Intuition is an instantaneous understanding or recognition of something, without the conscious use of reasoning or analytic abilities.
This may come in the form of a sudden inkling, an instinctive reaction, or a “gut feeling” about a particular situation or decision.
For example, in a chess game, a player might instantly know the best move to make, without being able to articulate how they came to that conclusion.
Many psychologists view intuition as a potentially useful complement to logical thinking, not as its adversary. Some studies have found that intuition often aligns with what is known as expert or “tacit knowledge“, suggesting that experience and learned patterns can significantly inform our intuitive judgments.
- Choosing a Book: When you’re at the bookstore, you feel drawn to a particular book without knowing why.
- Driving: You suddenly decide to change lanes, only to see a car swerve uncontrollably in your previous lane moments later.
- Presentation Skills: You’re giving a presentation and feel compelled to stop and ask if there are any questions, only to discover a key stakeholder was about to leave because he didn’t understand something.
- Job Interviews: You have a strong feeling that an interview candidate isn’t the right fit for your company culture, though they meet all the necessary qualifications on paper.
- Traveling: You decide not to take your usual route to work one day, and later you hear about a major accident that occurred along the route.
- Choosing a Partner: You had an instant connection with your partner and somehow knew that they were ‘the one’.
- Working with Others: Selecting team members for a project based on a hunch about who will work well together.
- Gaming: Deciding on the right strategies in board games or video games intuitively.
- Shopping: Picking up an item that is on sale, despite not being in need of it, only to realize later that a friend needed that exact thing.
- Finding Lost Items: Suddenly knowing where you left your keys without consciously realizing you remembered placing them there.
- Cooking: Deciding to add a certain spice to a dish, even though it’s not listed in the recipe, and it turns out great.
- Parenting: Knowing when your child is in trouble or needs assistance, even when they aren’t communicating it overtly.
- Teaching: Having a hunch that a student is struggling with a topic, even if they haven’t said anything about it.
- Investing: Choosing to invest in a certain stock or company based on a gut feeling, and it pays off.
- Health: Feeling a nagging concern about a minor symptom, prompting you to see a doctor who uncovers an important health issue.
- Writing: Deciding on a plot twist that comes to you out of nowhere, and it ends up being well received by readers.
- Sports: A goalkeeper choosing the right direction to dive during a penalty shootout.
- Photography: Feeling the instinctive need to wait a moment longer before taking a shot, which results in a perfect photo.
- Music: Composing a melody or coming up with lyrics seemingly out of nowhere.
- Safety: Feeling uneasy about a specific person or location, which keeps you safe from a potential threat.
- Friendships: Knowing that a friend is upset or struggling, despite them insisting they are fine.
- Guessing Games: Predicting the correct answer without logically working through the possible options.
- Real Estate: Buying a house in an area you feel is going to become popular, and it does.
- Art: Picking up on a subtle detail in a painting that most people miss.
- Saving Money: Choosing not to spend money on a big purchase and then later needing that money for an unforeseen expense.
What is Intuition?
Intuition is the ability to understand or recognize something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning. It often surfaces as a gut feeling, an unexplained inclination, or a sudden stroke of insight that guides our decisions or actions.
Instances of intuition can range from mundane tasks (like intuitively navigating a route home) to complex problem-solving (such as a chess player intuitively knowing the next best move). This phenomenon is recognized by psychologists as a valid construct, often intertwined with expert knowledge and experience, making it a useful complement to logical thinking.
Intuition vs Instinct
Intuition and instinct, while often used interchangeably, have discernable differences.
- Intuition refers to an immediate understanding or recognition of a concept or idea without the conscious use of reasoning.
- Instinct refers to a natural or innate impulse that drives a response or behavior — like a bird instinctively knowing to build a nest.
Intuition vs Sensing
Intuition and sensing represent different ways of perceiving the world.
- Sensing, often used in the context of Myers-Briggs personality types, is about experiencing the world through the five senses and focusing on tangible, concrete facts.
- Intuition tends to be less sensory and more about picking up on patterns, possibilities, and understanding the bigger picture.
Intuition vs Anxiety
Both intuition and anxiety may cause a sense of unease, but they serve different functions.
- Intuition is a form of knowledge that may subtly guide your actions based on subconscious information. For instance, you may feel an intuitive nudge to check on a friend and find they needed help.
- Anxiety, on the other hand, is a feeling of apprehension often linked to fear or perceived threat, causing distress without necessarily providing a helpful course of action.
Intuition vs Logic
Intuition and logic are different approaches to problem-solving and decision-making.
- Intuition provides immediate understanding or insights without the step-by-step use of logical reasoning. It could be considered as “thinking with your gut.”
- Logic, however, involves a systematic thought process, often dependent on analysis and evidence. It functions by deducing conclusions from truths or premises, and could be seen as “thinking with your head.”
Opposite of Intuition
The opposite of intuition is typically regarded as reasoned thinking or deliberation.
While intuition is often instantaneous, relying on “gut feelings,” conjecture, and subconscious information, reasoned thinking or deliberation are more conscious, methodical, and are carefully constructed processes that use evidence and logic. Thus, where intuition is tacit and immediate, its opposite is explicit and carefully considered.
The opposite of intuition can also encompass several contrasting notions, such as rationalism, empiricism, and calculated decision-making:
- Rationalism, for instance, can be considered an antithesis to intuition. While intuition often involves making decisions based on feelings or hunches without clear reasoning, rationalism is grounded in logic, thorough examination, and the methodical analysis of evidence.
- Empiricism may be an opposite of intuition too. It is an epistemological theory that insists ideas and knowledge must be rooted in and derive from our experiences and sensory information, as opposed to intuition that often relies on subconscious or seemingly baseless insights.
- Calculated decision-making is another contrary principle. Here, decisions are made based on careful, considered thought and thorough evaluation of possible outcomes and probabilities, making it far removed from the subconscious and instantaneous quality that intuition provides.
In behavior, the opposite of intuition could be hesitation, as intuition prompts quick, almost immediate responses, while hesitation denotes delay due to uncertainty or fear, leading to prolonged decision-making.
Intuition is an intricate phenomenon, interfacing with other capacities such as instinct, sensing, anxiety, and logic, each marked by distinct traits. Though often dismissed as antithetical to rational thinking, intuition does carry significant value. Perhaps the ultimate lesson about intuition is not to rely on it exclusively, but to appropriately balance it with conscious reasoning — validating our “gut feelings” without dismissing the fundamental role of thoughtful deliberation. By navigating these dichotomies, we can fully harness the strength and wisdom of our intuitive capacities.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]