Intuition is always there, some choose to go with their first instinct and reach decisions quickly based on automatic cognitive processes and others choose to question their first instinct and consider other possibilities or counterintuitive decisions.  I think everyone uses a combination of these depending on the situation, probably due to life experience.  Is there value in using your intuition more often?

If what we experience as reality / conscious mind is only a small part of the whole, then wouldn’t it be logical to wonder if the subconscious mind has a better ability to guide than the conscious mind?  What if they work together – the subconscious is the primary creative source and the conscious mind is the feedback / reflective part?

I have curiously observed myself when I design for example, and I have noticed that I don’t actually consciously think when I am designing, but I do give feedback (think) at specific points when I want to make a decision to move forward with an idea or not.

What is intuition?

Sciencedaily’s definition of intuition: “Intuition is an immediate form of knowledge in which the knower is directly acquainted with the object of knowledge.”

English Ditionary (Oxford): “Intuition is the ability to acquire knowledge without inference and/or the use of reason.

Psychology Today: “The word ‘intuition’ comes from the Latin word ‘intueri’ which is usually translated as ‘to look inside’ or ‘to contemplate.'” ( Carlin Flora. “Gut Almighty”. Psychology Today. Vol 40. Issue 3:68-75,2007.)

So what does science say?

The More People Rely On Their Intuitions, the More Cooperative They Become

The reference to the scientific paper was published on Sciencedaily September 19, 2012.  It is by David Rand, a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Psychology, Joshua Greene, the John and Ruth Hazel Associate Professor of the Social Sciences in the Department of Psychology, and Martin Nowak, Professor of Mathematics and of Biology, and Director of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics.

These scientists wanted to understand why people do good, and what makes them put others ahead of themselves.  Their study show that people’s first response is to cooperate and that stopping to think encourages selfishness.

“While some might interpret the results as suggesting that cooperation is “innate” or “hard-wired,” if anything they highlight the role of experience. People who had better opinions of those around them in everyday life showed more cooperative impulses in these experiments, and previous experience with these kinds of studies eroded those impulses.”

“In daily life, it’s generally in your interest to be cooperative,” Rand said. “So we internalize cooperation as the right way to behave. Then when we come into unusual environments, where incentives like reputation and sanctions are removed, our first response is to keep behaving the way we do in normal life. When we think about it, however, we realize that this is one of those rare situations where we can be selfish and get away with it.”

“According to Rand, the findings highlight an interesting and counterintuitive truth — that careful thought and reflection have a dark side. But is reflection always bad?” …When there is different moral intuitions, for example, about a political subject? When intuitions clash — when it’s the values of ‘Us’ vs. ‘Them’ — reasoning and reflection may be our best hope for reconciling our differences.”

“Over millions of years we’ve evolved the capacity for cooperation,” explains Martin Nowak. “These psychological experiments examine the causes of cooperation on a shorter timescale, on the order of seconds. Both perspectives are essential as we face global problems which require cooperation on a massive scale. We need to understand where cooperation comes from historically and how best to make it happen here and now.”

For more information

Journal Reference:

  1. David G. Rand, Joshua D. Greene, Martin A. Nowak.Spontaneous giving and calculated greed. Nature, 2012; 489 (7416): 427 DOI: 10.1038/nature11467

Go With Your Gut – Intuition Is More Than Just A Hunch

This article from 2008 say that most of us experience ‘gut feelings’ we can’t explain, such as instantly loving, or not liking, a new design, or when we make instant decisions about a person.  Researchers at Leeds say these feelings – or intuitions – are real and we should take our hunches seriously.

According to a team led by Professor Gerard Hodgkinson of the Centre for Organisational Strategy, Learning and Change at Leeds University Business School, “intuition is the result of the way our brains store, process and retrieve information on a subconscious level and so is a real psychological phenomenon which needs further study to help us harness its potential.”

For more information:

Journal reference:Hodgkinson, G.P., Langan-Fox, J. and Sadler-Smith, E. (2008). Intuition: A fundamental bridging construct in the behavioural sciences. British Journal of Psychology, 99, 1-27.

“Instinct, like so many other inherent skill sets, seems to be an expression of our basic intuitive nature. Many of our instinctive responses are manifested by our capacity to ‘feel’ the process of these many varied inputs and ‘senses’ converging — we have the information, we can feel it coming together, but it is too complex (or outside our standard language and experience) to fully undertand or put into words or define. We can merely decide to react within the context of our most conditioned or learned response; or not react at all, which is a fully legitimate form of response within the fight, flight, faint or freeze range of instinctive responses.”  

“With the current opportunity for information, experience and language with which to analyze, discuss and manipulate its processes, it becomes a science. Many of the greater insights we have available to understand this at a practical level have emerged from recent breakthroughs in the field of electrobiochemistry and neurology as well as communication and design psychology. Science continues to explain the electrical activity (and emanations) from our bodies as well as our cellular capacity to pick up the emanations from others — and all the implications of those basic understandings. And so it is time we add these facts to the increasing volumes of material and put our knowledge to use.”

From: “A note on the Science of Intuition” http://members.shaw.ca/finkleman/intuition.htm

Intuitive Thinking May Influence Belief

In another series of studies, researchers at Harvard University found that people with a more intuitive thinking style tend to have stronger beliefs in God than those with a more reflective style.  I like to consider the word god to refer to a variety of belief systems we have seen throughout mankind and today, because they are really very similar.

“ask whether the strength of an individual’s beliefs is influenced by how much they trust their natural intuitions versus stopping to reflect on those first instincts.”  “It’s not that one way is better than the other. Intuitions are important and reflection is important, and you want some balance of the two.”

In another study, with 373 participants, the researchers found they could “temporarily influence levels of faith by instructing participants to write a paragraph describing a personal experience where either intuitive or reflective thinking led to a good result.”

The research was published online in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. The study from the Harvard University Psychology Department was conducted by Shenhav, a doctoral student; post-doctoral fellow David Rand, PhD; and associate professor Joshua Greene, PhD.

Journal Reference:

  1. Amitai Shenhav, David G. Rand, and Joshua D. Greene.Divine Intuition: Cognitive Style Influences Belief in God. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 2011

How Do We Make Moral Judgments? Insights from Psychological Science

Also published this September through Sciencedaily.  “We might like to think that our judgments are always well thought-out, but research suggests that our moral judgments are often based on intuition. Our emotions seem to drive our intuitions, giving us the gut feeling that something is ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ In some cases, however, we seem to be able to override these initial reactions.”

Matthew Feinberg and his colleague’s findings suggest that “although our emotional reactions elicit moral intuitions, these emotions can also be regulated.”

For more information: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120921124635.htm

Journal References:

  1. M. Feinberg, R. Willer, O. Antonenko, O. P. John.Liberating Reason From the Passions: Overriding Intuitionist Moral Judgments Through Emotion Reappraisal. Psychological Science, 2012; 23 (7): 788 DOI: 10.1177/0956797611434747
  2. E. Amit, J. D. Greene. You See, the Ends Don’t Justify the Means: Visual Imagery and Moral Judgment.Psychological Science, 2012; 23 (8): 861 DOI:10.1177/0956797611434965

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