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February 26, 2011 / Andrea Wenger

Yesterday and Today: Introverted vs. Extraverted Sensing

Child stopping to smell the rosesWriters often get lost in their heads. If they didn’t, they might never get any work done. But for those with a preference for introversion and intuition, it can be difficult to reconnect with the real world. I suspect that writers in general, and IN types in particular, suffer from chronic sensory deprivation. We have to make an effort to interrupt our writing and indulge our senses.

To stay grounded, I keep crayons near my computer so I can play with color combinations. I have a pack of gum on my desk for calorie-free flavor. I burn scented candles and listen to music. These little things offer me a much-needed reality break.

INFJs like me extravert their sensing function. Extraverted sensing experiences the world in all its vibrancy. It sifts through sensory data and identifies what is most relevant and most critical in the current situation. It seizes opportunities as they present themselves. It troubleshoots and seeks a tactical advantage. It wants immediate gratification.

By contrast, introverted sensing relates the present situation to past experience. It evaluates similarities and differences. It applies proven techniques to the challenges of the current circumstances. It invokes memory to generate comparisons that are both vivid and surprising. It notices when things are out of place. It values tradition.

A good example of the contrast between introverted and extraverted sensing can be observed on the History Channel’s Pawn Stars. Rick, the pawn shop owner, seems to use introverted sensing, while his son Corey uses extraverted sensing. Rick talks  about the intrinsic worth of the objects offered to him for sale. He’s attracted to their age and historical significance. He gets a gleam in his eye when he sees an object that’s meaningful to him. He negotiates a price based on the appraised value and what similar objects have fetched in the past.

Corey, on the other hand, takes a more detached approach. When he talks about an object’s intrinsic worth, it’s usually a generic statement like, “This thing is cool.” He’s interested in the external value and the chance to maximize his profit. He’s more of a risk taker than his father. Rather than relying on past experience, Corey looks at the present opportunity and how he can make the most of it. He may never develop the passion and the knowledge that Rick has about the objects that come through the pawn shop, but in time Corey may become a more savvy negotiator than his father. Their individual skill sets are valuable and complementary assets that contribute to the success of the business.

All types use introverted or extraverted sensing, even those who prefer intuition.  SPs and NJs have extraverted sensing, while SJs and NPs use introverted sensing.

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3 Comments

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  1. DuskRose / Feb 26 2011 8:46 pm

    As a writer and avid fan of Myers-Briggs type theory, it’s really interesting to learn more about the differences between the extraverted functions and their introverted counterparts. Your description of introverted Sensing made a lot of sense to me–it’s my fourth function (I’m an ENFP) but in my writing I do value archaic things and old archetypes made new.

    • Matt Leary Dover, PA / Mar 19 2012 10:43 pm

      I agree. As an INFP, Introverted Sensing is my tertiary. I am a packrat. I value tradition, but not at the expense of my other values. I like to keep things around that are familiar and have lots of connections to other things and concepts I have encountered in my past.
      EXAMPLE: I don’t like China dolls because they’re creepy. But my mom bought a Yolanda Bello Matthew (my name) Doll that was made when I was born, 1987. He is dressed in a sailor’s outfit. My brother was in the Navy for 6 years, I like the ocean, and my family used to make trips to the shore all the time. Also, my mom passed when I was 13.
      I am 24 and the doll is proudly displayed in my room with the stains he accquired through his journeys. Sorry for this rambling over-sharing rant. I just think this all has to do with my Introverted Sensing and illustrates this function. It probably has a lot to do with Introverted Feeling though, too.

      • AndreaJWenger / Mar 19 2012 11:20 pm

        Thanks for sharing your experiences, Matt. These kinds of concrete examples can be very helpful to people who are trying to figure out their type.

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