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Cognitive Reflection And Intuition: The Truth About Intuitive Process

What is the truth about cognitive reflection and intuition? Let’s find out.

Intuition is rightly called ‘a gift’ to humanity for its mysteriousness and the untapped potential of its conclusions. Throughout our lives, we make many intuitive decisions that represent our gut feelings. However, none of us are aware of this process and the way it makes the decisions.

In other words, our intuitive process remains hidden to many aspects of our mundane life. Further, it has also revealed many unidentified relations between concepts. As a result, both science and psychology have different theories regarding the gift of intuition.

But, “Is intuition always accurate?”

or, the better question would be, “How are we going to know if it is inaccurate?”

Well, we have a common sense, right. It is called logic or logical analysis, which I have discussed elaborately in my other article. Do check it out.

However, most of our life decisions do not represent logical analysis. They are related to circumstances.

Then, “What is our backup to tackle with the inaccuracy of our intuition?”

It is where we will learn about the best backup tool in case our intuition fails to do its job. But before diving into it, let’s discuss why intuition fails.


You can also watch the video below by Patrick Schwerdtfeger at TEDxSacramentoSalon to know about learned intuition.

Learned Intuition: Patrick Schwerdtfeger at TEDxSacramentoSalon

Why does our intuition fail?

Exactly, why does it fail?

It is a gift, right. It should aid us. Besides, why do we have to distrust our intuitive decisions?

These are some of the questions many people have in their minds but do not seek concrete answers.

A woman standing in front of a window
Photo by Felipe Cespedes from Pexels

For instance, the beliefs and superstitions, particularly in the eastern and central countries, concerning animals is an intuitive conclusion. So, what we learn here is that our superstitions about cats and their inauspiciousness are nothing but the result of our intuition.

It is called the dark side of intuition or dark-intuition. It facilitates thinking in patterns about specific events. However, it correlates with a narrow and fixed perspective without much internal reflection. As a result, we end up with vague and ill-defined concepts.

In other words, it is the reason why the intuitive process fails to do its job. Besides, approaching intuition with a fixed mindset often ends up in wrong decisions. Hence, we must base our conclusions carefully with a non-judgemental approach.


How to use intuition in a healthy and non-judgmental way:

So, “ How should we base our conclusions carefully with a non-judgmental approach?”

Well, we are going to understand it with a simple example.

For instance, a woman working in the XYZ company boards her bus on time for her workplace. However, one day, she got up late and therefore missed her bus.

She takes a taxi to reach there as soon as possible. While on her way, she had a good chat with the driver and was happy to know about his family and lifestyle.

It was a completely new experience for her as she never had time to talk to anyone except her peers at the office.

She realized that maybe it was meant to be this way. Missing her bus made her realize that life exists beyond the constraints of the work environment. Hence, she learned a new lesson and carried on with her life with wisdom and happiness.

A happy woman with a blue jacket
Photo by Gian Cescon on Unsplash

Our intuition is very abstract. Moreover, it helps us see the best or the worst. However, if we consider the intuitive process with one perspective, we shall always base negative judgments. Hence, we must use it as a process of experience teaching us new ideas about a situation.

Our perspective matters in the end. Besides, our intuition relies on it. The more refined our perspective is, the better will be our intuitive process.

However, there is another solution that is completely different compared to our healthy use of intuition.


What is cognitive reflection:

In 2005, psychologist Shane Frederick described the concept of cognitive reflection. In his research, he concluded that there are two ways of solving a situation.

First, by our inherent intuitive process, and second, by the internal reflection of our intuitive process.

Therefore, he later carried out a test called ‘cognitive reflection test’ to see how the participants answered the questions. Moreover, he also wanted to see which of the two ways they use commonly.

Symbolism for cognitive reflection and intuition

To his surprise, half of the participants answered correctly, while the rest provided intuitive answers. However, these intuitive answers were incorrect as they were devoid of any internal reflection.

Hence, the test concluded that one has to override intuitive thinking to tap into his second way of internal reflection. Moreover, it provided accurate answers to all the questions compared to the intuitive process.

In other words, to escape the fallacies of intuition, we must employ cognitive reflection. Further, we must find the reason behind the processes.

Although cognitive reflection was introduced as a test, it can be employed in our lives. For instance, when we face a situation that challenges our thinking process, we can counter it by emphasizing cognitive reflection.

Even under conditions such as believing in magic or sorcery, we must use cognitive reflection and intuition. Besides, it also helps in overcoming our fixed and narrow mindedness to look for situations with multiple perspectives.


How cognitive reflection helps us make sensible decisions:

The study in 2005 also concluded that cognitive reflection influences our decision-making process. However, not for worse but for better.

In his study, Dr. Shane Frederick stated that our cognitive abilities shouldn’t be confused with cognitive reflection. However, they enhance our cognitive reflection. As a result, we can make the right choices in our lives.

The two ways were named systems I and II, respectively. System I as intuitive process and system II as cognitive reflection.

Subsequently, it was observed that participants who made decisions using the system I often ended up with vague or uncertain results.

Moreover, they were less confident about their conclusions compared to system II users. On the other hand, system II users made decisions out of internal reflection with a slow and steady process.

Hence, it was concluded that our decision-making is also related to it. Even though the cognitive process is slow and steady, yet it could provide accurate decisions without any bias towards systems.

The system I, i.e., the intuitive process was biased, towards some conclusions and came up with an incorrect decision. Consequently, the decision-making was accurate for the system II users and inaccurate for the system I ones.

However, it shouldn’t be confused for two different mediums as system II is the result of overriding the intuitive process’s spontaneous conclusions. Moreover, the users preferred a subjective analysis to conclude system II.


Final Words:

To sum up, our intuition is inaccurate if we consider only a certain path to base our conclusions. However, if we open ourselves to multiple ideas of cognitive reflection and intuition, we can make the right decisions.

Hence, our intuition is not perfect and requires practice and reflective experiences to support our conclusions and judgments.

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