How people with MBTI Sensing and Intuitive preferences learn most effectively

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Posted 14 September 2022 by Vanessa, MBTIonline Contributing Writer
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What’s the last thing you learned? Maybe it was a new recipe. Or how to build a bookshelf. Or how to design something really complex. And if you have a growth mindset, the learning doesn’t stop (and that’s a good thing). No matter what you learned, you unconsciously used your Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI) personality preferences along the way.

And learning is essential to self-improvement. How are you going to improve if you aren’t gaining knowledge and finding a better way to do things than the way you’re doing them now?

In the last post on learning style, we covered different learning strategies for extraverted and introverted personality types. This time, we’ll explore another MBTI preference pair: Sensing and Intuition (the “S” or “N” in your four-letter personality type). Let’s start with the Sensing types.

Things those with Sensing preferences say: “What are the facts?”

People who have a preference for Sensing (S) focus on the facts first.

When they learn new things, they want concrete examples and specific data to back up the material. Learning is most compelling to them when it’s practical, realistic, and presented in sequential steps. If the material is too theoretical, Sensing types tend to get frustrated – unless they figure out a way to apply it to the real world. They also like to engage all five senses as they learn, preferably through hands-on activities.

If you’re a Sensing type, you have no shortage of common sense – and that’s a good thing. One of the most useful things you can do is incorporate some versatility into the way you learn. Here are six ways to become a more well-rounded as you learn new things:

Six learning strategies for those preferring Sensing

  1. Summarize the material. Sometimes your need for detail slows you down. Remember that not every detail will be relevant, so identify the main ideas first. Then pinpoint any supporting examples. One Sensing learner said, “When I read, I used to take notes that were almost as long as the chapter. Now I write down only the main ideas and not all the examples.”

  2. Don’t write off theoretical information. If your eyes glaze over abstract or theoretical information, use your life experience as a starting point. Ask yourself, “how can this be applied to real life?” Stretch your imagination; there may be practical applications hidden somewhere in the material.

  3. Engage your senses. Appeal to your senses to make the learning experience more interactive. For example, turn memorization into songs or mnemonic devices, use different colored pens for notes, or wear a specific fragrance only when you study.

  4. Know when long-term goals are necessary. Short-term, practical goals are your bread and butter. But when an immediate application isn’t evident, you’ll need to focus on a long-term goal. One Sensing learner said, “I disliked theoretical learning, but I kept reminding myself that someday I’d be out there doing the work I want.”

  5. Remember that you don’t need to retain everything. When you focus on the key points, it minimizes the amount of information you need to retain. Look for any trends, themes, or patterns in the material – and prioritize those.

  6. Use diagrams, tables, and charts. Merge your need for organization with your preference for visual aids. One Sensing learner said, “I find it helpful to put complex information into tables or timelines to organize and understand it.”

Bonus tips for Sensing leaders and teachers

If you’re a leader or a teacher who prefers Sensing, you probably lead the same way you prefer to learn. But there will be a significant portion of your team or class that prefers the other end of the spectrum: Intuition. Those learners like theoretical topics, and want to know an idea’s framework before hearing facts or details. They tend to remember concepts through metaphors and analogies. Think about your natural teaching style and how you accommodate those people.


Things those preferring Intuition say: “Let’s look at the big picture”

People who have a preference for Intuition (N) find possibility more interesting than reality. When they learn new things, they link information together to form patterns or theories. If the learning environment requires meticulous attention to detail or recalling sequential data, Intuitive types may lose interest. Learning is most compelling to them when it encourages conceptual thinking.

If you’re an Intuitive type, your ability to grasp big-picture concepts is admirable. One of the most meaningful ways you can build on that is to connect the dots between what could be and what is. Here are six ways to expand your horizons as a learner:

Six learning strategies for those preferring Intuition

  1. Do whatever you can to retain the information. Because you think conceptually, you may overlook important details. One Intuitive learner said, “It helps if I read aloud, highlight important sections, and write the material in my own words.”

  2. Back up your ideas with facts. As you move between ideas or topics, notice if there are any details within the material that connect subtopics. When writing or speaking about what you’re learning, try to present the information in a sequential or step-by-step way.

  3. Use conceptual study aids. Since your thought process already involves a lot of abstract thinking, map out those thoughts on paper with a flowchart or diagram. This will help organize the main ideas so you can add facts and details later.

  4. Take it step-by-step. When memorization isn’t necessary, keep a list of steps or sequences to help you recall the information. One Intuitive learner said, “I tend to forget the order, so I need to write down the steps so I can refer back to them rather than try to remember on my own.”

  5. Don’t get stuck on tangential information. Before you dive into that rabbit hole, ask yourself whether the tangent is actually relevant to what you’re learning. If it’s not, skip it for now so you don’t waste time trying to re-focus later.

  6. Set limits on what can be accomplished in the timeframe. Time management skills and realistic expectations are a must in any learning environment. One Intuitive learner said, “I kept having a billion ideas, but my ‘ten-miles wide and one-inch deep’ mind prevented me from starting anything. Once I made up my mind and decided on a concrete direction, it was a lot easier.”

Bonus tips for Intuitive leaders and teachers

If you’re an Intuitive leader or teacher, you probably lead in a way that aligns with your natural learning style. But odds are, half your people or students are Sensing types. To help create an inclusive environment for them, be mindful of how quickly you get to the point. They need relevant facts, real-world applications, or hands-on experimentation to stay interested in the material.

Read the first and second blog in this series on self-improvement.