64: Decision making


Go with your gut? Or stick with logic?

Show notes and links:
Anti-smoking ads (Comfort Pit)
When intuition misfires (American Psychological Association)
People Don’t Just Think with Their Guts; Logic Plays a Role Too (Association for Psychological Science)
General Decision Making Style (GDMS) (Scott, S. G., & Bruce, R. A.)

Full episode text

In the book “How We Know What Isn’t So” Tom Gilovich discusses the fact that intuition derives from a desire to find patterns and connections in–and figure out how to act within–an otherwise random universe. That desire to find patterns and connections is also influenced by the fact that people tend to overestimate their ability to influence the outcome of a situation, even when logic and probability both say otherwise.

It’s the problem sometimes referred to as the smoker’s paradox – that most smokers know that smoking is logically bad for them. It’s not that most people don’t understand logic, it’s that addiction is emotional. And emotions can quite easily bypass our brain’s ability to even think about logic, much less sort it out. Which, in the end, means anti-smoking ads can actually increase the amount someone smokes, because they think probability will work out in their favor. Spoiler alert: usually doesn’t.

Intuitive, or “gut” decision makers, according to one study, usually judge their own decision-making ability as being as good as or better than that of logical decision makers. However, logical decision makers are usually judged as better decision makers by their peers and superiors.

Yet the question of gut vs logic is much more complex than that simple one or the other. In a 1995 article for Educational and Psychological Measurement, the authors outline five types of decision making orientations in their General Decision Making Style (GDMS) scale. These types are: Rational, Avoidant, Dependent, Intuitive, and Spontaneous.

And as with many things, these five types are guidelines, and most people employ some kind of blend.