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Emotion and Decision

 

Explanations > Emotions > Emotion and Decision

Logical vs. emotional decision-making | Damasio's research| The point of decision | So what

 

We make many decisions, and sometimes we are more or less logical about them. And it is arguable that all decision are, ultimately emotional.

Logical vs. emotional decision-making

Decision-making is a cognitive process where the outcome is a choice between alternatives. We often have different preferences as to our preferred, approach, varying between thinking and feeling.

Logical decision-making

When we use logic to make decisions, we seek to exclude emotions, using only rational methods, and perhaps even mathematical tools. The foundation of such decisions is the principle of utility, whereby the value of each option is assessed by assigning criteria (often weighted).

Emotional decision-making

There is a whole range of decision-making that uses emotion, depending on the degree of logic that is included in the process.

A totally emotional decision is typically very fast. This is because it takes time (at least 0.1 seconds) for the rational cortex to get going. This is the reactive (and largely subconscious) decision-making that you encounter in heated arguments or when faced with immediate danger.

Common emotional decisions may use some logic, but the main driving force is emotion, which either overrides logic or uses a pseudo-logic to support emotional choices (this is extremely common).

Another common use of emotion in decision is to start with logic and then use emotion in the final choice.

Damasio's research

Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio studied people who had received brain injuries that had had one specific effect: to damage that part of the brain where emotions are generated. In all other respects they seemed normal - they just lost the ability to feel emotions.

The interesting thing he found was that their ability to make decisions was seriously impaired. They could logically describe what they should be doing, in practice they found it very difficult to make decisions about where to live, what to eat, etc.

In particular, many decisions have pros and cons on both sides. Shall I have the fish or the beef? With no rational way to decide, they were unable to make the decision.

The point of decision

Always emotional decision?

So at the point of decision, emotions are very important for choosing. In fact even with what we believe are logical decisions, the very point of choice is arguably always based on emotion.

We talk about decisions that feel or seem right. When logical decisions are wrong, we will often feel that this is so. Emotions are perhaps signals from the subconscious that tell us a lot about what we really choose.

Subconscious in charge?

An even stranger factor is research where the subject's brain was wired up to recorders and the subject was asked to simply press a red button at any time. The notion was that if the conscious mind was in charge, then that part of the brain would be seen to change first, an if the decision started in the subconscious, then electrical activity in that part of the brain would work first.

And the answer was...that the subconscious started activity first. The shocking conclusion is that the subconscious is in charge of the bus, and that we are living an illusion of conscious choice. As emotions also stem from the subconscious, then this makes it even more likely that decisions have a strong emotional influence.

So what?

If you want someone else to make a decision, first find how emotional or logical they prefer to be in that process, and follow their their normal preferences.

Husband their emotions, guiding them to a point where, at the moment of decision they will be more favorably disposed towards your ideas.

Make emotionally tinged appeals in closing with them.

See also

Objectivity preferences, Thinking vs. Feeling, Closure principle

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