Do Instincts lie?

A lot of us follow our instincts at work or in personal life. The question is, have they always paid off as expected? Inspirational books and even wise men advise listening only to our brains. Their argument is that our brains only suggest reality. Whatever it has seen or whatever is the closest possibility, is most likely to happen. But theories are put to test when they haven’t delivered a hundred percent result. Sometimes, we focus on one belief to the level of ignoring other very common observations. In that case, maybe it is a good idea to delve into knowing about instincts and how the brain works.

Why do we have a gut feeling?

It is said that our instincts are derivations of common sense and memory. If it is raining outside, then even from inside the house we imagine a pleasing weather outside. People feel in the gut, that someone might be their soulmate because they fell in love. Big businessmen and investors follow their instinct in their trades, based on history and their acquired knowledge. Turns out that all of these outcomes are only 50% accurate. Isn’t it so? It could be highly humid as you step outside on a rainy day. Or, your soulmate could be a totally different person than whom you fell in love with in college. Investment outcomes could be highly wretched if markets take a sudden change.

So, what does this mean? Should we not listen to the brain? Should we ignore gut feelings? Or, is it impossible to make the right decisions using our common sense? Well, these are some extreme thoughts. Before we come to any conclusions, let’s learn about some experiments and real-life examples on the delusions of the brain and their reasons.

True vs almost true

Considering the fact that our memory and acquired knowledge shape our instincts, they would almost every time be correct, if we were able to pull out the exact and complete information.  For example, rainfall might cause a pleasing weather, increase humidity or cause chilliness. If all of this information came out at once from our memory, we would know all the possibilities. In most cases, though, we only fetch the most frequent experiences. So, we can probably say, that instincts are often created from incomplete information.

Let’s consider another memory test conducted on students. In one experiment, students read 15 associated words such as “victory,” “triumph” and “wealth.” Few minutes later, they were asked to recall them. What was interesting is that participants reported the word “fame” to be on the list, even though it wasn’t. What we understand from this experiment is brain can also add information that only looks similar to the current situation. It means it could possibly not be the exact truth. Rather, it could be just the inference of what we wanted to remember. If memory is vague, would it lead to accurate conclusions?

Another interesting thing to know is that often the brain fakes the existence of facts. This may sound bizarre, however, it’s true. Something that never happened may be registered in the memory so clearly that it seems true. In one of the Agatha Christie’s books, a suspect believes he/she has committed the crime but has actually been manipulated to believe so. I have heard such real story from a farmer in Karnataka. This may leave us thinking, whether instincts can be based on fiction.

So, if the brain is such a wicked deceiver, would you blame yourself for anything?

The delusions of sight

delusions of sight

We just got to thinking, how recalling things from the memory could be challenging. Now, let’s give a thought on how do we feed things into the memory. It is through the five senses, one of which is sight. People consider sight to be at the closest proximity of truth. It is hard to believe truth to be something different than what you have seen. However, some curious minds have been successful in proving that sight too can be deceitful. They even reasoned it with logics which we’ll look into a bit later. Let us first understand some such scenarios.

In an experiment, participants were asked to watch a video of people playing with a basketball, and to count the number of passes made by one of the teams. But in the middle of the video something rather odd happens: a man in a gorilla suit enters the court, stays for nine seconds and beats his chest. Surely the participants would see such a bizarre event. Actually, no. Roughly half of those in the study didn’t notice the gorilla because they were too focused on counting the passes.

This may lead us to the conclusion that we often do not see enough! The reason, as suggested, is a narrow focus. When our minds are preoccupied with one focus object, we often neglect others in our surrounding. In other non-physical scenarios also, our brain is full of preconceived notions. It compels us to ignore the facts at present while taking decisions. We start digging into our brain’s stored data rather than exploring outside. Not just focusing on something else is an issue, but sometimes we often miss things because we were not looking for them. Special Investigation Officers are trained to look beyond the obvious. Police form suspects only based on leads found at the crime scene. However, special agents delve into every little aspect of the people involved, past and present cases, human psychology and much more.

Pearls of Wisdom

The whole point behind scrutinizing how we react to things is to prepare ourselves against its shortcomings. If we know exactly where to stop depending on instincts and focus on reality, success takes a step forward. Nevertheless, if you have ever suffered defeat through your instincts, it is very natural and believable. Complete awareness can lead you right back on track.

Some pointers could be,

  • analyzing our surroundings and situations thoroughly. Deep analysis and reasoning done at the present moment would lead to accurate figures.
  • Instincts could be closely connected to assumptions. This is where we need to take a moment and understand the difference between Illusion and Truth.
  • Big businessmen and even aspiring entrepreneurs would want to widen their focus. Big opportunities might get missed due to narrow focus. Think broad, expect the unexpected, think rationally and make judgements only after gaining complete awareness. Sometimes, people are too hasty to notice what is evident. Even a common man is expected to analyze his surroundings. Look before you Leap, and you would never step into a mess.
  • Moreover, start looking for things you haven’t considered. Expanding the scope might widen your vision. Even if you feel, there might be no ghosts behind you!

At any point of time, if you find yourself in a clueless situation, not knowing how to bring a change in life, not knowing what to believe in and what to be careful of, I am here for your rescue. You would explore the most insightful, deep realities of life with a revived vision of survival with me at Winners Nest.

Credits: The Invisible Gorilla, Book by Christopher Chabris, Daniel J. Simons, and Daniel Simons
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Suresh is a certified NLP coach, accomplished decision science leader, performance coach, certified mind therapist and spiritual mentor. Suresh has over 20 years of experience in predictive analytics, product engineering, solution architecture, pre-sales, program management & operations. An accomplished hands-on leader excelling in building complex Artificial Intelligence (Deep Learning, NLP, Computer Vision) products in Banking, Pharma, Insurance and Digital Marketing domains to his clients around the world.

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