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People tend to defend decisions based in intuition over logic

According to a recent study published by the American Psychological Association, people often trust their gut instincts over logic because they view intuitive decisions as a reflection of their true selves. For this reason, individuals may hold these beliefs with more conviction.

Study lead author Dr. Sam Maglio is an associate professor of Marketing at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

“We offer what we believe to be a novel and unique approach to the question of why people come to hold certain attitudes,” said Dr. Maglio. “Focusing on feelings as opposed to logic in the decision-making process led participants to hold more certain attitudes toward and advocate more strongly for their choices.”

The research was focused on a series of four experiments involving a total of more than 450 participants, including local residents, undergraduate students, and online survey takers. In each experiment, participants were asked to choose from a selection of similar items, such as different DVD players, mugs, restaurants, or apartments.

The individuals were instructed to make their decision either with deliberation and logic or based on gut instincts. Next, the volunteers were asked a series of questions about their choice.

The study revealed that participants who made an intuitive, gut-based decision were more likely to report that their decision reflected their true selves. The researchers also found that participants who made intuitive, gut-based decisions were more steadfast in their decisions and more likely to advocate for them.

In one experiment, the participants were instructed to choose between two different restaurants, again based either on logic or intuition, and were then told to publicize their choice by emailing their decision to their friends. The people who picked a restaurant intuitively shared their choice with more people.

“This suggests that focusing on feelings doesn’t just change attitudes – it can change behavior, too,” said Dr. Maglio.

The researchers were surprised at how willing people were to make intuitive, gut-based decisions when instructed.

“So much folk wisdom says that we should eschew intuition because careful deliberation is thought to be the surest path to good choices, but we can’t escape our gut feelings.”

“In making decisions, people must decide not only what to choose, but how to choose it,” said Dr. Maglio. “Our research suggests that individuals focusing on their feelings in decision-making do indeed come to see their chosen options as more consistent with what is essential, true and unwavering about themselves.”

The certainty of making a gut-based choice can be a double-edged sword, according to Dr. Maglio.

“When digging our heels in is a good thing, like making sure we hop on the bike every day, there’s little downside and a lot of benefit. But dug-in heels give way to stubbornness and isolationism in the blink of an eye.”

“When our political attitudes are made intuitively and make us certain that we’re right, we shut ourselves off from the possibility that we might be even a little bit wrong. For this reason, perhaps a bit of the openness facilitated by deliberation isn’t a bad thing after all.”

The study is published in the journal Emotion.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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