Always Go With Your Gut, But Only If You’re An Expert

The decision-making process is often a choice between taking your time to review objective information, or trusting your gut and going with your feelings, notes Rick Nauert on the website PsychCentral.  A new study from researchers at Rice University, George Mason University and Boston College suggests you should trust your gut—but only if you’re an expert:

“How expert someone is within a particular domain has a positive impact on their ability to make an accurate gut decision,” said Rice’s Erik Dane, Ph.D., lead author of a study.

“Although there’s been a lot of research on the concept of intuition, there’s relatively little research directly comparing whether it’s best to ‘trust your gut’ versus taking time to make a decision,” said Dane.

Accordingly, researchers took on the task of examining circumstances in which intuitive decision-making is effective compared with analytical decision-making.

Investigators conducted two studies, one in which participants rated the difficulty of basketball shots and one in which participants judged whether designer handbags were real or fake.

Across both studies, participants who possessed expertise within the task domain performed on average just as well intuitively as analytically. In addition, experts significantly outperformed novices when making their decisions intuitively but not when making their decisions analytically.

However, the researchers’ findings come with a caveat. “Even if you’re an expert, intuitive decision-making is better for some types of tasks than others. Tasks that can be solved through predetermined steps, like maths problems, are not as conducive to intuitive decision-making as less-structured tasks, which may include certain strategic or human resource management problems,” says Dane. (Read more here.)

This study is very similar to the research Malcolm Gladwell covered in his book Blink—because experts have a depth and breadth of knowledge, they can make snap judgments that are often uncannily accurate. Novices’ gut reactions aren’t based on that same body of knowledge, so they’re likely to be wrong.

By the way, if you’re wondering how some participants in the study were designated as “experts” on designer handbags, the researchers note that they bestowed such status on people who own “more than three Coach and Louis Vuitton handbags.”

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