The definition of this criterion in socionics has some difference from that used by Myers and Briggs, but these differences do not become obvious at once.
Jung described intuition as an “ever-unconscious function of psyche”. Let us imagine the process of thinking. One part of our consciousness focuses on what is going on around, and another part “sleeps”, i.e. combines acquired images with each other and builds associations. Sometimes these associations are fantastic (.e.g. moon may be associated with cheese for its shape and color), but sometimes they allow forecasting events. Imagination and attention are processes that coexist but sometimes “overlap”, interfere with each other, impede each other.
Sensory people live “here and now”, they do not much trust their imagination and prefer to rely on what they can get, “grab” now. They are sensitive to such small nuances as rumors, changes of somebody's status, more or less prestigious outfit, etc.
Intuitive people are often considered inattentive and/or impractical; they quickly get bored with “details, details!” If asked to express their opinions, intuitive types rather present their “vision” than a detailed description.
Up to this moment, the definition of sensation/intuition was the same in socionics and MBTT. Where do disagreements come from?
Socionics describes one more important characteristic trait of the sensing function: the control of one's own physical space. Such a trait has nothing in common with imagination – on the contrary, it is opposite to imagination, it deals with perceiving of what is going on here and now, i.e. with sensation. It is probably the most ancient of human instincts, and maybe Americans avoid describing this characteristic trait of sensing types for the reasons of “political correctness”
For example, the literary hero Sherlock Holmes told a lot about his “intuition”, and for this reason our American colleagues, adherents of the Myers & Briggs typology, consider him to be “intuitive”. However, let us recall that Sherlock Holmes' knowledge was detailed but very narrowly specialized (Conan Doyle wrote that even in chemistry Holmes omitted many important discoveries only because they did not directly concern issues of crime detection). He was perfect in noticing smallest details, in various kinds of manual arts, up to boxing and Japanese combat art, but his imagination left much to be desired, Dr. Watson had always to offer him a lot of useless versions just in order to “wake up” his friend's imagination. All these traits are characteristic for sensory, not intuitive types. (In socionics, the type logical-sensory extravert (rational) is also known under the nickname Sherlock Holmes – we will tell later about “game nicknames” of the socionic types).
Another reason for disagreement: adherents of Myers-Briggs and Keirsey typologies sometimes (not always) determine many famous politicians as intuitive types. They say, “those people must have had strong strategic thinking in order to become so successful!”. The reality, however, is simpler than beautiful theories. Intuitive types, even in spite of their brilliant minds, can lose competition because of their inattentiveness, because of getting quickly bored of monotonous work, they do not like permanent watching the competitor's activities. For example, Leon Trotsky was a brilliant intellectual, master of forecasting, but he lost competition to Stalin, who was a bad forecaster, who considered life as a game where nothing was predictable – but Stalin was a very persistent, attentive, hard-working person. For Stalin, nothing was “boring” if it could contribute to success, and he never avoided routine chores.
Does it mean that sensing types win over intuitive types? Let us consider Mikhail Gorbachev. Although David Keirsey (www.keirsey.com
) believes he was intuitive, it is a greatest mistake. Gorbachev became a reformer in spite of his own will; he never planned such large-scaled reforms. He was a master of diplomacy and intrigues, was really brilliant in balancing between opposite opinions, and strived for solutions that could satisfy everybody. There was only one problem: he lacked imagination. Each new event, especially unpleasant, happened “suddenly” and “unexpectedly” to him. In fact he HAD TO make reforms, because he had no other way to stay at power. His views were conservative enough, and no wonder that he surrounded himself by other conservators, which just proved to be harder than him and finally attempted to overthrow him. The situation in 1991 was paradoxical; this year was probably the peak of Gorbachev's popularity, but it was when he completely lost his power. An intuitive type, Boris Yeltsin, got the power, and although he was criticized for a lot of chaotic, inconsistent actions, he anyway always felt the “needs of time”. Actually, Russia is ruled by another intuitive, Vladimir Putin. He is probably the smartest leader of Russia for the last 100 years (and this is why his popularity is extremely high), but on the other hand, Putin lacks strong will and decisiveness (because he is not only intuitive, but also introverted), and sometimes his reforms remain uncompleted.
Examples of intuitive politicians: Tony Blair, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Charles de Gaulle, Nicolae Ceausescu, John Kennedy, Condoleezza Rice, Osama Bin Laden.
Examples of sensory politicians: Gerhard Schroeder, Silvio Berlusconi, Jacques Chirac, Leonid Brezhnev, Winston Churchill, Saddam Hussein, Donald Rumsfeld.
So who are more successful – sensory or intuitive types? Neither, if they stand alone. The S/N criterion is probably the one where mutual support of S and N is especially important. One can somewhat “train up” his/her weak sensing or intuitive function, but will anyway feel unsure in activities related to it. Cooperation between intuitive and sensing people is successful, when "practical approach" and "imagination" work together. Alas, much more often sensory and intuitive types criticize each other: sensors criticize intuitives for being “impractical” and “absent-minded”, and intuitives criticize sensors for being “shortsighted”, greedy”, “flat-minded”. Sensors and intuitives need some time to “accustom” to each other, only then they can begin work together successfully (or understand that their views are too different, and they had better work in a different team).
After this long introduction, let us tell how to distinguish intuitives from sensors in real life?
First: by the aptitude towards abstract or concrete (applied) thinking: the first is more characteristic to intuitives, the second – to sensors. It is easy to notice even at school years: some of pupils are successful in understanding abstract terms, but fail in applied subjects, others – vice versa.
Second: by contents of their speech. Sensors usually memorize a lot of details and use them in their speech, while intuitives used to present their “general vision”.
Third: by their eyes. The look of intuitives is somewhat distracted, as if this person looks not directly at you (or any other object), but rather above you or even through you!
Sensors usually stare at objects directly, even when their eyes seem inattentive.
Fourth: generally by their appearance. Sensors are much more attentive to their appearance from their very childhood than intuitives. For sensors, their outfit means a lot: comfort of feelings, status, fashion etc. Even movements of sensory types seem to be better coordinated, more decisive than those of intuitives (however, the last much depends on people's interest to sport; some intuitives may have train their body very well, but generally, sensors look better trained, because there are more attentive to the needs of their body).