Intuition – A Hunch Worth Following Up On?

| July 1, 2013 | 0 Comments

by Mrs. Freud

The dictionary of psychology gives two definitions of intuition that leave the inquisitive mind none the wiser at first: intuition is said to be a mode of immediate understanding and knowing without conscious thought or judgment. The origin of this understanding is described to be either a) somehow mystical or b) the result of subtle cues that are apprehended implicitly, unconsciously. Whereas version a) is not recommended as a source of decision making, version b) is being researched and understood as an example of “implicit learning.”

Our brains are constantly sifting through a huge amount of input of information from our environment through our senses, without us having our main focus on it. We are constantly learning. Just watching my husband solve the daily crossword puzzle is proof of that. Once asked how he would know a certain random fact, he just explains it with “I’ve been around for a while.” That is exactly how we learn most of the things that we know and never went to school for.

Implicit learning increases our knowledge constantly. Reading is another example. Research shows that we can either study the spelling of words specifically, or we learn the spelling of a word “on the side,” by encountering it in a text for about 100 times, unconsciously, without paying specific attention to the spelling of that word. In case we get asked how to spell that word, we would know the answer – through implicit learning. We “have a feeling” about the correct spelling, “an intuition,” and we are right.

Picking up on clues makes for an intuitive hunch. How can we make sure that we are not dealing with version a), but with something we have learned implicitly and therefore can be trusted, even though we have no logical chain of thoughts that leads us to the knowing? I won´t go as far as to say that we can have an intuition about the quality of our intuition. Yet, there is some wisdom to that. We need to learn to discern whether we are having a random thought or are dealing with the result of implicit learning. We need to pay attention to the moment, and we need to be connected to ourselves in order to know if we can trust our hunch. We will not be able to discern that if our thoughts are scattered, if our minds are somewhere else, or if even we would rather be somewhere else than dealing with the situation at hand.

Simply practicing to put our mind where our feet are at every moment is a big step toward clarity about our own intuition. We all might have wondered at one point whether we are running away from something or running towards something. Intuition is the compass. You can find more on my blog:

Author Sabine Starr is a psychologist licensed in Vienna, Austria, currently living and working in Mission Hills. She has written numerous articles for professional psychology journals. For further information on Starr visit and follow her blog at

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