Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Happiness & intuition

I'm currently reading a technical volume on Emotion Regulation. I'm both encouraged and disappointed that the state of the art includes such nuggets as:
"Tamir (2005) has argued that hedonic considerations can sometimes be trumped by other considerations, such as whether a given emotion will help a person achieve his or her immediate objectives."
i.e., sometimes we act with goals other than immediate pleasure and:
" individuals mature and gain in life experience, they might increasingly learn to make greater use of healthy emotion regulation strategies (such as reappraisal) and lesser use of less healthy emotion regulation strategies (such as suppression). Evidence now exists that such an age-related change does occur."
i.e., wisdom happens.

Let it be noted, lest I sound cynical, that I fully appreciate that the gathering and analyzing of objective evidence is indispensable in any science; psychology is no exception, regardless of whether or not its hypotheses are intuitively reasonable.

On the other hand, intuition is an individual thing. And although it may be hard to measure objectively, surely some have better intuition than others. So although intuition in general cannot be relied upon -- that is, some psychological findings are "counterintuitive" -- it seems that perfect intuition should jibe perfectly with those findings.

For this not to be a tautology (i.e., to avoid having to define "perfect intuition" as that intuition that perfectly predicts objective findings), such a thing should exist in the real world and be definable in other ways (say, the supposed omniscience of the Buddha).

Anyway, it's interesting to note that intuition doesn't seem to be constant; one can develop it through persistent introspection. And bit by bit, more psychological insights make a transition from counterintuitive to natural and obvious. To me, that seems like a good operational definition of wisdom, and a fount of happiness.

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