Tag Archives: Information Overload

Data Mining Your Own Intuition

Volume 3, Issue 20

Intuition is when an idea (usually in the form of a feeling with cognitive elements embedded in it) pops into your head fully formed without being preceded by a step-by-step logical chain. These “cognitive elements” equate to meaning; that is, you know and comprehend the content of what it is you are saying to yourself. You know this without having heard words spelling it out and there is usually no image that you can see in your mind — although in heightened states of consciousness you may be able to see an image tied to this intuition.

Dan Goleman points out that at least some of these feelings — the ones we call “gut feelings” — are called that because we sense they are somehow coming from our gut, which is accurate because the part of the brain from which these intuitions come (the basal ganglia) is also associated with the nerve connections between the brain and the gastrointestinal system. These intuitions are really the net guidance stored from our experiences in the form of summary action implications that tell us the way we are going either worked or failed in the past.

These gut feelings are not the totality of the intuition but a subset of the intuition. Other intuitive packets come to us from other parts of the brain and some may not be directly traceable to our experiences in this life.

These ideas flash into our mind and usually flash right out again unless we have a strong and abiding mental intention to pay attention to and remember their content. Without such conscious intention, we probably won’t even notice these fleeting intuitions. They are a subtle guidance system that does not speak loudly in our mind.

By contrast, the ego voices that dominate most of our mind at most times are loud, strident and salient. These ego voices are the thoughts, inner dialog, and feelings that are linked to our base motivations. We are pulled around by our negative fears and anger reactions to events around us that we are attached to because we feel our livelihoods and social standing are at stake and at any moment something can be taken away from us. The ego is stressed out due to Acceleritis (Information Overload) on top of and thus exacerbating its own predisposition to worry. As a result of this inner competition for attention and the fact that most of our attention is at nearly all times cast outwards not inwards causes us to not even catch these intuitions in the first place.

If we do catch the event it is generally not heeded because of the jumble of subsequent louder thoughts giving us impulses to verbally fight, complain, argue, dismiss, or otherwise rain on whatever it was that somebody just said that may have triggered the intuition.

This is a testable hypothesis — you can experiment with the following to see whether it is the good advice I think it is, or not:

Start a program of paying attention to your own hunches and look for them to arise. When they do, put off the other business that seems so important to the ego and commonplace mind, and focus on what your intuition just told you. Make sure you remember the content by either writing it down or forming a keyword or key phrase or key image that will serve as a retrieval mechanism to bring back the whole content of the idea.

Then at an appropriate time in the proceedings taking place around you, if any, tentatively see if the application of that intuitive idea seems to contribute anything to the situation or not. Do this instead of — or at least before — offering any of the subsequent jumble of thoughts that came after the intuition to the company around you.

This is the reverse of the commonplace mind’s procedure, which is to speed past the intuitive event and come up with some other strategy for dealing with the present situation. Or even if we retain memory of the hunch our tendency is to edit and “improve” upon it, which often has the opposite effect. Stick with the way it appeared in the beginning — based on my experience, the odds favor this being the successful course of action.

On the other hand, you might see what the intuition is and realize that although triggered by the current situation, it really applies to another situation. You would then wait to tentatively apply the hunch until you are in the situation to which it refers. In this case also resist the tendency to edit that first flash — though using diplomatic language is always a good idea so long as you do not distort the original idea.

Sometimes the intuition gives us not the right answer but an answer that is wrong but which will lead to the right answer, one that might not be reached other than through this wrong answer. Socrates appeared to know this — he flowed with his intuitions yet by phrasing the ideas as questions he protected himself against error.

More on the complexity of intuition and its optimization in upcoming posts.

Happy Independence Day to all!


Follow my regular blog contribution at Jack Myers Media Network: In Terms of ROI. It is in the free section of the website at  Bill Harvey at MediaBizBloggers.com.

The Acceleritis™ Theory

My studies have led to this theory I’d like to share with you. Like all theories it sprang into being to answer some question. In this case the question was, “How is it that the human race has managed to bungle things to quite this degree?”

In short, my theory is that it’s Acceleritis™ — a pandemic shock reaction to information overload.

For years we media researchers have been estimating how many ads a person sees in a given day. Ed Papazian did it and so did I. Not hard, given that monitoring and rating services provide benchmarks for making macro estimates.

I added the notion of estimating the other events impinging on consciousness in everyman’s and everywoman’s typical day. There I used a reducing rule (for ads too), that to qualify as experiential, the event would have to be consciously noticed by consciousness. This can be measured by EEG P300 waves — the brain signature for noticing that some sensory information differs from expectation. The challenging ethnographic research is yet to be done (and can never measure the past), but some preliminary estimates have been made.

Imagine being a shepherd a mere 400 years ago. The P300 waves you would normally get in a day would be centered around human interactions, and even those would tend to be predictable, and so you could go through quite a few human interactions with familiar people without any P300 waves. Sometimes animal life, the weather, plant life, the stars and moon would do unpredictable things, though less often than people are unpredictable. Rarely, there would be something truly extraordinary like a plague or an invasion that would give you a huge spike in P300 waves.

Making assumptions such as these we began to cautiously construct the graph below. The numbers are undoubtedly wrong but are probably directionally right.

With the vertical scale having to deal in large numbers because of the recent past, the small numbers of daily P300s is so low that it’s hard to see a line until after the printing press. As the population makes a startling shift to big cities in the first half of the 20th Century, and as cinema, radio, newspapers, magazines, and outdoor signs proliferate, the rate goes up to est. 3000 noticed events per day by 1950. Something like 500 of these being ads. Another 1500 or so being evoked by media program/editorial portions — mostly radio and print at that time.

From 1950-1990 TV, with its dominance of nonworking awake time, brings the pressure up to est. 15,000. From 1990-2010 the ubiquitous Internet and Mobile, plus the cultural shift to multitasking, raises it to an est. 40,000.

This is 1000X higher than when we started “texting” only 6000 years ago. Prior to text (written language) our oral-only language was a powerful communication tool, allowing us to cooperate in the hunt to become initially successful as a warrior race (at war initially with predators), and to cooperate in tool development. Written language then moved language into the visual sense, which happens to be the dominant sense of all primates including the apes and us. This effectively kicked off Acceleritis.

In the last 6000 years — a mere 300 generations — we have been inventing things at an accelerated rate, and these things now change society more than once a year — sometimes it feels like once a day, and it seems to be headed there.

This is why I consider psychotechnology, which prepares people with techniques to stay focused through complexity, to be so important.

All the best, Bill

Estimates of Noticed Events