The importance of intuition

Mathias Sager
4 min readFeb 7, 2019

What are the “hidden” aspects, the unconscious parts of personalities’ mental functioning that is determining human behavior? While Freud is using the term ‘drive,’ ‘instinct’ and ‘intuition’ (more casually also ‘gut feeling’) are rather popular expressions too, while ‘instinct’ may be seen as a more inherent, and ‘intuition’ as a more experience based type of unconscious mental activity (Sun & Wilson, 2014). Intuition may be substantial for the humanist approach as well, as there is an expectation that the self-actualization tendency is at work in unconscious situations such as creative work, euphoria, and intuition (Gordon, 2012).

Ancient definition states that intuition is a mechanism, which allows becoming conscious about something that is already known (Carina & Johannes, 2016). Recent definitions describe intuitions as a rapid, effortless, automatic, and unconscious process (Murphy, 2014). As Martindale and Collins (2013) put it, intuition is the revelation of memorized information and therefore represents a skill rather than a myth. Freud’s psychoanalytic technique of free association to make unconscious experiences conscious (Ziegler, 2002) may, therefore, be helping intuition.

There is increasing scientific evidence for that the human mind operates in two modes, a conscious (rational) and an unconscious (intuitive) one (Krieshok, Motl, & Rutt, 2011). However, latest state of neuroscientific research rather supports a tripartite structure of the mind composed of instincts, emotions (intuitions), and thoughts, while “emotions are not always automatic and not in general opposition to reason” (Levine, 2017, p. 1). Intuition was neuro-psychologically found to have a low- and high-level capacity, the latter being able to reconcile conflicting aspects of one’s self-concept in the form of consolidating feelings (Carina & Johannes, 2016). Consequently, intuitions could help preventing neurosis as a result of conflicts between the real and ideal self, as a self-actualizing person may experience (Finke, 2002). The importance of intuition respectively feelings for judgmental ability has been shown by Palmeira (2014). Furthermore, intuition seems to be particularly important for challenging, life purpose related (Carina & Johannes, 2016), and new and unusual situations (Gächter, 2012). However, according to Krieshok et al. (2011) people tend to take major decisions consciously and therefore more according to their social identity than based on personally intuitive and genuine criteria.

Intuition also plays a major role in moral judgment as personal differences may result from how someone depends on it (Lombrozo, 2009). Strikingly, people’s intuitive response generally results in more cooperative behavior and (over-) thinking may increase more egoistic behavior (Gächter, 2012). In conclusion, it seems that intuition is important for human judgment and behavior and sound decisions might come from a balance of reasoning and intuition (Krieshok et al., 2011). Skilled intuition may even be an indicator of mental health. Carina and Johannes (2016) found that depressed individuals are less capable of taking choices and healthy test person have been evaluated as being able to use their intuition for problem-solving. Intuition capacity can be measured with the Types of Intuition Scale (TIntS) measures (Pretz et al., 2004).

Photo credit: xusenru (pixabay.com)

References

Carina, R., & Johannes, M. (2016). Loosing gut feeling? Intuition in Depression. Frontiers In Psychology, Vol 7 (2016), doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01291/full

Finke, J. (2002). Aspects of the actualizing tendency from a humanistic psychology perspective. Person-Centered And Experiential Psychotherapies, 1(1–2), 28–40. doi:10.1080/14779757.2002.9688276

Gächter, S. (2012). Human behaviour: A cooperative instinct. Nature, 489(7416), 374–375. doi:10.1038/489374a

Gordon, S. (2012). Existential Time and the Meaning of Human Development. Humanistic Psychologist, 40(1), 79. doi:10.1080/08873267.2012.643691

Krieshok, T., Motl, T., & Rutt, B. (2011). The Evolution of Vocational Psychology: Questions for a Postmodern Applied Discipline. Journal Of Career Assessment, 19(3), 228–239.

Levine, D. S. (2017). Modeling the instinctive-emotional-thoughtful mind. Cognitive Systems Research, doi:10.1016/j.cogsys.2017.05.002

Lombrozo, T. (2009). The Role of Moral Commitments in Moral Judgment. Cognitive Science, 33(2), 273–286. doi:10.1111/j.1551–6709.2009.01013.x

Martindale, A., & Collins, D. (2013). The Development of Professional Judgment and Decision Making Expertise in Applied Sport Psychology. Sport Psychologist, 27(4), 390–398.

Murphy, P. (2014). Teaching Applied Ethics to the Righteous Mind. Journal Of Moral Education, 43(4), 413–428.

Palmeira, M. (2014). Intuitions in Conflict: Preference Reversals Due to Switch Between Sensitization and Diminishing Sensitivity. Journal Of Behavioral Decision Making, 27(2), 124–133.

Pretz, J., Brookings, J., Carlson, L., Humbert, T., Roy, M., Jones, M., & Memmert, D. (2014). Development and Validation of a New Measure of Intuition: The Types of Intuition Scale. Journal Of Behavioral Decision Making, 27(5), 454–467.

Sun, R., & Wilson, N. (2014). Roles of Implicit Processes: Instinct, Intuition, and Personality. Mind And Society: A Journal Of Cognitive Studies In Economics And Social Sciences, 13(1), 109–134.

Ziegler, D. J. (2002). Freud, Rogers, and Ellis: A comparative theoretical analysis. Journal Of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 20(2), 75–92. doi:10.1023/A:1019808217623

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Mathias Sager

Awareness Intelligence research and application since 1975. It’s humantime. www.mathias-sager.com, goodthings@mathias-sager.com. Thanks and all the best!