A friend of mine recently sent me a link about intuition. It’s in Norwegian, or I would have shared it with you. It is a brief introduction to scientific research on intuition. They conclude that what we call intuition is actually pattern recognition.
We build up experience as we live and are therefore able to recognise subtle patterns, indicating likely outcomes. Isn’t this interesting? I mean, it makes us think about what we understand as intuition, as well as what we understand as patterns.W
By intuition we often mean something that is not logical or rational, but that presents itself as a persuading voice nevertheless. We might mean something magical, mystical, spiritual – something from a place within ourselves that is beyond the reach of the everyday world. Intuition might play a role when making strange or unexpected decisions that turn out to be brilliant and farsighted.
But what of pattern recognition?
This is a skill we develop over the years. Remember those childhood toys where you had to match the shape to the hole, pushing the circle through the round hole and the square through the square hole? It’s also remembering what street we live on, and how to get to the shop, or to work. But that’s just a very small part of pattern recognition.
Our minds are labyrinths of skills and knowledge, and much of it is not at the forefront of our conscious minds. This is how we manage to multitask. Planning a shopping list while dressing the children, for instance, or singing while driving – these are complex cognitive skills. But they happen fast and seemingly automatic, which is why we’re able to dress the children with their clothes the right way, and stop the car to let an old lady across the road.
Part of pattern recognition is also knowing when there is a pattern to recognise. This is what we call transferrable skills. The cognitive process is storing something as a pattern and getting it out again for comparison, reminding or checking at a later date.
The key is learning when to get the pattern out, how to know whether it’s a relevant pattern to cross reference with. This too takes practice, like how to know if a boyfriend is good or bad, or how to differentiate between a cold and the flu. We might not get it right for a few times.
So if intuition is pattern recognition, isn’t it even more important to take it seriously?
I’m thinking that intuition might be pattern recognition from the unconscious mind, where without knowing it we have been collecting, analysing and storing information all our lives. Doesn’t it make sense that this deeper knowledge is given a proper place in our lives?
I’m loving the idea of intuition being the voice of my unconscious, the archive of my being. This means I am going to spend time reflecting on what patterns I might have picked up on whenever I experience intuition.
With this new insight, perhaps I can even cultivate a deeper and stronger intuition, able to discern increasingly tiny signs and signals. Perhaps I can expand my consciousness, becoming ever more aware of myself? Now there’s a project that sounds like a fun challenge.