You can use any or all of the resources linked below with attribution when appropriate
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
-Bob Samples (possibly paraphrasing Einstein)
Web Resources on Intuition
Handouts and Activities
I think that understanding intuition and its role in human understanding and decision making goes a long way to explain how our minds work overall. The readings that follow explore intuition on its own but more often, how it contrasts with other ways of knowing.
What is intuition? How does it help us know?
In order to introduce the concept, I have my students read this selection of Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. It is an engaging, short book about the power and limits of intuition. What works really well about this reading is that the first part of it is left as a mystery in which students have to debate what they believe to be true. The reading ultimately pits intuition against reason. System 1 vs. System 2 thinking.
This reading ultimately brings us to the end of the class. I tell the students before the end that the intuitive responses ultimately proved to be correct.
The following day we work through this worksheet along with Part 2 of the reading.
Once we’ve established these reading as the baseline, we start to distill the nature of intuition as a way of knowing. Here is a reading that helps break it down.
How does the mind actually process information? Contrasting intuition, reason and emotion
Jonathan Haidt lays out his own model for the relationship between Intuition and Reason. Below is a handout adapted from his book, The Righteous Mind, in which he lays out the metaphor of the rider and the elephant. This handout has a lot of utility when studying ethics and the WOKs associated with how we decide what we think is right.
Haidt further examines how we use these competing impulses to make moral judgments. How “moral reasoning” is often a after the fact rationalization of what we intuitively believe to be correct. Here is an adaptation of some of his ideas along with possible prompts to get students thinking.
Implicit Bias and the Implicit Adaptive Test (IAT)
One of the more interesting topics regarding Intuition is the concept of implicit bias and the related implicit adaptive test to help “identify” it. This test is not without its critics but the whole concept is worth exploring with students.
For those who don’t know, the IAT is an online test a person can take that measures their associations between different concepts and the speed with which you make these associations determines how connected the concept are in your mind. So you can explore your associations with race and positive and negative qualities.
Here is the worksheet I give students on the day we introduce the IAT and implicit bias.
Here is the associated reading
Other Resources on Intuition
The New Jim Crow, a landmark book that tells the story of mass incarceration in the United States, delves briefly into the topic of implicit bias and its role in society. I adapted some of the text from the book and made the reading below.
The link below will take you to a series of web resources on that specific topic.
Books on Intuition
Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell
This is probably the most accessible book that discusses the idea of intuition: how it works, limitations and strengths. A couple of the handouts above are based off of it.
Blink is a book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant-in the blink of an eye-that actually aren’t as simple as they seem. Why are some people brilliant decision makers, while others are consistently inept? Why do some people follow their instincts and win, while others end up stumbling into error? How do our brains really work-in the office, in the classroom, in the kitchen, and in the bedroom? And why are the best decisions often those that are impossible to explain to others?
Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Reason, Emotion, Intuition
This is one of my favorite non fiction books of all time. This book is a compendium of all the groundbreaking work done by Kanheman and Tversky. Really thorough and insightful. Too long to be a text for students to use but would provide a teacher with lots of insight. Similar to Blink in its discussion of Intuition, this is far more thorough and detailed and creates an effective model for thinking about the brain: System 1 and System 2, or, the fast and slow brain.
The international bestseller, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman, the renowned psychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. The impact of overconfidence on corporate strategies, the difficulties of predicting what will make us happy in the future, the profound effect of cognitive biases on everything from playing the stock market to planning our next vacation—each of these can be understood only by knowing how the two systems shape our judgments and decisions.
The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt
Intuition, Reason, Emotion, Ethics
Really fascinating, well-written book. Discusses the competing models for understanding the brain’s most basic mechanisms with regard to the relationship between intuition and reason. Makes a compelling argument for the primacy of intuition. Then moves on to discuss the evolution of morality in our minds and cultures and lays out the case for different moral matrices. Lastly, discusses the different moral beliefs of people who subscribe to different political philosophies (liberals and conservatives). Haidt also gave a TED Talk in which he lays out his beliefs. This book is worth a read though.
Drawing on his twenty five years of groundbreaking research on moral psychology, Haidt shows how moral judgments arise not from reason but from gut feelings. He shows why liberals, conservatives, and libertarians have such different intuitions about right and wrong, and he shows why each side is actually right about many of its central concerns. In this subtle yet accessible book, Haidt gives you the key to understanding the miracle of human cooperation, as well as the curse of our eternal divisions and conflicts. If you’re ready to trade in anger for understanding, read The Righteous Mind.