Sunday, March 23, 2008

Gut feelings can be subconscious "thinking"

I knew it. Intuition is more than just blind guesses. Gut feelings and intuition can be the result of fast thinking processes that happen on a subconscious level.

A new study shows the value of intuition or gut feelings. This type of feeling or thought can come from the brain drawing on past experiences and external cues to make a decision – but one that happens so fast the reaction is at a non-conscious level. All we’re aware of is a general feeling that something is right or wrong.

A fascinating example from the study:

a Formula One driver who braked sharply when nearing a hairpin bend without knowing why – and as a result avoided hitting a pile-up of cars on the track ahead, undoubtedly saving his life.

“The driver couldn’t explain why he felt he should stop, but the urge was much stronger than his desire to win the race,” explains Professor Hodgkinson. “The driver underwent forensic analysis by psychologists afterwards, where he was shown a video to mentally relive the event. In hindsight he realised that the crowd, which would have normally been cheering him on, wasn’t looking at him coming up to the bend but was looking the other way in a static, frozen way. That was the cue. He didn’t consciously process this, but he knew something was wrong and stopped in time.”

Malcolm Gladwell wrote about this phenomenon in his fascinating book "Blink," which I recommend to fans of intuition or gut feelings.

Now why did my gut feelings tell me that Georgetown would win the NCAA basketball tournament this year? There goes my bracket.

2 comments:

Katherine said...

And I instinctively agree that the outcome of this study is correct, too. It's often when you start over-thinking and ignoring your initial reaction that things tend to go horribly wrong. I think.

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