Gut Feelings

Gerd Gigerenzer is an experienced scholar and psychologist writing, researching and teaching matters of adaptive behavioural psychology at various academic institutions.

quick & compact

We tend to suppress or devalue our intuition during decision-making processes. Paradoxically, we should take it into account more frequently because it represents the sum of experiences and subconscious knowledge that we possess and thus weighs equally as factual information. It all depends on the risk and prestige that the decision bears.

1 Big Idea

Gerd Gigerenzer reveals the secrets of fast and effective decision-making and states that intuition is a feeling based on many years of experience. The basic principle is that many of the decisions we make are based on unconscious and instinctual heuristic processes and that these processes often tend to be more efficient than statistical and/or logical decision-making processes. Gigerenzer defines a gut feeling as a feeling that appears quickly in consciousness, with us unaware of the underlying reasons, but strong enough for us to act on. Whereas most books tell you not to go after your intuition, this book goes against that and claims that the power of the gut feeling is central.

2 inspiring quotes

An intuition is neither a caprice nor a sixth sense but a form of unconscious intelligence.”

“The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.”

3 actionable takeaways

Scientific experiments indicate that relying on gut feelings can be an eminently practical response to real-life problems and challenges. Throughout the millennia, people have developed numerous intuitive ‘rules of thumb’, or heuristics, that enable them to ‘act fast and with astounding accuracy’. Intuition is the ‘intelligence of the unconscious’.

Action: In some situations, reasoning can conflict with what we call intuition. In what situations do you think you should trust your intuition more and put reasoning on the background? Try to be aware of this and make decisions based on intuition when there is little information. 

Intuition is a great tool for asking the right questions. Sometimes when you do not have a plan of attack it is really important to be vulnerable and act based on intuition. Most often you will be prouder of outcomes that were caused by intuition than of those caused by a rational strategy. 

Action: When was the last time that you acted based on your intuition without a foolproof plan? How did it make you feel afterwards? Would you consider doing it again?

A point that Gigerenzer highlights – one of his important contributions to how we should think about the heuristics and biases approach – is that the structure of the environment is central to how well a rule of thumb works. A rule of thumb is not good or bad in itself but depends on the environment in which it is used. 

Action: Take the time to think about which environments would make you feel comfortable making decisions based on your intuition and which environments would require you to use rules of thumb.