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    You’re not intuitive, you’re lazy

    Another bit of dried grass just fractured a even-toed ungulate’s spine.

    I may have to punch the next person who tells me they’re “intuitive.” (Of course, if they’re really intuitive, they should be able to see it coming and avoid the blow… but I’m willing to bet there’s a contusion coming.)

    Why so anti-intuitive, Steven?

    Because I dislike lazy thinking and to call oneself (or another) intuitive, is not descriptive, it’s laziness.

    There are 2 reasons why.

    First, I haven’t met an “intuitive” yet who has kept an accurate “hit counter.” Simple thing, really. Write down every “intuitive hit” you have, as accurately as possible. Then, at a later date, check and see how accurate you really were.

    Now the problem with this method is the “as accurately as possible” part, combined with our brain’s entertaining ability to mis-remember, especially in the wake of information that could validate our beliefs.

    Let’s just say that every study ever done about precognitive dreaming shows that:

    1. When the dreamers were required to write down their dreams, their accuracy dropped to less-than-random
    2. After some event happened, they often misremembered dreaming about it.
    3. There are, of course, millions of events that did occur that they never dreamed about at all.

    So, it’s the same thing with “intuitives.” If they actually checked their batting average, and adjusted for mis-remembering or vague predictions, they’d find they aren’t so Sylvia Browne after all (or, more accurately, they’re EXACTLY like Sylvia Browne! That is, not intuitive.)

    Here’s the 2nd reason.

    Human beings are really good at identifying patterns. Too good, in fact (we “see” patterns where none actually exist).

    When our brain is looking for a pattern, it’s working hard, expending energy. This effort and glucose use takes up valuable CPU cycles that could be used for something else. We’re built to find patterns quickly so we can stop wasting energy.

    And when we “spot” a pattern, we get a nice hit of chemicals and a handful of interesting sensations — sometimes a feeling in our gut, even.

    Circling back: if we recorded and audited our “gut feelings” we’d find that we aren’t as accurate as we thought. But if we do get a hit…

    It’s not because we’re intuitive, it’s because our non-conscious pattern recognizer was working.

    That is, we’re not channeling some disembodied entity who is telling us that you may be coming down with a cold… we’re using our millenia-old pattern recognition circuits that are wired to identify “oncoming cold!”… and it happens below our consciousness.

    In other words, it ain’t magic Houdini.

    Think about this one: We often find it almost spooky that we can tell when someone is looking at us, right?

    Well, first of all, we can’t tell as accurately as we think. If we have no idea if someone is behind us, and we have no idea if they’re looking… we can’t tell.

    But we *DO* have millions of years of evolutionary hardware inside our cranium that responds to images of eyeballs (because seeing eyes could have been a life/death/sex moment).

    When we spot eyes pointing in our direction, we don’t “know” it or “think” about it discursively. The whole thing happens like a reflex. So, it’s not a mystery when we turn our head and catch someone’s gaze. It’s simply that we turned our head in response to a signal we had no conscious awareness of.

    Now THAT’s spooky because it makes you wonder: Hmmm… what else is going on where something automatic in my brain is running the show? Could it be… EVERYTHING?!

    Humans like to ignore that we have some of the same psychobiological history as other animals. We like to think that everything that goes on for us is something we can clearly feel, perceive, conceive and deliberately affect.

    It just isn’t so.

    I’d LOVE to see an example of “intuition” that isn’t covered by either luck, or some form of non-conscious pattern recognition. Just hasn’t happened yet.

    In the meantime, I like to remember a story that Richard Feynman tells about intuition: He was at home one evening and the phone rang and he knew, just KNEW, it was a call to tell him his mother died. He could feel it in his gut and dreaded picking up the phone. But not wanting to delay the bad news, he picked up the phone, ready to confirm his intuitive suspicion and… wouldn’t you know it… telemarketer.

    3 Responses to “You’re not intuitive, you’re lazy”

    1. Ed Says:

      Well, I’ve got an example of intuition that isn’t covered by luck or non-conscious pattern recognition. It was when I “knew” what the winning lottery numbers would be. Unfortunately, my intuition has failed to tell me *when* those would be the winning lottery tickets. But I promise you… someday! Someday they will be! And it won’t be luck and it can’t possibly be pattern recognition when it happens, because the pattern won’t have happened yet, will it?

      On a serious note, though, I think there is something worthwhile in listening to your ‘intuitive’ side if you do so recognizing it as a pattern recognizer. Bringing that recognition to consciousness can be a bit of a trick, but my personal experience has been that when I can, I usually spot something better than I was analytically able to find.

    2. Andi Says:

      I have an (intuitive) aversion against extreme positions such as the neurotic hyper-analytical “You have to analyze everything and always think everything trough” as well as “Always listen to your guts”. The word Intuition is pretty much an umbrella-term for all sorts of unconscious cognitive processing. I am not even sure, if its always the same sort of unconscious ‘thinking’. Some ‘intuitions’ may be more reliable than others. However, because this cognitive processing happens without our conscious awareness, does not mean that its always right nor does it means that its always wrong. To me, when i have some good reasons to doubt my intuitions about something, its a good idea to check them with my analytical and critical thinking skills….but sometimes, i am really just too lazy.

      I also think, that the word intuition has been hijacked by the New Age and ‘Spiritual’ Subculture, which uses it as synonym for ‘wishful thinking’ and ‘When something feels good, it means that it must be true!’. I think that this has given the Intuition a much worse reputation among more ‘rational people’ than it may deserve.

    3. J. Nelson Leith Says:

      I also dislike lazy thinking. And the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

      Datum 1.
      “I dislike lazy thinking and to call oneself (or another) intuitive, is not descriptive, it’s laziness.” Although it may not be accurate, calling someone intuitive is in fact descriptive, even in a scientific sense. (Note that even falsified descriptions are descriptions.)

      Describing the use of the descriptor “intuitive” as laziness is also descriptive. But, the way you do this in the above sentence, it is also lazy and (put forth as exclusive of “laziness”) inaccurate.

      Datum 2.
      You say: “I haven’t met an ‘intuitive’ yet who has kept an accurate ‘hit counter.'” Are we to assume that you’ve kept an accurate hit counter of every intuitive you’ve ever met, and the result was zero? Or, are you simply noticing a pattern?

      Datum 3.
      “If they actually checked their batting average, and adjusted for mis-remembering or vague predictions, they’d find they aren’t so Sylvia Browne after all.” Again, where’s the data? If they haven’t checked the batting averages themselves, how can you be so certain? Have you surreptitiously kept accurate “hit counters” and checked the batting averages for a statistically significant number of them?

      Datum 4.
      “Let’s just say that every study…” Let’s not “just say.” Let’s show. Let’s cite. Let’s do more than vaguely convey a pattern you have noticed in the studies about which you have read or heard.

      Datum 5.
      “It’s not because we’re intuitive, it’s because our non-conscious pattern recognizer was working.” It’s not because we’re happy, it’s because the neurons are firing in the pleasure centers of our brain? Since it is quite possible to define intuition as the experience of subconscious pattern recognition, here is where it becomes clear that you haven’t even provided a valid definition against which to make a logical case, reducing the entire rant to mere out-group denigration. In other words, hooting derisively at the Other Troop of primates in order to boost your social status.

      It is quite possible for someone to arrive at correct conclusions by way of a completely irrational thought process — for example by simply adopting them, cult-style, from more rational people you’ve read or heard about. Judging from the thought process so clearly and consistently revealed in this barely coherent rant, it is a reasonable conclusion that this is the case in your opposition to those you ironically label “lazy” thinkers.





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