Your Ethical Gut

I liked what this article titled Why Your Gut Is More Ethical Than Your Brain had to say about the benefits of listening to your gut. Here are a few excerpts:
Consider a provocative series of experiments conducted by Chen-Bo Zhong of the University of Toronto. He put test subjects into interactions with an anonymous partner where they had two options: to treat their partners fairly or to lie to them. If they decided to lie, they would gain at the expense of their partners.

Before making the decision to cheat or be fair, the test subjects were given some guidance. Some were encouraged to think rationally about the situation and to ignore their emotions. Equipped with this advice, the great majority (69%) analyzed the situation and con-cluded that they should screw their partners. Others were primed to "make decisions based on gut feelings." Their guts were pretty trustworthy: Only 27% lied.

There's a twist: Even though the study shows that we would be treated better by people who trust their feelings, we're leery of them. When people were given a choice to interact with a rational decision-making partner or a gut-trusting one, 75% chose the rational partner.

Zhong concluded that "deliberative processes can license morally questionable behaviors by focusing on tangible monetary outcomes and reducing emotional influence." If only such behavior were limited to the lab.
The article talks about how easy it is to rationalize bad behavior in business and the subprime-mortgage debacle. Here is the way that the piece ends:

Guts aren't perfect. For instance, we tend to feel so much empathy for individuals that it can doom our efforts to be impartial and consistent. But in the business world, we've tipped too far toward pure rationality. We need an emotional counterweight -- and we already have it. When you're in an ethically loaded situation and your gut talks, listen to it.
I understand what they are saying.. most times when I have gone against my gut I regretted it. I often think about how many times my religious brain has trumped my heart (or gut) and got it all wrong. My propensity for rationalizing bad behavior is sometimes great.. it's power over my heart is sometimes frightening.. good reason to develop a strong gut/heart.

Are you mainly driven by your gut or your brain?


  1. Very interesting article.

    I remember one time in particular I should have listened to my gut...
    I've never forgotten it!

    Your right we need a balance of gut/heart.


  2. I agree with the article but most of the business managers that I worked with didn't have an ear for their Guts, and may never have had one.

    30 years ago unethical business managers were not in the majority. Over a very few years many companies gave into the pressure to hire unethical middle managers and accept their practices in order to survive. When the unethical managers rose to senior leadership roles they only hired people that shared their lack of ethics. Higher profits and personal bonuses are their only motifications. Quality and Safety were only words in the company's Values statement. Product Quality was reduced to the minimum that the consumer would tolerate. Employee Safety was enforced only to the extend that regulators and/or company lawyers required it. The Fortune 100 corporation I worked for completely eliminated its environamental engineering department when the regulatory agencies quit enforcing compliance during the 80's.

  3. Gotta agree with your assessment Joe.. a sad commentary on Corporate America.

  4. Your gut? Wouldn't us Christians call it the natural law, the law God has written on our hearts? As in Romans 2:14 or Jeremiah 31:33?

  5. Depending on who I am talking to I sometimes use gut and heart interchangeably TZ.. but I hear what you are saying.

  6. But I mean it's not our guts or hearts, it's the Lord's own law! In which case, it's not surprising that when we listen to Him, we do the right thing.


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