Some years ago I decided on my own definition and explanation of intuition. Want to know what I decided? Of course you do. Okay here it is: Unconscious pattern recognition.

I’ll start a new paragraph here while you contemplate the astonishing insight of my three-word formulation. I knew intuition had to be SOMETHING, otherwise there wouldn’t be a word for it. Of course there is a word ‘magic’ and I’m not sure there really is any such thing, but people make a living doing it, and some of those card tricks are really amazing, but my train of thought is wandering here. A wandering train is an interesting image. Anyway, I knew science would someday prove me right, intuition told me so, and now it has. People who can let go and trust their intuition often out-predict others when faced with a hard problem with multiple variables.

The brain is adept at using what’s in there in ways subtler and more complex than basic arithmetic. This might seem to argue against my repeated insistence that policy be based on facts and analysis. And to an extent it does. My counter argument would be that while the brain is capable of doing parallel unconscious processing of what is in there, the secret to better outcomes is making sure there’s a lot of accurate information in there to begin with.