Should You Actually Trust Your Gut Feelings?

A new study looks at whether confidence in your intuition actually leads to success.
Should You Actually Trust Your Gut Feelings?
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Entrepreneurship often requires risk. You can do all the research under the sun and run the numbers countless times, but a lot of the time your big decisions come down to a gut decision. But how do you know if it’s right?

In a recent study, University of Kent researchers Stefan Leach and Mario Weick sought to understand how the degree of certainty and confidence you have in your intuition impacts the successful completion of the task at hand.

Related: A 3-Step Process to Making Better Decisions

To figure this out, Leach and Weck tasked a group of 400 people from the U.S. and U.K. to answer questions about how they approach decisions. They asked if they agreed or disagreed with statements such as, “With most decisions, it makes sense to completely rely on your feelings,” “I believe in trusting my hunches” and “I hardly ever go wrong when I listen to my deepest gut feelings to find an answer.”

Then they put the participants through a series of tasks, requiring them to learn associations between random strings of letters and social media profile images and had them try and figure out the patterns that emerged.

Related: 6 Ways to Make Hard Decisions Easier as a Leader

“We found that people’s enduring beliefs in their intuitions were a poor guide to actual performance,” Leach and Weick explained. “In particular, people who were dispositionally inclined to place greater trust in their intuitions did not perform any better in the test phase of the implicit learning task than people who did not place such great trust in their intuitions.”

Specifically, nine out of 10 times a study participant with high levels of confidence in his or her intuition didn’t perform any better on the task than someone with low levels of confidence. Which is to say, just because you’re confident, it doesn’t mean that you’re right.  

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