Perception is the lens you use to take in information. Carl Jung identified two types of perception, sensing and intuition. To illustrate these differences to college students during a workshop, I used this classic photo of dogs playing poker. I asked the students to study the picture for a minute, then write down what they saw in this picture. The results were amusing, informative, and an effective way to illustrate the differences in preference.
When an individual has a preference for sensing, they tend to look at the facts and use the 5 senses to gather information. Perceptions tend to be in the moment and a reflection of what is or was present at the time of the observation. Those that prefer intuition, tend to see patterns and connections and often use one or two details as a springboard for other perceptions that aren’t actually there.
Here are some examples:
One student had an astounding recollection of the factual details of this photo. He noted that:
“There were 7 dogs at the table playing poker. The table was green velvet and the walls were bluish grey. A red lamp hung over the table and the clock on the wall showed just past 2 o’clock. There was a painting on the wall with a yellowish frame. One dog was handing another dog a card under the table.”
This student had a preference for sensing and was in fact, an ISTJ. The dominant function for an ISTJ is introverted sensing. This type has a real strength in noticing and storing factual details. It may be details that they have observed or it may be something they have come across in their reading. All sensing types tend to be naturally adept at noting and working with details.
The individual who prefers intituion, on the other hand, will tend to riff off of what is present into a very different type of description:
“The dogs are playing poker. One of them is cheating. Maybe they are going to share the winnings after the game. I wonder if their wives approve of them gambling and staying out all night? Do they do this every Saturday night and leave them at home? I wouldn’t stand for that.”
This student had a preference for ENFP and was in fact, the other student’s type opposite (meaning they had no letters or preferences in common). This dominant function for this personality type is extraverted intuition. This type has a strength for seeing patterns, brainstorming, and imagining possibilities. All types that share a preference for intuition tend to be naturally adept at weaving connections together or seeing information in a new way.
So which type is better? The answer is both. In certain situations, the sensing types will perform better, on the whole, and in other situations the intuitives will shine. A good example of this is my mother and I. Her type is ESFJ so she prefers sensing. She worked in the operating room for many years measuring blood gasses for open heart surgery. She needed to be precise and factual with her work. There was no “it could be this or maybe that.” It was what it was.
On the other hand, my personality type is ENFP. My occupational choices have centered around possibilities, particularly surrounding uncovering the personal potential in others. Individual facts are less important than blending concepts and seeing something that may not be readily apparent.
Finally, it must be noted that every individual can and does use both of these preferences. However you tend to prefer one style over the other. When you know your preference, it can be a powerful tool in assessing career choices and understanding communication between others. It can inform all kinds of life choices and define how you tend to approach problem solving. Last but certainly not least, it can help you appreciate the contributions of others who see the world very differently than you do.