Decision Making- Logic or Emotion


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Why can some people control their emotions so well and others seem to emotionally fall apart so quickly?   It’s often said “don’t make big decisions when you’re emotional”.  Many of us hold in high admiration the individuals that hold their emotions in check most of the time.  So is it really better to do this, or do emotions play a productive role in good decision making?

Fast published an article that notes that emotions are essential to making rational decisions.   So Spock like decision making might not be the best way to go.  According to neuroscientist Antonio Damasio’s book Descartes’ Error,

 “At best, your decision will take an inordinately long time, far more than acceptable if you are going to get anything else done that day.  At worst, you may not even end up with a decision at all because you will get lost in the byways of your calculation.

Damasio purports that this is because you will not be able to hold in your head all the pluses and minuses your deliberation demands. Because attention and memory have limited supplies.  It’s emotions that make the myriad of cost calculations go faster.

The article goes on to note that it’s more of an emotional “gut” feeling when one is deciding on the best couple of courses of action out of the many possibilities.

Rather than scrutinizing every item of every menu, your feelings about what you’d like to eat allow you to skip over the pizza that you aren’t in the mood for. Similarly, your emotions help you with your career: if the thought of spending hours a day coding gives you the heebie-jeebies, then perhaps it’s best to avoid the developer bootcamps you’ve heard so much about.

In this way, emotions don’t get in the way of making smart decisions, they’re an integral part of that process.

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