Why Do We Get Gut Feelings?

(Last Updated On: August 11, 2020)

Why Do We Get Gut Feelings?

You’ve probably used strong, and inexplicable feelings to guide your decision making process before. Because you can’t explain it, you’ve probably ignored these feelings at least once in your life–or even multiple times. Maybe, like many others, you’ve found that you should have trusted these inexplicable feelings a rather disproportionately high number of times. These feelings are typically found from deep within our guts, and given the aptly named “gut feelings.” So what are they, and why do we feel like we should trust our guts? 

Why Do We Get Gut Feelings?


One concept that has been tied to gut intuition is this idea of an “unseen connection” between people. It’s the same thing some credit for infectious laughter or other unspoken and universal feelings many of us may feel in a room. Some call it a kind of direct connection our brains have to others, like some weird psychic deal.

There’s significantly less evidence to suggest we’re telepaths. Also, for fans of tabletop games, you probably know those Orks from Warhammer 40,000 basically operate on that whole psychic-connection-and-nobody-knows-how-it-works theme. They paint things yellow because they think it makes them go faster. It’s not important, but we think it’s funny.

Anyway, some attribute our intuition to an unspoken connection that we just call to the surface sometimes. There’s not a lot of empirical evidence to suggest “you and I are connected by a psychic force,” but it’s one of the big things people discuss about gut feelings and we also wanted to talk about angry orks.


Alright, here’s something existential. You’ve lived for a lot of days, probably something in the thousands. But take a second and think about it. If prompted, you couldn’t tell us something about every single day you’ve lived. In fact, the amount of days you could probably talk about in your life is starkly small. 

Like how you can’t really tell us every single book you’ve read. But if we asked you “have you read this book?” you could probably tell us if you have or haven’t. You could also probably tell us how the book made you feel, and maybe answer a couple other questions about it.

What we’re trying to say, is that we have a lot of memories we can’t really call upon unless prompted. You know, that whole “tip of the tongue” feeling we all hate. These “unconscious memories” are a phenomenon we all experience. 

So our gut feelings can, in part, be attributed to these unconscious experiences. It’s all just a bunch of stuff on the tips of our tongues, guiding us through memories half-recalled.

Should You Trust Your Gut?

Well, maybe. You may want to at least give it a listen. If you’re native to Western culture, where emotional and intuitive thinking is often downplayed, you’re probably prone to viewing emotions and the like as easily fallible and maybe even childish tools for intellectual processing. This comes regardless of whether or not you’re actually thinking with your emotions, but that’s a different can of worms.

Intuitive feelings probably aren’t just childish flailings of your brain. They’re a product of what it’s frequently doing. There’s evidence to suggest that the brain is constantly comparing everything to everything else. It’s putting what you’re currently experiencing up against previous experiences. It’s also trying to predict future outcomes based on those comparisons, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to you. Whenever presented with a decision, your first thought is probably “alright but what would happen if I did the other thing?” Here’s a research paper on it.

Given how much we’ve lived through, and how we have a vast pool of memories (however fallible that is, since we know memory is quite fallible) to draw from, gives us a lot of data to make intuitive conclusions from. 

When you have these gut feelings, it’s your brain kind of hitting an “aha!” moment. Either your experiences are lining up, or they aren’t. 

Quick Thinking

You can kind of generalize intuitive thinking and analytical thinking as “snap-decision-making” and “slower, deliberate thinking,” respectively. Which means your gut feelings are pretty much a result of very quick judgments you’re making in real time. 

Of course, you now can already see the problems with relying exclusively on your intuition. That’s cognitive bias, which can end up with you making incorrect judgments about the world around you. Typically you see this with people, finding that you’ve misjudged them.

So your gut is a little more than random. But relying exclusively on it will probably lead you astray just as much (if not more often) than exclusively ignoring it. Moderation, you know how it is. 

Enough about our guts, here are some fruit guts.



About Kyler 686 Articles
Kyler is a content writer at Sporcle living in Seattle, and is currently studying at the University of Washington School of Law. He's been writing for Sporcle since 2019; sometimes the blog is an excellent platform to answer random personal questions he has about the world. Most of his free time is spent drinking black coffee like water.