I discourage those that are screening volunteers from going with their “gut.” I like to remind them that everyone in the Penn State/Second Mile scandal went with their gut instead of following good policy and procedures. I’ve also brought up times when I hesitated to involve a volunteer because of a gut feeling, then decided I needed to go with real observations and fact, and ended up involving WONDERFUL volunteers that I almost passed on because I realized I had some prejudices that I needed to work on.
This recent blog from Brain Pickings, which notes various scientific studies that have shown that intuition is “sometimes helpful but often misleading.” It focuses on a new book by John Brockman: Thinking: The New Science of Decision-Making, Problem-Solving, and Prediction. In the book, Nobel-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman notes:
“There is no sharp line between intuition and perception. … Perception is predictive. . . . If you want to understand intuition, it is very useful to understand perception, because so many of the rules that apply to perception apply as well to intuitive thinking. Intuitive thinking is quite different from perception. Intuitive thinking has language. Intuitive thinking has a lot of word knowledge organized in different ways more than mere perception. But some very basic characteristics [of] perception are extended almost directly to intuitive thinking.”
The essays and lectures in this book don’t discount intuition altogether; what this book, and others, are trying to show is that intuition is more feeling than fact, and that always trusting your intuition can have dire consequences – just as always ignoring it would.
I would love to read this book. I often find these kinds of books so much more helpful in working with volunteers than other books that focus on management, even volunteer management.