Personality Type Myth-Busting: Is It True That Only Intuitive Can See The Big Picture?

One of the ways that we often talk about the difference between Sensing and Intuitive types in the Myers-Briggs®system is by saying that Intuitives are big-picture thinkers who recognize patterns and think abstractly, while Sensors are detail-oriented thinkers who rely on sensory information and think concretely. Those descriptions are, broadly speaking, true. But it’s also important to note that this does not mean Intuitives always ignore details or that Sensors are incapable of seeing the big picture.

Your Myers-Briggs® personality type describes your preferred mental processes. If you’re an Intuitive type, that means you prefer to take in new information and perceive the world using an Intuitive mental function. Sensing types prefer to use a Sensing function when they’re learning and conceptualizing the world. Intuitives also have access to Sensing and Sensors can also use Intuition, just not as comfortably. (If you’re not familiar with Myers-Briggs® functions or want a quick refresher, click here.)

As with most of my myth-busting posts, this article is basically about not judging people based on stereotypes. Preferring a certain function doesn’t mean you use it exclusively. Having skills in one area doesn’t make you incompetent in others. Personality types describe how our minds work — they don’t limit what we’re capable of. Read more

Personality Type Myth-Busting: Are ESFP, ISFP, ESTP, and ISTP Types Live-In-The-Moment People Who Can’t Commit?

Most of us tend to oversimplify Myers-Briggs® personality types. Even the types we think of as more complicated and which some writers treat as almost otherworldly (like the INFJ) gets reduced to stereotypes. Some types are painted in broad strokes as boring traditionalist, others as logical geniuses, and still others as innovative daydreamers.

And then there are the SP types. They’re the live-in-the-moment adrenaline junkies and hedonists, who love to make art and party and never commit to anything. But is that really a fair stereotype? Or is it just as overly simplistic and unfair to these four personality types as are the myths surrounding other Myers-Briggs® types?

Roots of the Stereotype

When David Keirsey published his own personal take on the Myers-Briggs® personality types, he paid particular attention to the SP types. He’s the one who decided to categorize them together and labeled them the “Artisans.” He also called them the “hedonist” types and said they are looking for a “playmate” in relationships. Though he didn’t really use function theory to describe type, he mainly focused on the Extroverted Sensing side of their personalities to the exclusion of other factors.

This oversimplification of the SP types is one of the main reasons why I don’t like the way David Keirsey talked about personality types. He skips over their inner motivations (a problem that Lenore Thomson talks about in her book Personality Type: An Owner’s Manual) and leaves us with the hedonistic stereotype that has come to be so much a part of the definitions we use for ESFP, ISFP, ESTP, and ISTP types (especially the extroverts). Read more

Personality Type Myth-Busting: Are Certain Personality Types Less Intelligent Than Others

If you’ve done much reading about Myers-Briggs® types, you’ve probably come across the claim that Intuitives are smarter than Sensors. Or perhaps you’ve seen people talk about Thinking types being more intelligent than Feeling types.

Both of these ideas are untrue. They’re based on inaccurate stereotypes about the types and/or misunderstandings about the unique sort of intelligence that each type uses. In reality, every personality type is intelligent and no one type is smarter than any other. They do have different kinds of intelligence, though, and there are situations where one type might appear smarter than others just based on what skills the situation calls for.

Are Certain Personality Types Less Intelligent Than Others? | LikeAnAnchor.com
Photo credit: Marianne Sopala via Pixabay

The Problem of Measuring Intelligence

The idea that Sensing types aren’t smart is actuality based on something Isabel Meyers mentions in her book Gifts Differing. She said that Intuitive types tend to score higher on IQ tests. What people who spread this rumor miss is that she also pointed out that the structure of IQ tests puts Sensors at a disadvantage which has nothing to do with whether or not they’re smart. Read more

What Advantage Is There To Using Sensing Or Intuition In Myers-Briggs® Theory?

One of the hardest personality dynamics to navigate is Sensing/Intuition. Part of this is due to the fact that Intuitive only make up about 25-30% of the population. That can lead to Intuitives feeling misunderstood and marginalized. On top of that, because our Sensing/Intuitive preference influences so much of how we conceptualize reality, someone who doesn’t share our S/N preference seems even less “like us” than those who don’t match on the E/I, T/F, or J/P preferences.

An unfortunate side-effect of the challenges involved in navigating Sensing/Intuitive relationships is that there’s now a bias against Sensing types in many parts of the personality type community. The myth that Intuitives are intellectually superior to Sensors and that Sensors will never understand them is now widespread among both Sensors and Intuitives.

However, it’s simply not the case that Intuition is better than Sensing. Both preferences grant advantages in certain areas and disadvantages in others. Myers-Briggs® theory is designed to explain how our minds work. It doesn’t say one way of processing is better than another or invite us to make that judgement. So with that being the case, lets take a closer look at the advantages of using Sensing or Intuition. Read more

Why Is It So Hard For Sensing And Intuitive Types To Understand One Another?

I’ve been informally studying the Myers-Briggs® typology system for about 10 years now, but for most of that time I still felt confused about the difference between Sensing and Intuition. Though I’m usually pretty good at seeing things from other people’s perspectives as an INFJ, I’d have a hard time understanding Sensors. I had good friendships with Sensing types, and I’d protest when people in the Intuitive community spread hurtful myths about Sensors, but I got stuck explaining the exact difference between the two.

I think this is a problem that quite a few of us face. For myself and many others who I’ve talked with online, the Sensing/Intuitive dynamic is even harder to figure out than Introvert/Extrovert, Thinking/Feeling, or Judging/Perceiving. Someone who doesn’t share our S/N preference seems even less “like us” than those who don’t match on the E/I, T/F, or J/P. Our preference for Sensing or Intuition influences us, and how we relate to others, so much that most typologists say you should only date or marry someone who matches your S/N preference.

Of course, type isn’t really a good predictor of romantic happiness and many couples (including INFP Isabel Myers and her ISTJ husband) are quite happy without matching on S/N. So maybe it’s not a good idea to just assume Sensors and Intuitive can’t understand each other. Perhaps what we really need is a better grasp of the real difference between Sensing and Intuition and a commitment to using that understanding to appreciate the strengths and differences of each type. Read more

Avoiding “Us vs. Them” Mentality When Studying Personality Types

People like sorting themselves into groups with other people. We identify with those who share our political views, have similar religious traditions, look like us, went to the same schools, etc. This seems to be a normal human thing. But it’s an all-too-easy shift to go from thinking “I am like these people” to thinking “I am not like those other people.” Now we have an “us” group and a “them” group. And the slide into deciding that “we” are better than “them” is one that has lead to all sorts of trouble throughout human history.

Tackling all the “us” vs “them” issues in the world today is far too large a scope for a single post. But I do want to address how this mindset is affecting communities interested in personality types. If there was ever a group that should be able to avoid turning against people unlike themselves it should be those learning about personalities. Sadly, that’s not always the case.

One of the core ideas in personality type systems like Myers-Briggs and the Enneagram is that no one type is better than any other type. Every type has strengths and weaknesses and every type is equally valuable. That’s a central part of these personality systems. They’re designed to help you understand your type and other people’s types so that you can better appreciate the variety inherent to humanity.Avoiding "Us vs. Them" Mentality When Studying Personality Types | marissabaker.wordpress.com

But even though personality types are meant to help us better appreciate other people the opposite happens far too often. Introverts accuse extroverts of ruining the world and hating us. Intuitives spread hurtful myths about Sensing types. INFJs portray themselves (or are described by others) as otherworldly, quasi-mythical creatures. And the list goes on and on.

I’m an INFJ so I’m going to pick on my own type for a while. I’ve seen topics brought up in INFJ-only settings about how it’s completely unnatural (well-nigh impossible) for an INFJ to be racist or sexist or anything like that. We’re so much better than all those other types that so easily fall prey to attacking other groups of people. Oh, no. We’re so much better than those uncouth bumpkin personality types.

What precious little snowflake hypocrites we are.

I’m sure you can see the problem here. And using one’s own type as an excuse to turn against other groups of people isn’t confined to INFJs. People of any type can make sweeping generalizations about extroverts, or thinkers, or SP types, or any other combination of letters. And those generalizations are often both inaccurate and unkind.

So lets get back to using personality type systems the way they were intended. As a tool to better understand both ourselves and other people, and then to better appreciate them as well. Those of us within the type development community have the tools we need to move past thinking about groups of people with an “us versus them” mindset. We can use type to climb inside other people’s perspectives and learn to appreciate that just because someone processes information and makes decisions differently than us doesn’t mean they’re our enemies or our inferiors.