From the article --
Gradually, the science of intuition is shaking off its woo-woo connotations, as experts become more sophisticated in understanding where it comes from and how to measure it. They're also increasingly confident that most of us have substantial talent for intuition and that it influences us more than we realize. "Assuming everything in your emotional world is stable," says Oliver Turnbull, PhD, a professor of psychology and a researcher at the University of Wales Center for Cognitive Neuroscience in the United Kingdom, "you shouldn't have to force yourself to 'listen' to your intuition. It's already there." Yet many of us ignore this tool—or worse, respond to urges that are misguided or the product of a fevered imagination. Fine-tuning your intuition will help you make better decisions whether you're buying a car, making new acquaintances, or solving problems at work. It could even save your life.
Without any conscious effort, Brumfield's brain was acting like an automotive-safety computer, running facts, previous information, and sensory input at lightning speed. "This kind of intuition isn't mystical," Myers says. "It's an automatic, intelligent response to situations we've previously learned about or experienced." And the more experience we gain, he says, the more we recognize patterns and associations, "just like a chess master can glance at a board and immediately know the next move."
Psychologists never really doubted the reality of intuition—in fact, Carl Jung, a pioneer in the field, believed it was one of the most important abilities humans have. A leading personality test, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which flourished in the 1950s and then became widely popular in the 1980s, even gave people a way to measure how heavily they rely on some of their intuitive skills.
But it took until the early 1990s for Bechara to develop a test for those hunches and figure out where they originate. The Iowa Gambling Task requires participants to play with four decks of cards that allow them to win or lose varying amounts of money. The decks are stacked in a complicated pattern: One deck has more losing cards, but grants larger wins, for example; another deck has more winning cards but doles out smaller amounts.
At first, people think the decks are random. But, Bechara says, usually by the 40th card or so, the average participant can intuitively "feel" which deck is luckiest. "Knowledge accrues slowly, so you never discover all of a sudden which decks are good or bad," he says. By the 70th or 80th card, most participants feel confident in their assessment. Working with that test, researchers soon proved that people with brain injuries and illnesses that damage the prefrontal cortex of the brain do far worse on the card game than people without such injuries.
Brain experts are even gaining ground on the type of cells used in intuition. Cal Tech scientists have linked Von Economo neurons, found in humans and, to a lesser degree, in apes, to intuitive assessment of complex situations. These cells start to emerge a month before birth and keep forming until age 4 or so, Allman says. In people with lesions in the prefrontal cortex, intuitive abilities diminish until patients can no longer "read" social situations. "Often, they're the victims of scams because they lack the radar most people have," he says.