Intuitive decisions - whether reaching for a glass of water, giving money to a homeless person or choosing a partner - are automatic. We don’t think, we don’t calculate, we don’t reason. These so-called "decisions" feel as though they "happen" to us. Such gut feelings can lead us in the right direction, but they can also prompt action we may regret later.
A recent study in Nature, Spontaneous Giving and Calculated Greed, investigated intuitive decisions and concluded that people are naturally generous. The researchers found that when people make quick decisions, they are more likely to cooperate with a group. When people take time to consider their options, they are more likely to protect their individual interests.
An LA Times article on the study suggests that impulsive decision can often be cooperative in spirit. However, there’s a lot to be said for considering your self-interest in addition to considering the group's needs. Reflecting on fleeting inclinations can help you be sure tomake choices that your really want. By taking a moment to reflect, you can harness the power of your rapid cognition. It can take only 20 seconds to truly weigh your options -- and allow yourself to fully exercise your free choice. With a few extra seconds you can logically choose whether to indulge your primitive or social priorities.
How can you use your intuitions wisely without giving into their seductive appeal?
Gladwell wrote a book about rapid cognition that is called Blink
- I heartily recommend it. His focus is on
" the smallest components of our everyday lives—with the content and
origin of those instantaneous impressions and conclusions that bubble up
whenever we meet a new person, or confront a complex situation, or have
a decision under conditions of stress.”
He explains how subconscious parts of our mind quickly interpret events
cues, and how past experiences can lead people to make rapid decisions that may be well-informed, ignorant or biased. Blink is a
terrific read; it introduces you to parts of your unconscious mind.
- Are you someone who acts immediately on impulse?
- What kinds of impulses do you act on? Individual or group oriented impulses, primitive or social?
- Which areas of life (for your self, for others, at work, at home) do you tend to be more individual-oriented when making decisions?
- Which areas of life (for your self, for others, at work, at home) do you tend to be more initially group-oriented when making decisions?
- Do you inhibit your kind impulses (for example, do you not call a friend when you are happy or concerned for them, or resist your urges to help others)?
- When have your intuitions been helpful to you?
- When have your intuitions sent your down the wrong path or gotten in your way you?
Reflecting on your biases and colecting good information about rapid cognition will help you check your intuitive decisions more effectively.