Do you trust your instinct? More and more research is saying that you should. We look first at the evidence, and then at how you can develop your instincts to become more accurate.
Evidence that you should trust your instinct
In Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell gives numerous examples of instinct besting logic.
In one example, the Getty Museum in California purchased an ancient Greek statue called a kouros. The decision to go ahead with the $10 million purchase was made after 14 months of extensive scientific tests that concluded the kouros was authentic.
Three art historians who viewed the statue though, were uneasy about it. One stated firmly that it was a fake, one felt it lacked spirit, and the other was repulsed at first sight. They had no logical explanation for their reactions.
Eventually investigations revealed that the statue was a hoax, validating the intuition of all three men.
In August 2008, Dr Pessiglione and team demonstrated that human beings have a subconscious learning mechanism. The team found that a part of the brain called the the ventral striatum picks up subliminal cues with no conscious effort, helping us to make better decisions.
Researchers showed volunteers masked visual cues which looked like other scrambled drawings. The volunteers could not tell these apart. When rewards were paired with the masked visual cues, the volunteers still couldn’t tell the difference. Yet their guesses now turned out to be more than chance.
“This kind of learning had been suggested to be subconscious a century ago, on the grounds that it was observed in some species like rats that were supposed to be deprived of conscious awareness. We just proved this in humans, and identified the underlying neuronal circuit,” – Dr Pessiglione.
Finally, after a hundred years, science is coming round.
Instinct vs logic
In rational thinking, we use words and images to explain our thoughts to others. But your instinct does not have to explain anything. It simply taps into a universal consciousness we all share.
Your instict can alert you to what someone else is thinking, or even what is going on somewhere else in the world. Studies of twins suggest that when one twin has an accident, the other twin can feel it halfway around the world. Science cannot explain this, but instinct can.
How to develop and trust your instinct
First, you have to accept that logical thinking is not the only, nor the best, way to think. To trust your instinct, you have to dare to let go of logical thinking now and then.
Meditation has many forms, but they all aim to release conscious thought. In meditation, you touch the soul of the universe and experience your one-ness with all things. Start with a one minute meditation and work your way up.
Write down what you feel every time you experience strong emotions. This helps you get in touch with yourself. Focus on how you’re feeling rather than the factual details. Learning to pinpoint your exact feelings will help you understand your instinctive reactions better.
3. Be patient
Intuition cannot be summoned at will, unlike logic. Just be aware of this different level of consciousness, let go of conscious thinking sometimes, and wait and see what happens.
Learn to trust your instinct, and it will serve you well.
26 replies on “Trust Your Instinct: Why Instinct Trumps Logic”
I used to trust my instinct a bit more, but overtime, self doubt and life in general erode the trust. I just wrote an account of when I should have trusted my instinct: http://bit.ly/93biBA
My Googled question, “Should we trust our instincts?” lead me to your website, can you help me with my problem?
I have had this gut feeling for years that someone in my life does not like me, yet he does not make the dislike obvious, its subtle, and I have suffered in silence with this situation for years. I cannot understand why he is this way with me, I am just, a regular type of person, no trouble etc, yet I feel he harbors distance/hostility toward me.This person is my brother-in-law and I think he is not open with me because he wants to keep the peace for my sister, yet the effect it has on me is crushing, my inner self tells me he dislikes me. A few years ago, I actually brought it up with my sister, I discussed what I felt was going on, from her reaction, I felt she knew something but it was just swept under the carpet and it was not sorted out – what I wanted to happen. Here I am some four years later and I still get these subtle vibes.
Ok, if he doesnt care for me, I can live with that, but this constant uncertainty I can not.It feels like a form of psychological abuse, cruel.
Can someone please give me some positive feedback about this?
I’ve replied to you in an email, hope you received it. It’s tough when someone so close to you seems to have a dislike for you. I’m amazed at your patience, having lived with this quietly for years. I’m not sure what your exact circumstances are so it’s hard to give advice. If you think you can both handle a calm chat about it, perhaps that is a good way to understand each other better.
Maybe we could take this further off-line via emails?
@ Carla, sorry I only just saw your comment so I’m late getting back to you. I’m so glad you like the post. I know how you feel – school and society wants us to explain things logically, when sometimes you just can’t, but know by instinct. Please do practise trusting yourself – you will also grow to love yourself more if you do this. Keep well and I’ll see you around, Carla.
@ Kids Spoken English Ahmedabad, welcome to the community here! I’m not sure what happened over the last few days, but just be patient. Sometimes when your conscious mind becomes over-active, like going over the pros and cons of a decision, there is too much ‘noise’ in your head for you to hear your instinct. If you try quieting down, going for a walk and just not ‘thinking’, it may come back to you. All the best.
M sure I will definitely surprise myself up with my gut feeling. Initially it was easy for me to take decision as you said my intuition helped me in that. But since past couple of days I am not able to understand what is going on. I can’t get any answer..:(
Thanks for the heads up. If I remember right, Tipping Point had more statistics while Blink had more anecdotes. I’m guessing that the science of the subconscious is relatively new, and that is precisely why I’m impressed with how much research Gladwell put into it nonetheless.
I have to admit that I try to write my own review before I read other people’s. This makes my opinion less biased. I tried reading others’ reviews before writing mine once, and almost couldn’t write anything original after that because I was so full of others’ thoughts by then!
Thanks for dropping by, and as always with an intelligent contribution. See you around!
Just a heads up. If you go through the Amazon reviews you will see that people have a higher appreciation for Tipping Point then they do Blink. I have read both and liked both, but to be honest. Macro events have a lot more science behind them then Micro events if you know what I mean. In other words, Blink has less “science” behind it then Tipping Point.
This post is a keeper for me. I have a very strong instinct that occurs when I’m not focused on something. After years of being told to only trust logic, I have to practice at trusting myself more.
Wow, I have not seen Malcolm Gladwell in person, even if only on TV. Would love to… he is obviously such a genius as you said (ha ha, not me though, you’re too kind!) especially since I’ve also read Tipping Point. The amount of research and the degree of accuracy of both books is mind boggling. This is not just someone’s thesis, it is empirically based. Great stuff. You’ll love the book!
And thank you for your comment. It made my day!
Its funny I remember picking up Blink jeese I think when it first came out…I think I loved it… still haven’t gotten to read it yet though its on the ever increasing list I have. Thanks for the review and the ffascinating facts on intuition and instinct. I di watch aspecial on TV with the author. He is pretty amazing and quite astute. Brilliant actually I think! A genius jiggler! You too!
Welcome to Joyful Days! I’m so glad you liked the stories. Sounds like you have your moments too, when instinct kicks in strongly. You’re right that when those come and we don’t listen, we often regret it. I just visited your blog and like the peaceful, honest aura it radiates. Great stuff!
Instinct, gut feeling, whatever one chooses to call it is very powerful. We are all connected and our instinct is the receiver of our connections. I love the stories that you shared. We all have them and we all have moments where we say, “I knew better, I should have listened to what my gut was saying!”.
Thanks for a wonderful post.
Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment! Interesting that you talk about centering – once I tried something called centering prayer… I find the notion of having a center very true.
Your blog has a rather nice centering effect on me. I think it’s the beautiful quotes at the start of each post, and the serene pictures. Looks like you do a lot of meditation on your walks. Great blog!
I agree that meditation–and any activity that brings your between the thoughts–connects you to your authentic, natural, intuitive self. Each entry into that ‘center’ will keep you connected for a period of time once you re-enter the hectic, consciously created experience. Regular meditation–connection with one’s center–will give you an increasing buffer of intuitive access during the time spent ‘out of center.’
blessings to you and all you hold dear,
Knowing the person you are, I’d guess that your intuition was spot on too, because being at peace with the world tends to put us in touch with our deeper self as well. And you’re absolutely right that intuition aside, journalling helps us know ourselves better, and that in itself is worthwhile. Thank you for your comment!
You’re right that sometimes we ignore our gut because our head thinks it knows better, when it actually doesn’t. It can be quite hard to argue with your own mind though! Glad you liked the links, and thank you for dropping by!
Hi, Daphne, loved the post.Thanks for the links given, liked them too. I wonder, how often blunders happen only because a too rational mind shies away from doing something known as irrational – i.e. heeding that “gut” feeling !! The tips are helpful.Thanks.
Kudos to you for trusting your intuition! For many people that takes courage, though it becomes easier as you keep being proven right. Thank you for liking the visuals!
@ Middle Way,
Thanks for your kind words! Yes I find that sometimes when we try to rationalise our initial instinctive reaction, we end up not following it and regretting it later. Trusting ourselves can be so difficult!
Thanks so much for your detailed comment. First of all I’m glad you had a good break, and came back with more clarity. It does come across in your writing, you know? More confidence, more simplicity due to seeing things more clearly, I suspect.
I think it’s amazing that you could sense the cause of your friend’s divorce without any prior information whatsoever. So it can’t be due to experience or clues right? Since you hadn’t spoken to her in years and therefore had absolutely no clues to go on.
That makes your intuition much more startlingly accurate than the historians, whom as you correctly pointed out at least had years of experience going for them.
Thanks for that wonderful comment, and I’m looking forward to your next few posts already, with your newfound clarity in writing them.
Welcome to the Joyful Days community! And thank you so much for visiting and leaving such an excellent first comment. I’m already looking forward to hearing more from you as you certainly write with insight.
Isn’t it amazing how you were guided to leave that week open even though there was no conceivable reason to at the time? Our subconscious is constantly surprising us with such decisions, and it is only in hindsight that it becomes obvious what a good decision it was.
And I love the Echo Bodine quote. Thanks again for your wonderful contribution.
Your article was truly an eye-opening read for me when I first saw it in my reader. I loved the way you walked us through your experience a step at a time, sharing your thoughts at each stage.
I wasn’t consciously planning to link back either when I wrote this post. But after drafting it, something led me back to your post and I realised it was an excellent resource. Again, the result of following intuition! Thanks for writing that great post and leaving your comment here!
Wonderful article. In the past, I’ve had a difficult time believing my intuition. And yet, when I have – it’s been pretty spot on. I’ve been experimenting with meditation – and now you’ve got me thinking about journaling, as well. It does all sound very good – for developing a better awareness of intuition AND for just getting to know “us” better…
Hi Daphne, thanks for the link love. I’m flattered that you’ve found my article useful for yourself and other readers.
Most definitely, it helps to pay heed to the little voices inside our head, the butterflies in our tummies and the intuitive impulses that keep nudging us. As I’ve experienced, they are the signals outside our conscious minds, that there is something else going on.
I enjoyed this post. Thanks for sharing!!
This is such a timely post for me! I recently took a two week vacation for the holidays. All I did was spend time with family and friends. No alarm clocks. No agendas. I scheduled time with friends who had busy schedules, but I mostly got up and decided what I wanted to do with that day in the morning.
It was refreshing to say the least. What was amazing is that my intuition really started to be active and I found answers to things that I couldn’t believe possible.
A friend of mine was about to explain why one of our mutual friends recently decided to get a divorce and I blurted the answer out without knowing any of the circumstances. (I hadn’t spoken with the person getting a divorce for a very long time.) She was shocked and surprised and asked if she had already told me the story. I said no, it was just my intuition.
And I used my heightened intuition sense to tackle some big things that have been bothering me in life. Where there were no clear answers before I had clear workable answers popping up in my mind. Its really been crazy.
If I may be logical for a second I think I can attribute some of it to getting a lot more rest then I usually do, getting out of my routine, and having some deep conversations with friends and family I haven’t seen in awhile. All this change helped me to look at things differently and helped me get to the point faster.
The key was that I wasn’t looking for answers, but my subconscious mind was, and the change in routine helped them pop to the surface.
So I wouldn’t throw logic out… that would be like throwing the baby out with the bath water. But I do think in our logical world we underplay the importance of intuition.
p.s. to be logical again, the art historians had years and years of training and practice to back their intuition up. The third factor may be that their experience helped them make a right decision even though they couldn’t consciously and logically say why the statue wasn’t authentic…
Echo Bodine calls it “the small still voice.”
It even prompts me to say things i cannot explain ..for example, once i was making an appointment for medical tests. I rejected a date saying “no, i need to keep that week open.” I had no idea why that popped out of my mouth; i wasn’t even conscious of a thought process. When ‘that week’ rolled around, my father returned home unexpectedly with serious health problems and suddenly that week was booked.
What is bizarre to me is not just the ‘still voice’ we sometimes call premonition but occasions like this when words come out of my mouth that i do not feel ownership of, or understand at the time. But i have learned to accept and not worry about it. Oddly enough, sometimes those words i do not recognize as mine end up being some of the most important things uttered. 🙂
@ Celes, thanks! You’re right about needing to let go of the need to take charge, and let our deeper selves have a chance to speak. From the quality of your writing, I’d say you’re doing a fair bit of stepping back yourself!
@ Juliet, it’s true that we so often think at the speed of a thousand thoughts a minute. It takes me at least 5 days of doing nothing for that to slow down! Yet there is such power in doing so. Thank you for your insightful comment.
Yes, I’ve learned the hard way by not following my gut. My challenge is in learning to dis-engage my left brain faster before it starts doubting what it is I’m feeling!
Great Post Daphne!
I have learned to trust my intuition. I never had regrets about following it. My regrets come when I don’t. It’s never been wrong! Love the visuals.
Great tips for developing intuition.
It really requires that one step away from the type of life we tend to lead – one of constant business where our mind is caught up with worries and to-do lists etc.
Hi Daphne! Great post 🙂 I agree that meditation and journalling are great ways to let our subconsciousness come into action. When we relax and stop trying to take charge, the best ideas come to us. It’s the same when I write my articles too – my thinking flows better when I move away from laptop, esp after I’ve spent a lot of time writing.