The Incredible Computing Power Behind Intuition

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We essentially have two brains – the Conscious Brain and the Unconscious Brain.

The Conscious Brain, or Neo Cortex, is the outermost portion of the brain. It’s what you typically see in pictures, with all those wrinkles.

It is located in the brain’s topmost layers and includes the neocortex and the lobes. More specifically, it is located at the top and sides of our brain. The Conscious Brain has nerve fibers that connect it to every other part of the brain, including the Unconscious Brain.

Some neuroscientists refer to the Conscious Brain as the upper brain or new brain. It is responsible for voluntary thought, awareness, self-control (willpower) and planning. It can overpower habits (automatic routines). It can mute our emotions and sudden impulses.

Much of our thinking, logic and decision-making takes place in the Pre-Frontal portion of the Neo Cortex. It’s also connected to the Cerebellum, which hangs off the back of the Neo Cortex, juggling all of our motor activities.

The Conscious Brain is a relatively new addition. It has been with humans for about 300,000 years, which is when Homo Sapiens Sapiens (today’s humans) suddenly appeared, seemingly out of nowhere.

The Unconscious Brain has two sections – the Limbic System and the Brain Stem. It is very old, having been with us humans for millions of years.

The Unconscious Brain has massive computing power. It operates constantly, solving complex problems offline (without conscious effort). It is responsible for autonomic nervous system (controlling our internal organs), forging and managing all habits, it is the birthplace of insight and creativity and it is where our emotions reside. The Subconscious Brain is much faster and more efficient than the Conscious Brain. It gives us the ability to make quick decisions.

While your Conscious Brain is at rest, your Unconscious Brain is hard at work, helping to keep you alive and solve problems, alerting you to opportunities, helping you comprehend the incomprehensible, solidifying memory and nudging you into doing something or advising you to stop doing something.

The interesting thing about the Conscious Brain is that it has limited Bandwidth. It can only process about fifty bits of information a second.

Conversely, the Unconscious Brain can process millions of bits of information every second. So, the Unconscious Brain is far more powerful than the Conscious Brain.

Why am I telling you all of this?

Well, it has to do with Intuition – that little voice inside your head.

Intuition is knowing without thinking. It is the ability to reach a decision without having all of the facts and information that you need, in order to make that decision. It is a non-analytical ability to make decisions.

In a nutshell, intuition is an unconscious decision-making process that is not based on reason, logic or analysis, but based on your Unconscious Brain’s ability to weigh many factors and make an instantaneous decision.