Intuition in Professional and Practice-Based Learning

  • Eugene Sadler-SmithEmail author
Part of the Springer International Handbooks of Education book series (SIHE)


Intuition is important across multiple domains of professional practice and warrants greater attention from researchers who are concerned with learning processes in professional and practice-based settings. Recent developments in the brain and behavioural sciences offer compelling conceptual and theoretical bases upon which models of intuitive ways of knowing may be integrated into the study of formal and informal learning processes. The study of intuition has the potential to offer new insights into how professional and practice-based learning is achieved and how it may be leveraged more effectively in workplace settings. The focus of this chapter is the business management occupational domain but much of what is discussed applies also to other domains of practice. The chapter: reviews the history of intuition research and its relevance for the practice of business and management; defines and theorizes intuition in terms of recent advances in the study of cognition from a dual-processing perspective; and examines the particular relevance of intuition for professional and practice-based learning in terms of ‘intuition-as-expertise’, relationships between insight and intuition, and individual differences in intuition as dimension of cognitive style. The chapter concludes by considering some of the methodological challenges for intuition research and the practical implications for professional and practice-based learning.


Expertise Intuition Learning 


  1. Agor, W. H. (1986). The logic of intuition: How top executives make important decisions. Organizational Dynamics, 14(3), 5–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Agor, W. H. (1989). Intuition in organizations: Leading and managing productively. Newbury Park: Sage.Google Scholar
  3. Akinci, C., & Sadler-Smith, E. (2011). Intuition in management: A historical review. International Journal of Management Reviews, 14(1), 104–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Allinson, C. W., & Hayes, J. (1996). The Cognitive Style Index: A measure of intuition-analysis for organizational research. Journal of Management Studies, 33(1), 119–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Armstrong, S. J., Cools, E., & Sadler-Smith, E. (2012). Role of cognitive styles in business and management: Reviewing 40 years of research. International Journal of Management Reviews, 14(3), 238–262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Atkinson, T., & Claxton, G. (2000). The intuitive practitioner. Buckingham: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Barnard, I. C. (1938/1968). The functions of the executive. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Baron, R. A., & Ward, T. B. (2004). Expanding entrepreneurial cognition’s toolbox: Potential contributions from the field of cognitive science. Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice, 28, 553–573.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bechara, A., & Damasio, A. R. (2005). The somatic marker: A neural theory of economic decision. Games and Economic Behavior, 52, 336–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bechara, A., Damasio, H., Tranel, D., & Damasio, A. R. (1997). Deciding advantageously before knowing the advantageous strategy. Science, 275, 1293–1295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Benner, P., Tanner, C., & Chesla, C. (2009). Expertise in nursing practice: Caring, clinical judgment, and ethics. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  12. Betsch, C. (2004). Preference for Intuition and Deliberation (PID): An inventory for assessing affect- and cognition-based decision-making. Zeitschrift für Differentielle und Diagnostiche Psychologie, 25, 179–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Betsch, C. (2008). Chronic preferences for intuition and deliberation in decision making: Lessons learned about intuition from an individual differences approach. In H. Plessner, C. Betsch, & T. Betsch (Eds.), Intuition in judgment and decision making (pp. 231–248). New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  14. Blackman, D., & Sadler-Smith, E. (2009). The silent and the silenced in organizational knowing and learning. Management Learning, 40(5), 569–585.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Bonabeau, E. (2003). Don’t trust your gut. Harvard Business Review, 81(5), 116–123, 130.Google Scholar
  16. Coffield, F., Moseley, D., Hall, E., & Ecclestone, K. (2004). Learning styles and pedagogy in post-16 learning: A systematic and critical review. London: Learning and Skills Research Centre.Google Scholar
  17. Crossan, M. M., Lane, H. W., & White, R. E. (1999). An organizational learning framework: From intuition to institution. Academy of Management Review, 24(3), 522–537.Google Scholar
  18. Dane, E., & Pratt, M. G. (2007). Exploring intuition and its role in managerial decision making. Academy of Management Review, 32(1), 33–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dane, E., & Pratt, M. G. (2009). Conceptualizing and measuring intuition: A review of recent trends. In G. P. Hodgkinson & J. K. Ford (Eds.), International review of industrial and organizational psychology (Vol. 24, pp. 1–40). Chichester: Wiley.Google Scholar
  20. Dijksterhuis, A. (2004). Think different: The merits of unconscious thought in preference development and decision making. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87, 586–598.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dimov, D. (2007). Beyond the single-person, single-insight attribution in understanding entrepreneurial opportunities. Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice, 31, 713–731.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Dorfman, J., Shames, V. A., & Kihlstrom, J. F. (1996). Intuition, incubation and insight: Implicit cognition and problem solving. In G. Underwood (Ed.), Implicit cognition (pp. 257–296). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Dunn, B. D., Dalgleish, T., & Lawrence, A. D. (2006). The somatic marker hypothesis: A critical evaluation. Neuroscience and Biobehavioural Reviews, 30, 239–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Epstein, S. (1994). Integration of the cognitive and the psychodynamic unconscious. American Psychologist, 49, 709–724.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Epstein, S. (2008). Intuition from the perspective of cognitive-experiential self-theory. In H. Plessner, C. Betsch, & T. Betsch (Eds.), Intuition in judgement and decision making. New York: Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.Google Scholar
  26. Epstein, S., Pacini, R., Denes-Raj, V., & Heier, H. (1996). Individual differences in intuitive-experiential and analytical-rational thinking styles. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71(2), 390–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Eraut, M. (2000). Non-formal learning and tacit knowledge in professional work. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 70, 113–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Evans, J. St. B. T. (2003). In two minds: Dual-process accounts of reasoning. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 7(10), 454–459.Google Scholar
  29. Evans, J. St. B. T. (2008). Dual-processing accounts of reasoning, judgment, and social cognition. Annual Review of Psychology, 59, 6.1–6.24.Google Scholar
  30. Feist, G. (1999). The influence of personality on artistic and scientific creativity. In R. J. Sternberg (Ed.), Handbook of creativity (pp. 273–296). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Feldman, D. (1985). Beyond universals in cognitive development. Norwood: Ablex.Google Scholar
  32. Finkel, N. J., & Sabat, S. R. (1984). Split brain madness: An insanity defense waiting to happen. Law and Human Behavior, 8(3/4), 225–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Flavell, J. (1979). Metacognition and metacognitive monitoring. American Psychologist, 45, 906–911.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Gertler, M. S. (2003). Tacit knowledge and the economic geography of context, or the undefinable tacitness of being (there). Journal of Economic Geography, 3, 75–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Gilovich, T., Griffin, D., & Kahneman, D. (Eds.). (2002). Heuristics and biases: The psychology of intuitive judgment. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Gladwell, M. (2005). Blink. London: Allen Lane.Google Scholar
  37. Goswami, U. (2006). Neuroscience and education: From research to practice. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 7(5), 406–411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Harteis, C., & Gruber, H. (2007). Intuition and professional competence: Intuitive versus rational forecasting of the stock market. Vocations and Learning, 1, 71–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Harteis, C., & Gruber, H. (2008). Intuition and professional competence: Intuitive versus rational forecasting of the stock market. Vocations and Learning, 1(1), 71–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Hélie, S., & Sun, R. (2010). Incubation, insight and creative problem solving: A unified theory and connectionist model. Psychological Review, 117(3), 994–1024.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Hines, T. (1987). Left brain/right brain mythology and implications for management and training. Academy of Management Review, 12(4), 600–606.Google Scholar
  42. Hodgkinson, G. P., & Clarke, I. (2007). Exploring the cognitive significance of organizational strategizing: A dual-process framework and research agenda. Human Relations, 60(1), 243–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Hodgkinson, G. P., & Sadler-Smith, E. (2003). Complex or unitary? A critique and empirical re-assessment of the Allinson-Hayes Cognitive Style Index. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 76, 243–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Hodgkinson, G. P., & Sadler-Smith, E. (2011). Investigating intuition: Beyond self-report. In M. Sinclair (Ed.), Handbook of intuition research (pp. 52–66). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  45. Hodgkinson, G. P., Langan-Fox, J., & Sadler-Smith, E. (2008). Intuition: A fundamental bridging construct in the behavioural sciences. British Journal of Psychology, 99, 1–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Hodgkinson, G. P., Sadler-Smith, E., Burke, L. A., Claxton, G., & Sparrow, P. (2009a). Intuition in organizations: Some implications for strategic management. Long Range Planning, 42, 277–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Hodgkinson, G. P., Sadler-Smith, E., Sinclair, M., & Ashkanasy, N. (2009b). More than meets the eye? Intuition and analysis revisited. Personality and Individual Differences, 47, 342–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Hogarth, R. M. (2001). Educating intuition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  49. Hogarth, R. M. (2010). Intuition: A challenge for psychological research on decision making. Psychological Inquiry, 21(4), 338–353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Isenberg, D. J. (1984). How senior managers think. Harvard Business Review, 62(6), 81–90.Google Scholar
  51. Jung, C. G. (1928/1998). Psychological types. In C. L. Cooper & L. A. Pervin (Eds.), Personality: Critical concepts (pp. 28–39). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  52. Jung-Beeman, M., Bowden, E. M., Haberman, J., Frymiare, J., Arambel-Lui, S., Greenblat, R., Reber, P. J., & Kounios, J. (2004). Neural activity when people solve problems with insight. Public Library of Science (Biology), 2(4), 0500–0510.Google Scholar
  53. Kahneman, D., & Klein, G. (2009). Conditions for intuitive expertise: A failure to disagree. The American Psychologist, 64(6), 515–526.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  55. Kirzner, I. (2009). The alert and creative entrepreneur: A clarification. Small Business Economics, 32, 145–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Klein, G. (2003). Intuition at work. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  57. Klingler, S. A. (2004). Intuition and beyond. London: Rider.Google Scholar
  58. Koriat, A. (1994). How do we know that we know? The accessibility model of the feeling of knowing. Psychological Review, 100(4), 609–639.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Kozhevnikov, M. (2007). Cognitive styles in the context of modern psychology: Toward an integrated framework. Psychological Bulletin, 133(3), 464–481.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Lieberman, M. D. (2007). Social cognitive neuroscience: A review of core processes. Annual Review of Psychology, 58, 259–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Lieberman, M. D., Jarcho, J. M., & Satpute, A. B. (2004). Evidence-based and intuition-based self-knowledge: An fMRI study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87, 421–435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Louis, M. R., & Sutton, R. I. (1991). Switching cognitive gears: From habits of mind to active thinking. Human Relations, 44(1), 55–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Mednick, S. A. (1962). The associative basis of the creative process. Psychological Review, 69, 220–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Mintzberg, H. (1976). Planning on the left side and managing on the right. Harvard Business Review, 54(4), 49–58.Google Scholar
  65. Myers, D. (2004). Intuition: Its powers and perils. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  66. Parikh, J., Neubauer, F., & Lank, A. G. (1994). Intuition: The new frontier of management. London: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  67. Patel, V. L., Arocha, J. F., & Kaufman, D. R. (1999). Expertise and tacit knowledge in medicine. In R. J. Sternberg & J. A. Horvath (Eds.), Tacit knowledge in professional practice: Researcher and practitioner perspectives (pp. 75–100). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  68. Pink, D. (2005). A whole new mind: Why right-brainers will rule the future. London: Marshall Cavendish International.Google Scholar
  69. Polanyi, M. (1964). The study of man. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  70. Polanyi, M. (1966). The tacit dimension. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  71. Policastro, E. (1995). Creative intuition: An integrative review. Creativity Research Journal, 8(2), 99–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Rowan, R. (1989). What it is. In W. H. Agor (Ed.), Intuition in organizations: Leading and managing productively (pp. 78–88). Newbury Park: Sage.Google Scholar
  73. Sadler-Smith, E. (2002, August). The role of cognitive style in management education. Academy of Management Conference, Denver (Best Paper Proceedings).Google Scholar
  74. Sadler-Smith, E. (2008). Inside intuition. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  75. Sadler-Smith, E. (2010). The intuitive mind. Chichester: Wiley.Google Scholar
  76. Sadler-Smith, E. (2011). The intuitive style: Relationships with local/global and visual/verbal styles, gender, and superstitious reasoning. Learning and Individual Differences, 21, 263–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Sadler-Smith, E., & Shefy, E. (2004). The intuitive executive: Understanding and applying “gut feel” in decision-making. The Academy of Management Executive, 18(4), 76–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Sadler-Smith, E., & Shefy, E. (2007). Developing intuitive awareness in management education. Academy of Management Learning and Education, 6(2), 186–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Sadler-Smith, E., & Sparrow, P. R. (2007). Intuition in organizational decision-making. In G. P. Hodgkinson & W. H. Starbuck (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of organizational decision-making (pp. 305–324). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  80. Sadler-Smith, E., & Burke, L. A. (2009). Fostering intuition in management education activities and resources. Journal of Management Education, 33(2), 239–262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Schön, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  82. Segalowitz, S. J. (2007). Knowing before we know: Conscious versus preconscious top-down processing and a neuroscience of intuition. Brain and Cognition, 65, 143–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Seifert, C. M., Meyer, D. E., Davidson, N., Patalano, A. L., & Yaniv, I. (1995). Demystification of cognitive insight: Opportunistic assimilation and the prepared-mind perspective. In R. J. Sternberg & J. E. Davidson (Eds.), The nature of insight (pp. 65–124). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  84. Shirley, D., & Langan-Fox, J. (1996). Intuition: A review of the literature. Psychological Reports, 79(2), 563–584.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Simon, H. A. (1987). Making management decisions: The role of intuition and emotion. Academy of Management Executive, 1(1), 57–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Simonton, D. K. (1980). Intuition and analysis: A predictive and explanatory model. Genetic Psychology Monographs, 102, 3–60.Google Scholar
  87. Sinclair, M., & Ashkanasy, N. M. (2005). Intuition: Myth or a decision-making tool? Management Learning, 36(3), 353–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Sloman, S. A. (1996). The empirical case for two systems of reasoning. Psychological Bulletin, 119(1), 3–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Smith, E. R., & DeCoster, J. (2000). Dual process models in social and cognitive psychology: Conceptual integration and links to underlying memory systems. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 4, 108–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Sparrow, P. R. (1999). Strategy and cognition: Understanding the role of management knowledge structures, organizational memory and information overload. Creativity and Innovation Management, 8(2), 140–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Stanovich, K. E., & West, R. F. (2000). Individual differences in reasoning: Implications for the rationality debate. Behavioural and Brain Sciences, 23, 645–726.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Sternberg, R. J., & Davidson, J. E. (1995). The nature of insight. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  93. Sundgren, M., & Styhre, A. (2004). Intuition and pharmaceutical research: The case of AstraZeneca. European Journal of Innovation Management, 7(4), 267–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Suzuki, S. (2010). Zen mind, beginner’s mind. Boston: Shambhala Publications.Google Scholar
  95. Taggart, W. (1997). Discovering and understanding intuition. Exceptional Human Experience: Studies of the Unitive, Spontaneous, Imaginal, 15, 174–188.Google Scholar
  96. Taggart, W., & Valenzi, E. (1990). Assessing rational and intuitive styles: A human information processing metaphor. Journal of Management Studies, 27, 149–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Vance, C., Groves, K., Paik, Y., & Kindler, H. (2007). Understanding and measuring linear-nonlinear thinking style for enhanced management education and professional practice. Academy of Management Learning and Education, 6, 167–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. Vaughan, F. E. (1979). Awakening intuition. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  99. Wallas, G. (1926). The art of thought. New York: Franklin Watts.Google Scholar
  100. Westcott, M. R. (1968). Toward a contemporary psychology of intuition: A historical, theoretical, and empirical inquiry. New York: Rinehart & Winston.Google Scholar
  101. Whetten, D., Cameron, K., & Woods, M. (2000). Developing management skills for Europe. Harlow: Pearson Education.Google Scholar
  102. Zhang, L. F., & Sternberg, R. J. (2005). A threefold model of intellectual styles. Educational Psychology Review, 17(1), 1–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Surrey Business SchoolUniversity of SurreySurreyUK

Personalised recommendations