Crime Fighting and Violence Avoidance: Intuition, Part 3.

by Alexander Heyne · 3 comments

Saving Your Ass in a Deserted Parking Lot

Another extremely interesting facet of intuition is its ability to protect you from harm.  This is often where most of the stories regarding intuition kick in:

“There was something not quite right about him..”

“Something felt weird in that area..”

“I got the feeling that..”

“I started feeling strange, so I went a different way..”

These are the stories of the survivors.

Gavin De Becker – Better Crime Fighter Than Batman

Gavin De Becker specializes in analyzing violent behavior, and is extremely skilled at pointing out subtle danger signs in order to avert potentially life-threatening situations.

In his book The Gift of Fear he talks about fear being intuition’s highest, most urgent warning to pay attention.  His

Cold blooded kitty kat or friendly house cat?

point? Violent crimes of any sort are almost always associated with a long list of signs that came before the event.  If the signs were heeded, disaster could have been averted.

The book is filled with a million-and-one slighty eerie true stories about murders, stalkings, rapes, etc. Some were avoided, some were not.  All had warning signs that were obvious to someone who knows what to look for — but evidently were not obvious to the victims, or didn’t warrant further investigation.

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.


De Becker opens the book talking about how “Americans are experts at denial” (p. 9).  We like to fill our own minds with nonsense like the following:

  • “You’re only at risk if you’re out late at night”
  • “Sure there’s a lot of violence, but only in the inner city”
  • “Things like that don’t happen in this neighborhood”
He goes on further:
We don’t need to learn about violence, many feel, because the police will handle it, the criminal-justice system will handle it, experts will handle it… we have left this critical inquiry to people who tell us that violence cannot be predicted, that risk is a game of odds, and that anxiety is an unavoidable part of life.  Not one of these conventional “wisdoms” is true (p. 10, Emphasis mine)

Your Kung Fu Prediction Skills

De Becker opens his chapter “The Technology of Intuition” by enumerating some reasons as to why to trust intuition. He quickly establishes the idea that intuition is NOT  a coincidence or gut feeling, but rather an extremely highly developed accomplishment of biology:

We think conscious thought is somehow better, when in fact, intuition is soaring flight compared to the plodding of logic.  Nature’s greatest accomplishment, the human brain, is never more efficient or invested than when its host is at risk.  Then, intuition is catapulted to another level entirely, a height at which it can accurately be called graceful, even miraculous.  Intuition is the journey from A to Z without stopping at any other letter along the way.  It is knowing without knowing why” (page 25).

He goes on to talk about the “messengers” of intuition, that is, the main conduits through which intuition manifests itself.  De Becker talks about numerous examples of “suspicion” (a package that looked unusual to a clerk, with which a student ordered a gun and proceeded to mow down students later), “humor” (an employee joking about a sound that was probably a recently fired employee coming for revenge — he was), “doubt,” “hesitation,” and “fear.”

“Everything it [intuition] communicates to you is meaningful…” however, “it is good to know the urgency and ranking.  The intuitive signal of the highest order, the one with the greatest urgency, is fear; accordingly, it should always be listened to” (p. 72).

Messengers of intuition listed in ascending order:

  • Nagging feelings
  • Humor
  • Anxiety
  • Hunches and gut feelings
  • Doubt
  • Hesitation
  • Suspicion
  • Apprehension
  • Fear
Don’t be afraid of the unknown – but heed the danger signs when something feels weird

Where does this all bring us?

Gladwell in part 2 talks about intuition being a rapid, accurate predictor of:

  1. Relationships
  2. Facial expressions and true-to reality emotions
  3. Whether or not a doctor is prone to malpractice suits
  4. Rapidly knowing a person “well”
De Becker in part 3 talks about intuition being a rapid, accurate indicator of:
  1. How predictable crime and violence are
  2. How predictable people are regarding the deeds they do (via emotions and facial expression, like Gladwell)
  3. True, valid knowledge of a situation
  4. Danger

The Caveat

Both Gladwell and De Becker note that intuition is subject to personal prejudices and stereotypes.  Both authors agree that intuition can be skewed or masked by thinking of how a situation is supposed to be, analysis paralysis, or by more specific things like racial stereotypes.

Gladwell cites the ‘accidental’ shooting of Amadou Diallo as a good example of situation and stereotypes negatively tweaking intuition. Being in the wrong place, at the wrong time, in the wrong part of town worked at Diallo’s disadvantage, and affected the perceptive abilities of the officers who actually shot at an unarmed man.

A Short Ending to an Extremely Long (Important) Post

This post isn’t to convince you that intuition is the be all end all, and is always an extremely accurate predictor of the stock market changes.  I just wanted to show people that real, serious authorities have illustrated time after time that intuition has the potential to be a reliable indicator of a situation, it is nothing spiritual or metaphysical, and it is something we should all put more stock in.

Intuition may be the best, most useful skill you never knew you had.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jeff Chen August 5, 2011 at 11:37 am

Luh… luh…. larry!?!??!

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