Spot the Difference: How to Tell Instinct and Intuition Apart

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Spot the Difference: How to Tell Instinct and Intuition Apart

Some people think that intuition and instinct were the same but in reality , the two were completely different / Photo by: Mooshny via Shutterstock


The words intuition and instinct are often used interchangeably since most people assume that they mean the same thing. These two terms are actually very different from each other. According to, instinct is what drives survival behavior, while intuition is more like an inner voice.

Defining Instinct

Instinct, Medium says, is derived from “instinctus”, which is the Latin term for “impulse”. It implies that it is a natural or biological inclination. This is a temporary response to the occurrences within the body. Some demonstrations of this are being territorial, taking care of children, self-preservation, and phobias.

In the twentieth century, it was said that instinct had a negative connotation to it since it was associated with the primitive version of humans. Eventually, the word instinct was substituted by Abraham Maslow with the terms desire and motivation to keep it from being mentioned.

However, in this century, which is the twenty-first, instinct is now seen in a positive light. For example, in the book The Genius of Instinct written by Dr. Hendrie Weisinger, he explains that they are not dark or primitive. He says that instincts should not be restrained. Learning how to use instincts can aid a person in coping with their stress and fear in more effective ways.

Instinct is a temporary impulse to a situation and one of the types of it are phobias / Photo by: traveliving via Shutterstock


Demystifying Intuition

Meanwhile, intuition originated from the term “intuito” which is translated as “consideration”. This means it is a group of compiled beliefs. This is the continuous gathering of experiences until the present. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a magical process or sensorial way manner of viewing things. Carl Jung calls this cognitive perception.

Jung explains that intuition is the unconscious information that is a product of everything that an individual is. It is collected from the experiences they have gone through, how they have lived and the things they have seen in their life.  In the article Intuition and Instinct: Different But Equally Powerful, it is described as “a file of compressed information that the bran reviews in order to have quick responses that don’t pass through the filter of objective analysis.”

Experts encourage individuals to listen to their inner voice. The study Nonconscious Emotional Information Boosts Decision Accuracy and Confidence conducted by researchers from the University of South Wales shows that intuition assists people in making faster decisions and live more in accordance with their personality and needs. The research carried out by the psychologists Galang Lufityano, Chris Donkin, and Joel Pearson was published in the Psychological Magazine.

Intuition comes from a Latin word meaning consideration / Photo by: metamorworks via Shutterstock


How to Improve Instinct and Intuition

Nametagscott, a writer at Medium, suggests ways people can improve both their intuition and instinct:

First, he says that individuals should trust themselves more. He states that when individuals trust others, they will state their expectations. He continues that if people believe that they have the answers, they will appear when they need them.

Second, he tells people to put into practice the training that they had. People, he said, should focus on the activity that they have so regularly practiced compared to others. Everywhere they try to practice it, they cultivate their dreams, educates them on what actions to perform and establishes the foundation for the years to come.

Third, he urges people to have an internal talk with themselves everyday. This can be done through writing a journal, which has been shown not only to be beneficial for a person’s health but also helps them find an inner and higher truth. He says that through facing, gathering and co-mingling their intuitions and instincts on the paper, this enables them to identify their personal desires, habits, and decisions. It also helps them to reflect daily.

Fourth, he recommends that people from a stillness practice. He mentions a few examples of this such as meditation, prayer and yoga, breathing exercises and hypnosis.

Lastly, he says that people should listen to their body’s wisdom. Stress can show up in physical ways like having migraines, skin rashes, and stomach aches. In addition, he says people should keep track of the emotions that they feel while engaging in an activity. For example, they may feel emotional hangovers or anticipatory anxiety. He likens these signs as to an “existential radio station” that people should listen to. If they tune in to this, their body will communicate to them the truth, which is a way to comprehend their instincts and intuitions.

Their Common Goal

As stated previously, instinct and intuition have different origins. Instinct has a more biological background, it is an inherent desire to satisfy a survival need. In contrast, intuition comes from accumulated ideas, thoughts, feelings, facts and experiences. Throughout a person’s life. Although they come distinct origins, they have one purpose.  Their common goal is to help a person adapt to their reality better. They both aid humans in prolonging their existence, predict a potential threat and have a more enjoyable life.




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