Is intuition real?
- The Cambridge Dictionary defines intuition as “an ability to understand or know something immediately based on your feelings rather than facts.”
- A 2016 survey revealed that over 50% of Americans “agreed with the statement ‘I trust my gut to tell me what’s true and what’s not.’“
- Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, explains the term “thin-slicing” as “the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experience.”
- Psychics—people who rely on extra-sensory perception to obtain information—classify the four different types of intuition, or “four clairs” as: “clairaudience (hearing voices), clairvoyance (seeing images), clairsentience (recognizing feelings), and claircognizance (knowing).”
To determine whether or not intuition is real, we need to consider the facts—and there are none. That is to say, there is no scientific evidence to support the concept of intuition. We create our own 'luck,' as the Roman philosopher Seneca might agree, by being persistent, planning, and positioning ourselves for success. Similarly, 'gut feelings' are also based on real, concrete traits like intelligence and memories.
Studies that have looked into the concept of intuition often use the word interchangeably with the unconscious or the subconscious mind. What we think of as 'intuition' can probably just be attributed to our brains operating at a subconscious level without us truly realizing it. Numerous studies have confirmed that the subconscious mind is an extremely powerful thing. It can process information and provide us with 'gut feelings' based on well-founded suspicions resulting from logical thought processes, memories, and observed patterns.
We shouldn't be too quick to dismiss legitimate, subconscious thought processes as 'intuition' or 'sixth sense.' There's no magic involved here. And if you're attracted to the concept of intuition because you want to believe in a higher power, isn't it more amazing to think that humans are more intelligent than anyone fully understands? When we dismiss these thought processes as 'intuition,' we diminish the legitimacy of an individual's real underlying intelligence.
Despite seeming supernatural, the proven ability to instantly, unconsciously notice and analyze patterns is well-studied. Geniuses from Einstein to Steve Jobs promote intuition as a vital tool, and like a muscle, it’s strengthened with exercise.
Confidence, accuracy, and response times are consistently enhanced through instant, involuntary data recall and assessment. Medical professionals’ work decisions are improved with intuitive knowledge. It’s a powerful problem solver, often spontaneously generating creative and novel solutions, with break periods allowing for incubation in the subconscious mind. Thus, strategic, conscious methods are not threatened by automatic, intuitive happenings (of which we’re unaware); instead, they’re complemented by them.
Researchers believe intuition is linked to multiple biological systems such as gut microflora and the vagus nerve, as well as brain structures like the hippocampus, right hemisphere, and corpus callosum—which is thicker in women, who have greater tendencies to integrate emotional and logical processing. Evolved for protecting offspring, females show superiority in sorting environmental information and reading others. Regardless of gender, the “gut brain” contains more neurons than the spinal cord, and is proven to store memories, subconsciously informing later decisions. Heartbeat awareness also improves intuition accuracy, demonstrating another physical connection.
Intuition can be actively improved. Immediately perceiving truths is natural; learning to recognize and trust develops with practice. When following intuition pays off, success reinforces the behavior, boosting self-trust and confidence. Repetition further solidifies the subconscious-to-conscious connection. Additionally, mindfulness and meditation, noticing coincidences, and paying attention to physical manifestations allow greater access to non-linear, intuitive knowledge.