The perception, experience and application of intuition in self-regulated decision making
Van Aardt, Rónalie
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Intuition is perceived from the Cognitive Experiential Self-Theory (Epstein 2000) as a self-regulatory skill because both analytic and intuitive processing capabilities are served by cogmtive systems that permit individuals to switch back and forth strategically from one approach to the other, as required. However, it is not clear to what extent intuition is applied and experienced as such in day to day decision making. The aim of this study was therefore to explore the role of intuition in self-regulated decision making, as subjectively perceived, experienced and applied from the decision makers' perspective. The first objective was to explore mindfulness regarding intuition as a potential resource in decision making, through i) the perception of intuition; and ii) the subjective experience of intuition. The second objective was to explore the application of intuition in the self-regulated decision making stages of i) goal setting; ii) goal execution; iii) reflection; and iv) adjustment. A qualitative, exploratory survey research design with directed content analysis as method for data collection and data analysis was followed. An availability sample of 31 adult, undergraduate university students, ranging between 20 and 33 years of age from both gender groups, and able to express themselves in Afrikaans or English, took part in the study. A semi-structured questionnaire was compiled to obtain biographical information as well as data regarding the objectives. Mindfulness regarding intuitive decision making was explored using the attributes described by Langer (1997), namely openness to novelty, alertness to distinction, sensitivity to different contexts, awareness of multiple perspectives and orientation in the present, as guideline. The application of intuition was explored in terms of the extent and efficacy to which participants apply intuition in their decision making within each of four self-regulatory stages. Participants's responses were analysed according to the guidelines for directed content anlysis provided by Hsieh and Shannon (2005). Trastworfhiness was ensured by following guidelines suggested by Lincoln and Guba (1985), and ethical approval was obtained from the Ethics Committee of the North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus (06K20).Results indicate that participants appear to be mindful, or "aware of being aware" (Tart, 1990) of their functional level of intuitiveness, implying that they identify with, and are familiar to the content of the ongoing experience of intuition. This was specifically evident with regards to sensitivity to different contexts, awareness of multiple perspectives, orientation to the present and alertness to distinction, but less so regarding openness to novelty (Langer, 1997). Secondly, intuition is applied by participants as a resourceful strategy, especially in the first 3 self-regulatory phases. During goal planning, they use intuition as part of a "forethoughtful perspective" (Bandura, 2001, p. 6) to motivate themselves and guide their decision making in anticipation of future events. During goal execution, intuition seems to be applied both as a cognitive-attention deployment strategy (Mischel & Ayduk, 2004) and as a form of attention regulation (Luszczynska, Diehl, Gutierrez-Dona, Kuusinen, & Schwarzer, 2004) to manage new information and to sustain longer term life and career decisions. During the reflective phase intuition is often used as a metacognitive capability (Bandura, 2001) to reflect upon oneself and the adequacy of one's thoughts and actions. However, only a minority of participants apply intuition during the adjustment phase as a resource of adaptive flexibility (Brandstadter & Rothermund, 2002) in the effort to change unsuccesful decision making strategies. It was concluded that intuition is indeed perceived, experienced and applied as a valuable resource in self-regulated decision making by participants in this study. As the study has certain limitations, including the use of a relative homogenous sample, it should be regarded as exploratory and for the purpose of generating hypotheses. It is recommended that the main findings of this study be operationalised within a quantitative research design to determine, for example, the extent to which intuition, mindfulness and intuition application strategies predict effective decision making.
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