Eli5: What is intuition ?

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What causes it and what is, scientifically, that “gut” feeling?

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Our brains get a lot of stimulus all the time. Over time, they learn to filter out a bunch of them to avoid an information overload. A simple example is how your brain ignores the fact that your nose is technically in your field of vision. Basically a lot of processes get automated and you don’t have to think about how to contract each muscle in your leg when you want to take a step forward, but you are capable of focusing on it if you’re on a difficult hike on rocky terrain.

The trick is, the stimuli don’t just disappear, your brain just ignores them. Except sometimes it kind of notices them and takes them into account without you being consciously aware of it.

Like if you talk to someone and you feel they’re being dodgy, it’s likely because you’re subconsciously noticing tiny signals like their body posture, amount of eye contact, gestures etc that tell you they are acting in an unexpected way.

Another example if you’re about to book a flight but something tells you you should hold off, you may have seen a piece of information that you didn’t register consciously, but your brain is making the connection with your calendar and knows you can’t make it on time for that flight.

The end result is a “gut feeling” because when our brain is a little confused or doesn’t exactly know where a feeling is coming from, it tends to blame it on the gut. The reason for that is that the gut has no pain receptors and it’s hard for the brain to figure out when there is something wrong with it. It’s like a confusing mess of pipes that don’t necessarily tell the brain when something is wrong. So when an unknown alert light goes on in the brains dashboard, it tends to assume it’s the gut acting up again