The Intuitive Brain
ADDers are often said to
be highly intuitive. What is intuition? First of all, it's not ESP, and it's not instinct,
although the word intuition has historically been used that way. It's an extremely
important and powerful form of non-linear intelligence, useful for deciphering patterns
from chaotic situations.
I've run across several references to ADDers being
highly intuitive, including "The Hidden Gifts of ADD" by Ned Hallowell, M.D.
Intuition is form of subconscious intelligence possibly used by the right brain to discern
complex patterns and relationships. It is highly underrated. All small children learn
primarily through intuition, and at an extremely fast pace (gee, they also have
short attention spans, are impulsive, and fidget a lot....hmmm). For example, they learn
to speak complex sentences through "absorption," without having any
understanding of grammar. Imagine if you had to teach every child language by explaining
to them that each sentence must have a noun. You don't, because their subconscious
biological computer called intuition has already figured that out, without the child's
knowledge. Music is also learned intuitively. People cannot usually explain that the
pattern of first, third and fifth notes on the scale has a pleasing sound to their ears
because of the mathematical relationship of vibration wavelengths. But our subconscious
intelligence knows these relationships. Small children given intense music lessons have
sudden increases in their mathematical abilities.
For the purpose of this page, there are three
types of intelligence; the following definitions come from usage in the biology and
1. Instinct. This is now thought to be
inherited intelligence unique to a particular species. Like a hard disc with information
on it before it leaves the factory. For example, a bird knows to sing a certain song, and
a dog knows to growl when angry. Humans instinctively know to suckle when infants.
Children (and adults) are instinctive afraid of spiders and snakes unless taught
otherwise. Many adults will jump with fright when startled by a big spider, followed by
embarrassment because they know the spider is harmless.
2. Intuitive Intelligence. Intuitive
intelligence is the ability to learn complex skills and solve problems on a subconscious
basis; for example, a child learning to speak without learning the rules of grammar. The
rules of grammar actually were learned, but the child cannot tell you want they
are. This type of intelligence is particularly powerful at picking up patterns in a
seemingly chaotic situation. When the right answer to a complex problem pops into your
head but you can't figure out how you came up with it, it's probably the product of your
intuition. Important: Intuitive intelligence is better at solving certain types of
complex problem than our conscience, sensory intelligence.
3. Sensory Intelligence. As described
by Jung, sensory intelligence is our ability to think logically and to learn new facts in
our world. As children grow up, their ability to learn intuitively appears to decrease as
their ability to think methodically and logically increases.
Everyone people possess all three types of
intelligence. Sensory intelligence is what we normally think of as intelligence because it
is conscience thinking, while the other two types are more mysterious and subsequently
discounted. Intuitive intelligence is used to identify relationships and concepts while
sensory intelligence is used in remembering details and linear thinking.
A stereotypical ADD child is doing
poorly in school and is a complete whiz on computers. Why? Partly because computers are
best learned intuitively. Just sit down and start hitting buttons, and see what happens.
Do it enough, and that subconscious intelligence starts picking up complex patterns and
relationships. The intuitor begins to get an instinct for what to try next, while the
average person with predominant sensory intelligence lacks this advantage and wants
detailed written instructions or someone to teach them each new thing they do on the
computer. I suspect this is one reason why intuitors are so over-represented on the
Intuitors have differences in how they
perceive and retain information. Their memories are often impressionistic and lacking
detail. One ENTP intuitor described it this way:
"I was 10 when I realized that I was in awe of my S [sensory
intelligence] mother's memory. She'd describe every detail of a store, recall the exact
coarseness of the velvet upholstery, remember photographically where a slightly skewed
landscape painting was hung, remark upon how the clerk's left cuff link was tarnished and
his thumbnail broken; meanwhile, I'd recall that the place seemed dark and cluttered,
maybe dusty, and that the clerk might have been a man. I knew that there was a secret
world of miniscule, fleeting and sometimes glaring things which was visible to most
earthlings, but rarely to me; that's why the kids called me "space cadet" and
waited to watch me trip on the sidewalk cracks. I knew that, in the classroom, they
"saw or heard, then remembered" - while I never saw and never heard, and usually
had to figure out what I should have remembered. Even though I usually had the answer
right, I regarded them as superior; my mother and my classmates seemed gifted with
especially acute senses while I was burdened with the need to compensate for my poor
powers of observation. Fortunately my N [intuitive] father was also a descendent of the
Space Cadet Clan - as spaced out, zoned out, ditzy, "in the clouds" and
oblivious as I was - and, as the philosophical extraterrestrial told the stuttering
spaceman, I knew that I 'was not alone'.... "
Intuitors lose detail, but more often get the big
picture. They are also good at coming up with ideas, concepts, and relationships that
others miss. Hallowell says that ADDers are highly intuitive and have "flashes of
My own personal example: In English Class, my peers
were discussing a book we had all read. I couldn't remember the names of any characters or
places, dates, or even the sequence of events which occurred in the story, and felt truly
stupid. Granted, I had skimmed entire paragraphs in my rush to read the book at the last
minute. OK, I skimmed some pages. Alright, I admit I completely skipped a few of the
middle chapters, but the point is, I couldn't remember any detail and was mortified
that everyone else could. But when our written summaries of the book were graded, the
professor pulled me aside after class and said I was the only person in the class who
really understood what the story was about . And he said he would have given me an A, but
my spelling was horrible and my paper too sloppy. (I've been working on my spelling ever
Left Brain vs. Right Brain
Both ADDers and highly creative individuals are
thought to have differences in the left brain vs. right brain relationship.
|"We have all met people who are
good at grasping facts but tend either to be too literal in interpreting them or to miss
the point altogether. Likewise, we know others (often people with artistic talent of some
sort) who are erratic in dealing with facts and do poorly on tests but who have an amazing
ability to grasp the gist of a story, the subtle shadings of meaning. We can only
speculate whether these differences can be traced to hemispheric specialization"
- Howard Gardner (author of "Multiple
Intelligences") from "Art, Mind
Well, I like to speculate and have
absolutely nothing to lose. So here's a list of right brain vs. left brain characteristics
which I found on the Net. I'm told the list is partly popular conjecture and partly fact
(the brain is really still a mystery). But lets run with it anyway, just for the shear fun
of it .
Right Brain Traits:
- Intuitive: Follows hunches, or feelings, takes leaps of logic.
- Nontemporal: having little or no awareness of time.
- Random: arranges events and actions haphazardly.
- Causal and Informal: deals with information on basis of need
or interest at the time.
- Concrete: relates to things as they are commonly known or
understood. Explicit, precise.
- Holistic: sees whole things all at one, overall patterns.
Leading to divergent ideas.
- Visual: uses imagery, responds to pictures, colors, shapes.
- Nonverbal: responds to tones, music, body language, touch.
- Visuo-spatial: uses intuition to estimate, perceives shapes.
- Responsive: listens to music.
- Originative: interest in ideas and theories imaginatively.
- Emotional: suspicious judgment until it feels or seems right.
- Learning: through exploration
Left Brain Traits:
- Methodical: organizes information, classifies, categorizes,
- Temporal: keeps track of time, thinks in terms of past,
- Sequential: arranges events and actions in consecutive
- Linear: thinks in terms of sequence, one thought directly
following another. Leads to convergent conclusions.
- Factual: deals with details, items, the particulars, features
of a thing.
- Verbal: used words to name, describe, and define things.
- Systematic and Formal: processes information methodically, in
a well-planned way.
- Learning: through systematic plans
After reading the above lists, it may seem that
ADDers are simply missing their entire left brains, but I haven't yet run across that in
the literature. What I do find are theories about "disinhibition from normal levels
of dominant hemispheric control." I think that means the left brains aren't quite as
dominant in ADDers as they are with "normal" people, so the right brain has a
looser rein, so to speak. The right brain is therefore allowed to go further, to do
|"The proper, unique, and
perpetual object of thought:
- that which does not exist
- that which is not before me
- that which was
- that which will be
- that which is possible
- that which is impossible."
- Paul Valery, who probably
loses his car keys a lot
(printed in "The Cerebral
This does not mean ADDers are right
brain dominant. But their left brain may simply be less dominant than in others.
Dyslexia, which is unusually common in ADDers, is also thought to be related to
differences in hemispheric domination, so that neither sphere is the boss.