Sci + Society,

#230: Measuring Intuition with Dr. Joel Pearson

June 29, 2018

Intuitively, it just sounds fake.

That’s what I thought when I first heard the concept of “measuring intuition.”

The idea that someone could get a quantitative measurement of this fully internal, ephemeral concept…?

It seemed like putting a dollar-value on true love or counting how many angels can dance on the head of a pin… An exercise in futility.  Something you could pretty much dismiss out of hand, and not even waste time trying to figure out how you might do it.

Luckily, Dr. Joel Pearson didn’t stop there.

In research conducted in 2015, Pearson (whom we first met in Episode #219: Aphantasia) introduced “a technique in which subliminal emotional information is presented to subjects while they make fully conscious sensory decisions.”

* And yes – that’s the working definition of intuition used in his experiment: subliminal emotional information.

In order to “test” intuition, think of all the steps involved:

  • You’d have to provide a subject with subconscious information.
  • That information needs to have an emotional valence (good/bad feeling).
  • That information must then be able to probably influence a conscious decision.
  • And finally, the strength of that influence must be statistically significant.

How would you design such an experiment?

Pause a moment to think about this… It’s a great thought exercise.

Here’s the spoiler: In Episode #230, I’ll be discussing with Dr. Pearson the experimental research that went into his paper “Measuring Intuition: Nonconscious Emotional Information Boosts Decision Accuracy and Confidence” — and how things have progressed in the two years since the paper’s publication.

“Your intuition will only be as good as the information you’re relying on.”
– Dr. Joel Pearson


CortiTrax by VitaMonk

CortiTrax uses potent doses of natural ingredients including Ashwagandha, Rhodiola Rosea, Magnolia and Holy Basil to support a healthy response to stress and high cortisol levels.
Show Notes
  • 00:00:35

    Episode introduction: Measuring Intuition with Dr. Joel Pearson.

  • 00:01:51

    This Week In Neuroscience: The effect of circadian rhythm on reward and motivation in young males.

  • 00:04:00

    5-Star review shoutouts.

  • 00:05:00

    SDS news and updates.

  • 00:06:12

    Guest introduction: Dr. Joel Pearson.

  • 00:07:26

    Interview begins.

  • 00:08:08

    Criteria for intuition.

  • 00:09:59

    Formulating a lab-based measurement for human intuition.

  • 00:14:59

    Measuring intuition through a subconscious learning task.

  • 00:17:40

    Using skin conductance and computational modeling to further measure intuition.

  • 00:18:31

    Non-emotional, unconscious learning.

  • 00:19:45

    Human intuition in relation to everyday decision making.

  • 00:22:21

    Critiques of and responses to these findings of the 2016 experiment.

  • 00:23:35

    When is intuition used to make decisions and when is logic used?

  • 00:24:41

    More on the 2016 experiment.

  • 00:25:18

    Intuition is based on past learning.

  • 00:26:16

    What if these findings were used to help program intuitions of reality into A.I. systems?

  • 00:27:41

    Ongoing and future studies on intuition in sports, the military, and more!

  • 00:31:49

    Interview wrap-up.

  • 00:33:05

    Ruthless Listener Retention Gimmick: Intelligence and the power of positive thinking.

  • 00:35:31

    Episode wrap-up.

One comment

  1. Great podcast, Jesse.

    I read a fascinating study showing that our intuition often works before our conscious brain can pick up on something. Through skin conductivity tests, scientists found that most participants responded (via perspiration) to something that was “off” before they spoke up about that thing being wrong.

    Found in the book Incognito.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to top