Academic journal article Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience

Cortical Regions Activated by the Subjective Sense of Perceptual Coherence of Environmental Sounds: A Proposal for a Neuroscience of Intuition

Academic journal article Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience

Cortical Regions Activated by the Subjective Sense of Perceptual Coherence of Environmental Sounds: A Proposal for a Neuroscience of Intuition

Article excerpt

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, intuition is "the ability to understand or know something immediately, without conscious reasoning." In other words, people continuously, without conscious attention, recognize patterns in the stream of sensations that impinge upon them. The result is a vague perception of coherence, which subsequently biases thought and behavior accordingly. Within the visual domain, research using paradigms with difficult recognition has suggested that the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) serves as a fast detector and predictor of potential content that utilizes coarse facets of the input. To investigate whether the OFC is crucial in biasing task-specific processing, and hence subserves intuitive judgments in various modalities, we used a difficult-recognition paradigm in the auditory domain. Participants were presented with short sequences of distorted, nonverbal, environmental sounds and had to perform a sound categorization task. Imaging results revealed rostral medial OFC activation for such auditory intuitive coherence judgments. By means of a conjunction analysis between the present results and those from a previous study on visual intuitive coherence judgments, the rostral medial OFC was shown to be activated via both modalities. We conclude that rostral OFC activation during intuitive coherence judgments subserves the detection of potential content on the basis of only coarse facets of the input.

In everyday life, we all make decisions nonconsciously, without carefully examining and integrating each bit of information. Rather, we rely on a feeling of knowing what decision to make, especially in the presence of uncertainty, perhaps due to time pressure or the importance of gauging the probability of consequences. These types of spontaneous judgment processes are collectively defined as intuition (see, e.g., Hogarth, 2001; Kahneman & Frederick, 2002). The process of intuition is hence characterized by a lack of awareness of how the outcome has been achieved (Hogarth, 2001). In this context, it is important to consider two issues: First, the concept of intuition means different things to different people and has attracted the attention of several schools and scholars. Second, the term intuition appears "intuitively clear," yet a concise, generally accepted definition has not yet been provided in the scientific literature (see Hogarth, 2001). Typically, intuition is defined negatively, by contrasting it with analysis and logical thought-that is, intuition is regarded as a cognitive process that somehow produces an answer, solution, or idea without consciously going through a logically defensible step-by-step process (Hammond, 2007). Yet, such definitions leave room for several contrary assumptions about the nature of intuitive processes. Alternatively, some researchers have proposed lists of the features of intuition, including such attributes as holistic, associative, fast, and automatic (Epstein, 1973; Hammond, Hamm, Grassia, & Pearson, 1987). However, these listings leave open the question of how many attributes are necessary for the recognition of intuitive processes. For some time, the literature on human judgment and decision-making eluded the problem of defining intuition by linking it almost exclusively to some well-defined simplifying judgment heuristics (for an overview, see Gilovich, Griffin, & Kahneman, 2002; Kahneman, Slovic, & Tversky, 1982). In recent years, another view has been gaining influence in the field of judgment and decision-making, termed the learning perspective (Hogarth, 2001; Plessner, Betsch, & Betsch, 2008). According to this view, intuition relies on mental representations that reflect the entire stream of prior experiences; it is assumed to capitalize on these stored representations to often provide direct access to the criterion to be judged.

Because the term intuition has multiple connotations and is used with an "intuitive" understanding, in the context of the present article it is important that we specify our understanding of the term's meaning and of the nature of intuitive processes: In accordance with the learning perspective, we assume intuitions to be difficult-toarticulate, affect-laden recognitions or judgments, based on prior learning and experience, that are arrived at through holistic associations (see Sadler-Smith, 2008). …

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