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Nov 06, 2019 11:42 PM EST

Should You Trust Your Intuition In Answering Exams Or Making Decisions?

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Whether we're answering an exam in school or trying to pick the perfect candidate during a job interview, we make lots of decisions where we always feel good about the answer. Will we challenge or go with our gut-feeling?

We are often told to go by the voice inside our head. We are often challenged with the first answer that comes into our mind but the evidence suggests that we may want to be careful about the intuitions that we sometimes succumb to.  

The Nobel prize-winning behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman refers to this as "System 1". It is the manner of quick thinking when instant solutions just seem to pop into our head.

The opposite of this is called "System 2", which is the slower type of thinking where we actively consider several options before concluding a final answer or decision.

Does careful analysis of all the options surely or more likely to give us the right answer? Not quite true according to experts.

Intuition appears to gain a bad reputation as being flaky and not founded on any evidence or fact. The 'good-feeling' impulses are not as spontaneous as they seem to be but they can also be based on a fast and simple situation evaluation.

Maybe we don't often know this, but the brain constantly compares our current situation to our memories of past circumstances. So if a decision seems intuitive, it could possibly be based on years of experience.

However, the problem with quick thinking is the existence of dozens of different cognitive biases that can lead us to the wrong answer. We appear to be too positive. Simple solutions are often favored. We find information that confirms what we already feel and recall it. In the end, we are in favor of continuing down paths in which we have already invested time or money.

Take, for example, job interviews. Despite the fact that most businesses still rely on them, there is ample evidence that standard interviews are not the only way to choose the best candidate. We have to consider different factors in the candidate's life, experiences, skills, personality and intellect. It is a broad spectrum to consider.

So many of our own prejudices come into play, and the people we really like and "think" are the most qualified, are actually not the best people for the job. Yet with all these prejudices and more, there are moments when we are well-served and even rational when we were using fast thinking or intuition.

There is also a phenomenon called "First Instinct Fallacy". This is the belief that instinctive responses are more likely to be correct - that you should, for example, stick to your first thought in a multiple-choice test and not change your mind later. But is this really correct?

Psychologists at Albright College in Pennsylvania studied the responses of students in multiple-choice examinations, exploring how confident they were in their first instinctive responses, and why they sometimes went back to review them.

The good news was that the students were smart enough to judge their own confusion about an answer. It was the right decision most of the time as they updated their replies. But when they were the most confused about a response that was still stuck with it, it was incorrect more than half the time.

Therefore, the answer you should stick with is not your initial instincts, but your instincts for your trust in that answer.

It seems that sometimes you can really trust your intuition. As long as your instincts tell you that you should feel confident about that particular option, there is a great chance that you are correct.

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