Three Interesting Reads on Intuition

Wed, 11/30/2011 - 12:04 -- Stephanie

I love reading about the process of thinking and intuition. In EMS I believe these two things are perhaps the biggest indicator of a successful and astute clinical provider. There is an army of people who pass the test and get the card. Not everyone truly “gets it” though.

I believe the ability to “see” certain clinical clues is vital for a good clinician—and some of that can be accomplished through intuition (among other things). Not everyone “sees.”

Our Facebook Question of the Week was about intuition. It was fueled by several books that have caught my eye recently. Not every one has a direct correlation on medicine—but most use clinical examples of some sort as they describe intuition.

From Malcolm Gladwell’s web site (author of Blink):

One of the stories I tell in "Blink" is about the Emergency Room doctors at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. That's the big public hospital in Chicago, and a few years ago they changed the way they diagnosed heart attacks. They instructed their doctors to gather less information on their patients: they encouraged them to zero in on just a few critical pieces of information about patients suffering from chest pain--like blood pressure and the ECG--while ignoring everything else, like the patient's age and weight and medical history. And what happened? Cook County is now one of the best places in the United States at diagnosing chest pain.

Not surprisingly, it was really hard to convince the physicians at Cook County to go along with the plan, because, like all of us, they were committed to the idea that more information is always better. But I describe lots of cases in "Blink" where that simply isn't true. There's a wonderful phrase in psychology--"the power of thin slicing"--which says that as human beings we are capable of making sense of situations based on the thinnest slice of experience. I have an entire chapter in "Blink" on how unbelievably powerful our thin-slicing skills are. I have to say that I still find some of the examples in that chapter hard to believe.

Here are links to some of the books:


The Gift of Fear:

Thinking, Fast and Slow:


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