There are several myths surrounding intuition, and deciphering what is true and false helps in harnessing the power of this tool. Here I debunk six common misconceptions held about intuition.
Myth #1: Intuition is a mystical power that only a select few possess
This myth implies intuition is a paranormal phenomenon and that only rare individuals possessing woo-woo abilities have it.
The thing is…intuition is normal and anyone can tap into it to. It’s there for everyone
Some people may be more in tune with their intuition than others, but it’s a tool that can be developed and improved with practice by anyone. There is some science behind this.
…people rarely make decisions on the basis of reason alone, especially when the problems faced are complex.Gerd Gigerenzer, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, in Scientific American 2019
Myth #2: Intuition is only for women
There is a stereotype that women are more intuitive than men, e.g. the oft-touted idea that a woman’s instinct never fails.
Nevertheless, while research suggests that women may be more likely to trust their intuition, both men and women can develop and use their intuition, though they each may have different styles of doing this (Fellnhofer 2015).
Research reveals intuition is not specific to one gender over another…
…[our] study highlights how important intuition is for financing tomorrow’s innovation, regardless of gender, because it shows potential to promote gender equalityFellnhofer and Deng, 2023
Myth #3: Intuition is the same as instinct
Instinct is a primal, automatic response to a situation, while intuition is a more complex cognitive process that involves reasoning and judgment.
Intuition is not the same as instinct.
Though intuition can be influenced by our instincts (as I explain in my article looking at intuition vs instinct), it is also shaped by our experiences and knowledge.
Myth #4: Intuition is unscientific
While intuition can be difficult to study scientifically, there is growing evidence to support its role in decision-making and problem-solving.
There is science behind intuition.
Many successful people, including business leaders and athletes, credit their intuition for their success.
You’ll find more on this in my article on the Science Behind Intuition.
Myth #5: Intuition is only useful for making decisions in personal matters
Intuition is not only useful for personal matters but can also be valuable in all areas of life, including, business, professional and academic settings.
Scientists and entrepreneurs naturally use intuition in solving problems.
By tapping into your intuitive insights, you can make better decisions, anticipate problems, and generate creative solutions.
As an example, many discoveries in the field of physics started as intuition. As well we see it in health services where “intuition has been described as an important type of nursing knowledge” (J Adv Nurs).
Myth #6: Intuition is a form of psychic ability
Intuition is sometimes associated with psychic powers. However, there is no evidence to support the idea that intuition is a supernatural phenomenon.
Intuition is a natural ability that is based on our subconscious mind’s ability to process information and detect patterns that our conscious minds may not be aware of.
But rather there is more evidence showing it’s used in everyday situations.
For example, a 2015 study of food industry managers reveals these workers tap into their ‘gut feelings’ after making rational assessments in everyday decision-making…they “more often treat the intuitive and rational approaches as complementary”.
Looking to separate fact from fiction when it comes to intuition? Start with this guide I wrote about trusting your intuition.
Other supporting research
Lufityanto, G., Donkin, C., & Pearson, J. (2016). Measuring Intuition: Nonconscious Emotional Information Boosts Decision Accuracy and Confidence. Psychological Science. doi: 10.1177/0956797616629403