When you’re faced with a tough decision, do you listen to your gut? It turns out there’s good reason to do that. A new US study suggests that intuition may not stem from mere guesswork but from information stored just beneath the surface of the conscious brain. And not only that: intuition may be more reliable than conscious thought processes when making decisions.
The Northwestern University study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience , found that memories that can’t be consciously accessed are surprisingly accurate.
For the study, participants were given a special recognition test that involved watching colourful kaleidoscope images.
For half of the test, participants were allowed to concentrate on the images, but for the rest of the time they were deliberately distracted.
Surprisingly, people were more accurate in selecting the right image when they had been distracted than when they paid full attention.
Researchers say unconscious memory may come into play, for example, in recognizing the face of a perpetrator of a crime or the correct answer on a test. The study also links so called ‘lucky guesses’ to valid memories and suggests that people need to be more receptive to multiple types of knowledge.
And while conscious memory is certainly important, the study suggests we shouldn’t rely on it alone. Bottom line: we also need to develop our intuitive nature and creativity because intuition may have an important role in finding answers to all sorts of problems in everyday life.