Living in the world needs quick and sensible decisions. Every minute of every hour – you have to make a decision. Every move of every game of chess – you have to make a decision. But did you know that experts use intuition 90 percent of the time in their decision making? [1] They don’t make conscious effort to consider all the options before taking action. Instead, they quickly gather information, follow their instinct and act.

Humans are programmed with “mental shortcuts”

We are preprogrammed with a whole set of unconscious behaviors that move us through life. If we were required to consciously consider every decision we made, we would quick become paralyzed. As humans have evolved, we have developed a set of “mental shortcuts”, split-second decisions being one of them. This helps us to deal with the onslaught of choices we constantly face and to function more effectively.

To do things well, say play chess, you need to use intuition more

Tough decisions start early

Of course, when  faced with important, life changing decisions (say, taking a new job), we should reflect on it. But most of the time we should trust and use the vague hunches we receive from the cavemanslike “primitive” brain.  This gut feeling is difficult to articulate, but it’s very important that you attune to this unconscious mental process.

How to strengthen the muscle of intuitive thinking

So what can we do about it? Well, to improve this unconscious routine we need a teachable framework. These two things provide the basis for the model: filtering cues and developing patterns.

Decision making model starts with the situation as a whole. First you look for cues. For example, firefighters search for cues that lead to the heat source. In chess, everything comes from spatial relationships between pieces and their four basic roles, or functions. You need to identify critical, while ignoring irrelevant ones. The cues then lead to the recognition of patterns. At that point your brain starts running “action scripts” in which you simulate an effort and evaluate potential options until you find a satisfactory answer. With a decision made, you act and start the process over again.

Teaching must include primitive brain and unconscious thinking

Crossroads, by István Orosz (1999)

At the expert level in any field there’s almost no evaluation of alternatives before making a decision. For example, chess grandmasters, in most situations, experience a compelling sense of the issue leading to a move which is the best fit for the position at hand. They can play at the rate of 5 to 10 seconds a move and even faster with typically no much degradation in performance. At this speed they must depend almost entirely on intuition and hardly at all on analysis and comparison of alternatives.

Superior teaching methods develop snap judgments and intuition

Intuition is not some magical power or extraordinary mental attribute that some have and others don’t. A superior teaching method in any domain should include a framework for improving it. In chess, this means an early focus on developing superior board vision, filtering cues and pattern recognition combined with purposeful “action scripts.”

Use and tune  up your magnificent brain, the most wonderful gift Mother Nature has given you. You think technology and rational thinking can do it better? No way! It’s all about unleashing extraordinary power you keep back within. Your sixth sense.

Teachers seem to discourage quick judgments (“look before you leap,” “think (or measure) twice before you cut,” “take your time”).

Yet, not only careful analytical thought, educators would do well to encourage quick judgments and intuition development as it may be a more efficient route to expertise.

Think twice about it:)

1. Klein, Gary, The Power of Intuition: How to Use Your Gut Feelings to Make Better Decisions

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