What Neuroscience Can Tell about Intuitive Processes in the Context of Perceptual Discovery

Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany.
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 4.09). 01/2007; 18(12):2077-87. DOI: 10.1162/jocn.2006.18.12.2077
Source: PubMed


According to the Oxford English Dictionary, intuition is "the ability to understand or know something immediately, without conscious reasoning." Most people would agree that intuitive responses appear as ideas or feelings that subsequently guide our thoughts and behaviors. It is proposed that people continuously, without conscious attention, recognize patterns in the stream of sensations that impinge upon them. What exactly is being recognized is not clear yet, but we assume that people detect potential content based on only a few aspects of the input (i.e., the gist). The result is a vague perception of coherence which is not explicitly describable but instead embodied in a "gut feeling" or an initial guess, which subsequently biases thought and inquiry. To approach the nature of intuitive processes, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging when participants were working at a modified version of the Waterloo Gestalt Closure Task. Starting from our conceptualization that intuition involves an informed judgment in the context of discovery, we expected activation within the median orbito-frontal cortex (OFC), as this area receives input from all sensory modalities and has been shown to be crucially involved in emotionally driven decisions. Results from a direct contrast between intuitive and nonintuitive judgments, as well as from a parametric analysis, revealed the median OFC, the lateral portion of the amygdala, anterior insula, and ventral occipito-temporal regions to be activated. Based on these findings, we suggest our definition of intuition to be promising and a good starting point for future research on intuitive processes.

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Available from: Kirsten G. Volz, Oct 05, 2015
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    • "Half of them depicted an object, such as a camel or a baby (see Fig. 1), resulting in Gestalt-containing images. The other half of the images was derived from the dots of the Gestalt-containing images but was randomly rearranged (details see Topolinski & Strack, 2009b, Experiment 10), resulting in Gestalt-lacking images (this procedure is similar to Bolte & Goschke, 2008, and Volz & von Cramon, 2006). Due to the use of different programs "
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    ABSTRACT: Current theories assume that perception and affect are separate realms of the mind. In contrast, we argue that affect is a genuine online-component of perception instantaneously mirroring the success of different perceptual stages. Consequently, we predicted that the success (failure) of even very early and cognitively encapsulated basic visual processing steps would trigger immediate positive (negative) affective responses. To test this assumption, simple visual stimuli that either allowed or obstructed early visual processing stages without participants being aware of this were presented briefly. Across 5 experiments, we found more positive affective responses to stimuli that allowed rather than obstructed Gestalt completion at certain early visual stages (Experiments 1-3; briefest presentation 100ms with post-mask), and visual disambiguation in possible vs. impossible Necker cubes (Experiments 4 and 5; briefest presentation 100ms with post-mask). This effect was observed both on verbal preference ratings (Experiments 1, 2, and 4) and as facial muscle responses occurring within 2-4s after stimulus onset (zygomaticus activity; Experiments 3 and 7). For instance, in participants unaware of spatial possibility we found affective discrimination between possible and impossible Necker cubes (the famous Freemish Crate) for 100ms presentation timings, although a conscious discrimination took more than 2000ms (Experiment 4). Copyright © 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
    Cognition 04/2015; 140:1-13. DOI:10.1016/j.cognition.2015.03.004 · 3.63 Impact Factor
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    • "For example, contrasting dominance-solvable games with pure coordination games, an fMRI study found that the insula is associated with extracting salient feature and facilitating the intuitive judgments in order to make an optimal choice (Kuo et al., 2009). In addition, activation within anterior insula was found in a direct contrast between intuitive and non-intuitive judgments (Volz and von Cramon, 2006). "
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    ABSTRACT: Human choices are remarkably susceptible to the context in which options are presented. The introduction of an inferior option (a decoy) into the choice set can make one of the original options (the target) more attractive than and the other original option (the competitor). This so called "decoy effect" represents a striking violation of the "context-invariant" axiom, yet its underlying neural mechanisms are not well understood. Here, we used a novel gambling task in conjunction with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to elucidate its neural basis. At both the stimulus and decision phases, choice sets with decoys activated the occipital gyrus and deactivated the inferior parietal gyrus. At the decision phase, choosing the targets vs. the competitors elicited stronger anterior insula activation, suggesting that perceptual salience drives heuristic decision making in the decoy effect. Moreover, across participants, activity in anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) predicted a reduced susceptibility to the decoy effect, indicating that resisting the tendency to make heuristic decisions is taxing. Our findings highlight the power of the decoy effect in laboratory settings and document the neural mechanisms underlying the decoy effect.
    Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 08/2014; 8:271. DOI:10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00271 · 3.27 Impact Factor
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    • "In accordance with earlier research on visual coherence judgments (Luu et al., 2010; Volz & von Cramon, 2006), left OFC activation in the present study was significantly higher for stimuli judged as coherent than for those judged as incoherent. This was shown in a contrast calculated over all vertices on source level, revealing a cluster of 75 adjacent vertices in the left OFC (see Fig. 3). "
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    ABSTRACT: In theory, intuitive decisions are made immediately, without conscious, reasoned thought. They are experienced as decisions based on hunches that cannot be explicitly described but, nevertheless, guide subsequent action. Investigating the underlying neural mechanisms, previous research has found the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) to be crucial to intuitive processes, but its specific role has remained unclear. On the basis of a two-stage conceptualization of intuition suggested by Bowers, Regehr, Balthazard, and Parker Cognitive Psychology, 22, 72-110 (1990), we attempt to clarify the OFC's role in intuitive processing. We propose that it functions as an early integrator of incomplete stimulus input guiding subsequent processing by means of a coarse representation of the gist of the information. On the subjective level, this representation would be perceived as a (gut) feeling biasing the decision. Our aim in the present study was to test this neural model and rule out alternative explanations of OFC activation in intuitive judgments. We used magnetoencephalography (MEG) to record participants' electromagnetic brain responses during a visual coherence judgment task. As in earlier studies, the OFC was found to be activated when participants perceived coherence. Using MEG, it could be shown that this increase in activation began earlier in the OFC than in temporal object recognition areas. Moreover, the present study demonstrated that OFC activation was independent of physical stimulus characteristics, task requirements, and participants' explicit recognition of the stimuli presented. These results speak to the OFC's fundamental role in the early steps of intuitive judgments and suggest the proposed neural model as a promising starting point for future investigations.
    Cognitive Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience 05/2014; 14(4). DOI:10.3758/s13415-014-0286-7 · 3.29 Impact Factor
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