Another form of intelligence
In reality, behind the classic lightbulb moments characteristic of intuition lies another cerebral pathway. As stated by playwright Henry Bernstein: “Intuition is intelligence exceeding the speed limit.” An apt expression explained in more detail by Christophe Haag, a researcher in social psychology at EM Lyon, for whom intuition resembles “a kind of ultra-rapid scan of a situation or problem resulting from snippets of sensory information”. This short circuit kicks in automatically without our knowledge and independent of any classical type of rational thought process such as analysis, deduction or conclusions… In truth, the brain has collected a mass of disparate details in a flash and assembled them to put together an opinion, an intuition.
Dendrites, extensions of the neuron that both relay and process information in the brain. © Inserm / S. Fouquet.
The arguments for intuition
According to the conclusions drawn by a team of researchers in cognitive sciences at the Riken Brain Science Institute in Japan, it is not fortune that favors those who dare, but rather their own intuition. At the end of 2015, it was established for the first time that intuition activated two areas of the brain involved in learning and the memory. The study involved placing Japanese chess players under functional MRI while presenting them with different game situations. When asked to think of their ideal next move in eight seconds, their brain activated the classic analytical mode, based on expertise. But if they only had one second, they went into intuitive mode and the medical imagery showed that another cerebral area was activated. The decision is therefore based on experience: the brain rummages through the past to find another solution by referring to similar contexts. This intuitive mode is favored when it comes to making decisions in crisis situations when there is no time to reason! But not only: 82 Nobel laureates out of 93 have admitted that their discoveries were made thanks to intuition*.