I Got A Gut Feeling...

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You're driving home from school and spontaneously decide to take a route that you usually don't take. You have a random and compelling urge to call a friend or loved one. You take a hopeful guess on a test question. All of us have experienced those strange gut feelings that cause us to make decisions one way or another. We've all heard of the advice to, "go with your instincts" when making hard choices. I know in my personal experience, I find that listening to such advice generally results in a good outcome. Why would this be?

From the information presented in the article, The Role of Emotion in Decision Making, it begins to be apparent what exactly these intuitive feelings are and what their role is in the process of decision-making. Decision-making occurs not only in the rational and logical weighing of pros and cons performed by the conscious self, but also in a sub-cortical process that involved the amygdala (emotional brain center). When the brain is faced with a decision, it automatically weighs the possible outcomes on an emotional and unconscious level. Somatic states that were triggered for specific behaviors in the past become triggered again as the brain processes all of these possible plans of action, and that "gut feeling" is produced as a compilation of the many emotional outcomes the brain has quickly processed.

This understanding of that intuitive decision-making tool we all utilize at some point is a fascinating thing to think about. Many people like to logic their way rationally through decisions because it is a way to consciously see the future outcome. It appears that intuition is really a result of the same pro/con process, except for emotionally, without you being able to consciously compare those outcomes. It seems like learning to follow these gut feelings could lead to a better decision-making process, but even this brings about more questions. Are there situations where following intuition is not good, or even dangerous? Is this intuitive neural process the same that allowed the researchers to predict Marcus du Sautoy's behaviors 6 seconds before he acted (BBC, The Secret You). Do animals that have no sense of self live a life where every action is orchestrated through the same gut-feeling sensation? If so, to what extent does the presence of that second rational/logical pathway define our human self? Do apes that also demonstrate having a sense of self act on both logic and gut feelings for decision-making?


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A very interesting article! But I have to say though that gut decisions aren't always the best choice. I can most certainly say that there have been times where I followed my instinct and the result was not so great... Many times they can be rash and illogical. Also depending on the situation and the maturity of oneself, instinct decisions can lead to bad conclusions. To clarify, compare a young middle-schooler and let's say a college student. The instinctive choice to the younger one may be a different instinctive choice for the college student purely based on how much experience one has had.

Fascinating post! I get gut feelings everyday: when I'm taking a test, when I'm walking home, when I get dressed for the day, etc. Like you mentioned, people try to logically talk there way through a situation. Why is it though that at times we avoid the logic that we've reasoned? Do you ever go against your gut feeling in the hopes that another decision is the right one? Especially on exams, this happens to me. I'll be debating between two answers when I think I know the right one; however, I'll end up choosing the wrong answer. What impulse drives me to change my mind? I'm curious to read more about this sometime.

I really enjoyed reading your post. I have often found that my gut decisions result in the best outcomes. It is usually when I go against my gut that bad things happen. Usually my first response to a question on an exam is the correct choice. Like the above commenter, I also don't know what drives me to change my mind.

Thanks for choosing such an original topic! I related to your blog from the first sentence, where you described spontaneously deciding to take a route home that you usually don't take. I do that all the time and I have never placed any logic behind that decision. To me it was taking a leap of faith. I find it fascinating that decision making not only occurs by weighing the pros and cons of the decision by the conscious self, but also in a sub cortical process. It makes a lot of sense that there is an emotional connection established with the decision because I realized that when I do get that gut feeling, I feel emotionally driven by it and influenced to do what it says.

Very good entry! I think people are getting 'gut instincts' and 'impulse decisions' blended together. I believe that 'gut instincts' and intuition often do lead to successful results, while I believe that 'impulse decisions' lead to poor outcomes and oftentimes, regrets. These two types of decision-making are completely different of course! I view gut feelings as still being a conscious, weighted choice. The only difference between these feelings and 'logical' decisions is that with gut instincts one is acting with their emotions, and maybe not a clear reason as to why they are choosing a certain action. Impulse decisions, on the other hand, are not thought out, not weighted, and are often referred to negatively. (Many purchases I have made were based on impulsed, leading to a depleted bank account and not-improved wardrobe). While the two types of decision makers may be similar at first glance, I do believe that their are distinct differences between them!

What an intriguing and thought-provoking article, thanks for sharing! Reflecting upon life, I believe that in many situations the "gut" feeling can be one's saving grace; however, just as often, gut decisions can be rash and result in an unlikable outcome-commonly in adolescences who believe they're invincible. For instance, in my Management 1001 course, I read a book called "The Checklist Manifesto," and there was an example where a plane was crashing into the Hudson River, and the pilots didn't do anything extraordinary, they just did exactly what they were supposed to do- therefore trusting their gut. Their gut decision saved lives. On the contrary, some people's gut decisions solely rely on emotional, impulsive instincts rather than logic which can be detrimental. People need to be able to make choices based on what their gut instinct, logic and emotion tells them.

I really liked the post here. I too usually have very good success going with my gut instinct when making a decision. Obviously there are always those times when my first instinct is not right but I would say for every time I am not right, there are five other times when my gut instinct is right. I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I have changed an answer on a test only to find out when I get it back that the answer I had originally was correct. It makes me so mad because if I would have just listened to my gut I would have gotten it right!

Interesting post. I completely agree with the belief that gut instincts generally lead to positive outcomes. However, every once in a while we can trick ourselves into a sticky situation as well. This post reminds me of the availability heuristic. When faced with a new situation/circumstance, as human we typically look back to a previous experience, examine the outcome of the experience, and either replicate our response or try a different tactic based on the result from the past. By simplifying things, we can more easily make decisions.

I have had several instances when I am getting ready to leave my house and something prevents me from leaving on time. Sometimes I have forgotten something or I have to use the bathroom but regardless of the issue I leave the house later then intended. I am then driving to where I need to be and there is an accident on the way. I know it may not be the same as a gut feeling, but I feel like something kept me from harm at those times.

I think this is really interesting. We're always told to go with your gut, your instinct. Most of the time it results in favorable outcomes but I'd have to argue, at least in my case, it always ends poorly. If I take the time to think about a problem and its probable outcomes I usually make a better decision and don't regret it in the end, though that's not always the case. I think it's just how you react to whatever the consequences are. If you just accept that you made a decision and can't change it or say what if you're more likely to be happy. That and the fact if you're spontaneous where you don't really have the luxury of taking a long time or the patience to make a decision.

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This page contains a single entry by shimo034 published on February 25, 2012 7:52 PM.

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