We’ve all had the experience of being faced with having to make a decision with insufficient information on which to make it. Yet, somehow, with the odds apparently stacked against us, we are able to decide which path is the best to take. These decisions don’t have to be monumental; they could just as easily be deciding which present to buy someone as they could be having to make an important business choice. In these instances we rely on our intuition; that gut feeling that tells us whether a decision feels good or bad. Intuition can spare us countless problems, acting as an antenna for potential trouble.
What Is Intuition?
Intuition is an important part of our daily lives and has been commented upon by many notable figures. The American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson saw intuition as “the primary wisdom,” because it is a more direct way through which we can achieve knowledge that would otherwise be beyond our capabilities. Albert Einstein said that intuition is “the only real valuable thing”, while John Nesbitt, the acclaimed cognitive psychologist, stated that “given the increasing demand on our limited supply of mental energy, intuition represents a much needed form of cognitive economy.”
Those with pronounced intuitive skills tend to rise to the top of their respective heaps, whether it is personally or professionally. Warren Buffet, the American businessman, magnate, investor and philanthropist is widely considered to be the most successful investor of the 20th Century. He attributes his success in the stock markets to his ‘market sense,’ which gives him the uncanny ability to just ‘know’ when to buy and sell stocks and shares. Similarly, Gary Kasparov, the feted chess player, confesses that he has “an acute sense of the board”, which gives him the upper hand in a game, regardless of his opponent’s tactical abilities. Richard Feynman, a Nobel laureate in Physics used his intuition to solve mathematical problems that it took his counterparts hours to work through.
Most of us have a general idea as to what intuition is. Most often, it refers to a gut feeling or conviction that something is right or wrong, even without evidence to support your choice. Many of us have had the experience of either liking or disliking someone within minutes of meeting them or knowing that something is going to happen, when we have no concrete reason which to found our belief. Intuition is often referred to as a hunch, inner wisdom, instinct, common sense, insight and even business acumen.
However, in trying to answer the question whether intuition is a survival instinct or a sixth sense, we must take into account that there are various types of intuitive ability. Psychics believe that intuition is an innate power in all of us that is evidence of our latent, psychic abilities. Scientists, however, believe that intuition is little more than a set of perceptual cognitive processes and skills; there has even been a computing algorithm developed to simulate intuition. However, intuitive abilities can be broken down into a number of categories:
Types of Intuition
● Basic instincts. These are learned forms of intuition, such as the fight-or-flight response or self-preservatory behaviour.
● Conditioned emotional response. These include emotions that we use to assess people or places, such as attraction, fear, suspicion and attachment.
● Bodily awareness. This is the phenomena of ‘listening to what your body needs’, such as particular foods, exercise, warmth and anything we need to maintain our physical health.
● Spiritual awareness. This is what psychics would cite as evidence of our higher abilities. It is the phenomenon of knowing without knowledge and can be used to include talents such as ESP, clairvoyants and intuitive-based skills.
● Interpersonal awareness. This is the ability to assess relationships between people quickly and without having to question those involved. It might be a heightened ability to read body language or sensitivity to the way people interact.
● Practical awareness. This is the ability that some people have wherein they can solve practical problems without apparently having to think about them.
● Expert awareness. This is an intuitive ability within a particular field, such as Buffet’s abilities on the stock market and Kasparov’s uncanny prowess at chess.
The common theme to all these forms of intuition is that they all seem to involve a fast-track process which doesn’t necessarily rely on intelligence or experience. It seems that some are definitely survival instincts, yet there are those that are less easy to pin down, especially as there is no real need for them in 21st Century life. However, there is a school of thought that suggests that intuition is based on constantly-updated data absorbed by the subconscious; the required responses are locked away in our psyches and can only be unlocked by certain trigger situations, giving the appearance of knowledge without knowledge.
Following this train of thought, it is safe to say that intuition is a combination of both instinctive learning and a higher sense of what is about to happen. The information database is continually renewed, as our subconscious records and evaluates new experiences and situations.
Intuition can be broadly defined as a series of interrelated skills that can be executed automatically and, seemingly, without any conscious thought. It gives the user the ability to see the solution to a problem before they apply their powers of reason and logic to it. In addition, it gives someone the ability to assess the significance of the situation and rattle through the potential outcomes faster than conscious thought allows, arriving at the one that is most probable, with no apparent effort. Intuitive abilities can reflect a mind that has superb analytical properties and can record and store information, for future use, but it may also signify that a person has a mind that is fluid, adaptable and open to new ideas.
Intuition can mean the difference between success and failure, in a variety of situations and arenas. Even though we may not know exactly what intuition is, it is always there when we need it, helping us to navigate unknown odds and come out on top, even when everything seems uncertain.