Intuition is a hot topic. Today there are lots of trainers, coaches, consultants, and authors advocating the powers of intuition. ‘Don’t be too rational, trust you intuition!’, they say. But how well-informed are these people about what intuition really is? To what extent can you rely on your intuition and to what extent should you be skeptical? In this book, David Myers, a well-known writer on psychology, explains what is known about intuition.
WE KNOW MORE THAN WE KNOW WE KNOW
What is it anyway? David Myers explains that intuition is our capacity for direct knowledge, for immediate insight without observation or reason. In contrast, deliberte thinking is reasoning-like, critical, and anlytic. So there are two levels of thinking:
1. DELIBERATE THINKING: this level of thinking is conscious and analytical. It is very valuable because it helps us to focus on what is really important and protects us from having to think about everything at once. It is as it where the mind’s executive desk.
2. INTUITION: this unconscious level is automatic. It seems, inside our minds there are processing systems that work without us knowing it. To use a metafor by David Myers: we effortlessly delegate most of our thinking and decisions making to the masses of cognitive workers busily at work in our minds’ basement. These processes enables us, for instance, to recognize instantly, among thousands of humans, someone we have not seen in five years. We do know, but we don’t know how we know.
WHAT WE KNOW, BUT DONÂ’T KNOW WE KNOW, AFFECTS MORE THAN WE KNOW
Both ways of knowing are present within each person. Often they support eachother, sometimes they lead to conflicting conclusions. One thing is important: we tend to underrate how much of our actions are guided by unconsicous thinking. A vast proportion of our behavior is under control of unconscious perception and information processing. This automaticity of being
helps us through most of the situations we encounter (you type without consciously knowing where exactly the letters on your keyboard are; you’d have to ‘ask your fingers` to know where they are). What’s more, it is even so that we can process and be influenced by unattended information (for instance you had not noticed someone talking at a party until s/he mentioned your name, then you suddenly noticed this). Furthermore, we sometimes unconsciously continue processing information regarding problems (after having stopped trying to remember a name, we sometimes ‘suddenly` remember it).
WE DON’T SEE THINGS AS THEY ARE, WE SEE THINGS AS WE ARE
Intuition is powerful and important and often it will pay to ‘listen to your heart´. But intuition also often errs. An important example is that our theories and assumptions distort our perceptions and interpretations. For instance if we hold a stereotype about a certain category of people, we unknowingly tend to selectively perceive what they do. We tend to notice information that confirms the stereotype more readily than other information. This way, we tend to see our beliefs confirmed. Other examples of unrealistic intuition are: 1) hindsight bias (‘I knew it all along’), 2) self-serving bias (accepting more responsibility for succeses that for failures), 3) overconfidence bias (we tend to intuitively assume that the way we perceive the world, so it is).
This is a great book for anyone interested in psychology and intuition. The material is presented very pleasantly and clearly. David Myers describes many interesting experiments that certainly will challenge your intuition (for instance some eye-opening experiments by the recent Nobel price winner psychologist Daniel Kahneman). Often these experiments will surprise you. Special attention is payed to the role of intuition in specific contexts like sports, investment, therapy, interviewing and risk taking. Psychology is still an interesting subject. This book is a clear reminder of that. …
Coert Visser, www.m-cc.nl