Is it usually wise to follow your intuition?
You sit at home late on a Friday evening, and concern for a friend strikes suddenly making you call only to confirm the feeling that your friend is depressed. Knowing your friend is in crisis is a phenomenon many people experience known as “intuition.”
Intuition is the feeling or thought formed from beliefs, opinion, experience, and other subjective reasoning. All people experience intuition with some utilizing it more than others while many seek to control this phenomenon. Knowing your friend is in crisis is a powerful form of predictive ability but intuition often asserts itself in error, causing serious misjudgments.
In many instances, intuition can have devastating results such as investing. Speculative investing often comes down to gut feelings concerning the viability and future worth of ideas such as autonomous vehicle technologies, which appear to be a good investment as artificial intelligence continues automating many common tasks. However, speculative investors are often wrong and sink money into technologies companies that fail. Investment in MySpace might have seemed like a good idea but ultimately the company did not become the success hoped despite being one of the largest and most popular social media sites prior to Facebook. Every year investors lose millions perhaps billions of dollars using gut feelings to gamble on startup companies.
Relying on intuition is a gamble in many instances since the process of intuiting is still largely unknown. The ability of the mind to know something without conscious thought seems to fly in the face of many well-structured philosophies and critical analysis processes intended to improve thinking. One theory somewhat explaining intuition is Recognition-primed decision (RPD) model (Klein, 1998). This theory assumes a person intuiting is comparing multiple actions and challenges to actions quickly due to experience, formulating possible outcomes and choosing the likeliest. However, this does not explain how intuition happens in individuals who are not experienced in a particular situation such as believing something bad is happening at work only to discover the company is laying everyone off. This gap in understanding of intuition gives rise to the issue of superstition which often impacts intuitive thought.
Intuition can be misinformed through a common belief system known as superstition. B.F. Skinner researched superstitious behaviors, studying people’s impact of belief on a person’s actions and how this reinforced behavior (Morris & Maisto, 2002). Skinner experimented with a pigeon in a cage given food randomly and over time, the pigeon began repeating behaviors performed prior to food being provided. Somehow the pigeon linked actions with the reward of food despite there being no connection (Morris & Maisto, 2002).
Superstitious behavior works in the same manner as people link random often inconsequential actions with outcomes thus giving the appearance of intuition. For instance, if a salesperson believes the old wives tale that an itchy palm means money is forthcoming, then going to work and making a sale is then erroneously attributed to intuition. The person did not know they were going to make money but instead believed or hoped based on superstition which the random sale reinforced belief. Sadly, the many wrong assumptions based on this thinking are often never considered in relation to the few instances of being correct.
Black cats are still considered the harbingers of bad luck in many places in the world because of superstition.
Photo by Tolga Ahmetler on Unsplash
Intuition is considered phenomena for the good reason that its mechanics are not fully understood at present. Yet, the power of intuitive thought is clear as it provides predictive capability and often fast answers to situations. Not understanding this thought mechanism makes intuition an unreliable method of deduction, and for certain if we desire to understand and use it more effectively, we need to recognize when we are relying on superstitious or irrational beliefs.
Gary A. Klein, (1998) Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass, pp. 1–30.
Morris, C. G., & Maisto, A. A. (2002). Psychology: An introduction (12th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Vincent Triola. Sat, Apr 03, 2021. What is intuition? Retrieved from https://vincenttriola.com/blogs/ten-years-of-academic-writing/what-is-intuition