Thursday, July 1, 2010

New Evidence for Intuition - May Not Be What You Think

The best book I’ve read about intuition is How We Decide, by Jonah Lehrer (2009). I appreciate the way he treats intuition for what it is—an ordinary function of the human brain. He explains that the brain stores an amazing amount of input in long-term memory: sights, sounds, experiences, associations, emotions, facts, principles, plans, dreams, and more. To solve a problem, it connects all the relevant information at lightning speed. Then it checks how we feel about it—whether it’s related to pleasure and fulfillment or pain and frustration. All of this happens in the background, outside conscious attention. This result is intuition. It’s a feeling, but it’s based on an astounding amount of mental processing.

According to Lehrer, when we try to be logical, we consciously engage a powerful area of the brain, the pre-frontal cortex. This is the area that associates perceptions and relates cause-and-effect information to create meaning. Conscious attention is limited, however. We can only pay attention to a handful of variables at the same time. Also, being consciously logical is a slow process.

My favorite intuition story is about how NFL quarterbacks know which receiver to throw the ball to. After the snap, a lot of things begin to happen all at once, many of them violent and unforeseen. Five receivers could be running different patterns simultaneously as the defense reacts. What happens in each case is unpredictable. The quarterback can’t sort through all this information logically in the few seconds it takes for the defensive linemen to reach him. So the best quarterbacks don’t try. They just throw to the receiver that “feels right.”

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The above is an excerpt from an article I wrote for the weekly Golden Eggs ezine. Lehrer's book is quite entertaining, and I loved his brain-based treatment of decision-making. It's the best explanation of intuition I've ever read. The article summarizes the best stories from the book. You probably should use your own intuition with more confidence, and with more care. To read the full article, check this week's issue of Golden Eggs. If you haven't subscribed yet, you can do so in the box at the top of this page.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength .

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We all knew that Obama would win unless it was stolen -that was good intuition