Challenging Myths About Sensing Types and Inviting A More Balanced Dialogue In The Myers-Briggs Community

One of the most disturbing trends I’ve noticed in the community of Myers-Briggs enthusiasts is a bias against Sensing types. You’ll see it in comments from Intuitives about how they don’t want any Sensing friends because they couldn’t possibly understand us. It’s someone saying a fictional character is too dumb and shallow to be an INFJ so they have to be ISFJ (or insisting another character has to be INFJ because they’re relatable and imaginative). It’s assuming all SP types are dumb jocks who’d run off a cliff just for a thrill and all SJ types are conservative traditionalists who’d rather die than see the status quo change.

There was a similar issue when introverts finally started realizing they weren’t broken extroverts. In some cases, the introvert hype turned into an idea that introverts are better than extroverts, which is simply not true. It resulted in stereotypes being used to tear-down extroverts and build-up introverts. We’re still undoing that damage, but I think we’ve finally started to balance out and realize that introverts and extroverts are equally valuable.

Unfortunately, I’m not seeing a similar shift toward balance in how Intuitives view Sensing types, at least no everywhere. There are some wonderful groups out there (like Personality Hacker’s “Intuitive Awakening”) that insist on no Sensor-bashing while exploring what it means to be an Intuitive. But outside those groups it still happens. And even if we’re not staying Intuitives are better than Sensors, I wonder if the fact that there’s so much more material out there for Intuitives than for Sensors is still sending the message “you don’t matter as much as us.”Challenging Myths About Sensing Types and Inviting A More Balanced Dialogue In The Myers-Briggs Community | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Sensing/Intuition Numbers

70% of the population are Sensing types, but when you Google individual personality types only 19% of the search results relate to Sensors (that’s if my math’s right — numbers aren’t one of my strengths). I searched each type and compared the number of results that came back. Here’s the full list:

  • INFJ – 16,100,000
  • INFP – 15,300,000
  • INTJ – 13,700,000
  • INTP – 8,090,000
  • ENFP – 5,680,000
  • ENTP – 3,510,000
  • ISTP – 3,100,000
  • ENFJ – 2,270,000
  • ISFJ – 2,230,000
  • ISTJ – 2,080,000
  • ESTP – 2,040,000
  • ENTJ – 2,020,000
  • ISFP – 1,900,000
  • ESTJ – 1,890,000
  • ESFP –  1,280,000
  • ESFJ – 1,210,000

No wonder so many people mistype themselves as an INxx — we’re the types flooding the internet with articles about what we’re like and inviting people to identify with us. That’s great for people with those types, but it’s actually one of the things contributing to the anti-sensor bias.

One of the reasons that so many people online identify as INFJs is because there is just so much more, and so much better, and more in-depth content on INFJs. If every second article you read is about INFJs, it’s only natural to come to identify more with INFJs, simply because we relate more to things that we understand more.” — Erik Thor, “Have You Ever Thought That You’re Actually Just A Smart Sensor?

If you Google “INFJ” you get back about 16,100,000 results. Search “ISTJ” and you get about 2,080,000 results. That’s almost 8 times as many results for the world’s rarest type as for the one that’s most common. We can argue that it’s because INFJs need more support online since they don’t get as much validation in-person from meeting people like them. But don’t Sensing types deserve the resources to learn about how their minds work as well? and the connection of seeing their types positively portrayed and defended by people writing about personality types?

Challenging Myths About Sensing Types and Inviting A More Balanced Dialogue In The Myers-Briggs Community | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Photo credit: Rawpixel.com via StockSnap

5 Myths About Sensors

The real difference between Sensing and Intuition has to do with the mental processes that we use to learn about and perceive the world. That’s why it often seems like there’s such a fundamental difference between the two types. This preference governs how we craft a world view and it’s perhaps the hardest for us to see from the other’s perspective.

When you distill it down, the difference between Sensors and Intuitives is this: Sensors prefer reliability of information, and Intuitives prefer speed and depth of insight.” —  Antonia Dodge, “How are ‘Sensors’ and ‘Intuitives’ Different?

Someone with a Sensing preference has access to Intuition, just as an Intuitive has access to a Sensing process. But it’s not our favorite way to think and we don’t trust it. So sometimes when we see the people with a different preference than ours navigating their worlds using a method that we know doesn’t work for us, we assume there’s something wrong with them. But it doesn’t have to be that way. And if we bust some of the myths surrounding Sensors, we can take an important step toward truly valuing these types.

Myth 1: Sensors Aren’t Smart

You’ll find this claim scattered around the internet. It’s based on a fact that Isabel Meyers mentions in her book Gifts Differing: Intuitive types tend to score higher on IQ tests. Even if that’s true, IQ tests aren’t really all that good at measuring intelligence. And, as Meyers also pointed out, the structure of IQ tests puts Sensors at a disadvantage that has nothing to do with whether or not they’re smart. Sensors like to take in information through the reality of the senses, while IQ tests largely deal with implication, symbol, and metaphor. The tests are also timed, which favors types more inclined to trust an intuitive leap than those who double-check their thought process. IQ tests are biased in favor of Intuitives, but that certainly doesn’t mean Sensors are less intelligent.

Myth 2: Sensors Are All Good At …

Sensors have largely been defined by stereotypes, especially the SP types (I partly blame David Keirsey, but that’s a rant for another time). We tend to think that they’re all athletes, adrenaline junkies, artists, performers, or something along those lines. We equate being in-tune with the sensory world with being good at tasks that demand being in-touch with the body. And while Sensors can have an advantage in those areas, they’re not just automatically great athletes or gifted artists (nor are Intuitives innately disqualified from athletics and art). They’re unique people whose likes and dislikes aren’t governed by a single aspect of their personalities.

Myth 3: Sensors Lose Their Minds When Something Changes

We’re talking more about SJ types with this stereotype. They’re portrayed as traditionalists, the “Guardians” of David Keirsey’s type theory. I’ve seen Intuitives complain about Sensors holding back progress in society as well as having gripes with an individual Sensor who doesn’t “get” where they’re coming from. But a reluctance to change things just for the sake of change is one of the things that helps keep our societies stable (which can be a good thing). And given time Sensors are certainly capable of adapting to and embracing change once they see a good reason for it.

Myth 4: Sensors and Intuitives Can’t Be Friends

I’ve actually written a whole post about this myth, so I’ll just  direct you there: In Defense Of Sensing-Intuitive Friendships.

Myth 5: Sensors Are Boring

I’m pretty sure the Intuitives who believe this don’t actually know/have a good relationship with any Sensors (see Myth 4). Or maybe they’re just so highly Intuitive that it’s hard for them to recognize where Sensors are coming from long enough to appreciate their gifts. The ISxJs I know have a wicked sense of humor that only comes out when they’re comfortable around you. The adventurous ESxP types are so much the opposite of boring that we INFx types might even find their zest for life scary. I guess the main point of busting this myth is you should make an effort to really get to know several individuals with these personality types before labeling them all “boring.”

And One Myth About Intuitives

I hate to break it to us Intuitives, but having an “N” in your type doesn’t grant you some sort of elite status. This is another issue that I partly blame Keirsey for. He based a large portion of his theory for grouping the 16 types into four categories on Plato’s Republic. The NF types are therefore Plato’s “Philosopher Kings,” who play a moral role in society, and NTs are the Rationals “endowed with reasoning sensibility” (Please Understand Me II, p. 23, 118, 163).

Not only does this demonstrate poor understanding of Plato, but it pushes the Sensing types into categories defined by art-making and caretaking. There’s nothing wrong with those things, of course, but it gives Intuitives an excuse to think of themselves (and no one else) as intellectual and moral leaders for society. And those aren’t roles that should be determined simply by how our brains are wired.

If there was every a group of people that should be able to avoid “us versus them” mentality it’s those of us interested in typology. One of the core tenants of Myers-Briggs theory is that every one of the 16 types is equally good and valuable. The types are meant to help you understand yourself and appreciate the unique gifts of other people. Not to decide your type is better and turn against the other types. And I have great hope that we can all find a way to use our love for typing in ways that build other people up rather than tear them down, regardless of their personality.

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6 thoughts on “Challenging Myths About Sensing Types and Inviting A More Balanced Dialogue In The Myers-Briggs Community

  • Glad to see you bringing this up, about Sensors.
    Sensors have value and strengths. They focus on details and specifics. In project management, it is likely that Sensors will have a more specific and step-by-step plan on how to get from “A” to “G”. Inuitives could easily be so focused on some big picture end result of what they “envision ” that they overlook details (which Sensors are better at) and fail to develop any definite plan-of-action or specific steps to make it all materialize. So much for accusing Sensors of not being intelligent. Sensors could just as easily say Intuitives can be “airheads” or vague dreamers.

    Two very annoying things that are very wrong in the Myers-Briggs community (especially online) in my opinion is:

    1. Not citing any sources of where we are getting our information. People simply post and blog as if they were a Ph.D. in 16 Types and give no references, or mention no books. They simply spout opinions. I have two books I highly recommend: “Life Types” by Hirsch and Kummerow and the other is “Type Talk” by Kroeger and Thuessen. The other thing that is wrong in discussing the 16 Types is:

    2. Not questioning anyone else’s assessment or description of any individual Type. Is an INTJ REALLY “The Mastermind” just because David Kiersey says so in Please Understand Me II ? How does Kiersey know? Is his system really “Myers-Briggs” or is it his own system? yet, people repeat the mastermind thing on and on and on. Did Jung say so? Did Isabel Myers-Briggs?And are ISTP’s really all daredevil motorcycle riders who are good with tools in the garage? You would think so, from people saying it over and over, but where are they getting all this? Is just gets repeated over and over and who even bothers to ask?

    The 16 Types are fun to read about, and study. But writing an eBook with no bibliography or footnotes is hardly authoritative.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment! I’ll have to check-out those two books you mentioned. I’m always on the lookout for some good resources to read and cite! Dario Nardi’s “Neuroscience of Personality” is another good one that helps answer the accusation that there’s no “science” to back up personality types.

      Yeah, I have some issues with Keirsey’s theories, too. And while having nicknames for the types is convenient, none of the types can really be adequately summed-up in a single word.

      Liked by 1 person

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