Monday, May 2, 2016

Microstory 311: Intuition

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Physical Safety

First of all, it’s important to know that intuition is not the same thing is instinct. Instinct is presented as a reflex to certain stimuli, and not something that can be controlled. It’s based on a species’ biological imperatives, rather than cognitive processing. Intuition refers to the ability for a free-thinking individual (read: human) to make decisions, and come to conclusions, without a clear rational path. That is, being intuitive is knowing the answer to a problem without knowing exactly how it’s known. I have personally defined the word as, “a feeling of knowledge without any apparent episodic memory attached,” and “knowing something without having actually learned and verified it as true.” Episodic memory is the memory of past events, but does not directly include any information learned during those events. For example, you are aware that the Earth revolves around the sun, and this knowledge exists in your brain as semantic memory. Episodic memory would be the day in first grade when your teacher told you this fact, and you wrote it in your notes, and you answered a test question about it later. As I’ve said, intuition is a higher level of problem-solving that takes place independent of this episodic memory. And I don’t mean it happens without particularly recalling the moment you learned the truth in question. That moment of learning simply never happened, but you still somehow understand anyway. Intuition is an incredibly powerful characteristic, and is a vital component of both basic survival, and of complex social interaction. It allows us to read each other’s nonverbal cues, fix unpredictable problems, and learn new skills. Trust your intuition, but do not rely on it exclusively. Without learned information, chemicals in your brain will not be balanced enough to make intuitive determinations. Intuition is the mark of a highly intelligent person, but its limitations must always be respected.


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