Got a hunch? Don’t be afraid to go with your gut, says new research conducted at Leeds University Business School in London.

Intuition is more than just funny feelings or a weird “new age” idea, says professor and researcher Gerard Hodgkinson, PhD, the director of the Centre for Organizational Strategy, Learning, and Change. In fact, he sees it as a critical part of human decision making, in which many elements of a particular decision can be simultaneously processed below the level of conscious thought.

“People describing the use of intuition typically say that intuitive moments occur spontaneously,” Hodgkinson says. “This makes sense given that the point of intuition is to enable rapid decision making when the slower option of carefully weighing the various alternatives isn’t viable. Intuitions are likely to occur when individuals are under time pressure, there is too much information to handle, or the data is insufficient.”

According to Hodgkinson, physical reactions such as a strong emotional sense of certainty usually accompany an intuition—which is one way to tell intuition apart from intellectual and detached guessing. He also says that neither conscious thought nor intuition is more important than the other. “We evolved to use both to adapt to the modern world; the key is learning to use them in harmony,” says Hodgkinson.