GUT decision-making

I was recently at a workshop for National Science Foundation Principal Investigators focused on how to communicate research to the public and the media. One of the suggestions was to develop a three-word summary of the principle message of your research work. This is hard.

After thinking about it for a while, though, I realized that medical decision science (at least as I practice it) is primary about helping physicians and patients with to do three key things:

  • know your Goals
  • understand Uncertainty
  • pay attention to Trade-offs

Which conveniently folds up into the acronym G-U-T: goals, uncertainty, trade-offs.

Normally, we think of making gut decisions as an intuitive, impulsive, “hot” process. Now, though, when I think of asking people what their gut is telling them, I’ll be thinking of their GUT: What are your goals for life, and how does that factor into this decision? What is uncertain in this decision, how much does it matter, and how can you know more or worry less? What trade-offs will you face between outcomes that you care about, and how will you make them?

(And should I add “S” for “society” and make it “GUTS?”)
Readers, what are your three words for making medical decisions?


  1. sameena shah

    My 3 words for making medical decision making are:




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