December 16th, 2001

Illuminati

Intuition

Having been thoroughly taken to task for denigrating intuition and saying that it was superficial, I thought I ought to make myself just teensy bit clearer.

Popping (as I'm wont to do in these kinds of situations) to Merriam Webster (via the ever handy Dave's search toolbar), I find a few handy definitions:
1 : quick and ready insight
2 a : immediate apprehension or cognition b : knowledge or conviction gained by intuition c : the power or faculty of attaining to direct knowledge or cognition without evident rational thought and inference

And part of me wants to leave it there, thinking that my point is obviously proved. But, I know, this isn't the case at all, so I'll go through it and spell out what I believe...

Everything we do goes through an input->think->reaction process. Sometimes this is a conscious thing whereby I read an email, think about it and send a reply. Sometimes it's a subconscious thing whereby I see a spider and leap twenty feet in the air. Note that in the second example there's no thinking mentioned. That's because what thinking there is happens at a level I have no access to (or very little).

Personally, I believe that most of what all people do (and all of what most people do) falls into the second category. If you actually listen to many conversations, for instance, they are fairly predictable and consist mostly of the same old patterns. People are trained to perform tasks (usually by rote, as that's an intuitive/inductive method of learning) and then react in fairly predictable ways to their environment.

I've noticed that people react like this when they first meet people too. They take in what seem to be the important factors about the person, compare them to similar factors in people they've met before and make a snap judgement based on that. Which is all well and good - people usually need an instant feeling about something so they know how to treat it.

But... this initial feeling is not then treated as a 'first guess' or 'initial estimate', it's treated as gospel. I've met people who were proud of the fact that once they'd made their initial intuition they never reevaluated it later.

All intuition is, is your subconsciouses best guess on the initial data it has. It's not magical, it's not God's message to you and it's no more likely to be accurate than any other method of working with very little information is. Yes, listen to your instincts and intuition, but for goodness sake don't treat them like they're more important than actually thinking.

N.B. It's the end of the long day, I'm tired and somewhat hazy and determined to get this down before I go to bed. I suspect it's more muddled than it reads to me right now. I'd appreciate comment from any of the 2 people that read this, so I can correct it or clarify the bits where I've clearly been smoking too much crack...
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