A 33-year-old woman presented with flu-like symptoms. His physician examined him. There was nothing that stuck out. However, for some reason, the doctor chose to conduct a comprehensive examination. Why? “My spider senses started to tingle as soon as I started talking to him,” the doctor told researchers.
It turned out that the doctor’s instincts were correct. The patient was diagnosed with lung cancer. “Intuition is thinking that you know without knowing why you know,” says Nobel Laureate economist Daniel Kahneman. As in scanning three résumés fast and selecting the best applicant without having to think too much.
Like scanning vast supermarket checkout lines quickly and choosing, without having to think too hard, which is going to be the quickest. Like listening to someone talk for a few minutes and assessing if they’re clever or simply a D-K without having to think about it. It’s true that you’ll make mistakes from time to time. But not as often as you think, depending on your level of emotional intelligence.
What Is Intuition and How Does It Work?
The strength of intuition is supported by science. The basal ganglia and insula, two different parts of the brain, influence intuitive judgments, as Friederike Fabritius and Hans Hagemann explain in The Leading Brain: Neuroscience Hacks to Work Smarter, Better, and Happier. The memorised routines and patterns that make up your experiences are managed by your basal ganglia.
Your insula is responsible for bodily awareness and is acutely aware of any changes in your body. Even if you aren’t consciously aware of it, your unconscious brain immediately begins working on an issue or making a choice. When you try to make a conscious decision, your brain compares it to the one you’ve previously made subconsciously.
Here’s what happens after that:
Your brain emits a mild reward response if your unconscious agrees with your conscious judgement. The choice does not appear to be rational. It’s also enjoyable. Your insula notices additional changes in your body if your unconscious disagrees with your conscious judgement. While the conclusion appears to be rational, it does not feel right.
Why? Your anterior cingulate cortex creates an electrical signal called error-related negativity when your brain predicts a reward but your body does not. (Or, to put it another way, a “Uh-oh!” response.) That is where intuition originates.
Make the best decision you can, and your body will thank you. If you make a poor decision, your body will let you know. You, like the doctor, have no idea why. You simply have a feeling.
Now add some emotional intelligence to the mix?
People with lesser levels of emotional intelligence are more prone to mistake the messages their bodies provide them, according to a 2020 study published in Emotion. They mistaken their bodies’ “warning sign” for exhilaration in one case, and instead of moving cautiously, they took further risks. They mistook “Uh-oh” for “Let’s go!” As my Inc.
Colleague Justin Bariso points out, one component of emotional intelligence is the capacity to make your emotions work for you rather than against you, which is difficult to do when you can’t correctly interpret your feelings. Overstating your degree of experience is also a bad idea. Hundreds of situations have been performed, trained, and debriefed by Navy SEALs.
Because of their intelligence, they may react instinctively to new or changing situation. Overstating your degree of experience is also a bad idea. Hundreds of situations have been performed, trained, and debriefed by Navy SEALs. Because their experience bank is full, they may intuitively adapt to new or changing circumstances. Sully chose to land on the Hudson River for this reason. That’s why quarterbacks like Tom Brady can read situations so fast and make the correct ball.
When Should You Rely on Your Gut Feelings?
All of this sounds appealing. But there’s a distinction to be made between gut instinct and guesswork. So, how can you determine whether your gut instinct is correct? First, think about your emotional intelligence. But don’t just assume you’re emotionally clever because more than 80% of respondents stated they were above-average drivers, despite the fact that this is mathematically impossible.
Take a quiz. (Even if you don’t like everything you learn about yourself.) The higher your emotional intelligence, the more likely you are to interpret your body’s intuitive “Uh-oh” response correctly. (At the very least, take a moment to contemplate what you’re missing.)
Is this a consistent, predictable place?
When something occurs frequently, the results are more likely to be predictable. Consider the game of chess. “When master chess players look at the board, their intuitions are generally right,” Kahneman explains. People in tight connections, for example.
“Everyone who has ever been married could determine their partner’s mood by one phrase over the phone,” he claims. Or even doctors: Researchers have discovered a striking link between a doctor’s “gut emotions” regarding ICU patients at the start of their stay — when medical data was scarce — and the treatment course and result.
Do I have a lot of training or experience?
Accurate intuition isn’t something you’re born with; it takes a lot of effort to develop. This is how seasoned recruiting managers can make quick and accurate selections. Doctors can tell when something isn’t quite right in this way. That’s how you can tell whether something appears to be too wonderful to be true.
Have I received adequate feedback?
You can’t tell whether an intuition was correct or incorrect without feedback, which implies you can’t calibrate your intuition. That, according to Kahneman, is the distinction between luck and intuition. You made a lucky guess if you got it right but can’t go back and trace what your unconscious detected.
If you can express the reasons why later, it shows you knew…you simply didn’t know why you knew at the time. All of this leads to a conclusion. Data isn’t a replacement for intuition. For the sake of rationality. For the purpose of research. For the sake of rationality.
Expert intuition, on the other hand, may detect occasions when your analysis is faulty and your reasoning is wrong. This is the sort of intuition that comes from true experience. Especially if you’re emotionally aware enough to understand your body’s messages.