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Intuition: when should we trust it and when should we not?


Intuition: when should we trust it and when should we not?

80% of our brain activity is unconscious. Our unconscious brain perceives elements of our environment that we don’t identify consciously. Billions of neurones select, classify, memorise and categorize the experiences we live into “positive” ones that should be done again and “negative” ones, to be avoided. This huge data base is at the origin of the intuition, this instinct that pushes us to act such or such way, without being able to explain it rationally. Our intuition is based on all experiences, our decisions –even the bad ones- that are converted into useful information. Besides, an expert is often someone who made mistakes in his or her field and who knew how to learn from it.

However, our intuition is not always a good guide. So, under which circumstances should we trust it?

In the fields that we master: the data base is reliable only if it has been filled with experiences. When we are inexperienced in a field, it is better to take time to analyse rationally the situation.
In the fields where we can evaluate the relevance of our actions. A manager or a trainer who never asks for feedbacks or evaluations from its colleagues or interns has an incomplete data base, thus his or her intuition will lead him or her to keep doing something that may not be working very well.
When we have eaten. Sugar is our brain’s main fuel. When we are lacking it, we are more likely to be impulsive and irritable. A study shows that hunger can be a factor of tensions in a couple and can increase the risk of arguments.
When we have slept enough. When we are lacking sleep, we tend to underestimate danger and to overestimate our capacities. Our concentration and our memorization can be affected by it. Thus, a sleepless night affects our behaviour as much as an alcohol level equivalent to 1 gram per litre of blood.

Go further with: “Comment prendre de bonnes decisions”, Nadine Sciacca, published by Marabout (February 2016)

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