February 17, 2006

Follow your gut

You know how experts say you should weigh all the pros and cons before any major decision?

I tried once or twice, but it always seemed false and forced. I usually opt for the easier, more natural gut decisions.

Turns out, that's a smarter thing to do.

A study today published in Science says "Follow your gut.

However, as the decisions become complex (more expensive items with many characteristics, such as cars), better decisions and happier ones come from not attending to the choices but allowing one's unconscious to sift through the many permutations for the optimal combination.

The Boston Globe reports

In a series of studies with shoppers and students, researchers found that people who face a decision with many considerations, such as what house to buy, often do not choose wisely if they spend a lot of time consciously weighing the pros and cons. Instead, the scientists conclude, the best strategy is to gather all of the relevant information -- such as the price, the number of bathrooms, the age of the roof -- and then put the decision out of mind for a while.

Then, when the time comes to decide, go with what feels right. ''It is much better to follow your gut," said Ap Dijksterhuis, a professor of psychology at the University of Amsterdam, who led the research.

For relatively simple decisions, he said, it is better to use the rational approach. But the conscious mind can consider only a few facts at a time. And so with complex decisions, he said, the unconscious appears to do a better job of weighing the factors and arriving at a sound conclusion.

Posted by Jill Fallon at February 17, 2006 2:18 PM | Permalink