Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

A Transliminal View of Intuitions in the Workplace

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

A Transliminal View of Intuitions in the Workplace

Article excerpt

Transliminality is a perceptual-personality trait that reflects the tendency for psychological material to cross (trans) thresholds (limines) into and out of consciousness. Reviews show that the major correlates of transliminality are syncretic cognitions (Houran et al., 2006; Lange et al., 2000)--i.e., the fusion of perceptual qualities in subjective experience such as: physiognomic perception (the fusion of perception and feeling); synesthesia, (the fusion of sensory modalities) and eidetic imagery (the fusion of imagery and perception). Accordingly, transliminality is conceptualized as enhanced interconnectedness between brain hemispheres, as well as among frontal cortical loops, temporal-limbic structures and primary or secondary sensory areas or sensory association cortices (Houran, Hughes, Thalbourne & Delin, 2006; Thalbourne, Crawley & Houran, 2003; Thalbourne, Houran, Alias, & Brugger, 2001). Studies of perception, imagery and memory all provide evidence for a threshold that mediates unconscious-conscious awareness, and several independent experiments are consistent with the neurological interconnectedness model of transliminality in particular (Crawley, French & Yesson, 2002; Fleck et al., 2008; Houran et al., 2006).

Although the literature on mental boundaries in relation to workplace settings is growing--including such topics as managerial decision-making and "entrepreneurial intuition" (e.g., Bradley, 2006; Eisenhardt, 1999; Eisenhardt & Zbaracki, 1992; La Pira & Gillin, 2006; Parikh, Neubauer & Lank, 1994)--the influence of transliminality on occupational behavior and outcomes has not been studied. Yet, there are compelling reasons to hypothesize that business leaders or visionaries who have "flashes of genius" or strong intuitions about key decisions or discoveries are examples of transliminality manifesting in professional or occupational contexts. For instance, Langley, Mintzberg, Pitcher, Posada and Saint-Macary (1995) concluded that decision-making processes are partially driven by emotion, imagination and memories crystallized into occasional insights. Eisenhardt and Zbaracki (1992) echoed this view in their multidimensional approach to decision-making encompassing bounded rationality, heuristics, insight and intuition. Further, intuitions' phenomenology suggests that transliminal processes are at work. In particular, most researchers acknowledge that (1) intuitive events originate beyond consciousness, (2) information is processed holistically and (3) intuitive perceptions are frequently accompanied by emotion (Shapiro & Spence, 1997; Sinclair & Ashkanasy, 2005). Sinclair and Ashkanasy (2005) therefore defined intuition as a non-sequential information processing mode, which comprises both cognitive and affective elements and results in direct knowing without any use of conscious reasoning (cf. Epstein et al., 1996; Shapiro & Spence, 1997; Simon, 1987).

Sinclair and Ashkanasy's (2005) observations parallel the psychophysiological model of transliminality described above and suggest that intuition could be a phenomenon caused or moderated by transliminality. Thus, we expect scores on transliminality to correlate positively with scores on measures of an intuitive decision-making style (Hypothesis 1) and self-reported intuitions (Hypothesis 2) in the workplace. Further, we predict that reports of workplace intuitions will increase with progressively higher employment (management) levels (Hypothesis 3). In other words, individuals with increasingly greater professional experience, company and market knowledge, decision-making authority and the likelihood of facing ill-defined problems without existing precedents or non-routine decisions would seem more likely to experience intuitions in the workplace and show a willingness to act on them (cf. Agor, 1984; Andrews, 1999; Parikh et al., 1994; Simon, 1960). This prediction is in line with the general concept of entrepreneurial intuition--the basic idea that successful entrepreneurs or managers are passionate innovators and risk-takers who have extraordinarily accurate hunches about the locus of new future business opportunities (La Pira & Gillin, 2006). …

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