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Gut Feelings

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Gut Feelings

The Intelligence of the Unconscious


15 min read
10 take-aways
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What's inside?

Logic won’t always lead you out of a dilemma; sometimes you have to use your instincts.

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  • Innovative


According to Freud and other intellectuals and philosophers, intuition is unsound and has no merit. Freud warns not to put any value on gut feelings. Instead, people should trust logic and reasoning. German psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer begs to differ. He claims that intuition often works far better than reason to solve problems and make decisions. Gigerenzer details numerous studies that repeatedly demonstrate intuition’s ability to trump logic. He illustrates how people with less information often make better decisions than experts. getAbstract recommends Gigerenzer’s book to people who want to understand and improve the way they make decisions. As Alexander Pope said, “Who reasons wisely is not therefore wise.” Gigerenzer might agree. What do you think? More to the point, what do you feel in your gut?


When Feeling Was Everything

Before the great wise men, the learned scholars, the otherworldly mystics, the ancient writings and the early discoveries, intuition was the only tool humans had to make decisions. They depended on their gut instincts to survive. Through intuition, early humans could make sense of each other, as well as the dangerous world around them. Without these feelings, they would have been lost – so, naturally, they placed a high premium on intuition, valuing it over rationality. Superior heavenly beings such as angels, they believed, were clairvoyant.

Things have changed. Most modern-day intellectuals and thinkers place intuition on the same level as rumblings in the bowels. What once was “angelic certainty” is now mere visceral sentiment, no more reliable for decision making than a divining rod. Instead, people believe they should make decisions according to a method that Benjamin Franklin described to his nephew. He recommended that the boy “set down all the Reasons, pro and con, in opposite Columns on a Sheet of Paper,” go away for a day or so, and then weigh the reasons against one another. When he saw which side had the strongest reasons, he...

About the Author

Gerd Gigerenzer directs the Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin. A former psychology professor at the University of Chicago, Gigerenzer has won numerous awards and prizes for his research and books.

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