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    Archive for November, 2010

    You’re not intuitive, you’re lazy

    Saturday, November 13th, 2010

    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.




     

     

     

     

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