Decision-Making on Auto-Pilot: Intuition in Action - dummies

Decision-Making on Auto-Pilot: Intuition in Action

By Dawna Jones

Most decisions happen instantly (the whole decision-making process may be over in milliseconds) and are made entirely without your conscious knowledge. When you don’t have time to consciously work through the decision-making process, what do you do — take a wild guess? No, you use your intuition.

Intuition is the ability to know or identify a solution without conscious thought. And where does this ability come from? One source is from experience you gain by making decisions, something called implicit knowledge. With implicit knowledge, the most recognized form of intuition, the more experience you have making decisions in diverse, complex, unstructured situations, the faster and more accurate your decisions are.

Grasping intuitive decision-making

When you’re under pressure, you may not have time to mentally generate different options, evaluate their practicality, and then choose one. You need to act quickly! Intuition equips you to make fast, accurate, and workable decisions in complex, dynamically changing, and unfamiliar conditions. Higher level strategic decisions rely heavily on intuitive intelligence, for instance.

Here is how your supercomputer, your intuition, operates:

  1. Processes incoming information at high speeds.

  2. Selects pertinent factual and situational information from a ton of data.

  3. Scans for cues and patterns you’ve come across before.

  4. Decides whether this situation is typical or unfamiliar.

  5. Runs scenarios from your inventory of what has worked before to see how the solution will play out in the current situation and then adjusts the solution to fit the situation.

  6. Picks one and — shazaam! — the decision is made.

And it does all this in milliseconds!

Taking a closer look at intuition in different situations

As the preceding steps indicate, part of the intuitive decision-making process is an assessment of whether the situation is typical or atypical. If the situation is typical, your supercomputer retrieves options that have worked before, rapidly tests them, scans them for weaknesses, and modifies them if necessary before selecting one.

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If the situation isn’t typical, your supercomputer goes into overdrive. This is where experience matters. Your internal supercomputer looks for more information until it senses that enough has been gathered, and then it runs through some scenarios to see which one will work, makes any necessary adjustments, and — BAM! — decision made!

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Quite frankly, neuroscientists still aren’t sure how the brain selects the right information from so many signals. One thing is for sure: Intuition is efficient, and it works, especially when there isn’t any structure to lean on, when you aren’t really sure what will happen next, when conditions are volatile or ambiguous, and when there is an immediate reaction to events.