The importance of intuition


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).

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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

About mathias sager

Welcome to the 'Happy Colorful Growth' way of life I am thinking and writing for happiness, painting colorfully, and enabling personal growth for all. If people can be touched at the heart level, peace will ensue. I value co-operative and humanitarian principles, economic and social equality, as well as environmental sustainability. Important personal characteristics are my broad international experience and progressive, egalitarian and global outlook, as well as my social commitment.
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7 Responses to The importance of intuition

  1. Ajibola says:

    What a great post. Thanks for sharing and keep up the good work.

  2. I have left two comments, so you don’t have to approve this one to your blog, just wanted to give some feedback.

    I really like what you’re doing, and am going to be looking through to see your other content, you have a lot to say and it is based on actual sources so it is reliable and not simply opinion. Thank you for that!

    My request would be for you to write some kind of short summary of the key points at the end of the post. I am speaking as someone who has ADHD and is not always best at reading! This would definitely engage with more people and simplify it for people who are just flicking through and see an interesting title so they take a quick look.

    Anyway, great blog and I will continue following you. If you have any feedback for me anytime i will always appreciate it!

    Have a great day.

    • mathias sager says:

      Thank you very much for your time to encourage and make such valuable suggestions for improvement. I fully agree with you that I should add some structure and readability to some of the articles. I just saw a good example on your blog too!:-) Thanks and all the best!

      • No problem and I’m glad you received my suggestion in the way I meant it!

        I read your new post this morning and you had already introduced it and it was a big improvement in its readability!

        If you would like to collaborate on something at some point in the future let me know and we can work on something!

      • One more thing, I would love to ask you a few questions about psychology, maybe it would be a good opportunity for a blog post.

        I don’t know very much about it at all, so maybe it would be a good introduction to psychology for people?

        I literally think it is a fascinating subject, and would love to draw out some of your knowledge and ideas in a few areas?

        Let me know what you think.

      • mathias sager says:

        That’s a great idea and absolutely in my sense.

        I think more research questions and results from psychology should find their way into everyday life and education. What else is more relevant for our lives than studying what makes human behavior and individual well-being and collective peace?

        Happy to start on such a collaborative post at any time. Shall we use email for developing the content in a .doc before summarizing it into a publishable format?

        Thanks, Mathias

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