Science & Technology
7:35 am
Mon October 22, 2012

Researchers: When Predicting-Go with Your Feelings

Wondering whether the Dow Jones will make a jump in the next week? How about what the weather will be like? One study is saying you should trust your gut.

A research team comprised of professors from the University of Pittsburgh and Columbia University has found that when people trust their feelings, they can more accurately predict the outcomes of future events.

Researchers, through eight studies, asked people to predict outcomes including the 2008 Democratic Presidential nominee, the score of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and the winner of “American Idol.”

Dr. Andrew Stephen, a Pitt marketing professor and contributor to the study, said trusting your gut doesn’t mean guessing.

“What’s really going on psychologically is when you’re trusting your gut feelings, and you have that knowledge stored up there in the brain, trusting your feelings helps you access that sort-of unconscious information that you’ve just built up over time through life experience.”

Stephen said a prime example of this is predicting weather. If Pittsburghers were asked about the weather in Beijing they wouldn’t be accurate because they would presumably have little knowledge of the weather there. But when asked to predict the Pittsburgh weather based upon feelings that Pittsburgher is more likely to be right.

He said getting a gut feeling, and making decisions about the future are both natural in humans, so it makes sense to bring them together.

Stephen said people should be wary of only using feelings to make decisions.  

“You’ve got the rational, economic man part of the personality, then the emotional part,” said Stephen. “What we’re shedding light on saying, ‘Well hey, the emotional side can provide valuable information,’ but that shouldn’t be instead of also thinking rationally and using logic and common sense.”