Episode 29 — Intuition

intuitionWe discuss how engineers use and develop their intuitive senses.

  • “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
 — Albert Einstein
  • We are looking for individuals willing to appear as guests on this podcast, sharing insights and stories from their engineering journeys. If you are so inclined, you can contact us by emailing a message to admin –at– theengineeringcommomons dot com.
  • The manner in which people perceive and interact with the world is often assessed using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
  • Citation: M. H. McCaulley, E. S. Godleski, C. F. Yokomoto, L. Harrisberger and E. D. Sloan, Applications of psychological type in engineering education, Engineering Education, 73, 5, (1983) pp.394–400.
  • According to McCaulley (1983, not 1990), the majority of engineering students are introverted (I, 56%) rather than extroverted (E, 44%), sensing (S, 53%) rather than intuitive (N, 47%), thinking (T, 74%) rather than feeling (F, 36%), and judging (J, 61%) rather than perceptive (P, 39%).
  • Showing his advanced age and terminal lack of hipness, Jeff makes a reference to former Tonight Show host Johnny Carson, who left TV in 1992 and passed away nearly a decade ago.
  • Citation: T. P. O’Brien, L. E. Bernold and D. Akroyd, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Academic Achievement in Engineering Education, Int. J. Engng Ed., Vol. 14, No. 5, pp. 311–315, 1998.
  • According to O’Brien et al. (1998), the only preference from the Myers-Briggs assessment that has a statistical influence on academic grades is that of being an intuitor (N) rather than a sensor (S).
  • A majority of engineering professors are intuitors (N), while most engineering students are sensors (S). See R. M. Felder and L. K. Silverman, Learning and Teaching Styles in Engineering Education, Engr. Education, 78(7), 674–681 (1988).
  • Percentage of intuitors by discipline: Physics (63%), Geological (62%), Aerospace (60%), Metallurgical (54%), Mining (40%), Mechanical (39%), Industrial (39%), and Civil (31%). See prior citation: O’Brien et al., 1998.
  • Jeff references an article titled, How many lightbulbs does it take to change an engineer? It suggests that, when introducing change into an engineering organization, one should give engineers time to assimilate the reasons (for the I), give them a model for change (for the N), provide concrete evidence (for the S), offer a reason for change (for the T), and present a clear process for change (for the J).
  • The group seems to agree that the best way to learn a subject is to teach it to someone else.
  • Carmen cites an article titled, Are Young Engineers Unprepared?
  • A discussion ensues concerning the need for computer models to match experimental data.

Thanks to Leo Grübler for the photo titled “bauchgefühl.” Podcast theme music provided by Paul Stevenson

2 thoughts on “Episode 29 — Intuition”

  1. I have a book recommendation on “intuition” >>Gerd Gigerenzer : Gut Feelings<>
    “Gut Feelings” is a work aimed at a more general audience. Gerd Gigerenzer has written a number of academic works on the subject of this book; these would not be as readily accessible to a larger audience.

    Since I find his scientific works most intriguing, I think that this specific book is apt to be most interesting for readers. It deals with a subject relevant to the recent best seller “The Black Swan.” It makes for a nice comparison to read both volumes. Both authors speak to the poor record, for example, of stock analysts in predicting what stocks do well and what do not do well. However, their analyses march in different directions.

    The dusk jacket notes the central focus of the work: “How does intuition work? What lies behind our moral behavior if not reflection and reasoning? How can simple `rules of thumb’ help amateurs beat the stock market, outfielders catch a fly ball, parents choose a school, or lovers choose a mate?”

    The main argument of the author is that the evolutionary process has led humans to develop “rules of thumb” or “heuristics” that tend to lead to efficient decision making processes. Does statistical analysis give better results than heuristics? Not necessarily, says the author.

    What are these “shortcuts”? For instance, what if you are in a decision making situation and you need to respond to someone who may cause you problems or cooperate with you? The evidence suggests the value of a specific game with rules. As Gigerenzer puts it (page 62):

    “(1) Cooperate first, (2) keep a memory of size one, and (3) imitate your partner’s last behavior.”

    In plain English: If you are in competition with someone, at first cooperate. If they cooperate, you would continue cooperating. If they double cross you (don’t cooperate), retaliate. Over time, according to a variety of studies, this works better than always double crossing people or always cooperating.

    Other heuristics: “Take the first.” That is, if your first cue suggests one decision over another, go with it, even if you are ignoring other information. If there is no advantage on the first cue, go to a second one. If one option is better, go with it. In short, satisfice; select the first option that seems to work. Others are discussed as well.

    The book seems to digress a bit when it gets to moral behavior and social instincts.

    Apart from that:
    Greetings from Austria; Keep ip up! I did realy enjoy the episodes (2) that I've heard so far.

  2. Also: There does exist a lot of criticism about the MBTI test. I think you should have outlined that a bit more in the cast : /

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