Intuition Is the Highest Form of Intelligence

Intuition, argues Gerd Gigerenzer, a director at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, is less about suddenly "knowing" the right answer and more about instinctively understanding what information is unimportant and can thus be discarded.

Gigerenzer, author of the book Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious, says that he is both intuitive and rational. "In my scientific work, I have hunches. I can’t explain always why I think a certain path is the right way, but I need to trust it and go ahead. I also have the ability to check these hunches and find out what they are about. That’s the science part. Now, in private life, I rely on instinct. For instance, when I first met my wife, I didn’t do computations. Nor did she."

I'm telling you this because recently one of my readers, Joy Boleda, posed a question that stopped me in my tracks:

What about intuition? It has never been titled as a form of intelligence, but would you think that someone who has great intuition in things, has more intelligence?

My "gut instinct" is to say yes, especially when we are talking about people who are already intellectually curious, rigorous in their pursuit of knowledge, and willing to challenge their own assumptions.

Let me put this a bit simpler. If all you do is sit in a chair and trust your intuition, you are not exercising much intelligence. But if you take a deep dive into a subject and study numerous possibilities, you are exercising intelligence when your gut instinct tells you what is - and isn't - important.

In some respects, intuition could be thought of as a clear understanding of collective intelligence. For example, most websites are today organized in an intuitive way, which means they are easy for most people to understand and navigate. This approach evolved after many years of chaos online, as a common wisdom emerged over what information was superfluous and what was essential (i.e. About Us = essential).

Theo Humphries argues that intuitive design can be described as "understandable without the use of instructions". This is true when an object makes sense to most people because they share a common understanding of the way things work.

You might say that I'm a believer in the power of disciplined intuition. Do your legwork, use your brain, share logical arguments, and I'll trust and respect your intuitive powers. But if you merely sit in your hammock and ask me to trust your intuition, I'll quickly be out the door without saying goodbye.

I say this from personal experience; the more research I do, the better my intuition works.

Albert Einstein said, "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift."

Sometimes, a corporate mandate or group-think or your desire to produce a certain outcome can cause your rational mind to go in the wrong direction. At times like these, it is intuition that holds the power to save you. That "bad feeling" gnawing away at you is your intuition telling you that no matter how badly you might wish to talk yourself into this direction, it is the wrong way to go.

Smart people listen to those feelings. And the smartest people among us - the ones who make great intellectual leaps forward - cannot do this without harnessing the power of intuition.

Image credit: R~P~M/Flickr

You might also like the next article in this series, Do You Believe in God, But Not Intuition?

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More Ways to Be Ridiculously Likable

Image by Graphic Mashup/Flickr

Gimme one second… wait… I know I should be opening this article, but my son just texted me and… let me see… why is this so complicated?… I just want to check the movie times… no, I don’t want Bridgeport, I want Norwalk – why doesn’t this website know my preferences by now?… Okay… Okay… Got it. Now, where were we?

Did I just make you feel important?


Chances are, through my inattention, I inadvertently gave you the impression that you don’t matter to me.

That’s what happens when you don’t pay attention. If you’re like most people, you mess up a lot of career opportunities because you don’t pay attention. You accidentally slight or outright insult others, without even knowing it.

For example, if you’re shy, colleagues may think you are aloof or cold.

There is a selfish, personal aspect to likability. We tend not to like people who don’t like us. Call this petty or immature, but it’s true.

I’d argue that if a person you initially dislike gives you enough sincere personal attention, you probably will grow to like them a bit more. If you already like someone, this sort of personal attention will further strengthen your feelings.

Here’s the problem: for many of us, inattention runs rampant. We mistakenly believe that we can multitask. If you believe this to be true, try juggling three balls while also having an intense, personal conversation. I’m not making an analogy here; I literally mean: try juggling three balls.

You can’t do it. Sure, you can pay vague attention to another person while checking your text messages or thinking about what to eat for dinner, but you can’t maintain the sort of intense personal focus that makes you likable.

By the way, the image I used at the top of this piece is eye-catching, but it appears to suggest that the path to likability is to... hypnotize (?) others. Obviously, that's not true. But the right path does require similar focus. Be interested in them, rather than in getting them to do something.

Truth be told, this requires a bit of practice. You want to pay attention, but not overwhelm people. Here are three simple ways to get started:


1. Listen more than you talk.

Being with someone is not the same thing as paying attention. I have a few friends who can spend an hour in a room with me and never once ask a single question about my life, experiences or perceptions.

2. Ask questions that prove you are listening.

To prove that you understand what someone is saying, ask questions that build on the points they are making. For example, if you and I were talking right now, you might say, “So by not paying attention, I’m making myself less likable, right?”

Yep, that’s it exactly.

3. Dig deeper.

If you want to have 100 discussions about the weather each week, stick with superficial questions. Personally, this bores me to tears. I’d much rather ask questions that surprise you and make you think, such as, “Besides money, what stops you from quitting your job and taking a year to travel the world?”

Being genuinely curious about another person’s life makes you more appealing. The same is true when you’re looking for a job… the best way to ace an interview is to do your research in advance and deeply understand the interviewer’s business.

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn. Read article comments...