Neuroscience of Change

Intuition About Ourselves: When To Think Twice

Intuition is suspect. Of course, we can hear how skeptical we should be about our “gut” feelings, and then choose not to act on this doubt. Faith and trust in experts is at an all-time low. People may be thinking, all we have is our intuition.

But it’s worth another look.

For example, reading a face, we can pretty much tell how someone feels, right?  According to Lisa Feldman-Barret, our intuition about emotions is often wrong,  She writes that facial expressions indicate more than one emotion category, and also nonemotional psychological meanings, in a way that is tailored to specific situations and cultural contexts. Framed like that, it seems obvious. Yet the idea of being able to judge essential characteristics from outward indications has deep and troubling roots. Consider phrenology, or the history of madness. Assumptions about categories of people have led to brutality.

It’s tempting to dismiss...

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