When I talk to people about intuition, some use the word instinct rather than intuition, and in almost every case, they are talking about the same thing.
But there IS a difference between the two.
Let’s start with the origins of both words to give us some clues as to what they mean.
According to the Online Etymology dictionary, “Instinct” comes from the Latin word instinctus, or, “instigation, impulse, inspiration” whereas “Intuition” comes from the word intuitio, or, “a looking at, consideration.”
From my perspective, your instinct is something you are born with that helps you act immediately without any thought, experience, or learning involved, similar to the words instigation and impulse that comes from its origin.
So, when I think about behaviors that use instinct, I think about people being afraid of spiders or snakes even though they have never been threatened or bitten by one in their lives.
My favorite of all time when it comes to showing instinctual behavior is when I watch funny videos of cats jumping up in the air after being scared by a cucumber.
In my opinion, these behaviors came about because is something happening to us in our past, and that fear has been carried forward through our genes biologically, with an excellent article describing this on the mindvalley.com website.
Intuition on the other hand is something you are born with, but what is most important is that it is a learned behavior.
That means that as you age, your intuition continues to gain knowledge from all of your collective learning, both formal and informal, and experiences, both good and bad, to help inform you of the right decision to make in the situation you find yourself in, which is consistent with the words “looking at” and “consideration” that are a part of the origin of the word intuition.
So, when you are very young and about to make a decision, you will rely on more instinct than intuition.
But as you age, you start to rely on your intuition a lot more as you start to learn more and more about the outcomes of the decisions you make, and in fact, there is a research paper that shows that infants as young as 2 months old have been shown to have intuitive tendencies!
What’s even more intriguing is that your intuition is actually made up of four types of intuition that each gathers very specific information about the situation you are in and they then send you a series of very unique positive or negative signals that are telling you what the right decision is to make in a particular situation.
So, when you are about to make a decision, it is a combination of your instincts AND your intuition that help you make that decision.