Experimental feature

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Experimental feature

Trusting your feelings may not be the most scientific approach to making decisions about the future, but a group of academics has found that it can work.

They have discovered that those individuals who consistently rely on their feelings when it comes to making predictions about forthcoming events are more likely to correctly predict the outcome, than those who do not place such trust in their feelings.

In a series of eight studies a group of individuals were asked to predict various outcomes, ranging from the weather, the box office success of different films and even the 2008 US Democratic presidential nomineers. They found that those people who consistently relied on their feelings were far more accurate in forecasting the eventual outcome.

Michel Tuan Pham, professor of business marketing and Leonard Lee, associate professor of marketing, both at Columbia Business School and Andrew Stephen assistant professor of business administration at the Joseph Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh describe this as the emotional oracle effect.

The researchers say that an individual who relies on his or her feelings is collating all the available information and knowledge available at that time - both consciously and subconsciously.

“It is this cumulative knowledge, which our feelings summarise for us, that allows us to make better predictions, “ says Prof Pham. “In a sense, our feelings give us access to a privileged window of knowledge and information – a window that a more analytical form of reasoning blocks us from.”

However the academics state that trusting one’s feelings is only successful when there is a proper knowledge base; for example participants in the research were only successful in predicting the weather in their own region and football predictions were only accurate when participants already had a knowledge and interest in the game.

The research will be published in a forthcoming article in the Journal of Consumer Research.

● Unethical behaviour - cutting off other cars at road junctions or ignoring pedestrians waiting to cross the road, are more likely to be the actions of individuals in higher social classes than those in the lower, according to the latest research.

Paul Piff, lead author and a doctoral student in psychology at the University of California, Berkeley believes that the tendency among the upper class to be more unethical is to some extent driven by a more favourable and accepting attitude towards greed.

The academics investigated the relationship between socio-economic class and pro and anti-social behaviour and looked at the ethical tendencies of more than 1,000 people across a range of social and economic backgrounds. The researchers ran a series of studies that examined how people behave; in one, participants played a computerised dice game in which they were allowed five rolls of the dice and then had to report their score. They were unaware that the dice were rigged and that 12 would always be the highest score. The researchers found that those people in higher socio-economic groups were more likely than others to cheat and fabricate a higher score.

“These findings have very clear implications for how increased wealth and status in society shapes patterns of ethical behaviour and suggest that the different social values among the haves and the have nots help drive these tendencies,” says Mr Piff.

The paper is co-authored by UC Berkeley psychologists Dacher Keltner, Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton and Daniel Stancato, psychologists at UC Berkeley and Prof. Stéphane Côté an associate professor of organisational behaviour at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. It is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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