Intuition? Sixth Sense?

Happy Friday people! I have a gut feeling it’s going to be a good day! My intuition tells me to be positive and go for every opportunity that comes my way. Should I listen to my intuition, my gut feeling? Hell yes!

Intuition is the ability to acquire knowledge without proof, evidence, or conscious reasoning, or without understanding how the knowledge was acquired.

Depending on where you look the word "intuition" will have a variety of different meanings, ranging from direct access to unconscious knowledge, unconscious cognition, inner sensing, inner insight to unconscious pattern-recognition and the ability to understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning.

We sometimes think of intuition as a magical phenomenon, but hunches are formed out of our past experiences and knowledge. So while trusting our gut feelings doesn't always lead to good decisions, it's not nearly as dodgy an idea as it may at first sound.

So do you want to cultivate your intuition? Intuition is the term for “gut feeling”, something that you think is likely based on instinctive feeling rather than conscious reasoning. When you get an instant liking or disliking for someone you just met, or have a good or bad feeling about something about to happen, that’s intuition. Scientists believe intuition is a form of quick information processing, and it’s a skill that can be developed with practice and attention. The ability to use intuition develops out of repeated exposure to various situations and outcomes, the more rich and complex your experiences, the more likely you are to develop unconscious, intuitive knowledge about a wide range of situations and experiences. Consequently, developing your intuition begins with exposing yourself to people, places, and things and observing them closely. Pay careful attention to your feelings in response to the things you encounter. Note how you feel and react to them, perhaps even begin keeping a journal in which you note these feelings and the circumstances that gave rise to them. The more practiced you become at observing others and your unconscious reactions to them, the more attuned you’ll be to your intuition.

Trusting your intuition!

How do we become effective human beings? It takes the right combination of thinking, including thinking about others and action. And, often enough, the right ways of thinking. The ability to think, to reflect on ourselves and our behavior and to plan ahead, may be the feature that most defines us as humans, the crowning glory of evolution. But thinking is not an unmitigated blessing. Sometimes people get stuck in it. People are often consumed with the past, ruminating about events and chewing them over and over. Others get paralyzed thinking about what lies ahead. Both forms of overthinking consume the brain's limited capacity for attention, bring the mind to a halt and compromise mental health. One form is known as depression, the other anxiety. And both conditions are rampant in our culture today.

Intuition can be thought of as almost the polar opposite of either. And it is a reliable way of knowing, and valuable in many circumstances. There are many ways to define intuition, but all present a kind of conundrum. The act of reflecting on intuition is precisely what intuition isn't. Intuition is really your brain on autopilot, performing its actions of processing information outside of your awareness that it's operating. It's nonconscious thinking.

Can you trust intuition? It helps to know that the kind of automatic information processing that underlies intuition is something you probably experience all the time. Consider that phenomenon known as "highway hypnosis." You drive the car for miles without a conscious thought. You're steering the car, reacting to road conditions and the actions of other cars, so obviously your brain is processing incoming information. You're just not aware of yourself. Or you walk down a street, get lost in thought and find yourself at your destination without awareness of the processes that got you there.

It's often safe to rely on automatic nonconscious processes for rote tasks, but what about more complex situations? Nonconscious processes operate all the time in complex decision-making. Often enough, we just don't give them credit. Often we cite rational-sounding criteria for our feelings and actions and do not disclose the subjective preferences of feelings that arise spontaneously.

Sometimes we override our intuitive gut-level reactions altogether, ignoring our native responses in favor of ways we think, for external reasons—such as to coincide with the judgments of others—we should be reacting. Studies have shown that we are capable of making sound judgments about food and, often, people based on nonconscious processes, but if we deliberately think about our preferences and decisions we can actually make them worse. The truth is that all of the factors that influence our reactions just aren't available to our conscious selves.

There is no substitute for gathering information about any task or situation before us. But neither should we be afraid of not knowing every reason why we feel the way we do in every situation.

The Science of Intuition: An Eye-Opening Guide to Your Sixth Sense

By Annie Murphy Paul

Some people think of intuition as a mystical power. Skeptics write it off as a matter of lucky guesswork. But scientists who study the phenomenon say it's a very real ability that can be identified in lab experiments and visualized on brain scans. Read on for gripping findings about your gut feelings, plus surprising ways to tune in to your body's signals and tap the inner powers of your mind.

Research shows that our instincts often hit us first on a visceral level, telling us what we need to know well before our consciousness catches up. Here's what happens when your intuition gets physical. Stress SOS It's easy to tell something's afoot when your heart is pounding, you're drenched in sweat, and your stomach is tying itself in knots. But even if the shift in your pulse or perspiration is subtler, your intuition may still be trying to deliver a message. Tune In: You may be able to better follow your heart by practicing meditation. A 2005 study found that in meditators, brain regions associated with sensitivity to the body's signals and sensory processing had more gray matter. The greater the meditation experience, the more developed the brain regions. Double Vision Human eyesight might seem straightforward: The eye receives images, the brain processes them. But we actually have two vision tracks—one conscious, the other intuitive—and as a result, the eye sees far more than we generally realize. For instance, in a phenomenon known as blindsight, people who have gone blind because of brain damage can still navigate an obstacle course or identify emotion on a person's face, even though they can't consciously see it. Their intuitive vision track is receiving visual stimuli, even though their conscious vision track isn't; they know what's around them—they just don't know how they know. Blindsight patients are an extreme example, but they illustrate a phenomenon everyone experiences: We absorb and retain visual information that doesn't penetrate our conscious mind.

Read more:

Relying on intuition - should you always trust your gut feelings?

Intuition can give people the vital - even life-saving - ability to make decisions that are fast and right. But how reliable is it? John Morrish on the new insights psychologists have into our sixth sense. By John Morrish

Steve Jobs based his career on it, but Bill Gates used it too. Richard Branson is a big fan. It helps Alan Sugar pick his Apprentices; it helped Einstein devise the theory of relativity. It is intuition - and its importance in management is growing all the time.

Intuition - which some call a 'gut feeling' or a 'hunch' - has been discussed in philosophical and scientific circles since the 17th century, and has often been considered mystical or paranormal: a 'sixth sense'. For the past 30 years, however, it has been the subject of intense scientific scrutiny in departments of psychology, economics and management. They have agreed, mostly, on what intuition is. It is a form of thinking that is 'non-conscious': you know things, but you don't know why. It is 'holistic': it sees the big picture. It produces judgements that are 'affectively charged': connected to our feelings, rather than our analytical minds. And, most usefully for our purposes, it is quick.

Steve Jobs took the mystical view of intuition, which he says he learned on his youthful trip to India. 'Intuition is a very powerful thing,' he told his biographer Walter Isaacson, 'more powerful than intellect, in my opinion.' Jobs's gut feelings dominated Apple, even when he was wrong (presented with the prototype iMac, he insisted it should be called the MacMan).

Bill Gates, as you might expect, has a very different understanding of intuition, though he values it nonetheless. Speaking to CNN in 2002, he told his interviewer that he trusted 'my own intuition' about new products. 'I'm often wrong,' he added, 'but my batting record is good enough that I keep swinging every time the ball is thrown.'

The difference between the two men - one a believer in intuition as a potent force outstripping rational thought, the other a pragmatist aware that gut feelings can be fallible - mirrors the two poles of recent thought on the subject. On the one hand there are those who admire the near-supernatural achievements of intuitive experts; on the other are those who point out the errors to which the intuitive mind is prone.

So is intuition hopelessly error-ridden? Or is it an essential tool for fast and decisive decision-making? It's a crucial question for anyone considering using intuition in management. Amazingly, considering their profound differences, Kahneman and Klein produced a joint paper in American Psychologist in 2009 that found common ground. It laid out the ways in which even experts' intuition can be led astray - overconfidence, making long-term predictions, making judgements outside their realm of expertise - but it also agreed that intuition works, with the right type of expertise, in the right situations. It works, Kahneman and Klein agreed, when experts encounter events that fit (or contradict) a pattern they have come across before. They don't have to consciously see the resemblance: their non-conscious mind 'just knows' what to do.

The venture capitalist Jon Moulton, founder of Better Capital, is enthusiastic about the role of intuition in business, and his description of how it works matches the psychologists' view. It is, he says, 'something arrived at without conscious analytical effort. It's pre-programmed by experience at my age. The way you behave to a smiling wife or a scowling wife, whether you choose to cower or not, is really quite intuitive rather than analytical, isn't it?'

He uses intuition, he says, in critical negotiations and first meetings, where it saves a lot of time. 'In the kind of business I'm in, we see a lot of fraudsters. It's remarkable how often that thought seems to cross my mind before I've seen any evidence of it. It's me sitting there and thinking, hang on, he's a crook. The thing appears in my brain ... It's something to do with experience and spotting things out of a pattern.'

Some business people admit to experiencing strong physical sensations when their intuition kicks in. 'Often when I have a project,' says literary agent Robert Kirby, 'on the surface everything can look good - the author's great, the idea sounds great, there's a potential gap in the market - but I get a strange kind of nauseous feeling: I can't fathom it, but it's as if something's not quite right. It's pragmatic and practical: every time I've felt it and ignored it, something's gone wrong, or at least that's the story I tell myself.' Such feelings are difficult to explain to others. 'Certainly, it's not something you can say to an author, "When I read your proposal I feel nauseous"!'

Some people are naturally more analytical, he says, and some are more intuitive. But it's best to combine both in decision-making: intuition followed by analysis, or vice versa. He recommends a 'traffic light system'. If intuition and analysis both say No, that's a red light. If they both say Yes, that's a green. If one says Yes and one says No, that's amber: proceed with caution. 'We have to recognise that if we make an intuitive decision, there's no guarantee of it being right. In the same way as with analysis; no one expects analysis to be right 100% of the time.'

As it happens, the role of intuition in recruitment has been much researched - and it comes out badly. Simple numerical scores and algorithms achieve better results than interviewing. System 1, it seems, cannot help stereotyping or judging on looks. Required to ask a hard question (How will this person perform professionally over the next few years?), it substitutes an easier one (Do I like this person?).

Nonetheless, intuition is growing in importance in management education. Erik Dane of the Jesse H Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University in Houston, Texas says it might offer a solution to the 'speed/accuracy trade-off'. Intuition offers the possibility that decisions can be both fast and right, which is why management researchers and psychologists have been so interested in those fire-fighters.

In the meantime, one clear lesson emerges from the mountain of research into intuition conducted over the past 30 years: judgement gets better with experience.


This is a really good article...

Instinct has the power to hush reason. But when is it safe to go with your gut? Researchers may remain uncertain about the reliability of intuition, but it is a difficult force to deny.

Quotes on intuition.

The only real valuable thing is intuition. Albert Einstein

All great men are gifted with intuition. They know without reasoning or analysis, what they need to know. Alexis Carrel

All perceiving is also thinking, all reasoning is also intuition, all observation is also invention. Rudolf Arnheim

Cease trying to work everything out with your minds. It will get you nowhere. Live by intuition and inspiration and let your whole life be Revelation. Eileen Caddy

I believe in intuitions and inspirations...I sometimes feel that I am right. I do not know that I am. - Albert Einstein

Intuition is seeing with the soul. - Dean Koontz

At times you have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover is yourself. - Alan Alda

The truth about life and lie about life is not measured by others but by your intuition, which never lies. - Santosh Kalwar

I feel there are two people inside me - me and my intuition. If I go against her, she'll screw me every time, and if I follow her, we get along quite nicely. – Kim Basinger

Intuition is the clear conception of the whole at once. – Johann Kaspar Lavater

Intuition comes very close to clairvoyance; it appears to be the extrasensory perception of reality. – Alexis Carrel

Intuition is the supra-logic that cuts out all the routine processes of thought and leaps straight from the problem to the answer. – Robert Graves

Often you have to rely on intuition. – Bill Gates

It is through science that we prove, but through intuition that we discover. - Henri Poincare

Intuition becomes increasingly valuable in the new information society precisely because there is so much data. - John Naisbitt

Want to develop your intuition or sixth sense further?

Featured Posts
Recent Posts