I will use “instinct” according to the first three dictionary definitions here:
1. an inborn pattern of activity or tendency to action common to a given biological species.
2. a natural or innate impulse, inclination, or tendency.
3. a natural aptitude or gift:
“an instinct for making money.”
4. natural intuitive power.
I think the fourth definition will eventually be part of the operational definition for creativity.
We shall define a “simple” instinct as being one that is common to individuals of a species who have developed normally. For example, we don’t need to grow up on the Sahara to experience a fear response to big animals with big sharp teeth. This is an instinct which we inherit as a natural part of human development.
When women say “intuition” what they mean is this simple sort of instinct. The difference is only qualitative (simple vs. complex), but speaking practically when a girl says she has a gut feeling about X you should understand it as being on the same level as “my gut tells me I’m not attracted to that nerdy guy”. That is not intuition any more than jerking one’s hand away from a hot stove is an intuition.
I don’t know if I’ve ever witnessed a woman use the word “intuition” in the way men use the term. When, if ever, a man uses the term “intuition”, he tends to mean it in the way that I will describe (unless he is being sardonic or intentionally obfuscatory).
A “complex” instinct is one which combines multiple simple instincts into a more abstract one. Maybe I’ve used the example of “spotting” a Ponzi scheme before, but I will use it again because it’s a very good example. No one is born with the ability to perceive a pyramid scheme- in fact, its existence is contingent on the opposite. This must be learned. There are many people who have yet to learn what a Ponzi scheme is or how to properly behave around one.
Well I take one thing back. It does seem like melonheads are born with the Ponzi scheme genetically encoded.
Now, spotting a Ponzi scheme requires many such “simple” instincts at once. For instance, it requires the ability to perceive cause and effect. It requires the ability to assign human intention to actions. And on and on. But the actual process of “spotting” could be measured in milliseconds (comparable to a simple reflex like in those reflex vs. IQ tests). It happens in the flash of an eye- much less time than we’d expect for all of these little instincts to send information to the white matter network to compute a rational response. Rather, we “see” the Ponzi scheme and we internally feel ourselves withdraw emotional investment from present company as fast as snatching a hand away from something hot.
This sort of response can only occur by System 1 in Kahneman lingo. It is a learned heuristic which has somehow become hardcoded between our perceptual hardware and the midbrain. In this example the amygdala; for different examples, maybe the reticular activating system. When I have previously talked about perceptual “forms”, this is what I meant. So go back into your saved copies of all my previous blog posts (shhh I know you have them) and find-replace “forms” with complex instincts.
The title is now self-descriptive. An intuition is one sort of complex instinct, but not the only sort.
This will serve later in distinguishing between the sorts of intelligence conferred by healthy production of gray matter and healthy production of white matter.
Update: I may have given the impression that women do not experience complex instincts or intuitions. That is not true, and they are quite capable of spotting Ponzi schemes. But they would refer to this as “good sense” or “I have a bad feeling” or something like that, whereas they use “intuition” to say “instinct” in a way that sounds nicer.