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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Intuition- Do You Have It?

Intuition may be defined as the "ability to sense or know immediately without reasoning." It is often regarded as a divine or prophetic power. Intuitions lead people to believe things without being able to articulate evidence or reasons for those beliefs. In the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, intuition is one of the basic cognitive faculties, equivalent to what might loosely be called perception, or an understanding of sensory information. Can intuition help someone avert illness through intuitive guidance and healing? Can intuition lead to business success in matters of investing, trading, hiring, and firing? Can intuition lead to whole brain learning, spiritual consciousness, or even more effective over-all living? Maybe like Luke Skywalker, people should trust "the force." Yet, comparing intuition with cognitive science may be more like comparing professional wrestling to athletics, an illusion or substitute for the real thing. Intuition is often wrong. Consider love-- Is it the heart or the brain that really falls in love? The brain is the logical answer. Consider other commonly held intuitions: familiarity breeds contempt, dreams predict the future, high self-esteem is always beneficial. These intuitions are very evidently not always reliable. Yet judges, investors, coaches, and clinicians depend on the powers and perils of intuition. (Intuition: Its Powers and Perils, David G. Myers, Yale University Press, 2002) Many decision researchers warn people against using their intuitions, which are prone to being misleading, and to instead consider multiple options and compare them across multiple dimensions. In recent years, there has been greater acknowledgement of the infeasibility of comparing multiple options as well as the advantages of strengthening intuition in order to pick good first options. According to most decision-making models, people in unpredictable situations who make life-and-death decisions should fail more often than they succeed. There is too much uncertainty and too little time for them to make good choices. Yet again and again, they do the right thing. "Their minds move so rapidly when they make a high-pressure decision, they can't articulate how they did it," says Klein. "They can see what's going on in front of them, but not behind them." Gary Klein has pioneered a field known as naturalistic decision making. His work helped develop the process of task analysis that considers mental and physical activities, task durations, task frequency, and task complexity as well as other unique factors required for completing a given task. Klein has studied how people make choices with rigid time constraints, limited information, and changing goals (Sources of Power, The Power of Intuition; 1999, 2004; Gary Klein) Through studies of firefighters, marines, NICU nurses, and many other decision makers, Klein came up with a model he called the Recognition-Primed Decision (RPD) model. The core idea is that the store of experience that a worker builds creates certain templates, and when the worker is thrust into a new situation, the new situation is matched against these templates. If a good match is obtained, the course of action suitable for that template is tried. The rich repository of experience helps with the initial recognition of the appropriate template, with the mental simulation that follows, and with collecting feedback once a course of action has been sought. (Klein, 2004)

The emphasis is not on analysis but on building a story, and judging the story by how well it fits the facts, where the extent of the fit is determined by feedback from past experience.

"For instance, a firefighter, over the years, becomes sensitive to different cues such as the smell, floor temperature, room temperature, way in which the fire is spreading, and numerous other small indicators. By gauging these cues, the firefighter subconsciously develops a “story” around how the fire developed and what the priority should be (rescue people, douse the flames, call for more help). Similarly, nurses in intensive care units for children (The NICU nurses) develop a repository of experiences on subtle cues as well as combinations of cues that ill children provide. An experienced nurse can thus size up a situation based on the many cues he or she (usually, she) sees, and develop a story that immediately suggests a next course of action." (Klein, 2004, Applied Research Associates)

If people want to call Klein's research "gut reaction," they should do so with the greatest care. Most consider the "story" metaphor the best illustration of the Recognition-Primed Decision model. This "intuition building" behavior is based on knowledge and factual information. No wonder the success rate of such templates is amazing high. So, in a surge of emotions called love, should people trust their intuitions? Blind trust in intuition would certainly seem wrong. Feeling trapped or unable to choose what is right would likewise be inadvisable in love. How about when the heart says one thing, but mind disagrees? Again, this is a danger sign. Yet one can find self-help book after self-help book praising the power of intuition in love. In Delphi, where the ancient Greeks came to seek guidance from clairvoyant oracles, most of those “seers” were women. And, true, women may be better than men at understanding the nuances of body posture, gestures, facial expressions and tone of voice. Moreover, the female brain has more nerve cables between the two hemispheres, as well as more long distance connections within each hemisphere--brain architecture likely to help them connect desperate bits of data. Also, women are (on average) more interested in people than men. Does this intuitive power really suggest women are better at judging potential mates? What do you think? Back to the illusions at the top of the entry. Did your intuition tell you the inner rectangle is not one shade? Wrong! The soldiers are all the same size, believe it or not, dear intuition. And in Delboenf's illusion: Here we have four circles. The outer circle on the left, and the inner circle on the right are of the same size, but the right one appears larger.
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