If You’re a Denier, A Gut and Your Non-scientific Sample of One Are All You Need

This post is an updated version of a 3/29/21 post.

The Houston Astros won the 2021 World Series. Wait, what?!?

If a guy (or a gal) has a “gut feeling” about something, he may use that feeling to form a conclusion even if the only evidence he has to prove its veracity is his non-scientific sample of one. Such conclusions lead to “gut decisions” or “gut reactions.”

Forming a conclusion based upon a gut feeling means that muddled and emotion-laden memories of events—or thoughts produced by mental phenomena such as pathological narcissism—that are rattling around inside one’s brain are relied upon to make a decision. We’ve all made decisions based upon what’s “in my gut,” even though most of us know that “in my gut” is just an expression like “in my heart,” or the expression that is rolled out when things are serious: “in my heart of hearts.”

I am audacious enough to think that if you are intelligent enough to read these words, you do understand that decisions are made via the complex interactions of neurons in our brain and not by anything occurring in our chest or abdomen, and that the expressions “in my gut” and “in my heart” are simply ways of conveying that we are making a decision based upon our brain’s spontaneous response to something of consequence.*

Confronted with danger or an opportunity that requires an immediate decision, which does not allow time for a detailed data analysis, we all have to make decisions based upon “muddled, and emotion-laden memories of events (et al) that are rattling around inside one’s brain.” For example, if you’re alone at night while walking back to your hotel, come across a tavern, and develop a sudden craving for a mojito, you may decide to open the tavern door, but when you do, you encounter a room filled to the gills with Hell’s Angels. What would be your “gut reaction?”

If you are a lifelong member of the Hell’s Angels, you would probably join the crowd in the tavern with enthusiasm, right? If you were raised in a wealthy subdivision, graduated from Exeter and Wellesley, and your principal residence is in a gated community, you might make a different choice.

There are many situations when there is significant time in which to make decisions, and even though there is relevant data available to you, as well as the time needed to consider that data, you might still make a decision based upon a “gut feeling.” For example, this is often the case when buying a house or a car: “I made a list of pros and cons, and even though the cons outweigh the pros big time, my gut tells me (or my heart tells me) I should buy that 10-year-old Chevy.”

Sometimes decisions are made that are based entirely upon verified and validated elections, elections that go through multiple recounts, with the results upheld by the decisions of as many as 60 court rulings, decisions like the outcome of the 2020 Presidential Election. Such an outcome is not unlike the outcome of a World Series, when the data after 162 games, plus the results of the playoffs, validates the two teams that enter the Series, with the data after the last out in the series dictating the winner.

Anyone declaring that the Houston Astros had won the 2021 World Series (for the record, the Atlanta Braves won, 4 games to 2), would be laughed at, probably mocked, considered delusional, or if made by an ardent Houston Astro’s fan, that fan might be considered a pathological narcissist for having made the claim.

Intelligent folks in positions of leadership, say, a high school principal, the Director of the CDC, or the CEO of General Motors, do not make decisions based solely upon their non-scientific samples of one. That is not to say that their strong personal feelings about an issue do not come into play: they do. But because decisions by the three positions cited impact others in ways that will have significant consequences for students, staff and parents, citizens who might die from infectious diseases, or shareholders, employees, and customers, these leaders have a moral responsibility to do more than rely upon their “gut” to make decisions.”

Because of the wide-ranging consequences of decisions made by morally responsible leaders of schools, government agencies, or corporations, et al, such leaders will make decisions based upon and after a review of large data samples generated by experts. This is done because morally responsible leaders understand that the collective wisdom of experienced authorities will allow reason and evidence to inform the inevitably limited knowledge generated by any individual’s non-scientific sample of one, which is the data set that is used to make a “gut decision.”

Even a morally irresponsible leader who has a personal, emotion-driven agenda will review the opinions of experts, if for no other reason than to find support for a rationalization of what may be, in reality, a decision based entirely upon the leader’s non-scientific sample of one. This is usually done from the self-serving motivation of personal survival.

But a legally verified and validated Presidential Election is like the World Series: there is no wiggle room for gut decisions. The result—the decision—is, what it is!

There are many reasons why the Denier in Chief continues to be mocked, and one reason is because of statements like this …

“They’re making a mistake because I have a gut, and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me.”

… which might imply (along with such a statement being prima facie evidence of pathological narcissism) his claim of the election having been stolen (like someone claiming the Astros won the 2021 World Series) is an unjustified “gut reaction.” However, anyone who has been paying attention knows that the Denier in Chief and his key sycophants understand full well the power of a Hitleresque “Big Lie” to influence the “gut reactions” of the Denier’s supporters.

As I write this, according to my extrapolations of poll-generated and voter registration data, approximately 58,000,000** Americans who are registered to vote—thanks to the Big Lie—have a “gut feeling” that the election was stolen. This means that approximately 109,200,000 registered voters disagree.

My wish for American Democracy is that the “acceptors” who constitute a large majority of registered voters will do the right thing in the 2022 elections and, metaphorically speaking, they will vote to send the “deniers” packing.


*Sometimes emotionally-charged decisions can have physical manifestations, like the adrenalin rush that occurs in a “flight or fight” circumstance, which may suggest the origin of the expression, “gut feeling.”

**There are approximately 168,000,000 registered voters in the United States, of which approximately 35% or 58,000,000 are deniers. Republicans comprise 24% or 40,300,000 of all registered voters, and approximately 70% or 28,200,000 of them are deniers. I like to keep in mind that approximately 65% or 109,200,000 of all registered voters are acceptors, not to mention the fact that over 81 million Americans voted for Biden in 2020.

This post is an updated version of a 3/29/21 post entitled, A Gut and the Non-scientific Sample of One.

ADDENDUM: This was shared by a reader and friend–I encourage you to read it: Was Malcolm Gladwell right? Can you trust your intuition?

(Photo by Pezibear from Pixabay ; no copyright infringement is intended nor is there an intent on the part of the blogger to monetize the use of the images in this post)