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Intuition: Its Powers and Perils (Yale Nota Bene) Paperback – April 10, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With humor and warm disinterestedness, Myers, professor of psychology at Michigan's Hope College, marshals cognitive research on intuition, or "our capacity for direct knowledge, for immediate insight without observation or reason" or what is sometimes called ESP. He finds that the mind operates on two levels, "deliberate" and "automatic." The nondeliberate mode (aka the intuitive) can be an effective way of knowing and doing, helping us empathize with others, intuit social cues or perform rote tasks like driving cars. It can also lead us astray: illusory correlations, self-fulfilling prophecies, dramatic anomalies and other misleading heuristics may feel like direct perception, but are not. Statistically random events may appear to have patterns, but "random sequences are streaky." The book treats scientific method as an attractive intellectual tool and shuns "truth is personally constructed" evasions; it is thus delightfully readable and deliberately provocative.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Myers (psychology, Hope Coll.) presents here accessible research findings on intuition that are a welcome change from obscure self-help guides on the subject. He holds that people often rely on hunches without factoring in personal backgrounds, scientific fact, and unperceived influences, such as random streaks of occurrence, making those hunches less effective than we might think. Covered here are intuition's general strengths and weaknesses and its relationship to investment, psychotherapy, and employment settings. While some would argue that trying to gauge intuition is futile, Myers argues convincingly that we can measure how we arrive at a conclusion. By and large Myers is not making a case for intuition so much as for logic: he invites us to sharpen our insights and self-knowledge so that when impulse strikes, we can make sounder and less costly decisions. For the psychology sections of larger public libraries and academic libraries. Lisa Liquori, M.L.S., Syracuse, NY
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Yale Nota Bene
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (April 10, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300103034
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300103038
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #419,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David G. Myers, Psychology of Psychology at Michigan's Hope College, is the author of seventeen books, and of articles in three dozen academic periodicals, from Science to the American Psychologist, and in four dozen magazines, from Scientific American to The Christian Century. For more information and free resources visit

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Coert Visser on October 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Intuition is a hot topic. Today there are lots of trainers, coaches, consultants, and authors advocating the powers of intuition. 'Don't be too rational, trust you intuition!', they say. But how well-informed are these people about what intuition really is? To what extent can you rely on your intuition and to what extent should you be skeptical? In this book, David Myers, a well-known writer on psychology, explains what is known about intuition.
What is it anyway? David Myers explains that intuition is our capacity for direct knowledge, for immediate insight without observation or reason. In contrast, deliberte thinking is reasoning-like, critical, and anlytic. So there are two levels of thinking:
1. DELIBERATE THINKING: this level of thinking is conscious and analytical. It is very valuable because it helps us to focus on what is really important and protects us from having to think about everything at once. It is as it where the mind's executive desk.
2. INTUITION: this unconscious level is automatic. It seems, inside our minds there are processing systems that work without us knowing it. To use a metafor by David Myers: we effortlessly delegate most of our thinking and decisions making to the masses of cognitive workers busily at work in our minds's basement. These processes enables us, for instance, to recognize instantly, among thousands of humans, someone we have not seen in five years. We do know, but we don't know how we know.
Both ways of knowing are present within each person. Often they support eachother, sometimes they lead to conflicting conclusions. One thing is important: we tend to underrate how much of our actions are guided by unconsicous thinking.
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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful By James Daniels on November 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
In Intuition: Its Powers and Perils, author David Myers provides an overview of the unconscious operations of the human mind.
He begins by arguing that we have two parallel systems operating in our day to day lives, the conscious/rational system and the unconscious/intuitive system. The former is slow and deliberate, the latter is fast and sometimes inaccurate. He then details may of the ways in which our intuition proves incorrect in areas like geography, personal memories, individual competence, and foly physics. Myers ends the book with a long chapter about our intuition in medicine, job interviews, risk, and gambling.
Throughout the book, Myers repeats a theme popular since Tversky and Khanneman's papers in the 1970s: the human mind has predictable biases and innaccuracies on a host of logical puzzles and laboratory tests. As such, the book is basically a 249 page review article of the evidence against human rationality. While many of his examples are fascinating, there is no overall theory or mechanism given to account for this irrationality.
To take one example he uses, imagine a ball dropped from a plane. Most people intuitively feel that the ball should fall straight down, rather than along the correct parabolic path to the earth. Myers takes this as evidence of a faulted folk-physics. Unfortunately, despite this fault, people have no problem catching balls falling from great heights. Is it possible that our intuition is in fact robust and accurate within the domains where it is used, and only incorrect in the unusual situations of the laboratory? Myers only casually addresses this, but his evidence on competence developing at certain tasks and jobs indicates that this might be the case.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Hogan VINE VOICE on December 8, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Myers brings together a lot of research into a very readable book about "knowing."
Myers explains to some degree how we know...and why we are likely to be correct. This is well documented although perhaps not as thorough as Sources of Power or Strangers Unto Ourselves by Wilson. Nevertheless there is plenty of meat here.
Then he talks in much greater detail about how and when our intuition is likely to fail us. This is much more enjoyable reading and thorough in scope.
Myers gives a significant amount of attention to ESP, psychic intuition and gambling, all of which are evenly presented and well thought out.
If you have an interest in decision making, intuition, risk, and how we "think" this is a brilliant introduction.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Lee D. Carlson HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on August 9, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a tool for prediction, scientific discovery, business management, and many other areas, intuition has been claimed by many to be essential, even superior to other more quantitative approaches to cognition. In fact, there is at the present time a fairly intense debate going on between two camps: one camp consisting of those who believe intuition to be the superior mode of cognition, and the other camp consisting of those who favor cognitive efforts that are governed by mathematical/computational algorithms. The tension between these groups probably would not have arisen if it were not for the intense interest in building thinking machines. Indeed, developments in artificial intelligence over the past few decades have shown beyond doubt that many tasks that were once thought to need "intuition" for their completion, origination, or evaluation, can now be accomplished by machines using artificial reasoning patterns.

But far from being a well-defined mode of cognition, intuition has been a kind of catchphrase that is used to explain the ability to solve problems and reach goals without really knowing how. The apologists of intuition emphasize its ability to deal with issues and problems of a qualitative nature (the famous Einstein dictum that "not everything that counts can be counted"). In some extreme instances, enthusiasts of intuition think of it as a "power", the possession of which will give one distinct advantages, especially in the areas of business and finance. Indeed, there are the "intuitive" financial traders who boast of their abilities to foresee market trends that the "quants" cannot, and they do so without really quantifying just how much advantage their intuition has over more mathematical/algorithmic approaches to financial trading.
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