Most people trust their gut. I think it is because one’s gut is usually right. On a technical level, a gut is a collection of prejudices, biases, and pattern matching — and that turns out generally to be correct. So your gut is usually right (certainly more than 50% of the time). But 100%?
So … should you trust your gut?
I think some people have an unusually good gut and they should trust their gut. But my guess is that most people think they have a better gut then they do.
I personally don’t trust my gut … especially not with people. I often find that when I meet someone I judge them wrong. I’m an optimist and I often over-estimate people. Sometimes I under-estimate people and am pleasantly surprised.
Hiring is an area that I never trust my gut. In fact, most of my bad hires in past have been because I went with my gut instead of taking the time to use real analytics.
And while I love the book Blink (by Malcolm Gladwell), I don’t think the split-second decisions are always the best ones. Especially on non-obvious things. For instance, I love math and probability problems (especially the Monty Hall problem) — and “gut” answer is almost always wrong. In the case of the Monty Hall problem, almost everyone I have ever asked gives the wrong answer (there are only two choices — so it is weird that 98% of people pick the wrong choice) … and when I ask them why they are picking their choice, they usually answer “gut.”
That is not to say there is no place for a gut … there is likely a good place if you truly have a good one. But for an analytical person like me, rock beats scissors and brain beats gut.
I, like you, don’t trust my gut when it comes to first impressions of people. I find I’m usually wrong. Especially in group situations, there’s a lot of signaling and status worries which weirdly affect behavior.
When to trust your gut really comes down to how much time you have to make a decision. Many times we don’t have the time to do analytics.