So many times when choosing a course of action my gut tells me to do “A”. All to often I stop, consider, then go for “B” and make the wrong choice. It would seem that trusting your instincts in some circumstances is the best choice of according to a study. Researchers at University College London who found making subconscious snap decisions is more reliable in certain situations than using rational thought processes.
Participants in the study were given a computer-based task and performed better when they were given less time to make their decisions. Ten volunteers were shown a computer screen covered in over 650 identical symbols, including one rotated version of the symbol. They were asked to decide which side of the screen the rotated image was on. Given a fraction of a second to look at the screen, the subjects were 95% accurate. But when given time to scrutinise the image the were just 70% accurate.
Dr Li Zhaoping, of UCL's Department of Psychology said: " You would expect people to make more accurate decisions when given the time to look properly. The conscious brain, when active, vetoes our initial subconscious decision - even when it is correct - leaving us unaware or distrustful of our instincts and at an immediate disadvantage. Falling back on our inbuilt, involuntary subconscious processes for certain tasks is actually more effective than using our higher-level cognitive functions."
Kim Stephenson, a psychologist researching some aspects of decision-making, said subconscious reactions could be an advantage in some situations. People and animals were designed subconsciously to recognise and fixate on anything out of the ordinary as it could help to identify and escape from predators quickly, and so has an evolutionary advantage.
He said: "Your subconscious mind is more useful for specific things, where you don't have time and need to react quickly. It's not to say that if you've got to make a decision you should make it in a fraction of a second . but your body is designed to do some things very quickly, so using instincts would be better there.