Intuition has the endorsement of many heavyweights. Pioneering psychologist Carl Jung called it one of the four ways people function, along with feeling, thinking and sensing. Psychologist Marcia Emery, author of three books on intuition, calls it "the deepest wisdom of the human soul."
But many urge caution. "Intuition makes people feel more powerful, more effective," says Stuart Vyse, a psychologist at Connecticut College in New London, Conn. "But it has been shown over and over again that gut reactions are not accurate. It is a mistake to base a decision on a gut feeling."
Myers says he and other researchers are not trying to destroy intuition. He applauds its "unbidden insights and inspirations." He aims instead, he says "to fortify our intuition, to sharpen our thinking and to deepen our wisdom."
Excerpt from-Human Intuition: The Brain Behind the Scenes
Our perceptual abilities develop continuously during the first months of life. Within days of birth, our brain’s neural networks were stamped with the smell of our mother’s body. Thus, a week-old nursing baby, placed between a gauze pad from its mother’s bra and one from another nursing mother, will usually turn toward its own mother’s pad. A three-week-old infant, if given a pacifier that turns on recordings of either its mother’s voice or a female stranger’s, will suck more vigorously when it hears its now-familiar mother.
Babies also have an intuitive grasp of simple laws of physics. Like adults staring in disbelief at a magic trick, infants look longer at a scene of a ball stopping in midair, a car seeming to pass through a solid object, or an object that seems to disappear. Babies even have a head for numbers. Researcher Karen Wynn showed five-month-old infants one or two objects. Then she hid the objects behind a screen, sometimes removing or adding one through a trap door. When she lifted the screen, the infants often did a double take, staring longer when shown a wrong number of objects. Like animals’ native fear of heights, this is intuitive knowledge—unmediated by words or rational analysis.
For more than a century, we’ve known that the brain’s two sides serve differing functions. Accidents, strokes, and tumors in the left hemisphere generally impair activities of the rational, verbal, nonintuitive mind, such as reading, writing, speaking, arithmetic reasoning, and understanding. Similar lesions in the right hemisphere seldom have such dramatic effects.
By 1960 the left hemisphere (or “left brain”) was well accepted as the dominant or major hemisphere, and its quieter companion as the subordinate or minor hemisphere. The left hemisphere is rather like the moon’s facing side—the one easiest to observe and study. It talks to us. The other side is there, of course, but hidden.
When surgeons first separated the brain’s hemispheres as a treatment for severe epilepsy, they effectively created a small population of what have been called the most fascinating people on earth—split-brain people who are literally of two minds. The peculiar nature of our visual wiring enables researchers to send information to either the patients’s left or right brain by having the patient stare at a spot and then flashing a stimulus to the right or left of it. (They could do this with you, too, but in your intact brain the telltale hemisphere that received the information would instantly call the news to its partner across the valley. Split-brain surgery severs the phone cables—the corpus collosum—across the valley.) Finally, the researchers quiz each hemisphere separately.
In an early experiment, psychologist Michael Gazzaniga asked split-brain patients to stare at a dot as he flashed HE•ART. Thus HE appeared in their left visual field (which transmits to the right brain) and ART in the right field (which transmits to the left brain). When he then asked them what they had seen, the patients said they saw ART and so were startled when their left hands (controlled by the right brain) pointed to HE. Given an opportunity to express itself, each hemisphere reported only what it had seen. The left hand intuitively knew what it could not verbally report.
Similarly, when a picture of a spoon was flashed to their right brain, the patients could not say what they saw. But when asked to identify what they had seen by feeling an assortment of hidden objects with their left hands, they readily selected the spoon. If the experimenter said, “Right!” the patient might reply, “What? Right? How could I possibly pick out the right object when I don’t know what I saw?” It is, of course, the left brain doing the talking here, bewildered by what it’s nonverbal right brain quietly knows.
These experiments demonstrate that the right brain understands simple requests and easily perceives objects. In fact, the right brain is superior to the left at copying drawings, recognizing faces, perceiving differences, sensing and expressing emotion.
Although the left brain is adept at literal interpretations of language, the right brain excels in making subtle inferences. If “primed” with the flashed word foot, the left brain will be especially quick to then recognize the closely associated word heel. But if primed with foot, cry, and glass, the right brain will more quickly recognize another word that is distantly related to all three: cut. And if given a verbal problem—what word goes with high, district, and house?—the right brain more quickly than the left recognizes that the solution is school. As one patient explained after suffering right-brain stroke damage, “I understand words, but I’m missing the subtleties.” Thus, the right brain helps us modulate our speech to make meaning clear—as when we ask “What’s that in the road ahead?” instead of “What’s that in the road, a head?”
Some split-brain surgery patients have temporarily been bothered by the unruly independence of their left hand, which might unbutton a shirt while the right hand buttoned it.
Some split-brain surgery patients have temporarily been bothered by the unruly independence of their left hand, which might unbutton a shirt while the right hand buttoned it, or put groceries back on the shelf after the right hand put them in the cart. It was as if each hemisphere was thinking “I’ve half a mind to wear my green (blue) shirt today.” Indeed, said Nobel laureate psychologist Roger Sperry, split-brain surgery leaves people “with two separate minds.” (Reading these reports, I imagine a split-brain person enjoying a solitary game of “rock, paper, and scissors”—left hand versus right.)
When the two minds are at odds, the left brain acts as the brain’s press agent, doing mental gymnastics to rationalize unexplained action. If the right brain commands an action, the left brain will intuitively justify it. If the right brain is commanded to laugh, the patient will respond with laughter. The left brain, when asked why the laughter, will rationalize, perhaps pointing to the “funny research.” If a patient follows an order sent to the right brain (“Walk”), the left brain will offer a ready explanation (“I’m going into the house to get a Coke”). Michael Gazzaniga concludes that the left brain is an “interpreter” that instantly constructs theories to justify our behavior. We humans have a quick facility for constructing meaning.
Most of the body’s paired organs—kidneys, lungs, breasts—perform identical functions, providing a backup should one side fail. Not so the brain’s two halves. They are a biological odd couple, serving differing functions, each seemingly with a mind of its own. From simply looking at the similarly shaped hemispheres, who would suppose that they contribute uniquely to the harmony of the whole?
And not even Freud (who didn’t anticipate the cool intelligence of the hidden mind) could have supposed that our brains are humming with so much resourceful activity outside our conscious awareness, and that our interpretive left brain, grasping at straws, can so speedily intuit false explanations for our behavior. Beneath the surface there is much intelligence, and above the surface there is much self-delusion.-By: David G. Myers, Ph.D.
David Guy Myers (born 20 September 1942) is a professor of psychology at Hope College in Michigan, United States, and the author of 17 books, including popular textbooks entitled Psychology, Exploring Psychology, Social Psychology and general-audience books dealing with issues related to Christian faith as well as scientific psychology. In addition, he has published chapters in over 60 books and numerous scholarly research articles in professional journals. Myers is widely recognized for his research on happiness and is one of the supporters of the positive psychological movement.
excerpt from: Intuitionschool.org-
In his most recent book, Todd Rose explores the concept that ‘individuality matters’. He asserts that in order to thrive both on a personal and professional level it is vital to reject the ‘tyranny of the average’ and focus on a person’s ‘individuality’.
As a graduate lecturer at the Harvard School of Education, Rose cares about implementing the principles of individuality that are welcomed in recent medical and scientific research to a persons daily life. It is not uncommon to judge ourselves and others according to how closely we come to an ingrained system of yardstick averages. A parent may worry that there is something wrong their daughter/son because she/he is ‘below average’. In his book, Rose sets about proving that there is no such thing as average intelligence or for that matter an average body size, average talent or average character.
A compelling example is the life-or-death mystery that the US Air Force had on its hands in the late 1940s. During the dawn of jet-powered aviation a recurring problem surfaced: pilots could not keep control of their planes. Military engineers confirmed that the issue was ‘pilot error’ since they could find no mechanical or electronic defects in the planes. This baffled the pilots who knew for sure that their skills were not the cause. Eventually attention was turned to the design of the cockpit itself, which had continued to be built in accordance to a set of averages derived from the physical dimensions of hundreds of male pilots in 1926. Military engineers began to wonder if the pilots had grown bigger since 1926. An enormous investigation was reinstated, measuring and averaging thousands of pilots on 140 dimensions including thumb length, crotch height and the distance from a pilot’s eye to his ear.
A young researcher, Gilbert S. Daniels, was hired straight out of college to help with the measuring of pilots’ limbs. Daniels found facilitating this ‘averages approach’ highly UN-useful. As an undergraduate he had written his thesis on the comparison of the shape of 250 male Harvard students’ hands. He found that once he had averaged all his data, the average hand did not resemble any individual’s measurements and there was NO SUCH THING as an average hand size.
Harbouring a private conviction about the futility of averages that rejected almost a century of military design, Daniels decided to find out how many pilots really were average. He calculated the average range of ten dimensions he believed to be the most relevant for cockpit design and then compared each individual pilot, one by one, to this ‘average’ pilot. The general consensus was that the vast majority of pilots would be within the average range on most dimensions. The results were stunning. Not ONE out of 4,063 pilots fit within the average range on all ten dimensions. Therefore, if you’ve designed a cockpit to fit the average pilot, you’ve actually designed it to fit no one at all!