The next time you get a gut feeling about something, don't ignore it, for researchers at Leeds University Business School, say that those feelings are real and should be taken seriously.
According to the boffins, gut feeling or intuition is the result of the way our brains store, process and retrieve information on a subconscious level and so is a real psychological phenomenon even though science has historically ridiculed the concept of intuition.
Lead researcher Professor Gerard Hodgkinson of the Centre for Organisational Strategy explained just when people are likely to experience intuition.
"People usually experience true intuition when they are under severe time pressure or in a situation of information overload or acute danger, where conscious analysis of the situation may be difficult or impossible," he said.
To further explain his theory, he gave the example of the recorded case of a Formula One driver who braked sharply when nearing a hairpin bend without knowing why.
His instincts however saved his life, for if he had rounded the corner at a high speed, he would have hit a pile-up of cars on the track ahead.
"The driver couldn't explain why he felt he should stop, but the urge was much stronger than his desire to win the race," explains Professor Hodgkinson.
"The driver underwent forensic analysis by psychologists afterwards, where he was shown a video to mentally relive the event. In hindsight he realised that the crowd, which would have normally been cheering him on, wasn't looking at him coming up to the bend but was looking the other way in a static, frozen way. That was the cue. He didn't consciously process this, but he knew something was wrong and stopped in time."
Prof Hodgkinson believes that such gut feelings are based on the instantaneous evaluation of such internal and external cues.
"Humans clearly need both conscious and non-conscious thought processes, but it's likely that neither is intrinsically 'better' than the other," he says.
The research is published in the current issue of the British Journal of Psychology.