Reflections on Children and Intuition

Sometimes, inspiration arrives at odd times and under peculiar circumstances. Watching a disagreeable movie that featured a kid with an imaginary friend the other night, as an example, directed the flow of my thoughts towards the topic of children and intuition. It got me out of the movie theatre and inspired me to write this exploratory article.

Intuition has long been a subject of a particular interest for me since I’ve had a strong connection to my intuition from the time I can remember myself. Throughout my adult life, I’ve come across many of stories, personal and published, talking about children and their uncanny intuitive abilities that frequently supersede those of adults’. Why is that? - I pondered. What makes children to be more adept at accessing their intuitive insights than adults?

First, I’d like to offer my understanding of what intuition is. According to Freud, intuition is communication from the unconscious. A typical definition of intuition in a dictionary echoes Freud’s explanation, telling us that it’s a quick and ready insight or perception that bypasses cognitive reasoning. I also believe that intuition is a function of the unconscious that is either received directly and clearly or is obscured by other more loud information, distorted by competing messages or overridden by the cognitive analysis that does not agree with perceived “knowing”.

What occurred to me is that it’s not that children have a better intuitive ability, but that perhaps (a) they don’t have as many interfering factors that would contradict their direct perceptual ability and (b) due to their ongoing brain development, they might have different perceptual systems that might serve them well in making sense of the world while they develop their adult-like cognitive functions.

Serendipitously, a press release of an article titled Children and Adults See the World Differently, Research Finds, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences came across my desk (University College London (2010, September 13). Children and adults see the world differently, research finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 27, 2011, from

Validating my latter point, the researchers indeed established that children up to the age of 12 have a different perceptual capacity to that of adults. Although children have trouble combining information coming from different sources to make sense of the whole, they can see separate kinds of visual information that adults cannot. In this instance, children were more accurate in assessing spatial properties of an object than adults were.

My former point is not as easy to validate empirically, so I would like to offer my explanation that is informed by the study of psychodynamic psychotherapy. The seeming loss of our intuitive abilities lies in how we grow up. The more we as children experience external events, the greater the need to understand and integrate the often exceedingly complicated information. When the witnessed activities and interactions become too difficult to understand due to lack of psycho-emotional and cognitive development, these unprocessed and often hurtful events become stored internally – in our unconscious. The greater amount of information gets stored within the unconscious, the greater the separation to the intuition results.

Later in life, after sufficient psychic strength has developed, we become capable of addressing our unprocessed material. With or without the help of a counsellor/psychotherapist we will benefit from revisiting what caused these degrees of separation from our intuition and learn to see these perceptions from a more adult viewpoint. This gentle and attentive conversation with the self will help re-integrate the unprocessed material and re-open the door to our intuitive perceptual abilities.

To sum up: Intuition doesn’t require development. It only needs for us to listen and establish a better connection to it. The ability to hear it increases as we deal with the unprocessed material. The newly found clarity, infused with the voice of our intuition, creates a stronger self, improves a sense of well-being and highlights our uniqueness and personal strength.


Gil - December 26th, 2011 at 10:52am

Joseph, This was an interesting blog post. I wish to share from a non-empirical perspective. As you pointed out intuition is always already present. In my life and in the life of many of my older and younger friends our connection to intuition has been significantly toned down or even fully forgotten. I think much of the toning down and / or forgetting whether as an adult or as a growing child is due to our cultural surroundings. For example, our culture’s emphasis on the “rationale” and understanding life experiences from scientific and economic paradigms. What I think is lacking for both children and adults is the life positive company of others who work with conscious intention and cooperatively together to help each other to not forget our basic human association with intuition. I offer this point of view as support to what you shared.

David - July 28th, 2012 at 4:55am

Hi Joseph,

I, serendipitously, found your website and had to comment on this well thought out and really "intuitive" article!

In my clinic I often use hypnotherapy to bypass the critical thinking and access the unconscious more directly. I work with both children and adults and it's noticeable how my approach has to be completely different in order to be successful. That's why your article really resonated with me.

With children, the induction process is short and simple... in other words, I can access their unconscious with considerable ease. Adults on the other hand tend to require a much longer and systematically devised approach to break-down the layers of critical/conscious thinking.

In recent years I have come to see the unconscious as synonymous with other areas such as "intuition", "creative thinking" and other such abstract ideas; but your article really crystallized my thinking on this point.

I agree that we all have these "abilities" inherent within us, but as we age our ability to feel/hear/see/sense what we know inside is drowned out (or as you say "separated") by our life experiences.

Thanks for writing,