When You Trust Your Gut Instinct Essay
As an advocate for rationalism, I’ve recently been troubled by a conviction formed by countless hours at the poker table: that there is something to gut instinct. This does not sit well with me, since I strongly value the use of evidence and reason in forming beliefs. And the conviction is strong even though I’m fully cognisant that it’s based on anecdotal evidence, a sample of one person’s experience, and is possibly subject to a litany of confirmation biases. Upon investigating this further, I’ve discovered a sample of recent psychological research suggesting that gut instinct, or “intuition”, plays a far larger role in decision making than previously thought.
I’m a semi-serious poker player. I played a lot online “back in the day”: as poker players refer to the pre-Full-Tilt-collapse era of poker. Since then, I’ve become a regular and winning Texas No Limit Hold’em live player. Observing the basics of solid poker strategy, I’m not a strictly mathematical poker player, and many of my decisions are based on game flow, reads and visual “tells”. A “tell” is when you detect something in the body language or behaviour of a player which influences your decision.
For example, beginners in live poker, often suddenly make gestures suggesting disappointment when holding a winning hand. Some players make an audible “tsk tsk” sound, while others metamorphose into what is known as “Sad-Face” -a person apparently weighed down by a very deep melancholy.…