Skill and intuition

Years ago I read Daniel Kahneman’s book ThinkingFast and Slow. He devotes a chapter to the question of intuition. What is intuition? When can we trust our own intuitive judgements? When can we trust expert claims to intuition?

He argues that intuition – a sense of knowing what needs to be done without necessarily being able to pinpoint why – is likely to be reliable when it arises from extensive exposure to a consistent environment that allows someone to become expert at discerning patterns without conscious assessment. “Intuition” is actually a type of skill. Prompt and clear feedback is also needed for intuition to build up. The environment can be highly complex, but there must be some regularity. One of the examples he uses is driving – after years of practice, most drivers become fairly good at knowing how much to slow down before a corner, but would tend to explain it in terms of a gut feeling rather than a conscious assessment.

I was thinking about this in relation to “mother’s intuition”. The new bub (who needs a better blog code name…) is two weeks old today. These two weeks have felt relatively easy, except that I’m bone tired and the toddler is demanding. But the looking after a newborn bit is straightforward. I feel like I “just know” when he’s had enough milk and needs to burp, or when he’s got all his burps up and is ready to be rocked to sleep, or when he hasn’t got all his burps up and needs to be snuggled in my arms while he sleeps, or when he’s been held long enough that he will stay asleep when I put him in his basket. With the little dude, those things were very very complicated. I can barely comprehend now how complicated I thought they were then.

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