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What is intuition?

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It's a common theme on Star Trek: The Next Generation: Commander Data, the android who aspires to be human, is baffled by a phenomenon of psychology that we take for granted. In at least one episode he wonders about "intuition" -- what, exactly, is it?

We all know what it is — intuitively. But how might one describe it to an android? Or to an anthropologist on Mars? How about this:

Intuition is the phenomenon of unconsciously synthesizing available data with memory and experience to arrive at a conclusion.

I wonder and ponder* about intuition a lot because we dynamic attention types† are said to be intuitive. (I would say that is true about myself, although it's an observation based on intuition, so I don't have a list of concrete examples.) I suppose the idea is that because our attention is constantly shifting, we have a much larger pool of available data, memory, and experience to go on, compared to static attention types.‡

I have an intuitive approach to both science and faith, which may explain why I find it so natural to integrate the two.

What do you think about intuition? How would you define it? What would you give examples of it for the edification of androids?

*Side observation -- those words don't rhyme even though they look as if they should.
†A term I invented to refer to those of us with the poorly-named condition "attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder".
‡My term again, for people variously called called normal, neurotypical, and farmers.

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Milehimama said...
March 12, 2008 at 12:20 PM  

Gavin DeBecker talks about this a lot in his book "The Gift of Fear" and sequel, "Protecting the Gift".

He basically tells women to listen to their intuition, even when it would cause them to be rude or socially inept, because intuition regarding danger is rarely wrong.

RCB said...
March 17, 2008 at 11:33 AM  

Some people have trouble trusting their intuition in dangerous situations because they are afraid of violating social rules, but many of us -- including me -- also have to work on learning to trust our intuition. It takes self-esteem (that is, confidence in one's abilities) to trust intuition when it contradicts expectations.

I really ought to read that book. How would you define intuition?

Milehimama said...
March 17, 2008 at 3:25 PM  

A woman's intuition is the same as a guy's "gut feeling".

Intuition is the phenomenon of unconsciously synthesizing available data with memory and experience to arrive at a conclusion.

I'd say that was a pretty good definition.

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