There are situations where you should trust your gut instinct and times you shouldn’t, according to social scientists.
“We tend to trust our gut reactions more than our rational ones because they happen so quickly we think they must be true,” said Dr. John Bargh, author of Before You Know It: The Unconscious Reasons We Do What We Do.
But there is a problem with this belief, reports Elizabeth Bernstein for the Wall Street Journal. Our emotional states change what our gut tells us. “Say you are angry and tell someone off and think that is the truth,” Bargh said. “The next day, you may be in a very different emotional state and the truth is different.”
Our gut is better at helping us in situations like determining whether we are in danger or helping us quickly identify our preferences. It’s also good at helping us make complex decisions when we are overwhelmed with information or choices, according to Bargh.
But, relying on our gut can have negative consequences.
Our gut can push us to be impulsive, to drink or smoke when we shouldn’t, said Bargh. “If the outcome of our choice will affect someone else, it’s best not to rely on our gut alone.
The connections between the gut and the brain are extremely complex. It has multiple pathways of communication: the nervous system, immune system and hormonal system, which facilitate messages from the microbiome – the trillions of micro-organisms that live in our gut and produce molecules similar to the neurotransmitters found in the brain, according to Bargh.
When should you trust your gut?
According to Bargh:
Consult your gut for complex decisions, e.g. where to move or which job to accept.
If the stakes are high, try to think rationally.
Pay attention to your state of mind. “Remember that strong emotions can change your intuition. If you’re angry your gut will give you a different answer than it normally would,” Bernstein wrote.
Stop asking for advice. “You can’t listen to your own intuition if it’s drowned out by other people’s opinions.”
Eat well. “Refined foods can damage the microbiome in your gut, and this harms the connection to the brain … good food creates mental clarity.”