Logic versus intuition in decision making: when can you trust your gut feeling?

When you make a decision, do you use logic or do trust your intuition? Is one is better than the other? When is it okay to trust your gut feeling and when should you use an analytical approach? Research has studied this topic and here is what they have to say.

Living in the current digital age, we have access to more and more data. Some of us have even turned into real data junkies. At the same time, emotions aren’t very popular. Especially in a work environment. We are trained to never be led by our emotions. Can you image a CEO saying: “I have a feeling this is the right choice” while making a high impact decision? It would probably raise a few eyebrows, leaving others thinking: ‘where is the data that you based this on?’

Intuition versus logic

Intuition doesn’t have the best reputation. In the past, researchers concluded that analytical reasoning tops intuition. These studies, however, examined decision making in structured environments. Analytical reasoning is great for breaking problems down into smaller parts, like you would need for a math question. But when it comes down to the real world, the same does not apply. Real world decision-making is not black and white, it’s a complex challenge. Decisions need to be based on many different parameters that influence our situation.

What is intuition?

Intuition is the brain’s ability to recognize recurring patterns without our conscious awareness.
Our intuition is best when we are very familiar with a certain topic or situation. The more experienced we become with a certain activity, the better our brain is at recognizing patterns. So the more we build our expertise, the better our intuition becomes. For that reason, is it still strange that a CEO makes big decisions based on his gut feeling?

 (Learn more about how using your intuition can make you a happier person HERE)

The science behind intuition

The somatic marker hypothesis states that physiological reactions influence behavior, and especially: decision making. This is such a quick reaction that it influences the brain before we are able to consciously process knowledge. This hypothesis was first termed by neurologist Antonio Damasio in his book Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain.
To test this hypothesis, Damasio ran an experiment involving the Iowa Gambling Task. This is a game where the participants had to pick cards from four decks while randomly receiving monetary rewards or penalties for it. The tricky part was that some decks gave higher than average rewards, while others gave great penalties. Before the students became aware of this, they started showing physiological anxiety responses before picking a card from the ‘high penalty’ deck. Their intuition picked up on the pattern before they became consciously aware of it.
According to Damasio, our brain stores past information about rewards, punishments and patterns which can trigger nonconscious emotional responses that we register as ‘hunches’.

Do you trust your gut feeling while making a decision?