By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.
Intuition makes up half the decision-making system in your brain.
People who study brain functioning have investigated two different ways in which people make decisions. This is sometimes called the dual-process theory. One system, the deliberate decision-making system, is slow and requires a lot of information to arrive at a decision. The other system, intuition, reaches a conclusion rapidly, often based on very little conscious information. Relying on only one of these two systems can get you into trouble. The challenge is to decide when to use the slow, deliberative decision-making model and when to use the fast, intuitive model.
When might ignoring intuition get you into serious trouble?
You’re in the big city, walking across the street. You glance up and suddenly realize a bus is speeding towards you and you are about to get hit. Which decision-making model do you think you ought to use?
If you’re a very logical person, you might want to think this over a bit. How many feet away as the bus? How fast is the bus traveling? You look ahead and see how many feet it is to the other side of the street to get out of the way of the bus. You might also want to look back to estimate if you turn around and jump back onto the sidewalk; how far must you go? While you’re gathering all this information, the bus driver is slamming on the brakes, and you are betting your life on whether he will stop before impact.
What if you decided to use your intuition?
People who use an intuitive decision-making model would leap one way or the other without thinking. If you pick the right direction, this improves your chances of survival. Of course, you could choose the wrong direction and run directly into the path of the bus. Or you might decide to turn around and run back for the sidewalk you just left. One of these decisions, maybe both, might save your life.
Are there other situations in which you might want to use your intuition?
Social situations are a time when you want to rely on your intuition. You meet someone, and they say hello. If you stand there too long thinking over what the proper greeting would be, you’re going to appear socially inept. In the pre-Covid days, if someone put out their hand, you wanted to put your hand out and shake. Now your automatic response might be to bump elbows or perform some other gesture. What you don’t want to do is stand there staring blankly.
Making good decisions in life involves using both decision-making systems.
Relying too much on one decision-making system and not enough on the other are characteristics of two specific mental illnesses. Research on decision-making tells us that people on the autism spectrum rely heavily on thinking things over. They are high on rational decision-making, but that leaves them unable to make automatic decisions based on their intuitive systems.
On the other end of the spectrum are people who make almost all decisions emotionally or using the intuitive method. Relying solely on the intuitive decision-making system is one of the characteristics of schizotypal personality disorder.
You can improve both decision-making systems.
Some people believe that they are using logic to make their decisions, but their decision-making is so full of logical errors and flaws that it’s not very useful. Studying logic and how to make better decisions can improve the slow, deliberative decision-making system.
Many people don’t realize that the fast, intuitive decision-making system can also be improved. In some upcoming posts, I want to talk to you about improving your intuitive decision-making and deciding when to trust those fast decisions and when to use the slower logical decision-making system.
Other posts on related topics can be found under the following categories.
Overthinking Rumination Worry Finding Yourself
Personality Inner Child Intuition Personality Disorders
Staying connected with David Joel Miller
Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!
My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seems like the right time to publish it.
Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.
Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.
As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.
Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.
Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.
Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.
Planned Accidents The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.
Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.
What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?
Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.
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