ART & ORGANISM
When we appeal to the call of the wild to rescue us with ancient wisdom. Or when action is more urgent than tedious review.
INTUITION is generally regarded as the “non-conscious” dimension of COGNITION
INTUITION is, of course, related to consciousness, of which Karl Pearson noted that “Its position appears to be that of a helpless spectator of but a minute fraction of a huge amount of automatic brain work”.[ii]
- “There are many ways to define intuition, but all present a kind of conundrum. The act of reflecting on intuition is precisely what intuition isn’t. Intuition is really your brain on autopilot, performing its actions of processing information outside of your awareness that it’s operating. It’s nonconscious thinking.” (Hara Estroff Marano, Trusting Intuition PSYCHOLOGY TODAY, May 04, 2004; reviewed on November 15, 2007)
It appears intuition is much but certainly not all of consciousness – But There is an interesting paradox here: that of having more access to information and greater potential for creativity when higher faculties are suppressed
INTUITION involves the recruitment of nonconscious knowledge in the service of an action system. Knowledge involves:
- Reflexes (congenital responses to stimuli that are highly resistant to external influence);
- automatization of learned habits (“Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them”)[iii] and
- latent learning, observations that participate in a learning paradigm although we may be utterly unaware of them.[iv] Latent patterns of behavior involve memory that can be triggered by redintegration.
Some knowledge may be congenital (inborn, under major genetic influence) or we may have aspects of information input—integration—output (sensory, brain, action) that enable very rapid learning (e.g., imprinting) (creating the impression of congenital because of its developmental timing and rapidity of acquisition)
Most action, notably the expression of learned habits, is based on such intuitive knowledge. It may begin with intense conscious attention, but learned habits more-or-less gradually become intuitive as they are automatized. When there is sufficient novelty to raise the levels of neurochemicals such as subclinical stress hormones, parts of the brain associated with motivation and conscious awareness are more fully engaged. Stress hormones energize motivational systems and can activate areas that facilitate creative problem solving. Conscious attention to meeting a need takes extra time, but in extreme stress, the opposite occurs, and the time-saving strategy of blocking access to consciousness is activated.
With respect to problem solving Muriel Rukeyser, in The Life of Poetry (1949), wrote that “In time of crisis, we summon up our strength. Then, if we are lucky, we are able to call every resource, every forgotten image that can leap to our quickening, every memory that can make us know our power. And this luck is more than it seems to be: it depends on the long preparation of the self to be used. In time of the crises of the spirit, we are aware of all our need, our need for each other and our need for our selves. We call up, with all the strength of summoning we have, our fullness.” Muriel Rukeyser (the poet who said that “the universe is made of stories, not of atoms.”) also Wikiquote
The connection between “mind” and “body” follows the outcomes of natural experiments (when we observe that a serendipitous or spontaneous change in one variable affects another variable, as when we inadvertently or accidentally ingest a drug) or artificial experiments (deliberate manipulation of one variable (as scientists do) has a reliable effect on another variable).
The SELF is an expression of our thoughts and actions based on non-conscious and conscious knowledge and their interactions –that is, INTUITION and AWARENESS. In a given context, one or the other of these dimensions of the self may predominate – they can even compete with each other.
CONSCIOUS AWARENESS takes time and neural resources, so arguably the supreme expression of INTUITION is in time of crisis, when there is no opportunity for reflection. In some situations (high stress) the capacity for reflection is even wholly forestalled. Reflection is largely the process by which the expression of apparently impulsive action (as when influenced by bias or dominated by refelxes or habit) is rationalized and understood.
When our several paths to action are in full harmony, evoked in full panoply … and they are expressed in their primal fullness, the harmony has an aesthetic richness not felt at other times. We may be in “Flow.”
Although talk of “mind” and “body” is technically inaccurate, it does capture an important functional difference between two systems: a slow, cold, conscious mind and a fast, hot, unconscious set of bodily instincts, hunches, and skills.
We tend to identify with the cold, slow system because it is the seat of our conscious awareness and our sense of self. Beneath this conscious self, though, is another self—much bigger and more powerful—that we have no direct access to. It is this deeper, more evolutionarily ancient part of us that knows how to spit and move our legs around. It’s also the part that we are struggling with when we try to resist that tiramisu or drag ourselves out of bed for an important meeting. The goal of wu-wei is to get these two selves working together smoothly and effectively. For a person in wu-wei, the mind is embodied and the body is mindful; the two systems—hot and cold, fast and slow—are completely integrated. The result is an intelligent spontaneity that is perfectly calibrated to the environment. -Slingerland[v]
Traditional views of Intuition
- Wiktionary on intuition:
- Myers-Briggs INTUITION:
- Intuition (N)[vi]
- Paying the most attention to impressions or the meaning and patterns of the information I get. I would rather learn by thinking a problem through than by hands-on experience. I’m interested in new things and what might be possible, so that I think more about the future than the past. I like to work with symbols or abstract theories, even if I don’t know how I will use them. I remember events more as an impression of what it was like than as actual facts or details of what happened.
[i] This document Began as Notes for 2001 IACEP … updated (was: C:\Users\Greenberg\Desktop\NEW\IACEP Boston 2011\INTUITION notes Aug 1 2011.doc)
[ii] Karl Pearson was a protégé of Francis Galton and became the father of contemporary statistics. ‘Generic Images’ in the journal Nineteenth Century (1879), p.433. In Karl Pearson’s The Life of Francis Galton‘ Vol.II p.236; sent to Mike Waller (firstname.lastname@example.org) by his son on 01/23/98
[iii] Whitehead spoke of the error of cultivating the habit of thinking of what we are doing, “The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.” … “Operations of thought are like cavalry charges in a battle—they are strictly limited in number they require fresh horses, and must only be made at decisive moments.(Alfred North Whitehead (1911) Introduction to Mathematics ch.5.)
[iv] “Direct personal contact with phenomena generates a wealth of detailed observation which may never reach the level of consciousness and certainly cannot be expressed explicitly in scientific reports. Yet such knowledge may surface later producing novel hypotheses and interpretation.” Etkin (1977) [This is reminiscent of Lorenz’s concern for a “diagnostic intuition” in ethology engendered by long‑term experience with an animal’s natural behavioral patterns, and certainly attests to the significance of subtly subjective historical influences comparable to those that underlie the artist’s education.]
[v] Edward Slingerland, quoted by James Hamblinmar (2014) “How Not to Try” in The Atlantic Reviewing Edward Slingerland’s Trying Not to Try: The art and science of spontaneity.
[vi] The following statements generally apply to me:
- I remember events by what I read “between the lines” about their meaning.
- I solve problems by leaping between different ideas and possibilities.
- I am interested in doing things that are new and different.
- I like to see the big picture, then to find out the facts.
- I trust impressions, symbols, and metaphors more than what I actually experienced
- Sometimes I think so much about new possibilities that I never look at how to make them a reality.
Adapted from Looking at Type: The Fundamentals, by Charles R. Martin (CAPT 1997)