Demystifying Intuition: What It Is, What It Does, and How It Does It
ABSTRACT Definitions of intuition are discussed and two working definitions are proposed. This is followed by a list of eight unresolved problems concerning intuition. It is suggested that all of these problems can be resolved by cognitive-experiential self-theory (CEST), a dual-process theory of personality according to which people process information with two systems, an experiential/intuitive system that is an associative learning system that humans share with other animals and a uniquely human verbal reasoning system. Intuition is considered to be a subsystem of the experiential/ intuitive system that operates by exactly the same principles and attributes but has narrower boundary conditions. The next section includes a presentation of the most relevant aspects of CEST with an emphasis on the operating rules and attributes of the experiential/intuitive system. This is followed by demonstrating how the operation of the experiential/intuitive system can resolve each of the unresolved problems concerning intuition. The article closes with a comparison of the advantages and disadvantages of the experiential/intuitive and rational/analytic systems. It is concluded that neither system is generally superior to the other, as each has important advantages and disadvantages.
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ABSTRACT: A major challenge for Dual Process Theories of reasoning is to predict the circumstances under which intuitive answers reached on the basis of Type 1 processing are kept or discarded in favour of analytic, Type 2 processing (Thompson 2009). We propose that a key determinant of the probability that Type 2 processes intervene is the affective response that accompanies Type 1 processing. This affective response arises from the fluency with which the initial answer is produced, such that fluently produced answers give rise to a strong feeling of rightness. This feeling of rightness, in turn, determines the extent and probability with which Type 2 processes will be engaged. Because many of the intuitions produced by Type 1 processes are fluent, it is common for them to be accompanied by a strong sense of rightness. However, because fluency is poorly calibrated to objective difficulty, confidently held intuitions may form the basis of poor quality decisions.Mind & Society 01/2012; 11(1).
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ABSTRACT: Rationality in decision making is commonly assessed by comparing choice performance against normative standards. We argue that such a performance-centered approach blurs the distinction between rational choice and adaptive behavior. Instead, rational choice should be assessed with regard to the way individuals make analytic decisions. We suggest that analytic decisions can be made in two different modes in which control processes are directed at different levels. In a RUN mode, thought is directed at controlling the operation of a decision strategy. In the JUMP mode, the individual analyses the interpretation of the decision situation as well as the appropriateness of alternative strategies. We suggest that a decision should be considered “rational” when an individual is able to switch between these modes and balance their interaction.Mind & Society 01/2011; 11(1).
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ABSTRACT: • Eine empirische Untersuchung und Praxisbeispiele zeigen, dass Führungskräfte sowohl analytische als auch intuitive Entscheidungen treffen. • Ob sie sich auf Zahlen und Fakten oder auf ihre Intuition stützen, ist allerdings in hohem Maße von der Entscheidungssituation und dem jeweiligen Entscheidungsträger abhängig. • Da Intuition unbewusst ist, benötigen Führungskräfte insbesondere bei intuitiven Entscheidungen die Unterstützung durch das Controlling. • Die Aufgabe des Controllings ist dabei, Führungskräfte bei kontrollierbarem Risiko zu intuitiven Entscheidungen zu ermutigen und gleichzeitig Intuitionsdefekte aufzudecken und einzugrenzen. • Harte Fakten und Analysen sind für gute Unternehmensentscheidungen ebenso wichtig wie Intuition. • Je größer die Erfahrung und das Wissen der Führungskräfte, desto verlässlicher sind ihre intuitiven Entscheidungen. • Die besten Entscheidungen werden getroffen, wenn das Bauchgefühl durch Zahlen und Analysen bestätigt wird. • Das Controlling soll Führungskräfte situationsabhängig zu intuitiven Entscheidungen ermutigen und bei Selbstüberschätzung Intuition einbremsen.Controlling & Management Review. 06/2013; 57(3):14-22.
Reference: Epstein, S. (2010). Demystifying Intuition: What it is, what it does,
and how it does it. Psychological Inquiry, 21, 295-312.
Demystifying Intuition: What it is, What it Does,
and How it Does it
Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Keywords: Intuition, feelings, experiential system, rational system, automatic learning, intuitive
Running head: Demystifying intuition
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Seymour Epstein, Department of
Psychology, University of Massachuseets, Amherst, MA 01003-7710, Phone: (413) 253-2092,
Fax: (413) 545-0996
Demystifying intuition 2
Demystifying Intuition: What it is, What it Does,
and How it Does it
Definitions of intuition are discussed and two working definitions are proposed. This is followed
by a list of eight unresolved problems concerning intuition. It is suggested that all of these
problems can be resolved by cognitive-experiential self-theory (CEST), a dual-process theory of
personality according to which people process information with two systems, an
experiential/intuitive system that is an associative learning system that humans share with other
animals and a uniquely human verbal reasoning system. Intuition is considered to be a
subsystem of the experiential/intuitive system that operates by exactly the same principles and
attributes but has narrower content boundary conditions. The next section includes a
presentation of the most relevant aspects of CEST with an emphasis on the operating rules and
attributes of the experiential/intuitive system. This is followed by demonstrating how the
operation of the experiential/intuitive system can resolve each of the unresolved problems
concerning intuition. The article closes with a comparison of the advantages and disadvantages
of the experiential/intuitive and rational/analytic systems. It is concluded that neither system is
generally superior to the other, as each has important advantages and disadvantages.
Demystifying intuition 3
In order to understand a phenomenon such as intuition, it is helpful to begin with a
definition of precisely what one wishes to understand. This article therefore begins with a
discussion of definitions of intuition.
What is Intuition? How Should it be Defined?
There are few phenomena in the history of psychology that have so many different
definitions as intuition. In a survey by Abernathy and Hamm (1995), they identified 20 different
definitions of intuition, and their list is hardly exhaustive. Although many psychologists agree
that there is something important captured by the construct of intuition, there are others who
doubt that intuition is a useful construct, and yet others who regard it as nothing more than a
“lazy” or degraded form of analytic reasoning. Authorities on intuition not only disagree with
each other, sometimes they even disagree with themselves. The Nobel laureate, Herbert Simon,
proposed one of the more influential views on intuition that he referred to as “bounded
rationality” (Simon, 1979, p. 501). Bounded rationality is a reduced form of deliberative
reasoning that is sufficient for practical purposes. Consistent with this view, Simon also defined
intuition as “nothing more and nothing less than recognition” (Simon, 1992, p. 155).
Accordingly he believes there is nothing special about intuitive thinking that makes it
qualitatively different from analytical reasoning. Yet, in marked contrast to this view, Simon
reports that he can judge people’s intelligence by the expression in their eyes and that he uses
this insight to make recommendations for professional positions. He reports, “I began thinking of
the clear, dark, Armenian eyes of Arrow, the cool, clear, Frisian eyes of Koopmans, and the
sharp, black Roman eyes of Modigliani. It was certainly true that they all had remarkable eyes.
Ever since, I think I have included that among my own selection criteria; intelligence shines
through the eyes” (cited in Hammond, 1996, p. 85). This behavior implies that he implicitly
believes in a form of intuition that is based on associations with past experience, and that is
Demystifying intuition 4
concretive and imagistic and therefore qualitatively different from analytical reasoning rather
than just a reduced form of it.
It is noteworthy that most authorities define intuition primarily in terms of what it is not
rather than in terms of what it is. They agree that it is a form of information processing that is
different from analytical reasoning, but beyond that they have little or nothing to add. As an
example, the definition of intuition in Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (Merriam,
& Merriam, 1966) is “coming to direct knowledge or certainty without reasoning or inferring.”
In a similar vein, Myers (2002), in agreement with the dictionary definition, defines intuition as
“our capacity for direct knowledge, for immediate insight without observation or reason” (p. 1).
Bruner (1961) defines it as “the intellectual technique of arriving at plausible but tentative
conclusions without going through the analytic steps by which such formulations would be found
to be valid or invalid conclusions” (p. 13).Hammond (1996) defines intuition as a “cognitive
process that somehow produces an answer, solution, or idea without the use of a conscious,
logically defensible step-by-step process” (p. 60). According to Hogarth (2001) “the essence of
intuition or intuitive responses is that they are reached with little apparent effort, and typically
without conscious awareness. They involve little or no conscious deliberation” (original italics,
p. 14). Apparently, the above authorities agree that intuition is some kind of information
acquired without conscious, deliberative reasoning, but they do not identify what it actually is in
any substantive way. Thus, the challenge remains to better define intuition or to indicate how it
In an attempt somewhat to remedy the situation, I propose the following definitions of
intuition: “Intuition involves a sense of knowing without knowing how one knows.” “Intuition
involves a sense of knowing based on unconscious information processing.” The first definition
is how laypeople tend to view how they experience intuition. It can therefore be considered a
Demystifying intuition 5
phenomenological definition of intuition. Like the definitions previously reviewed it is limited
by defining intuition in part by what it is not, as it involves not knowing how one knows. The
second definition avoids this problem by noting that the source of intuition is unconscious
processing. However, although less limited, this definition is still limited because it tells us
nothing about the nature of the unconscious processing.
Where then does this leave us? It leaves us with the view that intuition is a fuzzy
construct and although some of its definition are of some use descriptively, they are of very
limited value scientifically as they indicate nothing about its the operation other than the one
definition that states that is operates unconsciously, which several other definitions also imply.
However, for advancing our understanding of intuition, we need to go beyond a general
recognition that intuition involves unconscious processing. We need to know what purpose, if
any, intuition serves and what its operating principles and processing attributes are. I believe that
cognitive-experiential self-theory (CEST) can provide such information. An interesting test of its
ability to do so is whether it can resolve the eight unresolved problems concerning intuition that
are presented next.
Eight Unresolved Problems Regarding Intuition
Problem 1: Establishing the Boundary Conditions of Intuition
As part of explaining a phenomenon, it is necessary to indicate what falls within its
boundaries and what lies outside of them. To accomplish this, the various definitions of intuition
that were based solely on the exclusion of analytical reasoning would have to include all non-
analytic information-processing within its boundaries and all analytic information-processing
outside of its boundaries. Thus, they would have to include irrational fears, superstitions,
fundamentalist religious beliefs, esoteric beliefs such as extrasensory perception, learned psych-
motor coordination as in sport activities. Some authors do in fact extend intuition in this manner
Demystifying intuition 6
(e.g., Hogarth, 2001; Myers, 2002), but it obviously is stretching the meaning of intuition well
beyond its normal usage. This, of course, is not a scientifically acceptable reason for rejecting a
definition, but it nevertheless raises the question of where reasonably to set the boundary
conditions for intuition. Thus, an issue that requires resolution is the determination of the
boundary conditions of intuition.
Problem 2: Should Intuition be Restricted to Valid Beliefs?
Some authors require intuitive beliefs to be valid whereas others do not. According to
some of the definitions in Webster’s Third New International dictionary (Merriam & Merriam,
1966), intuition is “direct insight into reality,” and “quick and ready insight,” which implies that
intuitive beliefs are valid, as invalid beliefs can hardly be regarded as insightful. Vaughan (1979)
explicitly defines intuition as necessarily valid. If a belief is not valid according to Vaughan, it
should not be regarded as intuitive. In contrast, Bruner (1961) believes intuitive knowledge is
Can the belief that intuitive beliefs must be true be dismissed as unreasonable? Not if it is
a definition of intuition, for definitions can neither be true or false; they simply indicate the
meaning a person assigns to a term for the purpose of communicating with precision. Therefore
there is nothing false about a definition of intuition as a valid belief obtained outside of
awareness. Thus, a reasonable issue that remains to be resolved is whether such a definition is
scientifically useful, which will be considered in the section on the resolution of the eight
problems concerning intuition.
Problem 3: Identifying the Operating Principles and Attributes of Intuitive Processing
If intuition is to be understood, it is necessary to understand how it operates. Thus, a third
important issue that requires resolution is the identification of the operating principles and
Demystifying intuition 7
attributes of intuitive processing. As will be seen, there are a variety of views regarding this
issue. Which of these positions, if any, is correct, remains to be determined.
Problem 4: Is there a Source of Intuition that Identifies the Very Essence of Intuitive
Processing and Can Account for its Other Attributes?
All modern dual-process theories list operating principles and attributes of their proposed
intuitive-like systems, such as that the systems operates in a manner that is unconscious, rapid,
effortless, and associative (e.g., Chen & Chaiken, 1999; Hammond, 1996; Kahneman, 2003;
Petty & Wegener, 1999; Reber, 1993; Sloman, 1996; Smith & DeCoster, 2000; Stanovich &
West, 2000; Strack & Deutsch, 2004). It is not clear from their selection of operating principles
and attributes whether the authors regard any of them as fundamental and the others as
subordinate. Their position on this issue may be indicated by the titles they assign to their
systems. Thus, an issue to be resolved is whether there is a single operating principle that is so
fundamental that it can account for all the rules and attributes of intuitive processing.
Problem 5: Is a Dual-process Theory Necessary to Account for Intuitive and Analytical
Processing or or Can They be Accounted for by a Single Process?
Some authors believe that it requires two qualitatively different processing systems to
account for the differences between intuitive and analytic information processing (e.g., Chen &
Chaiken, 1999; Epstein, 1973, 1994, 2003; Hogarth, 2001; Kahneman’s (2003) revised view;
Myers, 2002; Petty & Wegener, 1999; Sloman, 1996; Smith & DeCoster, 2000; Strack &
Deutsch, 2004). Others, including Simon (1992), Kahneman, Slovic, & Tversky (1982), and
Kruglansky, Thompson, and Spiegel (1999), believe that intuitive and analytical thinking are
simply different levels of processing within a single system. Thus the fifth problem to be
resolved is whether two qualitatively different processing systems are necessary to account for
the differences between intuitive and analytical information processing.
Demystifying intuition 8
Problem 6: How Important is the Role of Experience in Intuition?
Several authors (e.g., Betsch, 2008; Epstein, 1973, 2003; Hogarth, 2001; Simon, 1992)
regard experience as playing a vital role in intuitive processing. As previously noted, Simon
regards intuition as “nothing more nor nothing less than recognition” (Simon, 1992, p. 195).
Recognition, of course, requires recollection of previous experience. Hammond (1996), however,
takes exception to Simon’s view as unnecessarily restrictive, as he believes it excludes the most
interesting aspects of intuition, such as its use of imagery, its emphasis on case histories, and its
contribution to creativity. Although some regard learning from experience as a most fundamental
aspect of intuition, others do not consider it as sufficiently important to be worth mentioning. In
the twenty definitions of intuition listed by Abernathy and Hamm (1995), not one refers directly
to experience, and only one does so indirectly by referring to pattern recognition.
It is noteworthy that comparisons of judgments based on experience and deliberative
reasoning go back as far as the following statement by Aristotle:
While young men become geometricians and mathematicians and wise in
matters like these, it is thought that a young man of practical wisdom cannot be
found. The cause is that such wisdom is concerned not only with universals but
with particulars, which become familiar with experience, but a young man has no
experience (cited in McKeon, 1947).
Given the disagreement on the importance of experience regarding intuition, the role of
experience in intuition obviously requires resolution.
Problem 7: How Important is the Role of Affect/Emotion in Intuition? Many definitions of
intuition are completely cognitive and make no mention of emotions or affect. Among the twenty
definitions of intuition in the survey by Abernathy and Hamm (1995), only one mentions
feelings. In contrast to those who make no mention of feelings, there are others who consider
Demystifying intuition 9
affect to be a fundamental aspect of intuition. Slovic and his colleagues (Slovic et al., 2002)
identify what they refer to as an affect heuristic, according to which affect is a direct and
important influence on intuitive thinking. According to Chen and Chaiken (1999) the operation
of intuitive processes may be revealed by emotions. Others (e.g., Hayashi, 2001; Shapiro &
Spence, 1997; Barnard, 1938; and Agor, 1989) use affective terms, such as “gut feelings,” “gut
instincts,” and “feeling in our marrow” in describing intuitive thinking. Bastick (1982) regards
intuition as “feelings which guide our common actions” (p. 2). Others who emphasize feelings as
an important aspect of intuition are deGroot, Gobet, and Jongman (1996), Schwartz (1990), and
Westcott and Ranzoni (1963).
In summary, there is considerable disagreement about whether feelings are an important
aspect of intuition. Accordingly, an important issue to be resolved is the place of affect in
Problem 8: What are the Relative Advantages and Disadvantages of Expriential/Intuitive
and Rational/Analytic Processing?
Last, and perhaps most controversial, is the relative evaluation of the two systems.
Among the twenty definitions in the Abernathy and Hamm (1995) survey, intuition is viewed
favorably by some and unfavorably by others. Included among the former are extreme statements
such as “intuition is infallible,” and more modest views that “intuitive cognition can outperform
analysis.” Included among the latter are statements that “intuition is just lazy thinking” and
“intuition is the use of fallible heuristic strategies.” Most authors (e.g., Chen & Chaiken, 1999;
Hogarth, 2001; Myers, 2002; Nisbett & Ross, 1980; Petty & Wegener, 1999; Kahneman, Slovic,
& Tversky, 1982) acknowledge that intuition has important positive features, such as being rapid
and effortless, but, on balance consider it to be often inaccurate and inferior to analytical
reasoning. However, as will be seen later, there are a variety of desirable attributes not
Demystifying intuition 10
considered by these authors in which intuitive processing plays a greater role than analytical
processing. For now, it will suffice to identify the relative advantages and disadvantages of
experiential/intuitive and rational/analytic processing as an important issue that warrants further
Cognitive-experiential Self-theory: A Dual-Process Theory
that Provides an Explanation of Intuition
According to cognitive-experiential self theory (CEST) humans operate with two
information-processing systems, an experiential system, which is an automatic, associative
learning system and a rational/analytic system, which is a verbal reasoning system. The systems
operate by different rules and have different attributes. Although the experiential system
encompasses a domain more extensive than intuition (i.e., it also accounts for a variety of other
kinds of non-analytical thinking and beliefs, including superstitious thinking, irrational fears,
unusual beliefs, and fundamentalist religious beliefs), the operating rules and attributes of
intuitive processing are identical according to CEST with those that in the broader domain.
However, to draw attention to the focus in this chapter on intuition, I refer in this article to the
system as the experiential/intuitive system, which elsewhere when considering its broader
domain I have referred to as the experiential system. The important point is that no matter which
way I refer to it, the operating principles and attributes s are assumed to be identical, and the only
difference is in the boundary conditions of their range of content.
The experiential/intuitive system is the same system with which non-human animals have
successfully adapted to their environments over millions of years of evolution. It is very likely
more advanced in humans, with their larger brains, than in other primates, just as other primate’s
associative learning systems are more advanced than that of other animals. I named the system as
an experiential system because its primary function is to learn from experience. It operates in a
Demystifying intuition 11
manner that is associative, preconscious, automatic, nonverbal, imagistic, rapid, effortless,
concrete, holistic, intimately associated with affect, intrinsically highly compelling, and
minimally demanding of cognitive resources. Most of these characteristics have been validated
in a research program for testing the assumptions in CEST (see reviews in Epstein, 2003 and in
Epstein & Pacini, 1999).
The content of the experiential/intuitive system consists primarily of generalizations from
experience, and its major motive is to behave according to the hedonic principle, i.e., to pursue
positive affect and avoid negative affect. This makes the experiential system an affect-driven
cognitive system. Given a cognitive system that can associate behavior with outcomes and the
motivation to feel good and to avoid feeling bad, it follows that the cognitive system will be used
in the service of obtaining good feelings and avoiding bad feelings. An important result of such
behavior is that it transforms the “kinder, gentler” unconscious of cognitive science into a full-
blooded, three-dimensional unconscious similar in this respect to the unconscious of
psychoanalysis. However, in contrast to the unconscious in psychoanalysis, the unconscious in
CEST is an adaptive learning system rather than Freud’s maladaptive, psychotic-like system
inferred from dreams (for further discussion of this issue see Epstein, 1994, 2003).
Although it is beyond the capacity of the experiential/intuitive system to understand
cause-and-effect relations, it achieves similar adaptive results by automatically associating
stimuli and responses with outcomes. This view is consistent with modern learning theory
according to which conditioning is no longer considered to be just a mechanical connection of
stimuli with each other and with responses but rather involves the construction of a model of the
world that allows animals (including humans) to negotiate their environments adaptively (e.g.,
Hollis, 1997; Rescorla, 1988). The essence of the operation of the experiential/intuitive system is
that it is an associative learning system that includes classical conditioning, operant conditioning,
Demystifying intuition 12
and observational learning. Despite the differences in these processes they are part an overall
system because they operate by the same rules, have the same processing attributes (see Table 1),
and contribute to accomplishing the same purpose, namely establishing a working model of the
environment. The implications of such automatic, implicit learning from experience is that the
information acquired from all three procedures is the primary source of intuitive “knowing
outside of awareness without knowing how one knows.”
Although the experiential/intuitive system encodes experience primarily in the form of
context-specific concrete representations (e.g., images, scenarios, affect, and physical sensations)
it can generalize in the form of individual generalization gradients and their confluence. The
height and breadth of the generalization gradients are assumed to be a direct function of the
emotional intensity of the initial experiences that were the sources of the generalizations (e.g.,
Dollard & Miller, 1950; Hull, 1943). The experiential/intuitive system in combination with the
rational/intuitive system also generalizes in more complex ways through the construction and
comprehension of metaphors, scripts, narratives, and myths.
There are undoubtedly anatomical and physiological correspondences with the two
processing systems. Very likely multiple locations are involved, possibly related to hemispheric
asymmetry and cortical and subcortical levels. However, this is not a critical issue for CEST, as
CEST is concerned with the operating rules and attributes of the experiential/intuitive and the
rational/analytic systems no matter how they are biologically localized.
In contrast to the outcome-orientation of the experiential system, the rational system is a
verbal reasoning system that operates according to a person’s understanding of logical inference.
The system operates in a manner that is conscious, abstract, analytic, affect-free, effortful, and
highly demanding of cognitive resources. It acquires its beliefs by logical inference. Although,
Demystifying intuition 13
like the experiential system, it learns from experience, it does so by reasoning and not by
automatic learning. (For a more complete comparison of the two systems see Table 1).
Present Table 1 about here
Compared to the experiential/intuitive system, the rational system has a very brief
evolutionary history, and its long-term adaptive value remains to be established. Combining the
two systems in a single organism may yet turn out to be a failed experiment of evolution that can
result in the demise of the species. However, there remains the hope that the rational system can
solve the problems presented by the potentially destructive interaction of the two systems.
The two systems are assumed to operate in parallel and to be interactive. Their interaction
will be discussed in greater detail later. For now, it will suffice to note that all behavior is
considered in CEST to be influenced by both systems. Their relative influence varies along a
dimension of complete dominance by one system to complete dominance by the other (Epstein,
1994; Hammond, 1996). However, for convenience I shall refer to behavior as experientially or
rationally determined if it is primarily determined by one system or the other. The extent to
which people think or behave primarily according to one of the systems is considered to be a
function of the situation and the person.
The Content and Boundary Conditions of the Experiential/Intuitive System
The domain of the experiential system includes all phenomena that are based on non-
analytic information processing. Included in this domain are everyday automatic information
processing, irrational fears, religious beliefs, superstitions, esoteric beliefs such as a belief in
extrasensory perception, heuristic responses based on non-analytic processing (e.g.,
visualization, holistic representations, heuristic responses excluding those based on reduced or
Demystifying intuition 14
degraded rational/analytic processing) and learned perceptual-motor coordination as in sport
activities. This domain is obviously much larger than the domain of intuition. As the operating
principles and attributes regarding the two domains are identical, the experiential/intuitive
system can be regarded as a subset of the experiential system.
The Interaction of the Two Systems
According to CEST, the two systems interact bi-directionally simultaneously and
Sequential interaction. As the experiential/intuitive system is the more rapidly reacting
system, people’s initial reaction to a situation is usually experiential. If the initial response
tendency is identified as unacceptable, the rational/analytic system is often able to modify or
suppress its expression. If the experiential/intuitive response tendency is acceptable and
considered appropriate it will be expressed. When the experiential/intuitive system, reacting
automatically outside of awareness, is unidentified the sequence of responses is likely to be as
follows: the experiential/intuitive system reacts first with an automatic favorable or unfavorable
interpretation and response tendency based on past experience. The person then expresses the
prompting from the experiential/intuitive by behaving accordingly. Unaware of the unconscious
determinants of the behavior (including conscious thoughts) the person seeks a rational
explanation for the behavior. The result is that under the combined influence of the hedonic
principle of the experiential/intuitive system and the reality principle of the rational/analytic
system the person arrives at the most favorable interpretation the person can think of within
acceptable reality considerations. In other words the person rationalizes in a self-enhancing
manner. According to CEST this sequence is extremely important in understanding why a
species as uniquely intelligent in solving impersonal problems (in the domain of the
rational/analytic system) often solves interpersonal problems (in the domain of the
Demystifying intuition 15
experiential/intuitive system) regarding both individuals and societies in irrational and
Now consider the opposite direction of influence, in which a response determined
primarily by the rational/analytic system produces an association in the experiential/intuitive
system that then influences a person’s subsequent conscious thoughts and behavior. Moreover, as
any response (including a conscious thought) in the rational/analytic system can evoke an
association in the experiential/intuitive system, which can then influence conscious thoughts and
behavior in the rational/analytic system, which can produce further associations in the
experiential system, and so on. Thus, rather than just an interaction between single responses in
the two systems, the two systems can interact in the manner of a dance between them, in which a
step in one of the systems elicits a step in the other system.
What is the relation of intelligence and the degree to which people rationalize? Are intelligent
people more objective and logical and therefore less likely to rationalize? Whether this is
generally true or not, highly intelligent people are not exempt from the distorting influence of
their experiential/intuitive system on their reasoning, as demonstrated in the following quotation
from the brilliant German physicist and Nobel laureate Philip Lenard in his book German
Physics: “Jewish physics can best and most justly be characterized by recalling the activity of
one who is probably its most prominent representative, the pure-blooded Jew, Albert Einstein.
His relativity theory was supposed to transform all physics, but when faced with reality, it did
not have a leg to stand on. In contrast to the intractable and solicitous desire for truth in the
Aryan scientist, the Jew lacks to a striking degree any comprehension of truth” (in Calaprice,
1996, p. 236). An important lesson from this passage is that one should never underestimate the
vulnerability of the rational/analytic system to the distorting influence of the