If you’ve ever gone with your gut when making a decision—and gotten eye rolls from pragmatic friends in the process—take heart. New findings in the Journal of Consumer Research give credibility to those of us who bring emotions into the decision-making equation. And the more we trust our emotions, the more likely it is that a decision will be the right one.
What Kind Of Decision-Maker Are You?
Researchers from Columbia Business School conducted eight studies where they compared people who trusted their feelings in making decisions and judgments—such as predicting who would win the NCAA championship or American Idol—with those who didn’t feel confident in their ability to correctly predict events. The results: Those who trusted their feelings were consistently more accurate than those who didn’t.
But before you take up shop on the corner and call yourself Madame Zelda, there is a caveat: You have to be somewhat knowledgeable about what you’re talking about. In other words, if you know less than nothing about the stock market, having all the confidence in the world still isn’t going to help you make a killing on Wall Street.
Dealing With Option Overload
So what’s behind this instinct phenomenon? “Our findings add to a growing body of research suggesting that there’s more to human rationality than reason-based judgments,” says study author Michel Tuan Pham, PhD, a professor at Columbia Business School. Trusting your feelings isn’t simply random, but rather, involves a subconscious process of drawing upon your knowledge of a particular subject, sort of like your body’s knee-jerk way of making an informed choice. Feelings can help you make the right decision, says Dr. Pham, but only to the extent of what you know.
There’s nothing extraordinarily mysterious about intuition, adds Scott Barry Kaufman, PhD, an adjunct assistant professor of psychology at New York University and co-founder of philosophical website, TheCreativityPost.com. “Our intuition, or our gut feelings, is just a direct result of the many things we unconsciously soak up.”
So the next time something “feels right,” it probably is. You just have to trust it.
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