Perception and the Myers & Briggs Personality Model

Most notably in psychology, but also too philosophy, perception is described as the reception, understanding and interpretation of data acquired through the senses. We form abstractions of ideas in our minds that take shape in a mental impression or model stemming from perception queues.


In the Myers & Briggs personality model perception is actually a gray area between two opposing traits.  On the one hand, one type of perception is that person who adheres to Sensing characteristics of attentiveness to the physical world.  Those who seek Sensing as a mode of understanding tend to start with what they know and seek out the big picture through inquiry and investigation.  They view problem solving as a process of analyzing their sensory intake.


On the other hand, those who characterize Intuition seem to seek out answers rather than look at solutions as a process of discovery.  Intuiters utilize solely affect and look for what is implicitly given in a situation by estimation and assume an underlying meaning to things.  Theoretically minded, they tend to start with an abstraction, which they impose on the object of their sensations rather than start from the bottom up.  In fact, it is a bit of a stereotype that Intuiters are the sole explorers seeking out new possibilities.  Kevin Kelly called the process of cognifying in his book on technological innovation, The Inevitable, a kind of dreamwork, but he meant this in the most objective sense.  The questions innovators ask are related to Intuition as well as Sensing: the process of inquiry leads to instrumental knowledge – Mind; AI will tell us more about how we define humanity.   


While intuition is a part of perception, intuition itself, argues Gerd Gigerenzer in Gut Feelings, is far more flexible than perception.  That part of intuition that stems from perception is inferential; i.e., that we take something and go beyond the given.  Psychologists call this unconscious inference – we fill in the rest of what we see to provide an answer for ourselves when the eye does not have sufficient information. 


Gigerenzer argues insistently for the merits of intuition.  He views that our habits of looking for patterns of things, finding meaning in symbolic representations, and dwelling in impressions are founded on prior experiences, which earn trust in our minds.  Yet there are those who recognize how unconsciously we block out so much and invest ourselves in the illusory guise of knowledge.


I thought it is very interesting that Amy Herman, author of Visual Intelligence, built her training practice using art as a perception tool along the lines of the Myers & Briggs Sensing category trait.  She is a life long lover of art, which she studied in college and found later on as a lawyer that everything she learned about how to look at art could be utilized in her career, and then she went from there.  However, the Briggs & Myers test prefers to align lawyers with the category of Intuition. 


It seems to me actually Sensing and Intuition must be inseparable modes of thinking coming from opposite directions, one from below and the other from above.  Not all knowledge can be theory nor all of it discrete fact.  The mind works between the abstract and concrete.  Scientists think that way, professors (not all) do, doctors should, just as lawyers, technology innovators, etc., any sort of profession that requires building mental imagery and abstractions in the mind. 


One aspects of Gigerenzer’s book that stuck a nerve for me is how he thinks gut feelings are the necessary way we “invent” stories and are a form of risk.  If a lot is coming through the unconscious in such decisions, they are a form of secondary revision, of which we are not aware.  And so in the present tense, by falling back into those shadowy areas of the mind that are so obscured and haunted, we really should not trust ourselves. Rather than the mind providing incentives and its natural desire to be expansive seeking out new horizons, we fall back into what we really do not know but believe.  The artist JMW Turner once said about his art, each painting an act of bravery, that his greatest risk was that of not overcoming fear.  Ironically he needed to feel fear and also conquer it in order to make art. 

JMW Turner, Snow Storm, Hannibal and His Army Crossing the Alps, 1812.jpeg