Cognitive continuum

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

In the cognitive continuum theory, intuition and rational analysis are defined as two modes of cognition that can be placed at the ends of a continuum, where intuition refers to rapid, unconscious processing and low control, and analysis refers to slow, conscious and controlled processing.(1-3) Most thinking is situated at specific places somewhere in between, and the appropriate mode of thought depends on the specific task characteristics.

Doctors have to match the cognitive processes to the task requirements in order to be accurate. The cognitive continuum theory may be regarded as an early form of dual process theory.


1. Hammond KR, Hamm RM, Grassia JL, Pearson T. Direct comparision of the efficacy and analytical cognition in expert judgement.  IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man and Cybernetics1987. p. 753-70.

2. Hamm RM. Clinical intuition and clinical analysis: Expertise and the Cognitive Continuum. In: Dowie J, A E, editors. Professional judgement A reader in clinical decision making. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 1988. p. 78-104.

3. Custers EJ. Medical education and cognitive continuum theory: an alternative perspective on medical problem solving and clinical reasoning. Academic medicine : journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges. 2013;88(8):1074-80.