Frontier Research
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Frontier Research

Intuition is often lauded as the key to decision making. Should you always follow your gut?

In the past two decades, psychologists and neuroscientists have made enormous strides in identifying the sources of our gut instincts. Along the way, their research has identified the specific situations in which our intuition is likely to lead us down the right path, and the times that it leads us astray

The evidence for the importance of gut feelings is strongest in studies of lie detection. People tend to be more accurate at judging someone’s honesty — and whether they are lying — if they are asked to go with their intuitions, compared to when they are asked to think it through and verbalise their reasons. In other situations, the strength of our intuitions will depend on the extent of our experiences.

According to the latest research, the quality of someone’s gut instincts may depend on their overall emotional intelligence (EI). Jeremy Yip, an assistant professor at Georgetown University recently compared people’s EI scores to their performance on the Iowa Gambling Task. While most participants seemed to show a heightened stress response when they considered choosing the “bad” decks, people with lower EI consistently misread their own bodily signals.

For these participants with lower EI, a greater stress response seemed to act as an encouragement to take the risky — and ultimately unprofitable — cards. They simply didn’t seem to recognise the feeling as a warning. If you want to fine-tune your intuition, then, you might first try to get in touch with your emotions more generally.

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