7 Myths About Intuitives - Debunked

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on September 24, 2018

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!

Jayne Thompson

Jayne is a B2B tech copywriter and the editorial director here at Truity. When she’s not writing to a deadline, she’s geeking out about personality psychology and conspiracy theories. Jayne is a true ambivert, barely an INTJ, and an Enneagram One. She lives with her husband and daughters in the UK. Find Jayne at White Rose Copywriting.

More from this author...
About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.


Max Pierson (not verified) says...

" create a general path for getting there without missing anything important out "? Say what? The spell checker can't catch everything for you, just sayin'. Seriously though, thank you for a great article.

Walter (not verified) says...

I stumbled over this phrase on my first pass, too. For anyone else confused by it, "to miss something/somebody out" is a common figure of speech among British speakers that means "to fail to include something/somebody that should be included," equivalent to "leave out" in American English. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/miss-sb-sth-out

Max Pierson (not verified) says...

it looked like an editing error.! I thought the author had written "without leaving anything out" then messed things up when trying to change it to "without missing anything important".

Marfgirl (not verified) says...

Where do INTP's fit into the Intuitive spectrum?

I'm FiNe (not verified) says...

Regarding, "Not to mention memory, a key component of intelligence, which is a learned skill," I would offer for consideration that those with a strong, natural long term memory may have a limbic system that allows for such. See https://www.news-medical.net/health/The-Limbic-System-and-Long-Term-Memory.aspx for more.

The limbic system and emotional content aren't part of what the MBTI addresses (the cognitive functions, the cerebral cortex of the brain).  The Big 5/OCEAN/SLOAN may be tapping into this with the 5th dichotomy not addressed in MBTI, that which OCEAN dubs "Neurotic" and SLOAN "Limbic".  I do agree that most people can train themselves to improve their memories from their natural baseline.

Refuse to Give (not verified) says...

I get annoyed with people thinking that intuition is "magic" or something, or that it's an illogical process. INFJs aren't some superior, extra-terrestrial human beings. Sure we think differently and feel insane most of the time, but we're not some wizard with all the answers. We seem smart or different sometimes because our brains are completely overloaded with information and answers and opinoins flying around in chaotic disorder. Intuition is just a different way of processing and taking in information. Some people think I'm smart or deep but that's just because of what I like to talk about and how itense and poetic I can get about a subject. I am deep, but not unreachable. In fact,  I have often found it strange that people would think I am private or mystical. I'm so open about almost everything. I have come to realize that it's not that I'm not open or obvious, it's just that people aren't necessarily interetsed in observing or understanding me. I have more recently come to understand that I am in fact a complex person, but that is not important. It's just that a lot of people are on a different page, or sometimes, a different book. That's ok. I am mainly interested in intent and motive. You know...things that actually matter...

Vijay Sundarrajan (not verified) says...

Great Article. Just one tiny problem.

Natural Selection has not favoured Sensors. Not in the least. The fact that the vast majority of world shapers and geniuses in almost all fields tend to be intuitives, not to mention the fact that most hierarchies naturally seem to put high attern recognition individuals at the top seems to prove that statement wrong.

It is significantly more likely that Intuitives are rarer as it is a genetic trait that evolved later with an increase in intelligence during the evolutionary process. Not because sensors were better at surviving.

                                                                                                                Sincerely, an INTJ


Just someone (not verified) says...

To be fair, if Intuitives were so much better at surviving there would have been more of them at this point, so it can be reasoned that since Sensors are greater in number it's because of selection. Maybe sexual selection instead of natural selection?

Came across this (not verified) says...

In my opinion natural selection isn't at play here. Intuitives don't breed intuitives and vise versa. Two sensor parents could have an intuitive kid. There are simply less intuitive people, because it's less common. There's not more sensors because they are better at surviving. It's simply just more common.  There are benefits to each personality 

V N (not verified) says...

Well there are more sensors so natural selection favours them. If natural selection favoured intuitives there would be more of us. If there were more intuitives than sensors who will take care of the practicalities of living and surviving? Sure intuitives might be on the higher platforms in a heirarchy, but that doesnt mean "survival of the fittest" favours them. 


Mt (not verified) says...

Essentially you're getting at it V N. I believe the S-N spectrum is the most split of the four myers-briggs spectrums? I might be wrong but I think it is roughly around 70% sensors and 30% intuitives in the world.

Considering that humans have been around for quite awhile and these proportions have survived all that time, that doesn't mean that natural selection favors sensors. It means that natural selection favors a proportion of around 70% sensors and 30% intuitives in our species as a whole.

When something is not favored by natural selection it means it is dead, extinct, not viable for the current environment. So until the environment kills off all 30% of intuitives in the world, we will be just as favored by natural selection as sensors are, even if we are a minority.

Cheng Fang (not verified) says...

Also, if you observe our cousins, the other apes, or more distant relatives such as Cat family, they are ALL sensors!! 

Intuitives are uniquely human, and human evolution did not start at 50S/50N. We started at 99.999..% Sensor. To the 70% right now

Came across this (not verified) says...

Since intuition is unique to human kind, it can be argued that that is one of the factors that splits us apart from animals. And hence even when sensors are important to society, it probably comes more naturally and intuition could actually be something that has developed over time in all of humanity for its beneficial purposes. Perhaps a million years from now many more intuitives will exist, or people's cognitive functions in general may end up being developed in both s and n

ENFP Girl (not verified) says...

Mic drop!

Justa Theory (not verified) says...

In the near future, we may see an increase number of introverted intuitives stemming from this whole global covid-19 crisis.

Came across this (not verified) says...

I think it would be interesting to see how much of people's cognitive functions are actually impacted by circumstance. I don't think it will increase number of intuitives though. I just think it will develop sensors intuitive functions. But it won't make them into an intuitive. They will still be a sensor by nature

Dualta Lewington (not verified) says...

Belief is the death of intelligence. Thoughts contained within the confines of language forge a cesspool of neurosis.

Sincerely, an XXXX 

Sarah E McAuliffe (not verified) says...

I'm curious to know what the author's Myer's Briggs type is, please - if she doesn't object to sharing.

Cheng Fang (not verified) says...

F type for sure. 

The unsupported claim that all 16 types are equally valuable is blatantly obvious.

Came across this (not verified) says...

Would be interesting. Perhaps they are a J type. They seem very sure of their conclusions. Although not going to lie, I disagree with some of them and they seem to be missing parts of a larger picture with some of the points made, almost outright contradicting themsleves at times without realising

Came across this (not verified) says...

Could potentially be an entp just trying to wind us all up

Living in a country of intuitives where sensors are rare (not verified) says...

Most of our politicians are NF or intuitive feelers. INTJ and INTP women are not rare here as well as INFJs. Well, I'm generalizing here based on my observations. Most common types would be ENFPs and ENTPs with the boom of internet probably ESFPs too. But there are a lot of intuitives in our country. I would go so far as to say that sensors are rarer types here. It's because the moment we're born we were taught how to feel before we were taught how to think. How to give and stood up for our religion. At first glance, it was a perfect place for gifted and empaths where everyone were a little kinder and everyone are talented and open-minded. But because of this, we lost our tradition. Our culture is damaged if we have any culture left. We just cling and adapt to another country's culture. Our country is so disorganized and chaotic. The leaders and the people have vision but we lack the capacity to build and structure systems. We always try to solve problems by patching band-aids instead of digging up the roots and solve it. Sensors are important as much as intuitives are. If you could guess my country is then I just wanted to say that the world needed sensors as much as intuitives.

Cheng Fang (not verified) says...

For #1, using functional characters seems to be intentionally strawmanning the argument. Why not use real people? Most famous scientists, philosophers, and writers are intuitives, who only account for only quarter general population.

Leanna K. (not verified) says...

" But does that mean that Intuitives are more intelligent than Sensors? Or that they have above-average intelligence at all? Absolutely not (...) 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. " (emphasis mine)

....I don't know if you were trying to be serious or sarcastic here. Intelligence is the ability to solve various problems, with higher intelligence usually meaning being able to solve more complex problems. Here, you say that intuitives are not actually more intelligent than sensors, they're just able to solve "extremely complex problems" better than sensors, while sensors can solve simpler problems.

In other words, unless you're using a completely different definition of intelligence, in trying to argue that intuitives are not more intelligent than sensors, you're contradicting yourself by saying intuitives are better than sensors at something that necessarily requires high intelligence.

As for #4 and somewhat tying back into #1: there's a reason why, when they tried to correlate the MBTI to IQ, one paper found that the highest IQs were found in those individuals who had equally strong sensing and intuition, not strong intuition alone. By the way, the example you provided about top-down and bottom-up approaches pertain sooner to deductive vs inductive reasoning i.e. thinking styles as opposed to perceiving styles.

Came across this (not verified) says...

Wow I was going to say the exact same thing! A few of these various contradictions existed in the article. Like the one about intuitives not being deep. From my experience intuitives are very deep at times and that's an aspect that makes them stand out alot as an intuitive. This doesn't mean sensors can't be deep but in proportion to the number of sensors and the number of intuitves a greater number of intuitives out of intuitives are deep

It depends (not verified) says...

I always hear this statement about intuitives being deeper than or "very deep" compared to sensors, but a question always comes to mind: how exactly do you decide who is deep and who isn't? How do people decide who is "deeper" than someone else? How do you know that your perception and judgment of someone's depth is accurate and relevant i.e. the things you judge a person's depth by actually reflect their depth?

Also, are some people deep because they are intuitives or are they intuitives because we view them as deep? Isn't it maybe more likely that we may be unconsciously judging who is a sensor and who is an intuitive according to standard stereotypes about what intuition and sensing should look like? Especially since intuitives are supposedy "rare" so we're more likely to pay attention to what we see as "intuitive-like" behavior and attitudes. Similarly, isn't it just as likely that once someone scores as an intuitive on a test, we simply begin to be more attentive to signs that prove their "depth" whereas, when someone scores as a sensor, we are more likely to notice "sensor-like" qualities simply because we're primed to?

I believe this is also one of the causes for so many mistypes: since intuition is associated with traits everybody would like - imagination, creativity, depth, foresight and, yes, intelligence,, while sensing is mundane and is associated with very basic, mundane and, to many, boring traits e.g. attention to detail, rote memory, traditionalism etc., few people would every say "I'm a narrow-minded, stick-in-the-mud traditionalist and also a stickler for details". This is one of the major problems with the MBTI or, at least, how it's used.

Sarah H. (not verified) says...

Totally agree with the "Mic Drop".  I mean, I was like, wow, hit em with natural selection...touche.  Why are you so angry about this topic, though?  You're obviously, very intelligent and have a genuine understanding of complex information, but I could feel the agitation pouring out of this, one paragraph in.  

Part of the problem with "people" is that we are alwasy finding ways to work against each other, rather than with.  God has created us with a complexity so great, not every intelligent scientist, combined on earth, working together, could collectively identify the significance of each tiny aspect of that which contributes to our existence.  

Science continues to discredit itself, people continue to disappoint.  Bottom line, God gave each of us a gift.  Only He can help maximize it's potential.  You may have many gifts, even if you don't have God in your life, but gifts can either be used for good or evil (the damnation of free will), and if you're not consulting with God about your gifts, they are vulnerable to contribute to the darkness of this world.  

BF (not verified) says...

This was blatantly written by someone with a preference for sensing. The article reads like a defense of sensors. 

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