The study of intuition, the ability to directly and immediately perceive a fact without resorting to the traditional act of reasoning through supportive evidence, is as old as human civilization itself. Yet it remains one of the most misunderstood concepts around.

Many people associate intuition with the caricature of the fairground fortune teller, cackling as she lays out a vague, unverifiable tale of the future before pocketing the gullible victim’s money. Most families have tales of that one aunt or uncle with an uncanny ability to win at the track or foretell tragedy, but these stories are often shared with a solid dose of skepticism, as if there had to be an explanation other than pure intuition.

Yet, philosophers, psychologists, and scientists have studied this seemingly magical human ability for centuries, and their findings show that intuition is both very real and far more commonly experienced than most people think.

The Greek philosopher Plato convincingly argued that our very concept of the truth, that ineffable feeling when we simply know in the pit of our stomachs that something is right, stems from intuition and that it forms the basis of all knowledge.

This concept has been developed and examined by philosophers throughout the ages and was taken up enthusiastically by the early proponents of psychology. Carl Jung defined intuition as “perception via the unconscious”: using sense-perception only as a starting point, to bring forth ideas, images, possibilities, ways out of a blocked situation, by a process that is mostly unconscious.

But it is in the field of quantum theory and modern psychological study that intuition found it’s natural home and some of its greatest proponents. Gerd Gigerenzer, a director at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, claims that intuition, or ‘gut feeling’ is the highest form of intelligence, and that those who actively work on developing their intuition are capable of making better, faster, and more beneficial decisions.

He insists that there is a science to good decision making, stating that the trick is not to amass information, but to discard it: to know intuitively what one doesn’t need to know.

Gigerenzer claims that only by ignoring the advice of lifestyle experts and the toil of pros-and-cons lists can we ‘hone the cognitive, emotional, and social repertoire we’ve evolved over the millennia.’

In a 2007 New York Times interview, Gigerenzer gave the following definition of intuition or gut feeling, and how to develop it: “My research indicates that gut feelings are based on simple rules of thumb, what we psychologists term “heuristics.” These take advantage of certain capacities of the brain that have come down to us through time, experience and evolution. Gut instincts often rely on simple cues in the environment. In most situations, when people use their instincts, they are heeding these cues and ignoring other unnecessary information.”

Gigerenzer states that, in Western society, in particular, we have been conditioned to believe that intuitive thinking is somehow wrong and inferior to the accepted rational method of painstakingly gathering and weighing the evidence. While the latter method obviously has its place, intuitive thinking is absolutely vital in situations where quick decisions are needed. He conducted studies that showed that, when a person relies on their gut feelings and uses the instinctual rule of thumb “go with your first best feeling and ignore everything else,” it can permit them to outperform the most complex calculations.

He also showed how people working in stock markets used intuition when picking which stocks to buy and when to buy or sell. They often rationalized their decisions after the fact, as the bias against intuitive decision making may be particularly strong in this field.

So it stands to reason that developing one’s ability to make intuitive decisions is of the utmost importance. It starts with embracing the fact that intuition is not a myth, but a scientific fact, and then recognizing the benefits of using ‘the highest form of intelligence’.

A program like the one offered by Synctuition, which combines meditation, aural and neurological stimulation and self-discovery while using cutting edge modern technology, has been proven to assist in the development of intuitive thinking.

“It is through science that we prove, but through intuition that we discover.” – Henri Poincare

“Intuition enlightens and so links up with pure thought. They together become an intelligence which is not simply of the brain, which does not calculate, but feels and thinks.” – Piet Mondrian

“There is no logical way to the discovery of these elemental laws. There is only the way of intuition, which is helped by a feeling for the order lying behind the appearance.” – Albert Einstein