The Inner Workings of the Intuitive Mind !
How does out Intuitive Mind Work ? What forms the Intuitive Mind ? Early in my life, I was fascinated by the workings of what I now call “Full Spectrum Intuition.” There were sufficient misleading studies on the functioning of the Intuitive Mind, but, the most damaging ones came from the mambo jumbo from the “psychology of positive thinking”. Think positive and everything will change works in theory but it was not easy as it sounded. Listen to your intuition and everything will be alright. My enhanced full spectrum intuition saved me from going doing many blind alleys, and my journey was full of Aha’s and Epiphanies. Those who have a limited understanding about Intuition are advised first to read this post (a new tab will open) – Difference between Instincts, Intuition and Insights.
I have had a very exciting life journey and had my share of challenges about which you can read here. I had changed two major career trajectories before I got to my current practice based consulting on “Outcomes as a Service”, what I call the OaaS model. During my journey, after I had read anything and everything that was published or written in blogs, research, books about intuition, I had a strong urge to study unconscious decision making. You see, I immediately fell into a trap where I thought that those who teach decision making in prominent, well-known universities would know better than anyone. So, I traveled around more than 7 top universities, met the faculty, sat in preview classes to see if someone could offer novel practiced based knowledge. Needless to say, I was thoroughly disappointed.
The decision making being taught in one of the best universities in West Coast of the United States and the coveted university of UK was 20 years old. It seems that the professors and the students had read the recent research on intuition and decision-making only as a hobby rather than to incorporate in practice. My disappointment always followed up with epiphanies and this specific disappointment led to another four years of intense obsession and a clear conviction that I had to chart an original path, if I wanted to learn more about this subject.
[highlight]Once the nuts and bolts started falling in place. all other life and spiritual puzzles automatically solved themselves [/highlight], right from how we recognize our potential mates to why we have glass ceilings on wealth and almost anything that I could think of. You will not get the full framework of the working models I created in this post, but I will leave you with enough to challenge your existing thinking.
The intuitive mind is the right hemispheric mind which controls 90% of our thoughts, actions, and feelings. The left brain is a more recent evolutionary invention, and right brain is ancestrally senior in pedigree. It came first, it does a lot more than the left brain, and it develops first in a newborn child before the left brain starts developing at an age of around three (3). When we think of anything, when we interact with our environment and when we exercise motor skills, the right hemispheric intuitive mind is dominant in functioning.
So, how does the intuitive mind exactly work? I am offering a simplified model of the “Intuitive Mind” so you can walk away with a great theoretical model in your head. The icing on the cake is in application framework that we developed and copyrighted. It is so powerful that I have chosen to apply it across very limited early adopters.
How does the Intuitive Mind Work?
Our intuitive mind or right hemispheric processes are a repertoire of life experiences over large span of time. Intuition is considered a pattern recognition algorithm which has the ability to reduce the massive search space of experiential memory, then, swiftly arrive at a rule of thumb recognition or inference. It carries out this swift, approximate activity by elimination versus selection.
Our brain and mind uses an “Intuitive Algorithm” which uses parallel processing and “Selection as Elimination” process for pattern recognition, memory recall, predictions and many other unconscious functions. I am over-simplifying the process here but, this should give you a good idea.
When we think of something or try recalling something, the right hemispheric processes dominantly activate across multiple parallel processes (think of multiple streams of rivers flowing down as soon as you flood the river-way). qEEG (Quantitative EGG) studies mapping subjects during recall, thinking or deliberation state show that the right frontal lobes (a part of Pre-Frontal Cortex) and Parietal lobes (association centres) light up. One should note that most of these lobes are skilled at unconscious processing, so, what the qEEG shows is how the unconscious works on a temporal level.
As our mind retains and stores a vast repertoire of experiences, when we try to recall something, or deliberate on an idea, a pattern recognition process activates whereby anything that does not meet the criteria is quickly eliminated. For e.g., you taste a new fruit and try to recall/deliberate as to why does it sound so familiar.
In few milliseconds, the IA (Intuitive Algorithm) will carry out cascading and nesting predictions (Is this a Vegetable Y/N, Is this a Fruit Y/N, Is the taste familiar Y/N etc.). All these processes are running the same time as parallel processes by switching off/switching on relevant networks. If one sub-system makes a mistake, an aggregate level error will be introduced into the system early on. The options keep getting narrowed down till a full approximate recall occurs. This process looks slow but is very fast as it is working in parallel processing mode and uses layered hierarchy (called cortical hierarchy)
The IA process eliminates certain options at breakneck speed using enabling-inhibiting network propagation. It eliminates the possibility that what you are eating is a vegetable and narrows down to the fact that this is some kind of a fruit (approximation). From here, it quickly pattern matches further with previously stored experience modalities (VAKOG – Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, Olfactory, and Gustatory) of fruits eliminating further possibilities. The pattern matching process is dependent on how the experience was categorized (This is a round object, This is Edible, This is so and so colour, this is juicy and watery, this seems like a soft shell of fruit- This looks and taste like some sort of fruit).
When a full recall occur (Ah, I remember I ate a similar fruit when I visited so and so place), the qEEG will show a symphony like a pattern before we get a conscious insight (awareness range). qEEG also shows a fuzzy mental state (confusion) when a recall does not occur successfully. The fuzzy state occurs as the pattern recognition process has either failed or needs more processing time.
Let us take another example. It’s late in the evening, and you are taking a stroll or walking home from work with your girlfriend; you cross a block that has a noisy sleazy bar. You see a large built man with tattoo sitting on the sidewalk drinking something and staring at you while you both walk towards him. Your intuitive algorithm will create an instant recognition by elimination. Is this a safe person (Y/N), Do I know typical family and friends who have tattoos (Y/N), Do I know nice and kind people who have tattoos? Do nice people sit outside a bar late evening smoking or drinking (Y/N), Does this seem like a safe situation (Y/N), etc. The manner in which your brain recalled information from your experience happened very fast, and you had an instant recognition (distributed pattern recognition) of the inherent dangers in the situation and then made an assertion that “This is not a safe place and the man with a tattoo is not a safe person. Let’s get out of here as soon as possible”.
Your brain has experienced what we call is an ‘unconscious bias” i.e. arriving at a quick, intuitive judgment that this person may be a threat, and this is not a nice area and you are in danger. Hence, the high error rate due to how the intuitive algorithm works.
One of the pitfalls of the intuitive memory search process is that if you have excluded relevant information early on in your unconscious search due to the elimination process, your error rate will be very high, and you will only realize once you have gone down the rabbit hole. You cannot know what you don’t know. Your error rate will never be evident to you unless someone points out to you that you are making a mistake in perception. Using the “tattooed man near the bar” example, if you eliminate the perception that this may be a good man who was brought up in vulnerable surroundings and had a stroke of bad luck, your overall perception will shift from fear to compassion.
As discussed at the beginning of this piece, once I became aware of this “unconscious bias”, I wanted to find a process of permanently eliminating this bias rather than consciously correcting “unconscious bias” every time. Universities and decision courses teach you to manage unconscious bias consciously. What they do not tell you is that consciously adjusting unconscious bias is not only very hard but impossible. My anomaly insights led me to a process framework where we use unconscious processes to change the unconscious patterns. The above understanding also resulted in a detailed computer-based simulation of “Unconscious Intuitive Algorithm” and a process to permanently fix the “Unconscious Error Rate” which I now call “Mental Model Innovation”.
To summarize, Imagine a vast neural network which is distributed, works in parallel mode and has many layers of abstraction (fuzzy to specific to concrete experience), many types of memory (procedural, episodic and semantic memory). A simple way to imagine is to think of a large tent that is really wide and then think of many similar tops on top of this large tent with the top layer tents telling the lower layer tents what to do, how much to expand and contract.
Once you combine all these layers and parallel systems together, you have the “Intuitive Algorithm”, which still cannot be matched by any computer system. The layered, and distributed process is how our brain searches for relevant memories and experiences so quickly. The intuitive algorithm process is splendid with approximation but poor with precision. However, if you can layer multiple guided and well-framed layers of approximation on top of each other, you can get a close to precise output. For the last mile, finer course corrections, one can use the logical and sequential steps to offset for finer approximation errors.
However, we cannot use logic and sequence for correcting bigger approximation errors (which started due to the initial error at the starting point). To give an example of the intuitive memory search, recall and pattern matching process, think of a scenario where you have to go downtown for some work, but do not know the exact location of the building (precision) and have never seen the building before (precision). However, you have been told that this building is close to the Clock Tower, and across the street from a McDonalds and there is large electric billboard sign that you cannot miss. Your intuition algorithm will now use a triangulation process to reduce the error of range. You will come closer to the building but still may not be able to recognize the building unless it is marked (precision validation) or you ask someone, and they point it out to you (precision validation again).
As the “selection by elimination” process is a non-inclusive process i.e., it is constantly searching for What to eliminate, the process leads to unconscious biases, unconscious errors in recall and unconscious errors in judgment. If you, however, know, how to manage this system, it is a very powerful internal guidance mechanism.
A key point to remember is that our brain and mind does not search information like computers do and does not have sub-symbolic representational models. Our brain and mind instead use embodied memory storage as neurotransmitter and synapse patterns, which combined with cascading/nesting pattern recognition process, achieve the task we assign to it.