What does The Good Life Project say about intuition?

Judy Tsuei

Here’s a newsletter issue from The Good Life Project on intuition…

If you’d like to learn more about how to connect with your own intuition – rooted in science, – check out Jacob Liberman’s book, Luminous Life. And, check out his INCREDIBLE interview on Jess Lively’s podcast.

Ever said some variation of this?

I just got this intuitive hit. It told me to do this thing. To make this choice. To take this action. I could feel it in every cell in my body and I just knew it was right, because it came from that deeper, less-than-conscious level where my best decisions ALWAYS come from. Every time I follow it, I’m right. And, when I don’t, I pretty much always get punished.

So, let’s talk about intuition. Intuition is part feeling, part data. It’s the belief that an answer to a question has arrived without being able to identify any conscious or logical process behind it. It can be incredibly useful in our decision-making. It can help us make the right call. Or feel our way into the best option or opportunity, then run from the bad stuff. I rely on it often. It is a part of my decision-making process.

But, there’s another side to this story…

It’s the delusional side of intuition. Turns out that, yes, intuition is valuable, but it’s also very often...wait for it...dead wrong. 

It turns out, our confidence in our intuition is often completely misplaced. We believe, with all our heart, that it’s always right, but research shows the exact opposite. Turns out, we have a bit of a selective memory problem, bundled with a bias to want it to be right. That makes us remember the good calls and forget the bad ones.

But, there is some good news here... 

The thing that makes intuition valuable is less about how right we feel it is and more about how long we’ve been using it and the nature of the circumstance to which it is applied. Turns out, intuition is really just subconscious pattern-recognition. The more we work in a similar domain or experience similar choices in similar contexts, the bigger the data set becomes in our brains to draw inferences from. And, the more likely our intuition will be right.

According to Nobel-winning behavioral economist and researcher, Daniel Kahneman, our intuition is more likely to be accurate when three conditions are met. 

  • The circumstance to which it is applied is one that occurs in a regular repeatable way that you’ve been able to observe many times in the past, even if not consciously

  • You must have accumulated a lot of trials or practice in making "intuitive" or deductive decisions in the above condition

  • The condition must give you near-instant feedback that lets you know whether you were right or wrong

These three conditions allow your brain to amass a data-set of experiments that serve as a less-than-conscious feedback loop that allows your intuition to be more right more often.

Outside these conditions, if what you’re "getting a hit on" is largely random or hasn’t occurred in a similar way many, many times, if you’ve not had the practice of making decisions in the face of similar moments and you never been given immediate feedback in those earlier trials, your magical mystical "always right" noggin is little more accurate than a random answer generator.

I know, I know, but that’s true for other people, I’M DIFFERENT! Mine truly IS always right. Except, it’s not. It’s all a part of the internal system of selective recall and cognitive-bias that wants it to be so, yet it ain’t.

What does this mean for us? 

Be open to intuition, but never trust it blindly. Always ask whether the above conditions have been met before validating it as a strong predictor of accuracy in any decision-making process.

SpiritJudy Tsuei