How do we know, well, anything? Our parents, teachers and others have taught us things directly, other knowledge and wisdom we’ve picked up on our own through trial and error and observation. What about when something just seems to hit us “out of thin air”?
Thinking, logic and analysis are within the realm of the conscious mind, whereas the unconscious mind connects hunches, feelings, etc. in a nonlinear way (past/present/future). Intuition is there to bridge the gap -between reason and instinct; it’s a knowing without knowing, what most would call a “gut feeling.”
The exact nature of intuition has led to many centuries worth of research, both in philosophy and cognitive science. It has taken a long time to find real evidence demonstrating that we can make successful choices without deliberate analytic thought – current research shows that going with our gut can point us to faster and more accurate decisions. https://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/27/navy-program-to-study-how-troops-use-intuition/ https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797616629403
In the world of psychology, Insight relies heavily on knowledge, that is, in the awareness of ideas, situations, objects, ways of doing things, etc. In other words, solutions to problems materialize out of the information and memories we already hold, and involves 4 stages of behavioural processes: impasse (can’t think of how to solve the problem), fixation (even though a prospective solution is ineffective, it will be tried again and again), incubation (a period of time of “giving up” which allows the mind to clear itself), and, of course, the payoff – the “Eureka!” or “Aha!” moment (why wasn’t that obvious all along!!!)
There are 3 general views of this concept:
- Nothing-Special – a natural process of our brains; a result of how we already process information
- Neo-Gestaltist – there is something special going on; cognitively higher than routine problem-solving
- Three-Process – there are 3 individual types of insight
(a) selective-encoding (b) selective-comparison (c) selective-combination
Insight and Intuition share some similarities on a cognitive (mental action/process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses) and neural (relating to the nervous system) basis. They happen under similar circumstances of uncertainty and they involve unconscious associations and information retrieval (right superior temporal cortex).
There are also differences, for example, intuition entails a judgement [yes-or-no], whereas insight involves a “what” [is the solution]. Intuition is continuous, that is, occurs gradually over time, insight appears into consciousness and is discontinuous, that is, it changes in stages. Implicit knowledge, the kind that is hard to articulate in words to someone, is of great benefit to intuition, insight depends more on explicit knowledge.
To sum up for now, intuition and insight both use data and result in a conclusion. Intuition is more subjective, drawing from personal learning, experiences, and training. Insight comes more from external, objective data.
“Tune in” next week for Part II to discover ways to “check with yourself” beyond your five senses.