Please Explain: Intuition and Gut Reaction

Friday, August 28, 2009

On today’s edition of Please Explain, we’re looking at instinct, intuition, gut feelings, those unconscious reactions that guide so much of our decision making. We’re joined by Timothy Wilson, Sherrell J. Aston Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, and author of Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious, and by Gerd Gigerenzer, director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, and author of Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious.


Gerd Gigerenzer, and Timothy Wilson,

Comments [19]


I think Ms. Perez is a very personable host. My only complaint is that I found her interview questions a little too limited in scope for a science-related interview. She relies almost entirely on who, what, where, when-type questions (what the outcomes of Wilson's and Gigerenzer's experiments, what are their professional opinions, etc), but never asks how or why.

I would have really liked to know more about how people form gut feelings - Are they derived from emotions? Past experience? Both? Why do some people have better intuition than others? Why are gut feelings so reliable in some situations, but misleading in others?

After listening to the entire 40 minute segment, I felt I had learned a lot of interesting facts, but didn't really understand the topic so much as a whole. Asking how and why is necessary to fully exploring any science-related topic, and if Ms. Perez could just throw a few of these types of questions here and there, I think she would definitely have it made.

Sep. 23 2009 02:04 AM
gwynn from orland0

rosie did her best and did well. seems topic intimidated her a bit...just my gut feeling. interesting show though.

Sep. 08 2009 08:31 PM
Sheree from Chicago

I found the show on Gut Feelings to be engaging and thought-provoking. Rosie is an excellent host!

Aug. 28 2009 06:41 PM
Bill from New Rochelle

I want to add that another group (better than cops) who could be studied for excellent gut decisions are hospital NURSES. Experienced nurses, when they are not overworked, are 100% observation; and are able to react immediately bcause they already know. They just know.
This applies to ER nurses, psych nurses, Intensive care, and floor nurses.

Also, I agree with Robert, above (12, airports.)

An aside:
More Rosie Perez! ( I'd love it if Rosie had a show all about New York (she is as New York as Mayor LaGuardia.)
Rosie, laugh more. You were laughing and animated at the very end of the show, and at your very best.
Please, please, please, please, please, please...more Perez.

Aug. 28 2009 02:13 PM
Allan from New Brunswick

The comment about George Bush brings up the question of time profile for "feeding intuition".
When does "more information" help for intuitive decisions?

(Meanwhile, intuitions about future romance on short experience might be unexpectedly good, as some of that success might be on "irrational" factors like resemblence in looks or behavior to parents)

Aug. 28 2009 01:57 PM
Derek from Oyster Bay,New york

Rosie you can whisper in my ear anytime!

Aug. 28 2009 01:55 PM
Bruce Berkowitz from New Jersey

Isn't a "gut feeling" often just a lazy way of coming to a decision for many people?? Not wanting to expend the effort to way other options.

Aug. 28 2009 01:53 PM
Ellen from Brooklyn

It seems that we ought to differentiate many different things that may all fall under the umbrella of "intuition'. That is, what is the difference between a hunch, clairvoyance, prediction and coincidences (knowing when someone is going to call)?

Aug. 28 2009 01:52 PM
Robert Plautz from New York, N.Y.

No, no, no, to Mr.Gigerenzer comment that the reason why there was less flying after 9/11 because of some sort of gut reaction to a fear of flying. The reason why there were less people flying did not necessarily have anything to do with fearing a terriost attack. Rather, people just didn't want to go through the hassle of airport security when other transportation was available. There was also a turn down in the economy and naturally businesses cut back on travel expense, people were taking less pleasure travel. There are a lot of reasons for the decrease in flying immediately after 9/11 but fear of terrorism is but one of many.
I'm also kindof dissappointed in the presentation by Prof Miller. I've read his book, Strangers to Ourselves. It's excellent. I learned a lot. I'm disappointed in Prof Miller's presentation today and the superficial treatment. Gut feelings have a lot to do with personal historical patterns that we've developed since an early age. Finally, what do your guests think of Malcolm Gladwell's book, Blink.

Robert Plautz

Aug. 28 2009 01:50 PM
dbnyc from bushwick

can your guests clarify the difference between an emotional reaction (ie, based on fear, anger, etc) and a gut instinct? I think the post 9/11 example about air travel in general was a fear-based response, not a gut instinct. a gut instinct would be deciding not to fly on a particular flight (as opposed to not flying in general) for a reason that cannot be logically explained....

Aug. 28 2009 01:48 PM
Amy from Manhattan

What I wanted to do after 9/11, after I heard that the hijackers had taken flying lessons but didn't want to learn how to take off or land, was go to flight school & learn nothing *but* how to land every kind of plane! Not that I could afford to do it, but that was my gut reaction.

Aug. 28 2009 01:43 PM
Jim from Manhattan

Great job today Rosie. You need your own show!

Aug. 28 2009 01:38 PM
Cathy from Brooklyn

I teach people to trust their intuition and use it in business and in life. I have found that creativity is a huge factor in being able to connect with intuition, especially the ability to visualize. I also find that the ego is the main voice that interferes with being able to hear the intuitive voice. I also am a medium and have done research studies with taking this idea of intuition further - through the U of V actually. Could your guests talk about that?

Aug. 28 2009 01:37 PM
JC Kole from Queens

Can the guests speak to how gut feelings interact with biases and discrimination. I work in the area of interviewing and find gut feelings can have dangerous consequences.

Aug. 28 2009 01:34 PM
bob from hunrington

is gut feeling in any way related to things that are often referred to as "muscle memory," things we do almost without thinking?

great show, rosie. i hope wnyc has you back often, or, better still, creates a regular gig for you.

Aug. 28 2009 01:32 PM
Joseph Cavalieri from East Village New York

I am wondering how can one measure the strength of their unconscious feelings? It feels somewhat like tarot readings....

Aug. 28 2009 01:32 PM
Yourgo from Astoria

I beleive in gut feelings and i think people should refine their understanding of their own gut feeling so they can better use it to their advantage. Emotions are complicated and need to be experimented with to be fully understood.
i also think Rosie is a good host. Shes hot too.! kisses rosie.

Aug. 28 2009 01:31 PM

Can the profs explain what kinds of decisions are best handled by instinct/unconscious, and which be explicit thinking?

Aug. 28 2009 01:28 PM
Tony from San Jose, CA

The expression "gut feeling" has some truth to it, given that we have some neurons in our guts.

Aug. 28 2009 12:42 PM

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