Intuitive thinking is basically the kind of thinking that helps you understand reality in the moment, without logic or analysis. There’s no language involved in it, either. It’s entirely about signs and sensations. Most of the time, it goes against whatever we might think of as “rational”.
According to science, intuitive thinking happens in a region of our brain close to the pineal gland. In other words, it lines up with the middle of your forehead, between your eyebrows. You can’t use intuitive thinking whenever you want, though. It only shows up in “moments of inspiration”. Plus, it really works. It’s what some people call doctors’ “clinical eye” or being a “visionary”.
Intuitive thinking and science
The topic of intuitive thinking has lead to all kinds of speculation. But since it’s so strongly tied to our emotions, it’s not very easy to verify anything about it. It just takes hold of people sometimes and makes it so that what they “intuited” will really happen.
But science has taken this issue on. One major program that’s studying it is the Laboratory of Brain Evolution and Behavior (part of the National Institute of Mental Health in the United States), with Paul MacLean as its current director.
According to their research, intuitive thinking originates in the neocortex. This is a special part of the brain that has elements of both hemispheres in it. Although they’re not sure exactly how it works, they think it has something to do with instantly processing knowledge, experiences, and the signs around you. The end result of that processing is a correct interpretation of reality.
The four kinds of intuitive thinking
People have always talked about intuition as a kind of “spark” that flares up and sheds light on things. Even Albert Einstein said that his studies relied a lot on intuition. At the end of the day, though, artists are the people who rely on it the most.
The theory is that there are four different types of intuitive thinking. Here they are:
- Emotional intuitive thinking. This has to do with your ability to immediately pick up on other people’s personality traits or emotional states. You can see who they are, or how they are, without them having to say anything.
- Mental intuitive thinking. This is about finding an immediate answer to a problem, without analyzing it. It’s very common in people with jobs that require quick decisions, like firefighters or bomb technicians.
- Psychic intuitive thinking. This means having the ability to choose the best path to overcome a personal difficulty, without putting much mental effort into it. It also means being able to pick up on social and work-related dynamics.
- Spiritual intuitive thinking. This has to do with states of “enlightenment” or “revelations”. They’re more of an experience than a fact. Buddhists talk about this kind of intuition more than anyone else, which has given it a mystical quality.
Is it possible to improve your intuition?
It’s hard for a lot of us in the Western world to listen to our intuition. We’re all blinded by rationality, so it’s hard for us to believe in anything that doesn’t use logic or some other kind of scientific system. We push away a lot of the things that don’t seem easy to explain. This is exactly why we have such a hard time using our intuition.
On top of that, not trusting yourself will also block your ability to think intuitively. If you have a lot of doubts about your subjective experiences, all your intuitions will be contaminated by that doubt. So instead of helping you reach the right answer (that is, intuition), you get confused and skeptical.
The best way for you to improve your intuition is to let it flow more freely. One good strategy is taking note of the first thing that comes to mind in any situation. Make sure you jot it down before your reasoning processes take over. Let it come just the way you see it, like you would with automatic writing.
Afterward, you can look over your notes and see if your initial impression was valid. It either was or wasn’t. If it makes sense and helps you solve or understand a situation properly, then that’s intuition. Doesn’t this sound like a fascinating exercise? Why not give it a try?