Let’s begin with a fun exercise. Take a look at the art below, and describe what you see. Take a few minutes and jot down your observations.

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 11.54.24 AM

How Do You Process Information?

When I administer the MBTI to individuals, I often ask them to describe what they see in the artwork above. Their responses are very revealing about their preferences for how they process information, and the kind of information they trust. The two different preferences are:

  • Sensing: People with a Sensing preference tend to process information in a literal, exact way; they rely on facts, data, and details that can be proven through their senses.
  • Intuition: People with an Intuitive preference like to absorb information in an innovative, gestalt manner; they use patterns and meanings to interpret the information received through their senses.


Clients with a Sensing preference tend to describe the artwork using terminology such as the following:

“There’s a tree with a fence around it with three people standing near it. In the front is a guy on a horse, with two people carrying things, someone with a stick and two bags, probably moving grain. At the right corner is a large house with a straw roof, with three people on the inside and two on the bed. Did I miss anything?”

Clients with an Intuitive preference, on the other hand, might say something like this:

“There’s a focus on nature, because the trees have colors, but the people are black and white. The use of muted tones seems to create a calming effect, but the dark sky looks foreboding. The lake is the only thing that’s colorful, which draws you in and emphasizes nature over people.”


 Summary of the Different Approaches:

  • Sensing people are concerned with being accurate and taking in all the information (“Did I miss anything?”); their first step is to note all the facts, and itemize everything.
  • Intuitive people try to weave the sensory details together into a coherent story; they are comfortable “guessing” and “assuming,” in order to develop an interpretation that makes sense of the facts.


What is the Impact of Information-Processing on Students?

Impact on Academics and Activities

How we process information impacts our attitudes and interests. Often, when we find we have strengths in a particular sphere, we become more interested, which leads us to excel and pursue this area even more.

As an example, let’s consider how students with different preferences might approach their academics and activities.

Sarah has a Sensing preference: she feels much more comfortable doing problem-sets than analyzing literature or historical documents. For Sarah, creating an interpretation feels like taking a leap, and makes her uncertain and uncomfortable. Sarah is drawn more to math and science problem-solving in which there is a clearer right answer. Sarah’s favorite activity in high school has been science research, and she wants to major in Chemistry.

On the other hand, Brian has an Intuitive preference: his favorite subjects are English and Social Studies, and he reads historical novels in his leisure time. He enjoys analyzing people, and finding themes that weave through different historical periods. Brian enjoys participating in National History Day every year, and is looking forward to studying creative writing and European History in college.

Sarah and Brian’s different preferences for how they process information have led them to different academic fields and extracurricular activities – and may impact their choice of careers as well, in concert with other aspects of their personality and interests.

Impact of Information-Processing on College Admissions

Similarly, students’ preferences for processing information impact every aspect of the college admissions process!

College Tours. On college tours, those with a Sensing preference would pay great attention to the details of the college campus. But they might latch onto a few aspects – either positive or negative – that color the impression of the school, without placing these factors in context. People with an Intuitive prefereence would be more inclined to respond to his or her overall feel on campus, but might ignore specifics that do not support their conclusion.

Essays. In the essay process, an Intuitive person would bring the strengths of creating context, and establishing themes throughout the essay; but might not include specific details to bring anecdotes to life. A Sensing person’s first instinct would be to pack the essay full of details, which could create a vivid picture, but might not tie the specifics to broader themes in his or her life.

Interviews. Preferences for processing information affect how students approach college interviews as well. Sensing people tend to list items in response to questions; they offer specifics of their activities but not necessarily the “why” of their interests. Intuitive people often speak in generalities and succeed at describing themselves broadly, but may not provide the details to back up their statements.

The more you understand your preferences, strengths, and weaknesses, the more effective you will be! We all have the capacity to build on our strengths, and offset our weaknesses. The dimension of processing information is only one of four dichotomies in the MBTI personality assessment tool. For more information about becoming aware of your personality, contact Collegiate Gateway. As always, we’re happy to help!