View Full Version : Gut Feeling

2008-Dec-21, 06:49 PM
Does anybody know the cause of that gut feeling you get when something is amiss? Your head might be telling you everythings okay yet you still feel in yr tummy that actually no, things are not right. Its happened to me a few times when ive gone with my gut sense and been right, especially when a friend was so low and depressed and had attempted suicide, i had turned my car around because of an overwhelming bad feeling that overcame me (having just been at their house), and luckily that person is alive and on the mend because i went with my gut. Its like an extra sense we have?
Any opinions?

2008-Dec-21, 07:07 PM
I call it intuition, and I rely on it. I have a feeling it's right 50% of the time.

2008-Dec-21, 07:15 PM
I suspect we feel it in our gut because of the body's reaction to adrenaline - sometimes called the "fight or flight" response. When our body thinks something bad or dangerous is going to happen, it pumps a lot of adrenaline into our blood stream, which kicks up our heart and lungs, and does a bunch of other things to get us ready to either run or fight. One of the responses is to decrease the blood supply to the digestive tract, so it can be used elsewhere. So you literally feel it in your gut.

2008-Dec-21, 07:57 PM
I have a great deal of respect for intuition. We've evolved to be highly-sensitive pattern matchers, and we often pick up on some very subtle signals we might not otherwise notice.

The flip side of that is that we frequently detect patterns that don't actually exist, and self-reinforced through our pattern matching wiring itself. What we call "confirmation bias" is our tendency to notice patterns (real or illusory), and our equal tendency to fail to notice (or ignore) when these patterns simply aren't holding.

Basically, our gut feeling that our gut feelings are some sort of sixth sense is a fine, but subtle, example of how our pattern matching abilities will frequently get us into trouble if they aren't disciplined.

Our natural penchant towards confirmation bias is one of the major reasons why a good understanding of scientific controls is so important.

2008-Dec-21, 08:14 PM
I usually go with my gut.

Only a small part of communication is spoken. The rest seems to come from body language and perhaps intuition.

Our brains and ability to perceive situations are complex and not fully understood. So, my $.05 ($.02 adjusted for inflation), opinion is that yes, intuition is important and it serves one well.

Edited to say Moose explained it far more eloquently than I ever could. :)

2008-Dec-21, 08:25 PM
It's small caterpillers which, having created a chrysalis, hatch, giving rise to what we call "butterflies."

Seriously, though, science has mapped out that while the cognitive mind chugs along, the rest of the brain ain't back there taking a nap.

Just this past Friday I was walking along, paying attention, but it was dusk. There was some very loud machinery off to my right, and as I stepped into the street where I had just looked, a car turned right, heading right for me.

As my cognitive mind was saying, "what the...?," and began turning my head left, something else in my brain sprang a foot down and shoved, hard, reversing my course of direction and vaulting me up onto the sidewalk in a heap. It was so unexpected that I thought someone had grabbed my jacket and pulled me backwards - until I realized there was no one else around.

The same thing happens as we process information. When others are telling me something, I've often thought, "That's nice," only to have my gut (that other part of my brain) start telling me, "they weren't telling you the truth." While I was busy processing what they were saying, that other part of my brain was busy processing what they weren't saying, as well as what they were telling me with their non-verbal actions.

When I was younger, I would usually discount it, and often those butterflies would turn into stomach churnings. Later, I learned to listen to it, and they've served me well. They're not always right, but they're right more often than not - certainly more accurate than the track record I had when I always took people at face value.

On the flip side, I get REALLY PO'd when someone trusts their gut and makes a decision based on motives they ascribed to me which simply don't exist.

2008-Dec-21, 08:53 PM
I have an additional theory--if you are about to be eaten, it's a good idea to be unappetizing. Being, uh, sick can do that.

2008-Dec-21, 09:56 PM
I think your gut instinct becomes more reliable as you get older and more experienced. I would guess that it is another survival mechanism that has continued to evolve as we get more intelligent and it becomes more of a thought process in everyday life, rather than a reaction process under less common threatening circumstances due to civilization.

On a personal note i tend to use my gut instinct more nowadays, simply due to past bad experiences where i have taken things at face value.

2008-Dec-21, 11:39 PM
I use my gut feelings quite a lot, that is how I knew there was something wrong with my beloved friend "Mak". :(

It has been right about 99.99% right so far.

2008-Dec-22, 03:37 AM
I beleive in gut feeling but don't rely on it 100%.
Although it had led me to caught my ex in the act 5 years ago and couple of other more instances .But just like Moose , patterns are part of our gut feeling/instincts/intuition . Because for me , I won't have the feeling of uneasiness or suspicions without things that have happened before like with my ex.

If there are no patterns , like if I'm taking an exam , I have a gut feel that I'm going to fail but I passed , or I have a gut feel that my day will be beautiful but it turned out Not , my instincts are baseless. So it's not 100% to me .


2008-Dec-22, 06:24 PM
Had this discussion with a guy at work today, his theory was that ones brain is designed to cross examine your thoughts or feelings, it will make you consider various solutions to your thoughts yet your gut sense is not as evolved so it will come over you as either strong negative or strong positive feeling, does this make sense!?

2008-Dec-22, 10:55 PM
the "hindbrain" acts in that fashion--it is the evolutionarily-older portion of the brain. That and the Limbic System (I think--just read all this a few days ago) deal with feelings, and pressure you to act in certain ways good for survival, if the later-developed forebrain doesn't countermand those impulses for cognitive reasons. The Amygdal...somethingorother is a big player in this--from what I read, it would fit Freud's "id" very nicely.

2008-Dec-23, 10:49 AM
I've seen one suggestion that the brain really acts by pandemonium, there's lots of pattern matching going on at the bottom and all the matches are thrown up, the one that shouts loudest is then rationalized by the conscious mind as a decision, including invented reasons for choosing that action.

2008-Dec-23, 03:51 PM
I think it is an illusion, just plain luck, or selective thinking at best. We tend to forget the times our 'guts' lead us to wrong directions.

There´s no substitute for a systematic approach to problems.

2008-Dec-23, 06:37 PM
I call it "instinct" and have always rued the day when I didn't heed it. Don't know how it came to be or how it works.....but it does. Whether or not it classes as an "extra sense" is, for me, beside the point. If I heed it, all is well; if not, I regret it. It exists for some reason and I'm grateful to have it. I also have the ability to 98% of the time "foretell" the future course of something (real life, immediate; whether friends or business). I am not claiming any "woo-woo" abilities, mind you. But I can pick up on trends, attitudes, changes in mood, behaviors and in what direction a person likely will go, etc.; this has also served me well.

captain swoop
2008-Dec-24, 02:16 PM
Guinness does it to me! and Korma

Larry Jacks
2008-Dec-24, 02:29 PM
Experience is knowing when to listen to that little voice in your head when it asks, "Do you really want to do this?"

Almost without exception, the correct answer is "no."

I'm a private pilot and I fly for fun. Even though I have an instrument rating, I respect both the limits of myself and my plane. Most of the time, when Colorado weather is too bad for VFR flight, it's too bad for a low time (500 hours) pilot in a Cherokee.

Aviation is full of pithy sayings. One of my favorites is, "It's always better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air than in the air wishing you were on the ground."

2008-Dec-24, 02:58 PM
Ah, so you're not actually refering to the "why do we sometimes just 'know' something's about to happen" (which I think's been covered here pretty well, but I'll add my 2-cents since it's a slow day (and, despite the fact that I'm so late getting around to reading this thread, these are some of my favorite kind of topics).

I think a lot of it has to do with survival mechanisms that identify patterns in a "better safe than sorry" way. A lot of it is a visual phenomenon, but certianly all the senses would apply.

It feels like it's some magical intuition because one tends to only remember the times they were right, and not the (probably much more often) times that they were wrong. Someone (was it you, Moose? Saw it when I read through, can't find it on my scan-back now) said they'd put theirs about about 50/50 right-to-wrong. I'd guess (stress on the 'guess') it's more like 1/20 right-to-wrong.

There's nights where I'm driving home, and it's a relatively short drive, but the whole way I'm going "Man... this just feels wrong. Something bad is going to happen; I better pay extra close attention." Maybe on one of those nights a bicyclist on a cross street nearly doesn't stop, or a kid nearly runs out between two cars, and I think "I knew it! Thankfully, I was being careful!". But the other times, I get home uneventfully and forget about the feeling.

Remember, we're animals and one of our base functions is to not die (contrary to what one might think after reading through the latest Darwin Awards). Our brain is going to err on the side of caution, but when nothing ends up happening, we have no reason to remember the "event".

As to why we feel it in our stomaches? Well, that I can't asnwer (except to say that I think it's a little different for everyone). I don't tend to feel these things "in my gut", but rather the back of my neck (e.g. "hairs stood up on end!"). Now after something harrowing happens, or when I'm nervous about something, then I get the "butterflies". I'd guess Swift is right, or at least on track, with the adrenaline thing.

2008-Dec-24, 03:19 PM
Studies have shown unconscious detection of "patterns" exist. I just read one recently that there is a part of the brain that becomes active whenever something appears to be looking in your direction (a predator-defense mechanism possibly). Ever get the feeling you're being watched? All you need is something that looks like an eye getting in your field of view, perhaps too fast, too small, or too far for conscious notice, but this portion of your brain picks it up and starts screaming.

Add to this thousands of other "subtle hints" that something is about to go down....

2008-Dec-24, 03:42 PM
It feels like it's some magical intuition because one tends to only remember the times they were right, and not the (probably much more often) times that they were wrong. Someone (was it you, Moose? Saw it when I read through, can't find it on my scan-back now) said they'd put theirs about about 50/50 right-to-wrong. I'd guess (stress on the 'guess') it's more like 1/20 right-to-wrong.

I remember the post you mean (forget who wrote it), and it appears to either be gone or edited at this point. No biggie.

But no, it definitely wasn't me. My threat detection instincts are tuned a bit too high. I have to mostly ignore my "gut feelings". If I didn't, I'd be acting upon a (mild) impulse that wants me to conclude just about half of everybody is actively out to get me. (Which, strangely enough, includes the BA but not Fraser. Which is ridiculous. They're clearly both plotting my downfall, black helos and all. ;) )

The real trick is reasoning out the rare time it's actually right.

Seriously, there's an advantage to actively ignoring one's "gut". Forcing yourself to rely solely on reason over the long term makes it a lot easier to spot one's own biases (and the fallacious arguments of others, for that matter.)

2008-Dec-24, 03:46 PM
Well, there was an interesting thread on this phenomenon in the Gen. Sci. section some time ago. My opinion is I like listening to "gut instinct" as it can provide a much needed dirrection when none other is apparent. But it's important to remember that the "feeling" or "intuition" is not proof of anything itself. Don't give it more credit than it deserves, but I say don't ignore it either.

2008-Dec-24, 09:21 PM
So do you think its a bad idea to rely on yr gut feeling all the time? I ask because im rubbish at making decisions most of the time. If i go into a sweet shop and not know what i want! If i'm going on holiday i won't be able to decide the destination etc But ill always go with what my tummy is telling me. It has been wrong before but the positive outcome far out weighs the negative.

2008-Dec-24, 11:24 PM
So do you think its a bad idea to rely on yr gut feeling all the time? I ask because I'm rubbish at making decisions most of the time. If i go into a sweet shop and not know what i want! If i'm going on holiday i won't be able to decide the destination etc But ill always go with what my tummy is telling me. It has been wrong before but the positive outcome far out weighs the negative.


don't rely on your gut feeling 100%, base your decisions on good reasoning and weigh up the consequences either way. If the situation arises that the options weigh up pretty equally then go with your gut! there's nothing to lose.:)

I have spent most my life regretting not going with my gut when i should have and going with my gut when i should have reasoned first.
But i really believe this improves with experience. :)

2008-Dec-25, 07:31 AM
I think that each of us has whatever you want to call it: gut feeling, intuition, instinct or sixth sense. When I drove cab, I called it my radar.

I have to evaluate each instance of it, without any standard protocol for it. I believe in reason and rationale. As one of you mentioned, I match what people say, to their body language, tone of voice, etc. It's not easy.

I've managed to stay alive, through a few really dangerous situations in the taxi. So, I guess I got the right source of warning, radar or reason, most of the time.

2008-Dec-28, 10:23 PM
When it is harmless to listen to your gut--probably should :) When it has a cost, that's when you need to think. I realized today, returning to Bowie from WV, whenever I'm on the DC beltway, sometimes I look ahead and think--slowdown coming, so I tap the brake, and am always right. Sometimes it's obvious why I thought that (brake lights), but not always. Sometimes it's things like lots of people following lots of people closely so one brake tap could cause a chain reaction--and in beltway-quantum-theory, what's not prohibited is practically mandatory! (and sometimes what is prohibited...) Or something I never consciously noticed. I just call it "experience". Same way you know a guy is about to cut you off because you see his head turn your way as his rear bumper aligns with your front bumper, or see him subtly move your way, or something else entirely.