When you're super creative and inventive, must you always be an Intuitive in the parlance of Myers and Briggs? Does seeing the big picture mean you're too abstract to survive in the real world? And if there were no Intuitives, would we really still be using stone tools?
We have separated the wheat from the chaff and identified some classic "N vs S" hogwash so you don't have to. Here are seven pesky myths about Intuition debunked.
#1: Intuitives are More Intelligent Than Sensors
What do Professor Moriarty, Hannibal Lecter, Clara Oswald, Gandalf the Grey, Lord Voldemort, Josephine March and Atticus and Scout Finch have in common (besides being fictional characters)? That's right, they're all Intuitives. And they all are smarter than the average bear. When Hollywood or authors want a character with the amplified characteristics of intelligence, they usually make them an "N." That's NT if they're smart and superior; NF if you need a side of vulnerable to go with the smarts.
Now, I'm not going to argue that well-developed intuition processes – which boil down to the ability to spot patterns in random pieces of information – are not a factor in intelligence because they are. Most Intuitives can pull back from the trenches and are good at relating small pieces of data into a whole. But does that mean that Intuitives are more intelligent than Sensors? Or that they have above-average intelligence at all? Absolutely not.
Some research suggests that Intuitives perform better at IQ tests than Sensors, but as these tests measure only your ability to pass the test, and the tests themselves appear to be designed by Intuitives for Intuitives, that doesn't tell us very much. Overall, Intuitives tend to beat Sensors when it comes to solving extremely complex problems, but Sensors get a bunch of simpler problems done far more efficiently than an Intuitive ever could. The fact is, Sensors don't waste their time on abstract theory when they could be spitting out answers that actually amount to something. Natural selection seems to favor this approach as there are three times as many Sensors in the world.
In reality, no personality type is smarter than another. You would be hard-pressed to find a correlation between N/S and intelligence in the broader sense, when such factors as focus (TJs win!), empathy (Fs win!), direct experience (SJs win!), soundness of understanding (Ss win!) and bodily kinesthetic smarts (SPs win!) come into play. Not to mention memory, a key component of intelligence, which is a learned skill.
#2: Intuitives are Creative Mystical Snowflakes
The dictionary definition of intuition is "the ability to understand something instinctively without the need for conscious reasoning." And it's true that Intuitives do make decisions based on hunches or gut instinct. We often "know" something without being sure of how we know it. To an Intuitive, all this really means is we're never quite sure where the answer came from. You try explaining your workings on the test paper when your brain just does the problem, spews out an answer and is done with it!
Google "intuition," however, and you'll uncover a bunch of word associations that take intuition to a whole new realm of Spidey senses – my favorite stomach-churners include "inner voice," "solitude," "mindfulness," "spirituality" and "letting go of negative emotions." The world seems determined to imbue intuition with some kind of otherworldliness. And it's these associations that have led some to believe that Intuitives are universally creative; that we exist "outside the box" and are able to pluck ideas from fresh air.
Sorry to wreck the mystical party, but we're not all sensitive artist types who can change the world with the stroke of a brush or a pen!
In fact, the actual artists of the 16 personalities tend to be observer-doers: SPs. When Intuitives get creative, it tends to be in the left-brained sense of exploring theory, non-linear problem solving, creating new solutions and so on. Only rarely will an Intuitive pluck something from nothing. Most of the time, they just join the dots on information that's already there. It's a type of creativity for sure, but no more "special snowflake" than any other type.
#3: Intuitives are Really Forward Thinking
There's no doubt that INTJs, ENTJs, INFJs and ENFJs love to make lists about all the myriad things they want to achieve in their lives. Writing it down as a type of life manifesto makes all their ambitions seem tangible; it gives the structure-loving Judger-Intuitive a sense of direction towards achieving her dreams. I know that I make life plans as a way of protecting the things that I care about. I like to role play where my life might be in five, 10 or 20 years time so I can create a general path for getting there without missing anything important out.
But ..........Intuitives are not the only personalities to think about the future, and not every Intuitive thinks about the future in the same way. ISFPs, for example, are incredibly pensive and will analyze all their future options carefully before making a decision – this deep level of future analysis causes many to mistype as Intuitive. Introverted Intuition (Ni) is by definition more future-focused than Ne, which means that ENTPs and ENFPs tend to be more apathetic about the future than, say, an INFJ. Perceivers generally are much more responsive to external stimuli than Judgers, which places NP types firmly in the here and now as they skillfully react to changing circumstances.
So, while Intuition is associated with forward thinking and futurism, it is not the same experience for all Intuitive types.
#4: Intuitives Cannot See the Trees for the Wood
Intuitive types will naturally look at the big picture and most will get very tired, very quickly if they are forced to focus on the itty-bitty details. But seriously, most of us learn pretty quickly that you can't accomplish any task to an acceptable standard without focusing on the details. No one ever got a degree without turning in their assignments, and no one ever built a business just by having an idea!
By the same token, Sensors cannot get a degree just by memorizing the facts. There's got to be a sense of how the facts fit together so they can construct a larger thesis around the data sets. Which is another way of saying, all types have both the big picture and the details within their comfort zone. The only difference is where you start. Intuitives tend to work from the top down – they figure out how the machine works before they understand the purpose of the individual components. Sensors work from the bottom-up – they like to know how each of the components work before they can understand the machine. The end result is the same.
#5: Intuitives are More Likely to Live and Let Live
I think this myth has arisen from a direct comparison between Rationals (NTs) and Idealists (NFs), our two Intuitive temperaments, and Guardian (SJ) types. Guardians tend to be very focused on credentials and tradition – they like to preserve the order of things and understand where people fit into the authority structure. Rationals and Idealists, by contrast, often feel that there's too much order in the world; that better things could be achieved if we just allow people be people. But that doesn't mean that they won't judge you!
Extraverted Thinkers (that's ESTJ and ENTJ) make objective judgments about things and people all the time. While ESTJs are more likely to form judgments based on traditional values, ENTJs are just as likely to be dismissive, flippant or superior about someone based on their own identification of your character flaws. Since an ENTJ is confident enough to trust her own judgement, she's not likely to waste effort on someone who doesn't display the characteristics she finds valuable.
Then there are the Introverted Feelers, ISFPs and INFPs. These personalities make lasting judgments within 20 seconds of meeting someone, based on their personal values, and they can get competitive about it, too. These types may seem laid back and easy going, but the lived experience is one of suspicion and comparison. So, to live and let live? It's just not part of Intuitive makeup. When it comes to being judgmental about people, other factors are at play.
#6: We're DEEP, Man
The thread here seems to be that Intuitives live in their heads waxing lyrical about philosophy all day, so they're much deeper than the mindless Sensor drones who just get on with the act of living and chit-chatting about the weather.
So you reckon that Ernest Hemingway (ESTP) was superficial and couldn't intellectualize? Or that droning on about random possibilities based on some ill-informed hunch is in any way deep – or even intelligible? Clearly, this is all just pretentious BS.
Intuitives aren't deep; they just think and process information differently. A significant part of what some misinterpret as "deep" actually is an Intuitive just entertaining himself with tangents and speculations about an interesting topic; it's no more objectively intellectual or bookish than a Sensor providing his own brand of insight – one that is real and honest and based on experience.
#7: We Have a Superiority Complex
I'm not going to debunk this one because it's a teensy bit true – although it's fair to say the superiority is less about having an Intuition preference and more about being the outsider group. The world is split into roughly one quarter Intuitive, three-quarters Sensing. Growing up surrounded by people who don't value your skills can be isolating. You feel wrong, like it's your fault no one gets you.
Then, you take a personality quiz and realize there's an actual reason why you've felt so alienated by the majority of people. You're not crazy...you're just not them. Like any outsider who suddenly finds a clan, there tends to be an attitude of "we're rare persecuted geniuses and secretly so much better than them." It's an unfair reaction, but an understandable one.
It's also a two-way street: Intuitives can have a superiority complex towards Sensors and Sensors can have a serious superiority complex towards Intuitives. We all possess an ego that likes to exalt and protect itself, so of course our type is better/ smarter/ more attractive to the opposite sex. Show me a human who isn't guilty of self-serving bias and fundamental attribution error, and I'll show you a liar.
Ironically, we all know the truth. We all understand that the 16 types are equal and all traits are equally valuable. It's just, when your boss insists you proofread a 20-page report you find it harder to value that skill than coming up with the idea for a ground-breaking report in the first place. So, you might devalue one of your Sensing colleagues who excels at that stuff. Yes, we know we shouldn't be thinking this. We just have trouble with it sometimes!