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From the Blog of Phyllis G. Pollack.

       Recently, Newsweek published an article entitled “Less (Information) Is More” by Wray Herbert. The thesis is that “. . . most people think too much before they make important decisions.”

      According to psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer of the Max Planck Institute in Germany, there is much evidence to suggest that we should go with our “hunches” rather than crunching endless data to arrive at the “right” decision. That is, we should trust our gut feelings and intuition more and raw and/or refined data less. Gigerenzer labels his theory as “heuristics,” defining it as “fast and efficient cognitive shortcuts that (according to the emerging theory) can help us negotiate life, if we let them.” (Id.)

      Gigerenzer has conducted multiple experiments pitting intuition against data crunching to arrive at the “best” choice. In each instance, heuristics or the cognitive shortcuts have won:

       “Psychologists now believe that these cognitive shortcuts evolved over eons in the brain’s neurons, probably because exhaustive and complex calculation was so often impractical for our early ancestors, who were always only one step ahead of their predators. Today we’re one step ahead of an information tsunami, so it’s comforting to know that the quick and dirty choices we’re forced to make on the fly are grounded in some ancient intelligence.” (Id.)


       Many of my mediations involve cases in litigation. Invariably, one party will tell me that more information is needed: a deposition needs to be taken, or a subpoena for documents needs to be served et. cetera. But, according to Mr. Gigerenzer, less is more: the party does not need to crunch nearly as much data as she believes. An “information tsunami” is not required to resolve a dispute. Rather, a party simply needs to trust her gut – her intuition, hunches and gut feelings. Using these will work just as nicely in arriving at the “best” choice.

      So, . . .  in my next mediation, when a party tells me that she needs more data before she can settle, perhaps, I should gently discuss heuristics; that less is more and according to this evolving body of knowledge, it is okay to trust one’s gut feelings and intuition. For this, is, indeed, the point of the Newsweek article: we each should learn to trust our gut: heuristics will work for us, if we let it.

      . . . Just something to think about.

      P.S. I want to wish everyone a very happy holiday and a wonderful, prosperous, healthy and joyous 2008. I am taking a little vacation and will be back in January 2008!



Phyllis Pollack

Phyllis Pollack with PGP Mediation uses a facilitative, interest-based approach. Her preferred mediation style is facilitative in the belief that the best and most durable resolutions are those achieved by the parties themselves. The parties generally know the business issues and priorities, personalities and obstacles to a successful resolution as… MORE >

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