In my last blog I introduced the concept of GLOBAL TYPOLOGY, a term I coined to describe “how personality type shapes the values and behaviors of groups and cultures.” Rather than focusing on individuals’ behavior, GT takes the macro view. And, because of the huge disparity in percentages between Sensors and Intuitives, America has a “Sensing Culture” which has a profound influence on almost every aspect of American life.
In this blog, I’ll share some dramatic results from a study I collaborated on with Truity, involving 40,000 participants, which presents strong evidence that supports this bold assertion.
Before you read any further, check out Global Typology Part One here.
What is the “Sensing Culture”?
A fact that has received virtually no attention is that there are almost three times as many Sensors as Intuitives in the US, and around the world. This is significant because the Sensing-Intuition dimension of personality type plays the dominant role in shaping peoples’ worldviews. Were the country evenly divided between Sensors and Intuitives, there would be no Sensing Culture. And, if the ratio of Intuitives to Sensors was 3:1, I would be describing the “Intuitive Culture”.
Before describing the Sensing Culture, I need to provide some context. Those of us who study personality type can easily reel off the many gifts Sensors and Intuitives bring to the table: Intuitives tend to be creative, resourceful, imaginative and great at coming up with new ways to solve problems. Let’s call them the “thinker-uppers”.
Sensors tend to be practical, realistic, down-to-earth, detail-oriented and consistent – the “get-it-doners” who find a way to implement all those creative Intuitives’ ideas.
Of course, both types have potential blind spots as well: Sensors can be so attentive to details and specifics, they miss the bigger picture or fail to “connect the dots”. And because Sensors’ focus is on the present, they may not consider future implications of their actions.
While Sensors are gifted at finding simple, elegant solutions, many problems are quite complex, requiring a broader perspective and a different skill set. And, while all types have the ability to imagine, this capability does not come naturally to Sensors. This can impact their ability to be empathetic, since that act requires one to be able to imagine what someone else is experiencing (as well as to be sensitive to their feelings).
Finally, Sensors (especially Sensing-Judgers) usually prefer the familiar and tend to resist change which takes them out of their comfort zone.
Of course, Intuitives have significant blind spots as well. Chief among them is their tendency to ignore important facts and details, and eschew proven, practical results in favor of newer, more creative – but often unworkable – solutions. Certainly, we would face some very big – but different – challenges, if Intutives were in charge! But because they comprise only about 25% of the population, they simply are not.
The Role of Temperament
There are four temperaments, popularized by the work of psychologist David Keirsey:
- Traditionalists (Sensing Judgers)
- Experiencers (Sensing Perceivers)
- Conceptualizers (Intuitive Thinkers)
- Idealists (Intuitive Feelers)
By definition, all Traditionalists and Experiencers are Sensors, so they make up the Sensing Culture. Traditionalists are the most conservative of the four temperaments. Because they make up almost half of the population, their influence on the Sensing Culture is most significant. In contrast, Idealists – the most liberal temperament – represent only about 17% of the population, which is why their values are often ignored in the Sensing Culture.
Please note: When I am describing the Sensing Culture, I am not talking about any individual Sensor’s behavior. Every person is unique and is the product of both their nature (inborn type) and nurture (parents, religious upbringing, socio-economic status, education, race, gender, the zeitgeist, etc.).
Liberalism, Conservatism and The Sensing Culture
An important finding of our research is that politically, Intuitives are considerably more liberal, and Sensors considerably more conservative. Two of many findings from the first phase of our study illustrate this quite clearly. More than twice as many Sensors than Intuitives believe that Donald Trump actually won the 2020 presidential election. Key demographic factors influence beliefs and behaviors as well: five times as many high school educated Sensing men believed Trump won, than college educated Intuitive women.
In the second phase of the research, we surveyed participants about several critical issues facing the country. As you consider how disparate their views are, keep in mind that Sensors make up almost 75% of the US population.
Three times as many Sensors as Intuitives, and twice as many Traditionalists as Idealists believe that the threat of Global Warming is exaggerated, rather than it poses an existential threat to the planet.
A substantial percentage of Sensors believe a strong military is needed to keep our country secure and that we should put our interests first. While a much higher percentage of Intuitives believe the best way to keep America safe is by developing strong partnerships with other countries. And there was a 37% difference in the positions of Traditionalists and Idealists.
Strong differences exist between how Sensors’ and Intuitives’ view race. By a substantial margin, Intuitives believe that the US has a long history of denying equal rights and opportunities to Black Americans and other people of color. And, that many of these inequities continue to this day.
In contrast, a similarly substantial margin of Sensors believe that non-whites who work hard have the same opportunities as white Americans. A 24% difference exists between Traditionalists and Idealists.
Regarding justice in America, a much higher percentage of Sensors believe the justice system treats people of color fairly. While many more Intuitives feel that the justice system, including police and courts, regularly discriminates against people of color. Once again, there is also a wide gap between Traditionalists’ and Idealists’ views.
Not surprisingly, Intuitives believe the country needs stricter gun laws to reduce the unacceptable number of gun-related deaths, while Sensors feel stricter laws are unnecessary and violate their 2nd amendment rights. Traditionalists and Idealists mirror these views as well.
The Global Pandemic
The two issues that demonstrate our acute polarization and dominate our discourse are vaccinations and masks. Many more Intuitives believe that everyone should wear a mask since they are proven to reduce the spread of Covid-19. And many Sensors feel that being pressured to wear a mask is an unnecessary infringement on their personal liberty. Consistently, the disparity between Traditionalists and Idealists is quite substantial.
The reluctance by a large percentage of the population to get vaccinated once again has a foundation in personality type. Substantially more Intuitives believe that in order to protect ourselves and others, all Americans should follow the CDC’s guidelines and get vaccinated. While substantially more Sensors feel that people should make up their own minds about getting vaccinated based on a personal assessment of the risks and benefits.
Predictably, Idealists favor the former, and Traditionalists the latter positions by a wide margin.
The Future of Democracy
Although access to voting by all citizens is at the very heart of democracy, it has become a volatile issue. Intuitives’ liberalism is reflected in their assertion that to ensure a strong democracy, we must make it quick and easy for everyone to cast their vote. While the much more conservative Sensors emphasize the need to make sure that every vote cast is legitimate, even if that makes it more difficult for some to vote. And once again, Traditionalists and Idealists are very far apart on this issue as well.
A Fresh Perspective on Why We Are Who We Are
My suspicions before, and conclusion after conducting this research: America is a very conservative country, and the Sensing Culture is the primary reason why. The Sensing Culture is not just some esoteric, irrelevant theory; rather, it is responsible for shaping the norms, policies and laws which impact every American.