Intuition: Neuroscience explains what it is and how it affects our decision-making

In the Western world, where analytical thinking has been steadily promoted in recent decades, relying on one’s intuition is frowned upon. Many people believe that evolution has led us from primitive and religious thinking to analytical and scientific thinking, coming to regard emotions and intuition as faulty and strange tools.

However, intuition is not a “product” of unscientific thinking but the result of many processes that occur in our brain.

Research shows that the brain is a prediction machine, as it constantly compares the information it receives from the senses and current experiences with stored knowledge and memories of previous experiences and predicts what will happen next. This ensures that the brain is always prepared to deal with any current situation in the best possible way. When something unexpected happens, the brain updates its cognitive models. The matching of previous models and current experience is done automatically and subconsciously.

If the brain’s matching results in a significant match or mismatch but this has not yet reached conscious awareness then intuition occurs. The greater the experience in a particular domain the more information the brain has to compare current experience with and the more reliable the intuitions. This means that, as with creativity, intuition can improve with experience.
In Psychology, two general modes of thinking are recognized: Intuitive thinking which is automatic, fast and subconscious and Analytical thinking which is logical, deliberate, slow and conscious.

And while many believe that these types of thinking are opposites and the way they work cannot be changed, recent research has shown that analytical and intuitive thinking are not correlated and therefore can occur simultaneously, complementing each other or working together. coordinated. How many scientific researches, ideas and hypotheses, did not start with an intuition and were later validated through tests and analyses!

However, what should we do when we have a serious decision to make? Could we just rely on our intuition?

The answer is not so simple. Intuition is based on evolutionarily older, automatic and fast processing and can therefore be misguided, such as cognitive biases.

Cognitive biases are systematic errors in thinking that occur automatically. However, if one becomes familiar with common cognitive biases, one can learn to spot them in future situations. Also, because intuition relies on fast processing that is ancient, it sometimes happens to be outdated.

So when you are faced with making a decision based on your own assessment, ask yourself:

1. Has your intuition correctly assessed the situation?

2. Is this an evolutionary old or new condition?

3. Are there cognitive biases?

4. Do you have experience or expertise in these types of situations?

If it’s evolutionary, old, involves cognitive bias, and you don’t have any expertise in it, then prefer to rely on analytical thinking. Otherwise, rely on your intuition.

It’s time to stop looking at intuition with suspicion and see it for what it is: an automatic, fast and subconscious way of processing that can give us a lot of useful information that analytical thinking can’t and also to accept that, these two types of thinking can happen together and work together, whenever we are faced with difficult situations and have to make serious decisions.

Source: Εναλλακτική Δράση by

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