Are “intuition” and “knowledge” related?

See also:

from Patrick Johnson:

Your intuition (your “feel”) doesn’t just appear magically, you have to build it – and building it by learning and applying knowledge during practice (infusing experience with knowledge) is the most efficient and effective way.

from mikepage:

Some people insist they learn only by practice (repetition) and feel they are doing something fundamentally different from someone else who practices and also tries overtly to understand what is going on. I believe they are not doing something fundamentally different.

Here is my view of how we learn things. When you say to yourself, ‘ah, I remember this shot,’ or ‘I know how to hit this,’ or ‘I need to hit this shot hard on this table to get around three rails,’ think about where this ‘intuitive’ knowledge comes from. It comes from experience for sure. It comes from remembering things that have happened before in similar situations. But how do you go about ‘remembering’ the right things?

When you hit a ball and get a certain result (say the cueball rolls a certain distance) just what is it that you remember about the experience. I’m not talking about a conscious remembering, I’m talking about the development of intuition. Do you remember what you were wearing? Do you remember the day of the week? Do you remember who you’re playing? Do you remember what music was playing? Do you remember who’s at the table next to you? Do you remember whether your shoes feel tight? Do you remember whether you’re thirsty? Do you remember whether the balls are shiny? Do you remember whether you got to bed early the night before? …. There are countless potential pieces of information to catalog when you shoot that shot, and somehow in time we start to catalog many of the right things.

This process of learning *what* to catalog is about building a model of the situation. To separate the reams of (possibly) useless information from the useful information, we must create models of the world around us. This is not just what the analytical types do, this is what *everyone* does. It’s the way we establish our world view, our concept of reality. When we get a feeling a table plays fast, there are definite characteristics of a physical model that are implied. It’s implied that there is a “table speed” that is characteristic of all shots on that table that day. It’s implied that soft-hit shots and hard-hit shots are both affected similarly. It’s implied that the “speed” across the table is the same as the “speed” up and down the table. It’s implied that if the cueball rolls fast, the object balls roll fast too, and on and on.

Some of these models we develop on our own; others we get from other people. A model can be wrong and still be useful in a practical sense. The model that the earth is flat is useful for compiling information and developing intuition so long as we don’t travel too far. In pool, the model that to get draw, you have to accelerate through the ball or have a long follow through are for the most part useful–or at least not harmful.

The difficulty comes when you try to extend your knowledge to new situations. If your model is not consistent with the results, you won’t catalog the right things, and learning will be retarded.

Here is an analogy: Take someone who has never driven a car before–someone from a remote jungle tribe who had never even heard of a car. Give him a rear-wheel drive vehicle and let him drive in the snow and ice for thousands of hours. Don’t let him see the car from the outside at all or even know it has wheels, let alone how many. In time he will get very good at not getting stuck and at figuring out what he can get away with and what he can’t. He will learn how to steer when he starts to skid in order to best regain control. He will learn by doing and develop an intuition. He also will, necessarily, have developed models that go along with this intuition. And those models will fit his experience pretty well.

Now, give this jungle tribes-person a *front wheel drive* vehicle. The person will have a hell of a time. Things won’t seem to work right, but it won’t make any sense. Thing’ll just seem all screwed up. His models will be useless. Learning about the new situation will be very difficult.

*IF* however, his model of the situation–from the beginning– involved understanding the first car was rear-wheel drive, and that steering involved the front wheels, and if the person had this context while developing intuition and skills in the first place, then it will be much easier for him to extend his intuition to the front-wheel drive situation, where you have to steer in a different direction and do different things when you start to skid.

This is my long winded way to say that learning things about the physics of pool and about squirt and swerve, etc–for those of us who like to do it–just contribute for us to the development of our models that are inextricably linked to the development of our intuition. You can learn to play pool very well without making any overt effort to understand what’s going on. [Stay inside the car if you want to] But all else being equal, you will be better off the more effort you put into understanding what is going on.

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