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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Does Your Gut Always Steer You Right?

Elizabeth Bernstein
The Wall Street Journal
Originally published October 9, 2017

Here is an excerpt:

When should you trust your gut? Consult your gut for complex decisions.

These include important, but not life-or-death, choices such as what car to buy, where to move, which job offer to accept. Your conscious mind will have too much information to sort through, and there may not be one clear choice. For example, there’s a lot to consider when deciding on a new home: neighborhood (Close to work but not as fun? Farther away but nicer?), price, type of home (Condo or house?). Research shows that when people are given four choices of which car to buy or which apartment to rent—with slightly different characteristics to each—and then are distracted from consciously thinking about their decision, they make better choices. “Our conscious mind is not very good at having all these choices going on at once,” says Dr. Bargh. “When you let your mind work on this without paying conscious attention, you make a better decision.”

Using unconscious and conscious thought to make a decision is often best. And conscious thought should come first. An excellent way to do this is to make a list of the benefits and drawbacks of each choice you could make. We are trained in rational decision-making, so this will satisfy your conscious mind. And sometimes the list will be enough to show you a clear decision.

But if it isn’t, put it away and do something that absorbs your conscious mind. Go for a hike or run, walk on the beach, play chess, practice a musical instrument. (No vegging out in front of the TV; that’s too mind-numbing, experts say.) “Go into yourself without distractions from the outside, and your unconscious will keep working on the problem,” says Emeran Mayer, a gastroenterologist and neuroscientist and the author of “The Mind-Gut Connection” and a professor at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine.

If the stakes are high, try to think rationally

Even if time is tight. For example, if your gut tells you to jump in front of a train to help someone who just fell on the tracks, that might be worth risking your life. If it’s telling you to jump in front of that train because you dropped your purse, it’s not. Your rational mind, not your gut, will know the difference, Dr. Bargh says.

The article is here.

Note: As usual, I don't agree with everything in this article.
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