The Difference Between Logic and Intuition

When people ask me why I use a Mac, my usual response is that it’s more “intuitive.”  A PC is logical, but a Mac’s interface and software is more like the way I think.  I’ve also noticed it in how quickly young kids adapt to a Mac in contrast to a PC.  They just seem to “get it.”  It’s similar to the GPS systems on my car.  A few years ago I had a Lexus and I loved the GPS.  It just made sense.  It thought the way I did.  But now I have a Land Rover and I hate it.  The Land Rover GPS is good, and it’s very logical – but I find it’s very difficult to use.

Logic is good.  Logic is, well, “logical.”  But human beings aren’t necessarily logical.  Human beings are intuitive. We gain insight from a number of areas – sight, sound, taste, touch, smell, and process information in ways that aren’t always logical.

That’s the reason “numbers” or “detail” people often have difficulty dealing with other people.  In other words, they often have a bit of trouble with people skills.  CPA’s, accountants, mathematicians, scientists, strategists, and others aren’t always the most exciting people in the room.  They love all things logical.  But they miss the connection to people, because try as they might, most people just aren’t logical.

That’s also why so many companies and non-profits are frustrated with their messaging.   Sure it makes sense.  Sure it is logical.  Sure it’s the truth.  But it just doesn’t connect with the audience.  Audiences aren’t logical, they’re intuitive.  They make leaps and connections that don’t always make sense.

I sometimes get into this argument during creative meetings with clients.  They will do a direct mail campaign, advertising promotion, or TV program that has solid information, makes sense, is certainly true, and is logical.  But it just doesn’t connect.  They don’t understand that without understanding how people think, they’ll never get the audience’s attention.

Remember – Mr. Spock was logical, but then again, he came from another planet.

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5 Comments

  1. So right on. It's so easy for us to get our message that we forget that it's not that obvious to everyone else. As we are putting together a campaign, two words are at the core of the message:

    So What?

    Answer that and we're on our way of breaking through the clutter and earning the listeners/readers attention.

  2. Great post and so true!

    Re-launching my blog after my move from AZ to NH.  Starting tomorrow I will be taking a look at Obama for about 8 days and then I will focus on McCain.  I will end the next 2 weeks plus with a compare and contrast article on the two candidates.  So let me know what you think!

    I have missed reading your blog.  It is good to be back!

  3. Yeah… sorry Phil, but I'm going to have to disagree with your dichotomy of intuition and logic.  The best work in epistemology I have seen has shown quite convincingly that intuition relies upon logic, and logic relies upon intuition.  There is a dynamic interpenetration between the two.  That which is "intuitive" might very accurately be described as "tacit logic."  Per Polanyi's catchphrase "We know more than we can tell."  We cannot articulate the logic, but it is there.  With work, it is often possible to articulate that tacit logic, but sometimes it can only be articulated through art.  The better venture, I would say, is to apply ourselves to seeking ways to relate the one to the other, helping them to connect, not discarding one for the other, or making sweeping generalizations such as "people are intuitive, not logical"–which seems to be more along the lines of what you're communicating here, whether that's what you intended or not.

    1. It’s interesting that there seems to be this implication that being logical is somehow better than being intuitive when in fact, it’s better to balance both. An alchemical synthesis of the two would offer a much more holistic human experience. We see this dichotomy symbolically told in a number of Hollywood movies. V for Vendetta explores this quite effectively (fire, water, masculine, feminine, logic, intuition…)

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