Inkling

inkling [ingk-ling] noun a slight suggestion or indication; hint; intimation

(from Dictionary.com)

I was speaking to a good friend of mine today (who also happens to be a magician) about making a choice about the several career paths he can choose from after graduation, and how he has made such choices in the past. He said “I’ve always had an inkling, and then I end up fully committing”, and this time he didn’t have any sort of inkling (yet).

I thought that I hadn’t heard that word in a while. Inkling, such a beautiful word, it has such a nice ring to it. Also, with such a beautiful meaning: A suspicion, a sixth sense about what is about to happen. And an interesting way to make a decision.

At grad school, I’ve spent much time making decisions, big and small: who to work with, what to work on, when to start working (when has always been a bad decision because inevitably, it has been last minute) etc. I feel like through most of life, I’ve been taught a very left brain way to make decisions, weighing the pros and cons and making an informed judgement, but here in grad school, ‘feelings’ have come up as a strong decision making strategy: what feels right, what you gut is saying, having an inkling. Or let me rephrase, I have always made emotional decisions, and therefore been branded emotional, but it is here in grad school (at a renowned engineering university of all places), that it seems like there is some legitimacy to it.

A related concept is the the notion of embodied cognition, which I learnt at an Improv session here at Stanford. Our body affects the way we think and feel and not just the other way round (when you are feeling sad, it shows on your face, but if you force your face into a smile, you feel better). Or that our body is the site for a lot of thinking, just as our brain is (I feel more and more that reductionism is not a good enough approach to understanding the world – and I haven’t fully read the thesis on reductionism so I might be using the term incorrectly here, but the idea that the mind of the brain is where we ‘think’ and the body is where the actions are manifested seems reductionist).

A couple of excellent images on the topic:

An image I saw at a friends place: note the last column about where these emotions are felt.

Image

This is from the (awesome) book: Designing Design by Kenya Hara.

Image

Going back to the notion of inkling, an inkling is our body helping us make a decision. Right is felt in the gut, Wrong is (at least by me) felt in the neck and shoulders.

Other related notions that come to mind are Gladwell’s Blink, and David Brooks talk on Reason and Emotion (He says “for centuries, we’ve inherited a view of human nature based on the notion we are divided selves, that reason is separated from emotion”, a “great amputation”, he calls this.)

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