Should You Go With Your Gut?

Sheena S. Iyengar is the inaugural S. T. Lee Professor of Business in the Management Division of the Columbia Business School. She has earned an Innovation in the Teaching Curriculum award for teaching Leadership Development at Columbia. One of the world's experts on choice, Professor Iyengar received a dual degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1992, consisting of a B.S. in Economics from the Wharton School of Business and a B.A. in psychology with a minor in English from the College of Arts and Sciences. In 1997 she completed her Ph.D. in social psychology from Stanford University. Her dissertation, entitled "Choice and Its Discontents," received the prestigious Best Dissertation Award for 1998 from the Society of Experimental Social Psychology. Her first book, "The Art of Choosing," was recently published and is an exploration of the mysteries of choice in everyday life.
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TRANSCRIPT

Question: Is it better to make decisions rationally or go with your gut?

Sheena Iyengar:  We are often in society told to make decisions in one of two ways.  We’re either told "Use your gut, just go with how you feel about it and let that guide you," or we’re told to use reason–some very deliberative methodical process of pros and cons and really thinking it through.  Most of the time you should use reason, there is no doubt about that because gut often makes us susceptible to lots of different biases, particularly if what you’re deciding is something that you really, that expertise can be brought to bear on it, there is a way in which you can align the odds, so then you should really use reason.  About the only time our gut can truly outperform our reason is if we truly have developed a kind of informed intuition. So that means the chess master or someone who has really thought about it and given themselves feedback on a particular activity for at least 10,000 hours or more.  About the only question that we would say and this is a big one in our lives that we would say you don’t just use pure reason to decide the answer to is anything that affects your happiness, because then gut and reason answer very different questions. So gut tells you "How do I feel about this right now?"  It doesn’t tell me how I feel about it tomorrow or even a few minutes from now.  It just tells me how I’m feeling right now.  Reason tells me, when I do the pros and cons analysis, how I should feel about it right now and how I should feel about it in 10 years from now and so that the only…  So for decisions about happiness you essentially need at least both and probably even more than that, you probably also need to do analysis that doesn’t involve yourself to get at the answer of what will make you happy in 10 years. 

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