Intelligence and Intuition

UPDATED 01/09/12

This blog’s most-read post is “Intelligence, Personality, Politics, and Happiness.”  Regarding intelligence and its relationship to personality traits (as measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, MBTI), I note that other traits being the same

an iNtuitive person (one who grasps patterns and seeks possibilities) is 25 times more likely to have a high IQ than a Sensing person (one who focuses on sensory details and the here-and-now).

But which comes first: intelligence or intuition? My money is on intelligence. That is, highly intelligent persons are more likely than their less intelligent peers to show up as iNtuitives on the MBTI. In my view, it is not that iNtuitives are uninterested in sensory details and the here-and-now, but — compared with Sensing persons — they more quickly grasp details and see the patterns in them and the possibilities indicated by those patterns.

In sum, I think of intuition as a manifestation of intelligence, not a cause of it.


To put it another way, intuition is not an emotion; it is the opposite of emotion.

I was prompted to make that point after reading some entries in a discussion thread where “Intelligence, Personality, Politics, and Happiness” is quoted. Some of the participants seem to think of intuition as an emotion, but it is not one. Nor should it be confused with impulsiveness, which is based on emotion. Intuition is reasoning at high speed. For example, a skilled athlete knows where and when to make a move (e.g., whether and where to swing at a pitched ball) because he subconsciously makes the necessary calculations, which he could not make consciously in the split-second that is available to him once the pitcher releases the ball.

Related reading: “The Mystery of Expertise,” The Week, December 22, 2011

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Intelligence, Personality, Politics, and Happiness
Intelligence as a Dirty Word