Should you trust your gut? The short answer is yes and no. It depends.

Google search “trust your gut” vs. “don’t trust your gut”

A gut reaction is your subconscious mind pattern matching. The problem is that you can’t control what your subconscious absorbs. Often as we read fiction and watch movies and TV, we absorb inaccurate data. Also when we read fake news or fall prey to the evils of cognitive biases we skew our subconscious minds ability to be accurate.

Trust your gut for decisions based on a field of study where you have focused many years of concentrated effort. Those gut decisions are more likely to be accurate.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell

Don’t allow emotions to sway your judgement. Emotions are good for elevating something to a higher level of urgency or importance, and for red flagging things. Use that information as a clue but not a end decision. Decisions made with emotions are often incorrect. An impulse purchase is an example of a gut decision fueled by emotion.

Don’t perform knee jerk reactions. This happens all too often in social media. Often times we need more information in order to make the best decision. Time allows emotions to settle down and logic to take over. Much of the fake news and inaccurate memes floating around are propagated based on knee jerk reactions and our impulse to share the post before fact checking it.

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman – The fast brain is the subconscious and the slow brain is the logical, conscious side.

It’s very important to rely on facts, statistical data, and research/studies. All too often we use poor judgement to make decisions and call it a gut instinct. There are many biases that can influence our decisions and cause inaccuracy. Here are some:

  • Prejudice of race, religion, sex, age, background, LGBT, and many others
  • Stereotyping/profiling
  • Political bias
  • Seeing something once and thinking that’s the way it always is
  • False sense of expertise from a limited exposure to a subject
  • False data from a “trusted” source – choose what you trust with caution
  • Wikipedia List of cognitive biases
  • NLP filter – deletion, distortion, generalization
  • Peer influence and social proof
  • The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree
  • Bad decision making, jumping to conclusions
  • Optical illusions

Often our mistakes can be contributed to this problem. Have you ever said to yourself, this must be the solution but it’s not working! Or you look for your lost keys in the same places – it must be here!

Some strategies that will help are to:

  • Randomize thought patterns – change the subject, work on something else, take a break and come back to the problem later
  • Try to argue a viewpoint front he opposite perspective. We get entrenched in one side that often we lose perspective.
  • Research more on the subject. Often we are lacking data or the sample set of data is too small.
  • Adopt a healthy sense of humility. We get tripped up in our own hubris.

Recommended books:
The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail–but Some Don’t by Nate Silver
Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction by Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner
Yes I know I recommend these books often but there is a good reason why they are 2 of my favorites.