The Biology of Intuition? Study Takes Look at Where Hunches Come From

By Newspapers, Knight-Ridder | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), March 2, 1997 | Go to article overview

The Biology of Intuition? Study Takes Look at Where Hunches Come From


Newspapers, Knight-Ridder, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


The old stereotype labeled it "women's intuition." It turns out that a lot of people have it - men and women - and without it we'd be in serious trouble.

Scientists reporting in Friday's issue of the journal Science have even pinpointed where they think the intuition part of the brain is situated - in the prefrontal cortex right above the eyes.

In card-gambling experiments designed to simulate the stakes in real-life decisions, the scientists found that people who had brain damage in that area made consistently poor decisions even though they had rational intelligence. But the others developed a knack for winning money from the card game even before they could explain their choices. The researchers contend that this is evidence for a biological basis to "hunches." "We all have examples in our own life where we talk about hunches and gut feelings," said Antonio R. Damasio, who led the research at the University of Iowa and Salk Institute in La Jolla. "What we were trying to do was get `underneath' a gut feeling or a hunch. This is the machinery just before the gut feeling that leads you to lean one way or another." The experiment was done among a group of brain-damaged patients previously shown by Damasio to score well on IQ and memory tests. But when faced with real-life decisions, they hesitate and ultimately make poor choices. In The Cards The scientists studied card-gambling behavior as a model for such real-life decisions that can rely at least partly on intuition: choice of mate, money management or career success. The six brain-damaged patients were known to have part of their gray matter missing. …

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