03/28/2008 02:45 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Science: Trust Those Gut Instincts

When Benjamin Franklin's nephew Joseph Priestley found himself stumped by a complex life decision, he wrote his sage uncle for advice. In his 1772 letter of reply, Franklin described his own method for reasoning out complex problems, which he called "moral algebra." Divide a sheet of paper in half, he counseled his nephew, and make an exhaustive list of pros and cons. Then, over a couple days, weigh the pros and cons, and when a pro and a con seem of equal weight, strike them both out. What is left in the balance is the best answer.

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