How Trained Intuition works so fast ?
As discussed elsewhere, instincts are inherited and intuitions are acquired. The acquisition process is slow, but, once acquired and trained using Long Term Potentiation (LTP) a.k.a habituation, our intuitions operate within seconds usually outside of our conscious awareness. To act fast, intuitions need to search the environment for cues and then used embodied action to respond to them. Given the enormous amount of experiential memory we store in our mind, intuitions can use experiential memory/pattern recognition to act very fast and also potentially mislead us in many cases.
The fast process behind intuition activation has few simple algorithms that work behind the scenes on the system level of our mind a.k.a our unconscious/subconscious processes.
Intuitions Act Fast by using Context Sensing as the First Step
Context Sensing is the most important step which fast tracks the computation by focusing on what is relevant and salient, inhibiting all other contextual possibilities. You made a mistake in workplace which went unreported, but there is this lingering fear that you will be brought to account. Out of the blue, you receive a notification from HR for a meeting and your first thoughts are “This is it”, you are going to be disciplined or fired. The HR team member, instead wanted to get some missing data in your file in order. The fear was created by your intuition which automatically identified the context as potential disciplining or firing. It helped the intuition work very fast and reduce weight of focus on the non-relevant issues (incomplete HR file). If technologists ever want to build an “artificial intuition” framework, they will first need to engineer a context sensing module which is very hard to create inspite of the technological advances. Our intuition automatically context senses using pattern recognition and based on LTP (habituation). It also find its hard to switch from one habituated context sensing to a more viable or realistic one. Our past is over-represented in our present and intuition heavily relies on past memories i.e. older data rather than new data.
Intuition Act Fast as is uses Selection by Elimination (SBE)
The next step which is usually run in parallel with the context sensing is to reduce all contexts/memories/possibilities which are not a part of the habituated step. Context Sensing is usually identifying/pattern recognizing in nature while “Selection by Elimination’ is used to carry out further computation on what actions should be taken (or nothing should be done) and when should they be taken (timing). No wonder that timing is the most important component of luck.
Our unconscious relies on a very sophisticated computation that allows the agents (the organism) to interact with the environment (respond or react) using embodied action. As we will discuss below, this computation creates significant load on the brain/mind causing stress. Our unconscious mind or subconscious mind sidesteps this by carrying out predictive calculations in advance and storing them for quick recall.
Imagine a “pattern recognition view” to explain the immense power of your mind. You know that your brain stores memories of evolutionary events across millions of years. It stores the sights, sounds and experiences of a lifetime. It remembers thousands of your habitual activities. Imagine this wisdom to be stored by the brain in its 100 billion nerve cells as instantly retrievable combinatorial codes (Nobel Prize 2004). From this galactic store, intuition is the process, which recalls such codes, in fractions of a second, as the image of a school picnic, or the complex hand movements of your signature. The brain achieves all this using inductive reasoning through a process of elimination. All nerve cells recognize combinatorial patterns. Those cells, which are unrelated to your current concern become inhibited, since they fail to recognize a linking pattern. Throughout the nervous system there are neural circuits which switch off other circuits when their own areas are energized. Context is identified through elimination. If the animal you see is pink, it is NOT an elephant. Such a search through the massive database in billions of neurons focuses on the answer within the blink of an eye. Everything you do works this way. For each word in your speech, the system eliminates all the words in your vocabulary, which do not suit the expression of your idea. As someone said “When a tiger bounds towards you, what should your response be? Should you file your toenails? Do a cartwheel? Sing a song? Is this the moment to run an uncountable number of randomly generated response possibilities through the decision rule?” Inhibition works to eliminate alternatives for every decision of the nervous system. If the choice is to chew grass, the drive to quench thirst is instantly inhibited. The elimination process wisely also discards “impossible” solutions from its search. Expectation works by narrowing possibilities. Your hidden expectations eliminate many options in your life by putting them into the “impossible” category.
It is easy to notice that incorrect Context Sensing (CS) followed by incorrect Selection by Elimination (SBE) can take us down the wrong rabbit hole quickly making the mistakes irreversible. In another post I will discuss how SBE processes influence our inferences, judgement, choices and actions.
Intuitions Act Fast as it partitions capabilities
The algorithmic process of intuition can explain differences in capabilities of the various states of the mind. Intuition focuses on a purpose by inhibiting access to the non-focus sources of the immense wisdom of the mind. When an animal chooses to drink water, its urge to chew grass is eliminated. The system functions by inhibiting access to unrelated data. The mind switches states of consciousness between control instructions from hypnotic suggestions, those from the common sense of the prefrontal regions, or the those from emotional drives of fear, anger, or love. Inherited, or acquired algorithms determine the capabilities available to the intelligent agent which are picked up from experiential memory and a previous cache of calculation is used for pattern matching.
Intuitions Act Fast as they hold predictive permutation and computation in our minds
Over time, usually by the time we are 7-8 years old, our context sensing and selection by elimination rules are ingrained in our mind due to our formative environment and family of origin influences. To avoid having to compute possibilities on demand and to deal with partially or fully observable environment, our brain/mind has to make predictions for the future and hold them in our repertoire till few of the possibilities are discarded. As such our intuition simply pattern matches the possibilities that have the highest score and simply replays them making habituation a very useful resource.
Intuitions Act Fast as they reduce the possibility space
It is now easy to see that intuitions can only act fast if they reduce the possibility space in context sensing, in selection by elimination processes and in carrying our predictive calculations for future use. Our brain/mind is trying to reduce surprise and shock to our nervous system and it uses predictive coding to run us on auto-pilot increasing the speed of our habituated responses.
In summary, fast intuitions can work for us, if we train them to achieve our outcomes and they work against us if they are achieving sub-optimal outcomes due to formative year’s habituated responses.
Published under Creative Commons License