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How Often Should We Trust Our Intuition?

How Often Should We Trust Our Intuition?For many, our gut response helps us make the call when confronted with a difficult decision. But is this always the correct course of action?

A new study exploring the decision-making process finds the abiliity to make hunch decisions varies considerably: Intuition can either be a useful ally or it can lead to costly and dangerous mistakes.

Research findings, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggest the trustworthiness of our intuition is really influenced by what is happening physically in our bodies.

“We often talk about intuition coming from the body — following our gut instincts and trusting our hearts,” said Barnaby D. Dunn, Ph.D., of the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, U.K., first author of the new paper. What isn’t certain is whether we should follow, or be suspicious of, what our bodies are telling us. And do we differ in the influence that our gut feelings have on how we make decisions?

To investigate how different bodily reactions can influence decision-making, Dunn and his co-authors asked study participants to try to learn how to win at a card game they had never played before. The game was designed so that there was no obvious strategy to follow and instead players had to follow their hunches. While playing the game, each participant wore a heart rate monitor and a sensor that measured the amount of sweat on their fingertips.

Most players gradually found a way to win at the card game and they reported having relied on intuition rather than reason. Subtle changes in the players’ heart rates and sweat responses affected how quickly they learned to make the best choices during the game.

Interestingly, the quality of the advice that people’s bodies gave them varied. Some people’s gut feelings were spot on, meaning they mastered the card game quickly. Other people’s bodies told them exactly the wrong moves to make, so they learned slowly or never found a way to win.

Dunn and his co-authors found this link between gut feelings and intuitive decision making to be stronger in people who were more aware of their own heartbeat. So for some individuals being able to “listen to their heart” helped them make wise choices, whereas for others it led to costly mistakes.

“What happens in our bodies really does appear to influence what goes in our minds. We should be careful about following these gut instincts, however, as sometimes they help and sometimes they hinder our decision making,” Dunn said.

Source: Association for Psychological Science

How Often Should We Trust Our Intuition?

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). How Often Should We Trust Our Intuition?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2011/01/05/how-often-should-we-trust-our-intuition/22292.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.