Head or heart?, Logic or instinct? The difference is hugely overplayed. Although we are capable of extremely logical thinking we can only do so via our conscious pre-frontal cortex (PFC). The rest of our brain maps patterns which often closely mirror logic (as they have been formed in conjunction with the PFC) but many are based on associations – smell takes you right back….

These differing speeds may possibly explain “déjà vu” with feedback from inputs reaching the conscious mind before information relating to the original stimulus does, information, but it’s more certain that it explains the concept of “instinct”; feeling suddenly aware of danger without knowing why.

This “instinctive” thinking takes place at an exceptionally fast processing speed and as you might expect, is therefore based on “rough” information – so that movement which wakes you up suddenly at night turns out to be an ironed shirt hung up for tomorrow rather than cat burglar. This instinctive thinking often feels less logical and therefore less valid that conscious thought, but this is not necessarily the case – as brilliant explored in Malcolm Gladwell’s 2005 book, Blink.

This highlights a common and dangerous misunderstanding, which is that instinct, or “gut feel” is a purely emotional response either overly prized by “spontaneous” people, or dismissively ignored by “logical” people. Learning to take these thoughts seriously, particularly in threatening situations and learning to analyse them can be extremely powerful.

Take first impressions as an example. We all make up our mind about someone we meet within 3 seconds and only change our mind 1 time in thirty. (Add your own figures here, I’ve seen all sorts of numbers quoted) We take in a staggering amount of information about the way someone is presenting themselves in a very short period of time. We then cross reference that with an encyclopaedic amount of past experiences to draw up a rough and ready character profile including a like/dislike decision.

To try to suppress this volume of analysis just seems wasteful, but equally, not to examine it further misses the point of what the brain is trying to do – has evolved to do in fact. Which is, to give you as accurate a first draft as possible. It isn’t wise to take this as the finished article though and digging further to weed out the occasional, “I don’t like him because she sounds just like my ex” kind of unfair conclusions.


Executive Coaching will help improve your decision-making, highlighting hidden assumptions. These days, most top performers in business work with a coach.

If you would like to invest in yourself and the value of your business then call me on 07730 700258 to arrange a free introductory Coaching session.


Interested in other decision taking tips? Click the link to read “The Dangers of Expectancy”