Would you hire an employee based solely on Intuition? Probably not. You would consider factors such as their education and previous work experience. But what if a candidate looks great on paper, answers all the right questions during the interview yet you have a gut feeling that they won’t be a good fit for your team? Would you ignore that feeling and still hire them? That’s where intuition comes in. What is intuition and can we trust it?

Intuition is a fascinating aspect of human cognition, often described as a gut feeling or sixth sense. Intuition involves more than just a feeling, it’s the result of an unconscious process that helps us make decisions. This seemingly mystical knowledge arises from a combination of past experiences, emotional inputs, and perceptual cues, which enable us to process information.

Should You Trust Your Intuition?


The National Library of Medicine describes intuition as “the ability to understand immediately without conscious reasoning and is sometimes explained as a ‘gut feeling’ about the rightness or wrongness of a person, place, situation…” This ability to know something without analytic reasoning is often perceived as imaginary and intangible. However, its technical term interoceptive sensations makes it quite tangible. The concept of interoception was first introduced by Nobel Prize winning scientist, Dr. Charles Sherrington. He defined interoception as “sensations from the interior of the body, especially the viscera.” During the past century, scientific advances have expanded the knowledge regarding interoceptive processing. A more recent definition of Interoception from The National Library of Medicine is the “process of how the nervous system senses, interprets, and integrates signals originating from within the body.” What role does this play in decision making?

Intuition and Decision Making

Researchers from the universities of Cambridge, Sussex and the Queensland University of Technology found in a study that financial traders’ ability to sense their own heartbeats was directly associated to their success in the financial markets. The study subjects consisted of 18 male financial traders from a hedge fund that specialize in high frequency trading. This type of trading entails buying and selling future contracts in minutes, sometimes seconds. This requires processing large amounts of information from news sources, as well as swiftly recognizing price patterns, and making risky decisions in split seconds.

The researchers tested the traders to see how accurately they could count their own heartbeats, and if they could recognize subtle changes in their physiological state. They were compared against 48 University of Sussex students (the control group), who were also tasked with counting their own heartbeats. The researchers discovered that among the traders themselves, those who excelled at heart rate detection also excelled at trading and generated higher profits.

It’s Not All in Your Head

Many times, people perceive intuition as having a physical sensation like a flutter in the stomach, tightness in the chest, or chills. It’s not all in your head, the term ‘gut feeling’ is no coincidence as the gut has a direct connection with the brain through the gut-brain axis. Neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) in your gut communicate with your brain and are part of the gut-brain connection. Johnhopkinsmedicine.org had this to say about the gut-brain connection: “If you’ve ever gone with your gut to make a decision or felt butterflies in your stomach when nervous, you’re likely getting signals from an unexpected source: your second brain.”

Acknowledge Your Emotions

In this digital age of analytical and rational thinking, intuition or gut feelings seem to have little value. Of course, big decisions require careful thought and rationality. However, your emotions are not useless responses that you should ignore. Emotions are, in part, produced by evaluations of what you’ve been thinking or experiencing. Intuition plays an important role in everyday life, from making quick judgements of people we meet, to how we feel about our surroundings and certain situations. Understanding how our intuition works and being in tune with our feelings can become a useful tool in our decision making.

Written by
Rosa Rowles
Human Risk Analyst