In 2015, Follow Your Intuition

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Along with your resolutions to train for a marathon and call your grandmother every week, here’s another one to add to the list: Trust your intuition.

It turns out that quick decisions made based on gut feelings (the heuristic approach, to use the fancy terminology) work out better in many situations than long-considered decisions based on logic and rational thinking, according to research by many economists, including Shabnam Mousavi, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.

While it’s easy to assume that having more information helps people make smarter choices, the idea behind such “fast and frugal” decision-making is that too much information can actually cloud our thinking process. We start giving too much weight to relatively unimportant factors. We know too much for our own good. For example, Mousavi cites a study where researchers asked two groups of college students — one from the U.S., one from Germany — which city was bigger, Milwaukee or Detroit. You’d assume that the U.S. students would give smarter answers, considering that they presumably know more about the cities. But the Germans were the ones who aced the test — because, the research revealed, Detroit was more famous to them than Milwaukee. They based their decision on that one simple fact, and it turned out to be correct.

If you (or your boss) is nervous about going with your gut, Mousavi suggests using a decision tree to help work out the kinks. But I think we could all benefit by trusting our instincts a little more in 2015.



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