Demystifying Intuition: What It Is, What It Does, and How It Does It

Psychological Inquiry (Impact Factor: 6.65). 10/2010; 21(4):295-312. DOI: 10.1080/1047840X.2010.523875


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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Available from: Seymour Epstein, Jul 08, 2014
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    • "The conditioning mechanism is part of both the conscious rational 53 system based on verbal reasoning specific to humans and the non- 54 conscious experience-driven system of associative learning com- 55 mon to both humans and animals (Epstein, 2010; Evans, 2008). "
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    • "The rational system is responsible for conscious thinking and follows the rules of logic. The intuitive system is responsible for preconscious learning (Epstein, 2010). It was hypothesised that perhaps the experiential/intuitive information processing system is responsible for conspiracy theories endorsement and, a positive correlation between the beliefs in conspiracy theories and the experiential information processing system was expected to be found. "
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    • "Even if we could confirm that reflective thinkers have fewer or weaker paranormal beliefs than others, it would not explain the robust findings that the tendency to rely on one's intuitions is connected to belief in paranormal phenomena. Besides bringing up the notion that in both intuitions and paranormal beliefs, personal experiences are taken as self-evidently valid even when they contradict scientific knowledge (Epstein, 2010; King et al., 2007; Sadler-Smith, 2011), the reasons why intuitive thinking predisposes to paranormal beliefs have been unaddressed. We suggest that involuntary inhibitory processes outside conscious control explain this relationship. "
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