How accurate is intuition?
Photo by Bret Kavanaugh

Intuition is a deep sense of knowing. It’s instantly knowing what to do without having a logical explanation. But how accurate is intuition?

Intuition and Heuristics 

Intuitive decisions can be grounded in heuristics. Heuristics are mental shortcuts or rules of thumb that people use to make decisions quickly and efficiently. These are cognitive strategies that simplify complex tasks or problems, allowing individuals to make judgments and decisions with less effort and time. Heuristics are often employed when faced with uncertainty or when processing extensive information is impractical.

There are several types of heuristics, and the most common ones are the representativeness heuristic and the availability heuristic.

Representativeness Heuristic

Representativeness heuristic involves making judgments about the probability of an event based on how similar it is to a prototype. For example, if someone fits our mental image of a certain category, we may assume they have other characteristics typical of that category.

Availability Heuristic

Availability heuristic involves making judgments about the likelihood of events based on their availability in memory. If instances of an event come readily to mind, we may perceive it as more common or likely.

How accurate is intuition as per heuristics?

The accuracy of intuition, guided by heuristics, can vary depending on several factors. While intuition can lead to accurate and effective decisions, it is not infallible, and there are limitations to relying solely on heuristics for decision-making. Here are some factors to consider:

Experience and Expertise

Intuition tends to be more accurate when individuals have extensive experience and expertise in a particular domain. Experts often develop reliable heuristics through years of practice and exposure to various situations, allowing them to make quick and accurate decisions.

For instance, research reveals that nurses have repeatedly stated that they rely on intuitive hunches when making clinical decisions. These hunches are considered to have heuristic components as reflected in the nurses’ dialogues.

Decision Context and Complexity

The appropriateness of intuitive decision-making also depends on the context. In situations where time is limited, and there is a need for a quick response, intuition guided by heuristics can be valuable. However, in contexts where careful analysis and consideration are crucial, relying solely on intuition may be risky.

That said, intuition and heuristics are better suited for simple and routine decisions rather than complex ones. In complex situations, where multiple factors come into play, a more analytical and deliberate decision-making process may be necessary to consider all relevant information.

Cognitive Biases

Cognitive biases, such as confirmation bias, availability bias, and anchoring bias, can influence the way heuristics are applied and impact the accuracy of intuitive decisions. For example, confirmation bias may lead individuals to favor information that confirms their existing beliefs, potentially overlooking contradictory evidence. Availability bias might cause individuals to rely on readily available information, even if it is not representative of the overall situation.

Being aware of these biases and actively working to mitigate their impact is crucial when relying on intuition and heuristics. Balancing intuitive judgments with a conscious effort to minimize biases can contribute to more accurate and well-rounded decision-making processes. 


In summary, the accuracy of intuition guided by heuristics is influenced by factors such as experience, relevance of past experiences, and the complexity of the decision. While intuition can be a valuable and efficient decision-making tool in certain situations, it is essential to complement it with critical thinking, especially in complex or novel scenarios. Striking a balance between intuition and a more analytical approach is often key to making well-rounded and informed decisions.

In addition, it’s important to note that while heuristics can be helpful, they can also lead to cognitive biases and errors. Individuals may rely too heavily on heuristics and overlook relevant information or fall victim to biases that can result in suboptimal decisions. Balancing intuition with critical thinking and being aware of potential biases is crucial for making well-informed decisions.

For more insights about intuition, download our eBook, The Psychology of Intuition. Within these pages, we delve into the scientific underpinnings behind the gut feeling, providing valuable insights on how you can nurture and trust this powerful aspect within your psyche.

If you liked our article, How Accurate is Intuition?, you will like:

The Psychology of Intuition: Ebook
8 Ways on How to Be More Intuitive
Trusting Your Gut Feeling About Someone
Bad Gut Feeling for No Reason
The Psychology of Intuition: The Human Mind and Intuition
Unraveling the Origins: Where Does Intuition Come From?
Best Quotes About Intuition
How to Listen to Your Intuition in Relationships: 7 Insightful Tips
12 Signs You’re an Intuitive Person

For more information about heuristics:

What are Heuristics?
Research and Heuristics
Kahneman’s Theory of Decision Making

Subscribe to learn more about emotional and mental processes!

You can also follow us on Instagram and Twitter!

Sarah Peláez is a Clinical Psychologist, Learning Therapist, and author of “The Psychology of Intuition.”