Let’s say you’re making a hard choice, one that could impact your life significantly. Every time you think you’ve settled on something, the other option tugs you back to its side. You end up where you started: It’s a draw.
Should you make ever-more-detailed lists of pros and cons and seek advice from even more trusted sources? Or should you go with your gut?
Many people would suggest the latter: Listen to your gut, or your heart, or some other part of your body that couldn’t possibly know what those stock options will be worth in five years. For the advice-giver, “Just do what feels right!” is safe guidance to offer, since if you nudged the decision-maker toward a huge mistake, at least they’d feel good making it.
But according to the research of Jennifer Lerner, a professor of public policy and management at Harvard, that might be the exact wrong way to go about it. In a series of studies she recently published with Christine Ma-Kellams at the University of La Verne in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, she found that, in a task where managers were trying to detect an interviewee’s emotions, they assessed the situation more accurately when they thought systematically, than when they just relied on intuition. In fact, much of Lerner’s research focuses on how emotions can influence decision-making—and not always for the better. Your gut, to the extent that it reflects your feelings, might be steering you wrong.
– Olga Khazan
Read more: The Best Headspace for Making Decisions