Sensor vs. Intuitive: A Deep Dive into the Differences

Sensor vs Intuitive blog cover

If you’ve ever taken a 16 personalities test, chances are you’ve come across the terms “sensor” vs. “intuitive.” But what exactly do these terms mean? And more importantly, what implications do they have for your everyday life? Let’s take a deep dive into the world of sensors vs. intuitives to find out.

Sensing and intuition are different ways of perceiving the world and taking in information. As you might expect, sensors rely mostly on their five senses to gather information, while intuitives look for patterns and are more comfortable reading between the lines.

Of course, it’s not always that simple. People aren’t 100% sensors or 100% intuitives. We all use both sensing and intuition at different times and in different situations. The key is to understand which preference is our strength and when each approach is most effective.

We will explore the differences in greater detail, but to summarize, sensors tend to be more literal-minded and prefer to stick to tried-and-true methods, while intuitives are more abstract and open to change.

Sensor vs. intuitive distribution

It’s estimated that 70% of the population are sensors, and 30% are intuitives. Both have their own unique strengths and weaknesses. 

Understanding sensors vs. intuitives can help you in your everyday life.  For example, if you know that your boss is a sensor, you can adjust your communication style to make sure you are sharing clear, verifiable information. Alternatively, if you have a friend who is an intuitive, you might ask them for help when you’re trying to figure out what someone really meant by their words and actions.

Now that we’ve explored the basics, let’s take a closer look at the key differences between sensors and intuitives.

8 signs you’re a sensor

Sensors prefer to observe the “real world” rather than think about the possibilities of what could be. They’re practical and down-to-earth, preferring to rely on facts and concrete evidence. Sensors feel most comfortable when dealing with tangible, concrete matters.

Sensors primarily rely on their five senses to gather information instead of looking for patterns and reading between the lines. They’re grounded in reality because their judgment is based on what they can touch, see, taste, smell, and hear. Sensors are more literal in their communications and focus on the details.

Sensing personality types are depicted by the letter ‘S’, which represents ‘sensor’ as their second dichotomy. The following personality types are sensors: ISFJ, ESFJ, ISTJ, ESTJ, ISFP, ESFP, ISTP, and ESTP.

Here are eight signs you’re a sensor.

1. You focus on the present or past.

Sensors are more focused on what is currently happening and what has happened in the past than on theorizing about the future. They tend to be highly aware of their surroundings and are constantly taking in new information. In general, sensors enjoy talking about current events and everyday topics, such as what’s playing at the movies or what is going on in the neighborhood. That’s not to say that sensors don’t look to the future, but they’re more likely to do so through a practical lens.

2. You are detail-oriented.

Sensors pay attention to the details. As a result, they can pick up on subtle physical changes that others might miss. When they tell stories, sensors often use details to build up the big picture. While this can be helpful in many situations, particularly when it comes to everyday life, it can also mean that sensors are more likely to be perfectionists, and they can end up seeing the forest for the trees.

3. You are practical.

Sensors are grounded and practical people. They like things that are useful and that serve a purpose. Topics or conversations that are unrealistic or too abstract can quickly bore sensors because they often just don’t see the point in discussing them. Instead, they prefer to engage in activities and discussions that are related to real-world scenarios. Sensors trust their experiences and that which can be observed rather than their gut instinct.

4. You like to take action.

Sensors enjoy doing things because it allows them to interact with their environment using their five senses. It gives them more information to trust and rely upon. They are often drawn to careers that involve hands-on work and perform best when they can see the results of their efforts in front of them. “Taking action” might involve doing activities alone, such as playing a video game, cooking, or going shopping. Sensors spend less time in their heads than intutives.

5. You have intricate memories.

Sensors have the ability to accurately recall the exact details of past events because they rely on the concrete information provided by their senses. As a result, they remember exactly how things looked, felt, smelled, tasted, and sounded. For example, when asked about a restaurant, they might remember a specific item on a menu that they enjoyed rather than a general feeling about the place because they tend to recall precise sensory information rather than the overall gist of a situation.

6. You are literal.

Sensors tend to be literal in how they communicate — they like to share information in a clear and straightforward way that gets to the point. They generally don’t use metaphors because they view them as unnecessary and confusing. They prefer to stick with direct language because that is simply what makes the most sense to them. When it comes to communicating, they’ll focus on the literal meaning of what was said rather than the implied meanings.


7. You have a linear thought process.

Sensors often approach problem-solving in a linear fashion. They like to break things down into smaller steps in order to arrive at a solution. Logically working through the facts helps them to make sense of a situation. They don’t like to jump around from topic to topic or take leaps of faith. Sensors need the facts before they can make an informed decision, and they take comfort in things that are proven to be linear, such as if you do A, then B will happen, and so forth.

8. You are grounded in reality.

Sensors are realistic people who like to keep their feet firmly planted in reality. They don’t spend too much time dreaming of what could be or envisioning far-fetched ideas. Instead, they prefer to focus on what is practical and achievable. Questions that are too theoretical or hypothetical can seem pointless to sensors because they feel they are wasting time discussing a scenario that will never come to fruition.

8 signs you’re an intuitive

Intuitives prefer to observe patterns and underlying meanings rather than focusing on facts and details. They enjoy contemplating ideas and trying to uncover the “deeper truths” of a situation. As such, intuitives tend to be creative and abstract thinkers. They naturally think about possibilities and what could happen in the future.

Intuitives enjoy discussing new ideas, theories, and abstract concepts. They often ask “what if” questions and can see the potential in various situations. They prefer to think about things from a big-picture perspective and have the ability to make connections between seemingly unrelated topics.

Intuiting personality types are depicted by an ‘N’ that represents ‘iNtuitive’ as their second dichotomy. The following personality types are sensors: INFP, ENFP, INFJ, ENFJ, INTP, ENTP, INTJ, and ENTJ.

Here are eight signs you’re an intuitive.

1. You focus on the future.

Intuitives focus more on the future than the present or the past. They’re always looking for new possibilities and ways to improve the status quo. This means that they naturally think about how different scenarios might play out, and they use their imagination to see the potential in everything, from people to ideas.


2. You prioritize the big picture.

Intuitives have a holistic focus and are less likely to be interested in the concrete details of the world around them. They would rather think about the overall concept and broader plans rather than the specifics. This can be beneficial in some ways, but it can cause challenges, too, if the practical aspects of an idea aren’t considered.

3. You embrace the abstract.

Intuitives see the world in terms of patterns and underlying meanings. They are often creative and are drawn to occupations that allow them to explore concepts mentally. Intuitives can quickly become bored with conversations about the details of everyday life, such as the details of what everyone did on the weekend. Instead, they prefer to talk about possibilities and theories. It’s not an issue for intuitives if something can’t be proven; they are more interested in the potential than what currently exists.

4. You like to analyze situations.

Intuitives have a deep desire to understand the world. If they’re interested in a topic, they won’t take it at face value. Instead, they’ll spend time learning more about it. They like to reflect, think, innovate, experiment, and explore. Additionally, intuitives like to take the time to consider and debate (sometimes internally) different points of view. This means that they enjoy thinking about ‘what if’ scenarios.

5. You remember overall impressions.

Intuitives tend to remember the overall gist of situations rather than the details. This is because they are most interested in the big picture concept, the meaning behind something, and the end result. They often don’t remember specific attributes. Intuitives store information in their memory in a way that is interconnected and easily accessible, which allows them to make connections between different pieces of information they have gathered.

6. You use metaphors and analogies.

Intuitives are more likely to speak in metaphors because they allow them to express their ideas more vividly. When they’re able to find the right analogy, they feel it can help others to understand their point of view. They also use metaphors to reveal hidden truths and explore complex relationships between things. By speaking in metaphors, intuitives are able to add new levels of meaning to their words.


7. You jump between concepts.

Intuitives have a tendency to bounce from one idea to the next. This is because their thought process involves intuitive leaps. From an outsider’s perspective, it might look like they are jumping from one topic to another with no connection, but the seemingly unrelated subjects are usually connected in some way for the intuitive. This can make conversations with intuitives somewhat unpredictable, as it can be hard to understand their non-linear thought process.

8. You have a vivid imagination.

Intuitives have an active imagination, and they have the ability to imagine different scenarios. They tend to spend time visualizing things that have never been seen before, dreaming of what could be, and creating stories in their minds. As a result, intuitives can often bring a fresh perspective to the table and think outside the box. Intuitives can also be great problem solvers because they are able to devise unique solutions.

5 real-life examples of sensors vs. intuitives

Now we’ve looked at some of the key differences between sensors and intuitives, let’s explore how these two types think differently by looking at five real-life examples.

1. Your friend cycles past you

  • Sensor: Notices the color of the bike and whether they have seen that friend on this particular route before.
  • Intuitive: Wonders where their friend is going at this time of day and ponders how long it will be before a new mode of transport replaces bicycles.

2. You take a personality test…

  • Sensor: Remembers experiences in the past where they’ve displayed relevant behavior and uses that as a basis for answering each question.
  • Intuitive: Thinks about what aspect of their personality is being assessed by each question.

3. You see a family moving house…

  • Sensor: Notices the specific furniture that is being loaded into the moving van.
  • Intuitive: Wonders if the family has experienced a major life event that has triggered them to move to a different city.

4. You describe your sixth-grade teacher…

  • Sensor: “He was called Tom. He had a deep voice and black hair. He taught at the school for five years.”
  • Intuitive: “He didn’t seem to be happy even though he was passionate about helping kids learn. I can’t remember what he was called.”

5. You give directions to the grocery store…

  • Sensor: “Walk three blocks, and when you see a house with a bright yellow door, take a right at Sunset Avenue. The grocery store is at the end of that block opposite the ancient oak tree.”
  • Intuitive: “Walk a few blocks down and take a right. It’s a pretty road. You’ll know it when you see it. The grocery store is at the end.”

The funniest joke in the world

The world’s funniest joke, according to a project called Laughlab by psychologist Richard Wiseman, depicts the difference between sensors vs. intuitives in a fun yet sharp manner. Sherlock Holmes is an intuitive, an INTP, while Dr. Watson is a sensor, an ISFJ.

Tent at night

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are going camping. They pitch their tent under the stars and go to sleep. In the middle of the night, Holmes wakes Watson up: “Watson, look up at the stars, and tell me what you deduce.”

Watson: “I see millions of stars and even if a few of those have planets, it’s quite likely there are some planets like Earth, and if there are a few planets like Earth out there, there might also be life.”

Holmes: “Watson, you idiot, somebody’s stolen our tent!”

You can see in this example how Dr. Watson, the sensor, is focused on the concrete details while Sherlock Holmes, the intuitive, is more concerned with the bigger picture. It’s worth noting that sensor vs. intuitive miscommunications aren’t always this humorous!

Sensors vs. intuitives in a nutshell

At the end of the day, there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to whether you’re a sensor or an intuitive. Both sensors and intuitives bring something valuable to the table. Sensors tend to be more down-to-earth and practical, while intuitives are more imaginative and visionary. You need a balance between sensors vs. intuitives for societies to function.

The key is also to find a balance between the two approaches within yourself. No one is purely a sensor or an intuitive, and you can develop the different aspects of your personality that come less naturally to you with time and effort.

Ultimately, understanding whether you are a sensor vs. intuitive can help you gain insights into your strengths and weaknesses. It can also help you understand why other people may see the world differently than you. So whether you’re a sensor or an intuitive, embrace your unique perspective and use it to your advantage.

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