‘Listen to your gut’ isn’t just old advice, it’s also scientifically sound advice
A new study reveals those who listen to their gut instincts are more likely to be truthful.
It also suggest those who ignore their intuition will usually cheat, and will feel unclean or contaminated because of the guilt and shame they experience from lying – and even pay for for a hand cleaner to try and do this.
‘Some people trust their gut feelings when making decisions, whereas other people are less reliant on them and don’t pay much heed to gut feelings even if they do experience them,’ said Sarah Ward, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of Missouri.
The graduate student observed more than 100 participants, three quarters of which were women, for two experiments.
Before the study began, individuals were asked to fill out a series of questionnaires to determine how much they rely on intuition and then were split up into groups based on their results.
In the first experiment, participants were asked to imagine that they had acted immorally work, and then had to read a story about how they blamed a mistake they made on a co-worker.
Participants in the control group read the same story, but instead they took responsibility for the mistake.
Ward anticipated the manipulation involving imagining an immoral action elicit self-conscious moral motions, such as shame or guilt, which previous research shows can cause people to feel dirty or contaminated.
Based on this idea, she predicted those who blamed their co-worker during the scenario would be willing to pay more for hand-cleaning products.
‘If you feel badly about a moral transgression, you might want to cleanse yourself,’ Ward said.
‘Our study found that participants who were not more reliant on intuition were willing to pay more for hand sanitizer after reading about a moral transgression.’
The second part consisted of a writing experiment.
Participants were asked to describe a time they acted immorally and then were asked to take an unsolvable IQ test.
This was mean to learn if more intuitive individuals would subsequently cheat less.
There were 10 questions listed on the unsolvable test, and each participant was given a sheet of paper with the answers faced down on their desks.
They were told to grade their own work once they had completed the test.
Participants were told the top 10 percent would receive a lottery ticket, which Ward says provided an incentive to cheat.
About 23% of them cheated on the test.
‘Our second experiment showed that people who tend to rely on their gut feelings are less likely to cheat after reflecting on a time when they behaved immorally,’ Ward said.
‘We feel this is because people try to compensate for past bad behavior by acting morally in the present, and that this tendency to try to compensate for past actions may be especially pronounced among people who rely on intuition.’
Ward says her research has implications for the real world.
In a workplace setting, for example, it might be beneficial for people to rely more on their intuitions when making morally relevant decisions.
She also suggested getting people to trust their gut instincts about moral actions rather than discounting those feelings.