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Can we train our intuition to be more effective at solving problems?

Seventeen years ago I wrote an article called, "Communal Blind Spot Theory". In that article it was my experience that in every discipline I have studied there are collective oversights i.e. communal blind spots.

Think of an individual blind spot as you not seeing a glass of water on the kitchen counter in plain sight. Now imagine 1000 people going into the kitchen not seeing that glass of water on the counter.

Can we train our intuition to see through those blind spots?

We speak of a woman's intuitiion. What do we mean? Do we mean a woman feeling uneasy about entering an elevator with a single man inside? Do we mean a brilliant research scientist who has a strong "gut" reaction about one aspect of her studies? Clearly these are two entirely different aspects of a "woman's intuition".

Here is a cook book recipe to use intuition as a research tool. It is argued here that an intuitive view of reality is every bit as valid as a logical and factual view of reality. Thus it is only when my intuition agrees with the facts and logic that I view this as useful knowledge.

Here is how it works in practice. Suppose I have a strong gut reaction that a particular enzyme impacts on a specific gene and this results in an elevated rate of breast cancer. I test this hypothesis and get a null result but my gut tells me that the results are not consistent with my intuition.

Do I walk away from my intuition? According to my theories, no. You run the experiment weeks or months later to try to confirm the earlier results. If you get a null result, then you walk away for another few months. Next time you tweak the experiment say changing the temperature or PH slightly and run the experiment again. If you get a null result yet your intuition remains fixed, you tweak the experiment again.

Clearly this is not possible in the real world; if you were to run the same experiments again and again with null results you won't get funding, but it is critical to finding paradigm shifts.


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    Dec 9 2012: I study mathematics and in my case, train intuition means a lot of exercise. I personally think it's necessary to find new ways to solve different problems, but it generally can't solve them. This depends on the problem.
    • Dec 11 2012: I like the idea of "exercising" your intuition. Like any kind of exercise the more you do it the better you get! Mathematics, though, is one of the most highly developed logical enterprises and for intuition to play a role, you must go through a lot of logical gyrations before your intuition kicks in. Truly innovative mathematics, though, is often highly intuitive, but so is good law---which is also factually and logically based. However, the foundation of our laws in the Constitution was largely intuitive.

      Our "Founding Fathers" were so thoroughly versed in all aspects of our civilization that their intuition was second nature and appeared to them as wisdom.

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