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What to do with a hunch or 'sixth sense'

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Sometimes people have a flash of knowledge that seems to come out of the blue. Whether you call it intuition, a hunch or a "sixth sense," psychologists think they may have a fix on such insights and how to use them.

A hunch is the ability to reach conclusions with limited information, say psychologists at York University in Toronto. People can combine limited bits of information with knowledge gleaned from their own experience to get their answers.

Those with more experience and information on a subject are more likely to have the best hunches. With experience, hunches become better and better. How can you use your intuition? Here's what the experts advise:

* Learn more, especially if you are out of your area of expertise. Only when you have a good background in the subject will you get the flash of insight that experience gives.

* Study the question and possible answers, then relax. Distance yourself for a time. You will return with a better chance at coming up with an original solution. What you do to relax doesn't seem to matter much as long as you enjoy it and are completely occupied by it.

* Trust your experience. People have the best hunches about what they know the best. Sometimes intuition goes against logic but can lead to an answer.

* Double-check your hunch. Each intuitive judgment should be checked against reality before you follow it. A gut feeling is best used as a path to problem-solving.

Pure facts can take you only so far. At some point, you must trust your hunch enough to pursue it.

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