What is the difference between intuition and instinct?

The two words intuition and instinct can be used in similar ways. For example, one definition of intuition is 'instinctive knowledge or belief.'

However, to distinguish between the two, we will see that intuition is a process of the mind, whereas instinct is an activity which doesn't necessarily involve using the mind.


For example, if you sense a big object suddenly approaching your head, the instinctive action is to duck and possibly raise you hand to protect yourself. This is all done in an instant. You didn't even have to think about it. The action was instinctive.

Instinct refers to natural reaction or behaviour, such as a mother's instinct to care for her offspring, or an animal's instinct to migrate to warmer/colder climes or to habitual spawning places.


On the other hand, you may find that, somehow, you are able to perceive something that is not plainly evident, having some insight of mind that can see beyond the obvious, such as what may be troubling someone who seems disturbed. Intuition relates to thoughts and feelings you have about a matter, but which you cannot explain or justify by rational logic.

Fashion designers who appear to have reliable intuition about the following year's trends are in high demand.


Instinct is natural behaviour according to fixed patterns.

Intuition is a mental process which happens 'outside the box' i.e. it is not a fixed or predetermined or pre-determinable process.


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