Two soldiers turned down a road in Baghdad. Something did not seem right about the scene before them. There was no one out; trash lay in a pile on the street, a heap they had not seen before.
Working on a hunch, they called for an explosives team which came and detonated a bomb, leaving a huge crater on the sidewalk.
Gut feeling is seen as the best defense mechanism for soldiers on the ground. Hunches come not from the brain alone,but from the G.I. tract, seen in recent research as a new seat of consciousness.
Because your gut works in conjunction with your brain, there are strong reasons why you should not ignore gut feelings.
The Gut is a Second Brain
For several years, scientists have studied the neural connection between the stomach and the brain. Because the gut is lined with networks of neurons measuring in total about nine meters in length, it is often called the enteric nervous system or the “second brain.”
This second brain enables you to feel your world within, an indication of how you’ve digested your world outside. Butterflies in the stomach, digestive problems from stress, loss of appetite during depression are all examples of the way you process your environment through your guts.
In fact, the stomach relays messages to the brain on a consistent basis. These messages determine your mental and emotional states and play a significant part in regulating diseases in your body.
Gut Feeling Comes From Experience
According to an interview of Dr. Gerd Gigerenzer, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, gut thinking is a process in the brain that unconsciously uses a “rule of thumb” to make a decision.
This rule of thumb is often a “feeling” about a situation, a feeling so strong that it usually supersedes everything else – including evidence.
Why? Too much evidence and calculation can sidetrack your ability to make good decisions. Your unconscious has the uncanny ability to know what is important because of what you have lived through. In fact, “the rule of thumb” that helps you make up your mind comes from evolved capacities of experience.
When Dr. Gigerenzer was once asked to make a study on which school in Chicago had the lowest dropout rate, he focused on two methods – gut feeling and school data.
He was presented with different data measuring school performance such as teacher’s salary, student scores, number of English speaking students etc. He fed these cues into a computer program based on Benjamin Franklin’s book-keeping method, a program capable of weighing 18 differentials before spewing out the conclusions.
The results he received from the computer were less accurate than the results he obtained simply by relying on his gut feeling – finding out which school had high daily attendance rates.
Gut Feeling is PSI
Are gut instincts related to PSI or psychic ability? According to his book Entangled Mind, Dean Radin Ph.D. wanted to see if gut feeling can carry PSI information. To test this idea, he enlisted the help of 26 pairs of subjects.
One subject, the sender, wore headphones and sat before monitor screens. The other, the receiver, could be seen through one of the monitors, even though she was in a different setting hooked up to an EGG, an electrogastrogram which measures the electrophysiology of the gut in terms of cycles per minute.
The sender was asked to gaze at the receiver and to mentally “send” her the emotions evoked by images and music in his environment. The idea was to see if the impact of the sender’s message would register in the receiver’s gut responses.
The results at the end of the trial showed that receivers’ EGG responses were significantly more dramatic when the senders were experiencing high positive or negative emotional values than when they was experiencing “neutral” emotions.
Radin’s results suggest that “the belly brain’s intuition is more connected with the rest of the world, and with other people, than previously suspected”(p.145).
Should You Ignore Your Gut Feeling?
While gut instincts can sometimes prove to be wrong, you need to make them part of your decision-making process. If the choice you make does not work out, you can always return to the drawing board.
Ignoring them entirely, however, is unwise. According to Dr. Gigerenzer, “all successful research scientists function, to a degree, on gut instincts. They must make leaps, whether they have all the data or not.”
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