We chose intuition as our way of knowing, and interestingly enough it was a unanimous decision in our group. I’m really excited to work with intuition because it relates to the workings of the unconscious mind and the decisions one makes without truly rationalizing. I’m interested to learn whether there are situations in which that gut feeling, or intuition, is far from the truth. Unlike other ways of knowing, intuition is more abstract, because it plays on a plethora of unconscious biases to make instantaneous decisions. The TOK subject guide states that intuition is immediate cognition, or knowledge that is evident without prior inference, evidence, or justification. One of the concepts that interests me the most is how intuition applies to the AOK ethics. For instance, to what extent does intuition provide an inherent sense of right and wrong? We as humans seem to possess a moral compass, and intuition seems to factor into that, because people have inherent understanding, for instance, that murder is wrong. I believe intuition is present everywhere in our daily lives, so it will be great to explore its value as a way of knowing.
Essential question explored in elective reading/video: Should you trust your intuition? "Understanding the :Unconscious Mind," by the Royal Society
I learned that unconscious bias is based on background, culture, and experiences, but that its often wrong even though we may inherently believe it to be correct. For instance, if a ball and bat cost $1.10 and the bat is $1 more expense than the ball, many people intuitively think that that the ball must cost 10 cents, because they attribute the $1 to the bat. However, upon greater reflection and the use of reasoning, people will notice that the ball must be 5 cents, because that bat ($1.05) must be an entire dollar more expensive. Thus, it is evident that when it comes to mathematical scenarios, it’s always best to back intuition with deeper analysis through reasoning in order to check results.
I further learned that unconscious bias is always present when meeting new people, and we intuitively place these people in either an in-group (similar to us) or out-group (different and incompatible). Essentially, bias interplays with intuition to include or exclude people from friend groups with very little information into their actual personality. Thus, the quick nature of intuitive thinking and the presence of unconscious bias makes intuition remarkably unreliable when employed without the pursuit of further thought and examination.
In studying intuition, I was very surprised to learn how unreliable it can be as a way of knowing, mainly because there are so many unconscious biases that play an immense role in shaping that intuition; I learned that gut feelings must always be confirmed by other WOKs, because oftentimes initial observations or claims are not entirely true.
However, through my second elective reading (Gladwell's novel "Blink") I explored the other side of the coin: in certain cases intuition may end up being true, despite evidence that suggests otherwise. I explored the essential question "Is intuition reliable as way of knowing? While I've learned through my own exploration that intuition is often faulty, Gladwell provides a perfect example to show that intuition can be just as good as weeks of investigation in certain situations. He discusses a statue that looked intuitively wrong; there was just something about it that makes it look fake. Chemical analysis pointed to the stature coming from the ancient Greeks, but after further research, the statue was indeed found to be fake and thus not as valuable. Since intuition comes immediately, knowers use it as a reference point.
Through the two elective readings, I explored the cognitive biases the skew intuition, as well as situations in which intuition provides significant insights. Thus, intuition is important to guide knowers toward understanding and truth, but it must always be backed by other WOKs such as reason and sense perception for knowers to gain truth.
In my badge project quiz, there was an image in which an overweight man was looking at himself in the mirror and saw himself with abs, as a fit person. This was the only question I got wrong, because but upon reflection, I realize that cognitive bias is a more appropriate label because it’s something that’s inherent to the way a person thinks, and strongly works to obscure truth through intuition.
Badge Project- TOK Paragraph Writing
Intuition as a way of knowing should not be relied upon when bias becomes visible. A great example of biased intuition in my life came from the NBA Finals (basketball) in the summer of 2016. I support the Cleveland Cavaliers, and they were down 3-1 in a best-of-seven series for the championship. I had no reason to believe that they would win, but intuition somehow told me that they were going to pull off the victory against all odds, even after I saw that analysts gave them an 8% to win it all. Since they did end up victorious (4-3, winning the last three games), I find myself using hindsight bias heavily; I claim that I knew the Cavaliers were going to win primarily because it actually happened; had they lost the series, I would feel much weaker about my intuition. Hence, in instances of hindsight bias, intuition can be disregarded as a reliable way of knowing; a knower should instead turn to other pillars of knowledge such as reasoning and sense perception to guide them toward truth.
Intuition as a way of knowing should not be relied upon when bias is employed heavily. For instance, this school year I ran cross-country in the fall and currently do track; every Friday before a meet on Saturday, I always eat tuna. I intuitively know this this food makes me prepared for races, because it’s the gut feeling I get when I’m eating. However, my intuition is strongly colored by familiarity bias, which results from believing something just because its already familiar. Thus, while my intuition points toward eating tuna, this decision is strongly colored by bias, as tuna fish is a food I’ve known very well in the past, and there might be many other foods that translate to equally good results for races. Another great example of intuition in my life came in the NBA Finals (basketball) in the summer of 2016. I support the Cleveland Cavaliers, and they were down 3-1 in a best-of-seven series for the championship. I had no reason to believe that they would win, but intuition somehow told me that they were going to pull off the victory against all odds, even after I saw that analysts gave them an 8% to win it all. Since they did end up victorious (4-3, winning the last three games), I find myself using hindsight bias heavily; I claim that I knew the Cavaliers were going to win primarily because it actually happened; had they lost the series, I would feel much weaker about my intuition. Hence, in instances of hindsight bias, intuition can be disregarded as a reliable way of knowing. Through these two examples, it’s evident that unconscious biases play a very large role in shaping and limiting intuition; as soon as these biases are brought to light, a knower should disregard intuition as a way of knowing and turn to other pillars of knowledge such as reasoning and sense perception to guide them toward truth.
Learning the TOK Writing Process
Knowledge question: How does language obscure truth?
Language plays a large role in obscuring truth due to the the presence of bias. For instance, during the Boston Massacre, the British troops stationed at King’s Street fired at a surrounding crowd and ultimately killed 5 Americans. Many British views referred to the Americans as “scoundrels,” even though in reality it was the British who initiated the violence; this word has a strong negative connotation due to its defined denotation, and it hence invokes ideas of incompetence and inferiority. This suggests that the Americans were being extremely inappropriate and that the British fired as a last resort, which was not the case. Evidently, emotion works to color and shape language in real-life instances such as the Boston Massacre, and the bias that transpires in language obscures the truth by exaggerating certain elements of a situation.
On the other hand, it is also very difficult to remove this bias from sources due to the inherent ambiguity of language. For instance, in my account of the Boston Massacre, I said that the British soldiers “panicked” in order to abstain from stronger words such as “became enraged” and “fired bullets.” However, in this example, the word “panic” comprises different connotations which vary by knower: it can be viewed as an involuntary occurrence which happened by mistake, or can also be viewed as peer pressure and taunting which forced the British to shoot in defense. This shows that different people might get completely different impressions based solely on their connotation of a word, which comes from their own knowledge and experiences. Thus I learned that language is very paradoxical because even though it’s a main avenue to understanding and attaining knowledge, it also plays an immense role in obscuring certain elements from a situation’s reality.
Through this writing exercise, I learned that its important to base paragraphs on knowledge claim, and with Mr. Morrison's help, I understood that only one good example and analysis are truly necessary to make a point and back up the knowledge claim. Formulating TOK writing is a process, and it's important to make a clear TOK claim and incorporate a RLS to provide insight.
Extension Proposal: How is reasoning more reliable than intuition?
This essential question would be very relevant, because reason and intuition appear to work as opposites. Intuition is attributed to fast, intuitive thinking or "feeling," whereas reason is slow and mentally processed. This question allows knowers to explore the ways in ways reason is used to analyze and prove/disprove intuition in a plethora of real-life situations. For instance, in Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink, he discusses that an ancient Greek statue that simply "didn't look right." This flash of intuition was then carefully analyzed, and by connecting the dots through reason, it was eventually found to be inauthentic. Hopefully, through this EQ knowers will learn the importance of using WOKS in conjunction, because intuition in and of itself saves time at the expense of accuracy, which is why integrating reason is extremely advantageous.
Three EQs explored:
Should you trust your intuition?
When is it best to disregard your intuition as a way of knowing?
To what extent does intuition provide an inherent sense of right and wrong?