Lars-Erik Björklund has dedicated his doctoral research thesis, defended at Linköping University last week, to finding a neuro-biological explanation for why experience-based knowledge comes about.
In layman’s terms – what is intuition and from where does it arise?
“In studies of nurses from the 1980s it could be shown that those with greater experience saw more and could make better decisions faster. One spoke of a intuitive ability,” said Lars-Erik Björklund wrote in his thesis.
Similar tests were carried out in the 1990s on doctors and business people and the research was consistent with previous findings.
The argument that ‘practice makes perfect’ and that ‘there is no substitute for experience’ is nothing new. The broad interest generated by Björklund’s thesis is because he seeks to provide neuro-biological explanations for why intuition exists.
After having researched the body of neurological literature, Björklund was able to solve the riddle of intuition in that human beings have two systems for receiving and analyzing sensory impressions – a conscious and an unconscious.
Contained within the unconscious we have an album of pictures, images and sensory signals that we use to compare against new information received and analyzed by the systems of the brain. We store up both images and memories of previous experiences and this helps us to predict the outcome of similar, new situations that we face.
“It can be smells, gestures, a complex combination of impressions which prompts that which we call intuition, to tell us something specific,” according to Björklund.
An actual engagement with the task in hand is required to stimulate these impressions and contribute to the image bank in our brains and thereby build up a store of unconscious sensory impressions.
“We can never attain this knowledge and capabilities that we need in our working lives by reading or counting. Practical experience is indispensable and needs to be revalued.”
“We need to see, feel, smell, hear, taste and experience with our senses. This data collection can not be replaced with, for example, the study of literature,” Björklund argued in the conclusion to his thesis.