In one study involving shogi (a Japanese board game), so-called shogi experts were tasked to recognize a checkmate move, and they were given just 1 second to do so. During the activity, their brains were scanned.
This revealed that the part of the brain that activated and managed to create a snap judgment was not the cortex (the part of the brain responsible for conscious thought), but the basal ganglia (the part of the brain which regulates automatic behaviors).
Additionally, the shogi experts who gave their snap judgments noticeably performed so much better than those who applied a conscious thought process. Those who listened to their intuition were also more satisfied with their snap choices.
Intuition Comes from Your Subconscious Mind
In the spiritual realm, intuition is often regarded as an understanding that is based on unconscious reasoning. For example, how you can’t eloquently explain or justify why you feel so strongly about something is a sign from your intuition. On the other hand, science refers to intuition as more of a pattern recognition, something that you gain from the richness of past experiences.
According to Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize Winner in Economics, there are two systems of thinking – Fast thinking is system 1 and slow thinking is system 2.
While he stresses these as an artificial construct, these are two ways our brain processes information. Fast thinking often results in a prejudice of sorts or a snap judgment. This is all too similar to what the study involving shogi underscores.
Slow thinking requires the brain to take some time to process information before coming up with a deliberate, well thought out, logical choice. It is what many would consider as a real thought, a product of logical, conscious, and deliberate thinking.
However, it is fast thinking which enables us to go through life with minimal stress. Intuition lies within the fast-thinking modality and this is also where many scientists claim intuition comes from – the unconscious, fast-thinking reasoning.
The great Albert Einstein himself was a great proponent of the power of intuition. He is most often remembered by these famous quotes about it:
“I believe in intuitions and inspirations… Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
“The only real valuable thing is intuition.”
“A new idea comes suddenly and in a rather intuitive way, but intuition is nothing but the outcome of earlier intellectual experience.”
So, Should You Listen to Your Intuition?
Intuition seems to be our inner voice of wisdom, which we need to tune into more. Definitely, we ought to listen to it and it is a wise decision to do so. However, in making important decisions, it is still best to balance out intuition with conscious thought.
In one study that involved 900 participants who were tasked to show empathy through using both conscious thought and intuition, it appeared that participants who made considerable use of their systematic, conscious thinking did a better job at understanding the feelings of others, compared to those who only used intuition to determine what seems right and what is not.
It makes sense because our past experiences also form a part of our intuition. Our subconscious mind will be quick at recognizing patterns, but it will also need to consider our past experiences in the equation to be effective and successful at forming intuitive conclusions. This leaves room for training. Our intuition is powerful and very intelligent, but it can only maximize its strength when you use it. Use it more and understand how it can help improve your life.