I’ve been thinking about how I would define intuition. And in thinking about this, I’ve been looking into the commonly-held beliefs about intuition. This post is about the components of intuition. A post later in the week will be about the definition. Enjoy!

1) Lack of rationalization.
If you look up “rational” in the dictionary, you’ll find it means having reason, and if you then look up “reason,” you’ll find that it means thinking in an orderly way. Many researchers and writers on the topic of intuition define intuition as not being orderly, as having no rationalization. Here are some excerpts from intuition definitions: “without observation or reason” (Myers), “little or no conscious deliberation” (Hogarth), and “independently of any reasoning process” (Schultz).

2) Non-sequential.
Furthermore, many researchers many intuition researchers also confirm that intuition is not sequential. As described by Hayashi (2001), economics Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon says, “All the time, we are reaching conclusions on the basis of things that go on in our perceptual system, where we’re aware of the result of the perception but we’re not aware of the steps.” Economics Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman describes the reasoning processes as serial, i.e. in reasoning processes, there is one process that follows another. I would add to Kahneman’s description that each such process is a series of rational processes: giving someone directions is a series of step-by-step explanations. Therefore, rational processes are step-by-step and sequential in nature whereas intuition-based processes are not. Additionally, Day (1996), an intuition practitioner and trainer, includes the terms “nonlinear, nonempirical process” in her definition of intuition.

3) Includes insight.
Dijksterhuis et al., who write many articles about unconscious thought like intuition, describe the manner in which an intuitive thought “pop[s] into consciousness” as deliberation-without-attention, i.e. that the mind is deliberating without any attention to that process, and at the end of that deliberating in the unconscious thought process, there is an insight from the unconscious to the conscious. A sudden transition to a conscious preference characterizes intuition’s shortcut qualities. Many intuition researchers use a definition of intuition that includes the concept of directness and speed inherent in shortcuts; for example, intuition definitions include the following: “direct knowledge [and] immediate insight” (Myers), “sudden appearance” (Welling), and “directly perceive” (Schultz).

Intuition is a shortcut in that it bypasses the step-by-step process, just like finding a shortcut through the woods rather than taking the trail. To view this from the literary angle, Myers describes that the poet Amy Lowell was asked, “How are poems made?” She replied, “I don’t know … I meet them where they touch consciousness and that is already a considerable distance along the road of evolution.”

There can be a sense of revelation when the conscious mind realizes something that was already obvious to the unconscious mind, writes Hayashi, in describing Henry Mintzberg, who studies intuitive decision-making. Hayashi writes about Mintzberg’s conclusions, “This helps explain the “aha” sensation you experience when you learn something that you actually already knew.” In this sense, intuition is a shortcut through the process of rationalization.

Keywords: Psychology. Intuition. Rational. Reason.
* Day, L. (1996). Practical Intuition. New York: Broadway Books.
* Dijksterhuis, A., Bos, M., Nordgren, L. and van Baaren, R. (2006) On Making the Right Choice: The Deliberation-Without-Attention Effect. Science, 311(17), 1005-1007.
* Hayashi, A. (2001). When to Trust Your Gut. In Harvard Business Review on Decision Making (pp. 169-187). Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
* Hogarth, R. (2001). Educating Intuition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

* Kahneman, D. (2002) Maps of bounded rationality: A perspective on intuitive judgment and choice. Nobel Prize Lecture.
* Myers, D. (2002). Intuition: Its Power and Perils. New Haven: Yale University Press.
* Schultz, M.L. (1998). Awakening Intuition: Using Your Mind-Body Network for Insight and Healing. New York: Random House Press.
* Welling, H. (2006). The Intuitive Process: The Case of Psychotherapy. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 15(1), 19–47.

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