I met Dr. Francesca McCartney early in the making of my film on intuition: PGS – Intuition is your Personal Guidance System.
Francesca is the Founder of the Academy of Intuition Medicine – perhaps the world’s foremost teaching institution of intuition. Francesca was not only interviewed in the film, she also assisted me greatly behind the scenes in connecting me with other key intuition practitioners.
Francesca was recently interviewed for a new book – Developing Informed Intuition for Decision Making, edited by Jay Leibowitz. Here is an excerpt from that book, featuring Francesca. It’s all about hunches!
The idea of intuition is increasingly used in discussions about business management and decision-making, sometimes as if it were a new concept. But it is hardly so. A manager in the days before the Internet had little choice but to use intuition-the raw data simply was not accessible. Often, “a hunch” was all there was. Today, so much data is available that the inverse is true-in mere seconds, we can summon enough data to support any decision we want to make-good or bad. Sorting through this flood of data makes the use of intuition more crucial than ever. Are we back to the idea of a hunch?
What is a hunch? Where does it come from, and how can we tell if a hunch is coming from intuition or false beliefs? Let’s ask an expert.
For the past 40 years, Francesca McCartney, PhD, has been researching and teaching the use of intuition in daily life and as a modality for medical healing. She has published several books, is a featured lecturer on the topic of intuition, and is the founder of three schools: the Academy of Intuition Medicine® founded in 1984; Energy Medicine University, founded 2006; and the Academy of Intuition Medicine® Online, founded in 2017.
[Kirk Hurford] Dr. McCartney, I know this sounds simple, but to begin with, what is intuition?
That was exactly the question I asked in 1976, and I am continuing to explore and expand upon that topic. Recent research shows that humans have more than 21 senses. Most people assume that we operate with only the five common senses. That belief was given to us by Aristotle and is long overdue for a revision. Those over the five senses are accessed via intuition.
The Oxford Dictionary defines intuition as “the faculty of knowing as if by instinct, without conscious reasoning.” But what does that mean? It is the sense of knowing or perceiving something without knowing exactly how you know. How does this work? Can we develop this ability in ourselves for decision-making and more? Yes!
Humans are wired from birth to receive inner- and outer-world information signals, but too often we ignore or don’t trust our subtle intuitive perceptions. The world is constantly communicating with us and the secret is learning to pay attention.
We are so much more than our five common senses, and learning to listen to, trust, and act upon your intuition develops super-consciousness, and with practice, becomes the normal way you live in your body and operate in the world.
We experience intuition in many perfectly ordinary, everyday ways. Intuition is the sudden “Aha!” that seemingly comes from nowhere after wracking your brain for an analytical solution that refuses to come-the light bulb over your head. Intuition is the flash of insight that reveals where your lost keys are. Intuition is the picture of someone in your head just before they call on the phone or walk into your office. Intuition is that feeling in your gut when something is not right, or someone is lying. Intuition is that inner knowing, so often drowned out by other, more insistent noises, that warns or advises us, and to which we often say (after the fact), “If only I had listened …”
[KH] Listened to what?
[FM] Intuition has location signal points within your body. Intuition is a learned language of interpreting those signals-just as a child learns how to decipher signal language from sight, smell, sound, touch, and taste. Each of the five common senses has a receptor location that delivers signals to the nervous system and the brain for decoding and informing. The language of intuition operates in the same way.
In business, and in life, operating with a wide perspective of information yields the best outcome in the decision-making process. Five points of perception is a limited range of information and often is filtered through bias from conditioned data entry. An excellent starting place to stimulate stronger intuitive language signals is to listen to your first hit, go with your hunch, trust your gut feeling. The more you listen, trust, and follow through with your hits and hunches the stronger the signal wiring in the nervous system becomes, whereupon your decisions are memory imprinted in your brain, which develops a cognitive intuitive language.
When we say cognitive bias, we’re referring to a personal perspective, right? How is this different from intuition?
Cognitive bias is a language of personal perspective that for the five-sense person is developed from a limited perspective of the five senses. Western-minded people lean toward using analysis and rote educational sources for deductive decision-making. This system of analytical decision-making does not recognize the larger menu of possible choices available with the expanded human sense of intuition, and therein is a limited decision-making process. Decisions made in a box rather than inspirational choices streaming from outside of the box-where intuition, inspiration, and invention operate.
Limited perception developed as a survival mechanism as our body is bombarded by two million bits of information every minute. The common senses and analytical mind act as a filter. If we were unable to filter out most of these bits, we would go mad in one second. We use our filters-the purpose of which was to weed out information irrelevant to our species-for the task: to lock into those objectifications alone which are in tune with cultural, informational, and survival purposes.
To survive with a semblance of sanity, we need some sort of filters to pick out those events, interactions, or relationships that we want or need to focus on. This doesn’t mean that we should always keep filters in place or use them for purposes other than they were originally intended. Filters require intentional management. If properly handled, filters can both isolate the objects that we need to focus on and reveal their relationship with other objects and the whole. They can be both-like two sides of a coin.
Intuitively sourced information does not pass through the same perceptual filters that process analytical information. The sense of sight, for example, gathers five points of data through the rods and cones in the eyes, travels through a decoding filter in the optic nerve that chooses three of the five data points based on the most common memory-that is the memory pattern that has the most charge stored in the brain and delivers a composite image to the brain built on that three of five choice of repeated experience.
This creates visual image perception based on repeated data and most likely probabilities and excludes new data/new perception as a primary choice for decision-making. These filters become so internalized and automated that alternative perspectives, such as intuitive sensing, are not even recognized. This mostly unconscious control mechanism obstructs the ability to think outside of the box, thus limiting new knowledge, inspiration, and the “quick hit.”
Historical and cultural contexts also influence perception and create bias. A Coke bottle dropped from an airplane into a society of bushmen in South Africa’s Kalahari Desert in the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy is seen as many things, but never as a container for carbonated beverages. It has been reported that some pre-Columbian Native Americans could not see the large sailing vessels of the first European explorers to approach their shores because they had no cultural precedent for such an event or object, and no appropriate words in their vocabulary to describe it. Thus, in their reality, such things simply did not exist. Even the “objective” cognitive act of seeing in the material world requires a synergy of senses.
Genius is often described as highly creative, clever, and brilliant-characteristics of a person who has access to knowledge and data beyond the norm-which is a definition that also applies to intuition.
So, you’re saying intuitive information is from outside the box, and cognitive bias is an attempt to restrict information from inside the box?
In the broadest sense, yes. Information is more than just facts. Facts also have context. Context is a powerful influence on how we perceive facts. Context is what gives facts meaning. For example, you might be reading a story about animals on a farm and, at some point in events, you realize that there is a bigger story being told (Orwell, 1945). As the context changes, so does your perception of the facts. The pig is no longer a pig. Intuition allows for a richer context. Cognitive bias comes from a failure to perceive and appreciate the contextual information that comes from our extra-normal senses.