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Sometimes I've heard people using the term gut feeling rather than their 'intuition or instinct' and I'm not sure which one do they mean. So, can both the terms be used interchangeably and simply referred to as a 'gut feeling'? Is there a real difference between Instinct and Intuition?

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a gut feeling would be an intuition. a gut reaction would be an instinct. –  BenCole Aug 15 '12 at 19:36
    
This question may be more suitable for English Language And Usage Stack Exchange. –  JRFerrell Oct 4 at 17:18
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@JRFerrell It would be suitable there as well, however it is definitely on topic here as well, and current answers could be improved (or added) by providing an answer more rooted in cognitive sciences. –  Steven Jeuris Oct 5 at 2:04
    
@Steven Jeuris Ok. Wasn't sure. It felt like it wasn't really a question with an actual important distinction, so I flagged. –  JRFerrell Oct 7 at 3:17

3 Answers 3

Intuition, as defined by Wikipedia:

Intuition may be defined as understanding or knowing without conscious recourse to thought, observation or reason.

Intuition is currently understood to be the subliminal processing of information that is too complex for rational thought, e.g. mate choice. The processes that make up intuition are learned, not innate.

Instinct is not a feeling, but an innate, "hardwired" tendency toward a particular behavior. Instincts are automatic reactions to environmental stimuli that cannot be repressed and occur in every individual of a species. The current opinion in psychology (since Maslow) is that human beings have no instincts.

A Gut Feeling, according to the reference, arises from intuition.

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Can a gut feeling be both instinct and intuition? –  cpx Apr 22 '12 at 7:34
    
I think so, cpx. A gut feeling is a sensation. The nature of it could be acquired (intuition) or instinctual. –  Keegan Keplinger Aug 15 '12 at 5:33
    
Human beings have no instincts. See the definition of "instinct" at the bottom of the Wikipedia article. –  user1196 May 7 '13 at 10:13

Instinct - a motor response initiated by the body totally controlled by an external stimulus. An instinct is by definition, a behavior.

Intuition - A sudden alignment of neuronal pathways that joins weakly associated concepts, ideas, facts, into a neuronal network that pulls conscious selective attention skills away from current activities. May induce a positive somatic reaction estbalishing a pleasuraable experience from the thought or idea.

In more colloquial terms (e.g. woman's intuition) its activation of an established network in response to multiple external stimuli that alone would not draw attention. However, it is still a cognitive process whereas instinct is a behavioral process. This should help:

The setting was all wrong, his intuition was telling him this was a set-up. Suddenly it all made sense, the ill fitting uniform on the guard, the broken security camera, the elevator being out of order, instinctively he dropped to the floor and reached for his gun" - intuition - thought resulting from multiple stimuli meaningless on their own, instinct ; immediate reaction WITHOUT forethought.

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Instinct is neither learned nor developmental behavior. Intuition is awareness outside of conscious searching or conscious algorithmic behavior. Autonomous activity is a reflex or heart beating that is automatic (may be a conditioned responding).

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Do you have an authoritative reference for these? –  Chuck Sherrington May 10 '13 at 22:26

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