Friday, July 27, 2012

The 3 Paths of Intuition

The 3 Paths of Intuition

by David R. Hamilton PhD

July 20, 2012


I think I've been really quite intuitive lately - from making the right choices to even guessing (to the second) when the oven timer was going to beep - so I decided to share what I knew about intuition, how it works, even why we have it.

There seems to be different types of intuition, or at least 3 different mechanisms regarding how it works. Here's the 3 that I'm aware of:

1) Spotting Visual and Auditory Cues

On a really obvious level, most people would agree that we tend to be more intuitive when we are in a good mood. Psychology professor, Barbara Fredrickson's 'Broaden and Build' theory suggests that positive emotion increases creativity and that it also makes us more alert to opportunities that present themselves.

In this creative, alert state we pick up more of the visual cues around us. If you have a goal, and you are creatively alert in this way, you are more likely to spot signs and pick up snippets of conversations that can help you in the pursuit of your goal.

2) Mirror Neurons

The second route of intuition is present when we are in someone's company. The human brain is highly adept at reading emotions. It's also highly adept at telling when someone isn't being truthful. This is facilitated by an interconnected network of cells in the brain known as mirror neurons.

When a person shows emotion it is written all over their face, as they say. Happiness can be recognised as smiling, anger or sadness with a frown. These displays of emotion move particular muscles. Happiness flexes the zygomaticus major muscle (it pulls your lips into a smile) and the orbicularis oculi muscle (at the sides of the eyes), while anger flexes the corrugator supercilli (between your eyebrows). This is where mirror neurons come in.

The MNS (mirror neuron system) mirrors the muscle movements we see in others. Being with a happy person is a sure fire way to get stimulation of your happy muscles. So how does this relate to intuition? Well, if a person is pretending they are happy but actually they're sad inside, your mirror neuron system will mirror not only their (pretend) smiles but also the subtle facial muscle movements that reflect how they really feel.

When a person says an untruth, flashes of emotion appear on their face but they might only last for a few milliseconds, too fast for the human eye to detect. But not too fast for your MNS though! It mirrors the expression and feeds back into the emotional circuits in your brain, causing you to gain a subtle (intuitive) feeling of how they are feeling. When you sense someone is sad, even though they are acting happy, you might be getting an accurate picture of how they really feel.

Some people are very sensitive in this way and others are less so, which isn't surprising as we all have innate differences in skills.

Lie detector tests work on the same premise. When a person says an untruth their nervous system shows subtle levels of stress. This can be detected using devices that measure skin conductance, which changes with micro amounts of sweating.

3) Entangled Minds

The third route of intuition is the one that might invite a little scepticism from people but I'd suggest that it is a very real mechanism, perhaps predominantly masked by the other two.

A body of scientific evidence suggests that we are connected through some levels of our minds. One of my favourite pieces was where researchers at Bastyr University in Seattle worked with 'emotionally bonded couples' - couples who shared a strong emotional bond.

One was placed inside an MRI scanner while the other was in a separate room. When the one in the room was startled with a visual stimulus, the MRI picked up a 'flash' in the visual cortex of the partner in the scanner. Similar experiments with EEG have suggested that the 'interconnectedness' is stronger between people who share a strong emotional bond, which correlates with a lot of people's personal experience. Many people feel connected to loved ones no matter how far apart they are, and would agree that they get a sense when something in wrong.

This kind of thing is even apparent with some animals. In his compelling book, 'Dogs that Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home', Rupert Sheldrake describes experiments where he had sent a text to a dog owner and asked her or him to now make a decision to leave the office and head home. At the instant they made their decision, a video camera set up in the home showed their dog becoming excited and moving to the window.

This kind of evidence suggests that there is some form of communication that takes place from mind-to-mind. As well as emotional connection being a factor, it's likely that the effect is more pronounced under some conditions than others and also that some people are naturally more 'in tune', so to speak, than others.

Intuition, regardless of what path, is likely wired in us. It would have undoubtedly served an evolutionary advantage to our ancestors if they had a hunch that danger was near. Acting on that hunch would save their lives and thus increase the likelihood that they would pass their genes onto the next generation. In this way, nature would 'select' genes that are linked with intuition.

So maybe the lesson in this is that it might be a good idea to trust our hunches, but maybe only if we're in a good mood. And of course, we also need to be a little discerning. I guess it's all about balance.


For research on how positive emotion makes us more creative, see Barbara Fredrickson, 'Positivity' (Crown Archetype, 2009)

For mirror neuron research and a discussion of how emotions are contagious, see David R Hamilton PhD, 'The Contagious Power of Thinking' (Hay House, 2011)

For research into interconnectedness of consciousness, see Dean Radin, 'Entangled Minds' (Paraview Pocket Books, 2006)

Rupert Sheldrake, 'Dogs that Know When Their Owners are Coming Home' (Arrow, 2000)


How To Switch On a Light With Your Mind


Can you imagine being able to switch on a light with your mind? Or adjust the volume on the TV by just thinking about it? Or even drive your car by imagining yourself driving? These things sound like they're straight out of a Sci-Fi movie, but in reality we're not actually that far from it.

It is well known that brainwaves change depending upon what we're thinking about and that brain areas are specifically activated when we focus our minds on different parts of our bodies. This means that if a person imagines moving a finger then we get activation in the finger area of the brain, but if they imagine moving a toe then there's activation in the toe area instead.

What if scientists could record the brain activation and channel the activation signals into a computer. And what if the computer was programmed to link each different signal to different things around the household, like lights, TV's, and other appliances? A finger command could turn on the light, a toe command could adjust the TV volume. A 'nose' command might even boil the kettle.

The reality is that we're almost there with the technology. In pioneering research published in the scientific journal, 'Nature', in 2006 a tetraplegic person had a tiny chip inserted in his brain (known as a BCI - Brain-Computer Interface) that recorded activation of specific brain areas associated with simple imagined movements. He was able to move a cursor on a computer screen and even open an e-mail with his mind.

And not only that, he played a computer game, controlled a robotic arm, and adjusted not only the volume of the TV but changed the channel as well, all by thought.

I have personally played a 'heart' game created by the Institute of Heartmath that uses heart rhythms to move computer images. After some practice, I was able to adjust the height of a hot air balloon on a computer screen by altering my heart rhythms through relaxed breathing.

Using a BCI, Researchers from Graz University in Austria even helped a paralysed person control a character in a virtual reality simulator by thought alone. The research paper they published was called, 'Walking from Thought' as the person could make the character walk down a street simply by imagining himself walking. The next logical step in the research is to create prosthetic devices that move just as arms and legs do - according to intentions.

And more recently this kind of brain technology is being experimentally adapted to see if it can give the scientist Stephen Hawking the ability to communicate. He has been suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease (motor neurone disease) and has greatly outlived the predictions of doctors who, when he was diagnosed at 21 years of age, predicted he would only live a few years. He celebrated his 70th birthday in January of this year.

Up until now he has been able to create vocal commands on a computer by making tiny, controlled twitches of a muscle in his cheek. But he is now losing the use of that muscle and with it the ability to communicate.

Professor Hawking has been working with neuroscientist Philip Low, CEO of NeuroVigil, based in San Diego, who is adapting a piece of technology called 'iBrain' (a BCI device) to record brain waves that are associated with some of Prof Hawking's thoughts. The data can then be fed into a voice synthesizer to recreate the words. If it works out it will be a massive breakthrough.

So perhaps it might not be so long before we're able to do a lot of things around the house and at work just by thinking about them. Imagine being able to activate cleaning programs in your house just by thinking about cleaning (oh, the joy), and selecting musical tracks to play just by singing a few notes in your head, or even selecting a movie to watch by just recalling a single scene.

I'm so excited..getting a bit ahead of myself.


For the research where the person opened an e-mail with his mind, see: L. R. Hochberg, et al, 'Neuronal ensemble control of prosthetic devices by a human with tetraplegia', Nature, 2006, 442, 164-171

For the 'Walking from Thought' research, see: G. Pfurtscheller, et al, 'Walking from thought', Brain Research, 2006, 1071(1), 145-152.

For more information on BCI's, see chapter 6 of David R. Hamilton PhD, 'How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body', (Hay House, 2008)

For more info on how different brain areas are activated depending on where we put our attention, see chapter 6 of David R. Hamilton PhD, 'How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body', (Hay House, 2008) *

David R. Hamilton PhD

David Hamilton gained a first class honours degree in chemistry, with a specialisation in biological and medicinal chemistry, and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry. After completing his PhD, David worked for 4 years in the pharmaceutical industry developing drugs for cardiovascular disease and cancer. After four years he left and has since worked as a motivational speaker, co-founded an international relief charity and co-organised a 9-day, 24-event festival of peace called Spirit Aid.

While writing his first book, David taught chemistry and ecology at James Watt College of Further and Higher Education and tutored chemistry at Glasgow University. Now a bestselling author of 6 books published by Hay House, he offers talks and workshops that fuse science, the mind, and spiritual wisdom. He spends most of his time writing, giving talks and leading workshops on the topics of his writing. He lives in Windsor. Website: * Contact Email: *