Going With Your Gut Feeling

Intuition Alone Can Guide Right Choice, Study Suggests

For centuries, scientists have studied how we go about the difficult task of choosing A or B, left or right, North or South — and how both instinct and intellect figure into the process. Now new research indicates that the old truism “look before you leap” may be less true than previously thought.

My little geeks and nerdlings over at the University of Tel Aviv have stumbled upon an interesting finding regarding instinct and intuition. [1]

The article begins, “Decision-making is an inevitable part of the human experience, and one of the most mysterious. For centuries, scientists have studied how we go about the difficult task of choosing A or B, left or right, North or South — and how both instinct and intellect figure into the process. Now new research indicates that the old truism “look before you leap” may be less true than previously thought.”

(Prof. Marius Usher)

In a behavioral experiment, Prof. Marius Usher of Tel Aviv University’s School of Psychological Sciences and his fellow researchers found that intuition was a surprisingly powerful and accurate tool. When forced to choose between two options based on instinct alone, the participants made the right call up to 90 percent of the time.

“The study demonstrates that humans have a remarkable ability to integrate value when they do so intuitively, pointing to the possibility that the brain has a system that specializes in averaging value,” Prof. Usher says. This could be the operational system on which common decision-making processes are built.

The results of their study were recently published in the journal PNAS. [2]

I have a healthy respect for intuition, especially women’s intuition. Not that anything and everything a woman intuits can be taken to the bank… far from it. But there are times when I will take a woman’s intuition over a man’s intellect.

Case in point, my friend Tracy. She has an almost unerring ‘gut sense’ about many things. On several occasions in the past, when I have rationally thought something out, planned it meticulously and could see no real flaw… Tracy would say “I wouldn’t do that if I were you”… based on nothing except her instincts and intuition.

(Tracy: I don’t think we should go that way. I dunno… we just shouldn’t!)

She has an uncanny ‘spidey sense’ that I ignore at my own peril. Many a carefully crafted scheme has been tossed into the garbage bin because Tracy didn’t ‘feel right’ about it. Were there times when I went against Tracy’s gut feelings and it turned out ok? Sure. Were there times when Tracy was completely blindsided by something that she did not expect? Sure. She’s not psychic. She can’t predict the future. But there were many more times when I did not heed her gut feeling and I regretted it. Enough times that I learned through bitter experience to Just Trust Tracy.

There are times, however, when going with your gut leads you astray. There are times when you disregard facts and choose what Stephen Colbert calls ‘truthiness’… what feels like the truth rather than what is the truth.

(Karl Rove’s Election Night Meltdown – When truthiness and The Truth collide)

Some people learned that the hard way recently.

So I will continue to make plans based on facts and figures as I know them. But… I will always run them by Tracy first!

aa-tribalfang

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[1] Personally, I use the terms ‘instincts’ and ‘intuition’ interchangeably. I am sure people could quibble with this, but if there’s a difference it’s not substantive enough for me to care about.

[2] Journal Reference:  K. Tsetsos, N. Chater, M. Usher. Salience driven value integration explains decision biases and preference reversalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2012; 109 (24): 9659 DOI:10.1073/pnas.1119569109

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2 comments on “Going With Your Gut Feeling

  1. renxkyoko says:

    I trust my instinct. Always. I think intuition is the sum of all our experiences, and we instinctively process everything , leading to so called intuition.

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