Suppose you are a visitor from another planet. You’ve been sent down to Earth to observe human shopping behavior. You find yourself marveling at a female shopper who has just discovered some sort of strange garment store. (Tragically, Earthlings have yet to master changing their skin patterns with the power of their minds.)
You notice the woman pausing at the doorway, scanning the shop's contents for several seconds before declaring to her husband, who is at least two steps behind her, “There is nothing in there for me.” The spouse, in the middle of what can only be described as a dead man's shuffle, groans, “That’s impossible--how could you possibly know that?” She dismisses his comment and turns on her heel, in search of another store.
You don’t have to be a space alien to wonder what's going on. What you might not realize is that, much to her husband’s surprise, neuroscientists would suggest her assessment is probably correct.
How does it work? Essentially, her visual cortex is scanning the store at 286 mph, beaming the information to a various parts of the brain--including the hippocampus, where memory is sorted, stored and processed.
Contrary to popular belief, your memory does not function like some rusting storage locker where past memories go to fade away, only to be dredged up and relived from time to time.
Instead, it functions more like a giant information clearing house. In the case of our shopper, it houses all of her past retail experiences, good and bad: garments she’s worn, styles and colors she’s liked and those she wasn’t enamored with, last week's weird Project Runway, conversations about clothes she’s had with her best friend, and so on.
What is sometimes described as "woman’s intuition" (and often dismissed as emotional nonsense), is actually the subconscious brain's storage processor being leveraged against selected input for comparison. (In this case, the contents of the clothing store being scanned at high-speed.)
How do we know this? Because individuals who get their memory knocked out, whether due to illness or a Gilligan-style blow to the head (coconut optional), find it almost impossible to make decision--even simple ones. Memory gives us the data to make that lightning-fast judgement call. Your memory in a very real sense is the headwaters of knowledge and wisdom.
To space aliens and sitcom husbands, this might all seem a little strange. After all, the subconscious brain doesn’t possess language, and can seemingly only express itself through feelings. But when it comes to so-called "woman’s intuition", it is amazingly accurate and robust.
So the next time you walk into a store and it doesn't feel "right", trust your gut. Oh, and check for space alien spies.
You will know them by their decorative skin patterns.