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Verified by Psychology Today

Intuition is a form of knowledge that appears in consciousness without obvious deliberation. It is not magical but rather a faculty in which hunches are generated by the unconscious mind rapidly sifting through past experience and cumulative knowledge.

Often referred to as “gut feelings,” intuition tends to arise holistically and quickly, without awareness of the underlying mental processing of information. Scientists have repeatedly demonstrated how information can register on the brain without conscious awareness and positively influence decision-making and other behavior.

Where Intuition Comes From

Psychologists believe that intuition relies on powers of pattern-matching, as the mind combs experience stored in long-term memory for similar situations and presents in-the-moment judgments based on them. The automatic information processing that underlies intuition can be seen in the everyday phenomenon known as "highway hypnosis,” which occurs when a driver travels for miles without a conscious thought about the activity of driving the car.

Is intuition the same as gut feelings?

Intuition is often referred to as “gut feelings,” as they seem to arise fully formed from some deep part of us. In fact, they are the product of brain processing that automatically compares swiftly perceived elements of current experience with past experience and knowledge, and they are delivered to awareness with considerable emotional certainty.

How do gut feelings relate to first impressions?

Intuition, like first impressions, serves the brain’s need to predict and prepare for what will happen next. First impressions are rapid, holistic assessments of people based on subtle perceptual cues and judgment of intent to help or harm. Both rely on automatic processes and, as rapid evaluation systems, both are subject to error, especially from biases we hold.

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When to Trust Your Gut
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Our gut feelings are often correct, but we tend to attach a certainty to them that they do not always merit. They do tend to be more accurate in some domains of experience than others, such as in the formation of first impressions. Intuition is also often valuable in detecting deception and other forms of danger, and in detecting sexual orientation.

Should I trust my intuition?

Gut feelings do have their value in complex decision-making. Studies of top executives show that even after they analyze mounds of data, the information does not tell them what to do; that is where intuition is a guide. People typically cite rational-seeming criteria for their actions and do not disclose the subjective preferences of feelings that arise spontaneously.

Is my intuition always right?

Experts find that intuition, no matter how right it feels, is more reliable in some areas of activity than others. For example, it can help you generate new ideas or new figures of speech, but don’t count on it for comprehending vocabulary, where reflective thinking better fits the task, or in judging job candidates. Many situations actually utilize a combination of intentional reflective deliberation and automatic intuition.

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