Change Health

How Do We Know?

Written by Lissa Reidel

HOW OUR SENSES, KNOWLEDGE, AND INTUITION SHAPE OUR CHOICES

There is a mystery at the heart of every choice we make. We make decisions, react to circumstances, choose our direction based on the world as we perceive it. And how do we perceive our world?

Through our senses. Aristotle said we have five: sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste.

But is is true? What about pain, pleasure, balance, temperature, pressure, touch, joint position, body movement, hunger, and thirst? Modern science is pointing to these senses as well – and perhaps others we haven’t yet recognized.

The multisensory nature of perception combines to create a rich and unified experience. It is physical, mental, and sensual and depends on perception, knowledge and intution.

Perception is the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information in order to understand our environment. On a physical level, perception involves signals that go through the nervous system. These signals are the result of physical and chemical stimulation of our senses. Vision involves light striking the retina of the eye, smell is mediated by odor molecules, and hearing is dependent on pressure waves.

Perception is not only the passive receipt of these signals, but it’s also shaped by our knowledge, memories, expectations and attention. It is the basis  for our choices and reactions, both big and small.

Knowledge is our familiarity, awareness, and understanding of facts, information, descriptions, and skills. We have acquired this huge personal data bank through our education,discoveries and life experience.

Intuition is direct access to unconscious knowledge, inner sensing, inner insight or unconscious pattern-recognition. It is the ability to understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning,

IT IS ALWAYS WITH EXCITEMENT THAT I WAKE UP IN THE MORNING WONDERING WHAT MY INTUITION WILL TOSS UP TO ME, LIKE GIFTS FROM THE SEA. I WORK WITH IT AND RELY ON IT. IT’S MY PARTNER. JONAS SALK

Our rational society hasn’t always valued intution. Today, it is being recognized as the ability to know valid solutions to problems and decision making. Recognition-primed decision (RPD) is a model of how people make quick, effective decisions when faced with complex situations. In this model, the decision-maker chooses a possible course of action, compares it to the constraints imposed by the situation, and selects the first course of action that is not rejected. RPD is applied by ICU nurses, fire fighter commanders, chess players, and stock market traders. It functions well in conditions of time pressure, and in which information is partial and goals poorly defined. 

Our decision-making is an interplay of outside information and inner knowing. Within each of us is a network of communication between the conscious and subconscious, utilizing the active imagination, and listening to the body’s feedback. Being conscious of our process supports wise choices.

About the author

Lissa Reidel

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