The Intuition Toolkit by Joel Pearson

Reviewed by Patricia Simms-Reeve

This guide, written by respected psychologist and neuroscientist, Professor Joel Pearson, is both thought provoking and practical. It entertainingly conveys how the boundless capacity of the unconscious can be trained to use intuition in a scientific way.  As the title suggests, it is ‘a new science of knowing WHAT without knowing WHY.”

Some refer to intuition as a sixth sense. In fact we have eight – visual, auditory, olfactory, tactile, and gustatory as well as proprioception (body awareness), vestibular (balance and motion, and interception (all things internal such as hunger, stress, sickness).  We sense unconscious information within our bodies such as unease, nagging, a sinking feeling which may provide insight into an event.

Intuition is  complex but can be trained by following these five principles.

The acronym, SMILE heads the 5 rules for intuition.

1 S  Self-awareness

2 M Mastery

3  I  Impulses & Addiction

4 L  Low Probability

5 E  Environment

Self-awareness is recognition of what our senses are continually noting.

Mastery, and thus experience, is important in training. A tragic example is that of Steve Jobs. He had mastered product design, development and innovation to an extremely high degree but this was not the case in health matters. He rejected medical advice and sadly died prematurely.

Impulses and Addiction may present as being self-aware but are powerful negative drives that should not be considered as intuition.

Low Probability would suggest an obvious choice to avoid but the nation at large ignores this and follows the path of, for instance, investing in lotteries.

A scenario that induces fear when considering probabilities, is not classed  as intuitive. Shark attack in fact is rare but the probability of that, although extremely low, prevents many from swimming in the ocean. A plane crashing stops some from flying.  These decisions are not resulting from intuition, rather it is misintuition.

Environment has to be a considered when practicing intuition. Noise is not conducive and a high emotional state means the body can’t be receptive to the subtle signals of intuition.

There is an entertaining episode relating to environment. In a Monte Carlo Casino;  a roulette wheel registered 6 black in a row. Massive bets for red then ensued, all convinced the next would be red. Black, however, scored 27 more times before finally resting on red. It demonstrated how strongly the group was influenced by the environment which was a poor one for intuition.

The complexity of intuition is obvious after reading Joel Pearson’s book. He has designed a valuable diagram, based on SMILE which clearly shows when to practise it.  Begin by taking 3 deep breaths, then if ‘yes’ to the question (e.g. Are your emotions too high?) don’t practise intuition. If your answer is ‘No’ to all 5 questions, then proceed.

Developing and training this ability can be so important as to be vital. The opening chapter gives a dramatic instance of this.  A mountain climber’s life was saved when he employed it; two men in the team who didn’t, perished.

Professor Pearson is currently Director of Future Minds Lab at UNSW. He has given us a splendid opportunity to learn to utilise this aspect of our unconscious brain, and made an   irresistible invitation to become more aware of just this fraction of our brains’ capabilities.

He maintains that we can learn to manage anxiety and fear as we face this rapidly changing world, instead of reverting to those instinctively primitive feelings. This could even  make it possible to embrace change.

The Intuition Toolkit


by Joel Pearson

Simon and Schuster

ISBN 978 176110 959 1

$29.99; 220pp


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