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The New Science Of Intuition: Neuroscientist Joel Pearson On Leveraging The Unconscious Mind For Better Decisions & Actions

By June 24, 2024No Comments
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Episode #841



What is intuition? What are these mysterious workings of our gut feelings and hunches—the subtle whispers that often guide our choices, for better or worse?

It turns out that these elusive bodily sensations are not just a mystical phenomenon but a measurable biological reality rooted in the interplay between our brains, bodies, and unconscious minds.

My guest today is Prof. Joel Pearson, a cognitive neuroscientist, professor of psychology at the University of New South Wales, and author of The Intuition Toolkit. He has dedicated himself to unraveling the neural basis of intuition, developing methods to quantify and study this lesser-known human capacity in his Future Minds Lab. 

Joel’s findings challenge conventional notions about intuition. Intuition is a genuine mental capacity rooted in the brain’s constant processing of subtle cues, associations, and emotional signals below the threshold of conscious awareness. When developed, it can be an invaluable asset in decision-making, enabling us to draw upon the insights of our accumulated knowledge and experience.

He points out that not all gut feelings are created equal. Cognitive biases, emotional distortions, and the pull of impulse can be easily hijacked. The key is learning to cultivate discernment—to separate reliable intuition from the many things that may mimic it.

“Intuition is real. We can understand it. And following the rules of intuition can really help people.”


Today, we explore the fascinating science behind intuition and discuss Joel’s SMILE framework (Self-awareness, Mastery, Impulse control, Low probability, and Environment), which provides guidelines for when to trust or be cautious of our hunches. Joel explains the differences between intuition, instinct, and impulse, what influences the reliability of intuition, and when to use or avoid it.

We touch on a range of thought-provoking topics, including the potential benefits of aphantasia, a condition characterized by the inability to visualize mental images, and briefly consider the concept of free will. We also discuss the potential impact of AI on human decision-making and the importance of intellectual humility in an increasingly complex world.

At its core, this conversation is an invitation to re-enchant the mundane—to consider the extraordinary capacities beneath the surface of our everyday awareness.

For those who prefer a visual experience, the conversation is available on YouTube. As always, the audio version streams wild and free on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

This conversation is a must-listen for anyone who has ever wondered about the origins of that quiet inner voice or sought to make wiser choices in work, love, and life.


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