Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Gut Feelings?

Do you ever have gut feelings? Hunches? What about intuition? If so, do you understand these feelings?



Perhaps like many of you, I consistently have these feelings. My tendency is to sometimes ignore them and regret it later. So a few weeks ago I decided to do something about it. I picked up a book called Gut Feelings The Intelligence of the Unconscious by Gerd Gigerenzer and powered through it.


When I initially read a review about this book I thought - Great! I'll read this book and right away learn how to optimize these feelings and thereby increase my effectiveness and accuracy in making decisions. Don't we all want to make the right choices more often?





Gut Feelings The Intelligence of the Unconscious

I thought - Wouldn't it be great if I could come up with a way to consistently capitalize on these feelings? I figured the benefits and opportunities were limitless. Think about it. If I could look at three investment opportunities and consistently pick the right one or simply increase my percentages over time that would be awesome. The applications in the capital marketplace and Vegas are obvious but what about everyday life? What about relationships? Ever meet someone and have a funny feeling about them? Did your gut feeling turn out to be correct? What if you could eliminate the wasted time of nurturing a bad relationship or avoid the complications of involving yourself with shady characters or people who only want to take advantage of you? If you look above at the photo (it's actually the cover of the book - Gut Feelings) It shows a man deliberating over a decision to go left or right. The implication is that his gut feeling is to go right and avoid the masked man with the knife who is hiding around the corner to his left. Will he be smart enough to go with his gut feelings? Can your gut feelings keep you out of dangerous situations? What would you do when faced with a similar choice? Would you feel confident trusting your gut feelings?


These were some of the questions I asked myself in an attempt to understand and feel comfortable with my own intuition. So in an effort to better understand these little voices and improve my quality of life through this understanding I critically examined Gigerenzer's writing. I figured even improving the little things like avoiding traffic jams and picking the right line at the grocery store would be helpful in my life. Ultimately, I suppose, I wanted to be more like Thomas Magnum on the series Magnum P.I. Do you remember Magnum? He was always hearing his own little voice and he listened to it. His voice generally influenced him in the right direction. I wanted to perfect this technique so that I would more likely say "I'm glad I made that choice" instead of the alternative "I wish I had listened to my gut feelings."




Thomas Magnum usually listened to his "gut feelings" or his little voice. When he didn't - There was generally trouble ahead.
















So here we go, I picked up the book and started reading. My first observation was that the book read more like a college text book than a "how to" book. My preference would have been for a step by step process with examples and someone to hold my hand and lead me to the promised land but that was not in the cards. It wasn't quite as bad as college Thermodynamics but there were times when I thought about skipping a few chapters. It's easy to understand why the book was written in this manner when you consider who the author is - Gerd Gigerenzer, who was a director at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. That definitely adds credibility to the book but doesn't make it read anything like a Louis L'amour novel. I read on..... I was impressed at how the author drew parallels between catching a fly ball and gut feelings. He would go on to describe and define the "gaze heuristic" in which an outfielder uses a technique of gazing at a fly ball to predict where it will come down. He later introduces the "recognition heuristic" as a tool that people can use to make decisions. He cleverly used cute anecdotes to highlight his points and somehow keep me interested and waiting for the step by step process that I was looking for. He proved to me that "less information can be more" and often produces the best answer or decision. Without delivering to me the pass key I'd hoped for to consistently make accurate decisions based on my own gut feelings, he finally got his point across. In summary, this book is about gut feelings and the intelligence associated with the unconscious mind. The author's theory is that these feelings, hunches, inner voices or whatever you may use to describe them are not based on random or capricious thought. Contrarily, they are based on information that may be hidden in the subconscious mind or observations and mental processes that you may not be cognizant of. That's my take on it.

Every day we make hundreds if not thousands of decisions. Some people are indecisive and have a difficult time making decisions. Sometimes the correct answer is right there in front of them and they still deliberate and ultimately make the wrong choice. At times I've personally had to make decisions when the answers were not clear. I have a history of not going with my gut feelings and using logic or reason to talk myself out of the intuitive answer. I think now I've taken a proactive step in my life to try to finally tilt the odds in my direction. I'm not sure if I'll be successful but I know I've at least armed myself with some more information. I can now be comfortable in knowing that perhaps there is some science or logic to this nebulous decision making process. Now all I have to do is be smart enough to listen to my inner voice and hope it continues to be right more often than not.

Good luck with your Gut Feelings.....

I hope my ranting has been helpful!





8 comments:

Jane Turley said...

I shall read this book; it sounds fascinating. I am someone who primarily uses gut feelings all the time and on the few significant times that I have gone against my instinct and followed logic and reasoning it has always backfired on me. I've never applied my intuition to investments/gambling and I'm not sure if they would work anyway (although I can think of one occasion when as a child it did; on hearing a radio announcement of the horses in either the Grand National/ Derby one stuck out - "Troy". I was reading a poem I had written at that very moment called "Troy" which I had written. I had a feeling that somehow this horse would win, I told my parents to put some cash on it... they didn't.. and it won! Grimaces all round.

I really think they is so much unharnessed power in the subconcious mind. An example of this is again something I did as a later teenager; I was reading a newspaper report about how cat's fleas can carry diseases like bubonic plague. At the same time a cat was sitting on my lap - within a few minutes my legs came out with big red welts..only to disappear again within a few minutes...

Guess that means I really am nuts eh?!

A really interesting article Mr I; one of your best. Now my gut instinct about this article was about the knowledge that you've read Louis L'amour. (Well you probably wouldn't have mentioned him otherwise would you?) Now that tells me a lot, Mr Fantasy Six Shooter. It's time for you to cast away those tie and cufflinks and put on your spurs!

An afterthought... do you believe in the power of prayer?

Jane Turley said...

Blimey, there was some bad grammar in that comment! You'll have to forgive me - a stressful few days.

intrepidideas said...

Miss Jane. Welcome back. And you are forgiven. Thanks so much for the compliment. "What you won't do?" .... I've always known that you have a highly developed conscious. And yes, I have read my share of L'amour novels. I've also read a few Tabor Evans' tales.

Jane Turley said...

Tabor Evans? Well he is a new one on me; I've had to google him! But I'm getting a good idea already of his work... Longarm and the Lusty Lady...French Actress...Boarding House Widow...

Do you want to recommend one for me to read?? Or shall I just pick randomly?!

intrepidideas said...

No rec's... They're all about the same. Pick one for a quick sappy read.

Footsteps said...

Interesting. It sounds like the ultra-perceptive types with decent amounts of confidence have a definite edge. Remembering that there's a solid sensory basis for many of our "instincts" might give us a little more courage to listen to them...

MickisMorsels said...

This is really interesting; however, is it based on the premise that those gut feelings are rooted in rational thought? What I'm saying is that a traumatized child may develop different gut feelings as an adult than one who was not traumatized. See where I'm going with it? Before you rely on your gut feelings, I think you should make sure to wipe off the lenses that you use to see the world.

intrepidideas said...

Miki, great point. I like where you're going with that thinking. Certainly that could explain why some people have "better" or "more accurate" gut feelings than others. Those with the clear lenses can see better and quite possibly have more "intelligent" gut feelings. Understanding your own individual gut feelings is key. As you have read..... I'm still trying to figure all of this out. Thanks for the insight.