It has taken many years for my interests in science, humanity, and the environment to coalesce into a formal exploration of intuition. But that, it turns out, is just typical of intuition, where zigzagging activities are integral to the process.
As a psychiatrist, I was painfully aware that there was really no such thing as mental science. Psychiatry was treating patients after the damage was done. Early on I decided that prevention offered the only chance for "cure" Increasingly, I came to believe that the key to prevention was the environment, the natural physical environment, the man-built environment, and the social environment. After all, illness rarely develops in a vacuum. York University was founded in Toronto in 1959. In 1969 it established a faculty for environmental arts and sciences and I became its first full-time professor. My goal was to protect the health of humans and of the environment by preventing its many hazards.
Although a scientist, I became increasingly familiar with the limitations of science and its application to such problems. Fact-based, deductive, and analytical thinking is too late; it goes after the fact. Nor is it sensitive to circumstance, or the complexity, contradictions, and variability of human nature and especially relationships. It is simply not enough for the many challenges and constancy of change of modern life.
I began to marvel at the phenomenon of intuition and determined to study it. Over this time, my clinical experience with some patients has allowed me to make many constructive observations.
I was aware, of course, that intuition had a bad reputation. It was seen, at best, as a woman's gift in a man's world. Intuition is denigrated by a Western culture obsessed by "facts" and science. it struck me that the only way intuition could be accepted was to subjugate it to the methods of science itself-an apparently absurd contradiction. I've since learned that like all the either/or arguments, such as nature vs. nurture, the fact is that neither really has primacy. Both interact. And can be made to reflect each other.
My clinical experience has convinced me that intuition is very democratic -- everyone has some capacity for it. Not everyone uses it. And not all those who apply it use it equally. Nor was Carl Jung right in making a personality type out of it; there's no evidence that a particular personality favors intuition, although elements of personality, such as rigidity vs. openness, influence it. Armed with the IQ2, psychologists will be able not merely to test people for their intuitive capacity, but to help further its development. Preliminary evidence from the IQ2 itself demonstrates that intuition can be trained.
INTUITION FROM INSTINCT
Intuition has always been a vital part of human intelligence. It encompasses skills that have always been critical to human life. In a sense, intuition is responsible for the survival of the species. Its long evolutionary history has made it a deeply buried power of the mind.
Intuition most likely has its origins in ancestral instincts for survival and adaptation. There is no way that our human ancestors could have survived without intuition. There could not have been much conscious thinking before speech evolved, some 250,000 years ago, yet Pithecanthropus erectus goes back some 4.5 minion years. Old Pith could not possibly have survived predators or such natural threats as the melting of the ice age without intuitive decisions-where to make a fire, when to store meat, when to move to the highlands. There was no time for thinking or laborious logic. Responses often had to be instantaneous. The sound of movement in the brush required an immediate reaction. Those who failed to respond were removed from the gene pool by voracious predators. For Old Pith, intuition was likely the only form of organized preverbal intelligence.
The original instincts, now distilled as intuition, were probably based on a rapid access or fast-track system, separate from conscious thought, unencumbered by hesitation and doubt. Once speech was developed, allowing the transfer of information, the brain began its rapid expansion and evolved the ten-billion-cell neocortex. Here, logical, speech-promoted intelligence took over at the expense of experiential-based instinct. And the mind developed barriers, or censors, to protect the concentrated attention of clear, alert reasoning from invasion by all else stored in the brain; we now know that these barriers become porous during dreaming, defective in psychopathology, and collapse altogether in senility.
Intuition is, in my view, the product of all the processed ancestral instincts of the species, through which unconditioned reflexes become conditioned and organized into patterns of adaptive behavior called instinct. Ultimately instincts coalesce into intuition, the capacity for which is stored deep in the brain. The wisdom of language suggests that this is so. Despite the fact that many people have little respect for the concept of intuition (in these days of over-reasoning), all of us still refer to intuition as instinct. "It was an instinctive reaction." "I have a good instinct for this." Of course, the greatest evidence is simply the survival of the species in the face of extreme and unpredictable events of nature.
Intuition, then, is necessarily processed unconsciously. As a result, it has been reduced to a myth and allowed to sink into the province of mystics and fringe groups. Nevertheless, the descent of intuition from prehistory as a means of surviving changes and predators and finding ways to deal with enemies ensures that it is still the intelligence of everyday life. Human relationships, especially child-rearing, matching oneself to a mate and a job-these are the chief provinces of intuition. In its wholeness, intuition is the form of intelligence that includes our social sense, familiar with the endless variety of human relationships and deeds.
In elevating rational-scientific thinking, and dismissing intuition, the Enlightenment confined its approval to a very narrow band of human intelligence-logical, deductive, proof-oriented mental operations. That intelligence has brought us the scientific revolution, high technology, and a great many material goods. But it does not take an intuitive genius (all geniuses are) to observe that the wanton application of this line of thinking now endangers human society and its terrestrial home. The earth is so terribly befouled and overpopulated that our very advances now threaten our very survival. By their very nature, the study and control of these titanic forces cannot be accomplished by exact science.
Increasingly over the last decade, businesses have begun to realize that analytical thinking arrives too late for a 24-hour global marketplace. In its quest for an edge, private enterprise has become very receptive to the idea of intuition-although intuition has yet to make inroads in public management, marketing, or advertising.
As a way of advancing both the research and application of intuition, particularly in the business world, a Global Intuition Network (GIN) was set up in the late 1980s by Weston Agor, Ph.D., former professor of management at the University of Texas, at the behest of an American industrialist. Comprised of people all over the world who are working independently on intuition, the network sponsored its first conference in 1991, in Hawaii. Last summer, I convened the second GIN conference, in Toronto. By this time, there was important representation of serious scientists paying attention to research in intuition-engineers, mathematicians, and psychologists. Intuition is clearly undergoing rehabilitation.
But it isn't just scientists and business leaders who are interested in this power of the mind. Inquiries come from people in all walks of life-people eager to know that there is more to intelligence than science and technology have given us. They perceive the limits of the technological way of looking at things. They sense that a larger spectrum of intelligence needs to be brought to bear on the world's problems. Of course, creative artists have always known that creativity is cradled in intuition. If intuition were not already available today it would have to be invented.
MOWED DOWN IN THE FIELD
In my studies of intuition, I started where all scientific ventures start -- the hunch, itself an intuitive skill. I set out to prove the hypothesis that intuition is the secret of success in most endeavors, and especially in business.
I began with a field study of organizations, to see whether those that were successful had intuitive people at the helm. I wanted to see where those given to intuition-intuits were located on the organizational ladder, whether they were at key decision-making jobs. And to see whether those who weren't so located were unsuccessful. Success would be measured in terms of the world of business-bottomline profitability, efficiency, productivity, and effectiveness, with job satisfaction running as the dark horse.
In order to detect the likelihood of intuitiveness, in 1989 I developed my own survey tool, the Cappon Intuition Profile, a 15-page descriptive questionnaire designed to see who is intuitive, who is not. This profile simply asks people to describe themselves and what others have said about them; whether or not they know it of themselves, people usually hear that they are intuitive from the reflection of others. The profile does not get at the intuitive capacity itself, or its accessing variables-that is, what kicks it off. I wanted to see whether there was a correlation between intuitive people, as picked up by the profile, and organizational and personal success.
I didn't get very far. I soon found out that the more intuition-sensitive the company, like advertising and polling, the more they shut their doors to such in inquiry. These were largely companies dealing directly with people and services, where science is minimal and "flying by the seat of one's pants" is maximal. Sure they used market research. But clearly they felt the public would lose faith in them if they were found to be running on gut feeling as well. The only exception was a pollster who made no bones about the use of fact-based intuition, which made his predictions so precise. Interestingly, companies that produced things rather than services-manufacturers of all kinds-opened their doors with a welcoming smile.
This, it turns out, is an irony that parallels the position of intuition in the academic community. Modern psychology, and especially cognitive psychology, yearns for much of the certainty of science ephemeral and illusory as it is-and eschews intuition. Only a handful of brave researchers have worked to bring intuition into the realm of science in this century, and one of them at my very own university, Malcolm Wescott, Ph.D.
Yet mathematicians, physicists, and hard scientists have embraced intuition all along. They are high-minded-enough to admit to it. Einstein was intuitive and said so. I interviewed Nobelists Linus Pauling, Albert Szent Gyorgyi, Lord Adrian, and Jonas Salk. They said, "Of course, we have hunches. We know the answer before we work it out." Science, at its best, is the working out of things out later.
WINNIE (CHURCHILL), THE POOH, AND PIGLET
One of the difficulties in tackling the proper study of intuition has been the lack of an agreed upon definition-although this sort of thing has not stopped conventional psychometrists from inventing the original IQ tests while operating without the license of a generally approved definition of intelligence. I started by carefully compiling a comprehensive list of everything everybody ever said about intuition. I drew on the expressions they used in describing it, and their feelings and speculations about their experiences. I paid particular attention to what was said by established "self-avowed initiates"--a term applied to intuits by the Italian writer and scholar Umberto Eco. I surveyed Eco and other writers, including Aldous Huxley, Isaac Azimov, Mary Stuart on Merlin, Patrick Suskind's Perfume, and Benjamin Hoff on The Tao of Pooh and ne Te of Piglet.
I interviewed and studied the writings of Nobel laureate scientists, including Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin, with whom I had once worked. After all, all great science begins with a hunch, an intuition, with is then pursued painstakingly through what may be years of experimentation. I devoured biographies of historical figures like Churchill. And I drew on my own population of patients, whom I had asked to rate themselves on intuition.
Looking at the essence of good decision-making, intuition can be called the essence of common sense" -- which, we all know, is all too uncommon. Hoff says that "intuition is being sensitive to circumstance. Efraim Fischbein, an Israeli scientist, defines intuition as "direct self-evident knowledge . He differentiates a cognitive type of intuition, dubbed affirmatory, from a global, unhesitant form of insight, which he dubs anticipatory. Others-- and I am one of them -- see intuition as closely related to creativity.
Looking epistemologically, it's obvious that the rational intellect is analytical, fragmenting, sequentially linear, syllogistic, and favours deductive reasoning. Intuition, on the other hand, is consistently described as a more holistic, mosaic, "big picture," insight-oriented intellect favoring inductive reasoning.
Most everyday descriptions of intuition get at bits and pieces of the whole, and usually point more at its emotional traces than at intuition itself. The emotion may be somatized as in "gut feeling," which implies a feeling of certitude through the stomach. But emotion is only an accompaniment, not the main thing. Like a "flash," "a nose for it," these are accessories, the visible emotional traces intuition leaves so that we can access this unconscious process again. They are reminders that intuition has to be called up from somewhere else in the mind.
Cerebrally, intuition is sometimes referred to as lateral thinking. But that is not a definition; it simply suggests that intuition, unlike logic, is not sequential and forward-moving; it moves sideways. Perhaps my favorite description of intuition occurs in William Manchester's biography of Winston Churchill. The statesman was a notoriously poor student academically. But, as Manchester observes, he had "a zigzag lightening of the brain."
Some people call intuition "the sixth sense," but that is misleading for several reasons. Most importantly, intuition goes way beyond its perceptual base.
To paraphrase Mark Twain, "Everyone has an opinion on intuition but no one does much about it" In trying to do something more about it than define it descriptively, I have had to devise an operational definition, specifying not only what it is but what it does. As I sifted through the definitions of intuition, some features began to take shape. I recognized that there are elements, perhaps innate, that are part of the structure of intuition. And there are those that make it run. There are, I believe, four parts to the entire phenomenon:
- The capacity or ability to intuit, which I believe is innate, as is general intelligence. In fact, I believe that it is part of general intelligence, or what is called the "g factor." The essential ability for intuition comprises 20 specific skills. Examining them is to understand the "anatomy" of intuition.
- The accessing variables, which tap and trigger the process. If the capacity is the anatomy of intuition, then these triggering factors are its physiology. They are what make it run. Prime among them is being steeped in a field of information -- and then being able to defocus. Another spark is playing heuristically-asking "What if?"
- The process itself, which is entirely silent and unconscious. It can be inferred only from the application of intuition in some area and observing any resulting action. Or studying the differences between intuits and those who are not.
- The sources, or determinants, of any individual's intuitive capacity. These include not only genetic inheritance but environmental background, the personality, personal experience, and expertise. These elements are incorporated in my questionnaire, the Cappon Intuitive Profile.
I came up with a list of approximately 20 characteristics of intuition. Immediately, they began to sort themselves hierarchically, from low-level perception to higher-level ideation. Intuitive capacity spans the way you look and see and hear -- being perceptive -- to understanding the meanings of things. These cardinal skills of the intuitive capacity divide themselves neatly into two classes: the lower level of skills of perception, such as the ability to estimate the passage of time, and a higher level of cognitive or ideational skills, such as foresight; at the highest level is the ability to divine the meaning of things, perceive general laws.
I refer to the perceptual, skills as input skills; they are latent and passive, just there. For instance, passive imagination is the ability to produce images merely upon shutting your eyes. Images come to you and manifest themselves spontaneously. I refer to the ideational, skills as output skills; they are engaged only in response to a situation or stimulus. You look at a cloud in the sky and various images come to mind. This kind of imagination is stimulated by something.
A number of these skills have been described and investigated for other purposes by cognitive psychologists. The skill of stimulated imagination, for example is the basis of the Rorschach test. But unlike conventional psychologists, I am not evaluating the imagery for pathology; I am interested in the basic capacity to generate imagery.
The input skills that are part of intuition include:
- perceptual closure on insufficient time. This is the skill of subliminal effect, knowing what something is after minimal exposure to it. You don't have time to see it properly-but you see it just the same. You may see something for 1/25 of a second without even being aware, but you can report what you have seen.
- perceptual closure on insufficient definition. In this, you can identify what something is even though it is obscured by lack of clarity. It is knowing what the image is behind the "snow" on your television screen. You know what you are looking at without having all of the information.
- perceptual recognition. This is the ability to find Waldo, for example. Waldo is a great test of intuitive capacity.
- positive perceptual discrimination, which rests on the ability to distinguish one thing from another. Several items are flashed before you and you are asked what you see.
- negative perceptual discrimination tests your ability to recognize what wasn't flashed before you. "Which of these items didn't you see?"
- synthesis, or "Gestalt" insight, which is the ability to see the forest through the tress. You see elements but have to put various items together in your mind's eye to construct a whole.
- time flow estimation, or protension, which measures your ability to quickly register time, to know how long something took to get to a certain point. Intuits don't watch the clock to have a three-minute egg.
- retrieving of memory, or "quick memory." You take in a whole complex scene and yet remember specific details of it. I test it by flashing a very crowded scene of Picadilly Circus-you see a very busy image. And then you're asked four questions about it that require you to retrieve specific information. What time was it? How many satellites did the BBC building have? What animals did you see? It's an intuitive memory because you have to perceive it whole, in less than seven seconds, and extract information you are probably not even aware you are taking in.
- passive imagination, which is the ability to generate images spontaneously. You are shown a black background, with nothing on it, and asked how many images come to mind. Also a background of white, of blue, and of yellow. It is a pristine measure of imagination, the pure production of images.
- psycho-osmosis, a word I invented for knowing the unknown. This skill enables you to recognize a dinosaur egg without ever having seen one before. "I didn't know I knew this," you are likely to say. This skill suggests some sort of collective memory bank of the species, because you couldn't have known on your own and no one ever taught you. Such a skill is necessary for surviving the flood that's coming. No one teaches you, there's no writing, but you survive anyway. Otherwise you drown.
While the input skills are passive, or static, the output skills must be activated by some event. These skills include:
- active imagination, the kind stimulated by pictures such as the Rorschach test, but differently directed for my purposes. I present an image of a snake. I am looking just for how many images come to mind.
- anticipation, or foresight, which is the ability to know what happens next. When is the horse going to fall down? When is the skater going to leap off the ice?
- optimal timing of intervention, which is the sense of when the time is ripe for something new. This skill is famous for making entrepreneurs rich. It is knowing when to buy the stock, when to sell it. On the battlefield, it's knowing when to attack. Or when to run. This is a skill intrinsic to survival and success.
- the hunch, or seeing the solution to a problem before you have it. This skill kicks off every major scientific discovery or work of art.
- the choice of best method, which is the crux of demonstrating rationally the truth of a hunch-knowing the right method to prove something or to create something. Michelangelo wanted to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling, but how was he going to do it? By lying on his back on a ladder for seven years.
- the choice of best application of a discovery, which is the secret of innovative technologists and industrialists. Alexander Fleming, for example, not only had to see what the penicillin was doing in the petri dish-destroying the microbes-but to visualize that it could cure diseases by being formulated into a pill. It took another scientist to see the application, and a reasonably long time. Very rarely does the inventor apply the discovery. That's for the technologist.
- the hindsight that uses empathy and identification in order to divine the cause of things; this is the ability to put oneself in the place of another or to identify so closely with a person or object of the past as to come to understand its laws of operation. Historians apply this power to explain the past. Three Nobelists that I know of Jonas Salk, Barbara McClintock, and Albert Einstein-immersed themselves so deeply in their objects of study-viruses, genes, and a beam of light, respectively that they empathized and identified themselves with them! I had watched Fleming identifying with the microbes that were destroyed with penicillin. This allows them to apprehend the causes of things. You see a picture of a valley. It is devastated; all the trees are gone. You should be able to tell it wasn't a fire. It was volcano-burnt.
- associative and dissociative matching, which I call synthesis of cognitions. You look at a picture and know which elements are appropriate, which are not. These are the kinds of skill good detectives and graphologists have.
- seeing the meaning of things, a skill of seeing a symbol-a cross, a crown-and understanding its meaning.
Once I identified the skills involved in intuition, my colleagues and I could build a test around them. To test for intuition, of course, we first had to find a way to minimize the opportunity for analytical thinking. We needed to force fast extrapolations. There was only one way-to present visual images and to present them quickly, and to apply questions that would best fit the 20 skills.
For the test, I flash visual images of various aspects of human experience on a screen at a consistently steady pace and put to the pictures the universal questions of human experience-who, what, which, how, when and why. Exposure time to questions and images averages seven seconds.
If my theory on the origin of intuition is correct, only a test that's totally visual can get at the intuitive capacity. Vision, after all, is the modality of primary, primitive thinking. We know this because it is the language of sleep, of dreams, of fantasy, and of the imagination. Vision is more culture-free than any other modality because it is universal. It is carried with the greatest speed-the speed of light. And perhaps most important, vision packages more information than all the other senses put together. It lends itself to problem solving at speed. It dominates the interaction between all the senses. It is best fitted for representations of archaic and fundamental problems in living. And it lends itself to playfulness.
The playing grounds of intuition encompass all of human experience. So in the images we use we have taken pains to tap all possibilities for the play of intuition in human experience. We assay each skill against each of the four categories of objects in the world-inanimates, plants, animals, and humans.
In every category, each skill is tested at four levels of difficulty of extracting information. The image most difficult to make sense of is presented first. Each successive picture in each category contains a progressively greater number of clues or increasingly detailed information. In scoring the test, an answer furnished in response to the first picture, the highest level of difficulty, scores the highest.
Each of the four images in a sequence was painstakingly constructed. We started with a photograph and computerized it. We pored over thousands of pictures until I found the best one to fairly represent each skill in each category of object. Then we used the computer to progressively subtract a measured amount of detail. In testing, the image with the least amount of detail-the image posing the greatest test of intuitive power-is presented first. It has taken me the past two years simply to assemble this test.
These 20 skills, each represented by four categories of objects, and four levels of difficulty, add up to some 320 pictures; some skills require a set up of more than four photos. The test runs one and a half hours from a laser video.
Consider some examples: For the skill of anticipation, tested in the animal category, a picture of horses racing is flashed on the screen in minimal detail. The question asked is, "which of these race horses will fall back?" The original photograph, which I happened to snap at the racetrack, was taken a split second before one of the favorites died on the track. If the subject does not answer in the seconds allotted, an image of the same scene is shown in slightly greater detail, and so on, until the correct answer is given. If after the subject sees the fourth, and most detailed, image of the sequence, and still does not get it, the score on that skill in that category is zero.
To test the skill of anticipation, this time through the category of plants, a close-up photograph of flowers is shown. The test subject is asked, which will bloom first? For a test of the same skill as deployed on inanimate objects, the subject is shown a minimally detailed photograph of a bowling ball heading down the alley, and asked: how many bowling pins will remain standing? The intuitive skill of anticipation, played out on the field of fellow man, is tested by means of an image of runners competing in a dash; the test subject is asked, "who'll win this race?"
Here's another sequence of images. The skill of hindsight, or knowing why, in the human category is tested with the question, "What are these people doing here?" The image shown, in progressively greater detail, is of healing in the sacred Ganges.
To measure hindsight, using the category of plants, I ask, "What destroyed this forest?" The image, shown in progressively greater detail, depicts the devastation of a volcano. The skill of hindsight in the animal category is tested with the question, "What injured this horse?, " and the image of a horse near a wire fence. Hindsight, is measured in inanimate objects through the question, "What broke the shingles off this roof?", and an image of a house surrounded by crows.
UP TO SPEED
We have made an important discovery with the IQ2. Intuitive capacity can be enhanced. imply taking the IQ2 test helps people improve their intuitive capacity, not merely by sensitizing people to it, but by challenging it.
Giving people seven seconds of exposure to images forces them to be quick. We have observed that those who are intuitive, or initiated to it (perhaps a tenth of the way through the test), move their eyes differently from those who are not. Their eyes zigzag; they dart quickly over an entire picture and make an accurate perception. When they are not intuitive, or not initiated, their eyes move more slowly, more systematically, and more uncertainly in circles until they find a point to focus on-and it may be the wrong point. During the course of the IQ2, we could detect which people found a pathway to intuition because they changed their pattern of eye movements. Many people suspect that intuition can be trained, but the eye effect is the very first evidence that it can.
There is, in addition, "intuitive learning," an enduring memory effect. Unlike analytical memory, once you know how to use the intuitive process, answers are immediate, they are registered and retained in immediate memory, probably photographically. The next time a picture is shown, the subject has immediate access to the answer. By contrast, in mathematics or any other form of analytic thinking, you have to rework the problem.
And it is now possible to answer that old favorite: Do women have more intuition than men? We will know definitively from applying the IQ2 to sufficient numbers of people. But clinically, judging from my experience with 3,000 patients, I would say no. The false belief that women are more intuitive than men was one of the reasons Western societies, dominated by males and dominated by science, came to distrust it.
On the other hand, anyone can see that women are quite a bit more intuitive than men in human relationships. The likely reason is that they were kept away from other more "cerebral" activities until the last half century or so and, given full charge of child-raising and family life, honed their social intelligence.
THE SECRET IS OUT
Now that intuition has been formally "isolated," it should be possible to construct a map of human intelligence similar to Mendelyev's periodic table of elements. On it we can place intuition and "conventional" intelligence, as measured by the best of the IQ tests. Then we can get a sense of what we haven't yet discovered about the human intellect and see what powers of the hidden mind we might yet harness.
In providing a basic measuring tool, I am taking the first major step toward proving the hypothesis that intuition is the "secret" of survival and success in all human endeavors. intuition has been a well-kept secret in part because the process itself is almost entirely unconscious indeed is most of the actual process of general intelligence. It has also been a secret because the era of enlightenment and science ruined its reputation and forced it underground-even though it was acknowledged by our forefathers and such renowned philosophers as Kant and Bergson. In any case, I am happy to let the secret out. Again.
Are You Intuitive?
1. You know what something is despite little time to see it properly.
2. You can identify something you haven't seen clearly.
3. You are good at finding Waldo.
4. You can distinguish elements flashed before you.
5. You can identify what wasn't flashed before you.
6. You can see the forest through the trees.
7. You time three-minute eggs without a dock.
8. You can take in whole scene quickly and remember details.
9. You are good at generating images spontaneously,
10. You identify things you have never seen before.
11. You look at a cloud and many images come to mind.
12. You can anticipate what happens next.
13. You always know when it's the ideal time to strike.
14. You're good at hunches.
15. You know the best way to figure something out.
16. You know how to apply a discovery.
17. You divine the causes of things.
18. You're good at detective work; you know what elements fit together.
19. You look at a picture and know what elements don't fit.
20. You see the meaning of symbols.