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These 4 Intuitive Thinking Types Will Help You Reach Your Peak Potential

These 4 Intuitive Thinking Types Will Help You Reach Your Peak Potential


Leah Nguyen 17 Sep 2023 6 min read

In a stressful and fast-paced environment, it’s helpful to rely on your hunch in decision-making on more than one occasion.

But, knowing when to apply your intuitive thinking is tricky. Understanding what it is and how you can make it work will let you make great decisions with good outcomes.

Dive in to get more insights👇

Table of Contents

More Tips on Developing Soft Skills

What is the opposite of intuitive thinking?Counterintuitive
Who invented term ‘Intuitive Thinking’?Henri Bergson
When was term ‘Intuitive Thinking’ found?1927
Overview of intuitive thinking

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What is Intuitive Thinking?

What is intuitive thinking?
What is intuitive thinking?

Imagine you’re a professional baseball player standing at home plate. The pitcher winds up and throws a fastball right at you. You have a split second to react – there’s no time for conscious thought!

But something amazing happens – your body knows what to do. Without any reasoning, your hands swing into position and crack! You get a perfect hit.

Where did that insight come from? Your intuition.

Deep down, some part of your brain recognised subtle cues like the pitcher’s motion, ball spin, etc. and knew exactly how to respond based on thousands of reps in practice and past games.

That’s intuitive thinking in action. It allows us to tap into rich experiences almost instantly and make “gut decisions” without any deliberate logic.

Like how Cruise in Top Gun just feels the right moves in air combat or Neo sees The Matrix code without understanding.

The best part? Intuition isn’t just for reactions – it’s a superpower for insight and creation too.

Those “aha!” moments of understanding or innovative solutions often bubble up from our intuition before logic can fully explain them.

What Are The 4 Kinds of Intuitive Thinking?

Intuitive thinking is generally categorised into 4 kinds, each with distinct characteristics. What type of intuitive thinker are you?🤔

Cognitive intuition

Intuitive thinking - Cognitive intuition
Intuitive thinking – Cognitive intuition

This involves accessing the patterns and inferences we’ve unconsciously learned through experience with cognitive challenges.

It allows for quick schema matching and judgments. Examples include instantly recognising grammar patterns, complex problem-solving, intuiting the answer to a math problem based on familiar patterns, or evaluations of risk/trustworthiness.

Affective intuition

Intuitive thinking - Affective intuition
Intuitive thinking – Affective intuition

Also called gut feelings. This type relies more on emotions and feelings to guide intuitions.

Things may feel right or make us uneasy without conscious reasoning. It’s involved in things like interpersonal judgments, detecting deception, and ethical/moral decision-making where emotions play a role.

Analytical intuition

Intuitive thinking - Analytical intuition
Intuitive thinking – Analytical intuition

Develops from extensive deliberative and automatic learning over years in a skill or domain.

Experts can intuitively interpret complex situations and respond appropriately. Examples include master chess players, expert physicians, and other professionals with deep experience in their field.

Embodied intuition

Intuitive thinking - Embodied intuition
Intuitive thinking – Embodied intuition

Relies on muscular, proprioceptive and sensory learning.

Develops through physical practice and movement-based social experiences. Things like coordination skills, balance, interpreting nonverbal emotional/social cues through facial expression, body language, etc. fall into this category.

Some also include:

  • Social intuition – Refers to the capability to intuitively understand social dynamics, norms, and interactions without conscious reasoning. Areas it impacts include interpreting emotions, predicting behaviours, discerning relationships and power structures, and sensing group influences/dynamics.
  • Generative intuition – Sparking new ideas, innovations or seeing problems in novel ways by synthesising different types of information intuitively. Examples include invention, innovative design, breakthrough scientific theorising, and unexpected perspectives in the arts/humanities.

All four types provide quick insights that can be slower to access consciously. And they often interact – cognitive patterns may trigger affective responses which impact experiential learning over the long term. Effectively developing any type of intuition relies on continually exposing ourselves to new experiences and reflective learning.

Are Intuitive Thoughts Good or Bad?

Are intuitive thoughts good or bad?

Intuitive thinking is a double-edged sword. It can be highly beneficial when expertise has been built through extensive experience, but dangerous when relied on for high-stakes decisions lacking an evidence base.

Potential benefits of intuitive thinking include:

  • Speed – Intuition allows for very rapid decision-making when time is limited. This can be advantageous.
  • Experience-based insights – Intuition incorporates the unconscious lessons of experience, which can provide useful perspectives.
  • Creativity – Intuition may facilitate new connections and innovative, outside-the-box ideas.
  • Initial hunches – Intuitive gut feelings can act as a starting point for further exploration and validation.

Potential drawbacks of intuitive thinking include:

  • Biases – Intuition is susceptible to cognitive biases like anchoring, affect heuristics and in-group favouritism that skew judgments.
  • Invalid patterns – Intuitive patterns may be based on obsolete, incorrect or one-off past experiences rather than sound evidence.
  • Justification – There is an instinct to justify intuitive thoughts rather than impartially investigating their accuracy.
  • Holism over detail – Intuition focuses on broader themes rather than carefully analysing important subtleties.
  • Complacency – Intuition may discourage thorough deliberate reasoning in favour of going with feelings.

Tips for Becoming a More Intuitive Thinker

Tips for becoming a more intuitive thinker
Tips for becoming a more intuitive thinker

Here are some tips for becoming a more intuitive thinker. Over time, these strategies strengthen your intuitive thinking through diverse, reflective exposure and thinking flexibly:

  • Gain extensive hands-on experience in your field. Intuition comes from unconsciously recognising patterns in what you’ve been exposed to. Continually challenge yourself.
  • Practice mindfulness and self-awareness. Notice your gut feelings and hunches without judgment. Over time, you’ll learn to trust your intuition more.
  • Encourage divergent thinking. Make associations between unrelated concepts. Brainstorm widely. Intuition combines ideas in new ways.
  • Take breaks during problem-solving. Incubation allows intuitions to surface from your subconscious mind. Go for a walk and let your mind wander.
  • Develop metacognition. Analyse past intuitions – what was accurate and why? Build self-knowledge of your intuitive strengths.
  • Pay attention to your dreams/daydreams. These can provide intuitive insights outside logical norms.
  • Study domains different from your expertise. Novel information fuels your intuitive associations and problem-solving angles.
  • Avoid gut reaction dismissal. Give hunches a chance with further examination before discarding them.

Bottom Line

Intuitive thinking relies on fast, subconscious pattern recognition, emotions and experience rather than step-by-step reasoning. With practice, we can train our intuition to almost work like a sixth sense – making us awesome problem solvers in any scenario.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do intuitive thinkers do?

Intuitive thinkers rely primarily on their gut feelings, implicit patterns recognised through experience, and ability to intuitively connect disparate ideas, rather than strict logical analysis when approaching problems, making decisions, and expressing themselves.

What is an example of intuitive thinking?

An example that illustrates intuitive thinking includes: A chess grandmaster instantly recognising the best next move without consciously analysing all possibilities. Their intuition is based on vast experience, or an experienced doctor detecting the cause of unfamiliar symptoms in a patient based on subtle cues and “feeling” something is off, even if test results don’t yet explain it.

Is it better to be logical or intuitive?

There’s no simple answer as to whether it’s inherently better to be logical or intuitive – both have strengths and weaknesses. The idea is generally considered to be a balance of the two approaches.