Myers-Briggs for Children: Intuitive versus Sensory

As I said yesterday, kids usually have one of Intuitive, Sensory, Thinking, or Feeling – one of the four “middle” Myers-Briggs codes – as their dominant trait. Certainly by the time your child is three or four years old, you should be able to pick out the one of these four that they display most often. At ages four, six, and eight, all three of my kids are pretty easy to call.

Today I’ll talk about Intuitive versus Sensory. This aspect is about how you take in and process information. Intuitives look at the big picture; sensory people are all about the details. Intuitive types use their internal feelings to draw conclusions, fantasize about the future, or read into the actions of others; sensitive types rely on their five senses and concrete facts from their environment to figure things out. You might think of this one as those with practical natures versus the dreamers. As my friend Lee Ann put it to me once, shown a painting and asked what they see, a sensory person might say, “A girl, a horse, an apple, some woods,” while an intuitive person might say, “Wow, that cloud is shaped just like a bird! Is it a secret message?.” Sensory people tend to be very literal; intuitives tend to be more inventive storytellers.

I have one sensory-dominant child, and that’s Little Miss Sunshine. She loves nothing more than to have her five senses stimulated. She likes having her hair brushed or her back rubbed. At the park, her favourite activity is rolling around in the sand, letting it pour over her hands, feet, head. She adores anything sparkly, bright coloured, shiny, and has a huge collection of jewels/beads/tiny toys to prove it – oh yes, she’s a gatherer and a collector. She loves music or things that make a jingly sound and she can’t get enough of water – pouring it, splashing in it, spraying it. She wants to touch and feel and experience everything.

She’s also amazing at recording every detail of a scene. If I move a picture frame or a knickknack, she’s ON IT – she’ll notice in seconds. She’s a savant at those I Spy books – she can spot the smallest item in record time, and always remembers exactly where everything is the minute we come back to the same page. On the down side, she’s sensitive to loud noises and nervous about tasting new things – everything seems to be painted in bolder colours for her. She prefers routines and to follow steps the same way every time – she’s not too flexible, because when something in her environment changes, that involves a lot of thinking and processing and realigning of thoughts for her. She’s most comfortable when the world follows a predictable set of rules.

Gal Smiley is my one kid that has intuition as a Myers-Briggs trait. She’s my flexible child – able to go with the flow, adapt to things as they come up. She’s my ideas gal – whenever I say no, she’s got a million workarounds, a thousand ways to make it happen. Don’t even think of telling her she’ll have to wait a few minutes for a cup of juice – she’ll never believe that she’s too little to get it herself. Sometimes that’s a good thing – she’s very independent – but sometimes it’s a bad thing, as she is only capable of imagining a happy outcome, and things don’t always work out the way she envisioned.

Repeated patterns get boring for her – she needs new stimulation. She’s a creator – her artwork output is staggering. And it’s more about the process than the end result – she’ll often come back to something she drew months ago and decide to add more, or change things around, or cut it up and use it for something else. She’s not good at sticking to a timetable or paying close attention to what is going on around her – she’s so easily distracted – but she’s great at synthesizing different ideas into one theory, or at instinctively answering a question without being fully aware of the steps she used to get there.

Know how a few years ago they introduced the idea of “whole word” reading, as opposed to the more traditional sounding-out of words piece by piece? I wonder if that is an N/S thing – the Captain, a sensory child, is a sounder-outer (the more rules the better – give me a framework to apply), while the Gal, an intuitive, likes whole word recognition (I’ll just use the picture to guess at these words, and if I’m wrong, just tell me already, so I can move on to something more creative).

I find that knowing about this code helps me know which kids can handle a last minute schedule change (the Gal), versus those that need a LOT of warning (Little Miss and the Captain). And it helps me have more patience with two of my children’s desire to collect stuff, a LOT of stuff, while the other kid creates piles and piles of artwork daily (producers of Clean Sweep, call me!). And it helps me understand why school comes easily to my two kids who are able to memorize and spit back with ease, while the other one needs a little more help to stay on track.

Is your kid rooted in reality, or does she have her head in the clouds? Either way, try to see the world as she does.

Next time: Thinking versus Feeling.

2 thoughts on “Myers-Briggs for Children: Intuitive versus Sensory

  1. I just experienced a perfect Sensory versus Intuitive moment a couple of weeks ago with my two boys. Christopher, 25, “S” preference, new homeowner, was reading his way through instructions on how to assemble his new Ikea coffee table. Was not doing well with those “universal” diagrams; was looking for STEP-BY-STEP WORD-BASED instructions. Brother Eric, 22, “N” preference, arrives to help. Eric’s first question is, “What is this thing supposed to look like in the end?” There is a tense pause, after which Christopher says through gritted teeth, “How is that remotely important at this point?”
    I had to leave the room so they wouldn’t see me laughing – I didn’t think that would help “at this point” either. Eric left soon after me.

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