The brain can draw conclusions in either of two ways—logical or pattern-matching. Another way to express the choice is—by reasoning or by intuition.
Logical/reasoning (planning situation handling), we’re all familiar with. We use facts and rules of logic to draw conclusions. This is an advanced mode of thinking that took many eons to evolve.
Pattern-matching/intuition (immediate situation handling), we all have some ideas about, but words fail us. How appropriate! Pattern-matching does not work by the same mechanism—words, facts, logic, and conclusions. Pattern-matching is a match or no-match method, by summing up the neural inputs which if high enough, triggers the neuron to notify its downstream neighbors that a match has been found. That is the native mode of neural processing.
Facial recognition is the common and best example of brain pattern-matching. When we see a person, we might recognize a friend. That is the match part. This friend may have their hair done differently, they may have a cast on their wrist, and we may only see half of their face, but we recognize them even though the match is not perfect.
So what? Well, a pattern is more general than a pictorial image. E.g. the number of stock price and inflation headlines combined with your changing 401K balance and the latest grocery bills can be linked together in a pattern in your brain. When a last bit of circumstantial data falls into place, you may declare you have a feeling that inflation is rising.
I’m not saying that we use solely one mode or the other. We use both. The corpus callosum communicates the result of one hemisphere to the other repeatedly as information proceeds towards the frontal lobes. Pattern results are shared across to verbal side. The back-and-forth exchange ends up with a stronger conclusion.
The number of features in a pattern that must align before one sees a match varies among people. Those with a lower neural threshold require fewer features to match. They are more creative; however, that comes with the drawback of making some mistaken matches (that is, ignoring features which turn out to be crucial).