Trust Your Gut, in Life and Estate Planning

Within reason, anyway!  It’s complicated, and a new area which embraces experimental philosophy and psychology, but:

That’s precisely what psychologist David DeSteno, director of Northeastern University’s Social Emotions Lab, explores in The Truth About Trust: How It Determines Success in Life, Love, Learning, and More, which was recently and elegantly reviewed by Maria Popova at  From his book:

“Trust begets trust more often than not. Although common sense may seem to suggest that illusions are always to be avoided in favor of hard objectivity, sometimes a softer-focus lens, one capable of smoothing the rough edges, is to be preferred. If you’ve developed a strong sense of trust in a partner, it will function in just that way. When there’s ambiguity about how trustworthy he or she is, that sense of preexisting trust will burnish your view; it’ll blur the lines in an effort to push you toward continuing to trust. And, in reality, that’s not a bad thing. … Many instances of perceived untrustworthiness are errors or aberrations. Consequently, forgiveness is a great strategy.”

Popova then notes: As for the age-old tension between reason and intuition, it turns out that Susan Sontag was right in asserting that intuition and the intellect serve us best in tandem. DeSteno writes:

“Intuitions, or hunches, are usually less variable than conscious evaluations. As a result, they [tend to] provide more accurate assessments of another’s trustworthiness. There are two reasons for this superiority. The first, as we’ll see in chapter 6, is that the nonconscious mind is more attuned to reading the true indicators of trustworthiness than is the conscious one. The second is that the nonconscious mind is also less amenable to our own influence. We’ve all had the experience of trying to talk ourselves into or out of something, meaning that we’ve all had the experiencing of trying to override our intuitions.”

He adds a word of empirically tested advice:

“Listen to your hunches; hear them out. While intuitions may not always be right, they are more often than not — a fact alone that warrants their consideration.”

The Will Doctor has emphasized this approach in Estate Planning.  In our experience, the gut reaction to the appointment of trustees, or the nature of an inheritance proves more useful then a careful analysis of the pros and cons, and weighing the evidence.  This has been proved over and over to be a good strategy, although like everything else, it is not a perfect solution, and sometimes the hunch benefits from being diluted with a bit of careful reflection.

Posted in Perspectives, WillPlan Blog.

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