Gift misgivings? Trust your gut

December 20, 2012

CHESTNUT HILL, MA (Dec. 20, 2012) - The clock is ticking and you still haven't decided what to get that special someone in your life for the holidays. When it comes to those last-minute gift-buying decisions for family and close friends, intuition may be the best way to think your way through to that perfect gift.

When faced with tough decisions, some people like to "trust their gut" and go with their intuition. Others prefer to take an analytical approach.

Boston College Professor Michael G. Pratt, an expert in organizational psychology, says new research shows intuition can help people make fast and effective decisions, particularly in areas where they have expertise in the subject at hand.

When it comes to holiday shopping, it might help to draw on the expertise you've accumulated about your family, and friends.

"We often ask ourselves, 'What does that special someone want for Christmas?' Maybe the better question to ask is 'What do I know about this person?" said Pratt, a professor in the Carroll School of Management. "The chances are you know a lot. You know a lot about your parents and your children, and your close friends. What we've found is that kind of deep expertise helps to support decisions we make when we trust our gut."

In recent experiments, Pratt and his fellow researchers examined how well-served we are when we make decisions intuitively or through a more analytical approach, said Pratt, who recently co-authored a new report about intuitive decision-making in the Journal of Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

The researchers said the knock on intuition stems from earlier studies that examined intuition in the context of very structured, multi-step decisions in areas such as math or logic. Analytic decisions are great for breaking things down into smaller parts, which is necessary for a math problem. But intuition is about looking at patterns and wholes, which is needed when making quick decisions about whether something is real or fake, ugly or pretty, right or wrong.

"Similarly, for gift buying, there is not 'one right answer' as with a math problem," says Pratt, "It is a judgment call."

Pratt, along with researchers Erik Dane, of Rice University and Kevin W. Rockmann, of George Mason University conducted two experiments to test both methods as a means of making a basic decision, or one that doesn't break down into a subset of smaller tasks. In each experiment, one set of respondents was asked to think intuitively in a short amount of time. A second set was asked to take more time and use an analytical approach.

For example, in one experiment, men and women were asked to decide whether a designer handbag was "real" or "fake". Among subjects who had owned several brand-name satchels, intuitive respondents were able to make quick and effective judgments about the items.

"If you're looking at those shiny new winter shovels for your spouse, ask yourself, 'Is this right or wrong?' and trust your gut. You'll be well served by your intuition," said Pratt. "It's likely that your spouse doesn't want a shovel and you don't want to be the one who gives that gift."
-end-
The study, "When Should I Trust My Gut? Linking Domain Expertise to Intuitive Decision-making Effectiveness," is available online at www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0749597812000994.

Boston College

Related Math Articles from Brightsurf:

Smokers good at math are more likely to want to quit
For smokers who are better at math, the decision to quit just adds up, a new study suggests.

Not a 'math person'? You may be better at learning to code than you think
New research from the University of Washington finds that a natural aptitude for learning languages is a stronger predictor of learning to program than basic math knowledge.

Speak math, not code
Writing algorithms in mathematics rather than code is not only more elegant but also more efficient, says 2013 Turing Award winner Leslie Lamport.

Math that feels good
Mathematics and science Braille textbooks are expensive and require an enormous effort to produce -- until now.

Using math to blend musical notes seamlessly
MIT researchers have invented an algorithm that produces a real-time portamento effect, gliding a note at one pitch into a note of another pitch, between any two audio signals, such as a piano note gliding into a human voice.

Novel math could bring machine learning to the next level
In recent years, a theory called 'Topological Data Analysis,' stemmed from a branch of Mathematics so abstract that it did not seem to have any application whatsoever in the real world, has been making computers much better at recognizing meaningful structure inside all kinds of large datasets (a.k.a.

Study shows we like our math like we like our art: Beautiful
A beautiful landscape painting, a beautiful piano sonata -- art and music are almost exclusively described in terms of aesthetics, but what about math?

Phase transitions: The math behind the music
Physics Professor Jesse Berezovsky contends that until now, much of the thinking about math and music has been a top-down approach, applying mathematical ideas to existing musical compositions as a way of understanding already existing music.

IQ a better predictor of adult economic success than math
IQ in childhood is a better indicator of adult wealth than math for very preterm and very low-weight babies, according to a new study in PLOS ONE.

Math + good posture = better scores
A San Francisco State University study finding that students perform better at math while sitting with good posture could have implications for other kinds of performance under pressure.

Read More: Math News and Math Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.