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To trust your gut instinct, or not? Experts weigh in

Posted at 10:20 PM, Oct 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-02 13:14:08-04

"Trust your gut," is a saying that most people have either said or been told at some point over the course of their lives. But many wonder, what is "your gut," and should you actually listen to it?

Former University of Arizona Psychology professor Dr. Victor Shamas swears by it. He believes that your "gut instinct," is there for protection.

"Intuition, at some level, could be a biological mechanism that's looking out for our own good, a guidance system," Dr. Shamas said. "It's some kind of internal guidance system."

He explained people are much more aware of their surroundings than they'd think, thanks to a phenomenon called subliminal perception.

"A piece of information that's flashed so suddenly that you didn't become aware of it, but you still processed it, you've still made sense of it at some level," Dr. Shamas said. "So you may react to something that you're completely unaware of."

Self-defense instructor Chance Ward agrees with the psychologist.

"The eye is looking at a million things," he said. "The brain registers most of it, but you will only put effort or stock in the stuff that you're looking at or thinking about. But the body is constantly taking in information."

Ward argues that the "gut instinct" is most prevalent in situations when people need it the most.

"More often than not, your mindset or your gut feelings will serve you better," Ward said. "If something seems off, your body is picking it up and you just don't know."

That is a concept he explains to the students enrolled in his self-defense classes at Rising Phoenix Fitness & Defense in Tucson. He speaks from personal experience, from first-hand encounters he had while working as a federal bodyguard.

"I've been shot at eight times, shot once, stabbed five times," Ward said. "It's pretty -- you don't have a choice but to."

Dr. Shamas notes that there is a school of thought that doesn't align with his mindset, and he understands why: it's difficult to measure the concept in a controlled environment.

"Psychological experiments often set people up, they show fallacies in people's thinking," Dr. Shamas said. "So under the right conditions, your judgments can mislead you and there's no question about that."

But at the end of the day, Dr. Shamas sticks to his gut instinct, and stands firm in his argument that the "gut instinct" is there for protection.

"We know more than we think we know," he said.