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Intuition (from medieval Latin intuitio  = direct observation to latin look intueri = exactly look) is the ability insight into facts, perspectives, laws or the subjective consistency to obtain from decisions without discursive use of the mind , or about without conscious conclusions. Intuition is part of creative developments. The intellect accompanying the development only carries out or consciously checks the results that come from the unconscious. It is critical to see here that if a - initially not justifiable - decision has a positive effect, one likes to speak of intuition, while in the case of failure one has simply "made a mistake", whereby there is no mechanism to check which mental processes lead to respective decision.

Some scientists suspect that the exchange of information between the enteric nervous system and the brain also plays a role in intuitive decisions (“gut decisions”).

General aspects

The following are viewed as general aspects of intuition (from different, differing or even contradicting positions):

  • A talent for making a good decision the first time without explicitly understanding the underlying relationships . Colloquially “from the gut” (“gut feeling”), spontaneously, often even if there are certain reasons that suggest a different decision.
  • The ability to comprehend properties and emotions in fractions of a second, unconsciously or consciously, in a complex and instinctual manner. Historically an attitude that must serve to distinguish between friend and enemy (possibly fight or flight reaction ). Nowadays a trainable form of perception, the problem areas of which lie in the differentiation from projections and prejudices as well as in awareness.
  • The unconscious reasons for a particular decision.
  • Indirectly, the so-called common sense . Intuition has a close connection with the "inner"  logic of the given situation and with previous experiences (mostly unconscious patterns of perception interpretation).
  • The flash of inspiration : The flash of inspiration is a special form of intuition, in which a new thought unexpectedly arises.
  • "Intuition is the source of fantasy (fantasy)": being touched or being touched from within ("input").

Differential aspects


In philosophy, the frequent description of intuition is based on the polarity pair intuitive versus discursive . This distinction can already be found in Philon. Plotinus postulates that intuitive knowledge is only possible in the realm of the purely spiritual, whereby he points to the analogy to sensual looking, which is, however, caught in worldly temporality. While discursive knowledge is based on sensory perceptions and conclusions that build on one another, intuitive knowledge is a purely spiritual perception, a transcendent function of the human being. The philosophers Baruch de Spinoza , Johann Gottlieb Fichte , Henri Bergson and Edmund Husserl took up this aspect in particular . Intuition and tacit knowledge are prerequisites for the empirical action described by Volker Caysa .

A core concept of Husserl's phenomenology consists in the so-called essence view, which is supposed to enable access to the essential structure of an object and thus abstract from individual peculiarities or random variations. Since the process comes closest to a direct inner perception, Husserl called the thought process intuition. For him, the foundation of science begins with the categories of intuition and evidence .

The phenomenologist Hermann Schmitz describes intuition as the ability to deal with meaningful impressions by means of which situations can be comprehensively understood and processed. For Schmitz, intuition is the only human process for dealing with meaningful impressions. This view of Schmitz can be seen as a (phenomenological) counterpart to the view of intuition as a complexity-reducing procedure in cognition.

In logic , a statement that is true but runs counter to certain basic assumptions, namely intuition, is called a paradox . For example, the liar's paradox irritates our intuitive understanding of true and false as a polar, unbridgeable contrast. While the discursive-rational (conscious) character of knowledge represents a derived function, the intuitive knowledge has the character of the given . Spinoza in particular pointed this out.


In the psychology of Carl Gustav Jung , intuition is one of four basic psychological functions that enable the perception of future developments with all their options and potentials. It is mostly perceived as an instinctive grasping or an emotional premonition. Concrete intuition conveys perceptions that relate to the factuality of things, while abstract intuition conveys the perception of ideal relationships. With the intuitive character type according to Jung, there is often a fusion with the collective unconscious .

An old cliché says that intuition is more pronounced in women than in men (" female intuition "). However, there is no valid scientific evidence for this. The only thing that women may be superior to men in this regard is their ability to quickly perceive other people's emotional states. Some researchers even go so far as to claim that women's brains are “calibrated” for empathy from birth (E-brain), while men tend to interpret the world systematically (S-brain). This thesis is controversial.

In the area of systemic leadership , intuition is seen as an essential characteristic for qualified management. Only when a manager is in good contact with himself and his employees and at the same time can sense the needs of the market will he be successful. Intuition (or one of its aspects) is seen as a synonym for Emotional Intelligence .


Understood as a basic human competence, intuition is the central ability to process information and to react appropriately when the data to be processed is very complex . It very often leads to correct or optimal results. There are two different levels of intuition: the feeling decision and the intuition based on reason (incubation). The information is processed unconsciously and the consciousness is "switched on" when the subconscious comes across a solution. Intuition does not necessarily mean an immediate solution, it often helps to "sleep on it for a night".

On the one hand, the modern scientific perspective views intuition critically: it is accused of being able to prove itself only in a naive way and of disintegrating when questioned. Intuition is understood here as a nominal term that shows itself as an emotion that feels itself to be cognitive . It can be seen as an escape from , or overcoming of, enlightened and reasonable terminology .

On the other hand, new research suggests that sometimes - and not least in complex situations - one can make better decisions with intuition than with the conscious mind. The theory of empraxis says: The unconscious is able to take into account far more information than the consciousness, which is very precise but can cope with only a little information.

In the technical area, dealing with intuition is more pragmatic: Ergonomists , designers and software developers try to use devices and programs as intuitively as possible, i.e. to adapt them to behavior and perceptual habits. This is intended, for example, to shorten the training period for modern industrial systems, software and consumer products to such an extent that the dream of a lighter life, despite increased productivity, comes true in some areas. It is essential to use intuition, especially in the case of warning messages, since the user should react quickly and correctly.


  • Pierre-Alexandre Fradet: Derrida-Bergson. Sur l'immédiateté. Editions Hermann, Paris 2014, ISBN 978-2-70568831-8 .
  • Gerd Gigerenzer : gut decisions. The intelligence of the unconscious and the power of intuition . Bertelsmann, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-570-00937-6 .
  • Malcolm Gladwell: Blink! The power of the moment. Frankfurt / New York, Campus 2005, ISBN 3-593-37779-9 .
  • Jonah Lehrer: As we decide. The successful interplay of head and stomach. Piper, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-492-05312-9 .
  • Bernd Schmid, Christiane Gérard: Intuition and professionalism. Systemic transaction analysis in counseling and therapy . Carl-Auer, Heidelberg 2008, ISBN 978-3-89670-649-2 .
  • Ludger Schwarte, The rules of intuition. Philosophy of art according to Adorno, Heidegger and Wittgenstein. Wilhelm Fink, Munich 2000.
  • Gerald Traufetter: Intuition - The wisdom of feelings . Rowohlt, Reinbek 2007, ISBN 978-3-498-06522-5 .
  • Monika A. Pohl: 30 minutes of intuition.  Gabal, Offenbach 2017,  ISBN 978-3-86936-768-2 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Intuition  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. On the etymology Elmar Seebold : Kluge. Etymological Dictionary of the German Language , 25th, expanded edition, Berlin 2011, p. 450.
  2. Neurology: How the stomach determines the head
  3. ^ A b c Carl Gustav Jung : Definitions . In: Collected Works, Volume 6: Psychological Types, Düsseldorf 1995, ISBN 3-530-40081-5 , pp. 474 f., § 754-757.
  4. ^ Heinz Kohut : Narcissism , 9th edition, Frankfurt 1995, ISBN 3-518-27757-X , p. 341.
  5. Volker Caysa: Empraktische Vernunft. ; Peter Lang - Internationaler Verlag der Wissenschaft 2015, ISBN 978-3-631-66707-1
  6. Hermann Schmitz : Experience creativity . In: Christian Julmi (ed.): Conversations about creativity , Bochum, Freiburg 2013, pp. 24–26.
  7. Bas Kast: The power of intuition . Fischer Verlag, 2007.
  8. C. Harteis, S. Billett (2013): Intuitive expertise: Theories and empirical evidence. Educational Research Review, 9, 145-157. doi : 10.1016 / j.edurev.2013.02.001