Has intuition gotten a bad name?

By David Joel Miller.

People who use intuition correctly make better decisions.

Which door?


In this modern scientific era, it has become conventional wisdom to dismiss intuition as nonsense and to insist that everyone think rationally – whatever rationally means. Recent research tells us that people who have developed their intuition make better decisions much of the time and that just relying on rational explanations does not get you the best answer all the time.

Top business executives and successful entrepreneurs use intuition to get ahead and stay ahead of their competitors.

Psychological tests and particularly the Myers-Brigs personality types distinguish two personality types. Those who decide “in a blink” and those who need time to think. One way of deciding is not necessarily better than the other and people who are able to use both methods do better at many tasks.

To understand the role of intuition in our lives we need to look first at what it is and then at how its proper use might help us have a better and happier life.

The dictionary definition, from an old paper dictionary, includes “To receive or assimilate knowledge by direct perception or comprehension.” This section on defining intuition is exceptionally long and includes a list of ways in which one might receive information: look at or upon, observe, regard, contemplate or consider, immediate perception.

The principal meaning of intuition is those things you know immediately by personal experience as opposed to thinking them based on some theory or second-hand knowledge.

While I may not trust that I get everything a see correctly, the essence of intuition is found in the old adage “seeing is believing.” Which explains why knowledge based on person experiences including feelings can often be trusted more than the opinions of others including experts who have studied the subject but have no firsthand knowledge of the thing they are talking about.

Intuition, it would appear, is firsthand knowledge based on experiences not only in the head but in all the nerves in the body. We tend to believe that our brain is in our heads. More than half of those nerve cells that process information are outside the head. That feeling in your gut just might be telling you something your head needs to know. We experience these nerves outside our head as feelings or emotions and it turns out that this “felt-sense” is often more accurate that what we might be thinking.

What are some of the advantages of using intuition in making decisions and why might it beat out slow careful deliberation?

Using intuition has several features to recommend it.

1. It is easy, requires no effort to assemble data, analyze that data and deliberate decisions.

2. It is often much faster than deliberative or logical decision-making. By the time you get the research done the market opportunity may be passed and you competitor may be in charge.

3. Using intuition does not require deliberation, committee meetings or extensive testing.

4. We are often more confident in the results of our intuitive decisions because they – just feel right.

Taking the slow deliberative approach does not eliminate mistakes as any marketing research director should be able to tell you. Here are the problems with doing market research to use as a basis for your decisions.

1. The information you will get is often not what you wanted.

2. If you get the facts you want they might not be the ones you need.

3. Fully researching things may take too much time and cost too much

4. Even when you get all the facts, can afford the cost, get the info you were looking for it still might not tell you what you need to do.

The trends in products may take years to develop and a new introduction by a competitor could change the whole market overnight while you are doing research. Try applying this research model to your personal life.

A personality test may tell you if you have things in common with a potential partner but it does not guarantee success in the relationship. Making that cute guy or gal take a 5-hour personality test may just blow the whole deal even before you get to the first date.

There are times in our life, both personal and professional when we just might need to trust our instincts and use that old friend intuition.

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books


2 thoughts on “Has intuition gotten a bad name?

  1. Pingback: Picture is worth a thousand words? Not always | counselorssoapbox

  2. Pingback: Where have all the feelings gone? Emotions or rational logic? | counselorssoapbox

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