By venegas under CC

I have often prided myself in my gut reactions being accurate. I think there is a science behind ones “gut” reaction or intuitive thinking. This too was my gut reaction to gut reaction, till I started poking around and found Gerd Gigerenzer, a German social psychologist, who is known for his studies on intuitive thinking. Here is a really good research piece on thinking the fast and frugal way as they call it. Obviously its a more complex argument and field of study than what I know/understand. However it does make sense when I want to rethink my gut reactions and the ability to rethink gut reactions no matter how painful they are.

In the past, I have tried to break down my process of (gut) reaction to a person, object, interaction etc. Its a fairly complicated process and often I give up as I feel insufficiently prepared to do justice to the process. But when I am forced to rethink my gut reaction then I am given an opportunity to not only understand the process but what I was “missing” in the whole equation. Now it can be quite hard to say whether it was something “missing” or an unknown that cant be really missing if its not known. Which is what happened to me when I was upset about my partner’s obsession with turning every outdoor activity into a performance improvement activity. That is to say, measure performance and seek to improve it and measure that improvement¬† and so on (I am sure there is a term for this but obviously I dont know). However, when the opportunity to re-evaluate my gut reactions is in front of me, I most often pounce on it. I will come back to the pouncing on it attitude as it is extremely unsettling to have to re-evaluate your own gut reactions no matter how sound and accurate they looked at the time.

This attitude of his to make it into performance measuring and improving exercise irked me great deal. That was my gut reaction. When I tried to analyze it I broke it down to the way I see doing an activity. For me most activities are for the “joy” of it and the way I define joy is not based on optimizing my performance on that activity. Of course the definition of joy for my husband is different and that is fine but irked me. This was supposed to be an activity we did jointly for the joy it brought us in doing it with each other. The moment you insert measuring performance and optimizing it, the joy was taken out of it and it became something I had to make the most of, even though he never asked me to do so. For me joy and performance measurement are divorced of each other.

We talked about it and I communicated to him my cause for frustration and why this activity no longer seemed like an activity we enjoyed doing together but became something that was aimed at being improved upon and measured. He understood my concern and suggested removing the measurement aspect from it when we did it jointly. Then I came through this piece on the said activity and it made me *completely* rethink my gut reaction.

I am generally not scared of acknowledging to anyone that I am wrong or my conclusion may not be inaccurate. But its not easy to acknowledge to myself that my gut reaction was missing something. It makes me question my own gut reactions, not just a particular one but all other ones made thus far. What if I missed something in other reactions and have wrongly believed in something or done something because of that. That fear can be quite crippling. But the fear also gives way to something else which is the other side of the way we think which is based on information we have, the information we gather, to ensure that our decisions are sound or at least informed. The uncertainty of gut reactions forces us to want to gather as much information as possible so that along with the gut reaction this information prepares us to make the *right* call.