Gerd Gigerenzer is the director at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. He is the author of a remarkable book called Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious. His book deals with a question that has dogged the field of psychology for many decades. Ever since the German psychologist Sigmund Freud expounded the concept the unconscious, psychology has been trying to attempt to understand this mysterious, almost reptilian part of human psyche.
Over the 20th century the view of ‘intelligence’ has evolved vastly, starting from the initial IQ tests and theories of the general IQ of a population. Our knowledge of human intelligence and its function has grown exponentially.
In his book, Gerd Gigerenzer has come up with a new groundbreaking way of looking at intelligence. He looks at the intelligence that emanates from the Unconscious part of the mind. We call it intuition. It is the ability to make a premonition of any action or state of affairs which seems to come from some primal feeling instead of straightforward perception. To make it simpler, it’s a ‘gut feeling’.
The ‘Gut-Feeling’ Syndrome
“In my scientific work, I have hunches. I can’t always explain why I think a certain path is the right way, but I need to trust it and go ahead. I also have the ability to check these hunches and find out what they are about. That’s the science part. Now, in private life, I rely on instinct. For instance, when I first met my wife, I didn’t do computations. Nor did she.” That’s how Gigerenzer deals with the concept of intuition and gives what seemed like an old wives’ tale a scientific grounding.
Intuition could be defined as a clear understanding of collective intelligence. For example, most web sites today are organized in an intuitive way, which means they are easy for most people to understand and navigate. You instinctively understand how to deal with this particular web platform on which you’re reading this article.
Theo Humphries argues that intuitive design can be described as “understandable without the use of instructions”. This is true when an object makes sense to most people because they share a common understanding of the way things work.
This doesn’t mean that intuition is the only way of analyzing a given situation. Reasoned arguments, taking account of all information and being objective goes into the same melting pot for making decisions about anything. Intuition is one part of the process. It can be an integral part of a person’s innate intelligence. Don’t ignore your gut instinct, but don’t make that the only leg you stand on. We hope Donald Trump is listening.
Intuition is a great way to avoid group think. Group think is a psychological phenomenon where the conclusions drawn by a majority of people push the minority to also begin holding those opinions. It has been well-documented both in corporate companies and politics.
Dr. Samantha Johnson, senior researcher at the Australian Institute of Medicine places the importance of intuition in this context. Intuition can point you out when your mind might be veering off course in the wrong direction. That ‘bad feeling’ you get about certain things has a very real basis in the primal part of your brain and is linked to the survival instinct encoded into your brain over millennia of evolution (sorry creationists).
Bottom line we can say is that this is a promising field of research. It thus feels fitting to end this piece with an opinion about the subject from one of the greatest minds mankind has ever witnessed. The great Albert Einstein himself has said, “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.”
You can find the research here.