Skip to main content

If You Feel Like Changing Your Answer, You Probably Should

·293 words·2 mins
Psyched for the Weekend

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard something like the following: “Go with your gut. Your first instinct is probably right.”

It’s a very common belief. And it’s something that causes people to stick with their guns, to double down on their first answer, even when they start to have second thoughts.

It turns out that research shows a completely different picture about our first instincts and the whether we should change our mind when we have second thoughts.

In fact, there’s a name for this our tendency to stick with our first instinct, even past second doubts. And its name gives away the bottom line. It’s called the first instinct fallacy.

Here are a few interesting findings surrounding the phenomenon:

  1. Most people expect that if they change a test answer due to second thoughts that they’re more likely to change a right answer to a wrong one.
  2. However, the opposite is actually true. Test takers are much more likely to change a wrong answer to a right onw, when they have second thoughts about their initial answer.

So does that mean our first instincts are crap? No, actually. Researcher in this area has generally found that it isn’t that our first instincts are overly wrong or anything. But it has established that if you think you should change your initial impression that you should.

And that in general, we are far too reluctant to modify our initial impression — or change our first answer — than we should be.


This post is part of an ongoing Poly Land feature called  Psyched for the Weekend, in which I geek out with brief takes about some of my favorite psychological studies and concepts. For the entire series, please see  this link.


Rude Work Emails Can Make You Lose Sleep
·419 words·2 mins
Psyched for the Weekend
Frequently Cancelling Plans Last Minute Linked With Narcissism and Machiavellianism
·516 words·3 mins
Psyched for the Weekend
Holding Someone’s Hand During Painful Emotional Processing Can Lessen Their Long-Term Emotional Pain
·448 words·3 mins
Psyched for the Weekend