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 Carl Jung used the words "sensation" and "sensing" (S) to mean paying attention to what is going on outside ourselves, that is, external attention. Thus "sensation" may be used synonymously with three words pertaining to external attention,"observation", "externalization," and "exteroception."

In contrast, Jung gave us two engaging metaphors to convey how he used the word "intuition" (N). Intuition, he said, is "listening to the inner voice" or "heeding the promptings from within." The word "intuition" is engaging because it literally means "internal attention." We pay attention to what is going on inside ourselves with our mind's eye and our mind's ear, these promptings coming as thoughts and feelings. Thus "intuition" can be used synonymously with three other terms pertaining to internal attention, "introspection," "internalization," and "interoception." So we can contrast "introspection" with "observation," "internalization" with "externalization," and "interoception" with "exteroception."

For the purposes of describing personality types, I have found the easiest and most accurate terms to be "introspection" and "observation."

Very simply, we observe objects through our senses. Thus we look at objects to see them, listen to sounds to hear them, touch surfaces to feel them, sniff odors to smell them, and mouth substances to taste them. We can observe what is present, but not what isn't present. Whatever isn't present to our senses we can only imagine by means of introspection.

Naturally, all of us do both observation and introspection, but it is a rare individual who does an equal amount of each. The vast majority of us, maybe 85%, spend most of our waking hours looking at, listening to, and touching objects in our immediate presence, and very little of our time introspecting, that is, making inferences, imagining, daydreaming, musing, or wondering about things not in our presence.

The point not to be missed is that we cannot do these things simultaneously. When we observe what's going on around us, we cannot at the same time observe what's going on within us. We may alternate our attention, but we cannot divide it. Some of us, from infancy on, seem to be more raptly attentive to inner promptings, others, to outer promptings. The reason for this difference in attention is not at all clear, and certainly it is a matter of conjecture. But if the reason for this preference in attention is obscure, the consequences of it are not. Those of us who attend inwardly much of the time as children strengthen that preference, our inner voice becoming louder and clearer, our inner promptings more vivid and complex. Likewise, those of us who heed the external much of the time come to see and hear objects in more detail and with greater specificity.

Now, if we look at Myers's type descriptions, people are either more observant than introspective, or more introspective than observant. Observers (SPs and SJs) seem more at home when looking after the particulars of everyday living, attending to concrete things  -- food, clothing, shelter, transportation -- and to practical matters such as recreation and safety, and are likely to leave the more abstract issues to others. In turn, Introspectors (NTs and NFs) tend to be more content when these concrete concerns are handled by someone else and they are left free to consider the more abstract world of ideas. This does not mean, of course, that Observer types are without an inner life -- far from it -- but simply that their introspection takes a back seat to their observation. Nor does this mean that Introspector types are unaware of the objects around them -- not at all -- but simply that they are more inclined to become absorbed in their ideas.

To put this difference another way, Observers might be called "earthlings" or "terrestrials," concrete, down to earth beings who keep their feet on the ground. These persons see what is in front of them and are usually accurate in catching details. It is said that "they don't miss much." Observers want facts, trust facts, and remember facts, and they want to deal with the facts of a situation as they are, either in the here and now, or as recorded in the past. They focus on what is happening, or what has happened, rather than anticipating what might be, what would happen if, or what might occur in the future.

In contrast, Introspectors might be called "extraterrestrials," abstract beings who live with their head in the clouds, strangers in a strange land who wonder about the curious antics of the earthlings. Absorbed as they often are in their internal world, Inspectors tend miss a great deal of what's right around them -- current reality is merely a problem to be solved, or a stage of development toward some future ideal. Not only can they miss details, they can also lose track of where they are, and for instance drive right past their highway turn-off. "It's only reality" they sometimes say, to register their relative disinterest in the merely concrete. But more than disinterest, Introspectors can be discontent with reality, even bothered by it, and speculate about possible ways of improving it.

Because of their tenuous grasp of reality, Introspectors can appear to Observers as flighty, impractical, and unrealistic -- the dreamer or absent-minded professor who can't be bothered with the nitty-gritty of living. For their part, Observers can seem to Introspectors as unimaginative, concerned only with trivial pursuits, and exasperatingly slow to consider implications and possibilities. Both views are exaggerations. Indeed, both kinds of people are capable and even creative in their own way -- it's just that they attend to very different sides of life, with the other side getting short-changed.

Thus Observers can manage the material world with skill, but the penalty they pay for ignoring the promptings from within is that these promptings can gradually fade away, and they may end up with relatively undeveloped introspective abilities. They may now and then introspect, but not for long and with little pleasure. On the other hand, Introspectors practice introspection much of their time, and with pleasure, but the penalty they pay for this is that they can end up with relatively undeveloped observational abilities.

The two ways are not mutually exclusive. Introspectors have no choice but to turn outward at times and concern themselves with the business of everyday living, while Observers do occasionally look inward to ponder, and dream, and make inferences. Such excursions can even be stimulating and satisfying, but neither type can be in both worlds at once, and each will usually show a strong preference for one over the other. For both types, the vitality, the immediacy, and the significance of life is found more easily in their own world, while what is central to the other's world seems relatively foreign, uninteresting, and unimportant.

Excerpted from Please Understand Me II, by David Keirsey 
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