriptors for iNtuiting and reported themselves as "N" on the MBTI®, is it possible we have then reinforced "fuzzy" descriptions by assuming we were observing the behavior and words of someone with a preference for "N"? Also, it is well-established that the SN and JP scales are intercorrelated with those reporting preferences for S also reporting preferences for J and N preferences correlated with P preferences. Is the iNtuiting "preference" an artifact of the instrument?

In our experience, these individuals verify _S_P as their "true type" when we use the clear definitions based on Jung's Psychological Types as in the above matrix, Understanding Yourself and Others, An Introduction to Temperament, the Temperament Targets, Temperament Self-Discovery Descriptions and Alan Brownsword's Type Descriptions.

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